Mountain Grading

Mountain Grading

Trip Grading
We have grouped the mountaineering’s and treks into three bands – Introductory, Intermediate and Advanced.

Technical Difficulty:

  • Low angle snow or straightforward scrambling on rocks. Ropes are not usually required. Previous mountaineering experience is not essential.
  • Ropes are used principally for glacier travel and low angle snow or ice slopes. Mountaineering experience is preferred, but not usually essential.
  • Short, steep sections of snow or ice up to about 50 degrees. Previous snow and ice mountaineering experience is essential.
  • Long, steep snow and ice slopes with short steps of very steep ice or low grade rock mountaineering. Good all-round mountaineering ability required.
  • Very steep ice (Scottish III/IV or harder) or rock (Hard Severe or harder). Suitable for competent mountaineers who have climbed consistently at these standards.

Technique

Snow

Compacted snow conditions allow mountaineers to progress on foot. Frequently crampons are required to travel efficiently over snow and ice. Crampons have 8-14 spikes and are attached to a mountaineer’s boots. They are used on hard snow (neve) and ice to provide additional traction. Using various techniques from alpine skiing and mountaineering to ascend/descend a mountain is a form of the sport by itself, called ski mountaineering. Ascending and descending a snow slope safely requires the use of an ice axe and many different footwork techniques that have been developed over the past century, mainly in Europe. The progression of footwork from the lowest angle slopes to the steepest terrain is first to splay the feet to a rising traverse, to kicking steps, to front pointing the crampons. The progression of ice axe technique from the lowest angle slopes to the steepest terrain is to use the ice axe first as a walking stick, then a stake, then to use the front pick as a dagger below the shoulders or above, and finally to swinging the pick into the slope over the head. These various techniques may involve questions of differing ice-axe design depending on terrain, and even whether a mountaineer uses one or two ice axes. Anchors for the rope in snow are sometimes unreliable, and include snow stakes, called pickets, deadmandevices called flukes which are fashioned from aluminium, or devised from buried objects that might include an ice axe, skis, rocks or other objects.Bollards, which are simply carved out of consolidated snow or ice, also sometimes serve as anchors.

Glaciers

When travelling over glaciers, crevasses pose a grave danger. These giant cracks in the ice are not always visible as snow can be blown and freeze over the top to make a snowbridge. At times snowbridges can be as thin as a few inches. Climbers use a system of ropes to protect themselves from such hazards. Basic gear for glacier travel includes crampons and ice axes. Teams of two to five climbers tie into a rope equally spaced. If a climber begins to fall the other members of the team perform a self-arrest to stop the fall. The other members of the team enact a crevasse rescue to pull the fallen climber from the crevasse.

Ice climbing

Multiple methods are used to safely travel over ice. If the terrain is steep but not vertical, then the lead climber can place ice screws in the ice and attach the rope for protection. Each climber on the team must clip past the anchor, and the last climber picks up the anchor itself. Occasionally, slinged icicles or bollards are also used. This allows for safety should the entire team be taken off their feet. This technique is known as Simul-climbing and is sometimes also used on steep snow and easy rock. If the terrain becomes too steep, standard ice climbing techniques are used in which each climber is belayed, moving one at a time.

Base Camp

The “Base Camp” of a mountain is an area used for staging an attempt at the summit. Base camps are positioned to be safe from the harsher conditions above. There are base camps on many popular or dangerous mountains. Where the summit cannot be reached from base camp in a single day, a mountain will have additional camps above base camp. For example, the southeast ridge route on Mount Everest has Base Camp plus (normally) camps I through IV

Tent

Tents are the most common form of shelter used on the mountain. These may vary from simple tarps to much heavier designs intended to withstand harsh mountain conditions. In exposed positions, windbreaks of snow or rock may be required to shelter the tent. One of the downsides to tenting is that high winds and snow loads can be dangerous and may ultimately lead to the tent’s failure and collapse. In addition, the constant flapping of the tent fabric can hinder sleep and raise doubts about the security of the shelter. When choosing a tent, alpinists tend to rely on specialised mountaineering tents that are specifically designed for high winds and moderate to heavy snow loads. Tent stakes can be buried in the snow (“deadman”) for extra security.

Snow cave

Where conditions permit snow caves is another way to shelter high on the mountain. Some climbers do not use tents at high altitudes unless the snow conditions do not allow for snow caving, since snow caves are silent and much warmer than tents. They can be built relatively easily, given sufficient time, using a snow shovel. A correctly made snow cave will hover around freezing, which relative to outside temperatures can be very warm. They can be dug anywhere where there is at least four feet of snow. The addition of a good quality bevy bag and closed cell foam sleeping mat will also increase the warmth of the snow cave. Another shelter that works well is a quizzes, which is excavated from a pile of snow that has been work hardened or sintered (typically by stomping). Igloos are used by some climbers, but are deceptively difficult to build and require specific snow conditions.

Hazards

Mountaineering is considered to be one of the most dangerous activities in the world. Loss of life is not uncommon on most major extreme altitude mountaineering destinations every year. Dangers in mountaineering are sometimes divided into two categories: objective hazards that exist without regard to the climber’s presence, like rockfall, avalanches and inclement weather, and subjective hazards that relate only to factors introduced by the climber. Equipment failure and falls due to inattention, fatigue or inadequate technique are examples of subjective hazards. A route continually swept by avalanches and storms is said to have a high level of objective danger, whereas a technically far more difficult route that is relatively safe from these dangers may be regarded as objectively safer.

In all, mountaineers must concern themselves with dangers: falling rocks, falling ice, snow-avalanches, the climber falling, falls from ice slopes, falls down snow slopes, falls into crevasses and the dangers from altitude and weather.To select and follow a route using one’s skills and experience to mitigate these dangers is to exercise the climber’s craft.

Falling rocks

Every rock mountain is slowly disintegrating due to erosion, the process being especially rapid above the snow-line. Rock faces are constantly swept by falling stones, which may be possible to dodge. Falling rocks tend to form furrows in a mountain face, and these furrows (couloirs) have to be ascended with caution, their sides often being safe when the middle is stoneswept. Rocks fall more frequently on some days than on others, according to the recent weather. Ice formed during the night may temporarily bind rocks to the face but warmth of the day or lubricating water from melting snow or rain may easily dislodge these rocks. Local experience is a valuable help on determining typical rock fall on such routes.

The direction of the dip of rock strata sometimes determines the degree of danger on a particular face; the character of the rock must also be considered. Where stones fall frequently debris will be found below, whilst on snow slopes falling stones cut furrows visible from a great distance. In planning an ascent of a new peak or an unfamiliar route, mountaineers must look for such traces. When falling stones get mixed in considerable quantity with slushy snow or water a mud avalanche is formed (common in the Himalayas). It is vital to avoid camping in their possible line of fall.

Falling ice

The places where ice may fall can always be determined beforehand. It falls in the broken parts of glaciers (seracs) and from overhanging cornices formed on the crests of narrow ridges. Large icicles are often formed on steep rock faces, and these fall frequently in fine weather following cold and stormy days. They have to be avoided like falling stones. Seracs are slow in formation, and slow in arriving (by glacier motion) at a condition of unstable equilibrium. They generally fall in or just after the hottest part of the day. A skillful and experienced ice-man will usually devise a safe route through a most intricate ice-fall, but such places should be avoided in the afternoon of a hot day. Hanging glaciers (i.e. glaciers perched on steep slopes) often discharge themselves over steep rock-faces, the snout breaking off at intervals. They can always be detected by their debris below. Their track should be avoided.

Avalanches

Every year, 120 to 150 people die in small avalanches in the Alps alone. The vast majority are reasonably experienced male skiers aged 20–35 but also include ski instructors and guides.[citation needed] There is always a lot of pressure to risk a snow crossing. Turning back takes a lot of extra time and effort, supreme leadership, and most importantly there is seldom an avalanche that proves the right decision was made. Making the decision to turn around is especially hard if others are crossing the slope, but any next person could become the trigger.

There are many types of avalanche, but two types are of the most concern. These are Snow Avalanches and Ice Avalanches:

Snow Avalanches

Slab avalanche

This type of avalanche occurs when a plate of snow breaks loose and starts sliding downhill; these are the largest and most dangerous.

Hard slab avalanche

This type of avalanche is formed by hard-packed snow in a cohesive slab. The slab will not break up easily as it slides down the hill, resulting in large blocks tumbling down the mountain.

Soft slab avalanche

This type of avalanche is formed again by a cohesive layer of snow bonded together; the slab tends to break up more easily.

Loose snow avalanche

This type of avalanche is triggered by a small amount of moving snow that accumulates into a big slide. Also known as a “wet slide or point release” avalanche. This type of avalanche is deceptively dangerous as it can still knock a climber or skier off their feet and bury them, or sweep them over a cliff into a terrain trap.

The differences between, and advantages and disadvantages of, the two kinds of climbing are as follows:

Expedition Climbing

  • Uses multiple trips between camps to carry supplies up to higher camps
  • group sizes are often larger than alpine style climbs because more supplies are carried between camps
  • fixed lines are often used to minimize the danger involved in continually moving between camps
  • supplemental oxygen is frequently used
  • higher margin of safety in relation to equipment, food, time, and ability to wait out storms at high camps
  • avoidance of being trapped in storms at high altitudes and being forced to descend in treacherous avalanche conditions
  • possible higher exposure to objective hazards such as avalanches or rockfall, due to slower travel times between camps
  • higher capital expenditures
  • longer time scale

Alpine Climbing

  • climbers only climb the route once because they do not continually climb up and down between camps with supplies
  • fewer supplies are used on the climb therefore fewer personnel are needed
  • alpine style ascents do not leave the climber exposed to objective hazards as long as an expedition style climb does; however, because of the speed of the ascent relative to an expedition style climb there is less time for acclimatization
  • supplemental oxygen is not used
  • danger of being trapped at high altitude due to storms, potentially being exposed to HAPE or HACE
  • lower capital expenditures
  • shorter time scale

Function and Duty of Sirdars or Guides.

  • To assist the mountaineering party with recruitment of porters and other staff, control of porters, local purchase of food etc. and to solve any problem that may arise to the best of his ability.
  • To report to Government Authorities in case the party spends more than prescribed time limit in the Mountain.
  • To ensure that the climbers comply with the term of their permit.
  • To ensure that the climbers, (trekkers) follow the specified route.
  • To report to Govt. bodies if any infringement of the mountaineering rules.
  • To ensure proper disposal of waste materials.
  • To report any serious incidents to the nearest police post.
  • The Sirdar/Guide will be employed from the day the mountaineering party begins the trek until the trek is finished.

The Sirdar/guide should be provided with the following facilities:

  • Minimum daily allowance to be paid as per the rules of Government of Nepal Ministry of Tourism and Civil Aviation.
  • Food and accommodation (tent/s).
  • Mountaineering equipment and necessary clothing if required to go above base camp.

Insurance:-

All employees going above the base camp must be insured for personal accident to the value of Rs. 400,000.00.

Nomination of representative in Kathmandu:- Each party granted mountaineering permit will nominate representative in Kathmandu. The representative must be a Trekking and Expedition agency I.e, Exotic Himalayas Trekking and Expeditions Pvt.Ltd registered with Nepal Mountaineering Association & all government bodies. The nominated representative will be responsible for making necessary arrangements including permits etc for the mountaineering party in case of accidents or any other unforeseen circumstances.

Submission of report:- On the conclusion of the climb and on return to Kathmandu, the party will submit a report to Nepal Mountaineering Association in the form prescribed in Appendix

Power to cancel the permit:- Nepal Government may cancel or withdraw the mountaineering permit any time with or without showing any particular reason.

Non-compliance of the regulation:- Where any trekking party acts in contravention to the mountaineering permit or indulges in acts of unsocial or outrageous behavior contrary to the customs and culture of the people of Nepal, Government of Nepal can take necessary measures in accordance with Article 37 of Mountaineering Regulations 1979.

Protection of Environment:- Base camp and other camps will be left perfectly c lean at the conclusion of the climb. No foreign materials, such as fix rope, pitons, etc shall be left on the mountain. All rubbish and waste material must be burnt or otherwise disposed off.

Revision of the Regulations:- any article of this regulation may be revised or amended by Nepal Mountaineering Association with prior permission of Government of Nepal.

Asking for Mountaineering Permission:
The following documents have to be sent to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Mountaineering

Section, Kathmandu, Nepal.

  • Completed Application (Schedule – 1 of Regulations).
  • Endorsement of the National Alpine Club. (If there is no Alpine Club, endorsement of the Government).
  • Short biography of all members of the mountaineering (with photograph)
  • Map and /or photograph of the mountain indicating mountaineering route.
  • Approach route Map.

Since mountaineering permission is granted on ‘first come first serve’ basis, it is therefore necessary to enlist the mountaineering’s name for the particular mountain for the particular season of the year. The listing is made when the complete application forms with all documents are received by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation. In case all documents mentioned above can’t be submitted at a time, booking is possible with only the completed application by the mountaineering leader.

Payment Policy:

  • An advance of 25% is required when booking the mountaineering.
  • Further payment of 75% is required 60 days before the departure of the mountaineering.
  • The remaining balance has to be paid in Kathmandu before the departure of the mountaineering.

Payment Schedule of Permit Fees

  • The Permit fee should be paid maximum two months before the mountaineering permit will be issued.
  • The Permit fee is not refundable in case of cancellation. The mountaineering permit fee (permit fee) must be paid directly in favor of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Mountaineering Section, either by bank draft or bank draft or bank transfer to Nepal Rashtra Bank, Thapathali, Kathmandu, payable in convertible foreign currency.

SUBMISSION OF ROUTE MAP FOR MOUNTAINEERING

Every mountaineering team, while submitting an application to the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, and Mountaineering Section for a mountaineering permit, should submit a map, as prescribed which clearly depicts the caravan route and the mountaineering route.

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