Helmet, our great friend on the mountain
Why do alpinists and climbers worldwide use helmets? Because of the risk of rock fall (chute de pierres in French, caída de piedras in Spanish, Steinschlag in German).
One of the major hazards of alpinism is the fall of rocks, be it individually or in small avalanches. The stones fall at the speed of a missile; it is frightening to hear them pass by.
The fall is usually caused by the warming sun setting loose stones which were previously stuck to the mountain by ice. It can occasionally also be triggered by fellow climbers.
How can we be safer up in the mountain?
1) Use of a helmet is mandatory. Your chances of survival are exponentially higher. Even if you are hit by a rock, most chances are that you will only be stunned, not injured.
2) Get off the mountain as early as possible, before the midday sun has warmed the upper slopes of the mountain.
- c) Use a descent route that gets you out of the foreseeable rock fall path.
- d) If regular rock fall is already happening, as it is the case in Mont Blanc’s Grand Couloir, position one of the climbers as a lookout, while the others descend. When a falling rock is seen or heard, he or she will cry out: “rock fall, hit the ground !!!!”, and the mates will immediate jump to the facedown position.
Pachi Navajas, Director, AdvenCulture
AdvenCulture is a company specialized in Alpinism, Culture and Leadership, and organizes regular expeditions in Mexico, the Alps, the Caucasus, the Andes and other places.