Crevasse Rescue: Prusiking Methods for Self-Rescue

By Don Graydon.

Self-rescue is often the easiest and fastest crevasse rescue, regardless of party size. Learn 2 good self-rescue methods for ascending the rope, the Texas prusik and the stair-step prusik.
If you?re just dangling free in the crevasse: it?s usually okay to begin prusiking partway to the top as soon as you?ve gotten yourself upright, clipped into your chest harness, moved your pack and ice ax out of the way, and caught your breath.

If you?re not dangling free: you?ll take a different approach to prusiking if your fall dropped you onto a ledge, where most of your weight is off the rope. In this case, go ahead and get into your prusik slings, but wait to begin prusiking until you?ve talked it over with your rescuers.

The Texas Prusik

This is the recommended methodof ascending the rope. It is easy to learn and execute. Uses one sling for the feet and a separate sling for the seat (clipped with a locking carabiner to the seat harness). The foot sling has a loop for each foot, tied so that they will adjust and cinch down on your boots. As with all prusik systems, correct sizing of the slings to your height is critical.

How to use the Texas prusik after you?ve recovered from a fall into a crevasse:

  1. Remove the foot loops from your pocket and slip one of the two adjustable loops over each boot. If you?re wearing crampons, it won?t be easy. Cinch up on the slip-knot loops to tighten them around the boots.
  2. Stand up in the foot loops. You?re now ready to move upward.
  3. Unclip from your chest harness.
  4. Loosen the friction knot attached to the seat-harness sling and slide it up the rope until it is taut.
  5. Sit down in the seat harness, putting all your weight on the seat-harness sling, which releases your weight from the foot sling.
  6. Loosen the friction knot attached to the foot sling and slide it up the rope (18 to 24 inches, if the sling is properly adjusted). Raise your legs with it.
  7. Stand up again in the foot loops.
  8. Keep repeating the process from Step 4.
The Stair-Step Prusik

This is an alternative system that is a little more awkward and slightly harder to learn than the Texas prusik. The fallen climber ascends the rope in a fashion that?s a little like walking up a set of stairs. It uses a separate sling for each foot. Unlike the Texas prusik, it is necessary to be clipped into a chest harness to keep upright.

How to use stair-step prusiks to climb the rope:

  1. Take the foot loops from your pockets and slip them over your boots, cinching up on the slip knots. Keep your chest harness connected to the rope.
  2. Stand up in the shorter prusik sling, putting all your weight onto it.
  3. Unweight the leg attached to the longer prusik sling, and loosen the friction knot attached to that sling. Slide it up the rope (about 18 inches), lifting that leg with it.
  4. Stand up in the longer sling, shifting all your weight to it.
  5. Unweight the leg attached to the shorter sling; then loosen the friction knot attached to that sling. Slide it up the rope (about 18 inches), lifting that leg with it.
  6. Keep repeating the process from Step 2.

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