Thursday, October 8, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/8/15


Click on Image to Enlarge

--The 5-Point Film Festival will be having a major festival in Bellingham, Washington from October 15-17. There will be a number of events including a Trivia Night hosted by AAI at Elizabeth Station on October 15, as well as a festival honoring the dirtbag vehicle living lifestyle. And there will be lots and lots of movies. To read more, click here.


--Yosemite's annual Facelift event took place last night. Nearly 1,500 volunteers helped to clean up the crags of Yosemite National Park. To read more, click here.

--The fourth principal of Leave No Trace is to Leave What You Find. This means to leave cultural artifacts in place, as they lose their value once they are removed from their context. Johnathan Bourne probably should have taken an LNT class before transporting a bunch of native artifacts across state lines. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A 50-year-old Utah man died in a canyoneering accident in Zion National Park on Friday. The man, identified by park officials as Christian Louis Johnson, was found dead about 7:20 p.m. by a search and rescue team in Not Imlay Canyon, a park release said Saturday. To read more, click here.

--Sigh... Do people really think that desert potholes filled with water are wishing wells? Apparently they do in Arches National Park. People are dumb. To read more, click here.

--Officials with the Santa Fe National Forest have offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of whoever cut down hundreds of trees to create what are believed to be illegal ski runs. To read more, click here.

--Here are some additional details about the Joshua Tree Climb Smart Festival, running from October 16-18.

--Five Four Corners-area tribes have united to propose a 1.9 million–acre Bears Ears National Monument that would be the first truly collaborative land management effort between Native Americans and the federal government. To read more, click here.


--A 41-year-old climber died on Christiana Peak after falling 200 feet Monday afternoon when a piece of rock he was using as a hold flaked off, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office. The body of Travis Boyle of Union, Kentucky, was taken out of the backcountry west of Capitol Peak by 3:20 p.m. Tuesday, according to a Sheriff’s Office statement. To read more, click here.

--The Colorado Supreme Court on Tuesday heard oral arguments in a wrongful-death case that could shake the foundation of the law that shields ski areas from liability for on-slope injuries and deaths. Lawyers were grilled by the justices weighing this question: Are avalanches an inherent risk of skiing, or should resorts be liable for injuries caused by sliding snow within their boundaries? It depends, they said, on how you interpret dangers listed in the Colorado Ski Safety Act — which doesn't specifically name avalanches but does include the conditions that create them. To read more, click here.

--The Denver Post wrote an editorial concerning the case in the preceding news item. They argue that avalanches inside a ski resort are NOT an inherent risk of skiing. We agree with this. One of the many reasons to ski inside a resort is because avalanche danger is supposed to have been mitigated. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Late last week, the most successful land conservation program in U.S. history expired. Despite bipartisan support for the program in both the Senate and House of Representatives, congressional leaders have neglected to include the program in recent budget negotiations and are letting it die. To read more, click here.

A climber walks across a ladder in the Khumbu Icefall.
Photo by Guy Cotter

--This year, 2015, will be the first in 41 years that no human has stood on the summit of Mount Everest. To read more, click here.

--There has been a lot of debate this week about the term and designation, "first female ascent." To read about it, click here.

--A university in Louisiana lost a lawsuit concerning a campus climbing wall accident due to the fact that the state doesn't allow liability waivers. To read more, click here.

--Two American brothers made the first ascent of Greenland's Polar Bear Fang. To read more, click here.

--The Mugs Stump award committee is now open for applications. To read more, click here.

--Following the announcement that there is water on Mars, there was an article about how they can study it. Climbers will be needed! And considering there are some walls on the red planet that are nearly 18,000-feet tall, I'm sure there won't be any deficit in climber/scientist/explorers who will one day want to participate in a manned mission to Mars. To read more, click here.

--They also witnessed an avalanche on Mars from space. Check it out.

--And finally... A woman thanks a black bear for not messing with her kayak. She then subsequently uses bear spray on the animal and it seems to immediately know the best way to get eating the kayak. Check out the video below:

--And of course, every viral video needs a parody. The following is a lot of fun:

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Training: Injury Prevention

In this video, Climbing Coach Taylor Reed shows some of the techniques he teaches to the Columbus, Ohio climbing team.

Specifically, Reed deals with some of the most common injuries. First, he discusses crimping (something I've personally been injured doing several times). Second, he deals with shoulders. And then finally, he deals with fingers and wrists.

One thing he doesn't say, that he might just think is self-evident, is that when you climb hard, you should always, always warm up. If you don't, you will get injured.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, October 5, 2015

Equipment Review: Camp Blitz Harness

The Camp Blitz Harness is designed as a versatile, lightweight all-mountain harness. The padding is light (but there) and you can remove the harness by undoing a series of buckles and clips and without needing to slip your legs through--which means you can whip off your harness while leaving your crampons or skis on.

While I love the principle behind this harness, it loses major points on comfort for the way the gear loops are designed. The gear loops are loose and floppy and, crucially, they are attached to the upper part of the waist belt rather than the lower part. This means that when you clip things to the loops, they tend to drag the upper part of the waist belt down and twist it. I've generally found this to be uncomfortable, but it was particularly bothersome on a Denali trip this year when I was dealing with a harness loaded with a lot of gear and then a 60-plus-pound pack on top of that. The waist belt twists all around and can end up riding up against your clothes and then directly against your skin. This is an issue that could easily be fixed by adding more structure to the waist belt and gear loops or moving the gear loops down lower on the waist so that it doesn't twist it.

Pluses for the harness are that it's light (just 7.7 ounces) and easy to take on and off. The belay loop floats freely rather than being permanently locked in to the waist belt, and unlike some other lightweight harnesses (like the Petzl Hirundos, for example) there are clips for the leg loops that you can undo rather than having permanently sewn loops. There's also a loop for hub racking carabiners, which makes it easy to carry ice screws. The fact that this harness has some padding on it (as opposed to the Black Diamond Couloir) makes this harness suitable for alpine rock climbing and ice climbing rather than just pure glacier walking. You wouldn't want to spend the whole day in a hanging belay in it, but you can put your weight in the harness without feeling like you're slowing cutting off circulation to your legs.

Camp has long been on the cutting-edge of lightweight climbing gear, and the first iteration of this harness has promise. But the gear loop issue is a major one, and while I want to love this harness, instead I think I'll just replace it.

-Shelby Carpenter, AAI Instructor and Guide

Friday, October 2, 2015

Replacing Anchor Cords for a Rappel

In cooperation with Outdoor Research, the American Mountain Guides Association has made several videos for beginning level climbers.

AMGA Instructor Team Member Margaret Wheeler demonstrates how to replace tat at an anchor.

Thread Cord Through:

Here are the stages of placing the cord as they are laid out in the video:

1) Cord through quick link
2) Through first bolt
3) Back through quick link
4) Through second bolt
5) Connect cord with double fisherman's knot
6) Equalize Strands
7) Tie Isolating Knot

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Climbing News from Here and Abroad - 10/1/15


--The Live Like Liz campaign to develop a new climbing facility at Tacoma's Point Defiance Park to celebrate the life of AAI Guide and professional snowboarder, Liz Daley had a hugely successful fundraiser over the weekend. Their goal was to raise $50,000. They did much better than that and raised $75,000!!!! To learn more about this awesome project to remember this awesome person, click here.

--The new Washington State Ski and Snowboard History project has found a permanent home at Snoqualmie Pass. To read about it, click here.

--The U.S. Forest Service has temporarily closed a northern Idaho hiking trail over concerns about aggressive mountain goats after one animal bit a hiker and others reportedly tried to head-butt or charge visitors. Scotchman Peak Trail, which leads to the summit of Bonner County's tallest mountain, was closed last week. To read more, click here.

--The book Crossing Zion will have a release party/presentation on October 1st at Village Books in Bellingham. To learn more, click here.

--Are non-profit ski hills the wave of the future...? Maybe for community hills. Check this out.

--Your first sniff when you open the car door at the North Cascades Visitor Center on the edge of Newhalem tells the story: Did you ever put your nose really close to a cold, dead campfire the morning after a wienie roast? That’s what Newhalem smells like. No mistaking that there have been wildfires nearby. To read more, click here.

--Aerial drops of fire retardant on wildfires are one of the most dramatic images of firefighting. But critics cite high cost, limited effectiveness and potential harm to fish. To read more, click here.

--For 24-years a people have been fighting a large scale ski resort from being developed on Jumbo Mountain in British Columbia's Purcell Mountains. Following is a trailer for a film to #KeepJumboWild.

--Some forests may not grow back after the intense burns. The New York Times has posted an article about the changing landscape of the West. To read it, click here.

--Today marks Yosemite's 125th birthday. To read more, click here.

--The drought crippling the West is the worst it has seen in 500 years—and maybe even in 1000 years. It’s so bad that it’s taking a toll on some of the region’s oldest and largest residents: California’s stately sequoia trees. To read more, click here.

--Here's an interesting accident report from a rescue that took place on Yosemite's Lurking Fear in mid-September. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A major national parks concessionaire has dropped efforts to trademark names of the Grand Canyon's most popular properties, including a group of rustic cabins, cottonwood trees and cantina on the canyon floor. Xanterra Parks & Resorts, based in Greenwood Village, applied for roughly 20 trademarks before its contract to manage hotels, restaurants and mule rides at the Grand Canyon's South Rim expired in December. It later won a temporary, one-year contract. To read more, click here.

--Zion National Park is now reevaluating its permit system in the wake of a flash flood that killed seven canyoneers. To read more, click here.

--The Joshua Tree Climb Smart Festival will run from October 16-18. To learn more, click here.


--A climber in the Capitol Peak area fell about 200 feet to his death Monday, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office said. A climber called authorities about 5:45 p.m. to report the man had fallen and that a third climber was stranded on a cliff band above the fallen climber near Christiana Peak at about 12,700 feet. To read more, click here.

--A 22-year-old climber was found dead Sunday morning after an apparent fall from a rock formation known as the Fifth Pinnacle. The Boulder County Sheriff's Office says he was not wearing protective equipment. To read more, click here.

--Already a banner year as it celebrates its 100th anniversary Rocky Mountain National Park is also poised to smash last year’s visitation record. Through August, the country’s fifth-most visited national park has attracted 2.9 million visitors, up 20 percent over the same time span last year, which ended as the busiest in the park’s history, with 3.4 million visitors. The park is on pace to draw more than 4.1 million visitors. To read more, click here.

--Visitors, volunteers and staff are helping Colorado Parks and Wildlife track wildlife in state parks with a mobile application. The Loveland Daily Reporter-Herald reports ( ) that the free smartphone app iNaturalist launched in mid-July and since then hundreds of observations have been entered into the State Parks NatureFinder project. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The tourism ministry of Nepal announced that it will seek a ban on climbers who don’t have mountaineering experience above 6500 meters, as well as those under 18, over 75, or dealing with disabilities. To read more, click here.

--The heroine of the Tomb Raider video game is apparently now and ice climber. The preceding image is in malls across the globe to promote the Rise of Tomb Raider.

--After a recent decision, it is highly likely that climbing will be a sport included in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. To read more, click here.

--A Seattle-area woman has set a new speed record for an unsupported hike along the Appalachian Trail: 54 days, 7 hours, 48 minutes. To read more, click here.

--At one of the most popular winter riding destinations in Southcentral Alaska, backcountry conditions are getting a little bit more predictable and possibly safer for skiers and snowboarders. This fall, snow sensors designed to measure depth and temperature will be installed at Tincan Ridge in Turnagain Pass at 2,400 feet in a project led by the Chugach National Forest Avalanche Information Center. To read more, click here.

--More mountain naming controversies...? You bet. Harney Peak in South Dakota is likely next. To read about it, click here.

--Here's an interesting article on what a summer of guiding does to the body...

--Trail Runner magazine is hiring.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Birth and Death of a Carabiner

A few weeks ago we put up a post on rope construction. Black Diamond has produced a little video entitled, "The Birth of a Carabiner." The video doesn't dwell on narration or anything else, it's just a quick peak inside a shop where carabiners are made.

Of course, once carabiners are made, a couple are tested from every batch. In other words, this is the death part of this blog.

The following video from Omega Pacific shows a force test on a carabiner. This is an awesome video. It's pretty intense to watch as the tester puts more and more and more pressure on it...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 28, 2015

Definitions for Beginners: Top-Rope vs. Lead vs. Bouldering vs. Free Solo

There is a legitimate concern that some have put forward concerning this blog. Occasionally, I get a little bit too techy and forget that climbers with a multitude of skill levels read these articles. It's good to step back a little bit sometimes and make sure that everyone is on board with some of the basics.

There are four terms that we use quite often on this blog.  First, the term top-rope.  Second, the term lead, as in lead-climber. Third, the term bouldering.  And fourth, the term free-soloing.  Following is a breakdown of these terms and their definitions.

Top-Rope Climber

A top-rope climber is a person who has a rope running from his or her harness, up to an anchor at the top of a cliff and then back down to a belayer at the base.  This is a standard technique, and it is the technique regularly used for beginning level climbers and at rock gyms.

A Climber Belays another Climber on Top-Rope in Joshua Tree National Park
Photo by Jason Martin

The value of a top-rope is that it is highly unlikely that a climber will fall very far.  The rope can be somewhat tight if the climber is a beginner or somewhat loose if he or she is comfortable.

Lead Climber

In essence, the lead climber is the guy that "gets the rope up there." A belayer pays out rope to a person as he climbs up.  The leader places rock protection as he goes and clips his rope to it.  He then continues climbing above the protection.  Should the leader fall ten feet above his last piece of protection, he will fall past his gear, and the belayer will catch him after he has fallen twenty feet.  The rope stretches so that the impact is not as great on the leader.

A Leader Working His Way Up a Climb

The act of falling on lead can be very safe, or quite dangerous.  It all depends on whether the fall is "clean" or not.  A clean fall means that there is nothing for the leader to hit.  A fall above a ledge or a protrusion could lead to serious injury.

Leading can be done in a very responsible way that limits one's exposure to danger.  But it does take a lot of training and practice to bring one's abilities to such a level where he or she has a good understanding of what kind of gear placements will hold a fall and what kind will not.


Bouldering is one of the fastest growing types of climbing.  In this, a climber does not use a rope, but also does not climb more than a few feet off the ground.  A boulderer is focused on making a handful of hard moves and will often work on those moves for a long period of time before completing a sequence.

Most boulderers use a pad or commercial bouldering mattress to protect themselves from ground-falls.  Every climber who falls bouldering hits a mat or the ground, as such there is some danger involved in the sport. 

Free Soloing

Often confused with free climbing, (which is simply climbing without the use of direct aid, but with a rope) free soloing is the art of climbing a route without a rope.

Obviously free soloing is the most dangerous type of climbing that there is.  If an individual falls in this situation, survival is highly unlikely.

Climbing is a varied sport with many different aspects to it.  Not every aspect is for every person.  Ultimately, the amount of risk that you choose to engage in within the sport is completely up to you. Indeed, the level of accomplishment you feel engaging in any kind of climbing is also completely personal.

--Jason D. Martin