Cornices are deposits of snow, resembling frozen waves, that form on the leeward side of a ridge or peak. They are formed as wind constantly blows snow over the edge. As the snow is blown across the ridge, some of it begins to accumulate horizontally out over thin air.

This horizontal growth is limited obviously, and eventually the cornice curves over much like a large ocean wave breaking onto the beach. These snow formations are very dangerous as they can break away from the ridge and trigger avalanches.

Many climbers have broken through cornices and fell to their death, and many others have died from cornice-triggered avalanches. For this reason, you should avoid traveling on top of or underneath a cornice.

As always, get professional mountaineering instruction before attempting a mountain climb.

Return to Mountain Safety from Cornices page

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