Tuesday, April 13, 2021

How to Choose a Pair of Rock Climbing Shoes

Bryan from Oregon Outside has put together a great tutorial on rock shoes. In the following video he quickly goes through a number of different considerations that you might have when choosing a rock shoe.

Check it out below:



--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Appalachian Trail in Five Minutes

Thru-Hiker Kevin Gallagher hiked the 2,175 mile Appalachian Trail in six months. Numerous people complete the entire trail every years. But Gallagher did something a little bit different on his trip.

Every day of his trip, Gallagher took twenty-four slides of iconic portions of the trail. He recently put these slides together into a film, which condenses the entire journey into a single five minute segment. He titled the film, "The Green Tunnel."

Following is the product of his adventure:



To learn more about Gallagher and his work, click here.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, April 9, 2021

Route Profile: Sultana Ridge - Mt. Foraker

Mount Foraker as seen from Denali. The Sultana Ridge is the prominent,
lighter colored ridge running up the center of the mountain.

Mount Foraker – 17,400 ft / 5303 m

Route: Northeast Ridge (Sultana Ridge)
Difficulty: Alaska Grade 3
Elevation Gain: 10,500 ft along 9 miles of ridge

OVERVIEW

Standing at 17,400 ft in the central Alaska Range, Mount Foraker is only 14 miles from Denali and provides a dramatic backdrop for climbers on the West Buttress route. Foraker is the second highest peak in the Alaska Range and the fourth highest in the United States. First climbed in August 1934, it rises directly above the base camp for Denali, but sees far fewer ascents each year.

Approaching Foraker on the Kahiltna glacier.

Setting up camp below Mount Crosson. 

An expedition on Foraker generally requires less acclimatization time than Denali because it is almost 3000 feet lower. The Sultana Ridge follows a pure and scenic ridge for seven miles. Climbing over several smaller peaks, including Mount Crosson, the ridge encompasses the crest of the Alaska Range. Similar in difficulty to the West Buttress of Denali, the Sultana Ridge of Foraker offers true remoteness for Alaskan mountaineering; retreat is more difficult, camps are more exposed, and there is no support network on the route. You will likely have the whole route to yourself!

After passing Crosson, climbers gain the true
Sultana Ridge.
ROUTE

After flying onto the Kahiltna glacier, we will set off towards advanced base camp at the base of Mount Crosson. Ascending the ridge using a couple camps, we will summit Crosson (12,800 ft) and descend 1100 ft to reach the col between Crosson and Point 12,472. If avalanche conditions are safe, we will likely bypass the summit of Pt. 12,472 and traverse it’s southeast face at 12,200 ft. The next three miles of the Sultana ridge are a long series of ups and downs with cornices and crevasses. Eventually, the ridge mellows as it links up with the upper Northeast Ridge of Foraker.

Moving along the corniced Sultana Ridge.

Looking up the Sultana Ridge
to the summit of Foraker.

Due to difficult camp options on the upper mountain, our high camp will be at 12,300 ft. The ridge becomes less steep around 14,000 ft and tops out on the summit plateau at 17,100 ft. Summit day is a 5100-foot push and will reward us with impressive views of the Alaskan tundra, Denali, and the breathtaking Alaska Range. After enjoying the summit of Mount Foraker, we will retrace our steps on the descent, crossing over the summit of Mount Crosson again and returning to the Kahiltna glacier. Our bush-pilot will bring us back to Talkeetna where we can share our stories with other climbers and begin the journey home.

Success! The summit of Foraker offers incredible
views of Denali and the Alaska Range.
Have you already climbed Denali and are looking for more Alaska adventures? Are the Big 3 (Denali, Hunter, and Foraker) on your tick list? Looking to summit a slightly lower mountain before taking on a full Denali expedition?

Mount Foraker is a great mountain and AAI is starting to gauge interest in a Foraker expedition in 2015. If this sounds like a climb you would like to join, please contact us for more information. Our well-known climbing programs can help you sharpen your skills and take your climbing to the next level.

Climb on!

--
Dylan Cembalski
Alaska Programs and 7 Summits Coordinator
AAI Guide

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Cold Weather Camping Tips

As we move into the spring, it is still winter in the mountains. And when you go mountaineering in the summer, it's always snowy!

So with that in mind, here are some helpful tips for winter (cold weather) camping:


--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 5, 2021

Miranda in the Wild - Trying Every Kind of Backpacking Stove

Miranda is at it again...with a great video on the different types of stoves out there. This is a really good survey on the stove types.


There are a couple of things to think about, especially with isopro stoves. As Miranda says, "these are most likely to be the best for most people."

1) It's important to note that really cold isobutane fuel canisters don't operate as well as those that are warm. You can keep them warm in your tent (or even sleeping bag) for early morning use. Don't put them directly on the snow when cooking, if you can avoid it.

2) Some of the higher-end isopro stoves (like the Jetboil or Reactor) are extremely efficient, compared to the "pocket rocket" style that she demonstrates.

There's no reason for most of our readers to use the solid fuel or alcohol stoves.

With the woodburning stoves, there are some models that you can charge your devices off, while cooking. This is the only good thing about these.

And though they're a pain, there are some real advantages to white gas stoves. They work well at altitude, and they work okay in the cold. In extreme cold, the gas may still need to be warmed to work well. I've had experiences on both Denali and in Peru where we had problems with how cold it was with these stoves.

I've found that I spend a lot of time tinkering and cleaning the white gas stoves, and really prefer isopro stoves...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, April 2, 2021

Considerations for Roping Up on a Glacier while Ski Mountaineering

The following video discusses some of the questions that you might consider around roping up for glacier travel. 

It is common to see skiers moving on glacial terrain, unroped. Anytime you are on a "wet" glacier -- a glacier with snow on it --  there is the possibility of a crevasse. That said, your skis do create less force on the snow than walking does, so you can get away with a little bit more than you can in spring and summer mountaineering on foot.

Ross Berg, a Canadian guide, talks about glaciers and what he considers before roping up on a ski mountaineering program.


Ross lists three considerations at the end of his video:

Familiarity -- Do you know the area? Have you seen it without snow on it? 

Visibility -- Can you see, or are you in a white-out? Everything is more dangerous when you cannot see.

Snowpack -- Do you have a good snowpack? Are the crevasses filled in or covered by a lot of snow?

He also notes that you should be conservative until you have more skill and knowledge at reading glaciers and understanding them...

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Route Profile: Mount Shuksan, Sulphide Glacier

Mount Shuksan from the Northwest.
Photo by Coley Gentzel

If I had to pick one peak that would most completely and accurately represent alpine climbing in the Cascades, Mount Shuksan would be the one. Shuksan takes a striking form from any angle and every route on the peak can be considered a classic.

The most popular route on the peak is the Sulphide Glacier. The Fisher Chimneys and the North Face are also both popular routes that are among the best of their type in the range.

The Price Glacier route is listed in the 50 Classic Climbs book (Steck and Roper), but has fallen out of favor in recent years due to a dramatic change in the nature of the glaciers on the route. Once a classic ice face, the Price is now a jumbled mess with little aesthetic value to the climbing.

Shuksan's Price Glacier from the air.
Photo by Dunham Gooding

Mountaineering routes on Shuksan are unique in that all require a variety of skills to complete. Every route requires glacier travel, snow climbing, ice climbing and rock climbing to reach the top. All routes end at the dramatic summit pyramid, which by its easiest route requires primarily fourth class with a few 5th class moves.

The view from the summit of Shuksan is one of the best in the range. Sitting at the heart of the North Cascades, views of Mount Baker, the Pickett Range, and north to the Canadian Border peaks are completely unobstructed.

Mount Shuksan's Sulphide Glacier and summit pyramid.

The Sulphide glacier route starts at the Shannon Creek trailhead and follows an overgrown road bed for a few miles before winding through old growth forest eventually climbing into the craggy alpine forest and then finally talus fields.

Although the route is doable in one very long day for experienced and fit parties, most opt to go for a 2-3 day climb so that they might enjoy the setting on the way to and from the climb. There are great camping spots at the toe of the Sulphide glacier and at several spots along the route to the summit pyramid. The Sulphide is a gentle glacier, but not without crevasses. There have been numerous solo climber crevasse falls in the area.

An AAI team reaching the summit of Shuksan.
Photo by Alasdair Turner


The crux of the route is ascending and descending the summit pyramid which, by the standard route, involves about 500 feet of scrambling up a gully. Depending on the time of year, the gully can be nearly all snow, mixed, or completely rock. An alternate route to the summit and a good choice if the main gully is busy, is the southeast ridge of the summit pyramid which requires a bit more mid-fifth class climbing. There is some loose rock on both routes so you must choose your holds carefully!

It is said that Mount Shuksan is the most photographed mountain in the United States, and that is not hard to believe. The Mount Baker ski area provides a perfect view of and easy access to the north side of Shuksan. Indeed, it is not uncommon to see a line of tripods pointed at the peak on clear days. Whether you are looking for an easier ramble in a spectacular setting, or a challenging long rock or ice route, Shuksan has something to offer for every mountaineer.

Shuksan's Summit Pyramid above the Sulphide Glacier

AAI climb's Mount Shuksan as part of their Classic Guided Climbs in the Pacific Northwest Program on Part 1 of their Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership series and on group courses throughout the summer season.

--Coley Gentzel, Former AAI Program Coordinator and Guide