Part A Operations On Alpine Paths And Handlines

1. Alpine Paths.

Fixed alpine paths are constructed when the unit will remain in one area for a long time, or to assist troops in traversing rugged mountain terrain, ascending or descending steep mountain slopes, and carrying combat equipment or supply loads up to 50 pounds. Paths should be constructed to allow movement in both directions at the same time, and so that casualties can be evacuated over them on litters.

• Description. A fixed alpine path can include steps cut into the ground or into the ice or snow, handlines supported by stanchions (Figure 2-1), hanging ladders of wire or fiber rope up nearly vertical rock faces, standoff-type ladders made of local materials, suspended walkways to cross ravines, cable bridges, and hand-operated cableways (Figure 2-2).

• Construction. Alpine paths can be constructed to almost any length. Terrain and weather conditions affect construction time, but a 900-meter (984-yard) path can be constructed under normal conditions by a platoon of engineers in 50 to 100 hours, depending on the number of suspended walkways. If the men traversing the path are spaced at 4 1/2-meter (15-foot) intervals, about 200 men would be on the 900-meter (984-yard) path at one time.

The difficulty of the path would dictate their speed of travel. If travel is in one direction only and the path is of average difficulty, 400 men could traverse the

900 meters (984 yards) in one hour. Assuming that each man carries a 50-pound load of supplies, 10 tons could be delivered to the terminal end in one hour. If the path is constructed so that traffic is free to move steadily in both directions at all points, 400 men or 10 tons of material can be delivered to each terminal every hour.

Figure 2-2. Suspended Walkway and Standoff Ladders

The site and terrain where the alpine path is to be constructed should be surveyed by experienced mountain climbers.

• Route Requirements. Bypassing of obstacles and attempts at camouflage may require the path to traverse a greater distance but reduces the construction time, increases the capacity of the completed path, and minimizes delay caused by enemy action.

The path should avoid steep or vertical cliffs, and overhanging rocks. These require ladders and for personnel to move slowly over the path. Snow or rock in areas susceptible to slides must be avoided.

The path must follow a route not visible to the enemy. The route can be easily camouflaged from observation if it follows ravines and rock ledges.

• Safety Lines. Personnel performing the route survey should erect safety lines along the route selected as an aid to men in the construction crew who are less experienced.

Safety lines may consist of ropes strung outside the working party about 1 meter (3.2 feet) off the ground, and securely fastened to natural or artificial anchors. These are used as handholds only; they are not secured to party members. In hazardous locations, safety lines may consist of ropes with one end securely anchored. The free end of a rope is tied around the waist of a man engaged in construction. A convenient anchor can be made from a piton driven into an easily reached crack in the rock. Another method is for each man to tie the Prusik knot in his safety line to an anchor.

When a route survey has been completed, an estimate can be made of the number and length of each type of component, and the amount of material each individual can carry. In addition to the equipment listed for actual construction, tools, and safety equipment are also required.

• An ample supply of the following construction tools should be available:

Drill, stone, hand, 4.2 by 60 cm (1.6 by 24 inches). Drill, triangular, hand, 2.5 by 45 cm (1 by 18 inches). Drill, triangular, hand, 1.9 by 45 cm (3/4 by 18 inches). Hammer, double-face, striking, 4 pound Ladle, hand, 10-cm (4-inch) diameter bowl. Pot, melting, 18 cm (7 inches) inside diameter. Pumps, air, hand.

• The following safety equipment should be available:

A supply of rope (9 to 11 mm [3/8 to 7/16 inch]) is needed for safety lines. Snaplinks and artificial anchors are required for the emplacement of protection to provide safety, belays, ascents, and descents for party members.

The materials required for constructing a fixed alpine path can be transported by vehicle or carried by men. When wire or fiber rope is to be carried by men, it may be impractical to cut the rope into sections, which make suitable individual loads. Enough rope should be coiled for an individual load in a figure eight with about 3 meters (10 feet) of free rope left before coiling the second load, continuing the same manner for the succeeding loads. The loads are then carried like a chain.

2. Erection of Handlines.

When erection of an alpine path is necessary, the size of the working party will depend on the type of components to be installed, steepness of the terrain, and experience of the troops involved. If the men are inexperienced in mountain operations, a small working party is best since it is easier to control and less accidents occur. If the men must carry the materials to the site, allowances must be made for extra men to perform these tasks. Otherwise, a normal working party is a platoon of engineer soldiers organized into groups and assigned to prepare the most difficult sections of the path first.

Handlines are supported by stanchions made of pipe or wooden posts securely fastened into the ground. The ends are fastened to rock anchors to maintain the proper tension in the lines, which may be a fiber rope or marline-clad rope.

• Pipe Stanchions. The standard pipe stanchion is constructed of iron that is 2.5 cm (1 inch) in diameter (Figure 2-3).

Each stanchion is 100 cm (39 inches) long. Two wire rope clips (1.9 cm [3/4 inch]) are fastened through holes in the pipe with the centers of the clips 90 cm (35 inches) apart. This stanchion can be used for a suspended walkway, which uses two wire ropes on each side. For handlines, the lower wire rope clip is removed or left off. The bottom of the stanchion is inserted (without the wire rope clip) into a hole drilled at least 25 cm (10 inches) deep.

Stanchions should be placed in rock, using sulfur to hold them in place. The sulfur is melted in a long-handled ladle over a gasoline fire pit and poured into the hole around the stanchion. If the stanchion must be placed in earth, the hole is made in solid-packed ground, and the hole around the stanchion is filled with concrete. Stanchions are spaced about 10 meters (33 feet) apart on both sides of the path and 75 to 90 cm (30 to 35 inches) apart from one side of the path to the other.

90 cm

1.9 cm WIRE


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