Monday, March 30, 2020

Leave No Trace: Doing Your Dishes in the Backcountry

There are a tremendous number of skills to learn for the backcountry traveler, but washing dishes? This is something that a lot of people don't think about adequately until they are in the backcountry. How do I manage my food scraps and dish soap without polluting my water source? These are important questions, and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has the answers:

In review:

1) Dishes should be done 200-feet or at least seventy steps away from your water source.

2) You will need your dirty dishes, a scraper, soap, a towel, a sponge, a backcountry wash basin, and a trash bag.

3) Filter water before starting dishes. You may also heat the water to boiling and then let it cool. But you will need hot water anyway.

4) Scrape your dishes into the garbage bag.

5) Use minimal soap on the sponge to scrub your dishes clean.

6) Rinse your dishes in warm water and dry to eliminate any soapy residue.

7) Dispose of waste water (gray water) 200-feet from camp. Be sure to strain out food scraps.

8) The gray water may be splashed over a large area or disposed of in a cat hole.

9) The soap, scraper and sponge and anything else that smells should be kept in your food storage system.

Animals are attracted to the areas where you eat and wash. By eliminating a lot of food byproducts, you can decrease your interaction with rodents, raccoons and bears.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, March 27, 2020

Rock Climbing Technique: Clipping

As people progress into leading, they think about many elements of the sport. They think about how to place gear. They think about falling. They think about where they might stand while they get a piece. What many new leaders -- and some seasoned climbers -- forget to think about is how they're going to clip the rope to the protection.

This skill seems simple, but there's more to it than meets the eye...

In the following video Climbing magazine's Julie Ellison discusses how to appropriately clip the rope into a draw and explains some of the dangers that you should be aware of while clipping.

There are a couple of things in this video that Julie discusses quite quickly. Following is some additional information on these topics.

Carabiners Oriented in the Same Direction:

A quickdraw should aways be clipped away from the direction of the climb. In other words, both the gate on the bolt and the gate on the bottom carabiner should be oriented away from where you are actually climbing. If you are clipping to the right of your body and will be climbing up left, then the gates should face right. If you are clipping left of your body and you are climbing up right, then the gates should be facing left.
A draw with the carabiners facing the same direction.

Occasionally, you can't tell where the climb is going. In these cases, you just have to make your best guess.

There are two reasons for why we orient the gates away from the climb.

First, we want the rope to run over the spine of the bottom carabiner. This will keep the rope from accidently coming unclipped in the event of a fall. Occasionally, the rope will run over the gate perfectly during a fall and become unclipped, which could have catastrophic consequences.

Second, there have been occasions when the carabiner on the bolt has become unclipped. While rare, orienting the carabiner away from the line of the climb decreases the likelihood of this happening. If you poke around online, you'll find several of occasions where this has happened.

Loose Carabiner and Carabiner in Rubber Gasket:

The loose carabiner should always be on the side that you intend to clip to the bolt. The carabiner in the tight side of the draw should always be the carabiner you clip your rope to.

It's not a bad idea to use the same carabiners every time in the same positions. Carabiners that are bolt carabiners develop tiny groves and inconsistencies in the metal. These can damage your rope.

Carabiners that are rope carabiners are in the tight spot so that it's easier to clip them. The lack of rotation in the draw makes it easier to clip while at a funky stance.

A Final Note On Clipping:

Julie describes two orientations from which you clip carabiners. It's not a bad idea to practice both clipping styles when you're on the ground. This is the type of skill that you can do over and over again while watching tv. Clipping quickly and effectively should be second nature...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Climbing, Coronavirus and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 3/26/20


--Mt. Rainier National Park has closed.

--The Washington Department of Natural Resources closed trails and campgrounds.

--Campgrounds in Washington State Parks are closed. And Oregon State Parks are completely shuttered.

A large glide avalanche in the Mt. Baker Backcountry.

--The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center has suspended operations.


--Yosemite is closed. As is Sequoia and Kings Canyon.

Desert Southwest:

--Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is "closed." In other words, all the facilities and the scenic drive are closed, but it is still possible to hike on trails. Keep your social distance though!

--Joshua Tree National Park is closed to all but foot and bike traffic. But it is still crowded.

Colorado and Utah:

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "a rock climber was rescued after dark on a steep slope near Morrison, Colorado on Thursday. The West Metro Fire Rescue responded using a complicated, multi-tiered rope system to reach the climber who took a fall from a rock face about a mile up the trail." To read more, click here.

--Unofficial Networks is reporting that, "San Juan County, Colorado has banned all forms of backcountry recreation including skiing. The ban comes following huge numbers of skiers and riders taking to popular backcountry locations across Colorado." To read more, click here.

--Eight people have been caught in avalanches this week in Colorado. To read more, click here.

--This is really not the time to be calling on Search and Rescue. Nearly 40 SAR volunteers were required in an avalanche rescue in Colorado this week. To read more, click here.

--Rocky Mountain National Park is closed until further notice.

--Over the weekend the Colorado sun reported on a flurry of people accessing closed resorts on touring skis: "Across Colorado, the sudden shuttering of resorts has spurred a run on uphill ski equipment. Forget toilet paper. The hottest commodity in Colorado high-country right now is alpine-touring skis. Ski resorts across the state may not be spinning lifts, but the skiers are still skiing. Hundreds, if not thousands of skiers are regularly climbing resort slopes. Breckenridge and Keystone were allowing uphill all week until Vail Resorts on Friday pulled the plug on access at its two Summit County hills, plus Vail, Beaver Creek and Crested Butte." To read more, click here. In an update, not everyone is happy about all the up-hill skiing.

--The Summer Outdoor Retailer show is still on, for now.

--BLM Campgrounds in Indian Creek have been shut down.

Notes from All Over:

--An ice climber died last week climbing in Valdez, Alaska. To read more, click here.

--Climbing permits for Denali for the 2020 climbing season were suspended by the National Park Service last weekend. To read more, click here.

--Avalanche Canada has shut down for the remainder of the season.

--The Olympics will be delayed until 2021. This is a good thing as teams began to report that they weren't going to attend. In part this has to due with the difficulty of training during the COVID-19 crisis. To read more, click here.

--The thru-hiking season on the Pacific Crest Trail and the Appalachian Trail have effectively been shut down.

--On the other hand, there might actually be climbers on Everest this year after all. From the Katmandu Times: "China is all set to allow its nationals to attempt to climb the world’s highest peak from Tibet side in the spring season, according to sources. This season, no foreigners would be allowed to climb Mt Everest from the northern route but Chinese teams could easily get permit for Everest expedition, a high-level source at the China Tibet Mountaineering Association said." To read more, click here.

--ABC News is reporting that, "three of America's best-known national parks — Yellowstone, Grand Teton and Great Smoky Mountains — closed their gates Tuesday as parks struggle to keep popular recreation areas open while heeding warnings from officials urging them to prevent spreading the coronavirus at congested sites." To read more, click here.

--Canada closed all of its national parks yesterday.

--And finally, as always, here is the American Alpine Institute's Coronavirus Cancellation Policy.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Training: Throws and Deadpoints

The Climbing Movement Essential Training Series on Youtube is kind of awesome. The series is composed of a number of well produced videos that focus on different aspects of training for climbing.

A dynamic throw is a move that allows you to get to a hold that is out of your reach. This particular video will help you train for big moves.

In the video they use a system board for the training. If you don't have a system board you can always find moves at the rock gym that will still allow for this training.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, March 23, 2020

Rocky Mountain National Park is Closed until Further Notice

The American Alpine Institute just received this press release:

Rocky Mountain National Park Is Modifying Operations to Implement Latest Health Guidance

Rocky Mountain National Park is announcing modifications to operations at the request of the local health department. As of 7 pm today, Friday, March 20, 2020, Rocky Mountain National Park is closed to all park visitors until further notice. This closure will be in effect 24-hours a day/7-days a week and there will be no access permitted to Rocky Mountain National Park.

Park visitors are encouraged to take advantage of the many digital tools already available to explore Rocky Mountain National Park. Visitors are encouraged to learn about park resources and stories through the many multimedia presentations currently available on the park’s website and continue to enjoy Rocky Mountain National Park through the park’s webcams. There are many wonderful resources available for all ages to remotely explore Rocky Mountain National Park.

The health and safety of our visitors, employees, volunteers, and partners at Rocky Mountain National Park is our number one priority. The National Park Service (NPS) is working with the federal, state, and local authorities to closely monitor the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) situation. We will notify the public when we resume full operations and provide updates on our website and social media channels.

The NPS urges visitors to do their part when visiting a park and to follow CDC guidance to prevent the spread of infectious diseases by maintaining a safe distance between yourself and other groups; washing your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds; avoiding touching your eyes, nose, and mouth; covering your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze; and most importantly, staying home if you feel sick.

For high-risk populations, such as the elderly and people with underlying conditions, we ask that they take extra caution and follow CDC guidance for those at higher risk of serious illness.

Film Review: Mount St. Elias

Mount Saint Elias (18,008') is a massive peak with huge ridge lines, monster glaciers and steep terrain. There are no easy routes up -- or down the mountain.

From Wikipedia: 

Mount Saint Elias, also designated Boundary Peak 186, is the second highest mountain in both Canada and the United States, being situated on the Yukon and Alaska border. It lies about 40 kilometres (25 mi) southwest of Mount Logan, the highest mountain in Canada. The Canadian side is part of Kluane National Park, while the U.S. side of the mountain is located within Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve

Its name in Tlingit is Yaas'éit'aa Shaa, meaning "mountain behind Icy Bay", and is occasionally called Shaa Tléin "Big Mountain" by the Yakutat Tlingit. It is one of the most important crests of the Kwaashk'khwáan clan since they used it as a guide during their journey down the Copper RiverMount Fairweather at the apex of the British Columbia and Alaska borders at the head of the Alaska Panhandle is known as Tsalxhaan, it is said this mountain and Yaas'éit'aa Shaa (Mt. St. Elias) were originally next to each other but had an argument and separated. Their children, the mountains in between the two peaks, are called Tsalxhaan Yatx'i ("Children of Tsalxaan").

In 2007 a team of Austrian filmmakers went to the mountain to make a movie entitled Mount St. Elias, about the world's greatest ski descent. The goal was to ski from the summit all the way to the bay, which would make it an 18,000-foot ski line!!!

This particular objective had been tried before, with tragic consequence. The terrain is steep and
dangerous. It's one thing to make steep jump turns with serious consequences for a few hundred feet, but to do it for thousands upon thousands of feet is a different story. In 2002, Aaron Martin and Reed Sanders attmepted to ski down the mountain. Both men were killed in falls during the attempt.

This history provides a backdrop for the ski descent made by Axel Naglich and Peter Ressmann. The result is a gripping film about a serious undertaking by two world class skiers.

Throughout the film Naglich becomes the primary narrator. His Austrian accent is reminicent of Werner Hertzog's narration in Grizzly Man or Encounters at the End of the World. I found Naglich's accent easy to understand and endearing. This is probably because of my fondness for Hertzog's movies.

The ski descent doesn't exactly go as planned. The team is forced to ski the bottom portion of the mountain on a different trip from the top portion of the mountain. Some might argue that such a thing doesn't constitute a complete descent. I'm not one for such arguements...

Mount St. Elias is an awesome movie with fantastic cinematography and a fascinating story. And while the film doesn't exactly make me want to go out and ski Mount St. Elias, it certainly psyches me up for both skiing and climbing. I certainly wouldn't be opposed to climbing the mountain...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, March 20, 2020

Route Profile: Diedre - 5.7, II+

Between Vancouver, British Columbia and the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort lies one of the best rock climbing playgrounds in North America. Squamish, sometimes referred to as the "Yosemite of the Northwest," is home to hundreds - if not thousands - of spectacular routes, many of them moderate, and most of them easily accessible.

In the early nineties as I learned to climb, I spent a lot of time on the cliffs and crags of Squamish. When I was twenty years old I climbed Diedre (5.7, II+) for the very first time. And at that point in my climbing career, the ascent was life-changing. I had never really done anything longer than two pitches prior to that, and so the completion of a six pitch moderate route was a major achievement.

Diedra was put up in the early sixties on a formation in Squamish called "The Apron." There are a number of moderate routes on The Apron as it is a lower-angled formation. Diedre climbs through some slabs to attain a beautiful corner crack, which you follow for three pitches.

The climbing is never terribly hard, but it is exhilarating. The views of Howe Sound, the Stawamus Chief and nearby Mt. Garabalidi are absolutely stellar.

 AAI Guide and Program Coordinator James Pierson on Pitch 2.

James, approaching the belay station on moderate ground.

AAI Guide Tad McCrea, being a doofus, on moderate ground.

AAI Guide Mike Powers making his way up the fantastic finger crack on pitch 3.
 Another shot of pitch 3.

 James, leading pitch 3.

James, getting after it!

A mother and daughter team following pitch 4. 

 Near the anchors at the top of pitch 4.

 I have climbed Diedre at least twenty times over a timeframe exceeding twenty years. And I never get tired of it. The route seems fresh every time. Writing this today makes me wistful for the route. I can't wait to go back and climb it again...

--Jason D. Martin