Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Training: Deadhangs

The Climbing Movement Essential Training Series on Youtube is kind of awesome. The series is composed of a number of well produced videos that focus on different aspects of training for climbing.

This particular video focuses on deadhangs. A deadhang is essentially just hanging from a hold. The longer you can do a deadhang, the stronger you likely are.



In review:

  1. Select 5 hold types. And make sure that you can hang from them for 2 to 12 seconds.
  2. You will do one deadhang on each hold (each hand).
  3. There should be a 90-second rest between deadhangs.
  4. Failure should take place in 12 seconds or less. If you can hold on for longer than 12-seconds, then you should choose different holds.
  5. Keep track of your time and identify holds that are harder for you. Work on those and establish goals and benchmarks to measure your ability.
And as always, be sure to warm up before using a hangboard. Those things can be dangerous to your tendons!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 24, 2017

Route Profile: Dream of Wild Turkeys, 5.10a III

Dream of Wild Turkeys is an exceptional climb located on the Black Velvet Wall very near to the classic long Red Rock climb Epinephrine. I made it to Red Rock a week ago and after a couple days of sport climbing and bouldering I had the chance to get on this route with fellow AAI Guide Britt Ruegger. Britt is preparing for the AMGA Rock Instructor Course and we thought this route with 8 pitches of 5.9 or harder would be a good training ground for the course.

The beauty of this route is the sustained nature of the climbing combined with a comfortable amount of protection. Where the climbing follows cracks traditional protection is easily attainable, and when the cracks peter out bolts pop up to protect the face climbing. This casual mixed protection makes me feel warm and fuzzy and is a credit to the first ascentionists George and Joanne Urioste's dedication to putting up routes you want to repeat!


AAI Guide Britt Ruegger pulling past the first 5.10a crux on Pitch 3. 
The highlights of the route include pitch 2, a long right angling crack that eats up gear and is sustained at the 5.9 grade. Pitch 3 brings the crux and you go straight up a thin crack with small crimps on the face at 5.10a until you reach a bolted traverse to the right. This sets you up for the long fist to hand crack of pitch 4 that ends with a few tricky 5.10a bolt protected face moves to the anchors.

Britt demonstrating the delicate footwork necessary on this technical face climb.

The rest of the route continues on with endless face climbing mainly at the 5.9 grade. Ten pitches of fun sustained climbing make this a must do route!


The leader of another party climbs pitch 7.
Every belay is also a bolted rappel station, so you can go down at any point. This makes the route a great objective for folks just starting to climb longer routes that are not confident in their speed and efficiency.

Things to take into account on this route:

-Two ropes are required to rappel this route. We climbed with twin ropes but a single rope and tag line would work just fine as well. You end up going straight down with the rappels and utilize a couple anchors that are on variations to this route.

-This is a very popular route and you should get an early start if you want to be first! However, there are many great back-up routes close by if the route is taken.

-The road into the Black Velvet Canyon parking area is rough dirt and rock and requires a vehicle with a reasonable amount of clearance. Not impossible in a passenger car, just much quicker and enjoyable with a truck.

-There are many hanging belays on this route which leads some folks to nickname the route Dream of Belay Ledges! Its not that bad but worth noting in comparison to the more common comfortable Red Rock belays.

The Red Rock season is in full swing here in Vegas and I'm excited to be working with some folks next week on a Learn To Lead Course. If you're after some great desert sandstone climbing or want to improve your skills in traditional and multi-pitch terrain come visit us in Red Rock!

--Jeremy Devine, AAI Instructor and Guide

Friday, April 21, 2017

Natural Anchors

Okay, kids. The question for today is easy. What is a natural anchor?

The most straightforward definition is that a natural anchor is any simple anchor point that nature provides.

The class know-it-all in the front row raises her hand and asks, "but Mr. Martin, isn't a crack a natural anchor?"

A crack is a crack. We actually have to put something inside the crack before we have a piece. It is a natural spot to place an anchor, but it is not a natural anchor point. No, instead a natural anchor is anything that is already there. The most common examples of natural anchors are trees, bushes, boulders, pinches and thread-throughs.

Trees
This tree, found on the iconic Northwest route, Outer Space (III, 5.9), 
has little more than a few roots in the crack system keeping it in place.

Before you elect to use a tree as an anchor point, you should make sure that it is "Five-and-Alive." In other words, that it is at least five inches in diameter, five feet tall, has a good root-base and is alive. You should be wary of trees that could have a root-base in dirt or sand and on top of the rock. An anchor with this kind of structure could easily fail.

This photo shows a tensionless wrap with a static rope on a very large tree.

Bushes and Shrubs

In the mountains and in the desert, it is not uncommon to use bushes and shrubs that clearly don't meet the Five-and-Alive standard. These are primarily used as rappels to get down obscure gullies or to get off the backside of a peak, so the tendency is to try to avoid leaving too much gear. The tendency is to want to only leave webbing or cordage.

When you elect to use these less-than-stellar natural anchors, consider equalizing a number of them together. If you're tying your cord around a desert bush that is comprised of a number of finger-sized sticks, you'll probably want to equalize this with similar bushes. Depending on the size and density, I would want at least two of these, if not more.

And lastly, when it comes to bushes and shrubs as anchors, use common sense. Don't put your weight on something that might blow out. You could always back up the first person (usually the heavier person) on rappel with a loose gear anchor. If all goes well, the second person could tear down that anchor and then descend. If the equalized bush anchor didn't come apart during the first rappel with the heavier climber, it's reasonable to believe that it wouldn't come out with the second climber either.

Boulders

Boulders can be absolutely fantastic natural anchors. But there are a few things to look at before committing to a boulder. First, make sure that it is in good contact with the ground. Boulders on sandy or sloping surfaces should be considered suspect. Second, make sure that it won't wobble or roll toward the edge. Every boulder should be checked by pushing and pulling on it to confirm it's position. And lastly, if there is any possibility of movement, don't use it. The last thing you need is a boulder falling down on top of you.

Pinches and Thread-Throughs

Pinches are places where two large boulders come together so tightly that you can wrap cordage or webbing around them. Thread-throughs are places where there is a hole in the rock that you can something through to tie-off.

It is not uncommon for people to simply miss these opportunities while trying to build an anchor. They simply aren't as intuitive for most people as the other natural anchors out there. If you can keep the fact that these exist in mind and you look for them, you'll find them.

Like boulders and trees and bushes, it's important to make sure that pinches and thread-throughs are sturdy enough to handle the stress of being an anchor. This is particularly important in sandstone or in other soft and friable rock-types.

Natural Chockstones

In the following video, the Canadian Mountain Guide, Mike Barter demonstrates a quick and dirty improvised anchor.



Ultimately, the great value to natural anchors is that they don't require much gear. And since they don't require much, you'll have plenty to use on your next lead.

Class dismissed. Now go build some natural anchors!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 4/20/17

Northwest:

--We post a lot of SAR and mountain rescue stories on our blog...especially here on the weekly news blog. It's important to remember that most people who are involved in wilderness search and rescue in the United States are unpaid volunteers. A recent video about King County Search and Rescue provides a taste of what Search and Rescue and Mountain Rescue units do, everywhere:



--Crystal Mountain Ski Resort has been sold.

Desert Southwest:

--The Las Vegas Sun is reporting that, "The fate of a planned housing development near Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area won’t be decided by the Nevada Legislature after a proposed bill that would have killed it was gutted and rewritten. But officials believe the revised bill still sets a foundation for responsible development of lands located near the state’s national conservation areas." To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund is reporting that, "The US Forest Service (USFS) is back on track to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) this fall that will evaluate the feasibility of re-opening Williamson Rock to climbing in a way that protects the endangered Mountain Yellow Legged Frog and its surrounding habitat. Williamson Rock was Southern California’s premier summer sport climbing destination until it was closed in 2005 to protect the endangered Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog (MYLF). The Angeles National Forest restricted access to Williamson as a result of successful lawsuits brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation organizations." To read more, click here.

--Pay attention for threatened desert tortoises in the desert. At least three died in Joshua Tree recently due to visitor impact. To read more, click here.

--The Las Vegas Review Journal is reporting on opposition to new oil and gas leases near Zion National Park. "At an auction in September, the Bureau of Land Management is planning to offer “fluid mineral leases” on three parcels totaling just over 4,700 acres near the iconic national park in Utah, 160 miles northeast of Las Vegas." To read more, click here.

--The Saint George News is reporting that, "Public comment is now open on a plan to reconfigure the south entrance to Zion National Park to help ease traffic congestion and make other improvements." To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--Aspen Times is reporting that, "A district court judge is leaving it to a jury to decide whether Vail Resorts properly closed an in-bounds expert ski run before an avalanche killed a local teenager in 2012. District Court Judge Fred Gannett also ruled that it will be up to a jury to rule if the resort company’s signs on Prima Cornice were sufficient. 'If a jury finds that Vail intended to close Prima Cornice or a portion thereof, and that Vail’s signage was insufficient or improper under the Skier Safety Act, a verdict in favor of plaintiffs may be possible,' Gannett wrote in a ruling issued Friday." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Climbing is reporting that, "Trango has elected to voluntarily recall all Trango Vergo belay devices in batch numbers 16159 and 16195 that were sold after 1 October 2016. Please IMMEDIATELY cease use of all such Vergos and return them to Trango for replacement as described below." To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund has a great article out entitled "5 Things You Can do to Fight for Public Lands." To read the article, click here.

Click to Enlarge

--Treehugger is reporting on an artist's interesting take. Drawing upon the WPA’s classic National Parks posters, Hannah Rothstein’s new series envisions our natural treasures ravaged by climate change.With a wry and poignant twist, artist Hannah Rothstein has reimagined the great WPA posters once used to lure visitors to the splendors of U.S. National Parks. Where the original might have promised Yellowstone’s campfire programs and nature talks, the new version offers dying trout and starving grizzlies. Welcome to the National Parks of the year 2050 if climate change is allowed to stake its claim." To read more, click here.

--Alpinist is reporting that, "The Piolets d'Or jury is giving awards to two climbing teams this week, along with two honorable mentions, at the annual international ceremony that acknowledges exemplary alpine ascents from the previous year." To read about the winners, click here.

--Outside Magazine has an interesting article on all the people who have gone missing on public lands never to be found. Check it out, here.

--The votes are in. Black Diamond had one of the funniest April Fools day products. Check out the Honn Solo...

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bigfoot Sightings

With many programs based in the Pacific Northwest, we occasionally get questions about the elusive Sasquatch, or Bigfoot. The first and most common question is, "do you believe in bigfoot?"

The near universal answer amongst the guide staff is, no. Most of us don't believe that there is a big hairy apeman in the woods of the Pacific Northwest.

The second question is often, "have you ever seen Bigfoot?"

Most guides would say no to this question. But that answer would be a lie. In the Pacific Northwest Bigfoot is everywhere. And contrary to popular belief, he -- or she -- isn't that hard to photograph. Bigfoot is a part of our culture here. The beast is everywhere. You just have to open your eyes...

A Native American female Sasquatch mask.
This Native American mask is often used in ceremonies.

This image of Bigfoot is in a mural in Larabee State Park, just outside of Bellingham. 

We all knew that Bigfoot was a snowboarder. 
This piece of chainsaw art is near Index at a coffee shop on the way up to Stevens Pass Ski Area.

Bigfoot lives in a lot of small towns throughout the Pacific Northwest.
This photo was taken in Marblemount, WA.

 Bigfoot is very popular at Seatac Airport. 
I think that this blurry image is of the mythical monster at a cafe.


It also seems important that Bigfoot goes shopping.

 More Bigfoot junk at the airport.

And they even have Bigfoot t-shirts there. 

Yep. In the Pacific Northwest, we see Bigfoot all the time!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 17, 2017

Basic Rock Climbing Technique

The Mountaineers Club has put together a very nice little video that provides some tips and techniques for the beginning level climber. The following video does a pretty good job with its description of:
  • Face Climbing
  • Edging and Smearing
  • Downclimbing
  • Steep Terrain
  • The Mantle Technique
  • The Bear Hug Technique
  • Opposing Forces
  • Stemming
  • The Lieback Technique
  • Use of a Backstep
  • The Undercling Technique
  • The Heelhook
  • Friction Climbing
  • Hand Traverse
In seven and a half minutes, the video quickly demonstrates each of the techniques. And while they don't go into depth on any one technique, the do present a nice overview for those who are just starting out.



--Jason D. Martin

Friday, April 14, 2017

Backclipping

Backclipping is one of the most common mistakes that beginning level leaders make. This is the process of misclipping a quickdraw so that the rope does not run smoothly out of the top of the carabiner, but instead runs behind the gate. If a leader falls with the rope clipped in such an orientation, it is possible that the rope could become unclipped.


This diagram from Spadout.com shows an incorrectly clipped rope
and how it may become unclipped in the event of a fall. Click on the photo for a larger image.


This image from Greatoutdoors.com shows the proper way that a rope should be clipped.
Note that the rope runs out of the top of the carabiner and over the spine.

It is quite common for those that are learning -- and even some of those that have been climbing for a long time -- not to recognize a backclipped carabiner. It is important for both leaders and belayers alike to be able to easily recognize an incorrectly clipped draw. It is also important to quickly correct this once it is recognized.

One of the best ways to avoid backclipping is to practice the art of clipping a rope into a draw. Climbers should be able to do this with both hands, regardless of the direction of the gate. This is a great technique to practice while vegging in front of the television. If you can wire it at home, then your muscles will remember how to do it and will do it right.

Click here to see a video that provides a quick lesson on clipping a rope to a draw. Be sure to obtain real instruction from a live person before doing this in an environment that has consequences...

--Jason D. Martin