Friday, December 14, 2018

What to Bring When You Go Ice Climbing

In conjunction with Petzl and Outdoor Research, the American Mountain Guides Association has put together a handful of winter videos. In this particular video, AMGA Instructor Team Member Patrick Ormond discusses the items that he brings into the field for a day of ice climbing.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/13/18


--A missing climber was found safe after an overnight rescue effort was made on Mt. St. Helens late last week. To read more, click here.


--A backcountry skier survived a massive fall in the Tahoe backcountry on Sunday. The skier reportedly fell nearly 300-feet. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Patch is reporting that, "A man was transported to a Boulder Community Heath location for evaluation after a fall in Eldorado Canyon on Sunday afternoon required a rescue. Officials responded to reports of a fallen climber near Wind Tower rock in Eldorado Canyon on Sunday at about 1:40 p.m." To read more, click here.

--A young skier collided who collided with a tree on Tuesday at Eldora Ski Area suffered a traumatic brain injury and is likely in a vegetative state. To read more, click here.

--SNEWS is reporting that, "The American Alpine Club (AAC), America’s oldest non-profit organization for climbers, is thrilled to announced the 2019 USA World Cup Ice Climbing Team. The team of 21 male and female athletes is set to compete at the upcoming UIAA World Cup Ice Climbing Finals, taking place in Denver, CO February 23 – 24, 2019." To read more, click here.

--Condie Nast Traveler has an article out about why Telluride continues to be ranked the number one ski town in America, year after year. To read it, click here.

A bolt being replaced in the Wilderness in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

--The Access Fund is reporting that they are, "attempting to legislate fixed anchors in Wilderness areas by writing it into federal law. The Emery County Public Land Management Act, introduced earlier this year, offered the first viable opportunity for this historic attempt. This bipartisan bill proposes well over 500,000 acres of Wilderness in the San Rafael Swell in Emery County, Utah—an area that includes more than 500 climbing routes, some with fixed anchors." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Gripped is reporting that the bodies of two climbers lost on Pumori in the Himalaya have been found. To read more, click here.

--The Bicycle Retailer is reporting that, "Outdoor Retailer said that all three of its shows in 2019 will be three days long. OR's Summer Market in June and Winter Market in November will be shortened from the original four-day plans. January's Snow Show remains three days as scheduled. All three shows will be held at the Colorado Convention Center in Denver." To read more, click here.

--It looks like there are some changes coming to the North Side of Mt. Everest. China has created several new rules, which include were designed to increase fees for environmental protection and to potentially keep teams formed in Nepal out. To read more, click here.

--The Guardian is reporting that, "twenty-four employees at an Amazon warehouse in New Jersey were taken to hospital after a robot accidentally punctured a can of bear repellant." To read more, click here.

--Time spent outside makes your kids smarter. Check it out.

--Applications for the Grit and Rock expedition grant for female alpinists are due on January 15th. To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "Mount Temple in the Canadian Rockies is one of Canada’s most iconic peaks with a number of classic alpine routes. Alik Berg recently climbed a potential new route up an obvious feature on the east-northeast aspect between Aemmer Couloir II and the East Ridge III 5.5." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, December 11, 2018

Gifts for the Backcountry Skier in Your Life

Tis the season to be thinking about holiday gifts. And boy-oh-boy, if there's one person who needs a lot of stuff, it's the backcountry skier in your life.

Backcountry skiing is an expensive sport. Skis, boots and bindings are all extremely expensive. A thousand dollar purchase is not uncommon for an individual outfitting themselves with a mere part of the backcountry kit. So it may come as a surprise to find out that there are many inexpensive items that a backcountry skier could certainly use.

Following is a list of not-to-crazy-expensive gift ideas for a backcountry skier:

Ski Straps ($4-$8)

This is one of those items that skiers lose all the time. They are also one of those items that skiers can use to fix a myriad of backcountry problems. They are a very nice thing to have. We recommend the Voile Ski Straps.

Glop Stopper Skin Wax ($12-$15)

Nothing is more frustrating that having snow glop up on your skins during a spring tour. This inexpensive wax can quickly be placed on the skins to eliminate the problem. It is a must have... We recommend, the Black Diamond Glop Stopper.

Warm Socks ($8-$30)

Darn Tough Hike/Trek Boot Sock

Who doesn't need a new pair of warm wool or synthetic socks.  Look for a pair that is tall and will protect the skier's shin from the boot. I am personally a big fan of Darn Tough socks.

Lightweight Gloves ($20-$40)

OR PL Base Glove

Skiers often wear heavy thick gloves for their descents. But a good chunk of a backcountry skier's day is spent going up hill. No one wants to wear super heavy gloves while skinning up. Most want light gloves that breath, but still keep their fingers protected from the cold.

There are several options out there, but we recommend the OR PL Base Glove.

Brooks-Range Field Organizer ($20)

At this point I don't think I know any guides who don't have one of these protective book covers for their avalanche "blue books." This inexpensive piece of gear is a well-loved part of my everyday backcountry kit! I'm not sure if anyone but Brooks-Range makes these...

Buff ($10-$25)

A Buff is a tube of fabric that can be worn over the face, head, ears or neck. There are several companies making these accessories, but Buff is still the original and best.

The first time I ever saw a buff, I thought it was goofy. But now I wear one in the snow, in the desert and in the summer on the rock. This essential piece of equipment protects me from the sun, but also can protect my face from stinging snow. Nearly every AAI guide regularly wears a Buff in some form or another...

Portable Battery Charger ($25-$100)

As smartphone technology has improved, most skiers have begun to use their phones throughout their tours. That means that they're also using up battery power. Portable chargers have become a key piece of equipment, just in case one's battery starts to run low. The Goal Zero Flip Series works well and there are several sizes available with different charging abilities.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, December 10, 2018

Film Review: The Dawn Wall

The year 2018 was a banner year for climbing films. It was the year that climbing documentaries became a thing that had a life in mainstream theaters across the country. Yes, Meru made a splash in 2015, and it certainly paved the way for 2018. But 2018 was the year that there were literally two climbing documentaries at the theater at the same time! Those documentaries were The Dawn Wall and Free Solo...

There haven't really been that many mainstream media circuses around positive things in climbing. Most commonly the media is fixated on tragedies. But that changed in January of 2015. That was when Tommy Caldwell and Kevin Jorgeson spent nineteen days on El Cap, attempting to free climb the Dawn Wall. At some point during their adventure, the media outside the outdoor media, found out what they were doing...and that's when all hell broke loose. They were on the news every single night...

But The Dawn Wall isn't just about the first free ascent of a Yosemite big wall. Instead, it is about Tommy Caldwell, the film's unlikely protagonist, his life and his friendship with Kevin Jorgeson.

The film delves deeply into Tommy's life. It looks at how he became a climber. It looks at his courtship with Beth Rodden. And perhaps, most importantly, it discusses the events surrounding Tommy, his friends and their kidnapping by Islamic militants in Kyrgyzstan in 2000.

In August of 2000, Tommy, Beth, John Dickey and Jason Smith were climbing a big wall in the mountains of Kyrgyzstan. A group of militants on the ground began to shoot at them, forcing them down. Following that, the team was held for several days while Kyryzstani soldiers searched for them. The only reason they escaped is because Tommy was forced to push one of the militants off a cliff so that they could escape...

This is a central part of the climber's life, and indeed a central part of The Dawn Wall documentary. Tommy's experience lead him to marry Beth. That same experience was partly to blame for their divorce. The divorce drove Tommy to find an impossible project...and that project was the Dawn Wall on El Cap.

The film chronicles all of these different features. But there is one thing that stands out above the rest. It is the fact that Tommy places his partnership with Kevin above all things. He sees his climbing partnership as something that is almost holy. And as Kevin's falters on the wall, Tommy can't imagine finishing the project without him. They worked too hard together to allow one of them to fail.

People often ask the question, "why do you climb?"

The answer isn't, "because it's there." The answer is exactly what The Dawn Wall is about. It's a film that celebrates athleticism, natural beauty, the human spirit, and perhaps most importantly, friendship. These are the reasons most people climb. And these are the central subjects of the Dawn Wall film...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, December 7, 2018

Off Piste: Tragedy in the Alps

In January of 2015, two young skiers ventured off trail in the Alps. They were unaware of the difference between skiing in North America and in Europe. Off piste in Europe is essentially out-of-bounds and there was no avalanche mitigation.

Unfortunately, the two young men -- rising stars on the US Ski Team and Olympic hopefuls -- were caught in an avalanche...and both were killed...

The US Ski and Snowboard blog posted the following about the two skiers after the accident:

Killed in the avalanche were Ronnie Berlack, 20 (Franconia, NH and Burke Mountain, VT) and Bryce Astle, 19 (Sandy, UT).

“Ronnie and Bryce were both outstanding ski racers who were passionate about their sport – both on the race course and skiing the mountain,” said U.S. Ski and Snowboard Association President and CEO Tiger Shaw. “Our hearts go out to the Berlack and Astle families, as well as to their extended sport family. Both of them loved what they did and conveyed that to those around them.”

Berlack grew up racing in New Hampshire and had been a student-athlete at Vermont’s Burke Mountain Academy. He was named to the U.S. Ski Team’s Development Team following two top-20s at the 2013 U.S. Alpine Championships and a spring tryout camp.

Astle raced at Snowbird and was invited to train with the development team trip this season. He had posted strong early season results, including two top-10 NorAm Cup races last month in Canada.

The Brass Foundation is an organization that promotes avalanche awareness amongst ski racers and coaches. They have produced an excellent film about the accident that took these two ski racers lives, and educational material about avalanche avoidance. To see the video, click below.

To learn more about the Brass Foundation, click here.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, December 6, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/6/18


--Go Skagit is reporting that, "Six fishers — medium-sized, furry carnivores — will be released into the North Cascades this morning near the visitor center in Newhalem. The stocky, dark brown critters are related to weasels and are about the size of a house cat. The release today within the North Cascades National Park Service Complex is the latest step in an ongoing effort to restore populations of the native carnivore to the state's forests, according to a news release from the National Park Service." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--In what feels like a never-ending war with those who would like to develop Blue Diamond Hill across the street from Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, conservationists and climbers have won the most recent battle. Save Red Rock is reporting that, "Clark County Commissioner, Susan Brager, today informed Save Red Rock that the Gypsum Resources development request will not be heard on tomorrow’s agenda. Susan Brager is the Commissioner over District F which includes the Red Rock Canyon area. 'We are so grateful to Commissioner Brager for listening to her constituents,' said Heather Fisher, President of Save Red Rock, adding, 'Thousands of phone calls and emails were sent to all the Commissioners asking them to keep their promises and protect Red Rock Canyon, and today Susan Brager said she would stand true to her word.'" To read more, click here.

A climber rappelling in Joshua Tree National Park.

--Jumbo Rocks Campground in Joshua Tree National Park is now reservation only. This could be a very good thing for those planning road trips well in advance. Historically, it's been hard to just show up in Joshua Tree during the high season and get a campsite. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Between November 28th and December 2nd, there were 54 recorded avalanches in Colorado. To read more, click here.

--The extremely popular Narrows Trail in Zion National Park is under threat. There is a dispute between the NPS and a private land owner about the trail. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The Jackson Hole News and Guide is reporting that, "Five people caught in an in-bounds avalanche at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort on Saturday morning all survived the slide. At least one skier triggered the slide around 9:55 a.m. The avalanche’s crown was roughly 2 feet deep and 150 feet wide on the southern end of the Expert Chutes, resort spokesperson Anna Cole said." To read more, click here.

--The Ithica Voice is reporting on two individuals that were lost in the New York State wilderness. "Two cross-country skiers were lost for several hours Saturday in Hammond Hill State Forest. As it grew dark and the weather changed, the skiers' situation became increasingly dangerous. While the two skiers were wandering and looking for help, more than 70 volunteers from dozens of local agencies were searching the forest and finally linked up with the women after nine hours." To read more, click here.

--There were several avalanches in the Canadian Rockies and Selkirks over the last week. To read more, click here.

Arlene Blum has authored several books, including
Annapurna: A Woman's Place.

--Arlene Blum, a noted author, climber and expedition leader, has been accepted into the California Hall of Fame. To read more, click here.

--The Calgary Herald is reporting that, "a world-renowned Alberta ski resort has been fined just over $2 million for cutting down endangered trees five years ago. Judge Heather Lamoureux has given Lake Louise resort in Banff National Park one year to pay the fine. The resort pleaded guilty last December to taking down a stand of trees, including 38 whitebark pine, along a ski run in 2013." To read more, click here.

--There's a new drytool crag in the Canadian Rockies. To read more, click here.

--Stone stacking is a thing. You see them all over: precariously balanced stone towers. They look cool, but they are not a good example of Leave No Trace. To read more, click here.

--This is wild, it looks like you can rent ski apparel now. To read more, click here.

--Wyoming Public Media is reporting that. The outdoor recreation industry makes up an important part of the Mountain West economy and it’s feeling relieved right now after President Trump and President Xi of China have agreed to pause their escalating trade wars for now. That pause is in effect for 90 days. It means products that would have been subjected to a tariff increase by the end of the year will now be spared, at least temporarily." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Climbing Out - A Film about the Power of the Mountains in Recovery

Wikipedia defines wilderness therapy as, "an adventure-based therapy treatment modality for behavior modification and interpersonal self-improvement, combining experiential education, individual and group therapy in a wilderness setting." What they're referring to is a style of therapy that is supported by individuals trained to help a person overcome personal demons by using the wilderness or wilderness adventure as a backdrop.

But there's another model of wilderness therapy. It's the self-imposed model. It's a model that many people use to, "get away from the world." Or to "discover yourself." Or to "deal with something."

There is a long history of climbers and skiers, backpackers and explorers, sailors and adventurers, using the wilderness as a self-imposed form of wilderness therapy. There is also a long history of those who have had difficulties in their lives using wilderness adventure or a goal in the wilderness to show themselves, and the world, that they have overcome the thing that held them back.

This last thought brings us to the mountain as a metaphor. I have a personal history with cancer. As a teenager, I overcame brain cancer. Climbing mountains was a way to show myself that I was back, that I had beat my disease. I've met literally hundreds of people over the years that have used mountain climbing or the ascent of a single mountain as a goal to show that they've overcome a disease.

There's another disease that -- when overcome, or when in recovery -- is often a reason that people give to climb a hard mountain.  And that disease is addiction...

The mountain climb is a ubiquitous metaphor. It is commonly stated that one climbs a mountain to overcome a disease. Therefore it shouldn't be a surprise that so many people want to climb a mountain when they feel that they are close to defeating a disease, or at least are successful in resisting it...

REI has put together a very nice short film about a woman who is literally climbing out of addiction on Mt. Rainier. You can view this excellent film below...

--Jason D. Martin