What are some of the modern synthetic materials that are making their way into mountaineering gear?
The ever popular Kevlar composite-weaved material is making headway into the booting industry. The claims to fame include versatility strength and endurance in rough conditions. Usually these boots are made in a method similar to military boots and emphasize durability over long periods of time over supreme comfort. In the same breath it is important to note that if your boots weren’t able to withstand the grueling conditions of long mountainous hikes for long periods of time, you would be extremely uncomfortable for as long as you trekked. It’s a bit of conundrum, but most shoe and mountaineering companies err on the side of durability which is fantastic for the enthusiast, and stabilizing for the novice who is new to the activity. Along with the Kevlar composite material, carbon fiber is being utilized in top-notch performance applications as a possible ice and groomed trail carver on the slopes of any mountain. The idea is that such a strong and durable material which is so dense, but yet so lightweight will give you the ability to carve through sheets of ice and other slide straight off the surface and off the run. Functionality is paramount in these skis, and you can bet that the price will match that prioritization. These are some example of some of the extreme instances of materials being imported to the ever-changing sport of mountaineering and skiing.
What are the most common hazards of mountaineering?
By far the first and most dangerous hazard is avalanches. Typically there are several steps that hikers can use to help to mitigate the threat of these natural calamities. When referring to avalanches you are only really talking about two types: slab avalanches and loose snow avalanches. The slab avalanche breaks down into two variants, the hard and soft slab avalanche. In a hard slab avalanche the slab is well compacted by time and fails to break up into smaller pieces, as such large boulders of snow form which can be very destructive as well as capable of accumulating other snow. The soft slab avalanche seems similar to the loose snow avalanche except that the pieces are still into generally less than 5 ft diameter balls. The snow is compact but fractures easily creating small slabs. The loose snow avalanche is most likely triggered by humans or animals, because a small amount of snow triggered off the side of a peak will snow ball under the prime conditions of 30 to 45 degrees.
When doing a glacier run towards a peak what is the most common hazard?
Generally when a climber starts to go over a glacier the biggest and at times the largest invisible problem is the crevasses that appear quite suddenly. The only way to mitigate this is to have some basic crevasse rescue training, which is basic protocol in any advanced mountaineering, and to be roped to your climbing buddies. By doing so, you add stability to the caravan of people. The best way to mitigate the potential for deaths is to be connected, when the fall happens priority one is to stop the group from moving. That means the whole team digs in with their spiked shoes, called crampons, lodge ice picks in the snow and generally lunge away from the emerging hole. Once the group is stabilized, the actual rescue can occur. Sometimes the problem lies in the second stage however. Secured climbers are to tied their rope to a pick axe or shovel that can be firmly planted. Probing of the edge of the crevice is a good idea, but still, it is important to root that climber in case the crevasse widens. Then a variety of methods can be employed to retrieve the fallen comrade. If the crevice is small a simple pulling will work, hauling the climber from the ditch. In this case it is important to place a shovel or axe handle near the edge so the friction of the rope doesn’t expand the hole. After this point the retrieval techniques get complicated with pulleys and lynch/knot methods that will extract the fallen. Additionally water can be present in the bottom of the crevice increasing the dangers of hypothermia and extending the bottom of the crevasse considerably. All of this should be reviewed by mountaineering professionals prior to any glacial hiking.