Rope teams: Roping up and rope spacing on a glacier
Subchapter: Rope team
Your insurance: The rope team
The rope is your insurance on a high alpine tour. It facilitates a rescue in the event of a crevasse fall, and on steep slopes or ridge traverses it is used to protect both the lead climber and followers through belays and other protection points. The rope is a vital link between partners in a rope team – nevertheless, you should decide on a case-by-case basis whether a situation calls for a rope team or whether it is safer to travel without roping up.
ROPING UP ON A GLACIER
The optimum size for a rope team is three to five people. The bigger the rope team, the less the risk of being dragged into a crevasse in the event of a fall. With a two-man rope team the risk is considerably higher – which is why this format should be left to experienced mountaineers. With larger groups (more than five people), it’s best to split up into smaller teams because otherwise the cadence can become irregular and the ascent may get sluggish and tiring, particularly for those at the rear. In general, the following rule applies: The bigger the rope team, the shorter the spacing – more about this in the following slides.
The tying-in distance for a four-man rope team is eight to ten meters. Brake knots are not required as there are enough members to arrest a fall into a crevasse. In a rope team of five, the distance between each member should be eight meters. A rope team should not be larger than this as it will have a negative impact upon cadence.
In a rope team of three, you should keep a distance of 10 to 12 meters. On steeper terrain, you should tie brake knots to help arrest a fall. Tie the brake knots in the middle third of the rope. Tie the first knot 3 to 4 meters from the last climber, because the rope must be able to cut into the lip of the crevasse before the knot can act as a brake. The other brake knots are then tied at a distance of 1 to 1.5 meters.
The smaller the rope team, the longer the distance between team members. In a two-man rope team, you should keep a distance of 18 meters apart and always tie three or four brake knots into the middle third of the rope. This format should only be used by experienced mountaineers.
ACCORDION METHOD: CORRECT SPACING FOR A THREE-MAN ROPE TEAM
In a three-man rope team, the distance between partners should be around ten meters. Starting from the middle of the rope, each member ties in at this distance; excess rope is coiled around the body or stowed under the lid pocket of a backpack. This excess rope may be required for a crevasse rescue with a pulley system. A simple way to determine the appropriate spacing and excess rope length is to rope up using the “accordion” method.
Coiling excess rope around your body
COILING EXCESS ROPE AROUND YOUR BODY
Excess rope can also be stowed in coiled loops around the body instead of as a butterfly coil in a backpack.
Coiling the rope
Next, start looping the excess rope around your head and under one arm, beginning at the roping up knot. The loops should be of equal length and reach to near your waist. Once the rope has been looped until just short of the end, the loops are slung diagonally across the upper body.