Friday, May 27, 2022

Flemish Bend

The flemish bend, also commonly referred to as a figure-eight bend, is a knot commonly used to tie two ropes together.

Why might we tie two ropes together?

The most common reason is for a rappel. And this knot can be used for that application, but it is not the preferred knot. Instead, the preferred knot is the overhand flat bend (often called the Euro death knot or EDK).

There are two common applications for the flemish bend. (1) It is used to tie a cordalette into a loop. And (2) it is used to tie two ropes together for long topropes. In both applications, climbers use the bend because it is easy to untie. A word of warning though...if you elect to toprope with two ropes tied together, be sure to consider the rope-stretch implications of having so much rope in the system.

The flemish bend is very easy to tie. It is simply a standard figure-eight follow-though, threaded by a new rope in the opposite direction. To see an example, click below:




In this particular video, the bend is not dressed at the end. I always prefer dressed knots to undressed knots. Undressed knots are not bad, they won't fail. But dressed knots are easier to quickly check to ensure that they're tied properly.

(Side-note: a bend is a term from a family of knots used to connect two ropes.)

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, May 26, 2022

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 5/26/22

Northwest:

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "a report on Avalanche Canada describes how five backcountry skiers were lucky to survive an avalanche on Mount Pattison in the Whistler backcountry on Thursday, May 19." To read more, click here.

--The Seattle Times is reporting that, "two climbers were rescued by helicopter Friday after one fell into a crevasse the day before on Mount Rainier, officials say. The climbers had been in contact with the National Park Service beginning Wednesday evening, when they stopped their summit bid at 12,800 feet because of adverse weather, according to the NPS. They didn’t initially ask for assistance." To read more, click here.

--An injured snowmobiler was rescued off Mt. Baker this week. Check out this video of the rescue:



Sierra:

--The Record Courier is reporting that, "a 43-year-old male climber was killed on Friday after he fell 75 feet from a rock wall in Woodfords Canyon. Alpine County Sheriff’s Office responded around 2:45 p.m. to the a report of a climbing accident." To read more, click here.

JB Brown

UPDATE on PREVIOUS ARTICLE: I didn't recognize this person's name because he commonly used the initials JB. JB Brown was a mountain guide and an exceptional person. He will be missed.

--The Tahoe Daily Tribune is reporting that, "Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe announced that Greg Gavrilets has been hired as its General Manager, replacing long-time ski area leader Paul Senft, who retired after a 42-year career with the resort." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Daily Camera is reporting that, "A climber fell in Eldorado State Park on Monday and had to be rescued after suffering injuries. At 3:05 p.m., the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office received a report of a climber who had fallen between 25 and 30 feet in the area of Redgarden Wall and alerted responders to the incident. Rescuers from the Mountain View Fire Protection District, already in the state park on a training exercise, were the first to arrive at the 25-year-old climber’s location and rendered first aid. Additional rescuers from the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group hiked to the scene and helped stabilize the victim." To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "one of the longest running climbing magazines of all time will no longer be available in print. Climbing was first published in 1970. Purchased in 2007 by Skram Media, the publisher of Urban Climber, Climbing was published up to nine times a year. In 2021, Outside Inc, purchased Climbing, Ascent, Rock & Ice and Gym Climber and combined them under the title Climbing. Outside Inc. was reportedly recently purchased by a firm backed by venture capitalists." To read more, click here.
















Alaska:

--CNN is reporting that, "A Japanese mountain climber is presumed dead after falling into a crevasse in Alaska's Denali National Park, officials said. The 43-year-old from Kanagawa, Japan -- who was not named by officials -- was un-roped from his teammates and "fell through a weak ice bridge near their camp at approximately 8,000 feet on the southeast fork of the Kahiltna Glacier," according to a Wednesday release from the Denali National Park and Preserve. He was at the base of Mount Hunter's North Buttress." To read more, click here.

--Alaska Public Media is reporting that, "Three men were sentenced Monday for leaving a popular bear viewing platform in Katmai National Park and Preserve and wading into the river toward brown bears feeding on salmon, according to federal prosecutors. The incident took place at the iconic Brooks Falls. The park’s rules are pretty simple: Humans have to stay on the viewing platform, which is elevated and looks out across the rushing water, where bears feed. There are also specific regulations against hazing wildlife or getting too close." To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "op alpinists Matt Cornell, Jackson Marvell and Alan Rousseau have climbed the Slovak Direct on Denali in 21 hours and 35 minutes. The 2,700-metre route is graded VI 5.9X M6 WI6." The route's previous record was 60-hours. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

Dr. Nina Roberts

--College professor and outdoor advocate Dr. Nina Roberts died recently of cancer. Nina was a well-known advocate for diversity and inclusion in outdoor spaces. San Francisco State University is in the process of establishing an endowment fund for scholarships in the Parks and Rec field. To read more and to make a donation, click here.

--VT Digger is reporting that, "failures by Vail Resorts contributed to the death of a Stowe Mountain Resort employee last fall, the Vermont Occupational Safety and Health Administration has found. The state agency cited Vail Resorts for not providing a place of employment free from recognized hazards 'likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees' in connection with the death of Scott Lewis, 53, a Stowe Mountain Resort employee who crashed and died while riding a zipline in September, a report obtained by VTDigger reveals." To read more, click here.

--Unofficial Networks has published a video from somewhere in Europe that shows a drone nearly hit a skier.  After the near miss and some words (very bad words) with the drone operator, the skier slaps the drone out of the sky with his pole. It's kinda what the drone and the drone operator deserve and it's also why drones aren't allowed in ski resorts. Check it out.

--The fantastic documentary, The Alpinist, recently won an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Long Form Documentary. To read about it, click here.

Monday, May 23, 2022

Route Profile: Northwest Rib, Mt. Shuksan (5.7, III)

Mt. Shuksan is one of the most photographed mountains in the world. The peak is draped in hanging glaciers and beautiful rock buttresses. But most people stick to one of three routes, the Sulphide Glacier, the Fisher Chimneys or the North Face. But the reality is that there are several more interesting lines and variations on the peak. The Northwest Rib is one such feature.

Fisher Chimneys and Sulphide Routes on Mt. Shuksan.
(Click to Enlarge)

Fred Beckey doesn't give much information about this route. He notes the following:

This is the narrow rock spur that separates the White Salmon and Hanging Glaciers; the route crosses the 1939 ascent line. First ascent by Pat Cruver and Dave Davis in July, 1974. Use the White Salmon approach (see the Fisher Chimneys route). The original party kept mostly on the rib's crest, but many variations are possible. The climb joined the Northwest Face route at the summit pyramid and was completed by the 1939 finish. Grade III; class 5.7 (one pitch); the climb is mostly class-4, easy class 5 on firm rock.

It should be noted that the concept of "firm rock" is a bit in the eye of the beholder. There are definitely sections of this line that are very loose. That said, if you are interested in some adventure climbing and can handle some areas of looseness, the rest of the route is well-worth the time.

 The NW Rib from the bottom of White Salmon Glacier.
(Click to Enlarge)

The NW Rib essentially links the White Salmon Glacier with the Upper Curtis. The line climbs up just to the right of the Hanging Glacier. Indeed, it also provides access to the upper Hanging Glacier above the seracs, if that is a line that you're interested in.

The NW Rib from the top of the Fisher Chimneys.
(Click to Enlarge)

The route can be broken into several sections.

Section 1: Approach

The standard approach is via the Fisher Chimneys. At the top of the Chimneys and below Winnie's Slide there are a few areas to bivy. Above Winnie's Slide there are a few more. After the beginning of July, there is often running water near camp where you access the upper Curtis Glacier. Sometimes this is available earlier.

The route could be done from Lake Ann and back in a day, but that would be a very big day and would likely not include a summit. Indeed, the best way to do this line and include a summit would be to climb the Fisher Chimneys on Day 1. Climb the route and the summit on Day 2, and then descend the Fisher Chimneys and go out on Day 3. If you elect to do this as a two day adventure, it's unlikely you'll have time to summit and go out on the same day...but it is possible to complete the route, and then descend the Fisher Chimneys on a two day itinerary as the top of the route is only thirty or forty minutes away from the bivys between the Curtis Glacier and Fisher Chimneys.

Most parties require anywhere from five to eight hours to get from the car to the top of the Chimneys. It takes four to six hours to get back to the car from the top of the Chimneys.

Approximate line of ascent.
(Click to Enlarge)

Section 2: Descend the White Salmon Glacier

Drop down skier's left on the White Salmon Glacier to avoid crevasses. Traverse to the base of the route at approximately 5500-feet (this is lower than the maps seem to indicate and could have been due to a faulty altimeter.). The route starts at a prominent loose gully with a large chalkstone in it. (Approximately 1 hour to the base of the route from the bivys.)

Section 3: Transition and Ascend the Choss Gully and Heather

Transition out of glacier travel mode and into climbing mode and then make your way up. We climbed up left of the chalkstone on loose rock to heather climbing, left of a steep heather chimney.

Chimney Start - This looks somewhat intimidating from the glacier, but it is 
not as steep as it looks. It is one of the crux loose sections of the route though.
(Click to Enlarge)

Go out left, avoiding the heather chimney and then work back right to better climbing. This will be two to four pitches or simul-climbing, depending on what you do. Things will stepen at the end of the heather for the next section.

Section 4: Climbing!

Continue up a slightly loose mid-fifth class section toward a beautiful handcrack that cuts through a roof. Once below the handcrack, you have three options:
  1. Go straight up through the handcrack to the top of a tower. (5.7-5.8, appx. 100 feet from base.)
  2. Climb out left to a -- hidden around the left corner -- more consistent handcrack. (5.7, appx 100 feet from base.)
  3. Or continue up the gully to the right on third, fourth and low fifth class terrain. If you choose to do this, aim for the crest when you can to get out of the loose.
Regardless of which way you go, continue on the ridge or just left it. There will be a few hundred feet of climbing with many variations, until you are forced to traverse to the left above the bottom of the Hanging Glacier.

Section 5: Better Climbing!

You will make your traverse below a series of cool slabs. Work up these fourth and low-fifth class slabs, avoiding loose rock. You may want to place pro to keep the rope away from looseness. Your goal is to work up toward the obvious notch.

As you get closer to the notch, the climbing gets better. The notch brings you back onto the ridge. Some easy climbing will eventually get you to the base of a nice handcrack. Climb the 5.6 crack. Above the handcrack pitch, there's another nice crack, but it can be avoided on the right with easier climbing.

Section 6: The Choss Apron

As you work through good climbing, a finger will appear above you on the ridge. Aim for that. Eventually you will get out of the good climbing and find yourself on the "Choss Apron." This is really the last challenge. Work up and right on the apron. Eventually you'll find a giant cave behind a tower. Go right at that wall and work up through easy terrain to the top of the route.

Top of the Route:

You made it. Now you're looking at the Upper Curtis Glacier! Negotiate the moat and then decide if you're going to climb the rest of the mountain via the upper Fisher Chimneys Route, or via the NE Ridge of the Summit Pyramid (5.7).

NW Rib of Mt. Shuksan from the White Salmon Glacier
Photo by Ben Gardner
(Click to Enlarge)

Final Thoughts:

How many pitches is this? Who knows. It depends on how you do it. The route is approximately 1300-feet long. There are definitely sections where you could simul-climb. There are also definitely sections where pro is scarce and simul-climbing could be very dangerous. Additionally, there are loose area throughout the route, so maybe silmuling isn't such a good idea. You have to decide for yourself.

There are variations everywhere on this route. As such, I gave some big brushstrokes in this description. It's okay to take them for a grain of salt. 


All that said, it took my party five hours from the base to the top of the route. It took eleven hours to descend to the climb, climb the route, descend to camp and then descend back down to the car. We did not go to the summit, but we had a grand adventure on an obscure Shuksan route...

--Jason D. Martin


Gate Direction on Quickdraws

The question about gate direction on quickdraws comes up pretty regularly on courses. There are two perspectives. The first is that it doesn't matter, place the carabiners on the dogbone however you like. And the second is that it matters and that not doing it right could be dangerous.

Kolin Powick -- the individual who runs Black Diamond's Quality Control Lab -- addressed this in the following video:



Kolin notes that there is a "better" way to put your carabiners on your dogbone. And that better way is to have the gates facing the same direction. He notes that there are two reasons for this:

1) The carabiner gates can easily be oriented away from you when you climb.

Ideally, the spine of the carabiner is oriented toward the direction you're climbing and the gates are oriented away. When you climb with the carabiners facing opposite directions it's harder to remember which way to clip in order to make sure that the spine is facing the climbing direction.

2) The gate can get caught up on the bolt hanger.

If you have set-up your draws with the gates facing opposite directions and you clip the draws appropriately, the gate and nose of the carabiner can ride up onto the bolt hanger. This makes it more likely that a fall will damage or break the carabiner.

As a side-note, the most common way that carabiners break in a climbing application is when they are "nose-clipped." In other words, the nose of the carabiner gets stuck on the bolt with the gate holding it in place. When climbers take falls on a carabiner clipped like this, the carabiner almost universally breaks.

The way you clip and how you have your clips set-up are important. It's easy to see sport climbing as a "safer" form of climbing...but that's not always the case. It's important to do things the right way in order to avoid catastrophe.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, May 20, 2022

Route Profile: Dorado Needle - East Ridge

There is almost no information whatsoever about the east ridge of Dorado Needle. In the Cascade Alpine Guide, Beckey merely gives it a mention:

EAST RIDGE: This sharp crest leads from the col E of Dorado needle toward the summit. First ascent by Joan and Joe Firey, Hans Hoesli, Dave Knudson and Peter Renz on July 4, 1971. The route involves class 3-5, sound, granitic rock. Ascend the ridge to the eastern subsummit, then rappel into the notch beyond for completion to the summit. Rating: 5.5. Time 4 hours.

On an ascent of the route in 2016, we found this description to be... less than adequate. The route clocks in at about 5.7 and most parties will take eight to twelve hours from the Eldorado East Ridge camp (where there's a toilet) to the summit of Dorado and back. Additionally, the route presents many different alpine problems that make it an interesting and fun route to climb!


Approach: From the camp at the base of the east ridge of Eldorado Peak (see Selected Climbs in the Cascades, Volume I), traverse the Inspiration Glacier to the north avoiding crevasses until you reach the Inspriation-McAllister Col.

This is a good time to take a picture of the NW Ridge of Dorado Needle and the glacier below. On the descent you will not be able to see all the options and an early photo that you can reference later will help with your return trip.

Drop down the glacier until you reach the Dorado Needle Col.

Topo for the East Ridge of Dorado
(Click to Enlarge)

Route: From the Dorado Needle Col, climb one very loose, nearly unprotectable 5.5 pitch, to a stance. Approximately 100-feet up from the Col there is a large horn that had a sling on it when I climbed it. This is the best anchor if you start from the Col.

There is protection, but it is thin. Everything that you might consider for pro needs to be checked to ensure that it is attached to the mountain.

An alternative is to cross the moat to the right of the Col and climb straight up underneath a cannonball hole in the mountain. While we didn't go this way, it is reportedly better climbing. However, you may have to deal with a very dangerous moat. It should also be noted that the cannonball hole is hard to see on the approach.

At the top of the first pitch, scramble up toward the ridge crest on better rock. Continue for several rope lengths along or just below the ridge. The climbing here is anywhere from third class to easy fifth class. All the ridge climbing throughout the entire route is either on the ridge or below it on the right-hand side.

Eventually, you will come to a notch. Down-climb third and fourth class terrain to a spot where the glacier touches the notch.

From here, cross the glacier to the base of the continuation of the east ridge. The best place to access the ridge is at a ledge with two quartzite lines. Beware of the moat here as it is bottomless.

East Ridge Dorado Needle
(Click on Image to Enlarge)

Many parties may choose to skip the loose bottom of the east ridge and simply access the mountain after this notch. The rock is significantly better from here on out.

After you access the rock, continue up for several rope lengths on terrain that ranges from third to low-fifth class to the top of a tower.

Make two short rappels into the notch between the ridge and the summit pyramid.

Working up 5.7 Terrain toward the Summit.

Climb good rock for another two pitches. This terrain looks harder than it is as you approach it. The climbing is never harder than 5.7.

Climb one to two more easy pitches to the summit of the mountain.

Descent: This descent can be easy, or it can turn into a nightmare. Stay awake and pay attention. There is a lot of tat on this mountain that leads you to difficult moat crossings.

From the summit, ignore the tat around the summit block and continue down the ridge toward the Northwest Ridge. Eventually you will come to a block that is inconveniently wrapped with tat. It's inconvenient because you will have to climb over to the other side to rig it for a rappel.

One way to tell that you're in the right place is that you can see that you'll be about five to ten feet above a stance when you rig it.

There is a lot of tat on the north side of the mountain. If the moats are not too difficult, you might be able to use some of these. But if the moats look like they'll be a problem, then you shouldn't rap that way.

East Ridge from Eldorado Peak
(Click on Image to Enlarge)

We rapped easily down the southwest side to a stance that is exactly 30 meters (100-feet) below. From there we scrambled on easy ledges back to the NW Ridge and to an easy rap that took us to a moatless notch at the base of the NW Ridge.

From the base of the ridge, you will have to find a way down through steep crevasses in order to make your way back to the McAllister-Inspiration Col. In 2016, we found a good path down on the skier's right side of the glacier.

Dorado Needle is an excellent climb. This is an adventure climb in the purest sense. The peak is remote, big and incredibly cool. An ascent of Dorado Needle is an ascent of something at the very heart of the North Cascades!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, May 16, 2022

Route Profile: Cutthroat Peak, S. Buttress (5.8, III+)

Every winter the Washington Department of Transportation turns a cold shoulder to a stretch of State Route 20 that winds its way through the Northern Cascades.  This area sees so much snow and crosses so many avalanche paths that it is not feasible for them to maintain the road and keep it plowed.  This stretch can see sometimes more than 60 or 70 feet of snow in some places.  Every spring, we eagerly await the reports from the DOT as they start the clearing process.  Depending on the snowfall and the avalanche conditions, this can take a few weeks, or a few months.  This year, the highway was cleared and open by May 8, and climbers and skiers alike have already started enjoying the numerous routes there.

The Liberty Bell Group from the East.  Dana Hickenbottom.
SR 20 cuts through the heart of the North Cascades National Park, and is the access for hundreds of peaks.  One of my favorite areas along there is known as Washington Pass.  This Pass is home to some of the best alpine rock climbing in the state.  The most notable formation there is the Liberty Bell Group, which includes Liberty Bell, Concord Tower, Lexington Tower, North Early Winters Spire and South Early Winters Spire.  Each of these peaks have numerous routes on them ranging from 5.6 beginner routes to 5.12 Grade V monsters.

However, the Liberty Bell Group isn't the only fine chunk of granite in the area.  Another great is Cutthroat Peak, which is just to the north of Liberty Bell, on the other side of the highway.  At 8050', it tops out at about 300' higher then anything in the Liberty Bell Group.  When viewed from the east or west, you can see the distinctive North and South Summits, which form the shape of the salmon that it is named after.

Climbers approaching through the grassy meadows to
the southwest of the peak.  James Pierson

There are a hand-full of routes on the peak, mostly in the moderate range, although there are a couple in the 5.10 and over range, as well as some alpine ice routes.  From the highway, you park at a broad pull-off south and just west of the peak, approximately 1.5 miles west of Washington Pass.  Drop down into the drainage and start the brushy hike up the other side towards the meadows on the southwest of the peak.  Ascend the northern-most notch of the Southwest Arm to get to the base of the South Buttress to start the real climbing.  The South Buttress, shown middle-center in the photo below, is a great 5.8 route that follows the crest of the feature, with a few short sections that venture to the east before returning back to the ridge.  If you find yourself getting sucked too far to the left, be sure to steer yourself back to the crest again.

View of Cutthroat Peak from the summit of Liberty Bell.  James Pierson

The majority of the route is easier climbing with a few short but well protected 5.6 - 5.7 spots.  The crux of the climb (5.8) comes near the top, just before you start the final easy scramble.  This takes you up to the first of the two summits.

Rock Ptarmigan trying to blend in. James Pierson
Mountain goat coming to say hello.  James Pierson


Above is a 360 deg. panorama from the summit of Cutthroat Peak.  From this vantage point, you have spectacular views of the Liberty Bell Massif, Big Kangaroo Peak, Silver Star Peak, the Wine Spires, in to British Columbia to the north, and on a good day you can even catch glimpses of Mt. Baker.

Climber starting to rappel down the
West Ridge. James Pierson
For the descent, you have two options.  If there are no other climbers behind you, you can rappel the route.  The other option is to continue scrambling and drop into the notch between the North and South Summits, ascend the North Summit and then rappel down the West Ridge route.  There are fewer rappels this way, but there is also some loose scree scrambling as you come off the West Ridge.

Cutthroat Peak is often overlooked by climbers since its neighbors on the other side of the highway have such easy access.  But with a little extra effort on the approach, you will find a great climb for anyone looking for a long, moderate climb with beautiful surroundings.

--James Pierson, Program Coordinator and Guide

Friday, May 13, 2022

Tent Melt-Out

When the spring is sprung and there is more rain and warmth than snow and cold, an odd thing starts to happen in the mountains around your tent. The bottom of the tent acts as an insulator or a blanket, keeping the snow cold. On overnight trips or short summit trips, you may not even notice this. But on longer trips, the warmer temperatures and the rain cause the snow to melt everywhere...everywhere except for under your tent.

Slowly your tent develops its own little pedestal. There are two problems with this. First, your tent-stakes will start to melt out and second, the edges of the insulated tent floor will begin to melt-out.In the snow, tent-stakes should be buried in a T-slot instead of buried vertically. Work-harden the snow to make sure that the stakes stay in place. If there is any metal showing from a stake, it becomes more likely that the stake will melt-out. Warmth radiates through metal. Making sure that a placement is solidly work-hardened will decrease the likelihood of a stake melting out in the short term.

When the snow underneath the tent starts to melt-out, it tends to do so from the edges. Over the course of a couple of days the melt-out will force the tent's occupants to cuddle more and more closely together. The sides of the tent become a trough, eating up all the extra equipment.

If you plan to camp in a given location for a longer period of time, the trick to avoiding problems is to pile snow all around your tent. Pile the snow heavily along the sides of the tent and over the snow-stakes. If the edges of the tent are well-covered, the problems that arise with longer camps become less prevalent.


A tent in the snow without additional snow piled-up to prevent melt-out

A tent that has a significant amount of snow piled around it 
so that it doesn't melt out on a warm day.

While this might not be the most technical tip that we've ever provided on this blog, stacking snow around your tent can certainly make your life a lot more pleasant.

--Jason D. Martin