Friday, May 29, 2020

The Dangers of Glissading

Yep, you can find them in just about every issue of Accidents in North American Mountaineering. They have unwieldy headlines like:

"Climber injured in Glissade Accident"
"Out of Control Glissade Leads to Fatality"
"Inexperience, Lack of Proper Clothing and Glissade with Crampons On"

Gissading is an incredibly fun endeavor. I've often felt that after achieving a somewhat physical summit that a good glassade run back down makes it all worth it. It's as if nature gave you something back for all of the work that you did to get up there. The desire to glissade though should be tempered by the reality...and the reality is that a lot of people get hurt glissading.

Most injuries take place because an individual breaks one of the cardinal rules. To stay safe, the best thing to do is to take these rules seriously.

The Cardinal Rules of Glissading 
  1. Never glissade with crampons on. If you're wearing crampons it means that you're probably on hard snow or ice. This means that should you glissade, you will slide really fast. If you slide really fast and you catch a crampon spike, your leg will snap like a dry twig. As such one should never glissade with crampons on. 
  2. Never glissade on a rope team. If one person loses control on a rope team, then others may do so as well. 
  3. Never glissade on a glacier. It's likely that you'll be roped up if you're on a glacier so if you do glissade, you will be breaking two rules at once. We don't glissade on glaciers because of the possibility of hidden crevasses. 
  4. Always make sure that you can see where you're going. This should make sense. If you can't see, then you could end up sliding into a talus field or off a cliff. 
  5. Make sure that there is a good run-out. A good run-out is imperative. One should certainly avoid glissading above dangerous edges, boulders or trees. 

These rules are quite black and white. There are few gray areas in glissading. If there is some question, then the best thing to do is to err on the side of caution. Though you might be tired, sometimes walking down the mountain is the safer alternative.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Climbing, Coronavirus and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 5/28/20


--The NCW Life Channel is reporting that, "A climber who fell near the top of a ridge in the Wenatchee Foothills on Monday had to be rescued by crews from the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office’s and Chelan County Fire District 1. The climber was coming down the peak above the WRAC in the Wenatchee foothills when he started sliding and injured his shoulder, said Capt. Clint Webley of the fire district said." To read more, click here.

Mt. Hood from Timberline Lodge

--There were two rescues on Mt. Hood over the holiday weekend. Conditions were bad, and the mountain was busy. There is some concern that pent up demand as we reopen is leading to poor choices. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive will be reopening on June 1st...just as it gets too hot to climb. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Fox News is reporting that, "A Utah climber who fell and cracked his head while scaling a cliff by himself on Sunday was rescued after he regained consciousness, and nearby campers heard his cries for help, authorities said. The 52-year-old man, whose name has not been released, was climbing up a slot in the cliff near Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery, by the Colorado border, when he fell an unknown distance, the Uintah County Sheriff’s Office said. He told rescuers he didn’t know how long he was unconscious before he awoke and yelled for help." To read more, click here.

--Some yahoos lit a massive bonfire under the Red Monster Boulder in Utah's Ibex climbing area. There is carbon damage on two popular hard boulder problems. To read more, click here.

--Eldorado Canyon's The Naked Edge (5.11b, 6-pitches) , has a new speed record: 24-minutes and 14-seconds bridge-to-bridge. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--REI and are parting ways. To read more, click here and here.

--Ski is reporting that the "Indy Pass Adds 7 Independent Ski Areas for 2020-’21 Season.
The $199 multi-resort season pass will now offer skiers access to 52 independently owned ski resorts across North America." To read more, click here.

--If the Olympics aren't able to happen next year, they won't happen...

--There is real concern that summer sleep-away camps for children may go bankrupt this summer. A New York Times guest columnist and summer camp owner believes that there's an answer: Make summer camps available to families. "We believe that summer camps heal and strengthen social bonds, and therefore provide a vital service during these stressful times. While we cannot predict exactly what the state of public health will be in our home state or other states during the summer months, we do know that families are yearning for safe outdoor spaces where their children can feel free again. We know that camps have always been those safe spaces. By opening cabins to entire families, camps can provide the same invigorating social connections and memorable moments for parents and their families as they always have for kids." To read more, click here.

--A boy in the Italian Alps had a very close call with a bear this week. The family was on a picnic when a bear approached. The boy's dad filmed the boy as he carefully moved away. We're not huge fans of people who film close calls with bears. This is because it's better to be focused on the animal and doing the right thing than on getting something for facebook. However, this boy does such a good job, it's worth watching him as he escapes the animal:

--Snews is reporting on how many outdoor brands are now manufacturing masks, not just as PPE, but for activewear. To read more, click here.

--From the New York Times: "How the Pandemic Splintered the Appalachian Trail: The coronavirus scuttled plans and forced officials to ask people to get out of the woods. Of the thousands who hoped to hike the trail this year, only a few hundred remain." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Route Profile: Cutthroat Peak, S. Buttress (5.8, III+)

Every winter the Washington Department of Transportation turns a cold shoulder to a stretch of State Route 20 that winds its way through the Northern Cascades.  This area sees so much snow and crosses so many avalanche paths that it is not feasible for them to maintain the road and keep it plowed.  This stretch can see sometimes more than 60 or 70 feet of snow in some places.  Every spring, we eagerly await the reports from the DOT as they start the clearing process.  Depending on the snowfall and the avalanche conditions, this can take a few weeks, or a few months.  This year, the highway was cleared and open by May 8, and climbers and skiers alike have already started enjoying the numerous routes there.

The Liberty Bell Group from the East.  Dana Hickenbottom.
SR 20 cuts through the heart of the North Cascades National Park, and is the access for hundreds of peaks.  One of my favorite areas along there is known as Washington Pass.  This Pass is home to some of the best alpine rock climbing in the state.  The most notable formation there is the Liberty Bell Group, which includes Liberty Bell, Concord Tower, Lexington Tower, North Early Winters Spire and South Early Winters Spire.  Each of these peaks have numerous routes on them ranging from 5.6 beginner routes to 5.12 Grade V monsters.

However, the Liberty Bell Group isn't the only fine chunk of granite in the area.  Another great is Cutthroat Peak, which is just to the north of Liberty Bell, on the other side of the highway.  At 8050', it tops out at about 300' higher then anything in the Liberty Bell Group.  When viewed from the east or west, you can see the distinctive North and South Summits, which form the shape of the salmon that it is named after.

Climbers approaching through the grassy meadows to
the southwest of the peak.  James Pierson

There are a hand-full of routes on the peak, mostly in the moderate range, although there are a couple in the 5.10 and over range, as well as some alpine ice routes.  From the highway, you park at a broad pull-off south and just west of the peak, approximately 1.5 miles west of Washington Pass.  Drop down into the drainage and start the brushy hike up the other side towards the meadows on the southwest of the peak.  Ascend the northern-most notch of the Southwest Arm to get to the base of the South Buttress to start the real climbing.  The South Buttress, shown middle-center in the photo below, is a great 5.8 route that follows the crest of the feature, with a few short sections that venture to the east before returning back to the ridge.  If you find yourself getting sucked too far to the left, be sure to steer yourself back to the crest again.

View of Cutthroat Peak from the summit of Liberty Bell.  James Pierson

The majority of the route is easier climbing with a few short but well protected 5.6 - 5.7 spots.  The crux of the climb (5.8) comes near the top, just before you start the final easy scramble.  This takes you up to the first of the two summits.

Rock Ptarmigan trying to blend in. James Pierson
Mountain goat coming to say hello.  James Pierson

Above is a 360 deg. panorama from the summit of Cutthroat Peak.  From this vantage point, you have spectacular views of the Liberty Bell Massif, Big Kangaroo Peak, Silver Star Peak, the Wine Spires, in to British Columbia to the north, and on a good day you can even catch glimpses of Mt. Baker.

Climber starting to rappel down the
West Ridge. James Pierson
For the descent, you have two options.  If there are no other climbers behind you, you can rappel the route.  The other option is to continue scrambling and drop into the notch between the North and South Summits, ascend the North Summit and then rappel down the West Ridge route.  There are fewer rappels this way, but there is also some loose scree scrambling as you come off the West Ridge.

Cutthroat Peak is often overlooked by climbers since its neighbors on the other side of the highway have such easy access.  But with a little extra effort on the approach, you will find a great climb for anyone looking for a long, moderate climb with beautiful surroundings.

--James Pierson, Program Coordinator and Guide

Monday, May 25, 2020

Captain Kirk likes to Climb Mountains

Captain Kirk likes to climb mountains.

In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the movie starts with Captain Kirk most of the way up a free solo ascent of El Capitan. Of course, Spock has to mess things up by showing up in his jet boots.

We've posted this clip in the past, but we've never had William Shatner's commentary on the scene before. It's pretty funny. William Shatner is clearly not a climber.

So before we look at Mr. Shatner's comments on climbing, we have the scene from Star Trek V to refresh your memories:

This is the clip where William Shatner explains that mountain climbers like to hug and make love to the mountain:

And this is the remix of the clip fashioned as a musical:

Yep, Captain Kirk sure does like to climb mountains!

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Ice Bollard

Steep snow or ice can be descended two ways. A climber could downclimb the terrain or he could rappel. Rappelling is always a dangerous option as a lot can go wrong...but in the mountains, sometimes the speed of rappelling is safer than downclimbing.

A Climber Rappels Off of an Ice Bollard

In hard frozen snow or on ice, one option is to create a bollard. A bollard is essentially a tear-drop shaped pillar that is cut into a frozen surface with an ice axe adze. The rope is then wrapped around the bollard for the rappel. Once the rappel is completed, the climber can simply pull the rope.

Bollards are not the strongest anchors available, but they are quick and effective. If you choose to use a bollard, it is important to do two things. Back them up and reset the rope after each rappel.

An Ice Bollard loosely Backed-Up by an Ice Screw

To back-up a bollard, create the bollard and then preset the rope. Place a piece of snow protection (e.g. a picket buried as a deadman) and then loosely clip a sling to both the piece and to the rope. Once this is set-up, the heaviest person with the heaviest pack should rappel first. The theory is that if the heaviest person with the heaviest pack doesn't blow out the bollard, then a lighter person should be able to remove the back-up piece and safely rappel.

To reset the rope after each rappel, simply treat the rope like dental floss. Pull on each end of the rope once your down. Resetting the rope like this will ensure that it doesn't freeze into place and get stuck.

An Ice Bollard backed-up by an Ice Screw

Snow and ice bollards are a quick and effective style of anchoring that avoids leaving trash -- or expensive gear -- behind. Practice with this style of rappel anchor will lead to a solid and safe understanding as to how one should employ them effectively...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Climbing, Coronavirus and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 5/21/20


--Timberline Ski Resort on Mt. Hood reopened on May 15th. To read more, click here.

--Oregon's Smith Rock State Park has reopened on a limited basis. To read more, click here.

The Twin Sister Range, east of Bellingham.

--It looks like the Canadian Border will stay closed to at least June 21. Squamish is for Canadians only! To read more, click here.


--Here's an update on the status of roads and campgrounds in the Eastern Sierra.

Desert Southwest:

--KNAU NPR is reporting on how the Trump Administration's border wall will impact the Arizona Trail, one of 11 National Scenic Trails in the United States. "The proposed 74-miles of new border barrier would cut through the southernmost section of the Arizona National Scenic Trail in the Huachuca Mountains and Coronado National Memorial. The Trail Association says it would obliterate the starting point of the 800-mile trail, transform the landscape and alter the experience for its tens of thousands of users." To read more, click here.

--Joshua Tree National Park has reopened, but there are a lot of camping restrictions. To find out more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--A climber in his early twenties was seriously injured in Utah's Snow Canyon on Tuesday. To read more, click here.

--Estes Park Trail Gazette is reporting on a technique to decrease the number of visitors in Rocky Mountain National Park upon reopening. "Plans include a proposal to the Department of the Interior (DOI) to move forward with access based on a scheduled time and approved permit. The park is hoping to limit the number of visitors to 13,500 per day during the first stage of reopening." To read more, click here.

--Arapahoe Basin still might reopen. 

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Colorado’s current snowpack is at just 43 percent of where the snowpack was this time last year and 64 percent of the average for this date, despite reaching a peak snowpack at 103 percent of the norm this season. This low snowpack is due to warm temperatures and a dry spring, which has resulted in a faster melt and less snow." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A climber was injured in a rappelling accident near Billings, Montana this week. To read more, click here.

--The New York Times is reporting that, "Patagonia, quick to close, could be the last to reopen." To read more, click here.

--There is a lot of fear that wildfire camps could be places where COVID-19 runs rampant. To read about it, click here.

--Gripped is reporting on some new Canadian routes: "A handful of new multi-pitch routes have been climbed up the Solar Panel wall west of Nordegg in central Alberta. The climbs are accessed from the Preskott Creek parking area, the same lot used for the new sport climbing area Little Russia." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Mountaineers Rest Step

When I first started mountaineering it became clear to me that there were two things I needed to be successful. And no, I'm not talking about a lighter ice axe or more breathable clothing.

Nope. What I need were legs and lungs.

I realized that I needed to be able to walk uphill forever. And I realized that I needed to be able to breathe while I walked uphill forever.

The problem is that nobody can really walk uphill forever. Going up into the sky on a snowy peak really works the quads. Tired quads, plus walking uphill early in the morning, plus altitude, equals tired lungs.

There is a simplistic trick that can help you to preserve both your legs and your lungs. The Mountaineer's Rest Step is a technique that slows you down a bit -- which helps you keep your breath -- and allows you a micro-rest on every step. In the simplest terms, all that you have to do is lock your knee on every step. Locking your knee allows your body to rest on your skeletal system instead of on your muscles.

The Rest Step definitely slows you down. Some might say that this is far from ideal when trying to cover a lot of ground, but the reality is that slow and steady wins the race. It's always better to go slower and take less breaks than to go fast and have to stop a lot.

The Rest Step is a key mountaineering technique. On long summit days it doesn't get any better than taking a mini-rest with every step.

--Jason D. Martin