Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Leave No Trace: Respect Wildlife

In the spring of 2017, a video started to make the rounds. A little girl was sitting on the edge of a dock in Vancouver, British Columbia, "playing" with a sea lion. It appears that the girl and the family of the girl had been feeding the animal prior to what happened next:

The girl was pulled into the water by the animal. Thankfully, she was quickly rescued.

So why did the animal attack the girl...?

The answer is easy. The family had been feeding the sea lion. The sea lion wanted more and grabbed the girl to get more.

This is not a new story. Bears in many US states and in Canada have become habituated to humans and human food. The result is twofold. 1) There are more bear maulings where bears are habituated to human food and 2) more bears need to be put down because of this desire for human food.

It's no different with other animals. Squirrels fed in the Grand Canyon have to be killed or removed because they tend to bite people. Burros in Red Rock Canyon approach the road looking for food only to bite and kick people...while occasionally also causing serious car accidents. Gray Jay's -- also known as camp robber birds -- will land on people in the hopes of getting food, and thus unlearn how to find food themselves.

And the mice... Dear God, the mice. How many campgrounds and camp areas are overrun by mice because people have left food out or have been careless with their crumbs...?

The desert tortoise is incredibly fragile. Touching a tortoise can have a major 
impact on the animal. It may get scared and pee itself, which is a very big problem
for an animal with limited access to water.

Wild animals simply shouldn't be fed, whether on purpose or by accident. A animal that's been fed is a problem for people who might be around the animal...it might bite or harass them. And it's a problem for the animal. The animal might no longer be able to find food itself.

Food is only one problem with wild animals. Another is the idea that people can pet them or take pictures with them or touch them. None of these things are good ideas. There are many stories of people trying to treat a wild animal like a pet, and then being hurt or killed as a result.

The sixth principle of Leave No Trace is to Respect Wildlife. Following is a write-up from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics page on this subject.

Learn about wildlife through quiet observation. Do not disturb wildlife or plants just for a "better look". Observe wildlife from a distance so they are not scared or forced to flee. Large groups often cause more damage to the environment and can disturb wildlife so keep your group small. If you have a larger group, divide into smaller groups if possible to minimize your impacts.

Quick movements and loud noises are stressful to animals. Travel quietly and do not pursue, feed or force animals to flee. (One exception is in bear country where it is good to make a little noise so as not to startle the bears) In hot or cold weather, disturbance can affect an animals ability to withstand the rigorous environment. Do not touch, get close to, feed or pick up wild animals. It is stressful to the animal, and it is possible that the animal may harbor rabies or other diseases. Sick or wounded animals can bite, peck or scratch and send you to the hospital. Young animals removed or touched by well-meaning people may cause the animals parents to abandon them. If you find sick animals or animal in trouble, notify a game warden.

Considerate campers observe wildlife from afar, give animals a wide berth, store food securely, and keep garbage and food scraps away from animals. Remember that you are a visitor to their home.

Allow animals free access to water sources by giving them the buffer space they need to feel secure. Ideally, camps should be located 200 feet or more from existing water sources. This will minimize disturbance to wildlife and ensure that animals have access to their precious drinking water. By avoiding water holes at night, you will be less likely to frighten animals because desert dwellers are usually most active after dark. With limited water in arid lands, desert travelers must strive to reduce their impact on the animals struggling for survival.

Washing and human waste disposal must be done carefully so the environment is not polluted, and animals and aquatic life are not injured. Swimming in lakes or streams is OK in most instances but in desert areas, leave scarce water holes undisturbed and unpolluted so animals may drink from them.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, June 17, 2019

American Alpine Institute Guides Choice - 2019

The American Alpine Institute is pleased to announce the Guides Choice award winners for 2019! The Guides Choice has been a highly valued award for over 20 years, and represents the pinnacle of industry leading outdoor gear. A core group of AAI guides tests products from dozens of companies in over 16 countries and multiple continents. 

The following products were recognized as Guides Choice award winners this week during the Outdoor Retailer show in Denver, Colorado.

“This pack is a game changer. Take it on an expedition or compress it up and use it as a summit pack. This pack does it all and keeps on ticking.” – Charlie Lane, Retail Shop Manager

Weighing a mere 40 ounces (2.5 lbs), you wouldn’t think the pack could hold 70L of gear comfortably, but it’s pliable aluminum stays mold to your back making it the best carrying, ultralight pack out there. But that’s just the beginning. Updated from its first design, the Porter 4400 now boasts taped seams and Dyneema Composite Fabric (formally Cuben Fiber), which are stronger and more weatherproof than ever - which is essential in the Pacific Northwest where we guide a majority of our trips.

This pack can tackle any objective thanks to well-placed daisy chains and compression straps that make customizing it a breeze. All you need to carry an ice axe is an accessory cord loop and a Voile strap. While other packs have more bells and whistles, the Porter 4400 strikes the perfect balance between accessibility and minimalism. This is truly a Guide’s Choice award winner, and a piece of gear that no outdoors person should be without.

It’s worth noting that this pack also comes in three other sizes: 5400 (85L), 3400 (55L), and 2400 (40L).

Garmin has come out with one of the lightest and most compact satellite communication devices to date. You have all the benefits of global satellite coverage, two-way messaging via email or text to a phone or another inReach device, interactive SOS and weather updates in about half the weight and half the bulk of the Explorer+. The Mini comes in 4oz lighter than the Explorer+, but also 2.6” shorter and .66” narrower. For comparison sake, the Spot X device comes in at 6.8oz (vs 3.5oz for the Mini). The SOS is monitored worldwide and 24/7. While it does not display maps on the device, it does integrate beautifully with the Earthmate app on your cell phone for easy navigation. 

This has become the preferred choice of our Guides who live and preach the fast and light lifestyle. In tracking mode, the Mini delivers a solid 90 hours at 10 minute intervals and up to 24 days at 30 minute intervals! On top of connecting your phone to your inReach Mini, you can also connect compatible wrist watches. This allows you to receive and send messages, as well as initiate an SOS from your watch - which can can be crucial if your device is not accessible.

There’s no excuse NOT to have one.

The Safety Academy was originally born in 2008 as an initiative by Ortovox, in conjunction with a number of renown international mountaineering schools. The goal was to educate practical orientated knowledge [regarding safety] in the fields of ski touring, freeriding, high alpine, and rock climbing. The Snow Lab portion of the Safety Academy accounts for the largest avalanche training initiative worldwide. Working with its mountain school partners, The Safety Academy sees well over 2,500 participants every year. The Snow Lab is a multimedia training initiative that uses videos and interactive content to teach valuable snow safety content at no cost to the user. The Safety Academy also created the SAM (Safety Academy Mountain 3D) which is an excellent tool for teaching avalanche courses and is used extensively by our guide service. In 2018, Ortovox launched The Safety Academy Lab Rock in cooperation with the German Mountain and Ski Guide Association (VDBS), numerous professional mountain guides, athletes, as well as experts from Petzl - Expanding their high-quality educational platform to the world of rock climbing. The Safety Academy offers over 40 video tutorials, comprehensive educational modules and four chapters for more safety in alpine climbing. Ortovox has even expanded into Alpine First Aid, which simply punctuates their immense collection of alpine training.

The Safety Academy is a Guide’s Choice award winner because it is a unique educational tool that has elevated the way we teach our avalanche courses. This level of accessible outdoor education by Ortovox strives to make everyone safer in the mountains, and that deserves to be recognized.

Tendon: 6mm Accessory Cord

Accessory cord can seem like an afterthought - something you just pickup last minute or grab a cheap roll of to tie low risk knots and hitches. It can also feel stiff and limiting to use  on friction hitches with specific diameter ratios. So when Tendon came out with a 6mm accessory cord that was both supple AND strong, we took notice. As a guide service, The American Alpine Institute runs more than 300 courses a year, a majority of which require prusiks made from accessory cord. The 6mm size has long been the sweet spot for prusik use on our mountaineering/climbing ropes, due to the fact that it both slides well and grips (keep features of all friction hitches). What Tendon did however, was make an accessory cord that is 12-28% stronger than it's competitors, while eliminating the stiffness that make racking/tying the cord difficult. These industry leading innovations result in a cord that is more versatile, so that you can shed weight and increase confidence. There are many cordalettes on the market today, but we believe the 6mm accessory cord by Tendon is the best.


Diameter (mm): 6
Weight (g/m): 23.2
Min. Strength (kN): 10
CE 1019 and EN 564 certified

Again, congratulations to all of this years winners for truly elevating what is possible in the outdoor industry! As a Guide Service, we are constantly on the lookout for products and innovations that change the way we look at mountains. Thank you to all the companies who have submitted products to our testing program. Have a great summer!