Friday, April 20, 2018

Placing Protection: Wires

Passive protection is protection with no moving parts. The most common type of passive pro -- and the cheapest -- are wires (often referred to as nuts). These most popular wires are Wild Country Rocks and Black Diamond Stoppers.

Those new to traditional climbing often start their careers working with wires. On easier rock climbs where there are a lot of stances, it's reasonable to take your time and place these well.

In the following video Jullie Ellison from Climbing magazine discusses how to place wires.

In the video Julie uses the mnemonic Running Dogs Chase Squirrels. Following is a breakdown of that saying:

Running - Rock Quality - Is the rock good? What kind of rock is it? Will it break? Are you placing your protection in a crack in the rock or a crack in the earth? If it's a crack in the rock, is it acceptable?

Dogs - Direction of Pull - Is the direction of pull appropriate for the piece. If the climber falls is the piece oriented appropriately to catch it? If the piece is part of an anchor, is the piece oriented properly for that?

As a sidenote, it's not uncommon for a draw to pull a wire out of its placement. It's often better to use a sling or an alpine draw on this type of protection.

Chase - Constriction - Is there a good constriction for the piece? Have you put it in the perfect spot to ensure that when it's pulled on, it will be pulled into a tighter position?

Squirrels - Surface Contact - Does each side of the wire have good contact? Or is it only marginally in the crack?

Cleaning the Wire:

Julie also mentioned ways to clean a wire. She started with pulling upward on it, and then jumped to using a nut tool. There is a mid-level technique as well. If you place your fingers right below the head of the wire and push up on it, this will often allow you to clean it.

If you elect to use a nut tool, it's always a good idea to keep the draw clipped to the rope and then clip the nut tool to the piece. This way, when the piece pops out, you won't lose your piece or your nut tool.

There is a tendency amongst those who have the money to buy a full rack early in their climbing careers and to neglect nutcraft. I would argue strongly that, even if you have a thousand dollars to lay out on cams, you shouldn't do that. Instead, you should spend some real time learning to climb with wires. This will radically increase your long term skills as a traditional climber. Cams are great, but they should be the second stage of your learning...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 4/19/18

Data Collection - Sexual Harassment/Assault

--Several organizations are working together to collect data on sexual harassment and assault in the climbing community. Participation in a survey on this will help our outdoor organizations understand how big the problem is in order to better address it. To read more and to take the survey, click here.


A climber on the Powerline Wall at Mt. Erie.

--The Annual Dallas Kloke Work Party will take place on April 21st at 9am at Mt. Erie. Participants should meet at 9am at the base of Ray Auld Drive (the bottom of the Mt. Erie Road) at 8:45 to get assignments. Parties will work together to clean up Mt. Erie and do trail work. This is a great volunteer opportunity.


--A skier was killed at Alpine Meadows last week after he lost control. To read more, click here.

--The New Yorker has a nice piece on Jeremy Jones -- of Jones Snowboards -- and about the organization he started, Protect Our Winters. To read the piece, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Access Fund Conservation Team helped build a trail to Scarface in Indian Creek recently. To read more, and see some photos, click here.


--The Aspen Times is reporting that there was chaos on closing day at Copper Mountain. A skier tried to jump over the crowd during the event...and missed. Several people were injured. To read more, click here. There's also video of the crash.

--The Aspen Times is reporting that, "Snowmass Village police arrested three men on (last) Sunday for skiing in an area that was closed because of avalanche danger just an hour and a half before a Mountain Rescue Aspen volunteer died in an avalanche in Maroon Bowl, police said Thursday." To read more, click here.

--The Outdoor Retailer Show Winter Market and Snow Sports Show dates are shifting around for 2019. To read more, click here.

--It looks like there are going to be some campground closures this year in the White River National Forest. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--KHQ Q6 is reporting that, "a 39-year-old Bozeman man has died after being caught in an avalanche while skiing in southwest Montana." To read more, click here.

--Thankfully the plan to raise national park fees to $70 per car is now unlikely to happen. However, park fees will go up in at least 117 parks this summer. To read more, click here.

--USA Today is reporting that, "one of the USA's tallest glaciers is melting at the fastest pace in 400 years, a new study reports. The study said melting on Mount Hunter in Alaska’s Denali National Park can be linked mainly to rising summer temperatures in the region." To read more, click here.

--A snowboarder triggered an avalanche last week which closed Teton Pass for several hours. To read more, click here.

--The Outdoor Industry Association has broken down how much money is spent on Outdoor Recreation per Congressional district. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

3:1 Haul with a GriGri

A lot of climbers get really wrapped up in using a GriGri on the ground, either for top-roping or for belaying a leader. But a GriGri can also be used effectively at the top of a crag, for belaying a second.

One very nice aspect to using a GriGri as your top-of-the-crag belay device, is that it can easily be converted to a hauling system. If your partner can't follow the pitch, you can help him through the difficulties, by quickly switching the GriGri from belay mode to hauling mode.

In this photo, a climber hauls a climber using a 3:1 system 
with a GriGri as a ratchet.

To swap your GriGri from belay mode to haul mode, you must simply:
  1. To start, belay directly off the anchor with your GriGri. Make sure that it is loaded properly so that the climber strand is going to the climber. It is also good to make sure that the handle to the GriGri is facing away from the rock.
  2. As you belay, make sure not to take your brake-hand off the brake-strand.
  3. When the person gets stuck, tie a catastrophe knot on the brake-strand. This could be an overhand or a figure-eight on a bight.
  4. Take a short loop of cord and tie a friction-hitch to the load strand. This can be a prussik-hitch, a kliemheist, or an autoblock hitch.
  5. Clip a carabiner to the loop and then clip the brake-strand to the carabiner.
  6. Take the catastrophe knot out.
  7. Yell down to the climber to climb, in order to help you.
  8. Then haul on the haul strand.
This is essentially a z-pulley system and so there is a mechanical advantage of 3:1. In other words, you're pulling a third of the person's weight, plus friction. This isn't really enough mechanical advantage to haul a person a significant distance, but it is more than enough to help a person pull a move or two.

Following is a video that I took of AAI Guide Andrew Yasso using this system:

We should note that a Trango Cinch will work exactly the same way, as will autoblocking devices like the Reverso and the Guide XP.

The GriGri is often overlooked as a tool by people who spend a lot of time on multi-pitch terrain or in the mountains, but it is an excellent device for single-pitch climbing. This application of it's use is only one of the many tricks that this device and others like it are able to perform.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 16, 2018

Climbing Tips: Mental Preparation

Jerry Moffatt is a world class climber. In this video, he talks about the mental preparation that he goes through in order to climb a route. To illustrate the process he uses a boulder problem as an example, but this type of thinking could easily be applied to a sport route or even a multi-pitch traditional line.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, April 13, 2018

Mountain Film: A Higher Crawling

Eric Becker has put together perhaps the most important climbing video of our time. It's about two major rivals and their work to outdo each other in the mountains. But there's a catch... They're babies...!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, April 12, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 4/12/18


--A climber hiking at Smith Rock fell off of an approach trail and was killed. There is limited information about this incident at this time. To read more, click here.

--Busses are going to start running from Seattle to Mt. Si. To read more, click here.

--Speaking of Mt. Si, it appears that there have been some vandals in the parking lot there. To read more, click here.

--The News Tribune is reporting that, "Washington state's three national parks are planning upgrades thanks to a $1 million donation from the estate of a woman who loved the outdoors, according to Washington's National Park Fund." To read more, click here.

--It is possible that the reintroduction of grizzlies to the North Cascades National Park could happen. This movement appeared to have died approximately a year ago, but the idea has been rekindled. To read more, click here.

--AAI Director of Operations talked about shrinking glaciers and how climate change is affecting climbing in this podcast...

Desert Southwest:

--Actor Jared Leto went on television to talk about a close call with a core shot in Red Rock Canyon. To see the clip, click here.


--There have been two avalanche fatalities over the last week in Colorado, one was a skier and the other was a snowmobiler. To read more, click here.

--A boulder struck two female climbers in the Florida River Canyon near Durango on Saturday. Both women are in stable condition. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The Deluth News Tribune is reporting that, "A 20-year-old man died Sunday as a result of injuries suffered in a snowboarding accident at Spirit Mountain Recreation Area in Duluth." To read more, click here.

--REI is planning a major shift. Every brand they carry will have to meet sustainable standards -- environmental, health and worker -- by 2020. Read more, here.

--USA Today is reporting that, "a 7-year-old Texas girl made history last month when she became the youngest girl to ever climb Mount Kilimanjaro, according to a guide website that tracks Kilimanjaro records." To read more, click here.

--Climbing has gone mainstream and climbers are backed by studies that show how much economic clout they have. To read more, click here.

--A New York skier claims he was left on a ski lift overnight at Gore Mountain Ski Area. To read more, click here.

--SGB Media is reporting that, "REI, celebrating its 80th year, reported sales of $2.62 billion in 2017, a gain of 2.3 percent from $2.56 billion in 2016. The co-op also welcomed nearly 1 million new members and reinvested nearly 70 percent of profits into outdoor communities in 2017." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Route Profile: Armatron (5.9) II

Armatron is a super fun and unique route on the Brownstone wall at Red Rocks.  In an area that is known for immaculate sandstone and outrageous rock formations, Armatron is definitely one of the finest examples of the iron-hard stone the canyon is known for.

The amazing chocolatey goodness! The Brownstone wall from high on Jackrabbit
Buttress.  Armatron takes a line on the far right side of the formation (A. Stephen)
Armatron can either be approached by a 1 hr hike (long by Red Rocks standards) or you can climb one of the awesome routes on the lower apron of the Brownstone wall, known as Jackrabbit Buttress. Most people do Myster Z, a classic 5.6 that ascends the Jackrabbit buttress and drops you off right at the base of Armatron, but fellow AAI guides and Red Rocks locals Andrew Yasso and Doug Foust recently put up a route on Jackrabbit buttress called Saddle Up, which comes highly recommended!

However you decide to approach the Brownstone Wall, Armatron is easily recognizable as a 400 foot wall of black desert varnish with a "tortoise-shell" pattern.

The start of Armatron (A. Stephen)
The first 2 pitches climb through amazing juggy holds
on excellent rock (A. Stephen)
The first pitch is the crux of the four pitches, but is very well protected by several shiny new bolts and good small cam placements.  The climbing is steep, on great holds, and only gets better as you make your way through the second pitch and end up at a small belay stance below 250 feet of perfect, grid-like patina plates.

The patina on the upper headwall.
Slotting bomber stoppers behind the patina plates (A. Stephen)

Climb the patina plates using some amazingly thin and fun face climbing techniques for the grade all the way to the top of the buttress. Classic!

--Andy Stephen, Instructor and Guide