Monday, October 5, 2015

Equipment Review: Camp Blitz Harness

The Camp Blitz Harness is designed as a versatile, lightweight all-mountain harness. The padding is light (but there) and you can remove the harness by undoing a series of buckles and clips and without needing to slip your legs through--which means you can whip off your harness while leaving your crampons or skis on.

While I love the principle behind this harness, it loses major points on comfort for the way the gear loops are designed. The gear loops are loose and floppy and, crucially, they are attached to the upper part of the waist belt rather than the lower part. This means that when you clip things to the loops, they tend to drag the upper part of the waist belt down and twist it. I've generally found this to be uncomfortable, but it was particularly bothersome on a Denali trip this year when I was dealing with a harness loaded with a lot of gear and then a 60-plus-pound pack on top of that. The waist belt twists all around and can end up riding up against your clothes and then directly against your skin. This is an issue that could easily be fixed by adding more structure to the waist belt and gear loops or moving the gear loops down lower on the waist so that it doesn't twist it.

Pluses for the harness are that it's light (just 7.7 ounces) and easy to take on and off. The belay loop floats freely rather than being permanently locked in to the waist belt, and unlike some other lightweight harnesses (like the Petzl Hirundos, for example) there are clips for the leg loops that you can undo rather than having permanently sewn loops. There's also a loop for hub racking carabiners, which makes it easy to carry ice screws. The fact that this harness has some padding on it (as opposed to the Black Diamond Couloir) makes this harness suitable for alpine rock climbing and ice climbing rather than just pure glacier walking. You wouldn't want to spend the whole day in a hanging belay in it, but you can put your weight in the harness without feeling like you're slowing cutting off circulation to your legs.

Camp has long been on the cutting-edge of lightweight climbing gear, and the first iteration of this harness has promise. But the gear loop issue is a major one, and while I want to love this harness, instead I think I'll just replace it.

-Shelby Carpenter, AAI Instructor and Guide

Friday, October 2, 2015

Replacing Anchor Cords for a Rappel

In cooperation with Outdoor Research, the American Mountain Guides Association has made several videos for beginning level climbers.

AMGA Instructor Team Member Margaret Wheeler demonstrates how to replace tat at an anchor.

Thread Cord Through:

Here are the stages of placing the cord as they are laid out in the video:

1) Cord through quick link
2) Through first bolt
3) Back through quick link
4) Through second bolt
5) Connect cord with double fisherman's knot
6) Equalize Strands
7) Tie Isolating Knot

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Climbing News from Here and Abroad - 10/1/15


--The Live Like Liz campaign to develop a new climbing facility at Tacoma's Point Defiance Park to celebrate the life of AAI Guide and professional snowboarder, Liz Daley had a hugely successful fundraiser over the weekend. Their goal was to raise $50,000. They did much better than that and raised $75,000!!!! To learn more about this awesome project to remember this awesome person, click here.

--The new Washington State Ski and Snowboard History project has found a permanent home at Snoqualmie Pass. To read about it, click here.

--The U.S. Forest Service has temporarily closed a northern Idaho hiking trail over concerns about aggressive mountain goats after one animal bit a hiker and others reportedly tried to head-butt or charge visitors. Scotchman Peak Trail, which leads to the summit of Bonner County's tallest mountain, was closed last week. To read more, click here.

--The book Crossing Zion will have a release party/presentation on October 1st at Village Books in Bellingham. To learn more, click here.

--Are non-profit ski hills the wave of the future...? Maybe for community hills. Check this out.

--Your first sniff when you open the car door at the North Cascades Visitor Center on the edge of Newhalem tells the story: Did you ever put your nose really close to a cold, dead campfire the morning after a wienie roast? That’s what Newhalem smells like. No mistaking that there have been wildfires nearby. To read more, click here.

--Aerial drops of fire retardant on wildfires are one of the most dramatic images of firefighting. But critics cite high cost, limited effectiveness and potential harm to fish. To read more, click here.

--For 24-years a people have been fighting a large scale ski resort from being developed on Jumbo Mountain in British Columbia's Purcell Mountains. Following is a trailer for a film to #KeepJumboWild.

--Some forests may not grow back after the intense burns. The New York Times has posted an article about the changing landscape of the West. To read it, click here.

--Today marks Yosemite's 125th birthday. To read more, click here.

--The drought crippling the West is the worst it has seen in 500 years—and maybe even in 1000 years. It’s so bad that it’s taking a toll on some of the region’s oldest and largest residents: California’s stately sequoia trees. To read more, click here.

--Here's an interesting accident report from a rescue that took place on Yosemite's Lurking Fear in mid-September. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A major national parks concessionaire has dropped efforts to trademark names of the Grand Canyon's most popular properties, including a group of rustic cabins, cottonwood trees and cantina on the canyon floor. Xanterra Parks & Resorts, based in Greenwood Village, applied for roughly 20 trademarks before its contract to manage hotels, restaurants and mule rides at the Grand Canyon's South Rim expired in December. It later won a temporary, one-year contract. To read more, click here.

--Zion National Park is now reevaluating its permit system in the wake of a flash flood that killed seven canyoneers. To read more, click here.

--The Joshua Tree Climb Smart Festival will run from October 16-18. To learn more, click here.


--A climber in the Capitol Peak area fell about 200 feet to his death Monday, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office said. A climber called authorities about 5:45 p.m. to report the man had fallen and that a third climber was stranded on a cliff band above the fallen climber near Christiana Peak at about 12,700 feet. To read more, click here.

--A 22-year-old climber was found dead Sunday morning after an apparent fall from a rock formation known as the Fifth Pinnacle. The Boulder County Sheriff's Office says he was not wearing protective equipment. To read more, click here.

--Already a banner year as it celebrates its 100th anniversary Rocky Mountain National Park is also poised to smash last year’s visitation record. Through August, the country’s fifth-most visited national park has attracted 2.9 million visitors, up 20 percent over the same time span last year, which ended as the busiest in the park’s history, with 3.4 million visitors. The park is on pace to draw more than 4.1 million visitors. To read more, click here.

--Visitors, volunteers and staff are helping Colorado Parks and Wildlife track wildlife in state parks with a mobile application. The Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald reports ( ) that the free smartphone app iNaturalist launched in mid-July and since then hundreds of observations have been entered into the State Parks NatureFinder project. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The tourism ministry of Nepal announced that it will seek a ban on climbers who don’t have mountaineering experience above 6500 meters, as well as those under 18, over 75, or dealing with disabilities. To read more, click here.

--The heroine of the Tomb Raider video game is apparently now and ice climber. The preceding image is in malls across the globe to promote the Rise of Tomb Raider.

--After a recent decision, it is highly likely that climbing will be a sport included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. To read more, click here.

--A Seattle-area woman has set a new speed record for an unsupported hike along the Appalachian Trail: 54 days, 7 hours, 48 minutes. To read more, click here.

--At one of the most popular winter riding destinations in Southcentral Alaska, backcountry conditions are getting a little bit more predictable and possibly safer for skiers and snowboarders. This fall, snow sensors designed to measure depth and temperature will be installed at Tincan Ridge in Turnagain Pass at 2,400 feet in a project led by the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center. To read more, click here.

--More mountain naming controversies...? You bet. Harney Peak in South Dakota is likely next. To read about it, click here.

--Here's an interesting article on what a summer of guiding does to the body...

--Trail Runner magazine is hiring.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Birth and Death of a Carabiner

A few weeks ago we put up a post on rope construction. Black Diamond has produced a little video entitled, "The Birth of a Carabiner." The video doesn't dwell on narration or anything else, it's just a quick peak inside a shop where carabiners are made.

Of course, once carabiners are made, a couple are tested from every batch. In other words, this is the death part of this blog.

The following video from Omega Pacific shows a force test on a carabiner. This is an awesome video. It's pretty intense to watch as the tester puts more and more and more pressure on it...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 28, 2015

Definitions for Beginners: Top-Rope vs. Lead vs. Bouldering vs. Free Solo

There is a legitimate concern that some have put forward concerning this blog. Occasionally, I get a little bit too techy and forget that climbers with a multitude of skill levels read these articles. It's good to step back a little bit sometimes and make sure that everyone is on board with some of the basics.

There are four terms that we use quite often on this blog.  First, the term top-rope.  Second, the term lead, as in lead-climber. Third, the term bouldering.  And fourth, the term free-soloing.  Following is a breakdown of these terms and their definitions.

Top-Rope Climber

A top-rope climber is a person who has a rope running from his or her harness, up to an anchor at the top of a cliff and then back down to a belayer at the base.  This is a standard technique, and it is the technique regularly used for beginning level climbers and at rock gyms.

A Climber Belays another Climber on Top-Rope in Joshua Tree National Park
Photo by Jason Martin

The value of a top-rope is that it is highly unlikely that a climber will fall very far.  The rope can be somewhat tight if the climber is a beginner or somewhat loose if he or she is comfortable.

Lead Climber

In essence, the lead climber is the guy that "gets the rope up there." A belayer pays out rope to a person as he climbs up.  The leader places rock protection as he goes and clips his rope to it.  He then continues climbing above the protection.  Should the leader fall ten feet above his last piece of protection, he will fall past his gear, and the belayer will catch him after he has fallen twenty feet.  The rope stretches so that the impact is not as great on the leader.

A Leader Working His Way Up a Climb

The act of falling on lead can be very safe, or quite dangerous.  It all depends on whether the fall is "clean" or not.  A clean fall means that there is nothing for the leader to hit.  A fall above a ledge or a protrusion could lead to serious injury.

Leading can be done in a very responsible way that limits one's exposure to danger.  But it does take a lot of training and practice to bring one's abilities to such a level where he or she has a good understanding of what kind of gear placements will hold a fall and what kind will not.


Bouldering is one of the fastest growing types of climbing.  In this, a climber does not use a rope, but also does not climb more than a few feet off the ground.  A boulderer is focused on making a handful of hard moves and will often work on those moves for a long period of time before completing a sequence.

Most boulderers use a pad or commercial bouldering mattress to protect themselves from ground-falls.  Every climber who falls bouldering hits a mat or the ground, as such there is some danger involved in the sport. 

Free Soloing

Often confused with free climbing, (which is simply climbing without the use of direct aid, but with a rope) free soloing is the art of climbing a route without a rope.

Obviously free soloing is the most dangerous type of climbing that there is.  If an individual falls in this situation, survival is highly unlikely.

Climbing is a varied sport with many different aspects to it.  Not every aspect is for every person.  Ultimately, the amount of risk that you choose to engage in within the sport is completely up to you. Indeed, the level of accomplishment you feel engaging in any kind of climbing is also completely personal.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 25, 2015

Snake Bites: First Aid and Prevention

As the climbing season in the Southwest goes through the high season of March and April, I am often asked about snakes. Are there snakes in Red Rock? Are there snakes in Joshua Tree? Are they dangerous?

The answer to all three questions is yes...and no. There are rattlesnakes in both Red Rock and Joshua Tree, but they are uncommon in both venues. Large populations of predatory birds help keep the snake populations low. It is unlikely that you will encounter a snake in either location. And even if you do, the likelihood of a problem with a snake is very low.

Mojave Rattlesnake
Statistically the mostly likely group of individuals to be bitten by a snake are between the ages of 15 and 25 years-old and are male. Most of these bites take place on the hands or forearms. I couldn't find any statistics about the involvement of alcohol in snake bites.

Based on my last sentence, what do you suppose such statistics suggest?

Yep, you guessed it. They're messing with them.

Millions of people live, work and play in the same places where snakes live, work and play. In the continental United States less than 8,000 people are bitten by snakes every year and as stated above, a large percentage of them are literally asking for it.

In the unlikely event that somebody in your party does receive a snakebite, don't panic and try to keep the victim calm. Many snakebites happen because the snake is defending itself. When a snake bites out of defense it is less likely to envenomate. So there is the possibility that there is no venom in the bite. So there may be nothing to panic about.

If there is venom in the bite, panicking will only raise one's heart-rate and allow the venom to move more quickly through the system. It is incredibly important to keep the victim calm. Remove any jewelry or rings from any extremity that has been bitten. If there is venom in the bite, there will be significant swelling -- so much that a ring could become stuck, cutting off blood flow and ultimately causing the loss of a finger.

In the old movies, John Wayne loved to cut open a snakebite to suck out the venom. John Wayne was apparently unaware of hepatitis, HIV, cytomegalovirus or any of a number of other blood-borne dangers. Doctors and nurses don't wear latex gloves for nothing. Sucking venom out of a wound flies in the face of a basic tenant of first aid, body substance isolation.

Obviously if someone is bitten by a snake, call for emergency assistance immediately. Responding quickly is crucial. While waiting for emergency assistance:
  • Wash the bite with soap and water.
  • Immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than the heart.
  • Cover the area with a clean, cool compress or a moist dressing to minimize swelling and discomfort.
  • Monitor vital signs.
If a victim is unable to reach medical care within 30 minutes, the American Red Cross recommends:
  • Apply a bandage, wrapped two to four inches above the bite, to help slow the venom. This should not cut off the flow of blood from a vein or artery - the band should be loose enough to slip a finger under it.
  • It is possible to place a suction deviceover the bite to help draw venom out of the wound without making cuts. These devices are often included in commercial snake bite kits. However, the value of these devices is debatable.
Physicians often use antivenin -- an antidote to snake venom -- to treat serious snake bites. Antivenin is derived from antibodies created in a sheep's blood serum when the animal is injected with snake venom. Because antivenin is obtained from horses, snake bite victims sensitive to horse products must be carefully managed.

The best way to avoid a snakebite is to avoid a snake. If you see one, don't mess with it. Both you and the snake will be much happier in the long-run.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/24/15


--Linn County Sheriff's Search and Rescue on Monday afternoon recovered the body of a mountain climber from Bend who fell several hundred feet and died Sunday near the summit of Three Fingered Jack in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness. To read more, click here.

Liz Daley guides a climber up the North Ridge of Mt. Baker.

--On Saturday, September 26th, there will be an event in Tacoma celebrating the life of AAI Guide Liz Daley. Liz was tragically killed in an avalanche last September. This event is a fundraiser to build a climbing park called Liz Rocks at Point Defiance Park. To read more, click here.

--Timberline Lodge, the only ski area in the United States to offer near year-round skiing, is facing a dilemma. The Palmer Snowfield on which Timberline Lodge offers skiing and riding is melting, fast. In a rare move, Timberline Lodge closed early this year due to lack of snow. To read more and see photos, click here.

--The U.S. Forest Service is moving 15,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil from popular hiking trails near the Monte Cristo mine in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The site was a gold dig area for decades starting in the early 1890s. Miners left waste rock behind, filled with high levels of arsenic and lead. USFS received $11 million from a bankruptcy settlement to fund the project, which has drawn criticism. Some believe the landfill where the dirt is going to be stored has not been properly stabilized. It is also less than 200-feet from Glacier Creek and hiking trails. To read more, click here.

--The book Crossing Zion will have a release party/presentation on October 1st at Village Books in Bellingham. To learn more, click here.

--After being closed for a period of time, the Three Fingers Lookout is open again...

--So, a father and son team shot a bear with an arrow. The bear was angry and came after them. And now -- unless the bear died -- there's a bear running around out there somewhere with an arrow sticking out of it... To read more, click here.

--A camera was found near the Goat Flats in the Three Fingers area. The person who found it has the memory card. To read more, click here.


--It appears that there was a fatality on Mt. Whitney last week during a rain storm. However, there is little information on it at this time. Supertopo has a thread on the incident, here.

--Ski mountaineer and guide Bela Vadasz died last Tuesday. Outside of California’s Sierra Nevada, many may not know his name, but his impact on the backcountry community stretched far across the world. To read more, click here.

--A young mountain lion is fighting for his life after rescuers were lucky enough to find him among the rubble and ruins of California's rampant wildfires. The 3- to 4-month-old cub was found early last week, underweight and singed from the flames. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A hiker was injured in Ice Box Canyon this week. To read more, click here.


--A federal jury on Monday convicted a Colorado man of murdering his wife by shoving her from a cliff while they hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park on their 12th wedding anniversary. Harold Henthorn, 59, had claimed that his wife fell 130 feet to her death while pausing to take a picture on Sept. 29, 2012. But after 10 hours of deliberations, the jury in Denver convicted him of first-degree murder. A life sentence is mandatory when he is formally sentenced in December. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A climber was rescued at Hanging Rock State Park Thursday night in North Carolina. To read more, click here.

--A climber was injured in a fall at Signal Mountain in Tennessee. To read more, click here.

--The American Safe Climbing Association is making a push for funds to replace bolts throughout the US. To read more, click here.

--O Friday, the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources’ ranking member, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona), and five other Democrats formally introduced a new bill in an effort to bring more funding to national parks, according to Environment & Energy Publishing. To read more, click here.

--The National Park Service announced Monday that electronic cigarette use is now banned anywhere smoking is prohibited on its vast and far-flung landholdings. National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis publicly announced the new policy in a press release, describing it as a step to safeguard people’s health – fighting words for advocates of the devices, which vaporize liquid that's generally laced with nicotine. To read more, click here.

--Here's a nice article on why we need more female outdoor leaders...

--A youth climbing team in Alaska is looking for funds to travel to climbing competitions. To learn more, click here.