Friday, September 21, 2018

A Celebration of Women in the Outdoors - Where the Wild Things Play

Outdoor Research -- the clothing manufacturer -- has done a great job with inclusion in their recent promotions. It started with their awesome takedown of GQ and its sexist photo shoot that only showed women watching. In ORs response it turned the sexism on its head by showing the men watching the women. And the result is both poignant and funny.

Now, they have produced a great film entitled Where the Wild Things Play, about women in adventure sports playing in the outdoors. Check it out below:

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Film Review: Devil's Pass

Sigh... Most movies that have climbing and mountaineering in them are bad. Some are mediocre and a very small percentage of them are good.

Devil's Pass, one of those easily found Netflix films, is also one of those mediocre films. You don't feel like you wasted your time unless you had something better to do. If you have something better to do, then you should probably do it. But if not, then maybe Devil's Pass might be a good way to burn ninety-minutes.

What's up with these kinds of posters? I get it that Hollywood 
believes that sex sells. But a woman freezing in the snow
isn't what most people would think of as sexy...

Devil's Pass tells the story of a group of American college students who set out to investigate the Dyatlov Pass incident. If you're not familiar with the incident, here's a short paragraph about it from Wikipedia:

The incident involved a group of ten from Ural Polytechnical Institute who had set up camp for the night on the slopes of Kholat Syakhl. Investigators later determined that the skiers had torn their tents from the inside out. They fled the campsite, some of them barefoot, under heavy snowfall. Although the bodies showed no signs of struggle, such as contusions, two victims had fractured skulls and broken ribs. Soviet authorities determined that an "unknown compelling force" had caused the deaths; access to the region was consequently blocked for hikers and adventurers for three years after the incident. Due to the lack of survivors, the chronology of events remains uncertain, although several explanations have been put forward, including a possible avalanche, a military accident, or a hostile encounter with a yeti or other unknown creature.

This true life incident is one of those Twilight Zone/X-Files type things that occasionally appears in mountaineering literature. It's a great premise for a science fiction/horror film. But then they decided to hire Renny Harlin to direct the film.

Harlin is one of those directors that tends to work on half-assed genre films. He's responsible for such luminary works as Die Hard 2: Die Harder and the Andrew Dice Clay vehicle, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. But most climbers will remember his signature outdoor film accomplishment: Cliffhanger.

So without going any further, you pretty much know that there are going to be problems with the film.

The story is primarily done as a found footage piece, with Holly King (Holly Goss), a young student leader who wishes to make a documentary on the Dyatlov Pass incident. And of course, to do so, she needs to put together a team to make a trip to the pass. The team includes a filmmaker (Matt Stokoe), a sound woman (Gemma Atkinson) and two guides (Ryan Hawley and Luke Albright).

The problems start early in the story. For example, when you choose a guide, he probably shouldn't be under 25 and tell everyone that "I've pretty much climbed every mountain that matters in the US and want to go other places." Sure, he might be experienced. But he's not Fred Beckey. That arrogance alone means that you're liklihood of survival is going to be low. Add monsters, and there's no way you're going to make it back.

Shortly after that, we find out that the "guide" also hooks up with one of his clients on every trip. He calls them "trail hookups" and videotapes them.

There's also a sequence where we find out that the Russian military doesn't want them there, even after issuing them a permit. And decides that the best way to get rid of them is not to tell them to leave, but to set-off an avalanche with explosives. If the "guides" knew anything, then that military tactic would not have worked out because the team wouldn't have been in an avalanche path...

For some reason they build campfires at every camp, even though their way up in the alpine with no trees or wood anywhere nearby. I wonder if the guides made the rest of the expedition carry logs up there? But they keep going...

The guides compasses and GPS units go crazy and they keep going...

Did I mention that they find a human tongue? Yeah... They do. And for some reason they keep on going.

The guides are really really bad. And the motivations for all of them to stay on the mountain are really really bad. It doesn't make much sense.

But it was a Renny Harlin movie. They don't tend to make much sense. The best he'll ever do is...medicore...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 17, 2018

Leave No Trace: Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

The second principle of Leave No Trace is, "travel and camp on durable surfaces."

At the conceptual level, the idea is that travel over a weak surface does damage. And indeed, camping on a weak surface, or clearing an area for a camp, may create lasting damage...

To most seasoned backcountry travelers this principle seems obvious. They've seen the impacts and they understand. Walk on the trails. Don't cut switchbacks. And don't make new campsites when there are pre-impacted areas available. But this isn't always as obvious as it might seem.

For example, the desert can be fragile. Cryptobiotic soil -- a biological soil crust -- can take up top fifty-years to repair itself. Alpine heather is also fragile, but takes far less time to regenerate. So, while the two surfaces are fragile and appear similar, the strategy for traveling across them is different.

It makes sense to travel in a single file line in the desert so as to reduce impact on biologic soils. Spreading out might have more impact. While on alpine heather, it makes more sense to spread out. It will have less impact. One person stepping on heather won't damage it, while several people stepping on it in a line might kill it...

There are some specific things to think about on this topic when it comes to rock climbing:
  • It should be obvious, but you should never climb on petroglyphs or on other archeological artifacts.
  • Avoid the destruction of plants at the base of boulder problems by crushing them with your crash pad.
  • Don't deface the rock with graffiti.
  • Think about the impacts of approach trails before developing new routes.
  • Flake ropes and sort gear on durable surfaces.
  • Use existing anchors when possible
  • In the alpine, try to urinate on rocks. This will keep goats from tearing up the ground for the salt in your urine.
Following is a short quiz/tutorial from the Center for Outdoor Ethics and Leave No Trace on what constitutes a durable surface.

As outdoors people it's easy for us to take this material for granted. But we shouldn't. Leave No Trace is a philosophy that we need to live by in order to keep our public lands both public and wild...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 14, 2018

Snake Bites: First Aid and Prevention

As most of the programs we run in the Southwest are in the desert, we are often asked about venomous snakes. Are there snakes in Red Rock? Are there snakes in Joshua Tree? Are they dangerous?

The answer to all three questions is yes...and no. There are rattlesnakes in both Red Rock and Joshua Tree, but they are uncommon in both venues. Large populations of predatory birds help keep the snake populations low. It is unlikely that you will encounter a snake in either location. And even if you do, the likelihood of a problem with a snake is very low.

Many rattlesnakes blend in with their surroundings.

Statistically the mostly likely group of individuals to be bitten by a snake are between the ages of 15 and 25 years-old and are male. Most of these bites take place on the hands or forearms. I couldn't find any statistics about the involvement of alcohol in snake bites.

Based on my last sentence, what do you suppose such statistics suggest?

Yep, you guessed it. They're messing with them.

Millions of people live, work and play in the same places where snakes live, work and play. In the continental United States less than 8,000 people are bitten by snakes every year and as stated above, a large percentage of them are literally asking for it.

In the unlikely event that somebody in your party does receive a snakebite, don't panic and try to keep the victim calm. Many snakebites happen because the snake is defending itself. When a snake bites out of defense it is less likely to envenomate. So there is the possibility that there is no venom in the bite. So there may be nothing to panic about.

If there is venom in the bite, panicking will only raise one's heart-rate and allow the venom to move more quickly through the system. It is incredibly important to keep the victim calm. Remove any jewelry or rings from any extremity that has been bitten. If there is venom in the bite, there will be significant swelling -- so much that a ring could become stuck, cutting off blood flow and ultimately causing the loss of a finger.

In the old movies, John Wayne loved to cut open a snakebite to suck out the venom. John Wayne was apparently unaware of hepatitis, HIV, cytomegalovirus or any of a number of other blood-borne dangers. Doctors and nurses don't wear latex gloves for nothing. Sucking venom out of a wound flies in the face of a basic tenant of first aid, body substance isolation.

Obviously if someone is bitten by a snake, call for emergency assistance immediately. Responding quickly is crucial. While waiting for emergency assistance:
  • Wash the bite with soap and water.
  • Immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than the heart.
  • Cover the area with a clean, cool compress or a moist dressing to minimize swelling and discomfort.
  • Monitor vital signs.
If a victim is unable to reach medical care within 30 minutes, the American Red Cross recommends:
  • Apply a bandage, wrapped two to four inches above the bite, to help slow the venom. This should not cut off the flow of blood from a vein or artery - the band should be loose enough to slip a finger under it.
  • It is possible to place a suction deviceover the bite to help draw venom out of the wound without making cuts. These devices are often included in commercial snake bite kits. However, the value of these devices is debatable.
Physicians often use antivenin -- an antidote to snake venom -- to treat serious snake bites. Antivenin is derived from antibodies created in a sheep's blood serum when the animal is injected with snake venom. Because antivenin is obtained from horses, snake bite victims sensitive to horse products must be carefully managed.

The best way to avoid a snakebite is to avoid a snake. If you see one, don't mess with it. Both you and the snake will be much happier in the long-run.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/13/18


--KATU 2 is reporting that, "The Gresham woman who was missing for nearly two weeks was likely killed by a cougar, officials said Tuesday, marking the first time in Oregon history that a human was attacked by one of the animals in the wild. The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed earlier in the day that Diana Bober, 55, was the woman found deceased Monday along the Hunchback Trail in the Mt. Hood National Forest." To read more, click here.

--They began to move mountain goats from the Olympics to the Cascades this week. The goats are not native to the Olympic mountains and have caused some environmental degradation. To read more, click here.

--The Lift Blog and many others are reporting on the sale of a Washington ski resort: "Washington State’s largest ski resort will soon join the Alterra Mountain Company family of resorts.  The big news comes just a year and a half after John Kircher bought out the mountain from his family’s company, Boyne Resorts, which has owned Crystal since 1997.  The resort operates one of the most modern lift fleets in the country in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, less than two hours from Seattle.  Upon closing, Crystal Mountain Resort will join the Ikon Pass, giving Evergreen State passholders access to the two largest ski resorts in the region.  Boyne’s Summit at Snoqualmie signed on just last week offering 5-7 days and access at Crystal will be unlimited with no blackout dates on both the full Ikon and Ikon Base passes." To read more, click here.

--A whole rack of gear was stolen in Bellingham this week. To read more, click here.


--There was apparently a large rockfall event on the approach to the Snake Dike route in Yosemite. It is possible that this is still an active rockfall area. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--It appears that there was a fatality at Tahquitz last week. To read more, click here.

--A 12-year-old boy was seriously injured climbing near Flagstaff. It appears that this injury was caused by the use of carabiners that were not rated for climbing. To read more, click here.

--The campground in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation is about to start taking reservations on To read more, click here.


--The Boulder Patch is reporting that, "A 34-year-old man was helped to safety off a cliff Tuesday shortly after noon by two nearby climbers. First responders, who had been en route, then walked him to the trailhead. He did not sustain any injuries, according to a report from the Boulder County Sheriff's Office." To read more, click here.

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "A climber suffered serious injuries to his face Wednesday afternoon after falling off the Second Flatiron outside Boulder." To read more, click here.

--In Carbondale, climbers are helping biologists study bats. White-nose syndrome has killed millions of bats. The Narrows climbing area offers easy access to this population. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Teton Gravity Research is reporting that, "Andrew McLean, most known for his backcountry skill and expertise as documented in The Chuting Gallery – A Guide To Steep Skiing In The Wasatch, has been charged with a felony for illegally removing two deer stands with his wife, Polly, from the Wasatch Mountains in Utah." To read more, click here.

--The Bangor Daily News is reporting that, "The professional adventure sportswoman struck by a boulder in Acadia National Park on Labor Day was recovering in Boston on Monday after 14 hours of surgery on her badly damaged left leg. Surgeons at Eastern Maine Medical Center of Bangor inserted a titanium rod into the leg of Serenity Coyne, 53, of Boston on Wednesday and a pin in her ankle on Friday, according to her husband, Michael Coyne. She was due for surgery Monday at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, he said." To read more, click here.

--Outside magazine has an interesting article about how the outdoor industry responded to Walmart trying to sell premium outdoor gear through Moosejaw Mountaineering; and why they responded the way they did... To read the article, click here.

--So might be hiring for the best job in the world. You'll get to travel all over the world to ski for free, and get decked out in some sick gear. Check it out!

--Reveal is reporting that, "Park officials scrubbed all mentions of climate change from a key planning document for a New England national park after they were warned to avoid 'sensitive language that may raise eyebrows' with the Trump administration." To read more, click here.

--The Banff Mountain Book Competition has announced its finalists. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Mountain Rescue Association

There is tremendous value in the volunteer rescue units throughout the United States and Canada. Most of the units that operate in the mountains are accredited Mountain Rescue Association units. These are SAR groups that have been vetted by a national organization.

The following video describes the Mountain Rescue Association, who they are and what they do...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 10, 2018

Backing Up an Anchor for Crevasse Rescue

The American Mountain Guides Association and Outdoor Research have teamed up to put together some really high quality videos. In this video, AMGA Instructor Team Member and former AAI Guide Larry Goldie demonstrates how to back up a snow picket in a crevasse rescue.

It is uncommon for me to feel like a single picket is good enough for a crevasse rescue. It's pretty dangerous to put all of your eggs in that one basket.

The block and tackle is the best way to get something close to equalization. But it is also possible to measure out the distance of the wire on the second picket to the master carabiner on the first picket. This "estimation-style" isn't as good, but will work in a pinch.

--Jason D. Martin