Saturday, August 30, 2008

Weekend Warrior -- Videos to Get You Stoked!

This is the time that all of us Weekend Warriors dream about...the incredible 3-day weekend! With a whole extra day of climbing available the realm of weekend objectives opens up. Suddenly those longer climbs on your tick list are possible and now comes the hard part...deciding what to climb. Well, I hope your decision making process goes smoother than mine and you are able to get out and have some serious fun this weekend!! These videos should get you psyched for whatever comes your way. Enjoy!

The first video for you features some serious hang time. Watch as Jaime Pierre hucks himself off a massive cliff on skies in a world record attempt. I don't want to spoil the ending but I'll just say that I'm glad that was a powder day when he did this.

The second video on the line-up will take you on a magical voyage to the beautiful country of Ecuador. There are a number of incredible volcanoes in Ecuador that you can climb and this video in particular documents the 19,348 ft Cotopaxi. It sounds like a very windy trip but one that would be worth climbing if you just happen to be in the neighborhood.

I couldn't do a video blog without including at least one rock climbing video, I guess I'm just a little biased. This one in particular is a semi old-school segment that documents that crazy Dean Potter soloing the Nose on El Capitan. Apparently Dean isn't very frightened by exposure...

Friday, August 29, 2008

Mount Baker By the Numbers


Year Mt. Baker Wilderness was created by the Washington Wilderness Act.

1,329,950 acres

Total area of Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

117,500 acres

Total area of Mt. Baker Wilderness Area.

40 Miles

Amount of shared boundary between Mt. Baker Wilderness Area and the North Cascades National Park (east side).

10,781 Feet

Elevation of Mount Baker.

25 Years

Time period when glaciers advance on Mount Baker (1950-1975); since then they have been receding.


Number of glaciers on Mount Baker.

291,043,600 Feet

Area of Coleman Glacier (largest glacier on Baker).


Successful AAI Mount Baker Summits in the Summer of 2008.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Get Involved with Denali National Park's Road Vehicle Management Plan

We recently received the following email from Denali National Park:

Denali National Park Needs Your Help

You can make an important contribution to the future of Denali National
Park and Preserve by becoming involved in the Denali Park Road Vehicle
Management Plan.

The National Park Service intends to develop and implement a plan to manage
vehicles and address carrying capacity (the maximum number of vehicles)
that can be accommodated on the Denali Park Road May - September. We are
interested in your ideas on how we can best provide for a high quality
visitor experience while protecting wilderness resource values, scenic
values, wildlife, and other park resources, and maintain the unique
character of the park road.

Please join us at a scheduled public scoping meeting or send us your
comments. Scoping comments help us to identify the issues of the project
and will be most useful if received by September 30, 2008.

The attached newsletter contains project information, contact information,
and a schedule for the upcoming public meetings in September. This
newsletter is also available on our website at:

August E-Newsletter Released!

AAI's August E-Newsletter has just been released - to read the online version click here. This month's newsletter is filled with program highlights from Red Rocks, Ecuador, and Sierra, as well as trip reports from Bolivia, Peru, and Alaska.

Included are expert tips written by long-time guide Jason Martin
and a feature article on the St. Elias Range by guide Ben Traxler. This month's report also highlights the new Guides Choice winners, and has a link to the newest photo contest.

If you would like to receive future newsletters, click here and go to our home page.

Read the August E-Newsletter

Read Archived E-Newsletters

"The Burrito" Hypothermia Wrap

Perhaps one of the most common and most dangerous ailments to affect the outdoor traveler is hypothermia. And though many factors may lead to hypothermia it is most commonly the result of wet clothing, a cold environment or improper clothing.

Most climbers encounter the onset of mild hypothermia at one point or another during their careers. Many of us have certainly hung at a belay station, shivering, and wondering why we didn't bring that extra jacket. But for most of us, things never get any worse than that.

The Mayo Clinic has an excellent description online of hypothermia and its treatment. As most of us will never encounter hypothermia in a context where a patient could be warmed in a hospital, some of the information on the site does not pertain to us. However the following description of what to look for is incredibly pertinent to the backcountry traveler.

Hypothermia usually occurs gradually. Often, people aren't aware that they need help, much less medical attention.

Common signs to look for are shivering, which is your body's attempt to generate heat through muscle activity, and the "-umbles":

* Stumbles
* Mumbles
* Fumbles
* Grumbles

These behaviors may be a result of changes in consciousness and motor coordination caused by hypothermia. Other hypothermia symptoms may include:

* Slurred speech
* Abnormally slow rate of breathing
* Cold, pale skin
* Fatigue, lethargy or apathy

The severity of hypothermia can vary, depending on how low your core body temperature goes. Severe hypothermia eventually leads to cardiac and respiratory failure, then death.

Severe hypothermia in the field requires immediate attention. Wilderness medicine providers have devised a simple treatment which relies on a variety of materials that most backcountry travelers normally carry. They use these pieces of equipment to create a "themal burrito" or a "hypo-wrap."

Thermal Burrito or Hypo-Wrap
  1. Lay out a tarp on the ground.
  2. Place 1 or 2 pads down on top of the tarp. Two pads are always better than one.
  3. Stack three sleeping bags on top of the pads.
  4. Place the victim inside the sleeping bag in the middle.
  5. Wrap the victim in the tarp.
  6. Provide the victim with hot water bottles. These should be placed under the arms and at the crotch. Additional bottles may be held or placed at the victim's feet.
A Themal Burrito
From the Wilderness Medicine Institute Website

Hypothermia is a dangerous and often hidden predator in the backcountry. There is no question that the best way to deal with it is to completely avoid it. The best way to completely avoid it is to pay attention to yourself as well as to those around you. Wear appropriate clothing for your environment and try to keep things dry.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, August 25, 2008

Belaying a Leader with a GriGri

A large percentage of those who use a GriGri to belay a leader use the device improperly. Many climbers have the bad habit of holding down the locking mechanism while feeding out rope to a leader. If the leader falls while the mechanism is disengaged, it is possible that he could deck.

Petzl recently posted the following instructional video on their website. The video identifies two techniques that might be employed to safely and effectively belay a leader.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Weekend Warrior -- Videos to Get You Stoked!

Hello again Weekend Warriors! about a cold week in the mountains of the North Cascades. Luckily for you, these videos have been specially selected to help light the fires and get the blood pumping again for this weekend. It is a good thing too, because it looks like Mother Nature's weather plan is going to be back on our side.

This video is going to tug on those heart strings...which is the ideal place to start if you are trying to get your blood pumping for this weekend. If there are any of you out there who have been following the Weekend Warrior video blogs you will remember a few weeks ago a movie trailer for "Blindsight". Unfortunately the link didn't work but the story is incredible nonetheless. This similar video is called "Light in the Himalayas" and documents a group of dedicated climbers giving back to the blind Nepalese community. Truly heartwarming.

So, now that your heart is nice and warm let's switch gears and watch some seriously intense ice climbing. This video, "Ice Axis", will elevate your heart rate and get the blood pumping to your arms and legs as you watch climber Rich Purnell struggle up a crazy mixed line. This video also features some Matrix-esque camera work...pretty impressive for a bunch of climber/filmmakers.

I hope that last video got your blood pumping because this one is going to make you sweat. It is yet another movie trailer from Peter Mortimer, I'm a big fan in case you haven't noticed, called "First Ascent". I heard a lot of hype when this movie came out and haven't yet watched it, but after seeing this video I'm heading straight to the movie store after work to check it out. Enjoy!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Colorful Cascades Sunrise

There was a beautiful sunrise in northwest Washington this morning. These shots were taken by an AAI long-time-friend and widely published photographer Keith Gunnar. They were taken from Keith’s home on the southern end of Whidbey island with some small (nearly-coastal) peaks of the northern Cascades in the distance.

Keith, who has been photographing such things for many decades said, “We had one of the most spectacular sunrises I've ever seen today. The whole eastern sky was exploding with color, and there was an unusual pillar of light from the sun. Cascade Mountains nicely silhouetted. Very dramatic!”

Thanks Keith!

Rope Flossing

Flossing is a practice recommended by most dentists, but in the mountains flossing can be bad for you. “Rope Flossing” is a potentially fatal exercise that should be avoided at all costs.

In the mountains, “getting flossed” refers to being plucked off the mountain by the rope of another climbing team. The consequences for such an event are usually tragic, and constitute yet another objective hazard that climbing parties should be aware of. In busy mountain ranges such as the alps, thousands of climbers with a varying array of ability levels attempt hundreds of classic routes daily. Here in Chamonix, accident data is not reported as conveniently as it is in Accidents in North American Mountaineering, but I do know that the PGHM rescue helicopter does upwards of 12 rescue flights daily. You can bet that a team or two has been “flossed” over the years.

At times, rope-flossing has been a real threat to my safety and the safety of others around me. I have arrived at route bottlenecks in the past only to find groups of four to six climbers all tied together on the same rope, with 10 or 15 meters of slack between them - most of which is being held uselessly in their hands. Their blank expressions and blinking eyes often signify a level of ignorance and maladroitness that I find frightening. The most stated justification for this technique that I have heard stems from the irrational “safety in numbers” heuristics trap, based on the assumption that the chance of something going wrong diminishes as the group size increases. There is often no running belay (protection points) between them, nor do many of these teams have a grasp of using existing terrain (horns, flakes, etc) to their advantage. It begs the question, what will happen if one team member falls? I don't waste time trying to answer the question - my priority is to either pass or bail ASAP. Poor rope-work and dangerously large group sizes have led me to suggest to some rope teams (who peculiarly seem to arrive from the eastern European countries) that they should A), divide their rope team into smaller ones, or B) that they should put the rope away and climb unroped. It may seem crazy, but a poorly-used rope is often more dangerous than none at all. At least that way only one person at a time can fall....

I was told a story by a colleague about a large group of climbers (Seven) he encountered on Mt Blanc who were traversing the Grande Couloir and were making their way up the loose rock on the other side. The slack rope between them was dislodging many stones, and their pace was at a stand-still (at the most dangerous part of the route). Out came my colleagues’ knife, and the seven-person team became two 2-man teams and one 3-man team. There was little argument when the knife began slashing sheath and core.

The most famous example of rope-flossing in recent history was prominently displayed in the 2001 Sony Pictures abomination Vertical Limit. In the beginning of the film, a critical error (one only possible in hollywood-land) causes a rope-team of two to fall simultaneously off of a multi-pitch tower in the Arizona desert. Below them, Royce Garrett belays his son and daughter Peter and Annie Garrett while they follow his pitch. The rope between the two falling victims flosses the father from his belay station (i am not sure how his body is able to withstand the force of the fall-factor 10+ fall from above while his anchor fails, but physics must not work the same way in Hollywood...) In series, Royce pulls off Peter, who pulls off Annie, until five dangling and spinning people are stopped by a #3 and #5 metolius camming unit (gosh I love those sizes). As is customary whenever climbing is portrayed in a Hollywood film, the knife comes out eventually to cut the rope - in this case it’s the father who pays the ultimate sacrifice so that his two children can survive in order to endure an incredibly contrived and totally improbable half-baked climbing epic on K2 later in the film (For more examples of knives and climbing ropes, read or watch Touching the Void, The Eiger Sanction, Cliffhanger, or any James Bond film).

More recently, in May of 2002, there was a high profile rope-flossing incident on Mt Hood. A four-person team fell from near the summit and were not able to arrest their fall. Their rope snagged a team of five during the fall, until two rope-teams (9 people) were tumbling down the slope. The teams slid into a bergschrund at the bottom, and three climbers were killed, while three were critically injured. The accident underscored the limited threshold at which self-arrest is a viable means of stopping a sliding rope team - sometimes the slope is just too steep for self arrest to be appropriate, and more secure techniques should be used, such as the placement of snow pickets, the use of belays and stances, etc. Perhaps in extreme circumstances, no rope at all could be safer. The public’s attention to the accident was unfortunately distracted by the subsequent crash of the Blackhawk rescue helicopte dispatched to the scene.

The rope is a tool that is effective only when used properly. It can provide a great service to the climbers tied to it by keeping them attached to one another, but also hopefully attached to the mountain. Proactive self-education in the form of taking courses and reading how-to books such as Mark Houston and Cathy Cosley’s Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higher go a long way in providing climbers with the skills to make well-informed decisions on how best to employ the rope as a tool of safety and security, not one of hollywood mayhem.

--Dylan Taylor

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Important Glacial Features

Glaciers are literally rivers of ice. They move and act just as a river filled with water moves and acts. Rivers have rapids, riffles, and pools. Glaciers have the equivalent in icefalls, crevasses and compression zones. Like water, ice moving down the mountain reacts to the underlying topography. When ice runs over steep sections it bends and accelerates, forming icefalls and crevasses. At the base of icefalls and in areas where the gradient decreases, the ice decelerates and forms compression zones or areas where there are no crevasses. And like a river, the ice at the glacier's center tends to move more quickly than that at the edges.

Crevasses form as a means of relieving tensile stress in the more brittle upper layers of the glacier. As a result, they tend to form in areas where the ice is accelerating such as at the top of an icefall or at the crest of a steep slope. They may also form due to some inconsistency in the underlying topography such as a bump or a dome in the bedrock. Brittle surface ice is not as plastic as that found in the deeper layers of the glacier and crevasses will form as a means of relieving the stress created by the bending of the ice as it flows around an obstacle.

Seracs are the ice towers often seen on glaciers. They form as the ice flows over a dome. Multiple stresses appear creating intersecting crevasse patterns. The resulting towers may be unstable and can be difficult to climb through.

An icefall appears when the gradient of the underlying rock is steep enough that the ice on top accelerates rapidly. Seracs and crevasse walls become tremendously unstable, falling catastrophically down the icefall. Some might be familiar with the Khumbu Icefall on Mount Everest where many climbers have died over the years. That particular icefall moves at almost three to four feet a day causing constant unexpected and catastrophic serac collapses.

Khumbu Icefall on Mount Everest

When the gradient of a glacier decreases, the ice decelerates. As it does, crevasses close leaving a more level and crevasse free area. Compression zones make for excellent places to camp.

Every climber should have a good understanding of these different characteristics. A complete knowledge of glacial features provides climbers with the ability to choose an appropriate and safe route up a mountain. And this may be one of the most important skills that a climber needs to develop.

--Jason D. Martin

August and September Climbing Events

--August 16 -- Mt. Baker Ski Area, WA -- Avalanche Awareness

--August 16-17 -- Bear Valley, CA -- Bear Valley Adventure Sports Festival

--August 16-23 -- Bicz Gorges National Park, Romania -- International Youth Climbing Camp

--September 5-7 -- Pine Mountain, CA -- Pine Mountain Pulldown

--September 5-7 -- Adirondacks, NY -- Adirondack Southern Rock Festival

--September 6 -- Charlotte, NC -- Climb Up So Kids Can Grow Up

--September 13-14 -- Seattle, WA -- Adventures in Travel Expo

--September 18 -- Bozeman, MT -- Alpinist Film Festival Tour

--September 18-21 -- Salt Lake City, UT -- HERA Climb for Life

--September 18-21 -- Ogden, UT -- Utah's High Adventure Mountain Film Fest

--September 24-28 -- Yosemite Valley, CA -- Yosemite Facelift

--September 29 -- Eugene, OR -- Justen Sjong Slideshow

--September-November -- Reel Rock Film Tour

Monday, August 18, 2008

National Weather Service Red Flag Warning for Washington

759 AM PDT MON AUG 18 2008

759 AM PDT MON AUG 18 2008






The Dangers of Glissading

Yep, you can find them in just about every issue of Accidents in North American Mountaineering. They have unwieldy headlines like:
  • "Climber injured in Glissade Accident"
  • "Out of Control Glissade Leads to Fatality"
  • "Inexperience, Lack of Proper Clothing and Glissade with Crampons On"
Gissading is an incredibly fun endeavor. I've often felt that after achieving a somewhat physical summit that a good glassade run back down makes it all worth it. It's as if nature gave you something back for all of the work that you did to get up there. The desire to glissade though should be tempered by the reality...and the reality is that a lot of people get hurt glissading.

Most injuries take place because an individual breaks one of the cardinal rules. To stay safe, the best thing to do is to take these rules seriously.

The Cardinal Rules of Glissading
  1. Never glissade with crampons on. If you're wearing crampons it means that you're probably on hard snow or ice. This means that should you glissade, you will slide really fast. If you slide really fast and you catch a crampon spike, your leg will snap like a dry twig. As such one should never glissade with crampons on.
  2. Never glissade on a rope team. If one person loses control on a rope team, then others may do so as well.
  3. Never glissade on a glacier. It's likely that you'll be roped up if you're on a glacier so if you do glissade, you will be breaking two rules at once. We don't glissade on glaciers because of the possibility of hidden crevasses.
  4. Always make sure that you can see where you're going. This should make sense. If you can't see, then you could end up sliding into a talus field or off a cliff.
  5. Make sure that there is a good run-out. A good run-out is imperative. One should certainly avoid glissading above dangerous edges, boulders or trees.
These rules are quite black and white. There are few gray areas in glissading. If there is some question, then the best thing to do is to err on the side of caution. Though you might be tired, sometimes walking down the mountain is the safer alternative.

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Climbing - a good start to finding the meaning of life

A Reuters study has recently shown that people who climb are not necessarily irrational and reckless, but that climbers are people who may be looking for perspective in their lives. Many climbers use their experiences as a vantage to see what's really important in their lives, and in the world.

Do you feel the same way?

Click here to read the full article on Reuter's online.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Weekend Warrior -- Videos to Get You Stoked!

Alright Weekend Warriors, prepare to get your stoke on! Grab your sunscreen, fill up your water bottles, and get ready for a hot weekend full of climbing and mountaineering...hopefully. I don't know what the weather is going to be like where you live but I hope it is as nice as it is going to be here in the North Cascades.

I don't know if you have noticed but I am a big fan of movie trailers. The first video we have for you is no exception. The movie is “To the Limit" and it features those two crazy Huber brothers trying to break the speed record on "The Nose". These guys can Jumar like madmen.

I chose the next video in case you wanted to temporarily escape the heat this weekend. Watch some cool, refreshing ice climbing in beautiful British Columbia, our friendly neighbors to the north.

The final video we have for you is actually made by one of our own gear shop employees, Jeff Voigt. Watch as he and a partner ski up to Washington Pass to make a winter ascent of the South Early Winter Spire. This is one way to escape the summer crowds who flock to Washington Pass in the summer.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Guide's Choice at Outdoor Retailer

American Alpine Institute Director Dunham Gooding, AAI Shop Manager Richard Riquelme, and AAI Guide Mary Harlan attended that annual Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City last week to present the AAI Guide's Choice Award. Following is a short photo essay of the trip and the presentation of the awards.

The Summer Outdoor Retailer Show
Salt Lake City

There's a lot going on at this trade show! It is the biggest event of the year for the outdoor industry.

The Patagonia booth. Most exhibitors build fairly elaborate booths for the show, truck them to Salt Lake City in pieces, and assemble them there.

Not everyone at the show was of the same species. These two handsome dogs were fully credentialed. It was a busy show with many hundreds of exhibitors and between ten and twenty-thousand credentialed buyers (including about forty dogs).

Activites and demos abound. Show participants got to try on Five Ten shoes and boulder up and around these freestanding walls.

There were bouldering contests in which the contestants wore a crash-pad on their back to make balance more tricky and the lap around the wall harder to complete. In addition to this open competition, Mammut sponsored a massive bouldering competition at the trade show.

There were also insects on the floor. Exofficio was promoting their use of fabrics with FDA approved insect repellent qualities built in. Buff is doing the same thing, but without the direct help of bugs.

Mary and Richard model a couple of new Buff designs with Shirley Choi Brunetti (Buff Director of Sales and Marketing). Buff is a Spanish company, and all of the manufacturing is done there.

Mont Bell: Yuji Kikuchi (Director of Sales and Scott Guenther (Director of Operations) accept the Guides Choice award for the Thermo Wrap Parka from AAI Director Dunham Gooding.

AAI Guide Mary Harlan shows off the Black Diamond Quantum pack with Richard Riquelme, Nathan Kuder (BD Softgoods Category Manager), and Roger Strong (BD Regional Sales Rep).

Black Diamond award: BD President Peter Metcalf accepts Guides Choice awards for the Quantum and the Anarchist packs from AAI’s Dunham Gooding. Looking on AAI’s Mary Harlan and Richard Riquelme and BD’s Roger Strong (Regional Sales Rep.) and Chris Grover (BD National Sales Manager).

The formal pose for the two Patagonia awards: Left to right: Richard Riquelme (AAI Equipment Division Manager), Tim Rhone of Patagonia , Dunham Gooding (AAI President), Rob Bon Durant of Patagonia, and Mary Harlan (AAI Guide).

AAI Guide's Choice Award Winners

This year the American Alpine Institute presented six awards at the annual Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City last week. The equipment and clothing awarded the AAI Guides Choice designation have proven to be of the highest quality in their product category. The awards are determined on the basis of excellence in design, performance, and durability demonstrated in rigorous international field tests conducted by professional guides of AAI. Evaluations are made throughout the year in desert, cold weather, rain, snow, high wind, and high altitude environments. The American Alpine Institute has no financial ties or financial interest in any manufacturer or distributor. All testers and their expenses are paid by AAI.

A core group of AAI professional guides conduct Guides Choice field tests year round, throughout the world. Tests may be completed in a single long season (for example five summer months of intensive climbing in South America), or over several seasons (for example McKinley expeditions in the spring and Himalayan expeditions autumn). Because of the intensity and constancy of use, the wear and stress that gear receives during these tests corresponds to many years of use by a recreational climber.

The following products won this year's Guide's Choice Award:

Patagonia Guide Pant

The guide pant is comprised of a tough, weather-resistant nylon/polyester/spandex blend that both breathes well and retains its shape. The guide pant is a lighter alternative to many of the other options on the market, but not too light. Patagonia found a great compromise in the epic balancing act between weight and warmth. This product is just about the right for everybody.

Many of our female guides found that these pants fit better than any of the alternatives. The cut of the women's guide pants is both feminine and comfortable. AAI Guide Mary Harlan felt that they were the best option on the market for female climbers.

Patagonia CSS Technology

Like all new products, two to three years ago the stitch-free composite seam system technology (CSS) had a few problems. Patagonia worked to eliminate these problems and this year after extreme testing in a variety of environments, our guides found absolutely no problems with the CSS technology.

Patagonia's CSS technology provides for jackets that are streamlined without extra bulk, weight or material. Sewn seams are far more vulnerable to abrasion, wear and leakage than the durable non-stitched seams found in Patagonia's modern jackets.

Buff for Buff Original Headwear

The Buff is a multifunctional article of clothing that may be used as a scarf, a neck cover, a face cover or a hat. Many guides find a variety of other purposes for the product. Over the last couple of seasons our guides have begun to wear these on a regular basis. Indeed, it has become almost a part of the AAI guide's uniform. "When it's too warm for a balaclava, but too cool to go without, the buff is the perfect piece of clothing," Senior AAI guide Justin Wood said. Such a sentiment is common among the guide staff.

MontBell Ultralight Thermawrap Parka

The MontBell Thermawrap Parka is an incredibly well designed and functional mid-weight layer. The Exceloft synthetic insulation stays warm even when wet. The combinations of fabric and insulation are designed to dry extremely fast. This makes the jacket a valuable piece in warm and wet environments like the one that we have in the Pacific Northwest.As part of a layering system, our guides found that the jacket performs extremely well. Some of these light to mid-weight jackets are too warm to be used as a part of a layering system. This particular model doesn't have that problem. On Denali our guides found this to be a good top layer low on the mountain and a phenomenal mid-layer as the temperatures dropped higher up.

Black Diamond Quantum Pack

Our guides found the 55 liter Quantum Pack to be an exceptionally well-designed backpack. This stream-lined pack feels bigger than other packs of the same volume. This has to do with its longer/taller profile. It's built with ultralight, durable and water-shedding VX 21 Polyant laminated fabric and lined with lightweight 30d SillNylon. In other words, the pack is tough, light and carrys loads well. There are no extra bells and whistles. It is a good pack.

Black Diamond Anarchist Ski Pack

The 42 liter Black Diamond Anarchist Ski Pack is a durable well designed pack with the multi-day backcountry skier in mind. There is enough volume in the Anarchist to cover the minimalist skier for up to four days in the field. The pack's expandable top-loading design features a side-access panel for easy admission. Its sleek design allows it to compliment the skier's movements.

Like the Quantum Pack, the Anarchist is tough. The 420d nylon fabric and 1300d Ballistic reinforcements offer water-shedding, long-wearing performance. Our ski guides put this pack to the test, working it through day after day of deep powder in the Sierra and the San Juans and brushy wet approaches in the Cascades.

Mountaineers Books Outdoor Experts Series

A few years ago Mountaineers Books introduced a new series of "how-to" texts. The books took off in a way that went far beyond anyone's expectations. This series of books now includes some of the most well-known outdoor education writers and climbers in the field. Kathy Cosely, Mark Houston, Craig Luebben, Jared Ogden, Molly Loomis, Martin Volken, Margaret Wheeler, Scott Schell, Andy Tyson, and Will Gadd are just a handful of the well-known mountain guides and climbers that have contributed to the series.

Voilé Telepro T6 Shovel

One might think that a shovel is a shovel. But when our guides are up on Denali in -30 degree temperatures, trying to dig out a tent platform during a storm, a good shovel may make the difference between frostbite and comfort. The T6 Shovel was the only model not to break or become damaged during our eight expeditions to the tallest mountain in North America this year. Our guides highly recommend that this shovel accompany every expedition. If that isn't enough reason to give this product the Guide's Choice Award, then we don't know what is...

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Road Delays

The AAI office just received the following email from Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest:
  • Aug. 18-Oct. 11 expect 60-minute delays on Forest Service road 12 (Loomas Nooksack Road), mile post 0.0 to 3.6 (junction with road 13 - Schriebers Meadow Road). For updated information about road and trail conditions go to

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Americans in the Outdoors

A recent Outdoor Industry Association participation study indicated that of Americans who spend time in the outdoors, they spend the most time on the following activities:
  1. Bicycling
  2. Fishing
  3. Hiking
  4. Camping
  5. Trail Running
A second OIA study identified youth (aged 6-17) who participate in outdoor activities as focused on the following:
  1. Bicycling
  2. Running
  3. Skateboarding
  4. Fishing
  5. Viewing Wildlife
Among Americans participating in outdoor activities, 37 percent of youth participate in an outdoor activity at least twice a week. According to the study, this is more than any other age group.

The OIA study included over sixty-thousand participants. Of those, 6.1 percent(4,799 people) were climbers.

The largest flaw in the OIA study is that those who participated in in likely found the survey through some kind of outdoor oriented forum or blog. As such it may not reflect Americans overall. The following two studies are a little bit more grim.

A study last year by Hofstra University in Hempstead, New York, indicated that 71 percent of mothers across the country reported that they played outdoors more than indoors as children. In that same study, mothers indicated that only 26 percent of their children play outdoors more than in.

A study by the Journal of Environmental Management found that electronic entertainment appeared to be responsible for a downward trend in National Park attendance. In 1987, when National Park attendance was at an all time high, Americans spent almost no time playing video games and surfing the internet. By 2003, the average American spent 174 hours a year on the internet and 90 hours a year playing video games. There appears to be a significant correlation between annual per capita National Park attendance and the use of electronic devices.

What does all of this mean?
  • The OIA study provides a look at what those who are already outdoors are most interested in. Studies like this could ultimately lead those who allocate money to spend the bulk of what they have on those activities which have the most participation.
  • The Hofstra study and the Journal of Environmental Management Study combine to create a much grimmer picture. Less people in the wilderness ultimately means less interested in wilderness preservation.
The excellent book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder by Richard Louv takes a close look at these issues. Indeed, he even lays out strategies to change the indoor trend that appears to be sweeping across the country.

There is a great deal of value in promoting participation in outdoor recreation. Of course, those who are reading this blog comprise the choir to which I am preaching, but sometimes the choir is in contact with those who haven't already been converted. The more knowledge that we all have about these trends, the more we all can promote outdoor recreation. And the more we can promote outdoor recreation, the more resources we will have to continue to enjoy the wilderness that we all love.

--Jason D. Martin

August and September Climbing Events

--August 16 -- Mt. Baker Ski Area, WA -- Avalanche Awareness

--August 16-17 -- Bear Valley, CA -- Bear Valley Adventure Sports Festival

--August 16-23 -- Bicz Gorges National Park, Romania -- International Youth Climbing Camp

--September 5-7 -- Pine Mountain, CA -- Pine Mountain Pulldown

--September 5-7 -- Adirondacks, NY -- Adirondack Southern Rock Festival

--September 6 -- Charlotte, NC -- Climb Up So Kids Can Grow Up

--September 18-21 -- Salt Lake City, UT -- HERA Climb for Life

--September 18-21 -- Ogden, UT -- Utah's High Adventure Mountain Film Fest

--September 24-28 -- Yosemite Valley, CA -- Yosemite Facelift

--September 29 -- Eugene, OR -- Justen Sjong Slideshow

--September-November -- Reel Rock Film Tour

Monday, August 11, 2008

Bang Bang Go the Boots!

Plastic boots have a lot of advantages over leather boots in cold and wet environments. Perhaps the greatest advantage of plastics is that it is possible to dry them out after they get wet. This is not the case with leathers.

Plastic boots are designed to have two parts. There is an internal part, the inner boot, and an external part, the shell. The shell is made of plastic whereas the inner boot is made of a combination of soft materials. One may easily remove the inner boot from the shell in order to dry it out.

There are two ways to dry out inner boots. The first is to simply lay them out in the sun. The second is to place them in the bottom of your sleeping bag at night. Be sure to remove the footbed and to dry this in the sleeping bag separately.

To use a sleeping bag as a drying machine it is important the bag is breathable. If there is any type of GoreTex shell fabric on the outside of the bag, moisture will get stuck inside and the entire sleeping bag will become damp and cold.

One advantage of plastics is that blisters are uncommon. One disadvantage is that another form of discomfort develops for some with about the same frequency as blisters. "Boot-bang" or "shin-bang" commonly results from the constant impact of the shin on the hard plastic boot tongue. This primarily occurs when a climber walks on a long hard-packed trail or on ice for a significant period of time wearing plastics.

As with blisters, the best way to cure boot-bang is to deal with it the moment it appears. It is possible to do this by only tying the boot tightly up to your ankle. The remainder of the boot may remain completely untied if the cuff doesn't get in the way. Sometimes the upper portion of the boot must be tied loosely because the grommets in the cuff can catch and cause one to trip.

Plastic boots are an excellent choice for winter mountaineering, ice climbing, Cascade volcanoes and for expeditionary climbing. When fit and used properly they work extremely well in each of these venues and provide for a great deal of comfort and warmth. Many of our guides use them exclusively on volcanoes and expeditions.

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, August 10, 2008

2 New Baker Trip Dates Announced

We are opening up two new dates for the Mt. Baker Skills and Climb courses. We will now be offering a additional course August 30 - September 1 and September 13 - 15.

The Baker 3-day course is a great introduction to glacier travel and an intermediate ascent. Click here for more information on the course. If you are interested in making a reservation, call our office at 360-671-1505 or 1-800-424-2249.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Weekend Warrior -- Videos to Get You Stoked!

Well Weekend Warriors...I am at a loss for words. I thought that I could handle these videos that we have for you this weekend but I was wrong. They are just that good and now I am suffering from a stoke overdose, which is a rare thing for me to experience. So, I wanted to warn all of you to watch these videos at your own risk...enjoy!!

I was feeling a little old school when I picked this first video. If any of you haven't yet seen the classic mountaineering movie "K2" then this movie trailer should remedy that. Pay close attention to the soundtrack, it really brings me back to the early 90's.

The second video features the dynamic duo of Tommy Caldwell and Beth Rodden climbing (surprise, surprise) El Capitan. This video shows Tommy leading the infamous Great Roof, which looks really, really hard...unless you have super tiny fingers.

I decided to save the best video for last. This is the trailer for the new Peter Mortimer video called "Sharp End". Warning: If you have a heart condition or are scared easily be wary while watching this is guaranteed to provide you with a big dose of adrenaline!

Friday, August 8, 2008

Trip Report: Bugaboos with Dawn Glanc

The Bugaboos, located in British Columbia, is a place that I have read and heard about for years. Every time I saw a photo of the splitter granite spires, I would dream of climbing them. The place seemed magical and very alluring. The alpine climbing seemed perfect. On July 20, my dream of going to the Bugaboos became a reality. I received this guiding assignment with a giant smile.

I began the long drive from Bellingham, Washington on that sunny Sunday morning with my new partner for the next 12 days, Michael Lowry. During the drive Michael and I got to know one another. We also discussed what we planned to climb. We had a long hit list of routes. The day went on with the pedal to the metal. By the day's end we arrived in the town of Radium to enjoy our last dinner at the local pub.

In the morning we made the long drive into the Provincial Park. We did the last minute gear shuffle as quick as possible, while getting eaten alive by the mosquitoes. We then barricaded the van from the porcupines, who are rumored to enjoy eating brake lines and other important hoses. When the van was secure, we began the 3-hour hike into the alpine playground.

Our time over the next few days was great. We stayed at the Kain Hut for 7 nights.
While we were at the hut, we met many great people from all around the world. It was a very social place where route information and other climbing beta was shared. There was the occasional, 'it was big and I was awesome story', but mostly the conversations were great people telling good stories of the day and other adventures from throughout their days. It was motivating us to go out again the next day with fire in our eyes.

Michael and I got in some great climbing. We did the Kain Route on Bugaboo Spire, the West Ridge of Pigeon Spire, the Northwest Ridge of East Post Spire, and Lion's Way on Central Crescent Tower. We had great weather most days, bluebird and perfect temperatures. We also experienced 2 rain days in which the hut was worth every looney we spent. The last rain day forced us to leave one day early, so we headed to Squamish to finish the trip.

As we drove to Squamish, the clouds on the horizon did not seem to be matching up with the forecast for the slight 20% chance of rain. In the morning we awoke to a steady drizzle. We spent Tuesday milling about in Squamish. I have to say, they have a great public library. We monitored the future forecast on every weather website to see if the end of the rain was in sight. After watching the weather forecast change throughout the day, we could see that the rain was here to
stay. We decided to pack up our soggy camp and end the trip a day early. We drove back to Bellingham, and celebrated our successes over a great Sushi dinner.

This was a very amazing trip. I had the opportunity to climb a number of the classic routes, but can see there are still plenty more waiting to be climbed. I am looking forward to making another pilgrimage up to the Bugs in the future. I have my sights set on a few climbs that match that ideal alpine line. Until that next time comes, I will look at my photos of this past trip and re-live those great moments.

-- Dawn Glanc, AAI Guide

Thursday, August 7, 2008

AAI at the Outdoor Retailers Summer Market

The American Alpine Institute (AAI) has announced that it will award eight Guides Choice Awards to six companies on August 8th at the 2008 Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in Salt Lake City.

This years award recipients are:
  • Patagonia for the Guide Pant and CSS Technology;
  • Buff for Buff Original Headwear;
  • Mont Bell for the Thermo Wrap Parka;
  • Black Diamond for the Quantum Pack and Anarchist Pack;
  • Mountaineers Books for the Expert Series; and
  • VoilĂ© for the Telepro T6 Avalanche Shovel.
The equipment and clothing awarded the American Alpine Institute (AAI) Guides Choice designation have proven to be of the highest quality in their product category. The awards are determined on the basis of excellence in design, performance, and durability demonstrated in rigorous international field tests conducted by professional guides of AAI. Evaluations are made throughout the year in desert, cold weather, rain, snow, high wind, and high altitude environments. The American Alpine Institute has no financial ties or financial interest in any manufacturer or distributor. All testers and their expenses are paid by AAI.

A core group of AAI professional guides conduct Guides Choice field tests year round, throughout the world. Tests may be completed in a single long season (for example five summer months of intensive climbing in South America), or over several seasons (for example McKinley expeditions in the spring and Himalayan expeditions autumn). Because of the intensity and constancy of use, the wear and stress that gear receives during these tests corresponds to many years of use by a recreational climber.

For more information on the Guides Choice program, the American Alpine Institute, or this years Guide Choice Award recipients, please contact the American Alpine Institute at

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

New Ancohuma Dispatches Hot off the Satellite Phone

Our most recent Ancohuma Expedition is currently underway. Check out the team's progress by clicking here.

Ancohuma (21,095 ft) rises dramatically above the altiplano. Mike McWherter

The Thankless Job of the Guidebook Author

"Where is it?"

"Dude, I have no idea." The deeply tanned young-man raises his hand to his forehead to block the sun from his eyes. With his other hand he points at a wall in the distance. "The guidebook says it's over there."

The young man's partner sneered, "no way it's over there!"

"That's what the guidebook says."

"Well, the guidebook's wrong."

"Yeah, it is." The young man lowers his hand from his forehead and looks at his partner. "This guidebook is lame."

"No," the partner shook his head. "This guidebook author is lame!"

The preceding is an example of the conversations going on around the climbing world every day. Many guidebooks have errors and as such, many climbers come down hard on the guidebook authors. In some cases, the errors were avoidable and in others they weren't.
A common belief amongst climbers is that guidebook authors have climbed every route in the guidebooks they've written. In some cases this is true. For example, in select books it is reasonable to expect a guidebook author to have firsthand knowledge of the 50 to 100 climbs generally featured in such tomes. However, it is not reasonable for an author to have firsthand knowledge of the hundreds if not thousands of routes that might be described in a comprehensive book. Comprehensive books rely heavily on a combination of good research, interviews, and peer reviews of a manuscript.
I have had the opportunity to author two guidebooks. The first, Washington Ice: A Climbing Guide, required significant research. Throughout the project there were a number of factors working against me. First, nobody ever wrote a comprehensive guide to ice climbing in Washington prior to ours. There were a few published resources, but they only covered a small percentage of the material in the book. The vast majority of the route research was derived from interviews with first ascentionists; some of which had foggy memories. Second, many of the routes had significant approaches. With our limited free time, my co-author and I tried to climb as many routes as possible. This was incredibly difficult as most climbs required a day or more to complete. And third, many of the ice climbs in Washington are ephemeral. Some routes only come in once every few years. As a result of these factors, it took over three years to write the book and there were still minor mistakes.
Washington Ice is definitely not a perfect guidebook. But many people have had many days of great climbing due to the publication of the book. Perhaps a few people have had a hard time with some part of a description; but when all is said and done, those same people probably wouldn't have gone climbing at all if they didn't have a guidebook.
In late August, Fun Climbs: Red Rocks will be published by Sharp End Books. My second guidebook is a select book. I have first hand knowledge of every climb listed in the book. As such it is unlikely to have as many minor mistakes as my comprehensive ice book. However, I still expect people to complain. Even with perfect descriptions and photos of every single trail, every single crag and every single hold on the routes described, there will still be those who can't find a climb or feel that the route topos are incorrect. This is part of the deal when you write a guidebook. More complaints than thanks.

So next time you see a guidebook author, thank him first. Then, explain to him how he could do it better. He will listen. He will take note of the complaint. And he will do his best to fix it in the next edition. Guidebook authors want to be proud of their books and even more than that, they want you to be psyched to use them...
--Jason D. Martin

August and September Climbing Events

--August 6-11 -- Salt Lake City, UT -- Outdoor Retailer Show
--August 8-9 -- Salt Lake City, UT -- Mammut Bouldering Championship

--August 8-10 -- Morgantown, WV -- Appalachian Wilderness Medicine Conference

--August 16 -- Mt. Baker Ski Area, WA -- Avalanche Awareness

--August 16-17 -- Bear Valley, CA -- Bear Valley Adventure Sports Festival

--August 16-23 -- Bicz Gorges National Park, Romania -- International Youth Climbing Camp

--September 5-7 -- Pine Mountain, CA -- Pine Mountain Pulldown

--September 18-21 -- Salt Lake City, UT -- HERA Climb for Life

--September 18-21 -- Ogden, UT -- Utah's High Adventure Mountain Film Fest

--September 24-28 -- Yosemite Valley, CA -- Yosemite Facelift

--September 29 -- Eugene, OR -- Justen Sjong Slideshow

--September-November -- Reel Rock Film Tour

Monday, August 4, 2008

Best Climber Eats

In a short blog entry, it's not really possible to discuss all of the great dining options for climbers on the road. What is possible is a smattering of great dining options at a few popular climbing areas. Please feel free to add your own favorites in the comment section!
Squamish, BC:
  • Howe Sound Brew Pub - Cool ambiance with cool people and cool music make up for the okay menu and mediocre beer. This is the evening focal point for climbers, skiers, kite boarders and mountain bikers. As such it cannot be missed.
Leavenworth, WA:
  • Gustavs -- The somewhat limited menu is the downside of this climber's hangout. The upside is that there is great locally brewed beer in this faux Bavarian haunt.
  • South -- The best Mexican food in the area!
Washington Pass, WA
  • The Duck Brand -- This great little restaurant/inn is actually in the town of Winthrop which is about thirty miles from the pass. The menu includes both Mexican and American fare, all of which is really good. Bottomless tortilla chips and friendly service on top of excellent food make it well worth the travel time from the mountains.
Other Washington State Options -- Be sure to check out this website for great suggestions from members of the Washington Trails Association.

Eastern Sierra, CA
  • The Mobile Station -- One of the best kept secrets and perhaps one of the oddest secrets in the world of restaurants is the gas station/deli in Lee Vining, California. The Whoa Nellie Deli, found inside the Mobile Station, provides arguably the best food and the best musical entertainment on the entirety of the Eastern Sierra 395 corridor. People as far away as Bishop and Yosemite Valley will make special trips to see a band and have a meal at this gas station. Upon hearing this many people scoff at the idea that a gas station could compete with "real" restaurants. Those same people will -- after one meal at the Whoa Nellie Deli -- make entire vacation plans around eating there again.
Joshua Tree, CA:
  • Crossroads Cafe and Tavern -- This kitchy little restaurant features a cool ambiance but limited hours of operation. In particular, the breakfasts stand out as tasty and above average.
  • Santanas Mexican -- This 24 hour Mexican restaurant is cheap and greasy with a capital "g." Though many might see Santanas as a little too cheap and greasy before a hard day of climbing, it is a popular after-climb destination. Lots of food plus lots of calories equals a full stomach and a happy climber!
Red Rocks, NV:

Red Rock Canyon is just 19 miles from the world famous Las Vegas Strip. In other words, it is minutes away from more five star restaurants than anywhere else in the world. The following selections are common climber destinations and hang-outs that mix good food with great prices.
  • BJs Restaurant and Brewery -- Just minutes from Red Rock Canyon, this restaurant and brewery offers an excellent variety of different foods, beers and appetizers. The place has a very family oriented feel to it and there are often kids running around the restaurant. There are certainly a lot of options in Vegas, but this seems to be the most attractive to many climbers as it does not really feel like a Sin City restaurant. The downside of its ambiance is that it is a very busy destination and there are often long waits.
  • Red Rock Hotel and Casino Buffet -- Those who have spent a significant amount of time in Vegas are over the whole buffet scene. They could care less. But there are still a lot of climbers who want to eat themselves silly and for them, the "Feast Buffet" at the Red Rock Hotel and Casino is just a hop, skip and a jump away and will please the bottomless belly.
  • Frank and Finas Cocina -- Long a climber hangout, this authentic Mexican restaurant will please those who are looking for cheap and authentic Mexican fare. This particular dining establishment requires a bit of a drive, but it is well worth it.
Zion National Park, UT:
  • Zion Pizza and Noodle Co. -- The beer is definitely weak. It is Utah. But there is a great deal of variety at this scenic little Italian restaurant. And though it is often crowded with visitors from around the world, it's a place well worth the wait.
While researching this blog post, I decided that I should get some opinions beyond those of myself, my wife and a few of our guides. As a result I started threads on and on for people to post their favorite eats at their local crags throughout the country. To read these threads, click here and here.

For more discussions about great places for hungry mountain people to visit, click here and here.

--Jason D. Martin

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Weekend Warrior -- Videos to Get You Stoked!

Hurray! We have made it through yet another week of work and now it is time to play. If any of you Weekend Warriors had a particularly tough week at work and need an extra pick-me-up to help get you out the door then check out the videos we have compiled for you this week.

The first video on our line-up documents one mans quest to accomplish a very lofty personal goal. Watch as Chris Davenport attempts to ski all 54 of the "14'ers" in Colorado in a period of 6 months. If only we all had that much time off...

The second video to get you stoked for the weekend features some great ice climbing on the famous Ben Nevis in Scotland. After watching this I can understand why William Wallace fought so hard for Scotland. I would've done the same thing if I had that much world-class ice climbing in my backyard.

The final video gave me goosebumps while watching it. It is a trailer for an film called "Blindsight", which documents an expedition up Everest with blind Nepalese youth. Find your nearest independent movie theater or store and check out this video! It looks truly inspirational.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Human Waste Disposal in the Alpine

It's a beautiful day on Mt. Baker.  Your party is setting up their camp on the Hogsback with the hopes of attaining the summit early the next day.

As you put up your tent, you notice something.  Decaying toilet paper.  You move your camp to a different location and find more decaying toilet paper.  Yet another location; nope, there's new toilet paper and a bit of human waste there.  Wherever you go, the ugly remnants of angry bowels are there to greet you...

As more and more people visit the backcountry, the evidence of their presence is everywhere.  Not in fire pits or in candy wrappers, but in human waste.  There is fecal material everywhere.  There is toilet paper everywhere.

The classiest of backcountry users and the savviest of climbers are aware of their impact.  They are aware that they are not the only ones to use a particular location.  They are aware that what they do will have a lasting impact on other visitors.  They know how to properly dispose of their waste and they do it. Every person can make a difference.  Every person can have a positive impact.  Indeed, every person can make it better.

First and foremost, one's goal in the backcountry should be to make sure no one knows that anyone has ever visited before.  This means following certain rules when dealing with human waste management.  In other words, if someone comes across the place where you had to use the bathroom, there should be no evidence that you were ever there.

The principals of Leave No Trace, which were designed by the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics, have a strong emphasis on human waste disposal.  The Center for Outdoor Ethics has studied a number of different methods and feels that some work better than others.  In the high environments where climbers spend most of their time, there are four techniques that are commonly used.  They are Bury, Toss, Smear, and WAG.

1)  Bury:  When below treeline, one may bury waste in a cathole.  This should be at least six inches deep and at least two hundred feet from any water source.  Toilet paper should always be packed out.  The Center for Outdoor Ethics believes this to be one of the better techniques used.

2)  Toss:  The toss method is preferable only on low use alpine climbs.  Obscure mountains with obscure glaciers are ideal for this method.  The idea behind this technique is to go on a rock on a moraine.  After you’ve finished your business, throw the rock down the moraine.  The waste will scatter all over the place, bake in the sun and blow away.  Pack out all toilet paper.

A similar technique involves using the bathroom next to a crevasse and then tossing it in.  Once complete, it is always possible use snow instead of toilet paper.  Obviously if you prefer toilet paper it is important to pack it out.  These methods should only be employed on low use glaciers.

3)  Smear:  In this method, one smears human waste in a thin layer on a large boulder that is directly in the sun.  Over a period of days the waste will bake and blow away.  All toilet paper should be packed out.  This method should not be used on popular routes or in popular campsites.

Climbers on multi-pitch rock climbs often use this technique to deal with their waste.  If you are in a situation where you are required to do this, make sure that the waste is smeared far from any belay stations or holds on the route.

The Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics found that many individuals do not smear their waste in a thin enough layer for it to break down quickly.  If this technique is employed, it is very important to spread the waste as thinly as possible.

4)  WAG:  The best all around method for dealing with human waste is to pack it all out.  This method (often referred to as the blue-bag method) has been employed for years on Mt. Rainier and in other locations, but is slowly becoming popular throughout the mountains.  In this method, a climber essentially goes to the bathroom in a special bag, which then can be easily carried out.  WAG bags are available at many ranger stations free of charge.

Perhaps the greatest challenge currently facing climbers everywhere is ignorance concerning backcountry waste disposal.  This single problem is a major contributor to the plethora of proposals for limiting the number of climbers in many areas.  It is our responsibility as a climbing community to police this problem and make sure that the people in our user group are doing everything that they can to minimize the human impact on the fragile alpine environments that we all love.

--Jason D. Martin