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Whether it’s paddling, climbing, skiing, or whatever, pretty much the first thing you learn before embarking into the backcountry is to always take a buddy. Always. It’s no different than kindergarten, really. Call it the Backcountry Golden Rule. And eschew it at your peril. While there are certainly those special someones (ahem, Dean Potter) who excel alone in challenging wilderness settings, history is stacked with the bodies of backcountry travelers who have ignored the buddy system.
The Backcountry Golden Rule is especially important when moving over glaciers. Glaciers are basically frozen rivers that conceal fissures known as crevasses. Crevasses can be narrow and shallow or damn-near bottomless and wide enough to swallow a bus, and every size in between. And the truly diabolical thing about crevasses is that they are very often hidden by a weak surface layer of seasonal snow and ice, which means you won’t know you’re on top of one until it’s too late. Crevasse country should only be traversed by experienced groups traveling as a “rope team” so that if one climber punches through into a crevasse, the group can self-arrest by anchoring themselves into the ice and snow to prevent the individual from going too far into the icy abyss. Even in the best of circumstances, it can then take several full-grown adults many hours to effect rescue.
But what happens when you’re solo and fall into a crevasse? If you’ve got a camera, a YouTube account, and inexplicably live to share the tale, it goes a little something like this:
It’s truly remarkable that he’s alive. It speaks volumes to his immense skill with an ice axe, unwavering perseverance, and crazy good luck that he was able to successfully self-rescue. But more than anything, this video series speaks to the importance of the Backcountry Golden Rule: Always, always bring a buddy…or ten.