Monday, March 30, 2015

Finger Board Excercises

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.

In this particular video, the fingerboard is shown. The workout they describe is really good, but leaves one thing out. You should always, always warm up before using a fingerboard. I have definitely hurt myself on those things...

This is a power and endurance workout. The idea is simple. Create a thirty move sequence with clipping as one move.

--Jason D. Martin

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

It's finally here!!  This weekend is RED ROCK RENDEZVOUS!!!  Hopefully you are watching these videos on your phone and you are getting ready for your first clinic of the day.  If you are watching from home, you are missing out on an awesome time.  The videos this weekend will give you a glimpse into what the Rendezvous is all about.

This first video will give you a great preview of all the cool activities that go on during the Rendezvous.

Our next video highlights a new climber in one of the introductory Learn to Rock Climb clinics.

The Institute has been helping climbers achieve their goals in Red Rock for a long time.  This video shows all the cool programs and activities that we offer there.

American Alpine Institute - Red Rock Climbing from John Grace on Vimeo.

If you are at the Rendezvous, be sure to come by and say hi at our booth.  We've got some schwag to give away, so be sure to mention that you saw this in the blog!  If you didn't make it to Rendezvous, we'll have lots of guides in the area for the next couple of weeks, so give us a call to set up a personal climbing clinic of your very own!

Have a great weekend! - James

Friday, March 27, 2015

To Wag or Not to Wag...That is the Question...

In many climbing areas and mountaineering destinations around the country, Wag Bags are required.

What's a Wag Bag?

A Wag Bag is a simple system for human waste disposal in the backcountry. These are essentially sanitary bags for human waste removal. They're not complex and there's no mystery. They're plastic bags that you poop in.

Access to places like Mount Rainier, Mount Whitney and the desert are threatened by an overabundance of human waste. In some of these locations you are required to use a Wag Bag or the equivalent. Of course, part of the pack-it-in pack-it-out philosophy is not just using such a bag, but also bringing it back out with you. These areas are also threatened by an overabundance of used and discarded Wag Bags.

The following description is from the Wag Bag website.

The WAG BAG Toilet in a Bag waste kit is a biodegradable double-bag system made from puncture resistant materials.

Each waste kit includes a zip close disposal/transport bag, a waste collection bag preloaded with Poo Powder waste treatment, toilet paper and a hand sanitizer.

Our non-toxic Poo Powder waste treatment treats up to 32 ounces of liquid and solid waste allowing for multiple use. It turns liquid waste to a solid for hygenic and spillproof transport. The Poo Powder waste treatment controls odors and contains a decay catalyst that breaks down solid waste.

The WAG BAG Toilet in a Bag waste kits are biodegradable and approved for landfill disposal.

Timmy O'Neil is often considered the "funniest man in climbing." A few years ago, Timmy put together the following video about wag bags in the Utah desert.

It should be noted that Wag Bag is a specific brand name that has become somewhat synonymous with backcountry sanitation. The main competitor to Wag Bags are the Restop sanitation kits. These work equally well.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 3/26/15


--On Monday, March 23, the Mountaineers were excited to return to Olympia with our partners in the No Child Left Inside Alliance to testify in support of Senate Bill 5843.

No Child Left Inside is a grants program established in 2008 by the Washington State Legislature. In it, the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission would award outdoor education and recreation grant funds to public agencies, private nonprofit organizations, formal school programs, informal after school programs and community based programs. More information here.

--Bringing grizzly bears back to the North Cascades is a way to restore the natural ecosystem and not something to fear. North Cascades National Park, is considered the “wild nearby” for its incredible scenery and diverse wildlife, is an easy drive from Seattle. It also represents a unique opportunity to “save all the pieces” in what the National Park Service calls the most rugged mountain range in the Lower 48. One of its missing pieces is the grizzly bear.  More information here.


--On Saturday, March 21, the Mineral County Sheriff’s Office, in Hawthorne, NV, received a 911 call regarding a hiker who had broken their leg in a fall near Matterhorn Peak, approximately 15 miles southwest of Bridgeport in the Sawtooth Mountain Range. Full article here

--Missing visitor, Michael "Mic" Dahl, was found alive this morning, at approximately 11:00 a.m., in Yosemite National Park. He was spotted by visitors on the Yosemite Valley Loop Trail. The visitors recognized him from the missing persons flyer. Dahl was found approximately a quarter mile east of the Lower Yosemite Fall trail, in a large boulder field below Sunnyside Bench. Dahl sustained multiple injuries and is being transported to a local hospital via ground ambulance. More here.

Desert Southwest:

-- See You TOMORROW at Red Rock Rendezvous!  Stop by our booth to meet AAI Staff and Guides and enter to win a $500 scholarship toward one of our many, many awesome courses! To learn more, click here.

--Backcountry to the future: More skiers skip lift lines. Although snowsports experts disagree on some of the numbers, there's widespread agreement that backcountry skiing and snowboarding represents a bright spot in the broader snowsports industry that doesn't have a lot of growth.

Sales of alpine touring gear, which includes skis, boots and bindings that allow skiers to free their heels and hike up hills in order to ski down, increased dramatically in the period covering August to January. Full article here.

Notes from All Over:

--Girl Talk: Peeing in the Back Country. AAI Guide Shelby Charpenter shares a blog post with helpful tips for the ladies. Click here for more info.

--American climber Ashima Shiraishi, 13, is currently on spring break in Spain. Last week she sent what might be a 5.15a, making her the first woman and youngest climber ever to send the grade. Full Article here.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Route Profile: Mount Shuksan, Sulphide Glacier

Mount Shuksan from the Northwest.
Photo by Coley Gentzel

If I had to pick one peak that would most completely and accurately represent alpine climbing in the Cascades, Mount Shuksan would be the one. Shuksan takes a striking form from any angle and every route on the peak can be considered a classic.

The most popular route on the peak is the Sulphide Glacier. The Fisher Chimneys and the North Face are also both popular routes that are among the best of their type in the range.

The Price Glacier route is listed in the 50 Classic Climbs book (Steck and Roper), but has fallen out of favor in recent years due to a dramatic change in the nature of the glaciers on the route. Once a classic ice face, the Price is now a jumbled mess with little aesthetic value to the climbing.

Shuksan's Price Glacier from the air.
Photo by Dunham Gooding

Mountaineering routes on Shuksan are unique in that all require a variety of skills to complete. Every route requires glacier travel, snow climbing, ice climbing and rock climbing to reach the top. All routes end at the dramatic summit pyramid, which by its easiest route requires primarily fourth class with a few 5th class moves.

The view from the summit of Shuksan is one of the best in the range. Sitting at the heart of the North Cascades, views of Mount Baker, the Pickett Range, and north to the Canadian Border peaks are completely unobstructed.

Mount Shuksan's Sulphide Glacier and summit pyramid.

The Sulphide glacier route starts at the Shannon Creek trailhead and follows an overgrown road bed for a few miles before winding through old growth forest eventually climbing into the craggy alpine forest and then finally talus fields.

Although the route is doable in one very long day for experienced and fit parties, most opt to go for a 2-3 day climb so that they might enjoy the setting on the way to and from the climb. There are great camping spots at the toe of the Sulphide glacier and at several spots along the route to the summit pyramid. The Sulphide is a gentle glacier, but not without crevasses. There have been numerous solo climber crevasse falls in the area.

An AAI team reaching the summit of Shuksan.
Photo by Alasdair Turner

The crux of the route is ascending and descending the summit pyramid which, by the standard route, involves about 500 feet of scrambling up a gully. Depending on the time of year, the gully can be nearly all snow, mixed, or completely rock. An alternate route to the summit and a good choice if the main gully is busy, is the southeast ridge of the summit pyramid which requires a bit more mid-fifth class climbing. There is some loose rock on both routes so you must choose your holds carefully!

It is said that Mount Shuksan is the most photographed mountain in the United States, and that is not hard to believe. The Mount Baker ski area provides a perfect view of and easy access to the north side of Shuksan. Indeed, it is not uncommon to see a line of tripods pointed at the peak on clear days. Whether you are looking for an easier ramble in a spectacular setting, or a challenging long rock or ice route, Shuksan has something to offer for every mountaineer.

Shuksan's Summit Pyramid above the Sulphide Glacier

AAI climb's Mount Shuksan as part of their Classic Guided Climbs in the Pacific Northwest Program on Part 1 of their Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership series and on group courses throughout the summer season.

--Coley Gentzel, Former AAI Program Coordinator and Guide

Monday, March 23, 2015

Film Review: The Thing (2011)

A lot of AAI guides have spent time working in Antarctica over the years. These include Tom Kirby, Alasdair Turner, Dylan Taylor, Tim Connelly, and Danny Uhlmann, among others. Some guides have worked on Mt. Vinson, but most have spent time working at Antarctic bases.

One of the most popular films in all of Antarctica is the 1982 John Carpenter film, The Thing. People who work in Antarctica literally love that movie. They often watch it when they arrive on site. And those who winter down there always watch it right before the last plane leaves for the season.

The Thing has had a lot of lives on the big screen. First, there was the 1951 film, The Thing from Another World. Then there was the 1982 remake, where they dropped "from Another World," from the title. And then lastly, in 2011, they made a prequel to the Carpenter film, also entitled, The Thing.

If you're not familiar with the mythology behind The Thing, it goes like this. A crew of Norwegian scientists find ta massive spacecraft buried in the ice. They retrieve the body of something and bring it back to their base. The 1982 film starts with a crew of Americans finding the burned out remains of that base and also finding the thing that caused the death and destruction there.

The 2011 prequel tells the story of the Norwegian scientists who find the spacecraft and retrieve the body of an alien frozen in the ice. They bring it back home and realize -- much too late -- that it is not dead. And indeed, that not only is it not dead, but that it is a murderous thing that has the ability to mimic people. The scientists secluded in the Antarctic are picked off one by one by the monster, while never knowing whether their friends are still their friends, or whether they are monsters disguised as people.

The 2011 film is a fun B-movie style ride. It is not as tightly written as the super-popular 1982 film. And indeed, sometimes it feels a little bit too similar to that film. The storyline is quite similar: scientists, Antarctica, monsters, ice, impostors, everybody dies... And maybe that's what makes it fun.

The biggest difference between the 1982 film and the 2011 film is the protagonist. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays paleontologist, Kate Loyd. The character is smart and logical, which is exactly the opposite of what we tend to see of characters in most horror films. She doesn't panic. She doesn't explore weird dark rooms where she just heard a strange noise. She acts like we hope that we would act were we in such a situation...

Throughout the film we are treated to some great shots of high glaciers and peaks. It's not clear where these shots are from. It seems unlikely that it was filmed in Antarctica and a quick google search doesn't provide information beyond studio locations...

One of the most terrifying moments in the film for our readers is an early moment where a a large truck drops through a snow-bridge into a crevasse and gets wedged between the two walls. Unfortunately, the filmmakers decided to skip over the rescue of the truck's passengers, which is too bad, because regardless of the monsters running around, getting wedged into a crevasse is not a good thing and would have created more drama in the story.

These films are attractive to climbers because they take place in an environment that we are familiar with. While most of us haven't spent significant time in Antarctica, most of us have spent a lot of time secluded in the snowy mountains, somewhat cutoff from the rest of the world. As a result, of our experiences in these places, some of us might find them more spooky than our non-outdoorsy friends.

If you're not a The Thing fan, then this movie really isn't for you. But if you love the 1982 film, then you'll probably like the 2011 film...

I thought it might be fun to look at the trailers for all three versions of The Thing. First, we have the 1951 version. Second, we have the 1982 version. And then lastly, we have the prequel:


--Jason D. Martin

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

The first video this weekend is a little something to get you motivated.  This 54 year old man just broke the Guinness World Record for pullups in a 24 hour period.  Can you guess how many he did?

Candide Thovex has been throwing it down this season. If you're ready to enjoy some of his twin-plank masterly, grab yourself a beverage, super-size this to "full screen" and get ready to enjoy Candide's latest full-length feature, "Few Words."

Sometimes it is the simple things that really get people excited. Here's a quick bit of wisdom to help get you going.

Stone Wisdom from Christian Lavery on Vimeo.

We've been getting a lot of calls recently asking about the conditions on Mt. Baker.  With the dismal snow down low and the closing of ski resorts, folks are worried about how this summer will be with the lack of snow.  Honestly, I'm a little worried too, but I'm going to hold off passing judgement until we see how these next couple of months pan out.

Throughout the winter, the snow levels have been relatively high, and all the rain that we've received down low has still been snow up high in the mountains.  It's just that we didn't get as many of those rainy/snowy days as we are normally accustomed to.  Currently, it is nuking up high on Baker and Shuksan.  Our final video for this weekend is from Monday when a couple headed up to the White Salmon Glacier on the northeast side of Mt. Shuksan.  It's not as good as what we'd normally see this time of year, but it is better than most people think.

Have a great weekend! - James