Why are crevasse crossings, like on Everest, two ladders strapped together?


To me it seems silly and unnecessarily dangerous. I imagine there are some positives like being lightweight, cheap, the rungs are probably good for crampons.

But why tie two together in the middle? Just get a long one. And if your life depends on it why not make it a bit wider and have better anchors on either side. Some light railings. Design it to be super portable, rich people would pay for it.

Really the thing that gets me is they tie two together in the dead center.

In: 1127


Professional Alpinist who trains with the Khumbu Ice Fall doctors here.

The ladders you’re talking about are on the lower reaches of Everest – the khumbu Ice Fall on the south side.

The khumbu ice fall is a deadly place, with blocks of ice the size of building regularly falling and killing people. An ice fall is basically a vertical glacier that is always moving and changing. The ladders are fixed by a team know as “The Ice Fall Doctors” – it’s a govt run team that is funded and staffed by sherpa contributed by companies all over Nepal.

Being a glacier, the Ice fall does not come with a map. The team does not know what they will find till they get there. Some crevasses are narrow enough to comfortably walk over. Some can swallow a house whole.

The aluminium ladders are carried up from Kathmandu to Lukla by rickety airplane. Then from lukla to EBC on a mule’s back. Then on human back up there ice fall. There, they are anchored in fricking ice, which as you know, is not cement.

If it were your job to fix only 1 crevasse on the ice fall – just 1 – with ladders, the catch being you are not told how wide this crevasse is, and if you fuck up, you die on the spot, what would you rather do? Would you rather start from KTM with one 50 foot ladder, or 5 x 10 foot ladders?

The crevasses change shape and snow quantities, so there is no perfect route. Aluminum is light and doesn’t lose strength in the cold. Climbing rope is engineered and has a strength rating, making it a convenient marriage. Though I’d be surprised if they didn’t have some sort of aluminum bracket to go with the ladders.

The solution for crossing crevasses have to be carried by hand. Its moving all the time so from one month to the next its a completely different death maze. Ladders are the only practical solution in this case.

I love Reddit. A professional Alpinist responds with a detailed and accurate answer and a bunch shut-ins tell them how they should do it better!