Friday, October 31, 2014

Film Review: Blood Glacier

Happy Halloween!

I really wanted to do something fun for the Halloween blog today, but couldn't think of anything too unique, so I decided to watch a "Climbing Horror Movie."

You probably didn't think that was a genre. But I found one. And it was a doozy...

I really really wanted to like Blood Glacier. It's a horror movie that was actually shot in the mountains, with people who appear to know something about the mountains. It's a film where a climber could have suspended their disbelief...

...but the horror elements were so bad and the story was so hokey, that nobody else possibly could have.


There were several indicators that this film experience might not work out.

I know. I know.

The first and most obvious indicator was the title.  But there were several other indicators in the first couple minutes of the movie. It was produced by IFC Midnight, which essentially is an indicator that it's going to be a B-level film from the get-go. Additionally, as the film opened, they showed glaciers and mountains, which would suddenly go from pristine to a filtered red at the same time they played jarring music.

Oh yeah, and the film was dubbed too. I think it might have been made by Germans...or something. It's hard to tell while watching it. But it was indeed shot in the Alps.

The bloody glacier in Blood Glacier.
Click on the photo to expand it in its awful gory bloody glacierness.

A group of climate scientists are studying glaciers in a remote corner of the Alps. They discover that a glacier appears to bleeding. Unbeknownst to them, the "blood" coming from the glacier is mutating the local wildlife. Essentially the bacteria in the substance creates hybrid animals. If an animal ate something, the new hybrid would have characteristics of both the host and the thing the animal ate. And of course the hybrid is born the same way an alien from the Alien franchise is born, by bursting out of the host's body.

This presents a bit of a problem for the scientists. You know, because for some reason the prime minister is on her way up to the hut with the hero's ex-girlfriend and lots of other people to get attacked by hybrid blood glacier monsters.

This movie was bad enough that I don't really expect many of you to see it. So I'm going to spoil it for you. If you don't want it spoiled. Don't read another word.

It turns out that the hero and his girlfriend were going to have a baby. She had an abortion and regretted it. She wanted a baby with him...

Which is good because an infected dog licked the hero's blood and had a hyrbid dog-baby-thing burst out of it's stomach which the pair adopted as their own.

For some reason this doesn't seem very plausible.



My favorite line of the entire movie takes place when a woman who is sobbing is also eating a banana. The Prime Minister screams at her, "stop eating that banana while you're crying!" I did in fact laugh quite hard at that moment of the film...

So the story and the dialogue is pretty laughable, but so are the monsters. It seems like we've been spoiled with monsters for several years on the big screen that look real. Some of these are done with CGI and others are done with puppetry and make-up. The most believable looking monsters actually use a combination of both.

The monsters in this movie are so bad that it's hard not to laugh at them. They look like something that a high school drama scene shop with no budget might produce for a teenage haunted house. They're terrible...and kind of funny.

I really really wanted to like Blood Glacier, but I didn't. The hokiness provided some laughs, but it wasn't really worth an hour and a half of my time...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/30/14

Northwest:

--The Washington Transportation Department has closed its first section of a highway for the winter. With snow on the ground and more forecast, crews closed the gate Thursday on Highway 542 from the Mount Baker Ski area to Artist Point.  To read more, click here.

--It was eleven years ago this week that a powerful storm roared through the North Cascades, causing severe flooding and cutting off access to one of the state's largest wilderness areas. Now this weekend, there is cause for celebration. Outdoor enthusiasts can now access hiking trails and back country using the Suiattle River Road, seven miles north of Darrington, which has been blocked by storm damage since 2003. To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--The Inyo National Forest Prepares for Potential Winter Road Closures. The Inyo National Forest is preparing for the week-end storm in the forecast. The forest may implement winter closures for roads that access the Reds Meadow Valley and Mammoth Lakes Basin areas of the Inyo National Forest. To read more, click here.

--The system that moved through Sunday was cold enough that at least two Sierra ski resorts started making snow in advance of opening slopes in November. Both Heavenly Mountain Resort and Squaw Valley USA started making snow with the latest system. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A San Jose, California, climber has died while attempting the 10-pitch Iron Messiah (5.10) in Zion National Park on Sunday, according to the National Park Service. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

A vandalized rock above Crater Lake, painted by Casey Nocket
Nocket is now being investigated for vandalizing several national parks.

--A New York woman with a seriously misguided Banksy complex took a trip out West and regurgitated her “artwork” all over the region’s national parks. This is one of those cases where art can objectively be called terrible: The woman appears to have used acrylic paint to deface rocks and cliff surfaces in 10 parks across five states — including Yosemite, Crater Lake, Grand Canyon, Death Valley, Sequoia, Kings Canyon, Joshua Tree, Zion, Rocky Mountain and Bryce National Parks — and then had the audacity to brag about it on social media. To read more, click here.

--Archaeologists working in Norway have found a 1,300 year-old ski with the binding and leather straps still attached. The discovery, made possible because of melting ice, shows that Vikings were able to move fast and steady on the snow. It's one of only 20 pre-modern skis to be found in Norway, and only the second with bindings (the other being from Finland). To read more, click here.

--It appears that GoPro might pursue legal action against a journalist who blamed a GoPro camera mount for an accident. To read more, click here.

--In related news, GOPRO popularized the action-ready, ultraportable little cameras that make already exciting exploits look amazing. But faced with new competition at lower prices, maybe GoPro has gone too pro for most consumers. To read more, click here.

Pamela Pack Crawling up a Deep Offwidth Crack
Photo by Fred Marmstater

--World Class Off-Width climber Pamela Pack recently wrote an excellent piece on recovering from a serious injury. To read her article, click here.

--“Game of Thrones” star Jason Momoa has purchased a historic former automotive factory in Pontiac with plans to open a rock-climbing facility and brewery there, according to a leading real estate developer in the city. To read more, click here.

--American climber, mountaineer and former AAI Guide, Steve House who was awarded the UIAA Achievement Award at the 2014 General Assembly in Flagstaff, Arizona has climbed tough and punishing big walls on some very big mountains in far flung corners of the world. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Making of a Metolius Master Cam

Metolius has a great little video out about the life of a cam. It literally starts with a piece of aluminum and finishes with the cam being placed. Check out the video below:



--Jason D. Martin


Monday, October 27, 2014

Book Review: Climbing Self-Rescue

Most climbers are concerned about what might happen if there were an accident high on a steep face. Most climbers play-out some kind of heroic scenario in their heads where they get out of said accident. But most climbers don't spend the time required to learn how to deal with a serious situation. In other words, the reality vs. what plays out in a climber's head could be quite different. As such, all climbers need to invest some time in learning about rock rescue.

The best way to acquire the skills required to deal with an accident in a multi-pitch setting is to take a class on it. But for those who don't have the time or the money, Andy Tyson and Molly Loomis have written an excellent textbook on the subject entitled, Climbing Self-Rescue: Improvising Solutions for Serious Situations.

Tyson and Loomis put together a book that starts with what one should do in the case of an accident and then goes into an overview of baseline knowledge. They discuss knots and hitches as well as ropes, webbing and carabiners. After this introduction, they present the alternatives available to a climber during a rescue. These are escaping the belay, rappelling, hauling and lowering. And though these sound like simple things, in reality they are quite difficult with a injured or unconscious patient. Each technique requires a series of steps that are outside the average climber's knowledge base.

The primary competitor to this book is A Falcon Guide: Self-Rescue by David J. Fasulo. While this book is also excellent and covers much of the same ground as Climbing Self-Rescue, Tyson and Loomis have one-upped the Fasulo book by adding a comprehensive series of scenarios at the end of their text which could be used in "practice rescues." The scenarios are complex and often require mastery of multiple rescue techniques in order for a climber to achieve success. And indeed, it is when one has mastery that one will actually be able to deal with a real situation. This element above all others makes Climbing Self-Rescue the better book.

Can you find the crossloaded carabiner in the photo
on the cover of this book?
There is no better way to learn any new technique than with a qualified guide, but for those looking for an introduction to self-rescue or for a supplement to their training, there is currently no better book on the market than Climbing Self-Rescue: Improvising Solutions for Serious Situations.

--Jason D. Martin

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

DPS Skis has taken their first steps into making ski movies with their new short, "Sanctuary."  Set in Valle Nevado, Chile, this is the first in their four-part "Shadow Campaign" series that will later feature Mt. Baker, Baldface, and Refugio Frey.


The Shadow Campaign // Sanctuary from DPS SKIS on Vimeo.

Canadian Mountain Holidays is the worlds longest running heliski operation.  So when the Solomon team see their advertisement for "The World's Best Skiing," they decide to call them out on twitter.  To their surprise, CMH decides to prove their claim by inviting the crew to experience the awesome tree skiing for themselves.



Even though the temps are dropping here in the PNW, there is still plenty of good climbing to be had out there.  For those of you who are enjoying you own versions of Rocktober, here's some sweet Macedonia Bouldering from the Petzl Roctrip 2014.



Have a great weekend! - James

Friday, October 24, 2014

Consumerism and Climbing

I recently watched the excellent documentary, What would Jesus Buy? The film uses a theatrical troupe that poses as an anti-consumerism church as a window into today's shopping-driven lifestyles. This is a very serious topic, but the church and their tactics are also extremely funny. As a result, the sober nature of the subject matter can be addressed in a way that provides a non-confrontational look into how most Americans spend their time and money.

The Church of Stop Shopping is lead by a charismatic man who acts like a faith healer in order to stop people from buying into the need to constantly shop. The Reverend Billy preaches of the shopacalypse, an apocalyptic time when the world will literally collapse in on itself from too much shopping. The Reverend and his choir preach their message in front of Walmart and Starbucks and in churches across America. Check out the trailer below:



The documentary got me thinking. How do we as climbers and as outdoor people buy into the need to constantly get more stuff?

Clearly, based on the climbing and skiing and hiking gear stored in my garage, the Reverend Billy would see me as great sinner. A consumer with too much stuff for my own good.

However, I would argue that I use all my stuff until it wears out. I would argue that I don't spend my days hanging out in shopping malls and I would argue that I'm a fierce advocate for these sports that I love...sports that revolve around getting away from buying more stuff and getting people out to experience the outdoors.

I would also argue that the stuff we buy allows us to experience wild places that need protection. Our ability to see the beauty of these places leads us to become stewards of them, either from afar with our choice of elected officials and our donations to stewardship funds, or from close by with trailwork and litter cleanups. The stuff we as outdoors people buy leads us to be better advocates for wild places.

And indeed, many expeditions go to places where the entire economy is based on visiting climbers and trekkers. Not only do those who visit such places bring money into those communities, but they also bring aid in the guise of schools and medical care. Many who visit these places are so impressed by the people that they support foundations that provide such services to developing countries.

Now clearly, this is my defense of our lifestyles. And it's easy for us to get tunnel vision and to only see what's good for our own selfish interests. Certainly, the person who owns 700 pairs of shoes might have just as good a defense....but then again, maybe not...

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Alpine Sandstone: In Pursuit Of A Castle Valley Testpiece


Last April, I attempted a challenging link-up in Castle Valley, Utah with my good friend Steffan Gregory.  For those who aren’t too familiar with the area, Castle Valley is located just outside of Moab.  The area is centered around Castleton Tower, which was the first Utah desert tower ever climbed, but contains several other towers and island mesas.  Desert tower climbing is a unique climbing experience.  Imagine 4-6 pitches of steep sandstone cracks to summits that are sometimes pinnacles just wide enough to stand on.  Throw in some loose rock and sections of funky climbing for a bit of an alpine feel, and you’ve got Castle Valley.
                                       (The main Castle Valley attractions, R-L: Castleton, The Rectory, and The Priest.  
                                       Sister Superior is about a mile to the North from the Priest)

I had stood on Castleton before and been inspired by the very aesthetic ridgeline that connected the towers- from Castleton to The Rectory, The Priest and, a mile down the ridge, Sister Superior.  Each tower held at least one classic route in the 5.10+ to 5.11 range.  Here the idea to connect them-doing a route on each of the formations in a day- was planted in my mind.  It would be the perfect testing ground for where we were at both in strength and technical ability.
                                       (The link-up, as seen atop Castleton Tower.  The formation to the far North 
                                     along the ridge is called the Parriot Mesa, and wasn’t included in our objective)

When we arrived in Moab and started putting the gear together, we quickly realized that this was going to be more difficult that we had originally thought.  3+ miles of hiking, and 18 pitches of full-value, gear intensive climbing.   After doing some research, we also discovered that the somewhat broken ridgeline between Sister Superior and the others did not have an established trail, and the topo map showed what looked to be some vertical steps in what we could only assume was some classic Utah mudstone, which is just as it sounds- terrifying.  We spent some time debating from which side to start.  In the end, we decided to shuttle the gear that wasn’t needed for the far-off Sister Superior to the bottom of Castleton and start on the far end the next day- get the longest amount of hiking over with.
                      (Leaving camp in the predawn light.  Sister Superior would be the first tower of the day)

We got a predawn start towards Sister Superior, and despite having to force our way up steep sand to the tower, arrived just as the sun was coming up.  Our route on Sister Superior was Jah Man, a classic 5 pitch 5.10. 
  
     
 The route was indeed amazing, with a bit of everything- chimneying, face climbing, and a steep and pumpy crux pitch culminating in a summit just big enough for the two of us to stand on.  We took some pictures, and started our rappel.
                                             (running along the broken ridgeline toward the Castleton group) 


Unsure how the ridgeline was going to go, we began to run to make up time.  We were stoked to find passage through the rock bands that didn’t involve down-climbing mud.  Coming up towards the Priest, we found the steep steps more difficult, with some mud-aneering required, but just as we got to the steepest part, we found a knotted rope hanging from the top of the cliffs.  Rather than fully commit to using the questionable rope to ascend the cliffs, we simply used it as a measure of protection and free-climbed to the top.  At the top were many pieces of re-bar fixed vertically into the sandy rock, the rope anchored to a few of these.  We would find out in conversation with a local guide later that these were most likely left in place after an adventure race that was held along the ridgeline a decade ago. 

    (Steffan contemplating the mental crux of the Honeymoon Chimney- a committing move off a ledge into a 
     squeeze chimney.)


Our route on The Priest was called the Honeymoon Chimney, and featured 2 pitches of chimney climbing, followed by some 5.11 face climbing to the top of the tower.  The first pitch was said to be pretty mentally taxing, so chimney-master Gregory agreed to put the rope up.  The chimney, while only rated 5.9 was just tight enough to wedge your body in, and establishing yourself required a wide lie-back which could only be marginally protected without the use of a big-bro or appropriately sized 2x4.  Some cursing followed by the sound of metal scraping on sandstone, and Steffan yelled, “Off-belay!”  My pitch featured enjoyable chimney moves protected with a Beckey-era pin.  The face-climbing proved to be quite a bit harder than 5.11, and in an effort to keep our momentum, we ended up french freeing quite a bit of it.  An airy step-across move would prove to be one of the highlights of the link-up. 

   
                                                (The ultra rad step-across leading to the summit of The Priest)

 Upon hitting the ground, we made a dash for our route on The Rectory, Fine Jade. This was statistically the most popular route in Castle Valley and sure enough, upon our arrival a party was on route, with two in line.  The sun was approaching the horizon.  We were hosed.


If we were smart, we would have left the gear stashed on the ridge, and attempted the link-up after a day of rest.  Instead, we started driving for Zion early the next morning.  100 miles down the road, we stopped for coffee.  An off-hand check of the smartphone yielded a 70% chance of T-storms in the Springdale area.  We weren’t going to be climbing in Zion anytime in the two days we had left.  “We could go home to the ladies,” Steffan suggested.  But we both knew that the link-up would persist in our thoughts until we put it to bed.  We had to find out if we had what it took.
























            (Leading up to the crux on pitch one of the NF)                                        (Castleton Tower’s North Face)

First thing the next morning we left our camp at the base of Castleton.  An hour and a half later, the gear was stashed at the bottom of the iconic tower.  Tomorrow we would start with Castleton, and work our way towards Sister Superior.  An alpine start the next morning, and I was leading up the first pitch of the North Face of Castleton as dawn broke.  Endless fist-jams led to a difficult move on slick calcite rock to the chains.
                                                    (Stoked after making great time to the top of
                                                           Castleton Tower on our 2nd attempt on the link-up)

Steffan followed quickly up and took the lead on the next pitch of funky 5.10+.  I took over again at 8 AM, an hour and thirty minutes after starting the route.  We dispatched the last two 5.10 pitches and began our rappel.  Reaching the ground we ran towards Fine Jade, the route that had SNAFU’ed us two days before.  We were moving well and had a great chance of finishing in the day light.  To our dismay, two parties were on route, with one waiting.   
     (The Rectory from atop Castleton, with the Priest in the background.  Fine Jade takes a crack system up the center of              the sunlit face.)

Our only hope was to continue on, with hope of hitting Fine Jade last, but adding 2 miles of hiking and 9 pitches of climbing before we’d have our turn.  Quickly dispatching Honeymoon Chimney, we sprinted towards Sister Superior.  A long shot.  We roped up for the first pitch of Jah Man at 3pm, and with the desert sun berating us on the windless face, we fought our way to the summit.
























(On the summit of Sister Superior, getting worked by the                   (Racing up Honeymoon Chimney)
desert heat)

Running back towards Fine Jade pushed us to beyond our fitness.  At the base of the Priest, with a waning sun, we sat and tried to recover our psyche.  “Let’s go see if it’s open at least,” Steffan said.  I followed, fully ready to demolish mac and cheese back at camp, but, like Steffan, unwilling to admit defeat.

There were no parties blocking our way on Fine Jade. We sat underneath the route absolutely spent, and watched the sun sink to illuminate the splitter cracks of Fine Jade as it made its descent.  The pursuit of the link-up would have to wait for another time, when we were stronger, and luckier.  
                                                                     (Witness the thin-ness: Sister Superior)

As we made our way down to camp in the waning light, a perma-smile took residence on my face.  I noticed the same gleefulness in Steffans expression as we humped our gear-laden packs down the side of the ridge.  There were no feelings of disappointment, and no regrets.  We had just realized the climber's dream- to attempt something we weren't sure we could finish.  And though we were defeated, in our shortcomings we were able to honestly evaluate the progress we had made in our sport.  As we laughed and joked our way down the hillside, it was obvious we had won in at least one aspect.


-Andy Stephen
Guide and Instructor at the Institute