Thursday, November 23, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/23/17


--This is a tough weekend for camping in the desert. Make plans accordingly.

--Over at Semi-Rad they have the perfect chart comparing skiing to the holidays. You can check that out, here!

Northwest:

--AAI was featured in an article this week about ice climbing. Check it out!

--The Seattle Times is reporting that, "A forgotten easement could have severed the Pacific Crest Trail, which extends from Mexico to Canada along the crests of several mountain ranges, including the Cascades in Washington. Most of the trail weaves through public lands, but about 10 percent of it is owned privately." To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--It appears that Niels Tietze died in a rappelling accident on FiFi Buttress in Yosemite on Friday. Niels was a well-known Yosemite climber. Here is a short film in which he and his partner complete a big link-up in Yosemite. To read more, click here.

--SF Gate is reporting that, "A San Diego man is recovering after being seriously injured in a fall while climbing Yosemite's Half Dome earlier this month. Alex Doria told ABC 10 KGTV that his foot slipped, sending him tumbling 50 feet down a sheer granite face on the iconic crag. The fall broke his back, foot, wrist and ribs." To read more, click here.

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "According to the Sierra Avalanche Center, 3 backcountry skiers triggered and were caught in an avalanche in Hourglass Bowl on Tamarack Peak in the Mt. Rose area of Lake Tahoe, NV yesterday. It’s being reported that the skiers caught in the avalanche were slammed against rocks and trees and that one of the skiers may have broke his ankle." To read more, click here.

--A herd of nearly deer appears to have fallen near Bishop Pass. They appear to have slipped on ice while making their way to their winter grounds. Most of the animals were seriously injured or killed. It's not clear why this happened. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:


(click to enlarge)


--The Friends of Indian Creek are looking for the people who placed this graffiti...

--The Scenic Drive and the Red Springs Parking areas will close at 12:00pm on Thanksgiving in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Those already inside the Scenic Drive may stay until the Conservation Area closes at 5pm.

Colorado:

--Here's a piece on all that's new in the Colorado ski industry, from new lifts to new programs, to better transportation options.

Notes from All Over:

--There is a bill in Congress to gut the Antiquities Act. This is the act that allows for the creation of National Monuments. To take action against this congressional action, click here.

--Access to a popular climbing area in Austin is under threat. To read more, click here.

--The Battleboro Reformer is reporting that, "a Connecticut woman is suing Mount Snow after her husband died during a snowboarding trip there early last year. Arthur David Deacon III was 56 when he fell and hit a tree while snowboarding at Mount Snow on Jan. 24, 2016, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont. That morning, the Simsbury, Conn., resident took a chairlift at the resort to access Ripcord, the "steepest and most difficult trail on Mount Snow," the complaint states. He had snowboarded down the trail several times before, according to the complaint." To read more, click here.

--The UIAA has recently published an article entitled, "What You Need to Know about the UIAA Ice Climbing European Cups." This is a breakdown of the upcoming events. To read the article, click here.

--Here's a cool story on the Mt. Everest Biogas Project...essentially a project that allows solar toilets to change human waste into fertilizer.

--There are now six states with Official Outdoor Recreation Industry State Offices...!

--And finally, here's your link to the perfect Thanksgiving meal at the campfire...

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Fall: From Glory to Grace

The well-regarded Canadian climber and athlete, Will Gadd, has one of the most informative climbing and training blogs on the net. Through Gravsports, Gadd brings us an array of tips, techniques, and commentary on the world of climbing.

It was through his blog that we that we became aware of the video, Fall: From Glory to Grace. In this film, we watch a man take a very serious ice climbing fall and then we watch him walk away from it. The video production is well-done, but the team's assessment of the fall and what lead to it and how to avoid such a situation in the future is poorly thought out.

On Gadd's blog, he analyzes each of the elements that lead to the accident. We have done a round-up of these points below the video.


Here is a breakdown of the mistakes made:

  • First and foremost, ice climbing is a sport where falling is NOT acceptable. Sure, it's okay to fall on top-rope, but it is definitely not okay to fall on lead. In some rock climbing situations, it's okay to fall on lead, but even there one can get hurt. With twenty-four sharp points on your feet, and five sharp points in your hands, there is a lot that can puncture you or catch on the ice, forcing a limb to bend in a way that it wasn't meant to bend. 
  • The placement of gear in ice climbing is meant to keep you from taking a ground fall. It is not meant to keep you safe in a small fall. 
  • Leaders should be comfortable on the terrain that they are leading prior to climbing a given pitch. There is nothing wrong with top-roping at the grade until you're comfortable. Leading adds a lot of extra stressors. One has to place screws, think about where the route's going, etc. 
  • Top-roping will also help with technique. Gadd points out that many of the climber's tool placements are subpar and that his footwork is terrible. 
  • One should practice clipping into the tool. There are many ways to do this. At one point in the video, we can see one of the climbers that assisted the injured showing them how to deal with such a situation. If you can clip into the tool, then you will have the ability to place a screw. In Gadd's response the video, he writes, "stop before you get super pumped, put in a good screw, reset, maybe back off if you can't climb the pitch without getting super pumped. Or, climb it in five-foot sections putting in a screw and hanging; I have FAR more respect for someone who does that than gets pumped and falls off. If you're super pumped stop, reset. No "free" pitch is worth getting injured for." 
  • The belayer talks about putting slack in his anchor system so that he can easily move out of the way if there's icefall. He should have built his belay in a place where there was no icefall to begin with. In a single pitch setting, this is very easy to do. 
  • The belayer is also belaying the leader with a GiGi. This device is not designed to belay leaders. 
  • The climber is wearing a Black Diamond Bod Harness. It appears that the harness is not double-backed. He is very lucky that he didn't simply slide right out of his harness after the fall. 

People make mistakes in the mountains. I've made them and you've made them, too. We all have. But if you're reading this right now, you got away with your mistake. This guy was also able to walk away from his. And indeed, it is likely that this video's existence on the internet will help him to grow as a climber.

I hope that re-posting this will help everyone in their growth and in their self assessment. I think that it is important to look at every day of climbing as a learning experience. There is no doubt that this is a dangerous sport. And it could be argued that the only way to keep playing the game is to constantly self assess and to constantly learn from every mistake, big and small...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Most Dangerous GoPro Footage Ever Shot!!!!!

It's pretty common for us to post videos of extreme ski lines. But I have to say that this is the most extreme ski line anyone has ever seen anywhere.

Put on your seatbelts, because things are about to get very very real...



--Jason D. Martin

Friday, November 17, 2017

Stick Clipping

I was in Red Rock Canyon, just below the first bolt, when my foot smeared off. My stance was somewhat sideways and if I didn't have a rope on, I would have fallen eight feet directly on my side, likely breaking my arm...

But how could I have a rope prior to the first bolt?

Easy. I stick clipped it. And that stick clip saved me from a hospital visit.

Stick clips are an important part of sport climbing. These are specially designed poles that may be used to clip the first bolt with a rope prior to climbing the route. These devices may be purchased from many different climbing companies, they may be made out of homemade supplies or they may be "McGyvered."

The concept behind a stick clip is simple. You have a pole that allows you to clip the first draw to the first bolt with the rope prerigged through the bottom carabiner on the draw. Then you may be toproped through the starting moves of the climb.

There are several manufactured stick clips available on the market. Following are a couple of examples:

Trango Beta Stick Clip

Epic Sport Epic Stick Clip

Homemade stick clips are relatively easy to make. I bought a painters pole and a placed a spring clamp a the end. I duct taped this securely on to keep the spring clamp in place. Alternately, some people use hose clamps to keep the spring clamp in place at the end of the pole.

My well-loved homemade stick clip.

My stick clip wasn't designed with a means to keep the carabiner open. Instead, I just push the carabiner against the bolt until it clips.

There are going to be occasions when you don't have access to a stick clip. On these occasions, you may wish to McGyver something. Climbing magazine put together and excellent video on this topic with the now Executive Editor of the magazine, Julie Ellison, describing how to do this:



I used to be a little wary about carrying stick clips. A lot of my friends made fun of me for carrying it around. But the fact that I didn't hurt myself in that short fall before the first bolt made up for every last joke made by my trad climber buddies...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/16/17

Northwest:

--Two snowboarders went missing on Sunday just outside the Mt. Baker Ski area. Bellingham Mountain Rescue worked with the Sheriff's department to search for the two men, identified as Jake Amancio and Drew Lenz. Storm conditions have made searching difficult. To read more, click here.

--In honor of AAI guide and splitboard athlete Liz Daley, AAI worked with the Liz Rocks foundation to provide a scholarship to a young woman over the summer on one of our Leaders of Tomorrow programs. On Friday, November 17th, there will be a fundraiser to help get more disadvanted youth out into the mountains and to help make them future outdoor leaders. To learn more about the fundraiser, click here. To see a video of last year's recipient, click below.



--Lowell Skoog is well-known for his climbing and skiing exploits. But he is perhaps even better known as a mountain historian. The Seattle Times wrote an excellent profile of Lowell, touching on not-just his adventures, but the tragedy he's lived through... To read the article, click here.

--The Mountaineers are reporting that, "Last month, we invited you to join us in contributing funds to save a section of the Lake Serene Trail from logging. This month we’re happy to report we met our goal! Together we raised $275,000 to purchase the land from the timber company, ensuring that the area is conserved and recreational access is never again restricted." To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--Mammoth has been selected as a town that will receive additional assistance in the management of wildfires in the 2018 fire season. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A lead climber took a fall on Eagle Dance (5.10c, IV) in Red Rock Canyon last week and suffered a broken ankle. High winds kept him from an immediate helicopter evacuation, though he was eventually plucked off the route. To read more, click here.

--The New York Times has an opinion about Bears Ears. "President Trump, ever intent on expunging the legacy of Barack Obama, is on the verge of undermining the priceless conservation vision of Theodore Roosevelt as well. After ordering a review of 27 national monuments last spring, Mr. Trump is reported to have decided to greatly shrink two monuments covering millions of acres in Utah, weakening strict federal protections and reopening vast areas to possible commercial use." To read more, click here.

AAI Guide and Lead Guide Trainer Michael Powers
Teaches Self-Rescue at Red Rock Rendezvous

--AAI will once again have a large presence at the biggest and best climbing festival in America. Check out the Red Rock Rendezvous, running from March 16-19, 2018. Learn from our world-class climbing instructors and from the athletes you watch in the climbing movies and read about in the magazines...! To register, click here.

Colorado:

--One-handed rock climber Maureen Beck is beginning to make a name for herself. She was featured in a Reel Rock film entitled, Stumped and was -- this week -- featured in an ESPN article. Maureen has successfully climbed 5.12 and her Reel Rock film tells the story of her struggles to work up to that grade.

--Arapahoe Basin is opening a new area this winter. The 371 acre expansion will reportedly challenge steep skiers. To read about it, click here.

--The Know Outdoors is reporting that, "Marise Cipriani, the 22-year owner of Granby Ranch, is listing her 5,000-acre Grand County–ski and golf resort community for sale." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--AAI Guide Lindsey Fixmer made a successful trip to India's Zanskar Range on an all women's expedition. To read more, click here.

--There is a bill in Congress to gut the Antiquities Act. This is the act that allows for the creation of National Monuments. To take action against this congressional action, click here.

--Stacy Bare, a major advocate for veterans in the outdoors, wrote an interesting editorial about the outdoor industry and veterans. Stacy argues that many in the outdoor industry have made a lot of money by selling clothing and equipment to the military. Then he argues that outdoor brands owe veterans. To read his editorial, click here.

--Mara Johnson-Groh at Rock and Ice took a look at what's in store for climbers as the climate changes. Check out her excellent article, here.

--Chris Sharma is getting some flak for doing a commercial for a Ralph Lauren cologne. John Burgman at Climbing looks at the complex relationship that climbers have with their history and "selling out," here. Personally, I think this is a pretty good commercial and have wouldn't have even known what they were selling if someone didn't tell me. Check it out below:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Book Review: The Alchemy of Action by Doug Robinson

In 2001, I attended my first American Mountain Guides Association Annual Meeting in Yosemite Valley. I was standing at the campfire, looking for someone to talk to. I didn't really know anyone as I hadn't been guiding very long.

Suddenly, a small-statured man with white hair and muscular forearms offered me a beer. I accepted and was quickly stunned to find out that the man was a living legend:

Doug Robinson

Doug welcomed me to the meeting and I spent the evening talking to him. I was still a young guide and had a lot to learn. The wise old guide had a lot to say and I found it to be a very enjoyable night...

Doug is an incredibly well-known and respected climber and guide. He was at the forefront of the "clean climbing" movement in the early 1970s. He pushed back against the use of rock-altering pitons in favor of equipment that didn't damage the rock. In his essay, “The Whole Natural Art of Protection,” he argued for the use of "chalks" or what we refer to now as wired nuts in lieu of pins.

Doug did more than lecture his contemporaries. He practiced what he preached. In 1973, he made the first clean ascent of Half Dome. This and the subsequent article in National Geographic magazine cemented his place in climbing history.

Doug Robinson

In addition to leading the clean climbing revolution, Doug has been responsible for dozens of first ascents in the Sierra. Most notably, he made the first ascent of Dark Star on Temple Crag, made the first ice ascent of V-Notch Couloir, made numerous first ice ascents in Lee Vining Canyon, made the first ascent of Ice Nine, and finally he made the second ascent of Ama Dablam (22,495') in Nepal.

As a mountain guide, there may be no one more prolific. He was the first president of the American Mountain Guides Association and has been working as a rock and alpine guide for over fifty-years...

In addition to being a climber and a guide, Doug is a writer. And his most recent offering is a book that explores climbing in a very different way than anybody has previously. The question as to why people climb is as old as the sport; and people answer it in lots of different ways. Doug takes on the question and answers it in a completely new way. In his book, The Alchemy of Action, Doug argues that people climb because the activity releases a series of complex brain chemicals, which provide a feeling of euphoria. Indeed, the cover of his book reads:

Why do people climb mountains?
Because it gets us high.
But adrenaline junkies we are not,
and beta-endorphin isn't behind the runner's high either.
The surprising answer reveals natural psychedelic transformations
at work deep in the brains of adventure athletes.

The book is an exploration of brain chemistry through the lens of adventure sports. Doug looks at skiers and runners and climbers and delves into the complex cocktail of brain drugs that induce feelings of euphoria when climbing or the "runner's high."

There are five hormones that are released into the brain to create the feelings that we strive for in the mountains. They are noradrenaline, anandamine, serotonin, DMT, and dopamine.  Each of these are released for different reasons.

Note that adrenaline was not one of the hormones on the list. Adrenaline is a "fight-or-flight" chemical. It generally comes in a rush when something very dangerous almost happens. It is not really what people strive for in their mountain sports, the idea that climbers are "adrenaline junkies" is completely false.

Doug's book delves deeply into each of the chemicals and then discusses how they interact with an athlete and make him feel. He explores these through a mix of chapters on brain chemistry and active adventure stories, bringing us on a complex journey to understand why we actually climb mountains...

The Alchemy of Action is a little dense at times. There is a lot of science packed into the book. But there is also a lot of adventure in there. And while there are a few sections that take a lot of focus for someone who isn't "science-brained" to get through, it's well worth it. Doug's anecdotes and his take on what makes us do what we do is well worth the time...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, November 13, 2017

Route Profile: North Face Chair Peak

As winter descends on the Cascades, I find myself thinking about one of my favorite winter alpine climbs in the Pacific Northwest. The North Face of Chair Peak is a classic winter ascent that can easily be done in a day. It has a beautiful alpine face that gets covered in snow. The freeze thaw cycle turns the face from powder on rock to a spectacular three pitch alpine line.

The route is moderate and with the exception of one ten foot step, the bulk of it is between fifty and sixty-five degrees. That one step is perhaps eighty degrees, but it is very short and sometimes isn't even iced up. The first time I climbed the peak, that last section was 5.6 rock.

Chair Peak Approach Route
Click on map to enlarge.

 Approaching Chair Peak. The face in the center is the east face
To get to the north face, you must drop over the saddle on the right.

The approach to this climb is relatively straight forward. You simply park at the Alpental Ski Area and then make your way up the Alpental Valley to the end, where Chair Peak oversees the bowl beneath it.

(Click on the image to view a larger version.)
This photo shows the north face on the righthand side and the
two variations that one can take on the northeast buttress which
is a route of a similar grade to the north face.

There are two routes that should be considered on the mountain. The north face is the obvious one, but the northeast buttress is just as good. However, the northeast buttress often requires a bit more mixed climbing than the north face.

Approaching the north face. 


The first pitch of the route climbs up a cool corner and gully on thin alpine ground.


The second pitch works it way up steep snow and ice to a tree belay.

 A climber approaching the tree belay.


The third pitch makes its way up more thin terrain to another belay, before the last pitch goes over the aforementioned step up to the summit.

The descent off the mountain is straightforward. A couple of rappels bring you down a gully on the south side of the east face.

On a short winter day, you really can't beat an outing on Chair Peak!

--Jason D. Martin