Saturday, December 20, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Our first video this weekend was made not so long ago, in a ski town not so far, far away...  It's Mt. Bachelor Strikes Back!!

Maybe if you were a good boy or girl this year, you'll get some Legos for Christmas and can make your own sweet Lego snowboarding video like this one!

And lastly, I couldn't pass up some good ol' Skiing Santa Videos!

Happy Holidays!! - James

Friday, December 19, 2014

Stretching for Climbers

I never used to stretch before climbing.  If I was climbing outside, my idea of stretching was the walk to the crag, and climbing an easy route first to "warm up a bit." If I was training at the climbing gym, I would do a lap traversing the gym and call it good.  

Alpine climbing?  

Forget it.  Fortunately, I never injured myself 'climbing cold' like this, but rather discovered the benefits of stretching after going to a few free yoga classes at my local climbing gym.  After the sessions I would go climb, and noticed the difference right away. Suddenly I could pull moves that would usually send me chucking.  High-stepping was no longer such a big deal.  Difficult moves that I would have tried to power through I now had the confidence and flexibility to finesse.  

But eventually I was out of free yoga sessions- surely there were some resources out there for climbing-specific stretches.  

Why Stretch?
Stretching not only helps with injury prevention and flexibility, but also allows you to get more mileage out of your training and climbing sessions.  According to a recent study by Dr. Wayne Westcott, author of more than 20 books on various types of exercise and strength training, stretching the specific muscles used after any type of workout can produce a 20% more gain in strength than can be achieved by just working out.  You can read more about it here.

Before or After?
Research shows that stretching before, during, AND after is ideal.  If done correctly, stretching before climbing will increase your flexibility and prevent injury, while stretching during and after will help with muscle balance and recovery time.  Stretching during climbing may be hard in some settings (alpine/multi-pitch), but if you're at the gym or the crag, it's pretty easy just to do a few stretches in between laps.

I have achieved the best results in performance from warming up with 'dynamic' stretching.  Dynamic stretching is defined as smoothly moving through a full range of motion. When developed for sport-specific movements, dynamic stretching is widely considered the best way to increase blood flow and helps to reduce injury.  There is a great article on dynamic stretches for climbers with detailed pictures here.

When stretching during and after a workout or climbing session, it is best to practice static stretching, which is where you hold a single position for a set amount of time (usually 30 seconds or more).  Doing yoga qualifies, and Kaylee Frano, an indoor-climbing youth team coach, has written a great article with the specific stretching routine she uses for her team, as well as including a more in-depth look on what the benefits of post-exercise stretching are.  Her article is here.

A common problem many people run into when they first begin stretching regularly is called 'stretch reflex', where you stretch too aggressively without any type of warm-up.  At the least, stretch reflex can lead to decreased performance; at its worst, a pulled muscle.  Before you do your pre-exercise stretching, try doing some jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, or very easy climbing to get the blood flowing a bit.  Remember to breathe during the movements and stretch slowly, deliberately, and pragmatically.  Just like climbing at that next number grade, flexibility won't happen overnight!

In a sport where flexibility is so necessary, it is remarkable how little emphasis is put on stretching.   When you first start, it can be painful and frustrating.  For me, the biggest hurdle was focusing on sitting still and being patient, but in the end the benefits are well worth the effort.


Happy Sending!

Andy Stephen, AAI Instructor and Guide

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/18/14


--After four tries and seven years, Congress has agreed to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, north and east of Snoqualmie Pass. And two stretches of rivers there were given Wild and Scenic River status. To read more, click here.

Daniel Probst and his team, running to Mt. Baker last summer.

--Mt. Baker's Ridley Creek Trail is being rebuilt under the leadership of ultramarathoner Daniel Probst. The Ridely Creek Trail provides access to the Easton Glacier from the Middle Fork Nooksack. Dan is trying to bring back the Mt. Baker Marathon as an ultramarathon from Bellingham Bay to the top of Mt. Baker. To learn more about the trail project, click here. To sign a petition to support this race, click here.

--The Mountaineers will be hosting Reinhold Messner on February 2nd at the Mountaineers Headquarters in Seattle. To read more, click here.


--A skier triggered an avalanche near Lake Tahoe on Saturday. To read about it, click here.

--Tioga and Glacier Point Roads in Yosemite are closed for the season. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Eric Bjornstad, the pioneer desert climber, passed away this week in Moab after a long illness. The iconic climber wrote the first comprehensive guidebook to rock climbing on the Colorado Plateau, Desert Rock. To read more, click here.

--Las Vegas Metro police reported a hiker who had been stranded for two days at Red Rock Canyon in the Ice Box Canyon was rescued Friday afternoon. To read more, click here.

--Registration for this year's Red Rock Rendezvous is now open. Rendezvous will take place in Red Rock from March 27-29. To learn more, click here.

--A judge in Flagstaff has ordered an Alaska man to pay $1,500 for routinely dumping trash in the Colorado River and illegally collecting firewood during a 12-day rafting trip through Grand Canyon National Park earlier this year. To read more, click here.

--When it rains in Red Rock, the rock becomes brittle and easily broken. There have been a lot of climbers getting out there on fragile lines after the recent rainstorm. Please be wary of this. To see an editorial on the subject, click here.

--During the recently-passed Thanksgiving holiday, a group of BASE jumpers, highliners, and friendly volunteers constructed a large pentagon-shaped hammock and suspended it 400 feet above the Moab desert in Utah. They called it the Mothership Space Net Penthouse, and it majestically hung over the red-rock floor for one unforgettable day. To read more, click here. To see a short video on the net, click below:


--Somebody came up with a winning business plan in Colorado Springs. A pub and a climbing gym will be featured under the same roof. To read more, click here.

--Avalanche awareness skills — always vital for backcountry adventurers — might be especially important this season after good early-season snowfall was followed by unseasonably warm temperatures and now additional snowfall. The snow that will hopefully continue to pile up is, unfortunately, resting on a weak layer. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Authorities say a 51-year-old woman has died after she crashed while skiing at Pine Knob Ski Resort in Michigan. To read more, click here.

--The results of the recent Ice Climbing World Cup in Bozeman, Montana have recently been published.

--The Mount Washington Avalanche Center has put together a very interesting Chronology of an Incident Report.

--The preceeding graphic shows each of the successes that the Access Fund had in 2014. They are currently doing a membership drive to keep the success rolling. To learn more, click here.

--The largest expansion of the National Parks System in almost 40 years was approved by the Senate on Friday as part of a bill that provided military funding for 2015, CNN reports. The House approved the bill earlier this month and President Obama is expected to sign it into law. To read more, click here.

--The Men's Journal put out an article on "How to Spot Avalanche Risk." To read the article, click here.

--And here are some last minute gift ideas for climbers...

--Here's a great subject: How to call out backcountry idiots without being too blatent and offending them so that they won't listen to you.

--Colin Haley and Rob Smith recently completed the first ascent of a a 14-pitch line in northern Patagonia. To read more, click here.

--On Monday, the 2015 Mugs Stump Award winners were announced in Bozeman, Montana. To see a list of the award recipients and their objectives, click here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

International Mountain Day Fundraiser - 2015

At the American Alpine Institute, we love mountains for their beauty and challenge, and for the livelihood they provide us as guides and outdoor educators. But there are ample reasons for flatlanders to love mountains as well. Mountain ranges function as engines of water production, provide habitat for game, and supply resources for industry. In view of the universal value of mountains, the United Nations established International Mountain Day to celebrate this shared natural heritage.

The actual date of the day is December 11th. But due to serveral different circumstances, we have decided to celebrate the day on January 10th.

This year, we have decided to benefit the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center with our International Mountain Day Activities.

The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (NWAC) promotes safety by helping reduce the impacts of avalanches and adverse mountain weather on recreation, industry and transportation in Washington through data collection, mountain weather, avalanche forecasting and education.

The achieve this mission, the Northwest Avalanche Center:

assists a variety of snow safety and snow maintenance programs by providing and analyzing useful weather, snow and avalanche data, and by producing and distributing a variety of mountain weather and avalanche forecast products.

assists backcountry travelers by providing current information on snowpack structure and avalanche danger, and by forecasting expected changes in snow and avalanche conditions.

The professional mountain meteorologists and avalanche specialists at NWAC are on duty from September through June, issuing twice daily forecasts from mid-November through mid-April and special statements as warranted in early Fall and in late Spring.

You can develop your personal climbing skills, your avalanche awareness skills and help us to benefit this important cause by participating in our International Mountain Day events in Bellingham, Washington.

Bellingham NWAC Fundraiser - January 10, 2015

Rock Rescue Clinics

We will be offering two two-hour rock rescue clinics at Vital Climbing Gym in downtown Bellingham. The clinics will focus on the baseline skills required to perform a rescue in a high-angle environment. We will be offering these from 12:30-2:30 and from 3:00-5:00.

Avalanche Awareness Seminars

We will be offering an Avalanche Awareness Seminar and reception (with beer, pizza and live music) in the evening at the the Vital Climbing Gym. Doors will open at 6pm, with the seminar starting at 7pm. This seminar will be a short introduction to the skills required to safely and effectively move through the backcountry during the winter season. In addition to the avalanche awareness seminar there will be a raffle and an auction.

To learn more, click here. Preregistration is not required, but it strongly encouraged as space is limited.

--Jason D. Martin

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Last week we ended "Weekend Warrior" with a soul-stirring, melodically paced, artful ski edit.  This week were starting off with a what-the-heck, holy-cow, those-guys-are-crazy ski edit!

So let's just continue on this same track with another unbelievably crazy line.  If you've seen "Days of My Youth" you're already familiar with this clip.  But for those of you who haven't, prepare to have your mind blown.  In an interview with Outside Magazine, Cody Townsend said he got up to 65 - 70 mph, and the exit of the chute was only about 6' wide.  You'll need to see this to believe it!

This weekend is the Bozeman Ice Fest and the first UIAA World Cup Ice Climbing Event held in the US.  So to celebrate the Fest, I had to have a Hyalite video in here this weekend.  And boy, is this a good one.  Here we see Conrad Anker and Kris Erickson adding a variation to Hyalite Canyon's crown jewel route, Winter Dance.  Their new line, Nutcracker, adds a M7 and a M8 pitch to the start to reach the main ice line.  Not only is this a film about the climbing, but it's also a brief narrative of Conrad and his fallen friend, Alex Lowe, who this new line is a tribute to.

Have a great weekend! - James

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Question of Risk

Bruce Tremper, the author of Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain and Avalanche Essentials was recently interviewed in a video by Black Diamond. There he talks about risk in avalanche terrain.

Though Bruce has a lot of excellent wisdom in this video, there are two moments that really stand out. The first is when he says, "I will never be as confident in my avalanche skills as I was in my early twenties." And the second is when he says, "the whole extreme thing has gotten out of hand."

It is possible that the two comments are connected. People in their twenties are also those who are pushing the limits in the backcountry. Unfortunately, they are also often the ones who die out there. There's a lot to be said about ratcheting back your risk taking behavior so that - as Bruce says - you can enjoy your sport for a long time to come...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/11/14


--The timely arrival of a well-equipped group of skiers and the efforts of three mountain rescue units are being credited for getting an injured hiker off Mount Rainier early last Wednesday morning According to Glenn Kessler, incident commander for the rescue, a 911 call late Tuesday afternoon was patched through to Mount Rainier dispatch from an injured hiker. The 61-year-old man had slipped on a steep icy slope and fell 50 feet just above Panorama Point, coming to rest after hitting a rock hard enough to result in a compound fracture of both lower leg bones of one leg. To read more, click here.

--North Cascades National Park is considering a reintroduction of grizzly bears to the Park. To read more, click here.

--There will be a class hosted by REI today in Seattle on backcountry decision making hosted by the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center. Check it out, here.

Read more here:

--Hikers who complete the whole 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail say the only thing they talk about more than their aching feet is food. They have to carry it all, except when they get surprised by a little trail magic – like what happens near California's Sonora Pass where a little cafe for hikers is drawing attention. To read more, click here.

--It's probably not a suprise that there are deer poachers in the Sierra.

Desert Southwest:

--Zion National Park and other National Park Service (NPS) units that collect entrance fees and recreation fees from park visitors are beginning public engagement to seek comments on possible changes in park fees. To read more, click here.


--A skier apparently fell, hit a tree and died Monday at Eldora Ski Resort, according to the Boulder County Sheriff's Office. Deputies said someone called the Boulder County Sheriff's Office at 9 p.m. Monday and reported that a man from Boulder was missing. The caller said the 22-year-old man had likely been skiing at Eldora on Monday and had not returned home. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A skier was killed in an avalanche in Alaska's Rainbow Mountains last week. To read more, click here.

--AAI Guide Dylan Taylor writes about his experience climbing and skiing in Afganistan with AAI Denali Guide Aiden Loehr, here.

--Okay ladies, here are fifteen outdoorsy ways to tell him he's not the one...

--There are several big mountian winter attempts planned this year. Check out a round-up, here.

--Just how popular is camping these days? Pretty popular. Check out this chart from the Adventure Post.

--Park City was bought by Vail this year for $182.5 million after an epic legal battle with PowdrCorp. Vail now owns Park City and The Canyons ski resorts and they sit adjacent to each other. The logical next move? Join them together and make the largest ski resort in the USA at 7,300 acres of skiable terrain. To read more, click here.

--The Bozeman Ice Festival which has been held in the U.S. state of Montana since 1996 is now part of the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup. The UIAA Ice Climbing Commission’s decision to sanction Bozeman as an official UIAA World Cup event earlier this month means that the U.S. stop will launch the 2015 UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup season 11 – 14 December, 2014. To read more, click here.