Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Rachets for Rescue

As stated in the past, we love Mike Barter's videos. The Canadian guide is currently doing perhaps the best job at creating instructional videos for climbing...and usually they're pretty funny too!

Recently Mike posted a video on ratchets for rescue. One major component of any hauling system in a crevasse or rock rescue scenario is the ratchet. This is essentially the element of the system that allows the rescuer to retain any advantage that he has gained in the rescue.

Mike's video discusses four different types of ratchets:

1) Autoblocking Device:

Examples of autoblocking devices include the Petzel Reverso, the Black Diamond Guide ATC, the Trango GiGi and the B52. Each of these devices allows one to pull rope up through the device, but won't allow the load line to release without a few shenanigans...more on the shenanigans in a different post.

2) Garda Hitch

Also known as the alpine clutch, this quick system is very effective. However, it is extremely important to check that the hitch has been tied properly before using it in a rescue scenario.

3) Self-Minding Prussik

If you have taken a basic course from the American Alpine Institute, you know that we don't usually teach a means to create a self-minding prussik hitch. In the system that we teach, we leave the prussik cord a bit longer so that the rescuer can mind it himself. This is not quite as effective as either having a pulley that is designed to mind the prussik or a tube-style belay device that will operate the same way.

In the video, Mike also quickly demonstrates a way to make this prussik load-releasable by adding a munter-mule into the shelf. A load-releasable system is desirable in all rescue applications.

4) GriGri

The Petzl GriGri and the Trango Cinch are both highly underutilized tools for rescue. In part, it's because they are heavy, so a lot of climbers don't take them on long routes or into the alpine, but they are very effective. They work as both a pulley and a ratchet simultaneously and are -- by their very nature -- load releasable.



It is imperative that anyone going into the mountains has a rudimentary understanding of ratcheting in rescue. If you haven't had the opportunity to take a class, it might be very valuable to watch this video a few times over and to practice each of the skills shown...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, February 16, 2018

Leading with Beginners

The proceeding information is a mildly edited excerpt from Rock Climbing: The AMGA Single Pitch Manual, by Bob Gaines and Jason D. Martin.
_______________________________________

It is not uncommon for an individual to take a friend climbing who has a limited climbing background. Many crags require one to lead in order to set-up the rope. This creates a potentially dangerous situation for the experienced person, since the newbie may not have the appropriate experience to belay a leader.

Lead Belay Training

If you take a beginner to a venue that requires a lead in order to access the anchors, it is important to teach the beginner how to lead belay in the lesson. Once the PBUS technique has been taught and the student demonstrates proficiency, then you may move into a lesson on lead belaying.

The orientation of the beginner’s hands while belaying a leader should reflect the posture taken in the break position of the PBUS. The student will pay out rope with a guide hand above the device, while the brake-hand remains in the same position below the device. If the beginner needs to bring rope back in, they simply revert back to the PBUS toproping technique.

To practice the lead belay, it is best to place a piece ten feet or so up, then run the rope through it. You can practice paying out rope and "taking falls" prior to actually getting onto the sharp end of the rope.

Lead Belay with an Assisted Breaking Device

There are guides who prefer to have students belay them with an assisted braking device. The advantage to these devices is that they reduce the likelihood of a catastrophic failure of the system. The problem with them is they are far from foolproof and require specialized instruction and technique.

There are a number of devices on the market and they all have their own idiosyncrasies. It’s important to read all associated instructions before using a new device, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations, heed the manufacturer’s warnings, and practice with it prior to using in an institutional setting.

The Petzl GriGri is one of the more common devices on the market. As a result, lead belay technique with this device is demonstrated in the following video. This video shows both the "old style" of lead belaying, as well as the "new style."


Belaying a Leader with a GriGri - The "New Style"

The primary belaying position for the GriGri is the PBUS position, with a guide hand above the device on the rope and a brake-hand below. As a leader moves up the rock, the belayer slowly feeds rope through the device, gently pulling with the guide hand, while pushing rope through with the brake-hand. If the rope is fed at an appropriate speed, the cam in the GriGri will not engage.

In this principal belay position, the belayer’s brake-hand never leaves the rope. If there is a need to bring in slack, the belayer reverts to the PBUS technique.

AAI Guide Richard Riquelme belaying a leader using the principal belay position for a Grigri.

Because the cam automatically engages with a sudden acceleration of the rope, it can be difficult to pay out slack quickly. The simplest solution to this problem is to never allow the rope to suddenly accelerate. This may accomplished by the leader placing gear at chest level or lower and extending the protection with runners. Doing so allows the leader to clip into the protection without having to give a quick tug on the rope.

If the goal is to teach a student the finer points of lead belaying, then there are two ways to give slack to a climber who needs it quickly. The first and easiest way is to simply step in toward the wall. This will immediately put slack into the system and works well. However, this technique is not recommended for novice belayers.

The second way is to shift the brake-hand, sliding it up the rope to the device, bracing the index finger against the lip of the moving sideplate. Press the thumb of the brake-hand down on the cam where the handle is attached while continuing to hold the brake-strand of the rope. Pull slack with the guide-hand. Once finished, immediately return to the principal belay position.

The proper way to give slack quickly with a Petzl Grigri.

Petzl recommends that you:

1) Always keep the brake-strand in the brake hand. There is never a valid reason to let go of the brake-strand.

2) Never grip the device with the entire hand.

3) Anticipate the climber’s movement, including when additional rope is needed to make the clip.

In a toprope setting, a rope is generally set-up early in the day and may be used to practice belaying. In a lead setting, practicing this skill requires some creativity. One method is to clip the first bolt of a sport route, or to place a piece of gear about ten-feet up. Clip the rope and then have the student practice belaying a leader on this short mock set-up.

Student Belay Backups, Ground Anchors and Knots

In addition to using an assisted breaking device and placing a lot of protection, here are three other ways to increase instructor security during a lead. First, use a ground anchor. Second, employ a backup belayer. And third, tie knots in the rope behind the belayer and the backup belayer.

A ground anchor keeps the belayer under control. The belayer is fixed to a given spot. If the belayer is anchored, the opportunity to trip, fall over, and pull the instructor off is greatly reduced. They will remain in the designated stance.

With two or more beginners, a backup belayer will increase security. It is far less likely that both students will drop the leader. To add even greater security, put a friction hitch on the rope behind the belayer and attach to the backup belayer’s belay loop. Rather than being dependent on a hand belay, the backup belayer manages the rope with the assistance of a third hand.

Some instructors tie knots in the rope behind the belayer and the back-up belayer. As the instructor leads and the knots approach the belay team, either the backup belayer or, ideally, a third student unties them. Even if there are a series of mistakes, the leader will still have a reasonable margin of error.

No matter what steps are taken to increase your security, it remains important to regularly look down and check on the belayer. Make sure that the belay system is employed appropriately and communicate error corrections as needed.

Descent Options

If walking off or down climbing is not possible, the other descent options from the top of a route are either to rappel or lower.

The most secure method is to rappel. When being lowered the instructor is completely reliant on the belay system and at the greatest exposure to risk of system failure. If there are any doubts about the security of the system (i.e. the belayer,) rappel.

Jim Belanger lowers clipped to a friction hitch on the belay strand of the rope.

However, if your goal is to teach the beginner how to operate as an independent climber, then the he will have to learn how to lower. When faced with that situation a technique that can be used to help mitigate the risk is for you to back yourself up by placing a friction-hitch on the belay strand of the rope, clipping the friction hitch to a sling that is then clipped into the instructor’s belay loop with a locking carabiner. While being lowered, you manage the friction hitch, releasing it if the belayer loses control of the brake strand.

Leading is fun, but getting dropped isn't. Put in as much time as you need in belay training before getting onto the sharp end with a new leader...

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/15/18

Northwest:

--A climber on Mt. Hood suffered a 100-foot fall on Tuesday. Nearby parties performed CPR on the climber, but he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital after being airlifted off the peak. To read more, click here.

--A new three-pitch WI 3 climb was completed in Squamish last week. Check it out!

Sierra:

--The iconic rock climber, Jim Bridwell, has passed away. There have been reports for weeks about "The Bird's" deteriorating condition. News of his death on Monday is just starting to trickle onto the internet. We will link profiles about his life to our news blog next week.

--Squaw Valley has installed batteries developed by Tesla to decrease it's greenhouse gas output. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Mercury News and many others are reporting that, "Three people died and four were rushed to a Nevada hospital with life-threatening injuries after a tour helicopter crashed into a section of the Grand Canyon on Saturday evening. The incident occurred around 5:20 p.m. on the land of the Hualapai Nation near Quartermaster Canyon, Hualapai Nation Police Chief Francis Bradley told the Associated Press." To read more, click here.

--The Desert Sun is reporting that, "The California desert is the latest target of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's campaign to promote resource extraction on public lands across the West. Zinke's Interior Department said this week it would allow mining on 1.3 million acres, or more than 2,000 square miles, across the California desert, reversing an Obama-era effort to protect those lands. Vast swaths of Utah's Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments were similarly opened to mining this month, following President Trump's decision to dramatically reduce the size of those monuments." To read more, click here.


--The annual Red Rock Rendezvous is slated to take place in Las Vegas from March 16-19, 2018. This is one of the biggest climbing festivals in the country...and one of the most fun. The American Alpine Institute works with Mountain Gear to put on the festival every year and many AAI guides will be on hand for both instruction, as well as for hanging out at the evening parties. You might also consider booking a guide before or after the program, or even participating in an additional climbing class. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Wisconsin's Journal Sentinel is reporting that, "Authorities have identified the 37-year-old Waukesha man who died as the result of a skiing accident on Saturday, Feb. 3, in Dane County. Jonathan Allen was skiing at the Tyrol Basin Ski and Snowboard Area north of Mt. Horeb when he struck a tree 'at a high rate of speed,' according to a Monday morning news release issued by the Dane County Sheriff's Department." To read more, click here.

--Outside magazine has some ideas about Leave No Trace. This series of ethics could use some updating to deal with a few 21st century LNT problems. To read more, click here.

--The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that, "President Donald Trump’s spending plan proposes an $18 billion fund to help rebuild national parks and wildlife refuges and boost the Native American education system but also would deliver a severe cut to the Interior Department’s overall budget and add new authority to sell off some public lands." To read more, click here.

--Ponzi schemes are not just a New York phenomenon. Ariel Quiros, the owner of Vermont's Jay Peak Ski Resort, built such a scheme by swindling money out of foreign investors through a program meant to provide them US residence for making investments in the United States. To read more, click here.

--And finally, the organizers of the Olympics won't let skiing robots enter the events...yet. So, a few engineers decided to run their own robot ski Olympics. Check it out, below:



Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Magic of Plastic Bins



Among all the different ways you can organize your gear, there’s one important staple you should always keep in mind: the plastic bin. While it may seem like a small thing, it’s a mighty tool for mobilizing for adventures big or small, spontaneous or planned.

I like to keep bins organized by season and or activity. Right now, I have a general camping bin, a climbing bin and a skiing bin. This weekend, I’m going up to Tahoe and packing is as easy as throwing a duffel with some town clothes, the ski bin and my skis, boots and poles in the car.

My ski bin includes items for backcountry and resort like:
  • Skins
  • Avalanche beacon
  • Shovel
  • Probe
  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses
  • Ski goggles
  • Sunscreen
  • Bibs or snow pants
  • Insulated resort ski jacket
  • Softshell jacket
  • Hardshell
  • Medium gloves
  • Heavyweight gloves
  • Mittens
  • Small backpack and water bladder
For my climbing bin, I keep:
  • Padded climbing harness
  • Ultralight alpine harness
  • Climbing helmet
  • Black diamond camalots small to large
  • Nuts
  • Sport quickdraws
  • Alpine quickdraws
  • Cordelette
  • Grigri
  • ATC
  • Assortment of locking and non-locking carabiners
  • Assortment of slings
  • Rocket pack
My camping bin includes:
  • Whisperlite stove
  • Refillable fuel bottle and pump
  • MSR Reactor stove
  • Fuel canisters 
  • Lighters
  • Headlamp
  • Spork
  • Mug
  • Repair kit
  • Inflatable Thermarest mattress
  • First-aid kit
  • SPOT emergency locator beacon
  • GPS
  • SteriPEN

With this kind of system — be it seasonal or activity-based — makes it so much easier to get out in the mountains whatever your schedule is. If you’re a busy guide, you always know where your stuff is and it’s easy to find in the correct bin. If you’re a weekend warrior, you can load up the car on Friday with your bin and whatever else you need and head out. I recommend it as a simple and efficient way to organize your gear.

--Shelby Carpenter, AAI Instructor and Guide Alumna

Monday, February 12, 2018

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, February 9, 2018

Avalanche Problems Explained

The National Avalanche Center has put together an excellent educational resource on how to read an avalanche forecast. This is a really good video and even if you feel well-versed in avalanche education, it's worth the five minutes it will take to watch it...



--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/8/18

Northwest:

--Jim Herrington will be in Bellingham on Friday (February 9, 7pm) at Village Books presenting on his new book, The ClimbersThe Climbers is a photo essay of some of the most well-known climbers in the world. But it is not about those who are trendsetters today, but instead about the aged mountaineers who made first ascents throughout the world in the last century. The Climbers won the Grand Prize at the Banff Mountain Book Awards. To read more, click here.

--The Seattle Times is reporting that, "The National Park Service has chosen Palmer “Chip” Jenkins, Jr., to be the next superintendent at Mount Rainier National Park. The park service says Jenkins will start in his new role in mid-March, replacing Randy King who retired in January." To read more, click here.

--It's not a good idea to ski in an area being controlled for avalanches. The Revelstoke Mountaineer in Canada writes that, "Skiers and snowboarders who head into the Rogers Pass backcountry without complying with the Winter Permit System aren’t just jeopardizing access to one of North America’s most iconic ski touring areas, but an avalanche control program that’s protecting the lives of thousands of people every day." To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--Gripped is reporting that, "Sender Films has announced that The Dawn Wall movie will premiere at the South by Southwest Festival this year. There will be a full theatrical release later in the season." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A climber was injured in Red Rock Canyon's Ice Box Canyon over the weekend. There is limited information about the situation. To read more, click here.

--Alex Honnold lives in Vegas...! And so do a ton of other high-end climbers. Check it out!


--The annual Red Rock Rendezvous is slated to take place in Las Vegas from March 16-19, 2018. This is one of the biggest climbing festivals in the country...and one of the most fun. The American Alpine Institute works with Mountain Gear to put on the festival every year and many AAI guides will be on hand for both instruction, as well as for hanging out at the evening parties. You might also consider booking a guide before or after the program, or even participating in an additional climbing class. To read more, click here.

--News Channel 3 is reporting that, "It has been years in the making, and finally, a new shuttle bus is in service at Joshua Tree National Park. Beginning Feb. 1, the RoadRunner shuttle will take visitors to several designated stops in and around the park. The shuttles will leave every two hours from the Joshua Tree and Oasis Visitor Centers." To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--Westworld is reporting that, "According to a just-released final report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), 27-year-old Durango resident Abel Palmer did almost everything right on January 21, when he and a companion chose to partake in some backcountry skiing between Red Mountain Pass and the Town of Silverton, in an area known to locals as Sam's Trees. But one small mistake, during which he accidentally entered an area he hadn't planned to enter, led to him becoming the first person in Colorado to die in an avalanche during 2018." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Ted Johnson, the man behind the creation of Utah's Snowbird resort, died last week. Johnson was hit by a drunk driver while he was crossing the street in a crosswalk. To read more, click here.

--A 74-year-old ice climber was killed in a fall in Montana on Sunday. Little is known about the nature of the accident. To read more, click here.

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "The North Carolina climbing and conservation communities lost a giant when John Myers passed away February 3, due to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)." To read more, click here.

--Outside is reporting that the new leader of the national parks is bad news. "There’s a new acting director for the National Park Service, and he has an interesting past. Most notably, P. Daniel Smith made headlines for the time he helped the owner of the Washington Redskins cut down trees on federally owned, protected land to lend the billionaire a better view." To read more, click here.

Denali's name is contentious in Ohio. But who cares?
The mountain is not in Ohio...

--Though Native Americans, climbers and Alaskans all call Denali, Denali, and William McKinnley never even saw the mountain, there is still a push from some to change the official name back to Mt. McKinley. The Hill is reporting that, "GOP lawmakers from Ohio are pressing President Trump to uphold a promise to reverse former President Obama's decision and rename the Alaskan mountain Denali to its old name, Mt. McKinley. In a letter to Trump, the 11 lawmakers say it was "disrespectful" for Obama to change the name of the mountain, which had been named after William McKinley, a former president from Ohio. The mountain was named after the 25th president in 1896." To read more, click here.

--A production company is looking for a couple of female climbers to be stunt doubles for actresses. To read more, click here.