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

Monday, October 20, 2014

Parkour and Art

Steve Casimiro at The Adventure Life posted the following video a couple of weeks ago. If you haven't checked out The Adventure Life, it's definitely time to take a look. They have a very good blog.

Parkour is the urban climbing, bouldering, gymnastic movement that has become popular in some circles. The Urban Dictionary defines Parkour as:

Parkour can be thought of as being chased by someone. You want to get away as fast as possible, right? But lets say you begin running into rails or walls or other obstacles as such. If you go around them you're only wasting time and energy.

The trick of parkour is to use as little wasted movementt while going past an obstacle. This is why most consider tricking and flips "not parkour" as they simply aren't necessary and will most likely slow you down in someway.

To parkour is to be able to control your body and mind into one being, so that you can find a path quickly, and move your body in a way that the path can be followed into the next path you're given. If you're running towards and obstacle and start to slow down in order to maneuver around it, most likely you need to practice more.

In the following video an artist has developed a cartoon of sorts showing parkour movement...and it is awesome. Check it out below:

--Jason D. Martin

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Flakes are falling, passes are on sale, wax is being melted, and bullwheels are even starting to turn. And with the return of the ski season comes the return of the ski-movie season. We've already had a couple great ones roll through town, and have a couple more to look forward to.

Sweetgrass Productions has already made its mark with it's stunning cinematic feats, but what happens when you pair them with a big-budget LED manufacturer?  "Afterglow" happens...

We've seen epic ice climber Will Gadd tackle some tough routes before. When he brought Helmcken Falls into the ice climbing spotlight, we knew there was some amazing potential. In this latest teaser, we see Will working on his 7 pitch project to connect the base of the falls all the way to the top.

Coming up on November 7, AAI will be at Aslan Brewery with Mt. Baker Experience for the showing of Matchstick Production's "Days of My Youth."  Here's the trailer to whet your appetite and help you remember the good ol' days.

Have a great weekend! - James

Friday, October 17, 2014

Let's Do the Trucker's Hitch!!!

So the odd little band Ylvis, the same band that's responsible for "What's the Fox Say?" has a new song out about nothing other than the Trucker's Hitch. And yeah, it's pretty funny.

Check it out, below:

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/16/14


--A rock climber was injured Sunday afternoon after he fell from Green Mountain's established climbing rock off Gold Creek Trail, officials said. Because of the somewhat remote location east of Lake Tahuyeh, emergency crews called in a helicopter from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, which transported the climber to Seattle's Harborview Medical Center. To read more, click here.

--The rugged, beautiful Washington Coast and the rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula will soon be the site of War Games conducted by the United States Military. In 2015, the United States plans to test and refine our ability to use and maintain electromagnetic weapons in our National Forest lands. Pumping radiation out of towers at 14 locations, including stations on the Quinault, Queets, Hoh rivers and rain forests, the US military is saying that there is little to no risk to humans or large animals in the region. To read more, click here.

--Crystal Mountain in Washington is finishing installation of two new chairlifts, making the resort southeast of Enumclaw the busiest construction setting for ski areas of Oregon and Washington entering the 2014-15 winter recreation season. To read more, click here.

Parks Superintendant Jon Jarvis

--The National Park Service, under the order of director Jon Jarvis, is beginning to analyze a significant fee increase at many of its marquee parks, among them Crater Lake in Oregon and Mount Rainier and Olympic in Washington. To read more, click here.

--Ultra-marathoner and climber, Daniel Probst, is in the process of putting together a new version of the Mount Baker Marathon. After running from Bellingham Bay to the top of Mount Baker and back, he plans on creating a monster race that would reflect his efforts and those of runners who raced from Bellingham to the top of the mountain and back over a hundred years ago. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Joshua Tree's campgrounds have all opened for the season. To read more, click here.


--Rescuers helped four stranded climbers on the third Flaitron on Saturday night after one of the climber's ropes became stuck on the mountain, stranding him 30 feet in the air. The stuck rope prevented 46-year-old Eric Westerkamp from descending any further, according to a Boulder County Sheriff's Office press release. This, in turn, left three other climbers -- 29-year-old Daniel Hood, 26-year-old Jarrett Grindlay and 44-year-old Rachel Hess -- stranded above him. To read more, click here.

--One overdue climber was found dead and the other was alive with severe injuries in the Maroon Bells area near Aspen on Friday, according to emergency scanner traffic. Crews were awaiting a helicopter to airlift the climber, who was found in the Bell Chord area on the east aspect of North Maroon Peak, to a hospital, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office said. The body of the second climber was found a short time later, according to emergency scanner traffic. To read more, click here.

--In Golden, CO last week an informal group of leaders in the climbing industry gathered to discuss the future of climbing. Organized by Earth Treks’ founder Chris Warner, the roundtable included Presidents and key staff from Earth Treks, American Alpine Club, American Mountain Guide Association, Access Fund, USA Climbing, Climbing Wall Association, Climbing Business Journal, Petzl, and Walltopia. To read more, click here.

--A few weeks ago, when Vail Resorts bought Park City Mountain Resort, the sale triggered an onslaught of vitriol against Colorado's billion-dollar ski empire. But while it's easy to hate a company just because it's claiming territory faster than the whitebark pine beetle, Vail has actually been a very good thing for skiers. To read more, click here.

--A Colorado ski resort says Salt Lake City can't market itself as Ski City USA because the winter sports slogan is too similar to their decades-old nickname for Steamboat Springs. Steamboat Ski Resort is suing Utah tourism officials, claiming a $1.8 million campaign designed to lure tourists in the lucrative winter sports industry away from Colorado violates their Ski Town, U.S.A. trademark. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Scott Cosgrove, a leading climber in the 90's, was critically injured in a fall sustained while rigging. It is reported that Cosgrove was working in a airplane hanger when he fell thirty feet onto a concrete floor. To read more, click here.

--A Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources spokesperson tells 27 News a man was taken to the hospital Saturday afternoon after falling about 50 to 60 feet from the west bluff at Devil's Lake State Park in Baraboo. The Baraboo EMS rope rescue team was called to the park around 1:20 p.m. to rescue the climber, along with DNR park rangers. To read more, click here.

--Check out this nice story on a trail angel on the Pacific Crest Trail, first reported by NPR.

--In news of the gross, a backpacker who spent time in SE Asia recently discovered that she had a three-inch long leech living in her nose. To read about it, click here.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop - 11/2/2012

Time to reward those that are loyal to all things snowy…...

For those of you unfamiliar with The Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop (NSAW), it is an all-day seminar in Seattle with speaker's from all over North America all speaking to a common theme. It is a great way to start your snow season with an emphasis on safety, while having one heckuva great time!

This year the theme is, " Accidents, Surprises, and Near Misses".

Talks are no longer than 35 minutes, the breaks are long, and their are a TON of venders offering Pro Deals for participants (BCA, Brooks Range, Mammut, etc.). At the end of the day there is an after party on premise with FREE BEER (New Belgium), Smoked Salmon, Pizza, and a few other munchables.

The great part is that you don't have to sacrifice too much sleep to attend. NSAW starts at 9:00am the morning AFTER the switch to Daylight Savings. Yup, an extra hour of sleep to bank for your drive. Parking is FREE on the UW campus for NSAW, and children under 16 are FREE as well.

Go to the link below and click on Get Tickets

Click on Enter a Password or Discount Code

Type in active, all lower case

Purchase your ticket and save some money ( you can then spend it on raffle tickets cuz there will be over $10,000 in gear!)