Friday, October 11, 2019

Route Profile: East Face Standard, Third Flatiron

The Third Flatiron, perched about Boulder, CO, is a fantastic outing at a very moderate level. Many would argue this is one of the finest introductory multi-pitch climbs on the continent, with 800-1,000 feet of climbing at low to mid 5th class. As always, the route information below is no substitute for good judgement/experience/instruction and should not be relied on in any capacity. Keep in mind that there are many different variations to this route (most any pitch, variations are quite climbable 20+ feet to either side of the standard line, though leader protection may be more variable/difficult to find).

The third flatiron, can you see the large CU on the east face's upper reaches?
The approach can be done a few different ways, but allow for ~45 minutes at an average, casual pace. Pitch one begins at the top of the approach trail, with a gentle traverse. Anchoring the belayer at the tree immediately where the pitch starts is highly recommended given the anticipated load (in the event that the leader fell) would naturally pull the belayer off their stance, sideways. Pitch one ends in a variety of different places, but it is common to belay after crossing the "gully".

A climber near one of the belay options on the first pitch. In the center left part of the photo climbers are about to start the first pitch.
Pitches 2-4 can be pitched out in a variety of ways, but regardless, the general line is directly straight up. Aiming for the large eye bolts can be helpful but they can be quite difficult to find and aren't necessary to climb the route.

The beige line of rock going across the photo is the bottom of the "C" and is a common belay spot.
Years ago, Boulder's most famous vandalism occurred on this route with large 50 foot letters getting painted onto the rock's face, spelling out CU (Colorado University- where it's main campus is located in Boulder). The CU is a useful landmark for route-finding by looking for the lightly colored rock.

A gentle upward traverse across the C makes up pitch 4/5 depending on how parties pitched out the climbing below. The gully at the top right side of the CU is quite moderate and has an eye bolt marking the route, with a very short downclimb before crossing to the upper face. Crossing this gully in several places other than what was just described would involve hard down climbing or a rappel.

From the eye bolt at the top right of the C, two pitches are typically done, with airy exposure and fun friction climbing. These generally are directly trending straight up above the belay, with the final pitch trending right at the very end.

A climber on the final few feet of friction climbing before reaching the summit.
The rappels are done in a variety of ways, but a common way to do them: one long rappel (with a 60 meter rope) skipping a set of chains right next to a large block and heading down to the final anchors (there are two different anchors, a single eye bolt and a more modern two-bolt w/chains rap station). Pulling the rope from further right may assist the drag and chances of a stuck rope. For the last rappel, VERY IMPORTANT, there are signs attached to the anchors describing the rappel lengths depending on which side you rap off the ledge. One side requires two ropes, the other side is a 70 foot rappel and is easily done with one 60 meter rope. Take your time, leave knots in the ends of your rope and be deliberate about which side of the anchor ledge you are rappelling off of.

A climber almost done with the last rappel.
The East Face of the Third Flatiron is a must-do for every climber (who has the requisite experience). The exposure, the scenery, and the "type one fun" nature of this route will leave most any climber grinning from ear to ear as they finish the last rappel. Hiking back to the car, many may even try to climb a moderate boulder problem or two as they make the ~40 minute jaunt back, topping off this quintessential  Boulder outing.









  

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/10/19

Northwest:


--The American Alpine Institute will be hosting Conrad Anker on November 14th at the Mt. Baker Theatre. Proceeds from his talk will go to Protect Our Winters and to the Whatcom Family YMCA. To read more, or to purchase tickets, click here.

--Seattle Mountain Rescue is hosting an event on October 24th at the Seattle REI on the most common types of backcountry rescues and how to avoid them. Check out their Facebook event page, here.

--Last week, the Squamish Access Society presented their 2019 Golden Scrub Brush Awards. These bi-annual awards are given to route developers who put in time and effort to create new lines in Squamish. To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--The Sierra Sun is reporting that, "It may be early fall, but Boreal Mountain Resort has already fired up its snowmaking equipment in preparation for the 2019-20 winter season. The resort began making snow on Monday, testing gear, priming lines, and aiming guns where they need to be for a prompt opening once conditions are ripe." To read more, click here.

--The Taboose Fire is 75% contained, but there are still some closures and smoky conditions on Highway 395. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--If you're climbing in Las Vegas, keep an eye out for this guy's gear. His truck and all his gear was stolen...

A climber on Caustic (5.11b) in Red Rock Canyon.
Photo by Caden Martin

--In related news, it appears that there is a rise in theft in Red Rock, primarily on vehicles that have unlocked doors. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Aspen Daily News is reporting that, "Emergency personnel rescued a sick climber near Capitol Lake on Saturday and airlifted him to Aspen Valley Hospital, according to a news release from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office." To read more, click here.

--The Hill is reporting that, "A federal judge on Monday ruled that legal action can proceed against the Trump administration's move to reduce the size of Utah's Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument." To read more, click here.

--Outside has an interesting take on the National Park Service's decision to allow ATVs in Utah's National Parks. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--So after the president said that he had 20 mountain climbers try to climb his border wall, and nobody in the climbing community knew what he was talking about, a guy in Kentucky built a replica of the wall. This weekend there's going to be a climbers competition to see, not if anyone could climb it, but how fast. To read more, click here.

--The annual Night of Lies will take place in Canmore on October 11th. Famously, this is a night where several select climbers tell mildly embellished stories about their exploits. It has become an important piece of Canadian climbing culture. To read more, click here.

--It's exciting for the SAR and mountain rescue communities to see drones used effectively in searches. Check out this article on a successful search with a drone.

--The ice season is already here in the Canadian Rockies. According to Gripped, "Niall Hamill and Patrick Maguire made the first ascent of Tourist Trap, a 500-metre 5.8 WI3 on Mount Babel near Moraine Lake above the town of Lake Louise." To read more, click here.

--Patagonia is trying to reduce its environmental footprint at the Outdoor Retailer Show. To read about it, click here.

--And finally, a deer jumped through the window of a Long Island hair salon. Check out the security video of the chaos below:

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Professional Lowdown on Mountain Weather Sources: Benefits/Limitations and Application of Each

As a guide, I spend nearly every day of the year analyzing mountain weather. Throughout my experience, I learned about many different weather products that each have their place; but, like systems used in the mountains, require very specific application to be relevant. My guests often ask me about the pros/cons of each weather source I use; so, to answer to this demand, as well as your own, here’s a discussion of my favorite weather products. This post will focus on products specifically to planning your alpine climbing adventures. Enjoy!

Product Name: SpotWx (https://spotwx.com/)

SpotWx Forecast Options for Mt. Baker.
Pros:
• Utilizes GPS point location for your forecast anywhere on Earth. Hence, forecast spatial scale and accuracy are quite good.
• One product offers many options for weather models depending on 1) how small of a spatial scale (i.e. area you want your forecast for) and 2) how long your temporal scale you want (i.e. how far in the future do you want your forecast for)
• Weather data presented in a meteogram format that is generally pretty easy to understand
• Pieces of data I’ve found most accurate: -cloud cover, -winds, -pressure

Cons:
• Requires some expert-knowledge to know which weather model is good for what
• Doesn’t offer percent chance of precip like many other forecasts do (only offers precip. amount)
• Utilizes weather models rather than recorded data from a weather station
• Pieces of data I’ve found least accurate: -precip likelihood.

Application:

Generally this is my most used source when I’m alpine guiding in summer months on Mt. Baker, North Cascades, WA Pass, etc. It’s particularly powerful in these applications because of the spatial accuracy of the GPS point forecast, which can give me a specific forecast for a remote, mountainous region; but also because it offers both small-scale, short term forecasts and large-scale long- term forecasts. Hence using one website, I can fetch information on both exactly what is planning to happen tomorrow (with very good accuracy) and what is happening next week.

Product Name: Mountain Forecast (https://www.mountain-forecast.com/)

Screenshot of a Mountain Forecast Weather Forecast for Mt. Baker.
Pros:
• Specific to a certain mountain
• One of the few forecasts that has FLs and weather at multiple elevation bands
• Generally a long-enough temporal scale to be useful (forecast goes out 6 days)

Cons:
• Notoriously inaccurate at forecasting cloud cover
• Because it’s just a presentation of data, it’s unknown as to where the data is coming from
• Not all mountains you want to climb are represented in the database

Application:

Okay so this one’s probably not that new to people, but I’d like to highlight what pieces of data are best in an alpine-climbing context. I use this in tandem with SpotWx because SpotWx doesn’t give me data for multiple elevation bands on a single mountain. This one does, and this is its greatest asset. I use this for FLs and temperatures. I’ve found the cloud cover to be WAYY off on this product; but hey, that’s why I use it in tandem with SpotWx.

Product Name: Meteocentre (http://meteocentre.com/)

Example of a snapshot of the precipitation loop on Meteocentre.
Pros:
• Great overall depiction of storms, major fronts, etc
• One website has data on forecasts, surface analyses, satellite imagery, radar, etc
• Utilizes multiple weather models and weather products, so once you gain experience with a specific model, can be quite dependable

Cons:
• Whole website is in French, so need a browser with a translation function
• Requires some meteorology knowledge to interpret diagrams
• Depicts the overall weather situation, rather than specific data

Application:

Last but not least, I use this source to get a general idea of what kind of major weather system is happening in my area. Where Mountain Forecast and SpotWx lack is in the department of only showing weather model data, rather than the model itself. This is where Meteocentre shines. After selecting a model loop of your choice, you can view animations of the overall weather set-up for a large area (i.e. all of N. America, Europe, etc). This is useful to know if, or when a major storm is about to arrive, and whether you’ve got mostly H pressure (send it!) or L pressure (it’s about to get stormy).

That’s all for now! If you have any questions with any of these products’ uses, feel free to contact me at http://www.zackwentz.com/contact

Monday, October 7, 2019

Sport Climbing: The Art of Clipping

Neil Gresham's Climbing Masterclass on youtube is pretty darn good. In the following video, Neil works through the essentials of clipping on sport climbs. He looks at several bad ways to attain your clips and then works through the good ways.

Clipping is such a basic thing in sport climbing, or any type of bolted climbing, that it seems intuitive. But it's not. And knowing how to do it well, will lead to a lot more success...


--Jason D. Martin

Friday, October 4, 2019

Tips to Prepare for The Casual Route on the Diamond

The Diamond of Longs Peak is one of the most recognized alpine walls in the World. While relatively not the highest or the longest wall- it's close proximity to major cities and high quality route-offerings makes the Diamond an undisputed classic. The Casual Route will be many people's first route, here are some tips for preparation. Disclaimer: As always, these are tips and does not replace requisite experience and/or guidance.

A climber on the final traverse pitch of the Casual Route

1) Rock Climb!
First and foremost, the Diamond is a rock climb (as long as you choose to climb it in the summer season) so getting comfortable as a 5.10 trad leader is paramount. Route link-ups like Handcracker Direct to Yellow Spur, in Eldorado Canyon, make great preparation climbs. For both the leader and follower it is recommended to be able to climb 5.10 consistently without hanging on the rope (sport climbing doesn't hurt, but trad climbs are where the mileage should be spent).

A climber on a 5.10 route in Eldorado Canyon

2) Mileage in RMNP 
Rocky Mountain National Park is the veritable climber's playground in the US. Climbing a "classics" progression will not only prepare one for the Diamond, it'll be super fun! One example of many progression potentials might be: South Face, Petit Grepon (III, 5.8) to Culp-Bossier (III, 5.8+) to Flying Buttress, Flying Buttress (III, 5.9+/5.10) to The Barb (III, 5.10). Regardless of the specific routes in RMNP used for preparation, aim for a minimum of three grade III climbs on alpine rock (preferably in RMNP) with atleast one of them reaching 5.10 in difficulty.

Two climbers on the North face of Hallett Peak
3) Train Specifically
Train specifically for the objective you're teeing up for. Uphill Athlete has some fantastic options to train for rock alpinism- these will likely be helpful for anyone aspiring to climb the Casual Route.

4) Do Your Homework
There are dozens of resources for Casual Route descriptions, gather multiple descriptions and learn the route well beforehand (this includes the North Chimney approach to the Diamond-if that is the chosen approach of the party). Staying on-route is critical both for efficiency and safety, and for the North Chimney getting off-route could mean putting other parties below you at risk (due to rock fall).

A climber ascends the North Chimney- a common place to get off-route
5) Acclimatize
The classic tip! The crux of the Casual Route is at the very top (at 14,000 feet) so spending some time at upper elevations in the Rockies before your climb will dramatically improve how you feel on the Diamond.

A climber on the crux pitch of the Casual Route

6) Learn and Practice Self Rescue
Large alpine climbs are committing, and you and your partner both should be competent with key concepts to perform a self-rescue, mountain rescue in the US can be hours to days away depending on where and when you are.


The Diamond in the early-season rock conditions of June 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/3/19

Climate Crisis:

--The headline at the Daily Beast is, "Italy and France Prepare for Imminent Collapse of Mont Blanc Glacier." Several areas are being evacuated. "Italian civil protection authorities took the extreme measure of closing down the Italian side of Mont Blanc due to the imminent threat of around 9 million cubic feet of ice breaking away from the Planpincieux glacier on the Grandes Jorasses mountain on the Mont Blanc massif. To get an idea of how big that is, that much ice would make 67.3 million gallons of water if it melted." To read more, click here.

--Protect Our Winters is reporting that, "The International Ski Federation has signed onto a U.N. climate change initiative in a move some view as a welcome about-face from its president, whose comments about environmentalists alarmed leaders in the ski and snowboard community. FIS announced Wednesday that it had joined the U.N. Sports for Climate Action Framework and made it part of its sustainability policy." To read more, click here.

Northwest:

--There's another opportunity out there to comment on the grizzly reintroduction plan to the Cascades. To read more, click here.

--Climbing is reporting on the potential end of #VanLife in Squamish. "Earlier this year, Squamish County proposed Bylaw No. 2679, containing regulations that would prohibit all overnight camping, whether in a tent or a vehicle, in public spaces. It allows for two exempt areas more than seven miles outside town, down 4x4 roads; anyone caught camping outside these zones could be fined up to $10,000. While the bylaw, which needs to go through three readings (it has been through one already) is still under review, it has faced community opposition throughout. A lot is at stake: The outcome could create a template for not only Squamish but other outdoor towns across North America." To read more, click here.

--It's started to snow. Maybe winter will be early...?


--The American Alpine Institute will be joining the Northwest Avalanche Center as they host the thirteenth annual Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop (NSAW) on Sunday, October 20th at Seattle Town Hall. NSAW is the region’s largest gathering of snow and avalanche professionals and backcountry recreationists who work and travel in avalanche terrain. Event details and tickets can be found, here.

--The Seattle Times is reporting that, "Two former Hood Canal-area residents have been indicted on eight federal felony counts stemming from an effort to burn a bees nest that was interfering with their attempts to illegally harvest a valuable maple tree in the Olympic National Forest. Their attempt to burn the beehive resulted in a forest fire that consumed 3,300 acres and cost $4.5 million to fight, according to an indictment unsealed Monday." To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--The Tahoe Daily Tribune is reporting that, "The Tahoe community is rallying behind Robb Gaffney, an influential skier and activist for the Keep Squaw True movement, after he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone marrow cancer over the summer." To read more, click here. To donate to Robb's GoFundMe page, click here.

--They're having a party in Lone Pine on October 5th to celebrate the establishment of the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area in March. To read about the party and the Scenic Area, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Redlands Daily Facts is reporting that, "Joshua Tree National Park visitors will have a chance to weigh in on the increasingly popular park’s future. Park staff will host community meetings in Joshua Tree, Los Angeles and the Coachella area in October to get feedback on ways to improve the park’s management, from protecting natural and cultural resources to handling capacity issues." To read more, and to see dates and locations of feedback sessions, click here.

--Former Outside editor Axie Navis has just been hired to work as the director for New Mexico's new Office of Outdoor Recreation. To read more, click here.

--Alex Honnold, famous free-soloist and Las Vegas resident, gave Outside a list of his favorite places to climb in Southern Nevada. To read about it, click here.

--Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area has changed the hours for the Scenic Drive. The drive will be open from 6am to 7pm. If you need to obtain a Late Exit permit because you are climbing a long multi-pitch, call 702-515-5050.

Colorado and Utah:

--SGB Media is reporting that, "Vail Resorts Inc. officially expanded its empire Tuesday when the Broomfield, CO-based ski area owner and operator closed on its previously announced $264 million acquisition of Peak Resorts Inc. Peak’s shareholders a few days earlier voted to approve the deal for a purchase price of $11 a share, formally paving the way for Vail 17 to add new ski areas to its already massive portfolio, which now stands at 37 resorts worldwide." To read more, click here.

--DPS Cinematic, the award-winning film division of DPS Skis, is proud to debut 'Stone’s Throw,' a short film featuring Koala (team athlete) Dash Longe. The world premiere, which will also serve as a fundraiser for Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah), takes place at The Commonwealth Room in Salt Lake City on Oct. 3, 2019 – $8 tickets and further information can be found at: bit.ly/stonesthrowslc. In cooperation with presenting partner Teton Gravity Research, 'Stone’s Throw' will launch online Oct. 8, 2019 on tetongravity.com. Check out the trailer below:



--The Flatirons Climbing Council posted the following on MountainProject: "We are looking for Volunteers to help out with trail stewardship work at Overhang Rock and Third Flatiron on Sunday, October 20 as part of the REEL ROCK 14 world premiere taking place on October 17,18 in Boulder.  The trail projects are being sponsored by OSMP in collaboration with Flatirons Climbing Council and The Front Range Climbing Stewards." To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that there will be a talk at the Banff Mountain Film Festival about climbers in avalanches. "Over the last 22 years, 43 per cent of all the avalanche fatalities in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks have been climbers and mountaineers Climbers and avalanches are a dangerous mix in Canada’s mountains. On November 3rd there will be a panel discussion on the topic at the Banff Mountain Film Festival." One of the speakers will be former AAI Guide Chantel Astorga. To read more, click here.

--We say it and say it again. Stay away from wild animals. Leave them alone. They're not pets. A couple of people were attacked in Estes Park last week. Check out a video below:




--Rock and Ice got suckered by an internet troll. And so did we. The story went that a team in the Flat Irons had a rack stolen mid-pitch. The person who posted the story on MountainProject stuck to his guns when he was called. We reposted the story on our Facebook page. But alas, the MountainProject poster confessed that it was all a big joke. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Climbing magazine and many other outlets are reporting that Phil Powers, the CEO of the American Alpine Club, will be stepping down from that position. To read about it, click here.

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "in September 2019, Dani Arnold sets a new record time at the Cima Grande. He climbs the 550-meter (1800') north face over the Comici-Dimai route in 46 minutes 30 seconds." The Comici-Dami route is a 19-pitch 5.10c on Cima Grande in the Sexten Dolomites of northeastern Italy. To read more, click here. To see a video of the ascent, click below.



--The Hill is reporting that, "William Pendley, the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), has released a 17-page recusal list highlighting a number of people, companies and advocacy groups he must avoid while working at the agency. The disclosure shows Pendley’s ties to a number of industries that BLM regulates as it works to balance energy, grazing and recreational interests along with conservation." To read more, click here.

--And here's a lot more on the developing problems with the BLM from Outside.

--Outside is reporting on an amazing woman. "In May, Kirby Morrill was nearly murdered during a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Four months later, she climbed Maine's highest peak, the route's terminus." To read more, click here.

--The Billings Gazette is reporting that, "Sarah Davis has been named the first female chief ranger in Yellowstone National Park's history and the 18th chief ranger in the more than 100-year history of park management by the National Park Service." To read more, click here.

--Speaking of Yellowstone...a guy got drunk and went for a walk, into Old Faithful. From CNN: "A 48-year-old man suffered severe burns after falling into a hot spring at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming late Sunday night, the National Park Service announced. Cade Edmond Siemers told park rangers that he took a walk off the boardwalk without a flashlight and tripped into the thermal water near the cone of Old Faithful Geyser, the NPS said in a statement. The park warns on its website that visitors are to always walk on the boardwalks." To read more, click here.

--There are going to be some changes coming for the Pacific Crest Trail long distance permit. To learn more, click here.

--Robert Jasper completed a rope solo first ascent on the infamous North Face of the Eiger. To read about it and to watch a video, click here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Which Desert Tower Should Be My First?

Desert towers are among the most unique formations climbers can lay their hands on. These beautiful and surreal gems can be intimidating, but tower climbing comes in all shapes and sizes. Many experienced climbers will recommend easing into desert climbing so here are a few classics that are more amicable for tower initiates. Disclaimer: None of these towers should be considered "safe" and should not be attempted without requisite experience and/or seek qualified instruction/guidance.

Climbers enjoy the summit of South Sixshooter

West Crack, The Owl (1 pitch, 5.8)
Arches National Park is a beautiful place to visit, and even moreso a beautiful place to climb. The Owl is about as friendly as desert tower climbing gets (which is indeed all relative) with a 2 minute approach and 1 pitch of 5.8 crack climbing with a beautiful tower summit. Chances are you'll also get a fair share of hikers and tourists taking photos of your climb from the road.

South Face, South Sixshooter (3 pitches, 5.7-.8)
South Sixshooter is a classic climb with a much longer approach than The Owl, but far more serene. This tower is located in the crack climbing mecca of Indian Creek and gifts three pitches of climbing to another beautiful summit. The last pitch has a poorly protected mantle before clipping a bolt and enjoying a few airy face moves before the summit. The rating of this tower is a bit debatable depending on who you talk to, confident 5.8 trad leaders will feel more comfortable with the last pitch. Again, if in doubt- find an alternative tower route.

Climbers approach the South Face of South Sixshooter (3 pitches, 5.7/8)
Stolen Chimney, Ancient Art (4 pitches, 5.8 A0 or 5.10+)
This is one of the most photographed summits in the desert (and in American rock climbing for that matter). Expect crowds on this classic route and consider an early or a late start. The rock in this area (Fisher Towers) is questionable at best but this route offers relatively better rock for the area and better gear. Two short bolt ladders can easily be aided (just draw-pulling) or freed at 5.10+. The short final pitch is truly unique!

North Chimney, Castleton (4 pitches, 5.9)
Many will choose the famed Kor-Ingalls as their first tower route but it involves "old school" wider climbing that may feel sandbagged and bakes in the sun (I haven't heard many moderate climbers that were "pleased" with their first climb being on Kor-Ingalls). On the opposite side of Castleton, The North Chimney is still stout but many find it to be more amicable. For any route, Castleton is a serious tower and should be treated as such!

From Left to Right: The Rectory, The Nuns/Priest, and Castleton