Mountain dangers: Crumbling, Snow patches, and Animals

 The previous article was discussing the dangers of summer thunderstorms, which are one of the most frequent phenomena in the mountains and represent the biggest threat to mountaineers during a trip. However, there are some other dangers that need to be considered when planning climbing the mountains in summer. This article will present those dangers and advise you on how to avoid them.

Falling rocks and stones

Especially on the bedrock-types of stoneware, the surface tends to be crumbly. We can find such stoneware in most of the Alpine and other similar mountain ranges. In winter, when the water and snow freeze between the cracks, the conditions for crumbling are created.  Due to the pressure caused by the frozen water, stones and rocks become less solid. Therefore in the spring and early summer, a considerable amount of consciousness is needed when climbing the mountains. 

What can I do to decrease crumbling?

It is recommended to wear a helmet because small pieces of rock can already cause serious injuries when traveling down the hill. In addition, choosing an appropriate path could also decrease dangers associated with crumbling, such as choosing the “anchoring” under overhangs, caves, or away from the planned routes.

While deciding on anchoring a climbing partner should observe the situation and warn in case of danger. Another technique that could prevent crumbling is the three-point rule. The three-point rule means an individual is stable at three points, while he is testing the stability of the fourth point. This can decrease crumbling as well as increase the safety of the climber and others involved.  

In order to recognize the safety of the point, the climber should know how to test it. Some techniques are: hitting the object with the side of the palm, to inspect the hardness. If the sound is hollow, the point should rather be avoided. When spotting a possible malicious point, warning of the others is required. If you uncover a more unstable region, also warn others for the possibility of falling rocks.

Rope can also cause crumbling, especially when under tension. If the rope is stuck on an unstable part of a rock it can cause crumbling, therefore it is recommended to observe the rope to prevent such occurrence.

Crossing snow patches in summer

Sometimes, especially at high altitudes snow and ice don’t melt completely through the year. Those surfaces can quickly become dangerous when crossing them. Snow is usually stuck together and can freeze during the night. The surface can be very slippery and hollow because warm rocks melt the snow underneath the surface. Because of that, there is a danger of snow-crust collapses. Collapses can cause injuries such as sprained ankle, slides, or any other unwanted occurrence.

How to cross snow patches?

It is recommended to stabilize your step by hewing it into the snow surface. In addition, it is recommended to stay at the edge of the snow patch or near a wall, where the surface is usually thinner and more stable. Appropriate shoes and other equipment also play an important role while setting your foot on such a slippery surface. If the surface is located on a steep area an ax and crampons are also recommended.   


Mountains are also a natural habitat for some animals. Due to a limited amount of space, stumbling upon animals in the mountains isn’t so impossible. Chamois, ibexes, bears, mountain goats, and snakes are typical examples of mountain animals that could represent a threat to mountaineers. If they feel threatened, they can attack.

How to act when meeting them?

The best way to avoid being attacked is to stand still, be silent, and keep your body to the ground. That way an animal will have the time to select another route and escape away from you. Give the animal time to escape and then slowly proceed with your activity.  

Mountains are a beautiful place, which can also be a very difficult and attention-demanding environment. By considering these potential dangers, avoiding them is fairly easy if approached correctly. Enjoy your next trip, because if you don't go, you don't have a story!

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Mountaineering Essentials