Friday, March 24, 2017

Lowering from a Loaded Belay Plate

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

In this video, AMGA Instructor Team Member Jeff Ward, demonstrates two techniques to lower a climber from a loaded autoblocking device (belay plate).



Following is a quick breakdown of the points made.

Technique 1 - Rocking the carabiner
--Good for lowering short distances
--Need an active break hand

Technique 2- Redirect the plate with a thin sling
--Better for slightly longer distance lowering
--Need hands free backup for break strand

There is actually a third technique that he didn't show. One can put a nut tool or the nose of a carabiner into the small hole on many of these devices and crank it backwards. This will allow the device to open. But like the first technique, it will be important to have an active break hand.

--Jason D.  Martin

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 3/23/17

Desert Southwest:

--The Las Vegas Review Journal is reporting that, "Save Red Rock, in an effort to halt progress on a proposed development near the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, has accused the Clark County Commission of violating open meeting laws. Save Red Rock attorney Justin Jones made the allegation in a counterclaim filed in Clark County District Court on Monday. It’s the latest development in an ongoing lawsuit between the environmental nonprofit, the County and mining company Gypsum Resources, which wants to build 5,025 homes on Blue Diamond Hill." To read more, click here.


--Red Rock Rendezvous is a world-class climbing event. There will be climbing instruction, competitions, slideshows, games and parties. This is one event that just gets better every year. AAI guides will be there to support the event and will be available for guided climbs or instructional programs both before and after the Red Rock Rendezvous. To learn more, click here.

Colorado:

--The Associated Press is reporting that, "The body of a climber missing on Longs Peak has been found. Rocky Mountain National Park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson says the body of the 39-year-old man from Thornton was discovered by searchers on Sunday and flown down by helicopter." To read more, click here.

--The Gazette is reporting that "a 48-year-old Colorado Springs woman who fell while skiing on Pikes Peak died Sunday, the Teller County Sheriff's Office said, the latest death on a mountain whose steep chutes, ice and avalanches can make it extremely dangerous even for experts. Rachel A. Dewey, a middle school social studies teacher with Banning Lewis Ranch Academy and adjunct professor at Pikes Peak Community College, was skiing in an area known as Little Italy Couloir near Glen Cove with her husband and three teenage sons Sunday morning when she lost control and fell about 1,000 feet, the Sheriff's Office said." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Finger Board Excercises

The Climbing Movement Essential Training Series on Youtube is kind of awesome. The series is composed of a number of well produced videos that focus on different aspects of training for climbing.

In this particular video, the fingerboard is shown. The workout they describe is really good, but leaves one thing out. You should always, always warm up before using a fingerboard. I have definitely hurt myself on those things...

This is a power and endurance workout. The idea is simple. Create a thirty move sequence with clipping as one move.



--Jason D. Martin

Monday, March 20, 2017

Climbing Class and Grade

One of the most confusing elements for a new climber is how the climbing class and grade systems work in the United States. Many individuals go to the rock gym and feel like they understand what a 5.7 feels like, but seldom understand where that grade came from. Many wonder why it's not simply a 2 or a 3 instead of a 5.7.

In North America we use the Yosemite Decimal System to define the class of a climb. This system provides a class number and then a specific grade. Following is a breakdown of the classes:

Class 1 - Hiking on a maintained trail.
Class 2 - Easy scrambling. Some may occasionally need their hands.Class 3 - Moderate scrambling. Hands may be employed more often.
Class 4 - Easy climbing. Hands are used all the time. Many will climb at this level without a rope.
Class 5 - Where real rock climbing begins. Technical equipment is employed at this level.

At Class 5 we add a decimal and a number to the system. Periodically a plus or a minus will be used in conjunction with the class identification (i.e. 5.6+ or 5.8-). Once the system hits 5.10, a letter grade is added. There are four letter grades before the number grade changes. (i.e. 5.10a, 5.10b, 5.10c, 5.10d, 5.11a, 511b...). Following is a breakdown of this system;

5.0-5.6 - Beginner level climber
5.7-5.9 - Intermediate level climber
5.10a-5.11c - Advanced level climber
5.11d-5.13d - Professional climber
5.14a-5.15b - World class climber

Currently 5.15b is the hardest grade climbed in the world. However, the system is open-ended and one day somebody will climb something that is 5.15c.

Though climbers strive for consistency in grades, this breakdown is often quite subjective. In other words, a 5.10a in Red Rock Canyon might be the equivalent of a 5.8 in Joshua Tree National Park. It's important for climbers to get a feel for how the grades work in every new area they visit before pushing themselves too hard.

Many long rock and alpine climbs also employ a Roman Numeral commitment grade. This grade gives the "average climber" an overview of how long the route will take, how many pitches are technical, how difficult the routefinding on the route might be, and in some cases it will also take into account the remoteness of the climb. The commitment grades are as follows:

Grade I - A very short route requiring one to two hours.
Grade II - A route that takes two to four hours.
Grade III - A route that takes the better part of a day. For slower parties a Grade III will be an all day endeavor.
Grade IV - A route that takes all day. Generally a day that requires in excess of 12 hours. The technical difficulties are more pronounced.
Grade V - Generally takes more that a day. There are clear technical difficulties to be overcome.
Grade VI - A multi-day climb that requires solid technical skills and often requires both aid and free climbing techniques.

As with the Yosemite Decimal System, the commitment grade system is not without problems. It is incredibly subjective. The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite is a Grade VI. When it was first climbed in 1958, it took 45 days. The speed record is currently under three hours and many parties complete the route in a day. So the question must then be asked, what is an "average" climber? How should these grades be set? Most guidebook authors will look for some kind of consensus. The real average party on the Nose still takes about four days. As such, the Grade VI will remain for the time being.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, March 17, 2017

To Wag or Not to Wag...

In many climbing areas and mountaineering destinations around the country, Wag Bags are required.

What's a Wag Bag?

A Wag Bag is a simple system for human waste disposal in the backcountry. These are essentially sanitary bags for human waste removal. They're not complex and there's no mystery. They're plastic bags that you poop in.

Wag Bags are a brand name. These are actually waste bags. And there are several brands on the market, including Biffy Bags and Restop.

Access to places like Mount Rainier, Mount Whitney and the desert are threatened by an overabundance of human waste. In some of these locations you are required to use a Wag Bag or the equivalent. Of course, part of the pack-it-in pack-it-out philosophy is not just using such a bag, but also bringing it back out with you. These areas are also threatened by an overabundance of used and discarded Wag Bags.

Timmy O'Neil is often considered the "funniest man in climbing." A few years ago, Timmy put together the following video about wag bags in the Utah desert.



--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 3/16/17

Northwest:

--Hood River News is reporting that, "The search for a missing skier, Steve Leavitt from The Dalles, has been dialed back and termed a recovery effort. Leavitt, 57, has been missing at Mt. Hood Meadows since last Tuesday." To read more, click here.

--The Everett Herald posted an editorial on the return of grizzly bears to the North Cascades. To read it, click here.


--The American Alpine Institute will be working with the Liz Rocks campaign to provide a scholarship for our Leaders of Tomorrow program for youth who come from a diverse background or who face significant hardship. The Leaders of Tomorrow program is the American Alpine Institute's premiere program for young people who wish to become climbers and mountaineers between the ages of 14 and 17. To learn more, click here.

--Leif Whittaker is a mountain climber, photographer, and writer whose work has appeared in various media worldwide, including Powder, Backcountry and The Ski Journal. His first book, My Old Man and the Mountain, was published by Mountaineers Books in October, 2016. In this presentation on March 30th in Bellingham, Whittaker, son of the first American to summit Mount Everest, will shed light on growing up in the shadow of a famous father, and how that journey helped shape a unique view of his own relationship with a mountain and a dad. Whittaker will be available after the presentation to sign books. Coffee and cookies will be served. Registration for this event closes on March 27, 2017. To learn more, click here.

Sierra:

AAI's Director Dunham Gooding and Royal Robbins
at the 2009 Outdoor Retailer

--On Wednesday night, Climbing magazine posted an obituary for one of the greatest rock climbers of all time. "On Tuesday, March 14, California rock-climbing and big-wall pioneer Royal Robbins passed away at age 82. Born February 3, 1935, Robbins ushered in the development of many modern free- and aid-climbing techniques and standards. In 1952, Robbins made the first free ascent of the Open Book in Tahquitz, California, pushing free climbing standards to 5.9. Five years later, he, Jerry Galwas, and Mike Sherrick completed the first ascent of the Northwest Face of Half Dome over five days." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--It appears that there was a fatal climbing accident in Arches National Park on March 5th. There is limited information about what happened. To read more, click here.

--This could be good news in the ongoing fight to stop development near Red Rock Canyon. The Nevada Independent is reporting that, "In the wake of controversy surrounding a proposed development within eyesight of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada lawmakers have reintroduced a bill that would essentially freeze any private development within a five-mile radius of a national conservation area. Democratic Assemblyman Steve Yeager introduced AB277 on Friday, with a large number of Democrats and two Republicans — Sen. Becky Harris and Assemblyman James Oscarson — signed on as sponsors." To read more, click here.


--Red Rock Rendezvous is a world-class climbing event. There will be climbing instruction, competitions, slideshows, games and parties. This is one event that just gets better every year. AAI guides will be there to support the event and will be available for guided climbs or instructional programs both before and after the Red Rock Rendezvous. To learn more, click here.

--In preparation for the Red Rock Rendezvous, Climbing magazine posted this article about belay extensions by Jason Martin, AAI's director of operations...

Colorado:

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park finished off 2016 as the nation’s fourth most popular national park with more than 4.5 million visitors.": To read more, click here.

--A death due to a ski lift malfunction has heightened awareness of ski area infrastructure needs in Colorado. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--CBC News is reporting that, "A 34-year-old man who died Sunday while skiing at Canada's Lake Louise was wearing a helmet when he crashed into a tree, RCMP said Monday." To read more, click here.

--Fox 13 Salt Lake City is reporting that, " Search and rescue crews responded to Little Cottonwood Canyon after a rock climber fell about 50 feet while rappelling Saturday." To read more, click here.

--Boston.com is reporting that, "Authorities are investigating the death of a skier who was found unresponsive near an intermediate trail at the Mount Sunapee Resort in New Hampshire." To read more, click here.

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "The Access Fund has announced its 2016 Menocal Lifetime Achievement Award, Bebie Leadership Award and Sharp End Awards. These annual awards recognize individuals, organizations, and businesses that "go above and beyond to volunteer their time and efforts to protecting America's climbing." To read more, click here.

--A moose in Alaska had to be shot because it charged a ski area lift line! To read more, click here.

--If you haven't seen this awesome clip from Bollywood, you should drop everything and watch it right now.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Film Review: The Summit

K2 is often considered to be the most dangerous mountain in the world. One out of every four people who climb to the summit of the mountain perishes on the descent. So it is no surprise that one of the most terrible mountaineering incidents of all time happened on the mountain.


In 2008, the news trickled out of Pakistan slowly. There had been yet another tragedy in the Himalaya that made headlines around the world; and when the dust settled 11 people were dead. The main culprit? A combination of things, but perhaps of most importance, ignoring turn-around times at altitude and the destruction of the fixed lines by serac-fall in a feature known as the Bottleneck.

We have previously written about this incident in our review of the excellent book, Buried in the Sky. But now a new film which combines, interviews, footage from the expeditions in 2008, and actors portraying real people has come to video and streaming. The Summit is a powerful film that will keep you from ever considering an ascent of K2.

Nick Ryan's stunning film tells the story of a series of climbing teams who came together on K2 on August 1st of 2008 to make an attempt at the summit. The problem was that there were twenty-five people from several countries with several different types of climbing styles trying to get up the mountain that day.

The film is built much like Touching the Void. Ryan uses actors when necessary, emotional interviews and real video to weave together a complex web in order to tell a complicated story.



In most tragic mountaineering stories, there is one incident that acts as a catalyst for everything else that goes wrong. While that exists in The Summit, there are so many complicating factors to the story that it is hard to finger one thing. Instead, the film feels like a real-life horror movie. People make mistakes and die. People trip and die. People are hit by icefall and die. People try to save others and die...

You get the picture.

The film is hard to watch. It's a true story with real footage of people on a mountain. And many of those you're watching are gone, their bodies still up on the mountain.

Perhaps the greatest flaw in the film is that the story of what happened that day on K2 is complex. It's so complex that you leave the film without a complete understanding of what happened in the tragedy. None of the people who lived it tell the same story. As such, there is no unified version where armchair mountaineers can sit back and say, "that's where it all went wrong."

The Summit is a beautiful movie about a horrible day in the mountains. And while it is often hard to watch, it is a gripping story that I personally have not been able to stop thinking about...

--Jason D. Martin