Thursday, January 18, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 1/18/18


The Liberty Bell Massif hosts dozens of climbs, innumerable social trails and eroding approaches.

--The Liberty Bell Group has a trail construction project that is shovel ready. All they need are funds! To read more, click here.

--The Bellingham Herald is reporting that, "Whatcom County’s Mount Baker is the eighth most threatening volcano in the Pacific Northwest. It’s also the 11th most threatening volcano in the United States." To read more, click here.

--The massive Navigator Wall on Mt. Slesse saw a first winter ascent recently. To read more, click here.

--Spirit Lake, the lake that was buried by the Mt. St. Helens eruption in 1980, reformed two-hundred feet higher and is much bigger, but has no natural drainage. The lake could breach and the results of such a breach could be catastrophic. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Fees are going up in Red Rock Canyon. To read more, click here.

--Speaking of Red Rock, the Conservation Area reached its capacity on Monday -- a fee free day in honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day -- and had to close until enough cars left the Scenic Drive for others to enter... To read more, click here.

--The annual Red Rock Rendezvous is slated to take place in Las Vegas from March 16-19, 2018. This is one of the biggest climbing festivals in the country...and one of the most fun. The American Alpine Institute works with Mountain Gear to put on the festival every year and many AAI guides will be on hand for both instruction, as well as for hanging out at the evening parties. You might also consider booking a guide before or after the program, or even participating in an additional climbing class. To read more, click here.

--Photographers can no longer use tripods in Zion National Park...

--A new film chronicles the journey of two journalists who hike the 750-mile length of the Grand Canyon. On their journey they look at natural wonders as well as threats to the iconic canyon. To see a trailer for Dust in the Blood, click below.


--The Denver Post is reporting that, "A skier riding a lift at Vail ski area spotted the body of a man lying face up in Gore Creek near Lionshead Tuesday morning. The Eagle County coroner will determine the cause of death and identify the man, who was found just after 9 a.m., Vail Police Department Det. Sgt. Luke Causey said." To read more, click here.

--Denver has an urban terrain park for skiers and snowboarders.

--BizWest is reporting that, "Skier visits to resorts under the Vail Resorts Inc. (NYSE: MTN) umbrella are down 10.8 percent through Jan. 8, compared with the same period a year ago. The downturn is attributed to “historic low snowfall,” according to a statement from Rob Katz, chief executive of Vail Resorts, which has its headquarters in Broomfield."To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Climbing magazine is reporting that, "Climbing pioneer Jim Bridwell is currently in the hospital for serious issues related to his kidneys and liver. To donate to his treatment, visit GoFundMe: Help Jim Bridwell With Medical Care." They have reprinted one of his best known articles, The Dance of the Woo-Li Mastershere.

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "Frustration. That’s what led nine of the 12 members of the National Park System Advisory Board to resign this week, joining a chorus of irked panelists across the country who have spent the year waiting to advise the Trump administration on public lands." To read more, click here.

--WDRB is reporting that, "the parents of a Louisville boy killed on a Boy Scouts camping trip in eastern Kentucky have filed a lawsuit over his death. At the time of the incident, 11-year-old Jack Rose was alone in a tent at Chimney Top Rock at Red River Gorge in November 5, 2016, when a dead tree about 18 inches in diameter fell and hit the boy on his head." To read more, click here.

-- The New York Times has a great article on risk, mountain climbing and regulation. There are moves all over the place to regulate what climbers can and can't do in the mountains... "Mountains are inherently dangerous. But just as free speech makes a place for disgusting speech, wild places need to make a place for irresponsible activity. It is our life, after all. Right? Not really. Our right to life doesn’t always include our right to risk it. If that thought doesn’t feel strange to you, think about it again. It should." To read more, click here.

--So this guy has been faking injuries in the mountains so he can get get rescued -- usually a technical rescue that requires ropes and hauling systems -- in order to take selfies...

--The Conway Daily Sun is reporting that, "The U.S. Forest Service’s Mount Washington Avalanche Center reported that the the Lip area of the headwall in Tuckerman Ravine experienced a wet avalanche last Friday, Jan. 12. Thankfully, according to USFS Snow Rangers, no one was injured." To read more, click here.

--Is GoPro for sale?

--The application period for the Kyle Dempster Solo Adventure award is now open.

--A new film by the director of the acclaimed film Sherpa is coming out soon. Mountain is an exploration of the geographic features that we climb and ski, set to classical music by the Australian Chamber Orchestra and narrated by Willem Dafoe.  To learn more about the film, click on the trailer below:

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Crampon Technique for Ice Climbing

It is said again and again in rock climbing, "use your feet." Unsuprisingly, it is also said over and over again in ice climbing. Good foot technique is the core to overall good climbing technique.

Ice climbers don't have as many options as rock climbers. When an ice climber is on a frozen waterfall, there are only a few things that she can do to use her feet. She can frontpoint (the German technique), she can use the American technique or she can use the French technique.

Following is a simple breakdown of these techniques as they pertain to ice climbing.


In mountaineering, we try to avoid frontpointing as much as possible. This is because it wears out the calves quickly. In waterfall ice climbing, it is incredibly difficult to avoid this technique. Indeed, most of the climbing that one will do on steep and vertical ice will require frontpointing.

In this photo, the author's feet are splayed out and he is frontpointing on steep ice.
Photo by Gene Pires

Proper frontpointing requires that not only the front two spikes are engaged, but that the second set of teeth are also engaged. To do this, a climber must drop her heels. This allows the secondary spikes to bite into the ice.

In this frontpointing photo, it is possible to see that the climber has dropped his heels.

Ice climbing requires a tremendous amount of calf strength. One of the best things that you can do to prepare for an ice trip is to train your calf muscles for extended periods of use. You could also do your best to limit the amount of time you spend on your frontpoints...

American Technique

The American Technique is a great way to rest your calves while ice climbing. It is quite common for people to get fixated on frontpointing and not to take rests. The American technique allows for rests.

American Technique Demonstrated on Glacier Ice

This technique, also referred to as Pied Troisieme, requires one foot to be placed with the frontpoints engaged while the other food is flat in a French position. French technique is essentially a technique wherein the spikes on the bottom of the crampons are fully engaged on the ice.

French Technique

Fully engaged crampons do not work the legs anywhere near as hard as techniques that require frontpoints to be engaged. As stated above, French technique is a way to avoid overuse of your calves.

The simplest way to explain French Technique is that the feet stay flat. All points are in the ice. If you can do this on steepish terrain, then this will really allow you to rest. Indeed, areas where you can employ this technique are also some of the best for placing ice screws. Never ignore an opportunity to rest if it allows you to get gear, this can be scarce on ice climbs sometimes...

Some time ago, we did an entire article on French Technique and the use of the Cross-Over Step. To read that article, click here.

Whenever you ice climb, think about your feet. But don't just think about them as cold lumps that might help you through the climb, but instead as a dynamic part of your body. If you always think of them as dynamic, it is far more likely that you will be able to use them in an effective way.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, January 15, 2018

Evolution of Dreams - Ski Film

There have been some really good ski films over the past few years. Amature filmmakeing doesn't feel very amaturish anymore. But even so, it's pretty uncommon for us to publish a trailer for a ski film that is incomplete. There just seems to be too much uncertainty. But holy moly, this movie looks good...

Jackie Paaso and Eva Walkner are putting together a film about their lives, their losses, their skiing goals and their passions...and the early seven minute trailer looks absolutely fantastic. The full film will be available in Fall of 2018. Check it out below:

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, January 12, 2018

The Untold Story of North Cascades National Park

Lauren Danner has been a national park lover for quite sometime. On her website,, her About page reads “A lifetime of national park geekdom...”, if that gives you any idea of where her priorities lie. As a young New Jersey teenager, she visited national parks in the West and fell in love with the vast landscapes. She moved to Seattle for her graduate program and has stayed in Washington since. Danner is now a writer and historian based in Olympia, WA. When she realized no one had written a complete history on the establishment of North Cascades National Park, she did not hesitate to get started.

Danner’s book Crown Jewel Wilderness: Creating North Cascades National Park, was published in September 2017, just in time for the 50th anniversary of the park in 2018.

In her book, Danner explains the differences between the National Park Service and the United States Forest Service and with them, the fundamental differences between preservation and conservation. The National Park Service valued preservation: keeping the landscape within park boundaries in its original, existing state for public enjoyment. The United States Forest Service valued conservation: managing the resources within the boundaries to maintain use and recreation for the public for years to come. Both valued accessibility, but the ways in which the public was to use this land was a point of contention.

The National Park Service wanted to provide ways for the public to delight in the scenery of the land without jeopardizing it, but they also wanted to establish more roads, easier access to the masses, and tourist attractions to make a profit. On the other hand, the United States Forest Service wanted to uphold their philosophy “the greatest good for the greatest number in the long run”. They sought to keep the land for resource conservation and, peripherally, provide a pure wilderness experience for the public. With these major differences, each entity had to make some sacrifices.

The sacrifices and compromises were pushed through government with the consistent work and unwavering dedication of a strong community of conservationists, activists and people who just loved being in nature. It was the people’s passion that made North Cascades National Park what it is today: a crown jewel wilderness.

“The North Cascades are a patchwork quilt of political compromise,” Danner says. “Everyone got a little of what they wanted, but no one got everything. The compromise gave the park a solid start that has endured for 50 years.”

View from Sahale Arm (note the trail in center right), North Cascades National Park. Lauren Danner photo.
Danner takes the reader on a historical journey through how public land usage was defined and how that still affects us today. She introduces many spirited, strong-willed people that did not give up on their goals and ideas for the land that is now North Cascades National Park.

Danner writes about people like Dr. Pat Goldsworthy who helped found the North Cascades Conservation Council (N3C) in 1957. “Meeting him was such an honor,” Danner says. Goldsworthy was a leading conservationist and held Washington’s wilderness in high regard. He was a medical researcher at the University of Washington by day and conservation activist by night. He was a key player in the passage of the North Cascades Act in 1968 and a persevering soul. He had an unstoppable nature about him. No matter what the obstacle, he fought the fight for North Cascades National Park.

Danner also introduces the reader to Senator Henry “Scoop” Jackson, a native of Everett, Wa. As an individual and an elected official, he cared passionately about conservation issues. His integrity was strong and Danner says, “Jackson was a political genius.” He was stickler when it came to listening to witnesses on the stand. “Call me an uber-geek, but I loved reading through all the hearing records from Scoop’s time,” Danner says. “I read record after record where he dug down deep with every witness. When someone was giving their testimony, it was said that no one could get anything by Scoop.”

It is people like Goldsworthy and Sen. Jackson that make the story relatable and rich. Goldsworthy was just another citizen with a full-time job who put his time and energy into the aspects of life he valued. Sen. Jackson was a political figure who listened to the people and he helped create valuable change with his position.

It is an inspiring history to read and still be apart of.

View from Cascades Pass trail, North Cascades National Park. Lauren Danner photo.
“At this time in our political situation, I want to encourage people to contact their elected officials and congressional representatives. Stand up for what you want with public lands,” Danner says. You never know what you impact you can have.

Crown Jewel Wilderness: Creating North Cascades National Park is a story of bargaining in good faith. The voices of the community held weight and can still uphold this good faith that runs deep in our history, no matter what the obstacle.

You can find Crown Jewel Wilderness: Creating North Cascades National Park by Lauren Danner on sale at American Alpine Institute’s Gear Shop as well as other bookstores nationwide.

Photo of Lauren Danner by Sophie Danner.
--Sara Jung, AAI Administrator

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Climbing and News from Here and Abroad - 1/11/18


--The Surrey Now Leader is reporting that, "An avalanche near Fernie, which RCMP say was triggered by a group of backcountry skiers, has claimed the life of a 36-year-old Alberta man. RCMP say Elk Valley RCMP and Fernie Search and Rescue recovered the body of of the skier who was caught in an avalanche on Monday, Jan. 8. RCMP and Search and Rescue were notified of the fatal avalanche at about 6 pm Jan. 8, in the Lizard Mountain range east of Fernie Monday afternoon." To read more, click here.

--CBC News is reporting that, "North Shore Rescue says an injured skier has been safely taken to hospital after breaking his leg in an avalanche. Rescue crews were called to Mount Seymour Provincial Park (in British Columbia) to assist the skier Tuesday afternoon." To read more, click here.

--Forbes is reporting that, "since New Years Day Mount St. Helens has experienced 40 earthquakes within its vicinity as aftershocks continue every few hours. The most powerful earthquake was a magnitude 3.9 that occurred around midnight west coast time about 5 miles from Mount St. Helens and 23 miles from the town of Morton." To read more, click here.

--Some people believe that what looks like a natural phenomenon on a stratovolcano located on Mt. Adams is actually a multi-dimensional door that aliens use something... And they think a pile of rocks is an alien... There's video! Check it out below. But note that we climbers are likely the aliens that these guys see all the time. Headlamps and illegal night snowmobilers going in and out of shadows in the dark are likely what started the UFO fascination with Mt. Adams.

--And there's a new seven-pitch mixed climb near Whistler. Read about it, here.


--Should there be a Starbucks in the Yosemite's food court? People are not happy about this proposal and there's currently a petition with 12,000 signatures that is trying to keep the coffee shop from opening in the National Park. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The annual Red Rock Rendezvous is slated to take place in Las Vegas from March 16-19, 2018. This is one of the biggest climbing festivals in the country...and one of the most fun. The American Alpine Institute works with Mountain Gear to put on the festival every year and many AAI guides will be on hand for both instruction, as well as for hanging out at the evening parties. You might also consider booking a guide before or after the program, or even participating in an additional climbing class. To read more, click here.

--Huffpo is reporting that, "For the second time in as many months, the House Committee on Natural Resources has taken a public swing at Patagonia. This time it’s after the outdoor retailer turned down an invitation to testify before the legislative body about its opposition to the Trump administration’s efforts to dismantle national monuments." To read more, click here.


--The Daily Sentinel is reporting that, "A 20-year-old Grand Junction woman died Thursday night at St. Mary's Hospital after falling "from a significant height" while at an indoor recreation park, Grand Junction police said." It appears that this wasn't a rock gym, but instead, a rock wall in a amusement-style park. To read more, click here.

--The Winter Park Ski Resort is installing digital screens on several of their chairlift restraining bars. These table-style screens will provide information on runs, lift wait times, and other items that skiers might like to know. To read more, click here.

--Colorado is having a hard time with illegal campers on public lands that trash the area. This dynamic is not exclusive to the state. But one of the responses to the situation is. Read more, here.

Notes from All Over:

--Rock and Ice has published a tribute to climbers lost in 2017. To read it, click here.

--The Bomb Cyclone was good news for ice climbing on the East Coast! Read more, here.

--Alpinist is reporting that, "The American Alpine Club has announced the recipients of its 2018 Climbing Awards, given annually to distinguish individuals for their service, leadership and accomplishments. This year's honorees include John Roskelley, Alex Honnold, Ellen Lapham, Margo Hayes and Sally Jewell." To read more, click here.

--And finally, a Basque climber is trying to summit Mt. Everest this winter without oxygen. If he succeeds, he will be only the second person to complete an oxygenless ascent int the winter. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Climbing With Women

“It’s your lead.”

She told me this as we arrived at the base of the pitch. She was right. I had talked up this splitter finger crack all morning and passed the heady, adventurous lead to her earlier that day. I had followed this climb the year before, put up by a male friend, and I had to come back for the lead. A single pitch, the crux is a .3” crack with no feet. It was definitely one that would push me, one that maybe I would try to top-rope again first if that was an option. But it was my lead. Climbing with Amber, I couldn’t just talk about climbing this pitch all morning then expect her to put it up for me. I racked up, she flaked out the rope, and I hopped on.

Laura after our FAFMPA, or "First-All-Female-Multi-Pitch-Ascent."

“What happens when women climb together?”

A male climbing partner once asked this of another female friend. He was genuine in his curiosity, because he knew that there is something different, something special about it. What happened between me and Amber starts to get at the answer.

When I climb with women, I am held accountable to my own strength and abilities. When I climb with men, no matter how healthy our relationship, there is almost always the assumption that he will take a lead that scares me. This dynamic exists regardless of whether we are dating, just met, close friends, or of equal climbing ability. This dynamic even exists if I am a stronger climber than him, technically or physically. I’m using “him” in a universal sense here, because this so ubiquitous in my experience. It’s not necessarily an intentional dynamic on “his” part; many men I climb with encourage me to lead pitches and are great, supportive partners. I’m also sure that I perpetuate the dynamic when I accept the top-rope, but I didn’t create it.

Mountain guide and writer Charlotte Austin touched on this in her Alpinist article “Freedom in the Hills,” noting the confidence gap that exists between male and female climbers. “Girls are usually more sheltered and protected…rather than being prepared for independence, we learn to take a supporting role, which hinges upon reliance on others.” I feel this while climbing with men. I try to fight it, but it’s deep within. And between us.

Amber on the last pitch of Ginger Cracks in Red Rock Canyon

When asked what motivates them to take the sharp end, climbers say many different things. They seek the “flow,” the intense focus of leading, the mind-body connection, the adrenaline, the feeling of being alive. Since I usually just get a stomach ache instead of an adrenaline rush, my motivation has been different. I have realized that for me, leading defines self sufficiency as a climber. If I can put up a climb, I can climb the routes that draw me, without depending on someone else’s abilities. Of course, I depend on a climbing partner to belay or swing leads, but it can be a mutual dependence, rather than a leader-follower relationship. “Many women seek all-women’s expeditions to remind themselves and others of the female’s capacity for climbing hard,” noted Molly Loomis in her 2005 article for the American Alpine Journal. When I am climbing with another woman, I go to my limit, I get on the sharp end, I get scared and try hard, every time.

Kel below Eldorado's East Ridge

“Your hang-dogging is sexy as hell!”

She yelled this up at me, as I shook out my forearms and hung on my yellow cam. I first saw this climb last summer: three perfect corners against a sweeping granite wall. And it’s hard, with overhung wide hands, but I wanted to get on this climb badly enough that I would flail my way up it on lead. This may have been the last day of the season at Index for me, and it was a perfect fall day; carpets of orange leaves were hiding all of the trails, and Mt Index was dusted with snow. I made some hasty tape gloves while Tulin flaked out the rope for the first pitch, her lead. Before she went up, she told me, “I’m going to make an anchor with the rope and belay you up with a Gri-Gri, is that okay? I’ll also probably let you know to ‘watch me’ when I’m scared, even though you probably will be already watching me.” She let me know what she needed, then checked in with me again before I took over the lead on the next pitch.

Amber tossing ropes on Forbidden's West Ridge.

“We didn’t have to be so careful with what we said to each other, and we made decisions by consensus.”*

That’s something else that happens when I climb with women, whether I’m at a sunny “Ladies Crag Day” in Red Rocks, projecting a plastic boulder problem inside with my co-workers, or kicking steps on a snowy alpine climb in the North Cascades. We ask questions, we seek consensus, we communicate. I admittedly have grumbled about the stereotypical “women’s climb nights,” where it seems you have to own sparkly tights to participate. But if that creates a space where women can learn and ask questions with confidence, bring on the tutus! (Or not! Express your gender however you want, am I right?!) Almost all of my technical climbing training has been in male-dominated spaces, and all of my climbing instructors have been men. Questions can feel stifled by ego, and competition replaces vulnerability. “Watching a man do something bears no significance to a women - it simply does not apply to her,” said Abby Watkins, a certified Canadian Mountain Guide. I feel the difference when women teach one another, whether informally in tights at a ladies crag day or at official women’s only events like the Women's Climbing Festival. There is a model to follow, a dialed woman demonstrating the hard skills, and the glass ceiling cracks just a little bit.

Ladies Crag Day at Red Rocks!

So let’s all go climb together right away, and we’ll send all the things and have a super awesome time, right?! Why have I found it to be a little more complicated than that? For a while, I couldn’t find many women to climb with, and I ended up learning  most of my climbing skills from men. There was a scarcity of women in my early climbing. This scarcity of female climbers and mentors creates another, more destructive dynamic that I’ve witnessed more recently. Women often feel the need to prove that they can "hang" or "keep up" to keep their spot in the "boys' club." Rather than women lifting one another up, the scarcity causes competition. I want us to start talking about this more, both men and women. And I want us to reconcile with how this happens outside of our climbing bubble, in other male-dominated industries, because this is not just a women's problem, and it's not just a climbing problem. How do we create spaces that gain from the unique talents that women or minority groups offer? Is it possible to make change within established industries, or must we create something new? Do the climbing community, engineering industry, or firefighter's unions care about this? It's about time to find out.

*From Molly Loomis's article "Going Manless," published in the 2005 American Alpine Journal "Going Manless"

--Katie Griffith, Instructor and Guide

Monday, January 8, 2018

Red Rock Rendezvous - March 16-19, 2018!

This year our guides will be running multi-pitch climbing trips throughout the event and beginner to advanced climbing programs on March 16th. They will also be teaching a variety of programs on the March 17th and 18th; and will be running all day multi-pitch climbing programs on the 19th.

If you have never attended Red Rock Rendezvous before, you are missing out. This is considered by many to be the best climbing event of the year. Everybody meets in the desert for three-days of climbing instruction, clinics, food, and fun. It's a great place to rub elbows with the biggest names in climbing. But it is also a great place to just sit back and soak up climbing culture. Following is a video that was made at the event:

Every year the event just gets better and I have to say that last year's was the most fun so far. Here is a blog with a number of photos and videos from the 2015 Red Rock Rendezvous.

Major climbing athletes make their way out to the Mojave Desert for the Rendezvous every year. Big names at the event include the likes of Beth Rodden, Peter Croft, Katie Brown, and Andreas Marin. But some of our best guides will also be on hand. These include people like Mike Powers, Richard Riquelme, Alasdair Turner, Ian McEleney, Paul Rosser, Andrew Yasso, Chad Cochran, Dustin Byrne, Ben Gardner, Tad McCrea, Doug Foust, Quino Gonzalez, Britt Ruegger, Jeremy Devine, Jared Drapala, Will Gordon, Justin Moynihan, Jenny Merian, Zach Lovell, Will Gordon, Katie Griffith, Alejandra Garces, Kevin McGarity, Steve Johnson, Zak Krenzer, Lindsey Hamm, Katlynne Schaumberg, George Bieker, Calvin Morris, Jim Mediatore, and Dave Richards....and more!

AAI Guides at Red Rock Rendezvous
Photo by Eric Odenthal

AAI will have several programs running after the event. Check them out below:

March 16-March 19 - Red Rock Rendezvous
March 19-March 22 - Outdoor Rock Climbing - Intensive Introduction
March 19-March 22 - Learn to Lead: An Intro to Trad Climbing
March 20-March 23 - Big Wall and Aid Climbing
March 22-March 23 - AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Assessment

In addition to all of the courses going on around Red Rock Rendezvous, don't forget that AAI will have all of our best guides available for private guiding and instruction in Red Rock Canyon. To learn more, send us an email at or give us a call at 360-671-1505.

--Jason D. Martin