A prusik sling can be as simple as a mere loop of 5- to 7-millimeter accessory cord. One of these slings tied to a climbing rope with a prusik knot will slide up or down the rope when loosened but grip the rope firmly when tightened. The Bach-mann knot does the same thing, but is tied around both a carabiner and the climbing rope. The Klem-heist knot works best if the sling is made of webbing instead of cord. (Check back to Chapter 6 for refreshers on any of these knots.)
The simplest prusik slings are used as the link between a snow anchor and the rope that holds a fallen climber. More complicated prusik slings, with foot and safety loops, will be described later in this chapter in the section on crevasse self-rescue.
Mechanical ascenders (such as Jumars and Clogs) attached to slings can be used to replace friction knots such as the prusik for self-rescue and for anchoring an accident rope. Ascenders attach to the rope more easily than the knots. They work better on icy ropes and they can be operated more readily with gloved hands.
On the debit side, ascenders are heavy and expensive. As mechanical devices, they are more prone to failure than knots are and have popped off the rope under unusual circumstances.
On an expedition that fixes some of its ropes in place, most climbers will carry one or two ascenders for self-belay on the fixed lines. These climbers usually use the ascenders for glacier travel as well.
Other rescue gear: At a minimum, every glacier climber should carry a single-length runner and a double-length runner of 1 -inch tubular webbing to attach to buried anchors; enough carabiners for rappelling (or two carabiners plus a belay device); and one rescue pulley (a carabiner will work in a pinch, but it adds considerable friction). Each rope team should carry at least one snow picket or ice screw (depending on snow conditions) for setting up a solid anchor. Anchors that use two placements are preferred for security, so a rope team may want to pack more anchoring hardware along, or they may have to borrow some from another team in an emergency.
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