Thursday, December 18, 2014

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/18/14


--After four tries and seven years, Congress has agreed to expand the Alpine Lakes Wilderness, north and east of Snoqualmie Pass. And two stretches of rivers there were given Wild and Scenic River status. To read more, click here.

Daniel Probst and his team, running to Mt. Baker last summer.

--Mt. Baker's Ridley Creek Trail is being rebuilt under the leadership of ultramarathoner Daniel Probst. The Ridely Creek Trail provides access to the Easton Glacier from the Middle Fork Nooksack. Dan is trying to bring back the Mt. Baker Marathon as an ultramarathon from Bellingham Bay to the top of Mt. Baker. To learn more about the trail project, click here. To sign a petition to support this race, click here.

--The Mountaineers will be hosting Reinhold Messner on February 2nd at the Mountaineers Headquarters in Seattle. To read more, click here.


--A skier triggered an avalanche near Lake Tahoe on Saturday. To read about it, click here.

--Tioga and Glacier Point Roads in Yosemite are closed for the season. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Eric Bjornstad, the pioneer desert climber, passed away this week in Moab after a long illness. The iconic climber wrote the first comprehensive guidebook to rock climbing on the Colorado Plateau, Desert Rock. To read more, click here.

--Las Vegas Metro police reported a hiker who had been stranded for two days at Red Rock Canyon in the Ice Box Canyon was rescued Friday afternoon. To read more, click here.

--Registration for this year's Red Rock Rendezvous is now open. Rendezvous will take place in Red Rock from March 27-29. To learn more, click here.

--A judge in Flagstaff has ordered an Alaska man to pay $1,500 for routinely dumping trash in the Colorado River and illegally collecting firewood during a 12-day rafting trip through Grand Canyon National Park earlier this year. To read more, click here.

--When it rains in Red Rock, the rock becomes brittle and easily broken. There have been a lot of climbers getting out there on fragile lines after the recent rainstorm. Please be wary of this. To see an editorial on the subject, click here.

--During the recently-passed Thanksgiving holiday, a group of BASE jumpers, highliners, and friendly volunteers constructed a large pentagon-shaped hammock and suspended it 400 feet above the Moab desert in Utah. They called it the Mothership Space Net Penthouse, and it majestically hung over the red-rock floor for one unforgettable day. To read more, click here. To see a short video on the net, click below:


--Somebody came up with a winning business plan in Colorado Springs. A pub and a climbing gym will be featured under the same roof. To read more, click here.

--Avalanche awareness skills — always vital for backcountry adventurers — might be especially important this season after good early-season snowfall was followed by unseasonably warm temperatures and now additional snowfall. The snow that will hopefully continue to pile up is, unfortunately, resting on a weak layer. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Authorities say a 51-year-old woman has died after she crashed while skiing at Pine Knob Ski Resort in Michigan. To read more, click here.

--The results of the recent Ice Climbing World Cup in Bozeman, Montana have recently been published.

--The Mount Washington Avalanche Center has put together a very interesting Chronology of an Incident Report.

--The preceeding graphic shows each of the successes that the Access Fund had in 2014. They are currently doing a membership drive to keep the success rolling. To learn more, click here.

--The largest expansion of the National Parks System in almost 40 years was approved by the Senate on Friday as part of a bill that provided military funding for 2015, CNN reports. The House approved the bill earlier this month and President Obama is expected to sign it into law. To read more, click here.

--The Men's Journal put out an article on "How to Spot Avalanche Risk." To read the article, click here.

--And here are some last minute gift ideas for climbers...

--Here's a great subject: How to call out backcountry idiots without being too blatent and offending them so that they won't listen to you.

--Colin Haley and Rob Smith recently completed the first ascent of a a 14-pitch line in northern Patagonia. To read more, click here.

--On Monday, the 2015 Mugs Stump Award winners were announced in Bozeman, Montana. To see a list of the award recipients and their objectives, click here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

International Mountain Day Fundraiser - 2015

At the American Alpine Institute, we love mountains for their beauty and challenge, and for the livelihood they provide us as guides and outdoor educators. But there are ample reasons for flatlanders to love mountains as well. Mountain ranges function as engines of water production, provide habitat for game, and supply resources for industry. In view of the universal value of mountains, the United Nations established International Mountain Day to celebrate this shared natural heritage.

The actual date of the day is December 11th. But due to serveral different circumstances, we have decided to celebrate the day on January 10th.

This year, we have decided to benefit the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center with our International Mountain Day Activities.

The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (NWAC) promotes safety by helping reduce the impacts of avalanches and adverse mountain weather on recreation, industry and transportation in Washington through data collection, mountain weather, avalanche forecasting and education.

The achieve this mission, the Northwest Avalanche Center:

assists a variety of snow safety and snow maintenance programs by providing and analyzing useful weather, snow and avalanche data, and by producing and distributing a variety of mountain weather and avalanche forecast products.

assists backcountry travelers by providing current information on snowpack structure and avalanche danger, and by forecasting expected changes in snow and avalanche conditions.

The professional mountain meteorologists and avalanche specialists at NWAC are on duty from September through June, issuing twice daily forecasts from mid-November through mid-April and special statements as warranted in early Fall and in late Spring.

You can develop your personal climbing skills, your avalanche awareness skills and help us to benefit this important cause by participating in our International Mountain Day events in Bellingham, Washington.

Bellingham NWAC Fundraiser - January 10, 2015

Rock Rescue Clinics

We will be offering two two-hour rock rescue clinics at Vital Climbing Gym in downtown Bellingham. The clinics will focus on the baseline skills required to perform a rescue in a high-angle environment. We will be offering these from 12:30-2:30 and from 3:00-5:00.

Avalanche Awareness Seminars

We will be offering an Avalanche Awareness Seminar and reception (with beer, pizza and live music) in the evening at the the Vital Climbing Gym. Doors will open at 6pm, with the seminar starting at 7pm. This seminar will be a short introduction to the skills required to safely and effectively move through the backcountry during the winter season. In addition to the avalanche awareness seminar there will be a raffle and an auction.

To learn more, click here. Preregistration is not required, but it strongly encouraged as space is limited.

--Jason D. Martin

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Last week we ended "Weekend Warrior" with a soul-stirring, melodically paced, artful ski edit.  This week were starting off with a what-the-heck, holy-cow, those-guys-are-crazy ski edit!

So let's just continue on this same track with another unbelievably crazy line.  If you've seen "Days of My Youth" you're already familiar with this clip.  But for those of you who haven't, prepare to have your mind blown.  In an interview with Outside Magazine, Cody Townsend said he got up to 65 - 70 mph, and the exit of the chute was only about 6' wide.  You'll need to see this to believe it!

This weekend is the Bozeman Ice Fest and the first UIAA World Cup Ice Climbing Event held in the US.  So to celebrate the Fest, I had to have a Hyalite video in here this weekend.  And boy, is this a good one.  Here we see Conrad Anker and Kris Erickson adding a variation to Hyalite Canyon's crown jewel route, Winter Dance.  Their new line, Nutcracker, adds a M7 and a M8 pitch to the start to reach the main ice line.  Not only is this a film about the climbing, but it's also a brief narrative of Conrad and his fallen friend, Alex Lowe, who this new line is a tribute to.

Have a great weekend! - James

Friday, December 12, 2014

A Question of Risk

Bruce Tremper, the author of Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain and Avalanche Essentials was recently interviewed in a video by Black Diamond. There he talks about risk in avalanche terrain.

Though Bruce has a lot of excellent wisdom in this video, there are two moments that really stand out. The first is when he says, "I will never be as confident in my avalanche skills as I was in my early twenties." And the second is when he says, "the whole extreme thing has gotten out of hand."

It is possible that the two comments are connected. People in their twenties are also those who are pushing the limits in the backcountry. Unfortunately, they are also often the ones who die out there. There's a lot to be said about ratcheting back your risk taking behavior so that - as Bruce says - you can enjoy your sport for a long time to come...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/11/14


--The timely arrival of a well-equipped group of skiers and the efforts of three mountain rescue units are being credited for getting an injured hiker off Mount Rainier early last Wednesday morning According to Glenn Kessler, incident commander for the rescue, a 911 call late Tuesday afternoon was patched through to Mount Rainier dispatch from an injured hiker. The 61-year-old man had slipped on a steep icy slope and fell 50 feet just above Panorama Point, coming to rest after hitting a rock hard enough to result in a compound fracture of both lower leg bones of one leg. To read more, click here.

--North Cascades National Park is considering a reintroduction of grizzly bears to the Park. To read more, click here.

--There will be a class hosted by REI today in Seattle on backcountry decision making hosted by the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center. Check it out, here.

Read more here:

--Hikers who complete the whole 2,650-mile Pacific Crest Trail say the only thing they talk about more than their aching feet is food. They have to carry it all, except when they get surprised by a little trail magic – like what happens near California's Sonora Pass where a little cafe for hikers is drawing attention. To read more, click here.

--It's probably not a suprise that there are deer poachers in the Sierra.

Desert Southwest:

--Zion National Park and other National Park Service (NPS) units that collect entrance fees and recreation fees from park visitors are beginning public engagement to seek comments on possible changes in park fees. To read more, click here.


--A skier apparently fell, hit a tree and died Monday at Eldora Ski Resort, according to the Boulder County Sheriff's Office. Deputies said someone called the Boulder County Sheriff's Office at 9 p.m. Monday and reported that a man from Boulder was missing. The caller said the 22-year-old man had likely been skiing at Eldora on Monday and had not returned home. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A skier was killed in an avalanche in Alaska's Rainbow Mountains last week. To read more, click here.

--AAI Guide Dylan Taylor writes about his experience climbing and skiing in Afganistan with AAI Denali Guide Aiden Loehr, here.

--Okay ladies, here are fifteen outdoorsy ways to tell him he's not the one...

--There are several big mountian winter attempts planned this year. Check out a round-up, here.

--Just how popular is camping these days? Pretty popular. Check out this chart from the Adventure Post.

--Park City was bought by Vail this year for $182.5 million after an epic legal battle with PowdrCorp. Vail now owns Park City and The Canyons ski resorts and they sit adjacent to each other. The logical next move? Join them together and make the largest ski resort in the USA at 7,300 acres of skiable terrain. To read more, click here.

--The Bozeman Ice Festival which has been held in the U.S. state of Montana since 1996 is now part of the UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup. The UIAA Ice Climbing Commission’s decision to sanction Bozeman as an official UIAA World Cup event earlier this month means that the U.S. stop will launch the 2015 UIAA Ice Climbing World Cup season 11 – 14 December, 2014. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Failed Ski Lift Rescue

One of the many jobs that ski patrolers are responsible for is ski lift evacuation. In other words, when the ski lift stalls, they lower people off the lift to the ground. This is generally a relatively simple task that any climber with baseline skills would be able to accomplish. Unfortunately for a snowboarder at Beech Mountain Ski Area in North Carolina, the ski patrol there aren't very dialed into basic climbing skills.

So there are a handful of takeaways from this, not-the-least-of-which is to avoide being rescued by a ski patroller in North Carolina. Why would you be skiing in North Carolina anyway? Did you see what kind of snow they have in the video...?

Anyway, here are some thoughts:

1) Use an Anchor or get beneath the Victim!

In the video, the ski patroller on the left is at a wide angle. Occasionally we are forced in a climbing setting to place a belayer far from the base of the crag. This happens in any top-roped climbing when situation where it is not possible to be close to the base of the crag. When there is a wide angle like the one in the video, the belayer is always pulled in.

There are two ways to mitigate this problem. The first way is to anchor yourself down and the second way is to eliminate the angle.

At the end of the video, the guy on the ground says to his hanging buddy, "you know next time...Ima' gonna have to get up there and hold ya'." Holding the other ski patroller wouldn't work. He could clip himself to the patroller to increase the weight, but the best thing of all would simply be to tie the belayer down.

However, if the belayer was wearing a normal harness and wasn't using a "what-the-!%&@-is-he-doing strap," he might have been able to get directly beneath the snowboarder and probably wouldn't have needed an anchor at all.

2) Use a Climbing Harness or a Rescue Harness for Rescue Work

Ahhh...this one seems a little obvious. If the strap had slipped off the ski patroller's legs, the victim would have fallen to the ground.

3) Counterbalance Situation

This is more in response to something that shouldn't have happened in the first place, but once both the ski patroller and the snowboarder are both hanging, they are essentially counterbalancing each other. If the ski patroller rappels, the snowboarder will remain where he is. Once the ski patroller is on the ground and continues to lower the snowboarder will come down.

Had this situation been a bit different, the ski patroller might have had to counterbalance rappel with the snowboarder. In other words, the only way for the two of them to move together is for the ski patroller to clip something to the snowboarder and then rappel. As the patroller lowers, he would pull the snowbarder to the ground.  Due to the lack of harness' and competence in this arena, this would not have been realistic for this team.

Rescue Strategy

These guys made some mistakes and they learned from them. Certainly, they won't do this this way in the future.

The reality is that a rescue is always the victim's emergency. The last thing you want to do is to make something worse. If you're in a rescue scenario, don't rush. Think about consequences of any systems you build and mitigate the dangers...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, December 8, 2014

How to Be a Skier

The following video is awesome. It will tell you everything you need to know to be a skier. The most important of which is that if anything goes wrong at all, just blame the snowboarders...

--Jason D.  Martin