A few days ago the Technical Rescue team paired up with the UT’s(Utility technicians) to create a safer way of cutting the snow that accumulates above the arches. I am the lead of the Technical Rescue Team (TRT), because of experience I have in the past working on ropes Courses.
A week before the cornice cutting, we got together for our usual TRT meeting and discussed snow anchors and making anchor systems. We then went outside and practiced these systems. It is much harder making figure 8 knots and putting rope in carabineers with mittens on.
Then, the day before we met with everyone who would be involved with the process to get a solid plan and create a JHA(job hazard assessment) of how we will do it, what equipment will be used, and things that have or have not worked in the past.
The day of the cutting was a full moon, which made it a lot brighter. We also set up a big light on top and bottom to make sure there was visual communication as well as talking. In the morning TRT went on top of the arches and set up 3 different anchor system locations so the person cutting could move across the arches to access all of the cornices. This way we were not rushed and we could let the anchors set before testing them. We buried ice anchors and shovels as our anchor points. We tied webbing to the shovels before burying them.
Then, after lunch we had everyone meet in the carp shop to get hand warmers and confirm that everyone understood their jobs before beginning. Max and I were on top in charge of the anchors and getting the person cutting roped in. Everyone else was on the bottom. The person cutting on the top switched halfway through since it is a lot of arm work. We used a long thin cable with a handle on each end. One end of the cable was thrown down and then there was a person on each end sawing back and forth to cut the cornice. The whole process took over an hour and we got down five or six big chunks of snow. The hardest part for me was not taking off my mittens to make the job go faster. We had to change the length of the rope a few times and I kept wanting to take off my mitten to make the figure 8 knot much quicker or get the rope out of carabineer. Touching metal in -90 degrees is a great way to get a nasty burn on your hand.
Overall, the process went very smoothly and the UT’s were very appreciative of our help making it safer. Plus it was really nice for TRT to finally get hands on practice and be involved in the experience.