Tuesday, November 24, 2020

No Shortcuts - Ski Training Video

It takes a tremendous amount of dedication to become one of the top big mountain skiers in the world. Pro skier Dane Tudor is at the top of his game. The following video shows what it takes to get there...



I think that there's something to be said about the name "no shortcuts." The reality for every mountain athlete is that they have to work incredibly hard to get to where they are. There really are no shortcuts to being as good as you can be...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, November 20, 2020

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

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Climbing Commands

One of the most inconsistent things in the entire world of climbing are climbing commands. Climbers commonly hook up for a day of climbing with little knowledge of how to communicate with one another at the crag. It is always important to review your climbing commands with a new partner so that no mistakes are made.

The most common mistakes in a command series tend to come around the word "take." Climbers often use the word in two different ways. Some will say "take" in lieu of the command, "up-rope." Whereas others will say "take" to mean "take my weight." A much larger problem arises out of the nature of a word that only has one syllable. "Take" could also be mistaken for the words, "safe" or "slack." Either of these mistakes could have tragic consequences. The result is that at the American Alpine Institute, we try to teach people not to use the word.

A climber on Angel's Crest (5.10c, IV) in Squamish, BC.

The following sets of commands reflect what AAI guides are teaching in the field.

Toprope Commands:

Climber: On-belay?

Belayer: (After checking that everyone's double-backed, that knots are correct and that the belay device is threaded appropriately.) Belay-on.

Climber: Climbing.

Belayer: Climb-on.

Once the climber reaches the top, the following discourse should take place:

Climber: Tension.

Belayer: (After pulling the stretch out of the rope and locking it off.) Tension-on.

Climber: Ready to lower.

Belayer: Lowering.

It's important to close out the commands at the end. People often get lazy about the next set. Once the climber is back on the ground the following commands should take place.

Climber: Off-belay.

Belayer: Thank-you. (Then after removing the device from the rope:) Belay-off.

The "thank-you" exists in this series to get individuals ready for multi-pitch climbing where the words are used a great deal.

A climber on Myster Z (5.7, II+) in Red Rock Canyon.

Multi-Pitch Commands:

You'll notice that the words "thank-you" are used heavily throughout this command series. We use the words to acknowledge that an individual heard the last command. For those who don't normally use the words "thank-you" as part of your personal series, I would recommend trying it. A lot of stress melts away on multi-pitch climbs when you know that your partner heard you.

Following are the commands that we teach in a multi-pitch setting:

Climber: On-belay?

Belayer: (After checking that everyone's double-backed, that knots are correct and that the belay device is threaded appropriately.) Belay-on.

Climber: Climbing.

Belayer: Climb on.

Once the climber has reached the top, built an anchor and tied-in, the following commands should take place:

Climber: Off belay!

Belayer: Thank-you! (The belayer will then take the rope out of his device.) Belay-off!

Climber: Thank-you! (The climber will then pull up all the slack.)

Belayer: That's me!

Climber: Thank-you! (The climber will then put the belayer on belay.) Belay-on!

Belayer: Thank-you! (The belayer will break down the anchor and then yell just before he is about to climb.) Climbing!

Climber: Climb-on!

Ancillary Commands:


These are commands that are not necessarily said on every single climb. These are only said if there is a need. The commands are as follows:

Rock -- This should be yelled whenever anything falls. If you hear this, press your body against the wall and do not look up. Your helmet will provide some protection. Unfortunately, sometimes people yell "stick" or "camera." Such unusual commands often result in inappropriate reactions. In other words a person may not immediately attempt to get out of the way.

Watch me -- Climber will say this to a belayer if he is nervous and thinks he might fall.

Falling -- The appropriate command if you actually fall.

Up-rope -- When a climber says this, he is asking that slack be eliminated from the system.

Slack -- The climber needs slack.

Tension -- Anytime a climber wants to sit back on the rope and rest they should use this command.

Clipping -- Periodically a leader will need more rope to clip a piece of protection. When a leader says this he's actually asking for a few feet of slack.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, November 16, 2020

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

Friday, November 13, 2020

Stick Clipping

I was in Red Rock Canyon, just below the first bolt, when my foot smeared off. My stance was somewhat sideways and if I didn't have a rope on, I would have fallen eight feet directly on my side, likely breaking my arm...

But how could I have a rope prior to the first bolt?

Easy. I stick clipped it. And that stick clip saved me from a hospital visit.

Stick clips are an important part of sport climbing. These are specially designed poles that may be used to clip the first bolt with a rope prior to climbing the route. These devices may be purchased from many different climbing companies, they may be made out of homemade supplies or they may be "McGyvered."

The concept behind a stick clip is simple. You have a pole that allows you to clip the first draw to the first bolt with the rope prerigged through the bottom carabiner on the draw. Then you may be toproped through the starting moves of the climb.

There are several manufactured stick clips available on the market. Following are a couple of examples:

Trango Beta Stick Clip

Epic Sport Epic Stick Clip

Homemade stick clips are relatively easy to make. I bought a painters pole and a placed a spring clamp a the end. I duct taped this securely on to keep the spring clamp in place. Alternately, some people use hose clamps to keep the spring clamp in place at the end of the pole.

My well-loved homemade stick clip.

My stick clip wasn't designed with a means to keep the carabiner open. Instead, I just push the carabiner against the bolt until it clips.

There are going to be occasions when you don't have access to a stick clip. On these occasions, you may wish to McGyver something. Climbing magazine put together and excellent video on this topic with the now Executive Editor of the magazine, Julie Ellison, describing how to do this:



I used to be a little wary about carrying stick clips. A lot of my friends made fun of me for carrying it around. But the fact that I didn't hurt myself in that short fall before the first bolt made up for every last joke made by my trad climber buddies...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/12/20

Northwest:

--Mt. Rainier National Park is reporting that, "On Sunday, November 8th, a snowshoer who had been missing overnight was located and rescued from the Nisqually River drainage below Paradise. The snowshoer was last seen on Saturday November 7th at 1:45 pm, when he and his partner separated below the Muir Snowfield at an elevation of 9,500’. The missing party intended to descend on snowshoes to Paradise, while his partner continued on skis to Camp Muir. When he did not return to the Paradise parking lot, his partner reported him missing to park rangers. Three National Park Service (NPS) teams conducted an initial search for the missing snowshoer until early morning in winter conditions that minimized visibility. The overnight low at Paradise dropped to 16 degrees Fahrenheit with five inches of new snow." To read more, click here.

--AAI guide Katie Griffith wrote a piece about guiding and wildfire smoke that appeared in the Mt. Baker Experience this week. To read the article, click here.

--An older unnamed route in Squamish was rebolted this week by the first ascentionist and renamed Riden' with Biden (5.9). The route can be found just right of The Zip (5.10a), a super popular route. To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--Emily Harrington just became the first woman to free Golden Gate (5.13a, VI) on El Capitan in a 24-hour period. This awesome achievement was wildly misreported by the mainstream press. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

AAI Guide Alex Fletcher encountered some very large 
mountain lion tracks in the Spring Mountains above Las Vegas this week.

Colorado and Utah:

--CBS 4 Denver is reporting on a fatality on North Maroon Peak last week: "A craft brewing company in Denver is remembering one of its brewers — Jason Buehler, the 43-year-old who fell and died in a mountain climbing accident near Aspen late last week. Buehler was head brewer at Denver Beer Company taproom and was a resident of Niwot." To read more, click here.

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "In recent weeks, a number of incidents have occurred on the Second Flatiron in Boulder, Colorado that have required a response from search and rescue teams. According to the Boulder County Sheriff's Office, a 31-year-old female climber required rescue on Sunday afternoon after getting stuck while scrambling on the Second Flatiron in Boulder County. The climber reached a section of the climb in which she was unable to safely move up or down the rock formation. Members of Rocky Mountain Rescue Group were able to reach the stuck climber via technical gear before lowering her down the mountain. She was uninjured and able to hike back to the trailhead." To read more, click here.

--The Journal of Emergency Medical Services is reporting that, "A 23-year-old man fell about fifteen feet while scrambling on Mount Sanitas near Boulder around 2 p.m. Sunday, according to the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office." To read more, click here.

--A skier triggered an avalanche near Independence Pass this week, on a north facing slope in Mountain Boy Basin. This is the first videotaped avalanche of the 2020-2021 season that we're aware of. There were no injuries. Following is the video:


--Kimberly Kelly, a single mother in Utah, suffered a serious climbing accident two weeks ago and cannot work. A Go-Fund-Me site has been set-up to help her pay her bills while she recovers. Check it out, here.

--Wolves will be reintroduced in the Front Range. From the Colorado Sun: "Proposition 114 passed as a flurry of Front Range-votes widened the initiative’s margin of victory, paving the way for the animals’ return to the Western Slope." To read more, click here.

--Well here's something interesting from the Colorado Sun: "Are Colorado’s backcountry skiing stashes “trade secrets”? A snowcat outfitter suing a former guide claims they are. Steamboat Powdercats has sued a former employee, Stephen Bass, to stop his book from hitting shelves. They say it has to do with safety. The publisher says it has to do with access to 'fresh pow.'" To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A climber was injured at New Hampshire's Rumney on Monday. He was able to walk out on his own, but -- due to his injuries -- needed the trail cleared by a leaf blower as he walked with assistance. The dry leaves covered treacherous footing. To read more, click here.

--Outside Online is reporting that, "the Department of the Interior failed to meet (last) Tuesday’s deadline to submit a list of projects it wants to fund in fiscal year 2021 with money earmarked by the Great American Outdoors Act. Not only does the missed proposal threaten the success of a huge variety of conservation projects, but advocacy groups warn it could be an attempt by the Trump administration to undermine the act’s goals. The move coincided with the election, even as vulnerable Republican senators who supported the GAOA campaigned on its passage." To read more, click here.

--An Idaho man tried to cook chicken in one of the geysers at Yellowstone National Park. Thankfully, he got caught. Now he will have to pay a $600 fine and will have two years of probation. To read more, click here.


--In related news, ABC is reporting that, "the importance of nature and the environment was evident this election as voters across the country approved more than two dozen conservation ballot measures. The initiatives include nearly $3.7 billion in new funding for land conservation, parks, climate resiliency and habitat, according to The Trust for Public Land Action Fund." To read more, click here.

--Interested in competing in a freeride skiing tournament? You can find out how, here.

--The New York Times is reporting that, "At 6,288 feet above sea level, Mount Washington in northern New Hampshire is known to countless travelers and bumper-sticker aficionados as the highest point in the Northeast and, according to the meteorologists who work there, 'home of the world’s worst weather.' And for nearly nine decades, there has always been a cat in residence. The latest one, a black Maine coon named Marty who arrived at the summit in 2008, died on Saturday of an 'unexpected illness,' Rebecca Scholand, an official at the Mount Washington Observatory, said Monday night. Marty was 14, she said. Or 15." To read more, click here.

--NPR is reporting that, "the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced U.S. military veterans and Gold Star families will be granted a lifetime of free access to national parks, wildlife refuges and other federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior." To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund and Climbing are reporting that, "Gunks Climbers Coalition (GCC) and Access Fund are pleased to announce the purchase and opening of a new section of cliffline in the Shawangunk Mountains of New York. This acquisition adds a new, backcountry climbing area to the Gunks, offering a uniquely remote experience that boasts traditional climbing, top roping, overhangs, vertical faces, and even a little crack climbing—ranging from 5.5 to 5.13." To read more, click here.

Friday, November 6, 2020

The Business of Ski Resorts

This is a fascinating look at why ski tickets are so expensive. It looks at the both the business of the ski resort, as well as how a town supports resort infrastructure. The video also looks at why large companies are buying up ski resorts and creating multi-resort passes. 

If you enjoy inbounds skiing, there probably isn't a better video out there to understand what's happening in the big picture of the ski industry.



--Jason D. Martin