Glacier travel - Neat trick for rope spacing


When roping up for crevasse travel, a key question is what distance should you have between climbers? It's sort of depends on the potential size of the crevasses you may be facing, but for moderate sized crevasses typical of the Cascade Range, here’s a quick and easy to remember how to set up the rope spacing:

Take the number of people on a glacier travel rope team, and subtract that from 10. That gives you the number of arm spans between climbers.


  • 2 climbers: 10-2 = 8. Have 8 arm lengths of rope between each climber

  • 3 climbers: 10-3 = 7. Have 7 arm lengths of rope between each climber

  • 4 climbers: 10-4 = 6. Have 6 arm lengths of rope between each climber

If you’re on a two person team, be sure and tie about six brake knots in the rope between each climber.

If you have a team of three, put the least experienced person in the middle, and the two more experienced people on the end. The end people will be more responsible for route finding and probably initiating a rescue if you need one.

To set this up for a three person team with at least two experienced climbers:

  1. Find the middle of the rope, tie a butterfly knot for the middle person.

  2. Measure about seven full arm spans from this middle knot towards each rope end, and tie a butterfly knot. These are the tie in points for the two end people. Each of them then coils the remaining rope for use in a possible rescue.

  3. If you have only one experienced person on your rope team, then the novices should probably tie in starting at one end of the rope with seven arm spans between them, and the more experienced person should carry all the the remaining rope.

To set this up for a four person team:

  1. Find the middle of the rope.

  2. Measure three arm spans to the right of the rope middle, and tie a butterfly knot.

  3. Measure three arm spans to the left of the rope middle, and tie another butterfly knot.

  4. Finally, measure six arm spans from each of these knots to end of the rope, and tie your final two butterfly knots for the end climbers. Again, the two end climbers should ideally be more experienced people capable of route finding and crevasse rescue. They also carry the remaining rope, either coiled over their shoulder or stuffed into a backpack.

And one more related tip: If you're doing an alpine start in the dark, set up your rope properly the night before with the knots in the right place. It's one less thing to do early in the morning when you're sleepy.

This Tip is from the excellent Outdoor Research Youtube Channel.