Prusik Practice with sleds

Last week the Denali Girls spent a day on the roof of the Mountaineers practicing for the event of if we were to fall into a crevasse.  It was a beautiful day!  Fun to practice snow rescue skills in tank tops and t-shirts.


We met at the Mountaineers in the morning and let ourselves in through the supply closet tunnels in the back.  There’s an entrance to the north side of the Mountaineers roof via ladder and hatch.  You have to enter the maze of storage closets to find it.  It’s a little like going to Narnia in the back of the wardrobe.  Thanks to Mountaineers volunteer, John Wick, the roof is outfitted with all kinds of bolts and rap chains just for practice with this stuff.  John seems to have put up bolts and anchors everywhere he could get away with it.  Very much appreciated!

View from the Mountaineer's roof.

View from the Mountaineer’s roof.

No, we didn’t have permission to be up there, but the way I see it, three ladies with sleds, and an arsenal of ropes and carbines were not going to get into too much trouble.  First of all, good luck finding the entrance to the roof!  I mean, what were they going to do?  Climb the building and escort us off the property?

photo 1

From Freedom of the Hills, 8th edition. How we’ll tie into our sleds. only we plan to use a locker with a clove hitch or butterfly note at the back of the sled instead of a prusik.

photo 2

From Freedom of the Hills, 8th edition. If we fall into a crevasse with our sleds, it might look like this… maybe…

For folks that have no idea what we’re talking about… Rob Miller shows us the basics on the side of his house.

We tied ourselves into the glacier rope with our sleds attached to both the rope and our packs in the way that we will on Denali.   We then used a separate line to lower ourselves by rappelling to simulate falling in a crevasse.


LAW lowering herself over the edge.

Once we were hanging over the edge with our sleds and packs, we started the simulation.  The idea was to do everything we would do if we fell into a crevasse.  Here’s the order of things we found useful…

1. Slap your ascender onto the rope above you, attached to your harness at the waist.  Immediately, put your chest harness through the prusik or rope.

2. Have a butterfly knot in arms distance ready to clip your pack (with sled attached) to the rope.  This gets all that weight off of you so that you can ascend the rope.

3. Attach your foot prusiks either by ti-block, traction pulley or prussic knot.

4. Untie from the rope.  It helps if your butterfly knot or tie in has a long-ish loop (like 4 or 5 inches) because your pack and sled with be tensioning the rope from below and your body weight will be tensioning the rope from above. The only slack in the system is the loop of this knot.  You’ll need just a little bit of slack to get out of the system so you can ascend.

5. You may have to move around a sled above you, so have some extra 5mil loops ready to make that move.


Carolyn and her sled (pack has been dropped below).

6. Prusik up! And meet your friends at the top!

7. Rig a 3-to-1 hauling system to pull your sled and pack out of the crevasse.  Watch out for the gutters (if you’re on the roof)!

8. The end 🙂


Carolyn rocking it with the big gloves! Good practice!

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