Friday, November 26, 2021

Skis - Baseline Knowledge

When you start to talk about skis, it's important that you have a working knowledge of the different parts and each skiers different needs. This blog provides you with a baseline of understanding, so that you can hold your own in a conversation about what ski is best for what use...

Length

Skis are measured in centimeters. Most adults skis are between 160cm and 200cm in length. The length of the ski that you purchase should be in line with your height and weight...but those that are new to skiing may want a shorter ski for better control.

Here's a baseline size chart:



Waist and Turn Radius

The waist is the area directly underfoot. This is often where the width of the ski is measured. Wider skis are best for powder, but they are also harder to handle for beginners.

The wider a ski, the longer the turn radius. Here's a short video about how this works:



Ski Profile: Camber vs. Rocker vs. Early Rise


Click to Enlarge

Camber is a concave profile that allows for better snow contact and more pop coming out of turns. The rocker, on the other hand, is a ski profile with a more upturned tip and tail for deep snow conditions.

A flat or early rise ski, is a ski profile that has a flatter bottom with upturned tips. This is good for deep snow.

The following video delves into camber, flat/early rise and rockered skis:



Din Setting

The DIN setting, short for Deutsches Institut für Normung (German Institute for Standardization), is a ski setting that determines the amount of force that can be placed on a binding before it releases. This is set based on your weight, height and ability level. The DIN setting is usually adjusted by a ski shop professional, because if the ski doesn't release when you need it to, you will break your leg.

Touring Bindings

There are two standard types of bindings for the backcountry, frame bindings and tech bindings. Frame bindings are a heavier binding that aren't as good for touring, but perform exceptionally well in downhill terrain. They also operate better as crossover in-bounds/out-ofbounds bindings.

Tech bindings (or pin bindings) have a pin and hole system and attach directly to the boot. These are the go to bindings for ski touring and ski mountaineering. They don't operate as well in an in-bounds setting.

Frame and tech bindings release differently, so when people have a release malfunction, the injuries look different. Frame bindings tend to lead to knee injuries (meniscus, ACL, MCL, etc.), while tech bindings tend to lead to broken bones.

Conclusion

Skiing and backcountry skiing are equipment heavy sports, and we could talk tech all day. And while this isn't a comprehensive list of terms and concepts, it is a solid introduction.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/25/21

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is one of the biggest weekends of the year for climbing at certain areas. These areas include Smith Rock, Red Rock Canyon, Joshua Tree National Park, Moab, Indian Creek and many others that usually have decent weather this time of year.

If you don't have camping reservations, and you don't have a lodging plan, and you intend to visit one of these areas, make sure that you have a back-up plan.

And be careful...! There's often a spike in accidents over the long weekend...

Northwest:


--Glacier Creek Road (FR 39), which provides access to the north side of Mt. Baker, has been washed out at about mile 3.7. This is a severe washout. In addition to this, the road that is used to access Shannon Ridge on Mt. Shuksan has some severe erosion. It's still passable, but at mile marker .7 to mile maker, 1.2, the road could go if we have another serious weather event.

Sierra:

--My San Antonio is reporting that, "Three of Yosemite’s campgrounds — Tuolumne Meadows, Bridalveil Creek and Crane Flat — will be closed as they undergo extensive renovations. There will be no camping available at all three sites during the closures. Tuolumne Meadows will see the longest closure, as the National Park Service says that it will be shuttered until 2024, or even 2025, for rehabilitation. It is Yosemite’s largest campground, sprawling across 140 acres with 304 drive-in campsites for campers with cars, 21 for backpackers, seven group sites and four horse sites. The site serves 141,000 visitors a year." To read more, click here.

--Here's a cool piece on the Tahoe Nordic Search and  Rescue Team.

Desert Southwest:

--In an unusual move, the Joshua Tree National Park closed the classic route Heart of Darkness (5.11a) due to poor anchors. The closure will likely be short-lived. To read more, click here.

Caustic (5.11b) is a classic line in Calico Basin.
Photo by Caden Martin

--There is a Change.Org petition out there that is asking the Las Vegas BLM not to begin charging for parking at Red Rock Canyon's Calico Basin. A policy of charging people for parking could really push more people to park along the road, creating further problems for homeowners in the area. To read more and to sign, click here.

--In Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold news, they just completed the first repeat of What Dreams May Come (5.13, 10-Pitches) in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. In researching this post, I found that there's another route in Red Rock with the same name that's only 5.6. To read more, click here.


Colorado and Utah:

--From the Colorado Sun: "It wasn’t that long ago that ski resort operators lost sleep over snowfall. Then they had to fret over once-in-a-lifetime protocols to limit the spread of contagion at their ski areas.  Now, the worries are stacked even deeper, with affordable housing, dwindling numbers of workers and ever-lengthening lift lines joining the perennial fretting over snow and looming threat of spiking COVID cases." To read more, click here.

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "The Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association (PCPSPA) has been meeting with representatives from Park City Mountain, UT, and Vail Resorts since August of 2020 to negotiate a new contract. The current contract covering approximately 200 Ski Patrol and Mountain Safety personnel expired in November of 2020. With the opening day of the 2021-22 season just around the corner, the Union hopes to secure a contract that will lead to a livable wage for career employees." To read more, click here.

--There's a lot of plastic in your skis. And as we know, plastic is part of our environmental problem. In steps WNDR Alpine Skis. In an effort to decrease plastic in the world, the company is fashioning skis out of algae. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--OPB is reporting that, "The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Chuck F. Sams III Thursday as the first Native American to serve as director of the National Park Service in its 105-year history. Sams, a member of the Cayuse and Walla Walla tribes, which are part of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, will be the first confirmed director of the NPS since 2017 as the agency has been led by acting directors since then." To read more, click here.


--The Department of the Interior has announced: "Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland today formally established a process to review and replace derogatory names of the nation’s geographic features. She also declared “squaw” to be a derogatory term and ordered the Board on Geographic Names – the federal body tasked with naming geographic places – to implement procedures to remove the term from federal usage. 'Racist terms have no place in our vernacular or on our federal lands. Our nation’s lands and waters should be places to celebrate the outdoors and our shared cultural heritage – not to perpetuate the legacies of oppression,” said Secretary Haaland. “Today’s actions will accelerate an important process to reconcile derogatory place names and mark a significant step in honoring the ancestors who have stewarded our lands since time immemorial.' To read more, click here.

--The American Safe Climbing Association is kicking of a bolt replacement fundraiser. "There are tens of thousands of bolts in the US that need immediate replacement, and hundreds of thousands that will need replacement in the coming years. The cost of high-quality hardware is significant, even with cost-saving through bulk ordering and all-volunteer labor, the average cost to rebolt just one sport climb is well over $100." To read more and to donate, click here.

--And finally, in an effort to increase safety through the Kumbu Icefall on Mt. Everest, a pair of individuals may develop a work around, using a via ferra. To read about it, click here.


Monday, November 22, 2021

How to Belay with a Munter-Hitch

Outdoor Research and the American Mountain Guides have produced quite a few excellent videos. If you haven't checked them out yet, log onto youtube and go to the AMGA Tutorials page.

The following video -- featuring Elaina Arenz, AMGA Certified Rock Guide and occasional AAI Guide -- demonstrates several iterations of how one might use a munter-hitch to belay. The video covers belaying with a munter-hitch, tying off a munter-hitch and lowering with a munter-hitch.



--Jason D. Martin

Friday, November 19, 2021

Route Profile: North Face Chair Peak

As winter descends on the Cascades, I find myself thinking about one of my favorite winter alpine climbs in the Pacific Northwest. The North Face of Chair Peak is a classic winter ascent that can easily be done in a day. It has a beautiful alpine face that gets covered in snow. The freeze thaw cycle turns the face from powder on rock to a spectacular three pitch alpine line.

The route is moderate and with the exception of one ten foot step, the bulk of it is between fifty and sixty-five degrees. That one step is perhaps eighty degrees, but it is very short and sometimes isn't even iced up. The first time I climbed the peak, that last section was 5.6 rock.

Chair Peak Approach Route
Click on map to enlarge.

 Approaching Chair Peak. The face in the center is the east face
To get to the north face, you must drop over the saddle on the right.

The approach to this climb is relatively straight forward. You simply park at the Alpental Ski Area and then make your way up the Alpental Valley to the end, where Chair Peak oversees the bowl beneath it.

(Click on the image to view a larger version.)
This photo shows the north face on the righthand side and the
two variations that one can take on the northeast buttress which
is a route of a similar grade to the north face.

There are two routes that should be considered on the mountain. The north face is the obvious one, but the northeast buttress is just as good. However, the northeast buttress often requires a bit more mixed climbing than the north face.

Approaching the north face. 


The first pitch of the route climbs up a cool corner and gully on thin alpine ground.


The second pitch works it way up steep snow and ice to a tree belay.

 A climber approaching the tree belay.


The third pitch makes its way up more thin terrain to another belay, before the last pitch goes over the aforementioned step up to the summit.

The descent off the mountain is straightforward. A couple of rappels bring you down a gully on the south side of the east face.

On a short winter day, you really can't beat an outing on Chair Peak!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/18/21

Northwest:

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "Climate change has led numerous predictions to be made about the future of the skiing industry. An alarming study led by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reveals that there may not be enough snow to ski on Mount Hood in 50 years and that the Cascades may not have any snowpack by 2070." To read more, click here.


--A new movement in British Columbia aims to protect Mt. Waddington and to make it a non-motorized park in the Coast Range. To read about it, click here.

Sierra:

--Gripped is reporting that, "Brette Harrington has redpointed her El Capitan project with a tick of the 31-pitch El Corazon 5.13b. Harrington climbed with Elliott Bernhagen, who nearly sent the full route." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Climbing is reporting that, "Las Vegas lost a legend when Wendell Broussard, 81, passed away in mid-October. He was a lifelong adventurer, masterful storyteller, and mentor. Wendell was rugged at 6’4, yet elegant. For nearly 50 years, he worked nights as a dealer at Caesars Palace. By day, he was an architect of routes in Red Rock Canyon, with about 100 first ascents to his credit. But Wendell’s legacy is much more than that. He left a blueprint for a fulfilling life, demonstrating that the goal isn’t just to survive, but to thrive." Wendell always had a story to tell, and he'll be missed. To read more, click here.

--Somebody is leaving painted rocks all over Carlsbad Cavern National Park in New Mexico, and the Park Service would like this to stop. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

Lor Saburin climbing in Red River Gorge
Image from They/Them by Patagonia Films

--If you haven't watched the awesome film from Patagonia about the non-binary climber and AAI Guide, Lor Sabourin, then you should watch it now! A piece on the film and on Lor was recently posted by CNN. To read that, click here.

--Gear Junkie is reporting that, "Petzl has issued a recall for every Scorpio Eashook via ferrata lanyard delivered this year. The carabiner gates may stop automatically closing, making the system unsafe." To read more, click here.

--Peakrankings is reporting that, "a traditional ski resort staple is permanently disappearing from all Vail Resorts mountains. A source within the company has confirmed to PeakRankings that physical pocket trail maps will not be returning to Vail’s resorts after the company discontinued them for 2020-21 due to COVID. Instead, guests will be advised to pull up mountain guides on the EpicMix app or individual resort websites. The company says the choice not to reintroduce trail maps is an environmental one as part of its Commitment to Zero, with concerns about paper use and viable virtual alternatives spearheading the decision." To read more, click here.

--Wildfires are having a greater and greater impact on climbing. Check out the Access Fund blog on how the growing threat impacts the sport we love.

Prices for Single Day Walk-Up Lift Tickets are Obscene...


--The New York Times is reporting that, "In August 2018, Mark Lantis’s mother dropped him off at a trailhead at Yellowstone National Park to search for the buried treasure of an eccentric millionaire. But after going off trail and getting lost in the Wyoming backcountry, Mr. Lantis ended up in need of a helicopter airlift. He ultimately did not find the treasure, but he was charged with reckless disorderly conduct. After a hearing before a magistrate judge in 2019, Mr. Lantis was convicted and sentenced to five years of unsupervised probation. He was also banned for five years from Yellowstone National Park and ordered to pay a $2,880 fine to cover the cost of the rescue." It is the opinion of AAI's staff, that charging for rescue is always wrong. The reason? People may become afraid to call for help when they need it, or may hide from rescuers. To read more, click here.

--High Country News is reporting that, "despite knowing for years about widespread harassment across the agency and promising to take action, the National Park Service buried an internal study that shed new light on the problem, High Country News has confirmed. The Voices Tour Report, which was compiled in 2018, goes further than any past NPS report in describing how women, LGBTQ+ and Black, Indigenous and people of color are treated in the workplace and left unprotected by agency leadership. In early November, an employee leaked the report to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which tipped HCN off." To read more, click here.

--Deadline is reporting that, "Tragedy struck in the Tibetan Himalayas on October 5, 1999, when an avalanche claimed the life of two Americans, including Alex Lowe, a mountaineer considered perhaps the foremost climber in the world. It was an incalculable loss for the climbing community, but something worse for the family Lowe left behind: wife Jennifer and their three young boys, Max, Sam and Isaac. Max, who grew up to be a filmmaker, attempts to come to terms with his father’s death and all that happened after it in the National Geographic documentary Torn." To read more, click here.

Monday, November 15, 2021

Fixed-Point Belay Techniques

There has been a lot of talk in the industry lately about fixed-point belay techniques. Many guides are beginning to employ these techniques on ice climbs and on sketchy alpine climbs.

Essentially a fixed-point belay is a lead belay directly off the anchor, as opposed to the more standard belay technique of operating a device off one's harness. The idea is that a lead fall simply doesn't impact  the belayer the same way that a lead fall impacts him or her in a normal setting.

At a guide training in 2008, a number of our guides experimented with this technique, finding mixed results.  We found that both a tube style device and a munter-hitch worked well, but not so much for a GriGri.  Assisted locking devices seem to transfer a lot more force into the falling person and without movement in the anchor, this resulted in a painful fall for our leader.

The Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) has put out a video on this particular technique.  It is a long and comprehensive video on the subject, but it is very good. Please see it below:


The French Guide Training organization, ENSA has also put out a comprehensive video:



At a 2014 AMGA training we experimented with this technique some more and decided that using a tube-style device wasn't appropriate at all. The best application appeared to incorporate the use of a munter-hitch.


In the photo above, we built a separate anchor from the anchor the climber was belaying on. We found that when an individual took a leader fall, it was easier to manage if your hands were far away from the munter-hitch. If your hands were close, you got pulled up into the anchor more easily. Additionally, the fall was greater because the anchor moved up substantially before catching the falling climber.


In the photo above the belayer has just held a fall on a fixed-point system. This system with a piece designed specifically to deal with the upward pull was easier to manage.

So why would you use this system?

It is a very guidey thing to do and it does require one to learn a new belay technique, so it doesn't make much sense...unless you're working with significant weight differences in a multipitch setting. If you intend to take children or small teens up a multi-pitch route, a leader fall may be so dramatic that they get pulled into the anchor and let go. This negates that possibility.

And while there aren't that many uses for a fixed-point anchor, it is one of those things that when you need it...you really need it...

 --Jason D. Martin

Friday, November 12, 2021

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