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Never Cross a Glacier with a Weak Team

I’m currently training for a high altitude trek in the Andes mountains of Peru, the Salkantay trail to Machu Pichu.  I’ve done treks like this before including the Davidson Glacier in Alaska, Mt. Everest Basecamp trek in Nepal and the Machame Route to the summit of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa.

Mountain climbing and glacier trekking require superb conditioning and precision teamwork.  When tethered on a dangerous slope or when crossing a snow blown field of ice your very life may well depend upon who is sharing the rope with you.  You must feel confident that, should you slip into a crevasse or lose your balance, your teammates will be able to hold on and pull you to safety.  Likewise, you must be able to save someone else and to … literally … pull your own weight.  Once, when crossing a glacier in Alaska, I was on a line with a young riverboat captain from Juneau who was dogging it all afternoon.  Continually, I could feel tension on the line and when I turned around, sure enough, the rope was taut and I was dragging him up the slope or across the valley. Considerably older than my riverboat companion and doing my best to drag my own weight, I turned to him after several urgings and warned that the next time I turned around I would have my Swiss Army blade out and would cut the line.  He picked up his pace and I never had a problem the rest of the day.

5 Questions:

  • Would you cross a glacier with your current team?
  • Could you save someone if he or she fell into a crevasse?
  • Would they be able to save you?
  • If necessary, could you use your Swiss Army knife?
  • Or, better yet, can you improve your selection and qualifying process to minimize the need to remove members of your team during critical moments of your mission?

If you answered “No” to any of the questions above, you may wish to consider finding a new team…


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