Why We Learn to Self-Arrest

It seemed almost silly at first, my partner and I on this very slight slope on the side of Mt. Adams learning to self-arrest. The idea wasn’t silly of course, learning how to prevent injury and death when falling down the side of a glacier, when standing on a glacier, was certainly a wise move. But the action itself seemed odd- flipping over onto your stomach on the ice, digging in with your ice axe (which, if held correctly in the first place, shouldn’t have been stabbing us in the chest) and kicking your feet/crampons much like a cat in a litter box. It’s obvious why you practice this move on a slight slope, before you get much higher on the mountain.

That being said, it’s one of those skills that you learn, and remember, and practice, but hope to never have to use. In the case of this video, the climber didn’t actually get a chance to self-arrest (for a variety of reasons that we can only discern from watching the video), and the fact that he survived is actually quite amazing. But it’s a good reminder why we learn the skill in the first place.

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