Tuesday, September 30, 2014

UIAA Gear Testing Videos

A couple of weeks ago, we posted a video of a carabiner strength test. The video was very popular. We got to see a press destroy a carabiner. Videos of gear breaking are always engaging. As a result, today we have posted a few more climbing gear testing videos from the UIAA. These are both terrifying and a lot of fun all at the same time!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 29, 2014

The Sin of Sponsorship

Elite climbers and well-known guides have been sponsored by gear manufacturers for years. The idea behind sponsorship is that a gear manufacturer will choose an individual who is making notable ascents and has good interaction with the public (through magazines, through guiding or through notoriety) to help promote their gear.

However, there is some controversy about this among sponsored climbers. Some ask, should certain individuals be sponsored? Certainly some may be asking this because they want to remain in a small elite crew of individuals. Others may be asking -- perhaps more legitimately -- the question because they don't see some of their peers as qualified.

Until recently, this particular question was left to the privacy of the brew pub...but then about a a couple of years ago Scott Semple wrote a blog entitled, "Is Sponsorship a Sin?" This question started a very serious conversation in the climbing community, both on his blog and in forums like cascadeclimbers.com.

Scott wrote specifically that the ability of some climbers to self-promote outweighs their actual climbing abilities. His thesis is that those who are lying or exaggerating about their abilities to secure their sponsorships shouldn't be sponsored.

Following is the heart of his blog:

The more you climb, the less you’re interested in reading the same recycled stories with the same characters smiling from new faces. And the less you can tolerate the self-promotion that comes from white lies and self-serving exaggerations in hopes of becoming (or staying) sponsored. And those indulgences are rampant and widespread.

If sponsorship isn’t backed up by a legitimate accomplishment that is significant to the sport, then being rewarded for something insignificant is sad and undeserved. And it’s immoral, because it creates a facade, and facades are lies.

This happens more often than you might think. Many of the athletes you often see in climbing magazines are phenomenal at self-promotion, but range from average to crap at actually climbing. Ice, mixed and alpine climbing have the worst offenders. (Rock climbing is usually too consistent, popular and objective for lies to last long.) Truth is, many climbers are sponsored for what they say, or how well they’re known, rather than for what they’ve done.

The problem stems from the fact that the “athlete” is the performer, but also the judge and the journalist. A lack of objectivity and a lack of integrity combine to create opportunistic self-promotion masquerading as journalism. The result is that average achievements beget above-average attention.

Scott got so many comments about this particular blog that he presented a slideshow on the topic at the Night of Lies event in Canmore. The 22 minute slideshow was videotaped and is one of the most interesting and intriguing issues that has been presented recently, that will never be covered by the major climbing news outlets.

Though it is impossible to see Scott in the video, it is well worth watching all 22 minutes of this piece and it is well worth hearing the comments that were made by the audience as he presented it.

For a larger video format, click on the "Is Sponsorship a Sin" link below the video.

After the slideshow, Scott wrote a second blog about the responses that he received. One of the main comments that he posted was from Dave Karl, a gear rep.

I disagree with the three-test rule. I have IFMGA & AMGA Mountain Guides that I sponsor that are totally worthy. Their personal (non-guided) climbing accomplishments may not be noteworthy among their elite peers, but they don’t bullsh*t either, and they do help sell product. These guides help the entire sport and climbing community by educating the public and introducing new participants to climbing. A good mountain guide can be a great sponsorship investment.

Scott agreed with this comment and indicated that "I agree with Dave that there are folks out there worthy of support that may not be on the cutting edge of climbing. They are typically local, grassroots climbers or industry-folk like guides that are in front of the target market on a daily basis. I have no objections to these athletes being supported, either by sales reps or by brands, on an informal basis."

The outdoor industry is full of sponsored individuals. And it is full of a lot of ego, arrogance and self-promotion. Sponsorship is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it's great. It provides us with an insight into who is at the top of the game. But on the other hand, if we can't trust the magazines and the gear manufacturers to screen their athletes, then the value of every sponsored athlete -- whether they deserve it or not -- is diminished.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 26, 2014

Popular Anchor Acronyms

Over the last decade, the use of anchor acronyms has become quite popular. For awhile, it seemed like everybody had a different acronym for the "ideal" anchor. Following are a few examples of anchor acronyms:


Rumor has it that this term was initially coined by an east coast guide. As I am unable to independently verify the truth of this, I'm going to keep his name out of this blog. In any case, the preceding acronym stands for:

R - Redundant
E - Equalized
N - No
E - Extention

"Redundant" simply means that there is more than one element involved in every aspect of the system. "Equalized" means that the all the weight is evenly distributed. "No Extention" means that if one piece fails, the anchor will not shockload other parts of the system.

John Long's How to Rock Climb series added an element to the acronym. In his books he began to use SRENE. The RENE part remained the same, but he added the "S". This stood for "secure" or "strong." In other words, are all the pieces strong and secure?

The 2008 AMGA Single Pitch Instructor manual added another letter to the acronym. In this recent publication they made the acronym, SERENE. The new "E" stood for "effective;" as in, was the construction of this anchor quick? Was it well-placed? Does it do the job without too much equipment or fuss?

Popular books like Freedom of the Hills, Rock Climbing: Mastering the Basic Skills, and Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higherhave gone a completely different route. Instead of SERENE, they use ERNEST.

E - EqualizedR - Redundant
N - No
E - Extention
S - Secure/Solid
T - Timely

The only real addition to this particular acronym is the "T" for "timely" which could well equate to the "E" for "effective."

When all is said and done, it doesn't really matter which acronym you prefer. It doesn't matter as long as your anchors are RENE, SRENE, SERENE and ERNEST...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 25, 2014

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad -


--A military rescue crew rescued a 36-year-old female rock climber Sept. 20 near Priest Lake, Idaho, after she suffered injuries to her face, lower leg and foot. The victim, Ammi Midstokke, had just summited the west side of Chimney Rock and was making her way across the Talus Fields on the afternoon of Sept. 19 when her leg got entrapped by a 1.5- ton boulder pinning her down and causing a fracture to her foot. To read more, click here and here.


--Amazingly there are still long new routes to be discovered in Yosemite. Cheyne Lempe and Ethan Pringle recently completed a ground-up ascent of a new 1000-foot line on Higher Cathedral Rock. To read more, click here.

--Investigators have determined that the June Fire was human-caused. An employee of June Mountain was operating heavy equipment on June Mountain Ski Area when the fire ignited. Recent fires on both US Forest Service land and Bureau of Land Management, Bishop Field Office land have been human-caused. These fires have been vehicle-related or equipment related. Please take efforts to reduce the chance of these starts happening. To read more, click here.


--Boulder County emergency crews mounted a four-hour rescue operation Saturday night to bring down a 52-year-old man who had fallen and broken his ankle while climbing the Third Flatiron, sheriff's officials said. To read more, click here.

--The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has cited Wolf Creek ski area in connection with the March avalanche death of a beloved ski patroller working outside the ski area's boundary. The administration is fining the resort $14,000, arguing that operators failed to adequately mitigate avalanche danger before longtime ski patroller Colin Sutton ventured into the terrain March 4. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

Herve Gourdel, a French climber and guide, was recently murdered by Islamic extremists.

--Herve Gourdel, a French climber and mountain guide, is the latest westerner executed by a militant Islamic group. The group known as Jund al-Khilafa killed 55-year-old Herve Gourdel after a deadline for France to halt air strikes on IS in Iraq ended. French president Francois Hollande condemned the killing as a “cruel and cowardly” act. He added that air strikes would continue in Iraq. To read more, click here  and here.

--Twenty-one years ago this month the decomposed body of Christopher McCandless was discovered by moose hunters just outside the northern boundary of Denali National Park. He had died inside a rusting bus that served as a makeshift shelter for trappers, dog mushers, and other backcountry visitors. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Climbing and Mountaineering in Space

As scientists make plans for a Mars trip, some are already thinking about the mountain climbing prospects on the red planet. Indeed, some even argue that it is a necessary step in the planet's exploration. Read more about it here.
Sooner or later human beings will go beyond our moon to explore the solar system. And sooner or later, some of those astronauts will be drawn to the high cliffs and peaks of distant worlds. We can do little more than think about such objectives right now. But someday, perhaps AAI will run trips toMons Huygens, the tallest mountain on the moon or to Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain on Mars and the biggest known volcano in the solar system.

Sooner or later human beings will go beyond our moon to explore the solar system. And sooner or later, some of those astronauts will be drawn to the high cliffs and peaks of distant worlds. We can do little more than think about such objectives right now. But someday, perhaps AAI will run trips to Mons Huygens, the tallest mountain on the moon or to Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain on Mars and the biggest known volcano in the solar system.

In 2006, the Cassini Spacecraft discovered a gigantic mountain range on Titan, Saturn's largest moon. One scientist compared the range to theSierras! I wonder how good the rock is... A report on this new range range may be found here.

The mountains of Venus were all named after the goddesses of different cultures. This planet, often called the morning star, might harbor one of the harsher environments for climbers. In the Cascades we worry about getting wet from a rain storm. On Venus, it rains sulfuric acid. If a storm came, getting wet would be the least of your problems. In such an environment, ropes would melt, slings would distigrate and all the cool stickers on your helmet would vanish!

Scientists believe that the tallest mountains in the solar system are on Io, a moon of Jupiter. There are mountains twice the size of Everest scattered about the planet. Although it appears that the geology there is quite active; and unfortunately active geology equals extreme danger to Earth climbers who don't need pressure suits or space ships to move around. I suspect that it means that it's a no go for future climbing expeditions on the small moon. To read more about these massive mountains, click here.

And as long as we're talking about inaccessible climbing, did you know that there is a gigantic mountain range under the sea? The Mid-Ocean Ridge System is the largest single volcanic feature on the planet. This massive range snakes its way around the Earth beneath the ocean. But I suppose that if the ocean were ever to dry up, people wouldn't be that psyched to check out the climbing. They'd probably have other things on their minds...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 22, 2014

Trucker's Hitch and Water Knot

Mike Barter, the video-savvy Canadian guide, has a new video that describes a couple of knots. In this piece he covers the trucker's hitch and the water knot.

Check out the video below:

After re-posting a lot of these videos, I've started to notice that Mike is a bit gun-shy. I get the impression that a lot of people are giving him negative feedback on some of his content...which is too bad. He's making some very good instructional videos.

So instead of negative feedback, I'd just like to make a couple of additional notes.

First, I'd like to reiterate the fact that the trucker's hitch is primarily for tents and tying things down. It doesn't have an application in climbing proper.

And second, I'd also like to note that the biggest danger of the water knot (also known as the ring bend) is cyclic loading. In other words, weighting and unweighting the knot can cause the tails to slowly work out. You can occasionally see this at rap stations with old webbing. As such, it is very important that there is plenty of tail when you tie the knot and that you always check rap stations closely.

--Jason D. Martin

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

There are more than just "Pretty Faces" in this first video this weekend.  This new trailer from Unicorn Picnic shows some ladies who know how to rip!

Unicorn Picnic | Pretty Faces Teaser from Unicorn Picnic Productions on Vimeo.

Jeremy Jones' "Higher" was shown in Seattle on the 18th, and unfortunately I wasn't able to make it to the event. Hopefully I'll be able to catch it during Banff or some other tour. In the meantime, I'll have to suffice with just this awesome trailer.

Caroline George gives us some good insight on balancing her life as climber, guide, and mom in this next video.

In our last video, we get another look at a climber who is sharing his time between his family and the mountains.  With a full-time "regular" job, and also numerous first ascents, Jason Haas is the epitome of a Weekend Warrior.

Have a great weekend! - James