Objective Hazards

Objective hazards are caused by the mountain and weather and cannot be influenced by man; for example, storms, rockfalls, icefalls, lightning, and so on.

a. Altitude. At high altitudes (especially over 6,500 feet), endurance and concentration is reduced. Cut down on smoking and alcohol. Sleep well, acclimatize slowly, stay hydrated, and be aware of signs and symptoms of high-altitude illnesses. Storms can form quickly and lightning can be severe.

b. Visibility. Fog, rain, darkness, and or blowing snow can lead to disorientation. Take note of your exact position and plan your route to safety before visibility decreases. Cold combined with fog can cause a thin sheet of ice to form on rocks (verglas). Whiteout conditions can be extremely dangerous. If you must move under these conditions, it is best to rope up. Have the point man move to the end of the rope. The second man will use the first man as an aiming point with the compass. Use a route sketch and march table. If the tactical situation does not require it, plan route so as not to get caught by darkness.

c. Gullies. Rock, snow, and debris are channeled down gullies. If ice is in the gully, climbing at night may be better because the warming of the sun will loosen stones and cause rockfalls.

d. Rockfall. Blocks and scree at the base of a climb can indicate recurring rockfall. Light colored spots on the wall may indicate impact chips of falling rock. Spring melt or warming by the sun of the rock/ice/snow causes rockfall.

e. Avalanches. Avalanches are caused by the weight of the snow overloading the slope. (Refer to paragraph 1-25 for more detailed information on avalanches.)

f. Hanging Glaciers and Seracs. Avoid, if at all possible, hanging glaciers and seracs. They will fall without warning regardless of the time of day or time of year. One cubic meter of glacier ice weighs 910 kilograms (about 2,000 pounds). If you must cross these danger areas, do so quickly and keep an interval between each person.

g. Crevasses. Crevasses are formed when a glacier flows over a slope and makes a bend, or when a glacier separates from the rock walls that enclose it. A slope of only two to three degrees is enough to form a crevasse. As this slope increases from 25 to 30 degrees, hazardous icefalls can be formed. Likewise, as a glacier makes a bend, it is likely that crevasses will form at the outside of the bend. Therefore, the safest route on a glacier would be to the inside of bends, and away from steep slopes and icefalls. Extreme care must be taken when moving off of or onto the glacier because of the moat that is most likely to be present.

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