June 9, 2017Samrat Chakraborty

Hazards in mountain and snow bound areas

1) Junar gali col. 2) Shila-samudra meadow.  The down pointing arrow shows the location of the Shila-samudra glacier coming from left. Taken from dodang campsite, which as we can see is a rock shelter.

Mountain hazards are two types : Subjective and Objective.

Subjective hazards are those that directly depends on the climber’s action. Example – Technical fault/carelessness/over confidence.

Objective hazards are those that mountaineer/climber/trekker can not control. Example – Avalanch, Landslide, Snowfall , Rain.

Categorisation of objective hazards – 1. Snow 2. Weather 3. Rock 4. River crossing 5. Health 6. Glacier 7. Physiological.

    1. Avalanch  (
    will be discussed in future)
    2. Soft snow

    3. Hard snow
    4. Hanging snow
    5. Cornice (
    Overhang of snow made by icy wind on the ridge line)
    6. Snow bridge (
    very brittle ) – need to be roped up and crawled over it so that body weight is distributed in four points rather than two.
    7. Snow on tree
    1. Storm  – 
    Snow storm with powder snow can be deadly, it can choke life out of living being as he/she cant breathe in it.  Can reduce the temperature rapidly.
    2. Temperature –
    Changes quickly, adequate and dry clothing required.
    3. Cloud –
    Visibility depleted, accidents can occur , loss of direction can happen in white out.
    4. Ultra-violate – Even on a cloudy day , wear goggles.
    5. Wind chill factor – ( Icy wind , need to keep soft parts / nose/ear/finger covered.
    6. Lightening
    1. Rock gap – Gap between two rocks but not visible because of snow.
    2. Scree or Loose Slate – dislodging one rock may lead to “scree chute” where one dislodged small stone dislodges other stones beneath it , the process continues , and heaps of stones/loose slate falls down the slope with massive momentum, leading to destruction.
    3. Verglass – Thin layer of ice on rock surface generally at the early hours.
    4. Rockfall (due to snowfall, melting of snow, earthquake or by animal )
    1. Dry crossing (Single rope bridge, Double rope bridge , Single belly , double belly, Laying tree , Tarzan swing )  *will be discussed in future
    2. Wet crossing (Wading method , In pair or by making human chain )
    1. Acute Mountain Sickness [AMS]
    not in mood to talk,
    no hunger,
    difficulty sleeping)
    2. High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema [HAPO]
    ( Accumulation of fluid in lungs,
    Caugh ,
    Breathlessness at rest,
    Chest tightness,
    Chest pain )
    3. High Altitude Cerebral Oedema [HACO]
    ( Hits within 24 hours after AMS has hit,
    Accumulation of fluid in brain ,
    Ataxia – loss of coordination ,
    Mental states changes ,
    Confusion ,
    Disorientation )
    4. Cold Injuries
    i) Generalised -> Hypothermia
    ii) Localised –
    (a) NON freezing type 1) Chillblain & 2) Trench foot
    (b) freezing type  1) Frost bite & 2) Frost nip
    iii) Others
    -> Solar keratitis (Snow blindness)
    -> Sunburn
    -> Rhinitis (constant water through nose and eye)
    *Cold injuries / Health hazards will be discussed in detail in future.
    1. Open crevasse/Hidden crevasse – (Vertical , horizontal or diagonal crack in glacier)
    2. Bargschrund – ( that huge crevasse which separates the glacier from the main slope of the mountain and constantly feed ice to the active part of the glacier)
    3. Serac – ( A large mass of ice surrounded by intersecting crevasses )
    4. Snow bridge – ( A layer of hard snow/ice bridging a crevasse, a stream or a gap )
    1. Staying at high altitudes for long time can make a person lethargic and careless.
    2. Sometimes mountaineer feels like lying down the day – this is called “glacial lassitude”.
DZONGU - North Sikkim
thumb rules of High Altitude trekking

About the Author

Samrat Chakraborty
Samrat Chakraborty Mountain climber, blogger. Been trekking and climbing in Indian Himalayas for the last 13 years. Special interests - Wildlife , Geography Believes in - Conservation of natural flora and fauna

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