As Seen In: USA Today, Discovery Channel, US News & World Report

Glacier Bivouac Procedures

When locating a bivouac site or a gathering area where the team might need or want to unrope, at least one person will need to "probe" the area for hidden crevasses. The best type of probe will be the manufactured collapsing probe pole, at least eight feet in length. Other items could be used but the length and strength of the probe is most important. Other rope team members will belay the probers. The prober is "feeling" for a solid platform to place the tent by pushing the probe as hard and deep as possible into the surface. Probing should be in 2-foot intervals in all directions within the site.

a.If the probe suddenly has no resistance while pushing down, a crevasse is present. Attempts to outline the crevasse can be futile if the crevasse is large. Normally, the best decision is to relocate the proposed bivouac area far enough away to avoid that crevasse. (Sometimes only a few feet one way or the other is all that's needed to reach a good platform.) Probe the tent site again after digging to the desired surface. Mark boundaries with wands or other items such as skis, poles, and so on.

b. Occasionally while probing, increased pressure will be noticed without reaching a solid platform. The amount of snowfall may be such that even after digging into the snow, the probe still doesn't contact a hard surface. Try to find a solid platform.

c. There should be no unroped movement outside the probed/marked areas. If a latrine area is needed, probe a route away from the bivouac site and probe the latrine area also. If a dugout latrine is necessary, probe again after digging.

d. Multiple tent sites can be connected, which keeps tents closer together. Probe all areas between the tents if you plan to move in those areas. Closer tents will make communicating between tent groups and rope teams easier.

e. If there is a chance for severe storms with high winds, snow walls may be constructed to protect the tent site from wind. The walls can be constructed from loose snow piled on the perimeter, or blocks can be cut from consolidated snow layers. In deep soft snow, digging three or four feet to find a consolidated layer will result in enough snow moved to build up decent walls around the tent site.

(1) For block construction, move the soft snow from the surface into the wall foundation areas (down to a consolidated layer of snow).

(2) Cut blocks approximately 1 by 1 by 2 feet, and construct the walls by interlocking the blocks with overlapping placements. The walls should be slightly higher than the tent. At a minimum, build walls on the windward side of the tent site.

(3) Snow walls can also provide shelter from wind for food preparation.

Back to Movement Over Snow And Ice




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