Friday, February 24, 2017

The Burrito: Hypothermia Wrap

Perhaps one of the most common and most dangerous ailments to affect the outdoor traveler is hypothermia.  And though many factors may lead to hypothermia, it is most commonly the result of wet clothing, a cold environment or improper clothing.

Most climbers encounter the onset of mild hypothermia at one point or another during their careers. Many of us have certainly hung at a belay station, shivering, and wondering why we didn't bring that extra jacket. But for most of us, things never get any worse than that.

The Mayo Clinic has an excellent description online of hypothermia and its treatment. As most of us will never encounter hypothermia in a context where a patient could be warmed in a hospital, some of the information on the site does not pertain to us. However the following description of what to look for is incredibly pertinent to the backcountry traveler.

Hypothermia usually occurs gradually. Often, people aren't aware that they need help, much less medical attention.

Common signs to look for are shivering, which is your body's attempt to generate heat through muscle activity, and the "-umbles":

* Stumbles
* Mumbles
* Fumbles
* Grumbles

These behaviors may be a result of changes in consciousness and motor coordination caused by hypothermia. Other hypothermia symptoms may include:

* Slurred speech
* Abnormally slow rate of breathing
* Cold, pale skin
* Fatigue, lethargy or apathy

The severity of hypothermia can vary, depending on how low your core body temperature goes. Severe hypothermia eventually leads to cardiac and respiratory failure, then death.

Severe hypothermia in the field requires immediate attention. Wilderness medicine providers have devised a simple treatment which relies on a variety of materials that most backcountry travelers normally carry. They use these pieces of equipment to create a "themal burrito" or a "hypo-wrap."

Thermal Burrito or Hypo-Wrap
  1. Lay out a tarp on the ground.
  2. Place 1 or 2 pads down on top of the tarp. Two pads are always better than one.
  3. Stack three sleeping bags on top of the pads.
  4. Place the victim inside the sleeping bag in the middle.
  5. Wrap the victim in the tarp.
  6. Provide the victim with hot water bottles. These should be placed under the arms and at the crotch. Additional bottles may be held or placed at the victim's feet.
A Themal Burrito
From the Wilderness Medicine Institute 

This technique is featured in WMI Wilderness First Responder Courses.

Hypothermia is a dangerous and often hidden predator in the backcountry. There is no question that the best way to deal with it is to completely avoid it. The best way to completely avoid it is to pay attention to yourself as well as to those around you. Wear appropriate clothing for your environment and try to keep things dry.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/23/17


--A local northwest mountaineer was recently involved in a serious ski accident. Greg Smith hit a hidden tree beneath the powder at Crystal Mountain and suffered a seriously broken leg. A Go-Fund-Me site has been set-up to help him deal with his economic hardship following the accident. To learn more, click here.

--The Recreation Northwest Expo Event will be this on Saturday at the Ferry Terminal in Bellingham. Seventy outdoor exhibitors will be on site and there will be several demos. Check it out, here.

Leif Whittaker

--AAI guide and company manager Jason Martin will be interviewing Leif Whitaker about his new book, My Old Man and the Mountain on Chuckanut Radio Hour. Leif is the son of Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Mt. Everest. Leif's book chronicles a climb of Mt. Everest, following his father's footsteps. To read more, click here.

--The Tacoma News Tribune ran an article about Leif Whittaker, his new book and his experience "growing up Whittaker." To read the article, click here.

--The American Alpine Club Annual Benefit Dinner will take place in Seattle this weekend. Conrad Anker will be the keynote speaker. To learn more, click here.

Bigfoot Holding a Snowboard on Washington State Route 2

--Apparently there are those in the Washington State Senate that would like to name Bigfoot, Washington State's official cryptid... To read about it, click here.


--The Tahoe Daily Tribune is reporting that, "It's been seven weeks since flames ripped through the Homewood Mountain Resort's South Lodge, and about one month since a small fire occurred at the Henrikson building in Tahoe City, but fire officials still haven't released information on the cause of either one." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--13 Action News is reporting that; "while no evacuations have been issued, there are new risks for avalanche at Mount Charleston. Trails up canyon, remote backcountry and the Rainbow and Echo subdivisions of Kyle Canyon are asked to be aware of the increased risks." To read more, click here.

--Red Rock Rendezvous is a world-class climbing event. There will be climbing instruction, competitions, slideshows, games and parties. This is one event that just gets better every year. AAI guides will be there to support the event and will be available for guided climbs or instructional programs both before and after the Red Rock Rendezvous. To learn more, click here.


--CBS Denver is reporting that, "a 17-year-old girl is the latest person to die at a Colorado ski resort. The teenager hit her head on a tree on Wednesday afternoon at Winter Park resort." To read more, click here.

--The following video from the Crested Butte Avalanche Center talks about a skier triggered avalanche that took place on Tuesday:

--This one is a bit unusual. The Denver Post is reporting on not just an avalanche, but a moose attack. "Three snowboarders were caught in an avalanche in Maroon Bowl on Monday then two of them had to fight off multiple attacks from a moose after self-rescuing from the slide." To read more, click here.

AAI Guide Zach Lovell on the summit of Hallett Peak in 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Photo by Chris Brinlee Jr.

--Outside Magazine has featured American Alpine Institute programs and AAI Guide Zach Lovell in one of their recent articles. To read the article, click here.

--After numerous problems and many reports that the store would close, the iconic Neptune Mountaineering shop in Boulder will remain open under new ownership. To read more, click here.

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "as citizens, government officials and business owners grapple with the value of public lands, one things holds true: Federal designation of an area as a national park or monument can help the local economy. The two newest national monuments in Colorado are buoying the communities that surround them." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--There was a fatality this week on Maine's Mt. Katahdin. Bangor Daily News is reporting that, "A 68-year-old Holden man died Saturday after falling more than 1,000 feet down the icy surface of the Abol Slide in the park, according to a press release issued Monday." To read more, click here.

--It appears that an ice climber was injured at Lake Michigan this week. To read more, click here

--It's official. Utah's Governor Herbert has put oil, gas and mining on public lands above recreation. The result is that the Outdoor Retailer show will be searching for a new venue as soon as possible. This will cost Utah over $45 million dollars. To read more, click here.

--The Salt Lake Tribune responded to the loss of the Outdoor Retailer with an excellent editorial, "In the same week Utah announced that it had topped $8.17 billion in annual economic benefit from tourism, the $40 million Outdoor Retailer show announced it was leaving. Surely we can take a half-percent hit, right? No. The exit of Outdoor Retailer is so much more than just losing the state's largest convention. There will be hospitality jobs lost, and hotel rooms from Sandy to Ogden vacant for those two weeks a year. We're now building a 900-room downtown convention hotel — with public bonding authority — largely on spec. There is now no convention currently on Salt Lake City's docket that demands it." To read more, click here.

The Daily Camera has a great article about public lands and Congress' attempt to steal it from us: "'Public lands are under attack in a way they haven't been before,' Alex Honnold said to me last weekend. 'There's a realistic threat against 60 percent of our climbing areas. It's time to start paying attention.' Honnold, famous for his free-solo climbing, is an outspoken defender of public land. The 60 percent he refers to is the amount of American climbing — crags and mountains — that's on public land. To be clear, public land is federal land. It's your land." To read more, click here.

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "It’s been a short-lived season for U.S. ice climbing. Only last week Ouray Ice Park announced its closure following unseasonably warm weather, and now the Valdez Ice Climbing Festival in Alaska, which runs every year over Presidents' Day Weekend, has had to follow suit after days of rains and abnormally warm weather resulted in the decline of conditions that would threaten the safety of climbers." To read more, click here.

--Alpinist is reporting that, "the UK-based Grit and Rock Foundation has announced four teams that will receive grant money for climbing expeditions. The award was created last September to 'encourage female participation in pioneering alpine ascents and to further the understanding and exploration of the unclimbed peaks. The award is open to individuals and climbing teams of any nationality with a majority female participation.'" To read more, click here.

--The National Parks Traveler is reporting that, The $11.9 billion maintenance backlog cited by the National Park Service inflates the true cost of high-priority infrastructure needs and elevates the risk for privatization and corporate giveaways in America’s parks, according to a report by an independent, nonpartisan policy institute." To read more, click here.

--Gripped Magazine is reporting that, "the Calgary Climbing Centre (CCC) hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday for their new Olympic-calibre climbing gym near the Calgary Olympic Park. The new facility will be a 25,000-square-foot cutting edge place for Canadian climbers to train. The new gym will have World Cup event Lead, Speed and Bouldering walls." To read more, click here.

--Forbes is reporting that Walmart has purchased a mountaineering retailer: "Walmart has purchased Moosejaw for $51 million, a move aimed squarely at besting Amazon in the apparel and sporting goods categories as the battle heats up. Walmart will now have a presence in a category reeling from consolidation and disruption. Moosejaw is largely an online seller of outdoor gear and activewear, with 10 brick-and-mortar locations." To read more, click here.

Uinita Brewing is celebrating the National Parks with a new line of Golden Ale.

--The Men's Journal is reporting that, "Uinta Brewing announced this week that they will be releasing a new Golden Ale dedicated to the National Park system in the U.S. The Salt Lake City–based brewery, which identifies itself as “a brand powered by adventure,” plans to release several iterations of the Golden Ale, each containing packaging honoring one of the nation’s National Parks." To read more, click here.

--The Wyoming Tribune Eagle is reporting that, "the Wyoming Senate advanced a bill Tuesday that supporters say would protect ski resorts from frivolous lawsuits. But opponents say House Bill 32, the Ski Safety Act, will make it harder for skiers and snowboarders to seek legal recourse if they are seriously injured on the slopes." To read more, click here.

--The Burlington Free Press is reporting that, "the news that Vail Resorts plans to buy Stowe Mountain Resort for $50 million was welcomed by Vermont’s ski industry. Insiders saw the move, announced Tuesday, as validation for the state’s ski business by the nation’s biggest and highest profile resort owner and operator...." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How To Wrap a Cordellete

A few years ago I was guiding a multi-pitch line in Red Rock Canyon. Before we launched off the ground, I showed the climbers that I was working with how to wrap up a cordellete.

Their response?

"Oh, it's a Codyball."

"A what?" I responded.

"A Codyball," one of the climbers said. "When we were in the Gunks, we had a guide named Cody who showed us this technique. We didn't know what to call it, so we started to call it a Codyball."

So Cody, wherever you are...thank-you. For I too have started to call this technique of wrapping up a cordellete a Codyball.

Before launching into how to tie a Codyball, I'd like to point out that there are many ways to stow a cordellete. The two most popular ways are 1) to simply triple up the cordellete and then tie an eight into it and 2) to tie a Codyball.

It is easier, albeit sloppier to simply tie the cordellete into an eight. In addition to this, it is quite long. A long cordellete -- or anything long hanging off your harness -- can be dangerous when you are mountaineering or ice climbing. Things can get stuck in your crampons when you are not paying attention.

A cordellete tied as an eight.

A Codyball is a little bit harder to make. It requires you to spend a bit of time wrapping up the cord and it can also hang down too far if you are not careful. If you're wearing crampons, always be very careful about how far down things hang.

To make a Codyball:

1) Start with the end of the cordellete in your hand.

2) Wrap the cord around your hand until there is only about two feet left.

3) Take your hand out of the wrap and squeeze that section of cord together.

4) Wrap the remaining cord around the squeezed section. Be sure to capture the strand coming out of the squeezed section so that it all doesn't come unraveled.

5) Once there is almost no additional cord left, take the remaining line and push it through the eye of the Codyball.

A finished Codyball.

6) When the Codyball is finished, you may clip it to your harness. If it hangs down too much, simply add a couple more twists with the cord around the ball until the tail is at the desired length.

Codyballs provide a great way to stow your cordellete, but like everything else in this blog, they take some practice. When you're sitting around watching movies on your laptop, keep a cordellete in your hand. It will probably only take one or two viewings of The Eiger Sanction before you'll have it completely dialed.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, February 20, 2017

Route Finding: Magnetic Declination

Your compass is pointing in the wrong direction. You know it's not north. Indeed, it's nowhere near north.

So what's up? Is it broken? Defective? What?

The problem is that it's not pointing at "true north." Instead, it's pointing at "magnetic north." Most people don't realize that there are two North Poles, the real one and the fake one, the true one and the magnetic one.

The Compass Dude puts it a bit more succinctly:

Why are there two different poles? Good question!

The magnetic north and south poles are the ends of the magnetic field around the earth. The magnetic field is created by magnetic elements in the earth's fluid outer core and this molten rock does not align perfectly with the axis around which the earth spins.

There are actually many different sources of magnetic activity around and in the world. All those influencing factors combine to create the north and south attractions at each spot on the globe. The actual strength and direction of 'north' is slightly different everywhere, but it is generally towards the 'top' of the planet.

The difference between true north and magnetic north is referred to as the declination. If you are not aware of the declination in a given area, then you may not be able to locate true north.
Example of magnetic declination showing a compass needle
with a "positive" (or "easterly") variation from geographic north.
From Wikipedia

Modern compasses are designed in such a way that the declination may be set. If you adjust the compass properly allowing the arrow to line up, then you will get a reading which shows both where true north is as well as magnetic north.

Most compasses require one to set the red compass point a given number of degrees off of true north. Usually there is a screw on the back of the compass that will allow you to set the declination. Two lines, often referred to as "the shed," will shift the appropriate distance off of true north. Once this is set, you will be able to shift the compass to the point where the needle is in the center of the shed. The printed "N" will then point toward true north.

Unfortunately, the declination is not always the same from one area to another. Every place on the planet has its own local irregularities and due to the fact that magnetic north isn't actually at the top of the globe, there are other variables that need to be taken into account before setting the declination. Following is a short explanation from Wikipedia on the variables:

Magnetic declination varies both from place to place, and with the passage of time. As a traveller cruises the east coast of the United States, for example, the declination varies from 20 degrees west (in Maine) to zero (in Florida), to 10 degrees east (in Texas), meaning a compass adjusted at the beginning of the journey would have a true north error of over 30 degrees if not adjusted for the changing declination.

In most areas, the spatial variation reflects the irregularities of the flows deep in the earth; in some areas, deposits of iron ore ormagnetite in the Earth's crust may contribute strongly to the declination. Similarly, secular changes to these flows result in slow changes to the field strength and direction at the same point on the Earth.

The magnetic declination in a given area will change slowly over time, possibly as much as 2-2.5 degrees every hundred years or so, depending upon how far from the magnetic poles it is. This may be insignificant to most travellers, but can be important if using magnetic bearings from old charts or metes (directions) in old deeds for locating places with any precision.

There are many ways to determine the declination. The first and most common way is to simply get it off of a USGS topo map. Unfortunately many maps are out-of-date and the declination may have changed. You may also get your declination from the web at the NOAA website, here.

Following is a short video which reviews many of the key points in this article:

To learn more about compasses and declination, the Compass Dude has a great site with a lot of valuable information.

Knowing how to use your compass well will help to keep you from getting lost... And staying found makes every trip a lot more fun!

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, February 17, 2017

Save Red Rock!

The American Alpine Institute just received the following email from Save Red Rock:
Dear Friends,

THIS IS URGENT: The time to take action is NOW!
Save Red Rock is fighting to keep Red Rock rural and the critical vote is upon us. Clark County Commissioners will have a public hearing onWednesday, February 22nd at 9:00am and we need you there to tell them to VOTE NO! If Commissioners change the developer’s rural zoned property to allow high density, he proposes to build a city of over 14,000 residents, businesses, and commercial institutions on the mountain just south of the Red Rock Canyon visitor's center.


Clark County Commissioner Hearing
Wednesday, February 22, 2017, 9:00a.m.
500 S. Grand Central Parkway
Las Vegas, NV 89155

Show up and wear red or we will have Save Red Rock t-shirts available. Please take action now because we cannot win this without you.

Join the Movement: 
Share the Email
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram
Join the #12daysofredrock challenge
Tell 5 neighbors/friends to sign the petition to KEEP RED ROCK RURAL.

Call Commissioners:

Email Commissioners:

Tag Commissioners (Twitter):
Commissioner Chis Giunchigliani: @Giunchigliani 
Commissioner Steve Sisolak: @SteveSisolak 
Commissioner Susan Brager: @SusanBrager  
Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick: @MKNVspeaks 
Commissioner MaryBeth Scow: @MaryBethScow 
Commissioner Larry Brown: @larrybrown and @LB4NV
Commissioner Lawrence Weekly: @LawrenceWeekly
Thank You!
for everything you're doing for Red Rock and for putting up with the information overload in the last few days leading up to the meeting as we try to get the word out to all the people who love Red Rock Canyon.  The support has been overwhelming and encouraging. You're the best group of people EVER! Here we go! For the canyon. For our future.

Goofy Goes Rock Climbing

Every now and again, a cartoon character engages in some type of climbing. Here's a funny little piece about Goofy, about Wild Country Friends, quick draws, face climbing and all sorts of shenanigans.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/16/17


--ABC 6 is reporting that, "a Wyoming man has died after being buried by an eastern Idaho avalanche. According to the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office, at about 11:40 a.m., Thursday, BCSO deputies along with Lincoln County Wyoming Search and Rescue, and a crew from Air Idaho Rescue responded to a report of an injured man caught in an avalanche while riding his snowmobile." To read more, click here.

Leif Whittaker

--AAI guide and company manager Jason Martin will be interviewing Leif Whitaker about his new book, My Old Man and the Mountain on Chuckanut Radio Hour. Leif is the son of Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Mt. Everest. Leif's book chronicles a climb of Mt. Everest, following his father's footsteps. To read more, click here.


--There has been a major rockfall event on the Whitney Portal Road. To read more, click here.

--Lake Tahoe News is reporting that, "Highway 50 in the Kyburz area will remain closed indefinitely due to multiple mudslides. This means the main route between the South Shore and Placerville is off limits at least as a thoroughfare. It is possible to access some points along the route from each direction. For example, Sierra-at-Tahoe is open. Crews are working on three significant slides in a 12-mile area along the American River Canyon, along with other minor slides." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Red Rock Rendezvous is a world-class climbing event. There will be climbing instruction, competitions, slideshows, games and parties. This is one event that just gets better every year. AAI guides will be there to support the event and will be available for guided climbs or instructional programs both before and after the Red Rock Rendezvous. To learn more, click here.


--CBS News is reporting that, "Three backcountry skiers were caught in an avalanche in Colorado’s Garfield County on Tuesday afternoon, CBS Denver reports. One did not survive and one skier escaped and was able to get help. A search for a third skier continues." To read more, click here.

--The Aspen Times is reporting that, "Colorado experienced its fourth skier fatality of the 2016-17 season when 26-year-old Ricardo Cohen died at Breckenridge Ski Resort on Friday, Feb. 10." To read more, click here.

--News Channel 13 is reporting that, "A climber at Garden of the Gods who fell 15 feet had to be rescued on Sunday afternoon.Rescue crews told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that when they arrived, the climber was wedged in between a rock, which he had stopped his fall." To read more, click here.

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "As the outdoor industry leans on Utah, promising to yank the lucrative Outdoor Retailer trade shows out of Salt Lake City if the state’s leaders don’t abandon what industry captains call an “attack on the sanctity of public lands,” Denver is ramping up efforts to establish Colorado as the nation’s public-lands-loving epicenter for all things outdoors." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A 46-year old woman was killed after a collision with a snowboarder at Mohawk Mountain in Connecticut. To read about the fatality, click here.
--Matthew Horner, and ice guide on the East Coast, was seriously injured in a fall on February 8th. A Go Fund Me site has been set-up to help with his recovery. To read more and to donate, click here.

--The Times Union is reporting that, "A 58-year-old expert skier was killed after striking several trees on a double black diamond trail on Hunter Mountain Ski Center Wednesday morning, State Police at Catskill said." Hunter Mountain is in New York State. To read more, click here.

--Snow Brains is reporting that, "a 60-year-old German tourist died in a tree well incident in Alberta Canyon while heli-skiing near Revelstoke, B.C. on Friday. The incident happened on the last run of the day yesterday at 2:30pm. When the heli-skiing group got to the bottom of the run, one man was missing. Canadian police report that the guides were able to quickly locate the man who was found face down in a tree well." To read more, click here.

--A snowboarder was killed after ducking the ropes at Killington in Vermont. It appears that he collided with a tree. To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund is reporting that, "New Hampshire climbers and conservation groups are organizing to oppose the construction of a proposed 25,000 square foot hotel in the fragile alpine zone of Mount Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire." To read more, click here.

--The Men's Journal is reporting that, "Congress is racing to nullify an Obama-era order (the Bureau of Land Management's "Planning 2.0 rule") that gave hikers, bikers, hunters, fishers, and other outdoor recreation fans an equal voice with drillers, ranchers, loggers, and other industries in how the government manages over 250 million acres of federal lands. The House and Senate are getting rid of the rule under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows members of Congress to vote on "resolutions of disapproval" during the initial 60 days after an agency publishes the new rule. Striking it this way also allows Congress to do it without public input, and it forbids the agency from revisiting or improving the rule in the future. Since the beginning of the year, the GOP majority in Congress has used the CRA to eradicate Obama administration rules barring the dumping of coal waste into streams, sales of guns to people with mental health disorders, methane leaks and flaring by oil and gas drilling operations on public lands, and payments to either the U.S. or foreign governments for the rights to extract oil, natural gas, or minerals." To read more, click here.