Tuesday, May 3, 2016

How to Sharpen Crampons

After running a blog about sharpening ice screws, we had a request on how to sharpen crampons.

Mixed climbing, moving from an ice climb onto a rock climb and then back, can be very hard on technical crampons. Most mixed climbers who get out a long will need to sharpen their cramponsat least once a season. We found the following video from mixed climber Stephen Kotch on how to sharpen technical crampons for mixed terrain:

General mountaineering often also requires one to sharpen crampons. It's not uncommon for a mountaineer to walk from ice or snow onto a rock feature and then back onto the ice. In the short term, this has a minimal impact on one's equipment. However, in the long term crampons can become dangerously dull.

Following is a quick breakdown of how to sharpen your mountaineering crampons:

  1. Mountaineering crampons get beat up. You move over all kinds of terrain in them, so in addition to getting dull, they often get quite dirty. Before sharpening your "poons," you're going to want to rinse them down and clean them off.
  2. Some people will put the crampons into a vice while sharpening them. If you elect to do this, be sure not to place them in such a way that the vice-grip will warp the crampons. On many models, you can detach the toe from the heel and place each section in the vice without the threat of damaging them. However, this will be model-dependent. You'll notice that Stephen simply holds the crampons. He does this bare-handed, but you may want to wear leather gloves to protect your fingers.
  3. Be sure to file the edges down toward the point. Do not file the broad side of the crampon point as this will weaken the teeth. You should not be making the points "thinner."
  4. Once you've completed the process of sharpening, wash and wipe down your crampons. Make sure there are no burrs or chips in them.
  5. If your crampons have been sharpened many times and the points seem to be getting thin or weirdly shaped, then it might be time to replace them.

Final Tip:

When you come out of the mountains, make sure that your crampons are completely dry before storing them away. If you put them away before they dry out, next time you want to use them, you will find them covered in rust.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, May 2, 2016

Bringing Veggies in the Backcountry

Photo by Shelby Carpenter

It's a sad day when you dig into your food bag and pull out... Mountain House, or, Mountain House? for dinner. Don't get me wrong--I appreciate freeze-dried foods for their lightweight nature and the fact that they are so quick and easy to cook. But since I spend so much of my summer out in the mountains, I can't live on freeze-drieds alone--and you don't have to either.

If you're spending time in cool places on glaciers, it's actually quite easy to bring fruits and vegetables on your trip. You don't want to it be too warm--above 50 or 60 degrees--because then veggies will start to go bad, and if it's too cold (20 degrees or below at night) fresh produce will freeze and then thaw and get all funky. Fortunately, the Cascades is in a sweet spot where for much of the summer you live between those two temperature ranges and can bring fresh produce out into the field with you.

For dinner on the first day of our Alpinism 1 courses, I will typically bring in bagged salad and a little packet of salad dressing. I'll also bring a foil packet of salmon, tuna or chicken to add protein and make it more filling. Later in the trip, I'll cook Annie's Mac and Cheese but add peppers, snap peas, and some kind of protein to it too.

For snacks, I've brought pepper strips, pre-cut and cooked sweet potatoes, apples and oranges. You'll need more calories than what you can get from these for snacks, so I'll do bars too, but it feels good to add some real food into the mix.

As you get ready for your own trips this summer (either personal or guided), consider the food you're planning to bring. If you're someone who is used to eating a lot of fruit and veggies, it's often easy to fit them in on trips if you do a little advance planning. Get out there and enjoy!

--Shelby Carpenter, AAI Instructor and Guide

Friday, April 29, 2016

Rope Rescue: Radium Release Hitch

At the American Alpine Institute, we teach two kinds of rescue programs. The first are self-rescue programs. These are programs and lessons that will allow a technical climber to perform a rescue of himself or his partner with the tools he is carrying. The second kind are team rescue programs. These are program where a team of rescue volunteers or professionals work together with specialized gear to perform a rescue. We also call this "rope rescue."

In self-rescue the most common releasable hitch is the munter-mule. In rope rescue - a place where the loads are much greater - the most common load releasable hitch is the radium release.

Like most hitches, there are several ways to tie them. The radium release is no different. But the following video provides you with a basic understanding of how to tie this hitch.

At the end of the video, the demonstrator puts the hitch into a bag. It's interesting that certain populations in the rescue community feel the need to pre-tie everything. It is our belief that a rescuer should have the essential knots and hitches so dialed that they can put them together upside down, wet, or whatever...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 4/28/16

Important Recall Notices:

--WARNING: Petzl has reported that a third party has been selling "modified" Petzl ASPIR harnesses on ebay. These harnesses have been modified in a way that makes them EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. If you own a Petzl ASPIR harness, click here to learn more..

--Black Diamond Equipment has issued another recall. They are recalling the Easy Rider and Iron Cruiser Via Ferrata lanyard sets, Index Ascenders, Camalots and Camalot Ultralights. This is in addition to previously announced recalls of select carabiners and nylon runners. To learn more and to see if your equipment has been affected by this recall, click here.


--An individual recently posted a video of a climb of the Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver, BC. The individual is unsuccessful in his climb and fall from a 17-story building. Amazingly, he walks away from the incident with minor injuries. We are not proponents of "buildering." We believe that climbing is a means to experience the mountains and that soloing up manmade objects is way more dangerous -- and way more illegal -- than any climbing experience you could have in the wilderness. I've posted the video below, but beware, it's hard to watch. To read more, click here.

--The North Cascades Highway has reopened!

--Stevens Pass, who wrapped up for the season over the weekend, announced Tuesday that skier visits were more than double last year's -- 132% more, in fact. It's the most skiers they've had since they've been electronically counting all their visitors in the 2008-09 season. To read more, click here.


--At least one party lost their dog to high water crossing the river at the Owens River Gorge climbing area. It's likely that the dog was killed. Several other people also had close calls with their dogs. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Onlookers watched in horror Wednesday afternoon as an 18-year-old hiker nearly fell to her death off of Camelback Mountain. To read more, click here.

--Joshua Tree National Park rangers, operating on a tip from park visitors, apprehended and cited four men for vandalism and possession of a controlled substance. About 2:30 p.m. April 15, climbers in the Oyster Bar area of the park called park officials to report they smelled and saw fresh paint in the area; they also copied the license plate numbers of the only two other vehicles in the parking lot. When a ranger arrived, both cars were still at the site. To read more, click here.

--Zion National Park has seen an increase in attendance as of late, as well as an increased amount of search and rescues in the park. With the summer months ahead park officials are offering a few helpful tips when it comes to exploring the southern Utah terrain. Andrew Fitzgerald, SAR coordinator at Zion National Park said 2015 was a busy year for rescuers, he added in May of 2015 they had 16 searches and as of today they have 17 so far. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Maxim Arsenault, a skier from Whistler, Canada, died last Wednesday in an avalanche near Haines, Alaska. Arsenault’s death comes just days after another avalanche and a speedflying accident claimed the lives of Estelle Balet and Jordan Niedrich, respectively, both beloved members of our mountain community. To read more, click here.

--Remember a few weeks back when that guy climbed Morro Rock to propose to his girlfriend over FaceTime, then required a helicopter rescue and was subsequently arrested for suspicion of being high on meth? Of course you do! And no climber could soon forget, seeing as Michael Banks’ pioneering first ascent has been added to the online, open-source guidebook Mountain Project and already has more than 8,000 page views. Banks is respectfully credited with the first ascent of the only route on the 576-foot-tall formation at Morro Bay — and it’s an instant mega-classic! At the moment, “The Michael Banks Proposal Ramp” is literally number one on Mountain Project’s list of the top 10 most classic climbs. To read more, click here.

--A group of adventurous Aymara women from Bolivia, known as cholitas, is taking on some of the tallest peaks in South America. While the conditions on the excursions can be tough (they’ve dealt with steep andsnowy terrain and thin air at high altitudes) they’ve already climbed five mountains outside of La Paz, Bolivia, all of which top 19,500 feet above sea level. To read more, click here.

--Gordon Irwin is a guide with the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and recently reported about a large rockfall at the Black Band crag on Tunnel Mountain near Banff. The wall is busy in the spring as it faces south and requires about 10 minutes of easy walking to approach. There are a number of well-bolted 5.10s up to 30 metres. Irwin reported that on Wed. April 20, three climbers witnessed a large rockfall. The climbers were descending from the crag to the main trail after climbing a number of routes, including Farrago 5.9. The rockfall they watched swept down Farrago and sent “torso-sized” blocks on the trail below. The climbers continued their descent and did not inspect the damaged route. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spring-Cleaning: How to Clean an MSR Whisperlite Stove

The MSR Whisperlite is arguably the world's best wilderness stove.  While not the lightest stove on the planet, nor the fastest boiling, it has one distinct advantage over all others- simple maintenance and repair that can be done in the field.  MSR has been making the Whisperlite with very few design changes since the late eighties and they are reliable and (almost) indestructible.

While they are easy to maintain in situ, I give mine a full cleaning at the beginning of any season or anytime it seems to be running a little ragged.  Some signs that your Whisperlite needs cleaning are uneven or "coughing" jets, leaking fuel, difficulty starting or holding pressure, or any other problems pertaining to performance.  Even if your stove isn't exhibiting signs of being dirty, it is a good idea to give it a good clean once a year.  Here's how:

If you don't already own an MSR Maintenance Kit, go get one.  Just the basic kit is all you need for regular maintenance. The basic kit contains extra parts, tools specific to your stove, and a helpful diagram to help you keep all the parts together.  If it has been a while since you did any maintenance on your stove, the "expedition" kit might be the way to go.  This contains a more comprehensive set of replacement parts, including a pump cup- a part that without regular maintenance and lubrication, can pretty easily become cracked.

I was excited to provide step-by-step instructions on cleaning a whisperlite, with beautiful, detailed pictures I took all on my own, but then a quick internet search revealed that in fact there is a multitude of info out there on cleaning these legendary stoves, including some great videos from MSR themselves.  Rather not get in the way of the experts, so...

Pump Cup Maintenance and Cleaning

Stove Maintenance

Well there you have it, your Whisperlite stove is all ready for another glorious year keeping you fed and well-hydrated in the backcountry!

--Andy Stephen, AAI Instructor and Guide

Monday, April 25, 2016

Stuart Range: The Enchanting Triple

Cascades hardmen, Blake Herrington and Jens Holsten, recently posted a video about an awesome enchainment that the pair made in the Cascades. They climbed three hard routes in a single 24-hour period. The pair linked up:

Let it Burn (5.12a, IV)
Dragons of Eden (5.12a, IV+)
Der Sportsman (5.12a, IV)

Check out the video of the linkup below:

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, April 22, 2016

Climbing Tips: Mental Preparation

Jerry Moffatt is a world class climber. In this video, he talks about the mental preparation that he goes through in order to climb a route. To illustrate the process he uses a boulder problem as an example, but this type of thinking could easily be applied to a sport route or even a multi-pitch traditional line.

--Jason D. Martin