Glissade (climbing)

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Two people glissading while sitting Glissading Down (14493135580) (cropped).jpg
Two people glissading while sitting

Glissading is the act of descending a steep snow- or scree-covered slope via a controlled slide on one's feet or buttocks. It is an alternative to other descent methods such as plunge stepping, and may be used to expedite a descent, or simply for the thrill. Glissading involves higher risks of injuries than other forms of descending. [1] [2] Glissading with crampons is especially dangerous and should never be attempted. [1] [3]



There are three primary methods of glissading:

Sitting glissade

A man glissading while sitting and using an ice axe Glissading 0125 (3938801127).jpg
A man glissading while sitting and using an ice axe

This is the easiest type of glissade and generally provides the greatest amount of stability. It is also less tiring than a standing or crouching glissade in softer snow. To perform a sitting glissade one sits down and slides on the slope usually holding on to an ice axe in a self-arrest position, especially when the run-out of the slope is in question.

The major drawbacks to the sitting glissade are that one's outer layers get wet, and that there is less control than in a standing glissade.

Standing glissade

A standing glissade Ann demonstrating glissading on McBride Peak (7669616726).jpg
A standing glissade

The standing glissade is often the preferred method if the person glissading is skilled in doing so and snow conditions allow. In this glissading position one has a better view of route hazards, and increased maneuverability over a sitting glissade. In addition a standing glissade cuts down the wet and abrasive forces of the sitting glissade. The standing glissade is best performed over firm snow with a soft top layer.

Crouching glissade

The crouching glissade is similar to the standing method except the climber sits back and drags the spike of their ice axe (held in self-arrest grip) in the snow. The method is slower but more controlled than the standing glissade. A disadvantage to this technique is the tiring of the legs.

See also

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  1. 1 2 "The Dangers of Glissading". American Alpine Institute. 18 Aug 2008. Retrieved 16 Dec 2014.
  2. "Traveling on Snow". Backpacker . 6 (4): 42. 28 Aug 1978. Retrieved 14 December 2014. "Again, glissading is the most dangerous method of descending snow slopes for a backpacker."
  3. "Fall on Snow - Glissading with Crampons". American Alpine Club. 2015. Retrieved 15 May 2019. "The Mt. Shasta rangers constantly stress that climbers never should glissade while wearing crampons. Regardless, a few slip through the cracks. Double broken ankles should teach a powerful lesson."