Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Route Profile: Angel's Crest (5.10b, IV)

The Angel's Crest is likely the most beautiful route of its grade in Squamish. The line takes you up a perfect ridge from low on the Stawamus Chief all the way up to its summit. The bulk of the climbing is moderate and most of the cruxes are short...but you have to be on your A game. The route is incredibly long and early morning crowds at the base are common!

Angel's Crest
Click to Enlarge

Approach: Park at the climber's parking area below the Apron in Squamish. Exit the parking lot and walk along the dirt road for about ten minutes. You will pass a couple of trails before you get to the right one. The trail that you will use to access the route is on the right side of the road and is near where many people park and pirate camp. There is a sign just up the trail that says, "Angel's Crest." Follow the trail up, passing a few trees with an "AC" on them. Eventually you will come to a boulder field with a drainage. You can climb the 5.10b variation at the foot of the buttress (bolts visible) or walk up the drainage to where a tree touches the rock. Most people climb the tree on the first pitch. The approach should take about 35 minutes.

Pitch One: Climb up the tree - which is suprisingly cruxy near the ground - to terrain where it's easy to access the rock. Traverse right along an easy ledge system. Scramble up to bolts at the end of the pitch. If you climb up anything that's mossy or weird, you climbed up too early. Stay on the ledge until you find a simple way up to the anchor. (5.7, 150')

The Tree Pitch

Pitch Two: Angle up the beautiful Angel Crack. The crack gets harder as you get higher, but the crux is short. Remember to protect your second at the crux as a fall could unravel the rope. (5.10b, 60')

Climbing out onto Angel's Crack

Pitch Three: Continue up a slab passing two bolts. Continue up a short crack and then traverse to a tree and slung boulder. (5.10b, 60')

Pitch Four: Lieback up a 5.7 corner to easy climbing and a belay. (5.7, 100')

Pitch Five: Continue up a right facing corner to easer climbing and a ledge. (5.10a, 100')

Pitch Six: Ramble up the easiest line to a bushy ledge. (5.7, 150') Once both you and your partner are up, move the belay to the base of the next steep groove.

NOTE: You can escape climber's left into the gully from this point with two rappels.

Pitch Seven: This is a harder-than-it-looks pitch. Work up the climb moving over a small bulge on the left. Continue up into a corner and belay in the trees above. (5.10a, 100')

Move the belay up through the trees to either the base of the offwidth crack or the bottom of another groove on the right. This ledge is called Sasquatch Ledge.

Pitch Eight: There are two options here. Climb the 7-inch wide offwidth (5.10b, 100') or climb the groove to the right. (5.9, 100'). Either way, you'll belay in the trees above.

Hike up through the trees to the next pitch. Take time to notice the Totem Pole on the ledge. This was made by local climbers to honor the memory of Ben DeMenech, a climber who died in a fall in 2001.

The totem in the woods for Ben DeMenech.

Pitch Nine: Climb up the easy terrain into the Acrophobe Towers. Work up and right to a bolted belay that hangs above the opposite side of the towers. This is an awesome pitch! (5.6, 175')

Hidden in the shade on the Acrophobe Towers.

Rappel: Make a thirty-foot rappel to a good stance directly below the tower.

Pitch 10: Climb through a notch out to the right and up to the another notch and a bolt with a rope hanging down the other side. (5.6, 60') Use the rope to climb down approximately 30-feet. At the time of this writing, the rope was damaged and was in need of replacement. It would be possible to downclimb the terrain below at 5.8. It would also be possible to leave a carabiner on the bolt to protect the leader and the follower. The carabiner could be left for the next party if needed.

Pitch 11: Climb up past a tree to easier terrain and a large boulder. Build an anchor. (5.6, 50').

Pitch 12: Climb a small tree and then work through steep terrain to easier climbing on the "Whaleback Arete." Continue past a tree and onto the right side of the feature. Build a trad belay anchor just down and left of the crack system with a piton in it. (5.8, 100')

At the top of the Whaleback Arete.

Pitch 13: Climb up and right passing a piton in the crack. As of this writing, the piton was cracked and shouldn't be thought of as acceptable protection. Note that there are good holds and another crack system up and left of the crack with the piton in it. Continue up the crack system into a wide offwidth section (crux). Squirm up the offwidth onto easier, but still steep 5.9 terrain above. Build an anchor on a nice ledge with two bolts. (5.10b, 100') This pitch is sustained and is likely the crux of the route.

Pitch 14: Worm your way under an overhang and behind a tree to an intimidating squeeze chimney. Slither up the chimney. The terrain gets easier as you get higher. Belay off trees on the summit! (5.8, 100')

Descent: Walk southwest across the summit. Follow your nose down trails that will become busier with more steps the lower you go. At the base of the chief, follow the trail to the right through the campground to a large parking lot. Continue right on another trail under the Apron to the Apron Parking Lot and your car. The descent will take between and hour and an hour-and-a-half, depending on how tired you are...!

Click to Enlarge

Topos for this route appear to be all over the place. But I tried my hand at it as well. Enjoy!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, July 22, 2019

Cleaning an Anchor and Setting Up a Rappel

We have a few different videos on this blog that deal with cleaning an anchor and rigging a rappel. But this video, from Red Rock Rendezvous and featuring AAI Guide Doug Foust, is incredibly good. It is a very comprehensive look at this transition. Check it out:

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, July 19, 2019

Free Solo Parody: Expensive Membership

So, by now many of you have seen Alex Honnold's film, Free Solo. It's awesome and well worth viewing. And films that are awesome and well worth viewing are also well worth parodying. Welcome to Expensive Membership, a parody of Free Solo about gym climbing.


--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Improvised Rappels

The American Mountain Guides Association is continuing to put out some really good videos with Outdoor Research. In this video, AMGA Instructor Team Member, Olivia Race, demonstrates three different types of improvised rappels.

1) Six Non-Lockers

This is the classic "Freedom of the Hills" style system that every climber engaging in multi-pitch climbing should be aware of.

2) Double-Stranded Munter

This is a much simpler concept. But it can result in some significant twists in the rope.

3) Three Locker System

This final system is a more modern variation of the first system listed here.

It's important with each of these to ensure that nylon isn't rubbing nylon and that ropes are not running over gates.

Check out an in-depth breakdown of each system below:

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, July 15, 2019

Trip Report: Winter Ascent of the Diamond

The Diamond on Longs Peak is one of the most recognized alpine walls in the world. While this wall is extremely popular as an arena for summer alpine rock, winter ascents of the Diamond are few and far between, requiring a wider breadth of climbing techniques and "acceptable" levels of comfort. Finding a partner for missions that promise to be arduous, cold, and snowy can be difficult but fortunately a longtime friend of mine enjoys such pursuits as much as I do so we waited for conditions to align for an attempt together.

We finally were gifted a window in February and had the opportunity to climb the Diamond in a single 22 hour push car to car via “D7”, the classic choice for a winter ascent. “D7” is a relatively direct line with straightforward aid and minimal traversing besides getting on and off the wall, making it the preferred line in the winter.   

At approximately 3:00 am we left the Longs Peak Trailhead and made our way to the base of the east face of Longs over the course of two and a half hours, with an incredible sunrise rewarding us for an early start. It became apparent that conditions on the North Chimney were sub-optimal for fast climbing, with a mostly faceted snowpack causing us to punch through the snow to our waist. After 600-700 feet of snow and mixed climbing we arrived at the base of the Diamond proper, grateful to get a reprieve from the snow wallowing onto steep rock. 

Once we began "D7" we switched our lens to a "climb by any means" style. Free any moves one can, aid everything else. Moves up to 5.9/5.10 were freed, but the minute free climbing caused a substantial slow of movement, french-freeing and direct aid was employed. As night fell, we reached the end of "D7" and found what would be the crux: exiting the Diamond on "junky" snow. While it was slow-moving, we found ourselves awe-struck with surreal views of city lights over 8,000 feet below us. 

Our descent route took the shortest technical option via the North Face (also known as the Cables Route) with a few rappels and a 6 mile "zombie walk" back to the trailhead, arriving at 1:00 am the following day- grateful for an incredible trip and to be able to finally sleep.   

Looking down the first few pitches of D7 and the entirety of North Chimney, in the left hand corner of the photo. 

Arriving at Broadway ledge after climbing North Chimney. 

Leading the final pitch off the Diamond and onto upper Kiener's

Leading high on "D7". 

Friday, July 12, 2019

How to Prepare for the Keyhole on Longs Peak, CO

Longs Peak, located within the boundaries of Rocky Mountain National Park, is among the most popular "14ers" (peaks at or above 14,000 feet) in Colorado. Longs is also one of the most difficult 14ers to climb, particularly when compared to other 14ers in the state that offer second class hiking routes to their summits. Climbers seeking the least technical route on Longs will want to set their sites on the "Keyhole Route" and be well-prepared, both physically and mentally. This article is written specifically for hikers and scramblers aspiring to engage third class terrain at altitude.

The "Keyhole Route" is over 14 miles and 5,000 feet of elevation gained/lost to and from the Longs Peak trailhead. This route also includes serious hazards such as exposure, loose/falling rock, altitude, lightning storms, "no fall zone" scrambling, and crowds. So, what does this mean for preparation? Here are a few tips to help you be successful on this route:

1) Find a specific mountain workout program that works for you, and stick to it

There are many workout programs available in the modern era that are specific to mountain fitness. Programs like those available on uphillathlete.com cater to a variety of different mountain objectives and can help you get more targeted training. Given the Keyhole Route has no 4th or 5th class climbing, seek programs that focus on cardio and moderate intensity workouts for longer periods of time.

A hiker enjoying the early morning sun on Longs Peak.

2) Progress gradually into climbing Longs

There are a plethora of moderate peaks from 12-14,000 feet in Colorado that are shorter and require less elevation gain/descent than the Keyhole, start smaller and work into Longs. 14ers such as Grays and Torrey's Peak offer routes about half the hiking distance of the Keyhole Route and don't engage any third class terrain. Getting comfortable with exposure and 3rd class scrambling is best done through a progression at lower altitudes in less consequential terrain before engaging the Keyhole. There are certain sections of the Keyhole route where an unroped fall would be fatal.

Peaks like Hallett (in the upper left of the photo) offer hiking routes that are great preparation for Longs. Photo Chris Brinlee.

3) Acclimatize

Some would argue acclimatizing before you climb a 14er is a no brainer, but Colorado's easy road access to higher elevations can make acclimatizing an after thought. If you live near sea-level, consider spending a minimum of 3-5 days gradually increasing the altitude you are sleeping and hiking at. There is no golden rule regarding the exact timeline needed, everyone acclimatizes at different rates, so make sure to check in with yourself and your hiking partners with symptoms of acute mountain sickness and HAPE (HACE is less likely at and below 14,000 feet). As always, DESCENT is the only treatment for altitude illness.

An AAI climber enjoys the summit of Longs Peak at 14,259 feet above sea level after climbing the North Face. This was after a full week of hiking and climbing at lower elevations.

4) Plan for the right time of year

The Keyhole is dramatically different depending on the time of year. Late summer is the only recommended time of year for people looking to keep the difficulties of the route at third class, with August and September generally being best. The Keyhole is much more serious route in the fall, winter, and spring involving crampons and an ice axe. The late summer timeframe presents a heightened hazard from lightning storms, so check the weather forecast! Conditions of the Keyhole route are posted and shared online through the National Park Service.

August on Longs Peak, offering dry, less snowy conditions.

4) Bring the right gear

I commonly see two extremes on the Keyhole: people bringing too little and people bringing too much. The crucial items are:

-2+ liters of water (you can and should refill your water at the Boulderfields later in the summer, bring water purification tablets as well.)
-1,200+ calories worth of food (most people will have a caloric deficit by the end of their Longs trip- bring LOTS of food!)
-Cell phone with a gps app such as GAIA (a paper map is always welcomed too)
-Synthetic (no cotton) pants and shirt
-Lightweight and medium weight insulation
-Hardshell waterproof jacket
-Medical Kit
-Sunglasses and Sunscreen
-Trekking pole(s)
-Climbing Helmet (you will see very few people wearing one, but there is significant hazard of rockfall, etc. especially from other scramblers)
-SOS beacon (verizon cell signal is great for some of the climb, but there are several areas where cell service is unreliable).
5) Start your preparation ASAP

Somebody new to long days at altitude should think about physically and mentally preparing for Longs 6 to 12 months in advance, at a minimum. Many people will want to start even earlier. The better prepared one is for a climb like this, the more they will enjoy it. This is a serious endeavor so if you're in doubt of the hazards, choose a smaller objective or consider hiring a guide. Preparation also includes, RESEARCHING the specifics of the Keyhole Route, many resources are available providing photos and details regarding the route.

The Keyhole Route is a classic route that most would argue is a must-do for anyone- whether you identify as a hiker, scrambler, and/or a climber. Be patient with your preparation and never push into terrain you do not feel comfortable with.

Longs Peak as seen from lower Chasm in June. 


Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Guide Like Liz Scholarship Winner: Brooke Warren

Brooke Warren has recreated in the outdoors since she was a little girl. Growing up in Crested Butte, Colorado it’s easy to understand why. Surrounded by the Rocky Mountains, Brooke was able to ski right outside her door. Her parents taught her to climb in places like Taylor Canyon outside of Gunnison. They also took her to other areas such as Indian Creek and El Potrero Chico.

“I am super fortunate to have a family that has impacted my mindset and goals throughout my life,” Brooke said.

Climbing and skiing were a part of Brooke’s family routine growing up, but it was in college that she adopted these sports as her own passion. She was a trip leader for her college’s outdoor program, Western Washington University Outdoor Excursions and she started climbing as much as she could while attending WWU.

Brooke waits out a storm on Mt. Rainer. Brooke Warren collection
Her mountaineering and skiing resume is extensive. She has had the opportunity to climb in the ranges of the North Cascades, the Elk Mountains, the San Juans, and the Lillooet in British Columbia. She has also rock climbed at beautiful locations such as Wild Iris, Eldorado Canyon, and Squamish.

After graduating with her Bachelors of Arts in visual journalism in 2014, Brooke obtained a job as a photo editor for High Country News, a magazine focused on issues in the western United States. But within the past year, Brooke transitioned out of that job into exploring guiding and outdoor education as her career.

In May 2018, she started working as an instructor for Colorado Outward Bound School in Leadville where she teaches students backcountry skills, lessons on natural history, and human impact. She also guides technical terrain on Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier with Alpine Ascents International.

Brooke (front) climbs Castle Peak for spring skiing in 2018. Brooke Warren collection.
In October 2018, she had the opportunity to volunteer and be a lead guide for Afghan Ascend: Leadership Through Athletics in Kabul, Afghanistan. Through this non-profit, whose focus is to empower young Afghan women through mountaineering, Brooke guided and instructed a team of Afghan girls in the Panjshir Valley.

“Soon I hope to be regularly guiding on all kinds of mountainous terrain to give people experiences that will leave them in awe of the natural world as well as in awe of their own physical feats,” Brooke wrote in her 2019 Guide Like Liz Scholarship application. “I’m excited to bolster my guiding experience with my recreational skiing experience in order to expand my instructional skillset to include more mountaineering objectives.”

Brooke photographs a team member of the Afghan Ascend team in Afghanistan, where she volunteered leading a backcountry rock climbing and mountaineering training expedition in October 2018. Brooke Warren collection.
Brooke is taking AAI’s Technical Rope Rescue Comprehensive (TRRC) course with her scholarship. The TRRC is a 15-day course designed for competent technical climbers and mountaineers. Most of the course is spent on "high-end" technical rescue scenarios and the main focus of the program is on light backcountry scenarios. Heavy front-country roadside and industrial rescues are addressed as well.

“I’m excited to learn and practice complex rope systems and mechanical advantages so I can use the tools without reference and improvise when a situation calls for it. I’m interested specifically in the high angle rescue systems that apply to AMGA courses. Plus, I’m hoping I’ll be an asset to SAR teams with these additional skills.”

Brooke climbs Orion in Smith Rock State Park, Oregon. Brooke Warren collection.
Brooke’s climbing and mountaineering background combined with her interest in guiding as a career makes the TRRC a perfect stepping stone in her journey. This course will help her gain a high level of skill in all forms of technical rope rescue.

I asked Brooke if she had a motto or a quote that she lives by:

“One of my favorite quotes is, ‘Nothing diminishes anxiety faster than action,’ by Walter Anderson. I’ve so often found myself wondering how something would go, rather than just doing it. To me, taking action, reaching out, or fixing a problem is so much more effective than pondering the problem. Yes, thinking things through is also important, but that comes naturally to me, so I like to remind myself to just do it before I overthink things.”

And I asked if she could give another woman or young aspiring female climber/mountaineer a piece of advice either that she was given or she wishes she was given, what would it be...

“You know more than you think; you do/you’re more capable than you believe. When I began this journey I had a lot of unconscious competence and I’ve been grateful for people who made me aware of the skills I was shy about or didn’t know were important. As a woman, society makes it easy for us to be aware of where we fall short, but it’s important to also know where you excel. So figuring out how to name your knowledge or skills (and practicing) helps build the confidence that tells you, you are capable.” 

Brooke (framed by the tent) makes water for clients on Mt. Rainer. Brooke Warren collection.
Congratulations, Brooke! We are thrilled you chose the American Alpine Institute to be a part of your continuing outdoor education and we look forward to having you attend our Technical Rope Rescue Comprehensive course.

--Sara Umstead, School Certifying Official