Glissading is not only a
great way to get off a
mountain fast, it is also a lot
of fun if you know what you
are doing. The sitting glissade
is by far the most stable, and is featured here by David Koerner in the video above. Before you get started,
make sure to get in some practice on slopes with a safe run-out. When I say safe run-out I mean slopes that
do not end in cliffs, rocks, crevices, or other such dangers. The south slopes of Mt Shasta offer several areas
where you can safely practice the art of glissading (The north slopes of Shasta are heavily creviced. So avoid
that side of the mountain for this type of practice.)
Make sure to take off your crampons when glissading. Crampon points can catch in patches of ice and this
could easily send you tumbling head over heals down the mountain. I have also heard of accounts from
people who have seen or heard of people who broke ankles during glissades with crampons on.
So make sure to remove them before setting off on your slide. Gaiters can also be very useful when glissading
because they protect the calves of your legs from abrasion on sharp ice. I remember sliding down the same
section as shown above on Mt Shasta, and having the skin on my calves completely torn away which left a
trail of blood behind on the ice. So wear your gaiters. Gortex or rain pants can also be very helpful when
glissading. They not only give you a faster ride, but they also protect your inner clothing from getting soaked
during the ride down.
Now for the more technical stuff. When glissading, try to slightly bend your knees. This gives you a slight
advantage for shock absorption. For a brake, use the spike of your ice axe like a rudder along the snow on
one side of you. Make sure to keep both hands on the axe in order to maintain control. Putting pressure on
the spike helps reduce speed and helps keep your posture in check so you do not tend to lean forward too
To stop, apply more downward pressure to the axe, and dig in your heals a bit more if you are in softer snow.
If you are on snow that is hard packed, (or on an icy slope), you will most likely have to self arrest. To do
this, roll over on your belly in order to get into a self arrest position. Then use the pick of your ice axe to bring
yourself to a halt.
Well, that's about it for the sitting glissade. There is also the standing glissade, and the crouching glissade.
These types of activities are much more difficult to master than the sitting glissade, and require a lot of
balance. They are similar to snow skiing, but with less control.
We used a lot of terms here, and not all of you will be familiar with them. When time permits we will add
additional information about the ice axe, crampons, and other mountaineering equipment.
VIDEO TO THE
LEFT OF (and by)
Mt Shasta in the image above offers great glissading opportunities. The slide from Red Banks at over 12,820 ft down to Lake
Helen at 10,400 feet is one of my all time favorite glissades!
For much more information on Mt Shasta including a climb up Avalanche Gulch, click here.