Mountain Hazards


(vii)      Snow Bridge.                        A bridge formed over a crevasse or a stream which is not very strong is always a hazard for people moving in snow bound areas. To avoid these bridges team should probe the route along which they are moving

(viii)     Snow on Trees.        After fresh snow fall some snow gets accumulated on the trees which become hard after some days. This snow can cause harm if falls on somebody sitting under that tree. One should avoid camping under trees having snow accumulated on them

(b)       Weather Hazards.      Weather conditions in the mountains may vary from one location to another as little as 10 km apart. Approaching storms may be hard to spot if masked by local peaks. A clear, sunny day in July could turn into a snowstorm in less than an hour. Always pack some sort of emergency gear. The types of weather hazards are enumerated below :-

         (i)         Wind Chill.      Winds are stronger and more variable in  mountains. The effect of low temperature is                   compounded by the heat extracting effect of the wind and the two in combination should be taken into account          when considering the weather.
         (ii)        Low Visibility.         Fog, rain, darkness, and / or blowing snow cause poor visibility which can lead to                   disorientation. Take note of your exact position and plan your route to safety before visibility decreases.
         (iii)       White Out.       A dangerous condition in winter when falling and drifting snow, or poor visibility cause the          horizon to merge with the ground and the sky.  It is difficult to then orientate oneself and very easy to walk over          an edge. If one has to move under these conditions, it is best to rope up. The point man should move at the end          of the rope. Use a route sketch and march table.
         (iv)        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.
         (v)        Lightning.      Lightning is frequent, violent, and normally attracted to high points and prominent features          in mountain storms. One should stay away from big trees and metal objects.
         (vi)       Dry air.       Air is dryer at higher altitudes, so dehydration is of greater concern. Intake of adequate liquid          is necessary.
         (vii)       For each 300 m rise in altitude, the temperature drops approximately one degree Celsius. This can                   cause hypothermia and frostbite even in summer, especially when combined with wind, rain, and snow.                   Always wear or pack appropriate clothing.

(c)        Rock Hazards.          Three types of rock hazards are as follows:-

(i)         Scree or Loose Slate.          Loose rock eroded from a mountain and found in steep slopes below cliffs.  Can be very awkward to climb and descend over scree

(ii)        Verglas.         Cold combined with fog can cause a thin sheet of ice to form on rocks is called verglas. Presence of verglas on rock face makes climb very dangerous.
(iii)       Loose Rocks.            Loose rocks on the rock face make climb difficult as it becomes difficult to find natural anchors and to put pitons in the rock. Loose rocks are very dangerous for climbers following the lead climber.       Avoid selecting route along the rock faces having loose rocks and everyone should wear helmet while climbing.  

(d)       Health Hazards.       People operating in high altitudes and snow bound areas face following health problems:-

        (i)        Hypothermia.        It is generalized cooling of body caused by exposure to extreme cold.
        (ii)       Chilblains.     It is a cold injury which occurs due to excessive exposure of body parts to extreme cold.
        (iii)      Frost Bite.      It is caused by localized cooling of a body part. Tissue exposed to extreme cold can begin to         freeze over time, often causing permanent damage
        (iv)       High Altitude Pulmonary Oedema(HAPO).         High altitude pulmonary Oedema is not a disease, it is an         acute, dramatic and sometimes life-threatening condition seen in un-acclimatized persons. This sometimes         happens suddenly and without warning to a person.
        (v)       Acute Mountain Sickness(AMS).       AMS is caused by diminished oxygen pressure in the atmosphere,         and hence in the blood, and strikes those falling to adapt to high altitude. 
        (vi)      Snow Blindness.     It occurs due to overexposure to sunrays and ultraviolet rays reflected from snow.
        (vii)      Sun Burns.        It occurs due to overexposure to sunrays, and ultraviolet rays over high mountains. Sun         burn can be of two types ie superficial and deep


4.         Lack of knowledge about mountains can be cause for mishaps and failure of operation. Therefore, it becomes imperative for a mountaineer to know all the problems he is likely to face while in mountains.

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The Jawahar Institute of Mountaineering and Winter Sports (JIM&WS)

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