Saturday, November 22, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Last year, Cedar Wright and Alex Honnold shared with us an adventure with possibly as many laughs and it did climbs during their biking and climbing epic, "Sufferfest."  Well, they are back at it again - this time with desert towers.  "Sufferfest 2" looks to be just as awesome!


Sufferfest 2: Desert Alpine, AKA 34 Pieces of Choss and 5 Horrendous Life Experiences, Starring Alex Honnold and Cedar Wright - Trailer from Cedar Wright on Vimeo.

Last week we showed DPS Skis' first foray into cinema, and it was no disappointment.  This week brings the second episode in their Shadow Campaign.  "Whitewash"  features Zach Giffon, Olaf Larsson, Piers Solomon, and some deep, deep Mt. Baker backcountry.  Keep up the good work DPS!


The Shadow Campaign // Whitewash from DPS SKIS on Vimeo.

Red Bull has just released the first of a 5-part series of videos.  After being dropped off in the middle of the Todrillo Range of Alaska, this crew spent the next 12 days climbing big peaks, dealing with big storms, and riding big lines.



While most of the Northeast is getting pummeled by the massive lake-effect snow storm, I am sure lots of folks are going to be out this weekend enjoying some amazing powder.  But I found this video of a couple enjoying the storm in a different way and had to share it!


WNY - Blizzard Surfing from Kevin Cullen on Vimeo.

Have a great weekend! - James

Friday, November 21, 2014

Book Review: Cold Wars by Andy Kirkpatrick

A few weeks ago we reviewed Andy Kirkpatrick's amazing book, Psychovertical. That piece humorously chronicles Kirkpatrick's obsession with climbing. That first piece was so well-written that I quickly picked up Kirkpatrick's second book, Cold Wars.

One might ask how an individual who is approximately forty-years old could write an autobiography and then follow it up with yet more autobiographical material. This would be a legitimate question if we were talking about a politician or a musician or an actor. Your every day person worships these types of  people because they appear to be doing something with their lives. Those who live for outdoor adventure are doing something with their lives every day...and it's almost always interesting. So Kirkpatrick's second book is just as engaging as his first. But he addresses this question nonetheless...

Psychovertical was a book about a man who is struggling: against the wall, against himself, but who wins through. The story is a hundred thousand word answer to the question: 'Why do you climb?'

Cold Wars asks a different question: 'What is the price?'

Kirkpatrick is married and has two children. The routes that he chooses are almost universally "high end" and are incredibly dangerous. He has a penchant for winter alpinism and for second ascents of serious lines. He aslo sometimes goes months without climbing. Cold Wars is a humorous and often tender book about the life of a climber and about what we give up to be in the mountains. Kirkpatrick regularly writes about the strange irony that many climbers feel. When they are at home, they can't wait to be away. But, when they are in the mountains, they wish they were home.


We've all felt this way at one point or another. In the following passage we see this tension as Kirkpatrick pines over his young daughter while sitting before one of those incredible views at one of those incredible moments that only climbers in the high mountains get to experience.

'I can't get Ella crying out of my head. Every time I do anything I keep thinking that I have to get home to her, that she means more to me than this.'

I switched on my phone, to see if I had any messages. It beeped.

'DAD HOPE UR ENJOYING CLIMBING THOSE MOUNTAINS LOVE ELLA'

I showed it to Ian.

'Maybe you're falling out of love with climbing,' said Ian, switching off his headtorch to save the battery as the sky towards Chamonix turned red, and the rising sun lit up the spires of the Aiguilles, one by one.

'I really hope so,' I said.

While this book appears to be more serious with a heavier question than the simplistic "why do you climb," it is still chalked full of Kirkpatrick's humorous climbing anecdotes. Indeed, as this book is structured more anecdotally than his first book, it could be argued that it is a funnier tome. Here is one great example of an experience the author had in the Alps shortly after losing a ski.

Now I was really in trouble, as the snow was too deep to walk in, and skiing on a single board was beyond me.

I took off my remaining ski and sat on it bum-shuffling down the slope, knowing full well that there had never been a more pathetic sight in the history of ski mountianeering. To make matters worse, a French guide swooshed down to me, looking like skiing's answer to Mikhail Baryshnikov, asking if I was alright.

'I'm British,' I said looking at the floor, trying hard not to burst into tears.

'I understand,' he said, no doubt embarrassed for me, and then skied off. 

Perhaps part of the reason I enjoy Kirkpatrick's writing so much is because I recognize myself in it.  He is absolutely obsessed with climbing, as am I. He loves writing, but hates doing it, as do I. He has a family that keeps him grounded, as do I. And he lives in two worlds, the first is a world where he has a wife and two kids and they all live normal lives and do normal things. The second is a world where he "hangs it out," on high end alpine climbs and extreme big walls. I don't generally push the bounds of safety too far, but a few times a year I definitely push the limits. As a forty-two year-old mountain guide with a family, I really understand and appreciate his work. And I think that anybody who spends a lot of time on the sharp end and feels like they have something to lose will understand his writing too.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/20/14

Northwest:

--Searchers say they have recovered the body of a climber who fell from a mountain this week. Benjamin Newkirk’s body was discovered Sunday, after a multi-day search complicated by extreme weather. The 39-year-old from Bend was on Middle Sister, a 10,052-foot volcanic peak in central Oregon’s Three Sisters Wilderness, with another climber Wednesday night when he fell about 900 feet off the mountain’s southeast ridge. To read more, click here.

--Prosecutors have dropped an arson charge against a man who lit a backburn during the Carlton complex fires and reduced charges against another. A third man is headed to trial Dec. 2 for the fire he allegedly set. To read more, click here.

--NPR produced an excellent story on the effects of glacial loss in the North Cascades last week. To read the story, click here.

Sierra:

--A new bathroom has been constructed in the Buttermilks. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

A Climber ascends "The Eiger" on Angel Food Wall in Red Rock Canyon.

--Next week is considered one of the busiest weeks of the season from desert climbing. If you are traveling to a place like Red Rock Canyon, Joshua Tree or Smith Rock, make sure that you have a plan b for camping and for climbing. It's not the best week to get on the most popular climb in a given area.

--A lost hiker was rescued from Joshua Tree National Park last week. To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--Rescuers are searching for a Colorado man three days after he failed to return from a climbing trip in Rocky Mountain National Park. To read more, click here.

-- 2014 will be the new benchmark for summer tourism in Colorado. Lodges saw record occupancy and were able to push room rates higher. And visitors spent more, with nearly every resort community posting record sales-tax revenues in May, June, July and August. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--AAI Guide Aiden Loehr recently had a training article published by Men's Journal. Beyond being a climber and guide, Aiden is also a pilot and professional mountain trainer. To read the article and to get some tips to train for your next big climb, click here.

--Cliffbar has fired all it's athletes who BASE jump, who slackline and who freesolo. Athletes include Steph Davis, Dean Potter and Alex Honnold. To read more, click here. Cliffbar responded to the controversy with this letter.

--A trio of climbers ticked a new mixed route in the Beartooth Mountains of Montana in October. They climbed 2,000 feet over 13 pitches, finding excellent conditions. To read more, click here.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Counter Ascending a Rope to Perform a Climber Pick-Off


Imagine you are taking two friends out to the crag who have never climbed before. You meet at the trailhead and quickly make the approach. On the way in you spot a beautiful looking slab, perfect for introducing some simple movement skills.

You tell your buddies to hang out at the base as you scramble around, build a bomber anchor, and drop a rope to set up a base-managed tope rope site. Back at the bottom you run them through all the basic knot/belaying skills and before you know it, you all are ready to climb.

You have one of them climb, while the other one belays and you are ready to give a back up belay if necessary. The climber does an awesome job, just cruising all the way to the top, tagging the carabiners at the master point. The belayer tells them to lean back and starts to lower them, but about halfway down the pitch, they just freeze and grab the wall.

You try to talk them down, but they are not having it. You can tell they are getting more and more scared the longer they are up there. You do not want this to ruin their experience, especially after they just absolutely crushed it a few minutes earlier... so what do you do?

Counter-ascending a Rope to Perform a Climber Pickoff

One of the most interesting skills covered by American Alpine Institute (AAI) as part of the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Single Pitch Instructor (SPI) curriculum is top-managed and based-managed assistance skills.

In the above situation, you have three climbers operating from a base-managed top rope site. In order for one of the people on the ground to assist the climber being lowered, they would need to counter-ascend the rope to perform a climber pickoff.

A "pickoff" is any situation where one member of a climbing party has to descend or ascend a rope in order to assist another member of the group who is experiencing difficulty on the pitch. Counter-ascending is a technique where the person ascending the rope uses the weight of the climber on the pitch as a counter-balance to help them maintain their progress as they move up the rope.

There are multiple scenarios you could encounter at the crag that would involve using variations of this skill. For the purposes of this post we are going to focus primarily on the situation above: Three climbers at a base-managed site with the belayer using either a tube style or assisted-breaking style belay device and the most experience climber outside of the primary belay.


Building the Counter-Ascending System

Assuming you are playing the role of the experienced climber, the best way to think about building the counter-ascending system for this situation is in three steps:

Step 1.) Transition to the Primary Belay


Have the belayer pull and hold the climber tight. Now tie a backup knot in the break strand of the rope about two arm’s lengths from the belayer’s break hand. The backup knot can either be a figure-eight or overhand on a bight.


Pre-rig your assisted-breaking belay device, a Grigri in this case, underneath the belayer’s belay device and clip it to your belay loop with a locking carabiner. If done correctly, the Grigri should be pre-rigged between the belayer’s break hand and the backup knot you tied.



Reach over to the climber’s strand of the rope and use a friction hitch to attach a locking carabiner. An Autoblock was used in the picture above. Basket a double-length runner through the hard points on your harness and clip both ends to the locking carabiner on the climber’s strand of the rope.


Run through your carabiner and knot checks and then slide the Autoblock as high as you can along the rope. Now ask the belayer to slowly step forward as you slightly lean back. Up until this point all the climbers weight should have been on the belayer’s device. You should now start to feel the pull of the climber transition onto your harness as the Autoblock takes the weight.


If done correctly, there should be no weight on the belayer’s belay device and you can ask them to go off belay. As soon as they are out of the system, pull any slack through your Grigri and disengage the Autoblock. You should now be on belay just as if you were belaying from the beginning.

Step 2.) Counter-Ascend the Rope to the Climber


If there is an excessive amount of slack between the Grigri and the original backup knot, start by tying a new backup knot about one to two fist lengths away from the Grigri. Remove the double-length runner from your harness and just let it hang from the Autoblock.

To begin ascending, move as close to the wall as possible while pushing the Autoblock up. Make sure you keep the climber tight by taking in slack as you move forward.


Assuming your break hand is on the right side, put your left foot inside the runner and shift your weight above that foot. This will lock the Autoblock in place and allow you to stand up your left leg. As you thrust upward, use your left hand to pull down on the climber's side of the rope and your break hand to pull up on the break side of the rope.


Continue this motion until the Autoblock is about two fist lengths away from the Grigri, then sit back and weight the rope to re-engage the Grigri and capture your upward progress. At this point all your weight should be off your foot in the runner, which will allow you to move the Autoblock higher up the rope.

Repeat this process until you reach the climber and make sure to tie backup knots in the break strand every 8-10' as you ascend.

Step 3.) Transition Friction Hitch to Climbers Rope and Lower

Once you reach the climber, tie a final backup knot in the break strand and untie all of the backup knots below it. If the climber is distressed, this is your opportunity to assess the situation and provide whatever aid is necessary.


Once you decide to lower, remove the Autoblock from the strand above you and re-attach a locking carabiner to the strand above the climber with another friction hitch. I am using a Prussic in the picture above.


Again, basket a double-length runner through the hard points on your harness and clip both ends to the locking carabiner on the strand of the rope above the climber. Run through your carabiner and knot checks, then untie your back up knot and lower as you normally would on a Grigri.

This "tricks" the system and allows both the experienced climber who ascended and the distressed climber to lower simultaneously.

Some quick notes
- In situations like above, the best solution is usually the simplest and most efficient. Before getting into a complex belay transition with friction hitches and whatever, check if the climber can comfortably unweight the rope.

If they can... just tie your backup knot, pre-rig the Grigri, have the belayer remove themselves from the system, and go on belay like normal before they re-weight the rope—a much simpler solution. That said, for the purposes of this post we assumed the climber could not unweight the rope and we needed to use a hitch to transfer the load.

- For ascending, you can use an Autoblock, Prussic, or Klemheist, but I personally prefer to use an Autoblock. I like the Autoblock because in my experience, the Prussic and Klemheist proved to be very difficult to disengage and slide along the rope after putting my full bodyweight on the runner.

On the flipside, for lowering I tended to use a Prussic and Klemheist because I wanted a hitch that really "grabbed." This was important because I did not want to fumble around trying to get the hitch to stay in place, while dealing with the distressed climber.

- Depending on your preference, you can use a slipknot or tie an overhand/figure-eight in the bottom of the double-length runner to keep your foot from slipping out as you ascend. If you do end up tying a knot, lean toward a figure-eight because it is a little easier to untie after you get to the ground.

- When you get to the climber, it is a good idea to continue ascending until your feet are at about their hip to chest height. The reason you want to be above them if possible is because it is easier to offer assistance and avoids you both being right on top of each other as you lower. It also allows you to slide under their strand of rope and push them away from the wall if you need to maneuver around obstacles or roofs on the descent.

With regard to the story above, something similar actually happened to me a few weeks after I took the SPI while I was teaching a beginner class at the local climbing gym. Instead of yelling up at the stranded climber for ten minutes and making the situation worse, I quickly transitioned to the primary belay, counter-ascended and talked them through the whole lowering process, right next to them on the wall as we descend together.

I don't know if it made a difference in the climber's experience, but what I do know is that they came down with a smile on their face and got right back on the wall. To me, whether you are a climbing instructor, guide, or just a recreational climber taking friends out, that's what it is all about.

--Chris Casciola, Guest Blogger and Author of the Seeking Exposure Blog

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Weekend warriors.  Dawn patrol.  Full-moon tours.  All examples of us trying to squeeze the things that we love to do in to the mix of our busy, every-day lives.  This short from a series by Vaude highlights some "5 to 9 Adventures" for those who try to get the goods before and after the normal work day.



Last month, The North Face announced a partnership with the Department of the Interior's 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) program to help get young adults and veterans working on conservation and restoration projects that help protect our land, water and wildlife.  The video below is part of the unveiling of the project and here is the link to more information about it.



Ever since pro snowboarder (and Bellingham local, I might add) Lucas Debari saw a small, pixelated photo of a captivating, yet unnamed, peak in Greenland, he was determined to plan an amazing expedition there.



For this last video of the weekend, grab a cup of something warm (or a frosty, cold one if you prefer) sit back for the next half hour and enjoy this snowboard awesomeness from Nitro.


The Bad Seeds! FREE snowboard video by Nitro Snowboards from Nitro Snowboards on Vimeo.

Have a great weekend! - James

Friday, November 14, 2014

Access Fund - The Pact

The Access Fund has just launched an ambitious new project. They are trying to get the word out about "The Pact," a series of guidelines that all climbers should universally follow in order to preserve our access to climbing areas. According to the Access Fund, "The Pact is a promise—a covenant with our fellow climbers to practice a set of 10 responsible outdoor behaviors that protect climbing access."

Following are the ten key points of The Pact:


A large group of pro climbers have come together with the Access Fund to produce a video about The Pact. Please see it below:



This is something that we at the American Alpine Institute support completely. Please sign The Pact and support our continued climbing access.

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Getting Rid of the Funk: How to Clean Your Climbing Shoes

I sat down on the bench next to my partner. We'd just finished a dawn patrol at the climbing gym.  And though it was cool outside and even a bit cool in the gym, my feet were shriveled pickles inside my tight shoes. But I ignored it and stripped off my shoes.

"Whoa!," my partner said, dramatically waiving his hand in front of his face with one hand, while plugging his nose with the other. "Dude," he said dramatically. "You're feet stink."

And they did. Or more accurately, my climbing shoes stunk. It was time to give them a wash.

Recently climber Joe Ho, posted a great video on his blog about techniques for washing and cleaning climbing shoes. Please see the video below:


The quick and the dirty of it is that Joe washes his shoes in a washing machine. He fastens the velcro straps down and washes them on warm with soap. When he is done, he lays them out to dry.

I used the techniques shown in the video to wash a pair of shoes, and there was still a little bit of a scent in them, but it was no longer overpowering...

Jason D. Martin