Survival Skills

How To Move Across Ice


This article is taken from Bear's book How To Stay Alive.

As a team, we spend a lot of time in the mountains particularly in the winter months when skiing season is in full swing! Something that is vitally important to look out for is ice amongst the snow. Its critical to take care when crossing an icy patch and there are some key do's and don'ts when it comes to moving across ice. If you put a foot wrong, you could find yourself if a sticky and potentially very dangerous situation.

If you need to cross ice, for example, a frozen lake or river, be extremely careful. The ice may well be strong enough to take your weight, but you can't be sure so proceed with caution. Falling through into the water can reduce your core body temperature in minutes meaning your body can't function and move as it usually does to get you out of danger. In this situation, literally every second counts and you must get out as soon as possible.

Look for signs that the ice can hold your weight - if you see water near the edges, water moving under the ice, cracks or holes, AVOID at all costs. The likelihood is, this is weak ice and a small amount of pressure on it will have the whole thing shattering beneath you. Strong ice tends to have a blueish colour, no air bubbles under the surface and be clear of snow.

Once you're confident you're able to move across the ice, some key things to remember are:

  • Take small steps, testing the ice in front of you with a stick or your hiking poles before you move forward.
  • If you have a backpack, keep it on one shoulder only so that if you do go in, you can remove it easily and use it as a floatation device.
  • If you begin to see cracks appear, lie down slowly and spread your weight over as wide an area as possible.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is presented as general guidance in relation to the subject addressed. It is not a substitute and not to be relied on for medical or other professional advice on specific circumstances and in specific locations. So far as the author is aware the information given is correct and up to date at the time of publication. The author disclaim, as far as the law allows, any liability arising directly or indirectly from the use, or misuse, of the information contained in this article.

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