Tuesday, June 30, 2009

AAI Welcomes Three New Guides!

AAI’s new guide training is over. As one of the new hires, I’m happy it is done and eager to work. I'm incredibly glad that I decided to work for the Institute. I was impressed by the quality of the training offered, and came away a much more well-rounded guide.

AAI Guide Training - Class of 2009
(left to right) Alaina Robertson, Mike Powers (instructor), Kevin Hogan, Scott Massey
Photo by Dana Hickenbottom

Big smiles after a successful ascent of the Beckey Route on Liberty Bell.
Photo by Dana Hickenbottom

We spent two weeks putting our blood, sweat and tears into our training with Mike Powers, AAI’s technical director and the former AMGA technical director, who’s technical guiding skills are impossible to do justice for on paper. Our days with him started at 5am and ended at so-far-north-it’s-almost-Canada dusk.

Mike Powers teaching effective short-roping technique high on the S. Early Winter Spire.
Photo by Dana Hickenbottom

Scott and Kevin Belay Ice Climbing Students in a Crevasse
Photo by Jason Martin

There are three new faces to AAI this year, Scott Massey, Kevin Hogan, and me, Alaina Robertson. We all entered guide training with strengths in specific areas of climbing and guiding, but by the end of the three weeks spent practicing “systems” (a blanket term for “everything in the American Mountain Guiding Association’s guide manual”), we are all worthy of wearing the AAI logo.

New AAI Guide Kevin Hogan Demonstraits a Highly Useful Skill
Photo by Jason Martin

So what can you look forward to if you are lucky enough to find one of us guiding your upcoming trip?

Kevin, the alpine wonder, has put over 13,000 miles on his boots walking from Canada to Mexico three times on various North-South trails. Ask him about his band, Pahoehoe. His talents include storytelling, balancing trekking poles, and “hucking meat” (he’s a downhill mountain biker). His favorite food is teriyaki and after a trip he loves a good IPA.

Kevin and Mike psyched to make it to the summit of the South Early Winter Spire.
Photo by Dana Hickenbottom

Scott, the desert rockman and ├╝ber outdoor leader, has spent nine years employed leading groups through the wilderness and is a hardcore rock climber. He’ll always be the first one up in the morning and gets everyone going. He’s the one you want to play “name that movie quote” with. His favorite food is noodles with processed cheese and he always could go for a cup of coffee.

Scott and Alaina after a successful display of numerous snow skills.
Photo by Dana Hickenbottom

You’ll have to ask the other two what my nickname is, but I’ve traveled and climbed in 14 different countries on four continents. When not climbing, I tend to be sedentary, and consider eating and organizing to be hobbies. I like food, and at the end of the day, I enjoy a good glass of Merlot.

--Alaina Robertson, AAI Guide

July and August Climbing Events

--July 3 -- Harrisburg, PA --Climb up the 50

--July 11 -- La Fayette, GA -- Rock Town Clean Up

--July 8-12 -- Lander, WY --International Climber's Festival

--July 17 -- Bellingham, WA --Aerial Tour of Mt Baker Hikes part II

--July 18 -- Castlewood Canyon, Castle Rock, CO --Summer Sandstone Series: Castlewood Canyon Bouldering Comp and Clean-Up

--July 18 -- Raleigh, NC --American Alpine Club Wilderness First Aid Course

--July 18 -- Sunnyvale, CA --ASCA Climb-a-thon at Planet Granite

--July 20 -- Reel Rock Film Competition Submission Deadline

--July 25 -- Obed/Clear Creek, GA -- Help Clean Up the Obed

Monday, June 29, 2009

CLOSE CALLS -- Recreational Area Closed to Target Shooting

AAI just received the following email from Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest:

Everett, Wa. June 29, 2009 — The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest is closing several roads on the I-90 corridor to target shooters starting July 4th weekend. The closure area encompasses the valley bottom that follows the I-90 freeway corridor from exit 38 to the top of Snoqualmie Pass. The Tinkham and Denny Creek roads are included.

“We have a serious public safety concern,” said Snoqualmie District Ranger Jim Franzel. “If we don’t do something immediately, someone will get hurt. We are closing the smallest land area possible to prevent an injury and provide for public safety.” The target shooting closure area encompasses concentrated recreation uses with multiple roads, campgrounds, trailheads and picnic areas. Franzel said that the local geography doesn’t provide for natural target shooting backstops, so target shooters often use trees and vegetation as backstops, not realizing there may be a trailhead or people recreating within range.

Although unsafe target shooting has been a growing problem on national forest lands adjacent to I-90, recent near-misses of road repair workers and shooting across roads has elevated the concern. “Peak visitor use is during the summer and additional road repair and trail reconstruction is scheduled,” Franzel said. The closure involves a small part of the 332,000-acre Snoqualmie Ranger District.

Target shooting regulations remain unchanged everywhere else on the district. The Code of Federal Regulations prohibits discharging firearms within 150 yards of a residence, building, campsite, developed recreation site or occupied area. Violators can be fined up to $5,000 and/or imprisoned up to six months in jail. Signs are posted marking closed areas. Visitors can get a map at Snoqualmie Ranger District Office in North Bend and online at http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs/condition/mbs-closure-target-shooting-i90-corridor.pdf <http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs/conditions/mbs-closure-target-shooting-i90-corridor.pdf> that show where target shooting is prohibited.

This is a temporary emergency closure. The forest will consider the need for a permanent closure in one year. Franzel said that target shooting in high-use recreation areas has increased over the years, along with associated environmental damage and dumped trash. For information regarding the closure, please call 425-888-1421 x230 or visit http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs/ <http://www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs/> .

Rappelling Safety

There is no doubt that rappelling is the most dangerous thing that we regularly do in this sport. There are more climber injuries and fatalities from mistakes rappelling than from any other place in all of climbing. However, there are some things that every climber can do to make rappelling safer.

First, if it is possible to safely walk off from the top of a climb, simply walk off. Limiting the amount of time that you spend rappelling is a surefire way to limit the amount of exposure that you have to potential mistakes.

Second, climbers should always try to tie off the ends of their ropes in order to close the system. This is a simple thing to do that is often overlooked. Some climbers are afraid that their ropes will get stuck after they throw them...which is a legitimate fear. Closing the system should be a default tactic. But if there are extenuating circumstances, then perhaps the system should be intentionally left open.

People seldom think about tying knots in the end of the rope in single pitch terrain, but ironically, that's where most people accidentally rappel off of a single end of the rope. All that it takes is a minor rope offset to ruin your day. Knots in the rope will keep such a thing from being anything more than another minor element to fix.

Rappelling with a Prussik above the Device

And third, climbers should use some kind of rappel backup.

A Prussik Hitch on a Rope

There are two friction hitch backup options that are commonly used. Some people like to put a prussik hitch above their rappel device, whereas others prefer to put an autoblock hitch below the device. There are advantages and disadvantages to rappelling both ways. The biggest advantage to either of these options is that you are less likely to die if you make a mistake. The biggest disadvantage is that it takes extra time to put these things together...

Note the autoblock coming off the climber's legloop.
Most people will put their hand on the autoblock hitch while rappelling.

Rappelling with a friction hitch above the device has gone a bit out of fashion. One advantage to rappelling with a prussik hitch above is that it is easy to switch a rappel system into a rope ascending system. The prussik is already attached to the climber's belay loop, so all that he has to do is to add a second friction hitch for his feet below the first friction hitch.

Most climbers now rappel with a friction hitch (usually an autoblock hitch) below the device, attached to a leg loop. This allows both hands to hold the rope below the device which provides for more redundancy in the rappel.

An Autoblock Hitch

A friction hitch works well below the device...most of the time. It is, however, imperative that climbers who employ this technique be extremely careful. If a climber elects to hang from the rope by nothing more than his device and a friction hitch, it is possible that the hitch could be disengaged if it touches the device. Such a thing would result in catastrophic failure. This usually happens when one twists his body away from the friction hitch. If a climber needs to mess around with ropes or something else while hanging from a device and a hitch, he should definitely put a catastrophe knot in below the hitch. This will ensure that should something happen, the climber will not fall to the ground.

Rappelling is the most dangerous thing that we do. So why not create more security by trying to walk off when you can? Or by tying knots in the end of the ropes? Or by putting a friction hitch into the system? Any one of these simple techniques could save your life...

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, June 28, 2009

AAI Expedition Summits Denali

AAI guide Forest McBrian called at 1:11 pm Alaska time Sunday afternoon with the following dispatch:

“This is Forest from 17,200 on Denali. Sorry I didn’t call in yesterday, but it was a very busy day! James, Bill, Jullian, Marc, and I summited last night at 9:00pm. We had a really nice sunny day. Everyone was quite strong and made it happen. They worked together so well. There were only four other people climbing the mountain, so we really felt like we had it to ourselves. That's quite rare up here.

We’re back at 17,000 feet eating and drinking, and soon we will leave for 14,000 feet. I’ll call again when we are further down the mountain, perhaps tomorrow.

Everyone says hello to friends and family back home. The whole team is feeling great and is very pleased with what we have accomplished. It was a long trip that took a lot of patience and persistence and it really paid off.

As we mentioned before, we are planning to pass our satellite phone on to the last expedition because theirs isn't working. So we should have some news from them on their progress before too long.

Talk to you soon.”

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Weekend Warrior -- Videos to get you stoked!

Welcome once again to yet another edition of Weekend Warriors - Videos to get you Stoked! This week I decided to focus on some hardcore first ascents...since there are few things more stoke worthy than heading out into the unknown and climbing something that has never been climbed before. Enjoy!

The first video features some Alaskan climbing in the Ruth Gorge. These guys put up 5 new routes in two weeks...talk about impressive!

The second video actually features the same climbers as the first video but this time they hopped on a jet plane and flew across the globe to establish a new route in the Trango Group in the Pakistani Himalayas. These guys don't mess around when it comes to hardcore climbing!

The final video actually documents a route that has been climbed before...just not with traditional gear. It showcases Matt Segal climbing "China Doll" (5.14) outside of Boulder, CO, a previously bolted line that hadn't yet seen a traditional ascent.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Cougars! (Safety Tips)

In yesterday’s blog we reported about the three-year-old girl who was attacked by a cougar in Squamish (to read that story, click here), so with this topic fresh on our minds it seems fitting to follow up with a blog on cougars.

First off here is a little general info for you. Cougars and their relatives can be found just about anywhere from the Yukon to the Southern Andes.   In the Pacific Northwest males range from 115 to 198 lbs and the females are smaller at 64 to 141 lbs.  These feisty felines will literally eat anything with meat on it from moose, elk, and horses down to insects. 

Once a large prey has been killed, the cougar will feed on the corpse for numerous days and this usually will keep them satisfied for close to two weeks until the hunger induced urge to kill rises again.  However, during the early months of a kitten’s life the mother will hunt and catch prey much more often, sometimes as much as one piece of meat every three days. 

And speaking of kittens and cougars getting it on kitty style, a male and female will meet for a brief "encounter" and then the male will disappear leaving the mother to raise the one to six kittens on her own.  As the kittens mature only one out of the liter is expected to survive to adulthood and live for the full 8 to 13 years as observed through various studies.

Now that we have been briefly acquainted with this beautiful animal, there are a few things you should know to help prevent a cougar from getting acquainted with you.  When you are out for a hike it is highly recommended that you go with a least one other person and be aware that cougars are most likely to be hunting at dawn or dusk, although they will hunt and scamper 24/7 if they feel like it.  

If you are hiking with small children, keep them close, as their high pitched voices and typical less coordinated movement seems to encourage cougars to attack.  It is also a good idea to make noise so that you don't surprise a cougar by accident. 

Most likely you will not run into a cougar while out hiking, but if you are lucky enough to spot a cougar and unlucky enough for it to become aggressive towards you, the experts advise that you should immediately pick up any children, make yourself as big as possible (stand up straight and arc your arms out to the side), pick up a large stick if any nearby, make eye contact and stare down the cougar, shout in a loud but slow and calm voice, and throw rocks in an attempt to scare it off.  These tips should help you from having a bad experience with these magnificent cats.

Below is a quick clip of a cougar attacking an elk.

Oh and one last obvious tip, if you find a cougar kitten in the wild, don't pick it up and play with it.  As with moose and bear, encounters with young and a nearby mother are not good at all.

Have fun out there!

-- Erik

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

UIAA Gear Testing Videos

A couple of weeks ago, we posted a video of a carabiner strength test. The video was very popular. We got to see a press destroy a carabiner. Videos of gear breaking are always engaging. As a result, today we have posted a few more climbing gear testing videos from the UIAA. These are both terrifying and a lot of fun all at the same time!

--Jason D. Martin

June and July Climbing Events

--June 24 --Seattle, WA -- Steve Swenson, President of American Alpine Club

Steve Swenson is the current president of the American Alpine Club and a member of the Seattle Vertical World. He will discuss his forthcoming trip to an unclimbed 7,500 meter peak in the eastern Karakoram in India as well as climbing in Pakistan, China, and Patagonia.

Seattle REI, June 24th 2009, 7:00pm

--June 26-27 -- Boulder, CO -- 3rd Annual HERA Climb For Life Celebration

--June 26 & 28 -- Bend & Portland, OR -- Matt Segal Slideshow Tour in Oregon

Matt Segal is traveling to various cities in the US, and his shows will include images and video incuding England's famous Gritstone.
The is an hour long show, and there will also be some great raffle prizes.

--June 27 -- San Francisco, CA --ASCA Climb-a-thon at Planet Granite

--June 26-28 -- Gunnison, CO --Gunnison Rock & Race Festival

We're always on the lookout for events that bring the climbing community together. If you're aware of an event we don't have posted above, please feel free to email us with all the details. Event posts will be made at AAI's discretion.

--June 27-28 -- Rumney, NH --Women's Rock Climbing Weekend

--July 3 -- Harrisburg, PA --Climb up the 50

--July 11 -- La Fayette, GA -- Rock Town Clean Up

--July 8-12 -- Lander, Wyoming --International Climber's Festival

--July 18 -- Castlewood Canyon, Castle Rock, CO --Summer Sandstone Series: Castlewood Canyon Bouldering Comp and Clean-Up

--July 18 -- Raleigh, NC --American Alpine Club Wilderness First Aid Course

--July 18 -- Sunnyvale, CA --ASCA Climb-a-thon at Planet Granite

--July 20 -- Reel Rock Film Competition Submission Deadline

--July 25 -- Obed/Clear Creek, GA -- Help Clean Up the Obed

Monday, June 22, 2009

Whitney Climbed in Great Conditions

AAI guide Mark Grundon called in to report that he and Jamie Campbell (of Katy Texas - outside of Houston) had just summited Mt. Whitney. They climbed the Mountaineers Route, and said conditions were terrific:

"This spring and early summer we've had a lot of issues with thunderstorms, but we had it perfect on this trip. Besides great weather, we had four or five inches of fresh snow. It was actually better than some parts of the winter. We had snow covered ground all the way from Iceberg Lake to the summit."

"The snow covered all the loose rocks, so it was very comfortable walking and climbing. The final pitch to the summit was boot pack - with great steps kicked and well frozen. It was a fun finish. Amazing views needless to say!"

He reported that they climbed from camp near Iceberg Lake to the summit and back again in about 9 hours. They left camp at 6:00 am and summited at 11:40. They had a nice break on top enjoying great views of the Sierra high peaks before descending to camp where they arrived at 3:00pm.

The Maxidash

Last week it was announced that AAI Guide Tim Connelly and Lucas Gonzales will team up to compete in the Mountain Club of Kenya's Maxidash race, the premier and only race of it's kind in East Africa.

Lucas getting familiar with the Ndeiya site

For the uninitiated, the “Maxi-Dash” is an annual event for the rock climbers of the Club and for ‘climbing guests’ who would wish to participate. The idea is to gather as many points as possible by climbing set climbs at five different crags around Nairobi. These are Lukenya, Embaribal, Frog, Ndeiya and Hell’s Gate National Park.

The Maxidash has been held for over 20 years and many colourful characters and stories have been engaged in its history. This year however the 2 newcomers have seen to it to challenge the locals and mainly a set of 3 or 4 climbers that have consistently won the competition in the last 10 years. 'We shall see them really DASH this year!!' barked Connelly at the weekly MCK meeting where he announced his participation and threw down the proverbial gauntlet to those few climbers attending.

Tim working out the intricacies of Hell's gate's Main wall

The official rules state there is to be no sabotaging of vehicles, brought about after a particularly competitive year found wheels flying off vehicles at high speed. But they continue to not ban activities of route sabotaging such as banana smearing or baboon baiting (whatever that might be!!)

Finding the descents, strategy of which routes to climb, when and general motoring skills on African roads is as important as efficient climbing ability. (Tim racing down so that he can climb up another route)

Spare wheel, food, plenty of petrol, liquids and good shock absorbers will see competitors through the whole day. There will be at least 3 hours of driving between sites, probably closer to 4 or 5, and Kenya is not known for it's great roads!! (one of the sites, Frog. a good hour from Nairobi and probably an hour and a half from the next site)

The next week will be filled with lots of preparation . Luckily this team is fitted out with a few pairs of 5ten shoes for both the climbing and approach/descent, a Toyota 4runner and lots of energy for this 'rumble in the jungle'!!!

--Tim Connelly, AAI Guide

Saturday, June 20, 2009

AAI AAI Expedition on Denali at 14,000' in Low Pressure System

Saturday June 20 at 4:53 pm Alaska time, AAI guide Forest McBrian sent the following Denali dispatch via satellite telephone.

“Hello this is Forest calling from Denali. We’re still at 14,000 feet. There’s a low pressure system creeping through starting about now that should last a few days.

“As you know, guides Kurt and Lee went down to base camp yesterday because Lee wasn’t feeling well. Aidan had flown in yesterday to replace him, so they met at base camp and Aidan and Kurt climbed all the way up here last night in one push. They went all night and just showed up this morning. They were very tired, so after breakfast they went to bed.

“Everyone enjoyed a breakfast of piping hot French pressed coffee and breakfast burritos, and now the team is busy doing chores around camp. Everyone is in a good state of mind, just waiting for conditions to become favorable.

“I hope everyone at home is having a good time over the weekend. I will call again when there is more news to report.”


You can follow the progress of all AAI Denali expeditions on the dispatch page of AAI's website: www.aai.cc The URL for the specific page is:
http://aai.cc/currentnews/ Use the drop down to find the team you want to follow.

Dispatches are posted Monday through Friday on the dispatch page. Aside from special events (e.g., summits, major storms, etc), they are posted on this blog only on the weekends. On Mondays they are moved to the dispatch page.

Lack of a current dispatch indicates that the team is really busy, that they have had a problem establishing an adequate satellite transmission, or that they haven't been able to use their solar panel to recharge batteries and are preserving their batteries for safety needs.

Weekend Warrior -- Videos to get you stoked!

Greetings Weekend Warriors and welcome to another adrenaline filled session of video watching.  I hope you're ready to get your stoke on because this weekend we're bringing you quite an eclectic mix of films featuring climbing from around the world.  Nothing like a little bit of spicy variety to get the ol' heart pumping.  Watch, enjoy...and then go CLIMB something!

The first video on the mix features some big wall climbing in Borneo...yes, that's right, Borneo.  Watch as Conrad Anker and Alex Honnold (along with other fellow climbers) team up to climb this impressive line on this very special island in the Southeast Pacific.  This is adventure climbing at its essence.
Video number two on the lineup crosses the Pacific and features some Brazilian sport climbing...perhaps a better word would be 'super' sport climbing.  Watch as uber climber Magrao climbs a 28 bolt, 58 meter endurofest called Super Herois (Super Heroes).
And for the final video I thought that we could take a trip over to Europe (kind of) to watch the trailer for the 2009 European Outdoor Film Tour.  This video features some awesome extreme outdoor action...crazy crazy crazy!

Friday, June 19, 2009

Tapto Annoucement

A visit to the enchanted and spectacular Tapto Lakes area has been added to the North Cascades National Park Backpacking trip offered by AAI. This high alpine shelf most of the way up Red Face Mountain has 4 small lakes of different sizes and is snowed in most of the year. A very peaceful setting far from any trailhead or civilization, it is a great place for watching the sunset over Copper ridge or the sunrise on Challenger Glacier. Most people venturing deep into the park are visiting this special place.

An aerial view of Tapto Lakes

Challenger Glacier seen from the shore of one of the Tapto Lakes

Tapto Lakes from the Ridge in September

Challenger Glacier and Peak from ridge near Tapto Lakes.

Jeff Ries, AAI Backpacking Guide

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Ground Breaking Report on Climate Change Released

A groundbreaking US government report on climate change was released today.  With contributions from 13 U.S. Government Departments, the findings largely blame climate change on human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gasses.

The report is the first on climate change since President Barack Obama took office, and in plain, non-scientific terms it explains, among other things, how global warming has resulted in an increase of extreme weather such as the powerful heat-wave that swept Europe in 2003, claiming tens of thousands of lives. 

Here's a link to an intro to the report, and from this page you can download a PDF to the report: http://tinyurl.com/m4rdnp

Here's a summary of the main findings:


1. Global Warming is unequivocal and primarily human-induced.

Global temperature has increased over the past 50 years.  This observed increase due primarily to human-induced emissions of heat-trapping gases. (p. 13)

2. Climate changes are underway in the United States and are projected to grow.

Climate-related changes are already observed in the United States and its coastal waters.  These include increase in heavy downpours, rising temperature and sea level, rapidly retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost, lengthening growing seasons, lengthening ice-free seasons in the ocean and on lakes and rivers, earlier snowmelt, and alterations in river flows.  These changes are projected to grow. (p. 27)

3. Widespread climate-related impacts are occurring now and are expected to increase.

Climate changes are already affecting water, energy, transportation, agriculture, ecosystems, and health.  These impacts are different from region to region and will grow under projected climate change. (p. 41-106, 107-152)

4. Climate change will stress water resources.

Water is an issue in every region, but the nature of the potential impacts varies.  Drought, related to reduced precipitation, increased evaporation, and increased water loss from plants, is an important issue in many regions, especially in the West.  Floods and water quality problems are likely to be amplified by climate change in most regions.  Declines in mountain snowpack are important in the West and Alaska where snowpack provides vital natural water storage.  (p. 41, 129, 135, 139)

5. Crop and livestock production will be increasingly challenged.

Agriculture is considered one of the sectors most adaptable to changes in climate.  However, increased heat, pests, water stress, diseases, and weather extremes will pose adaptation challenges for crop and livestock production. (p. 71)

6. Coastal areas are at increasing risk from sea-level rise and storm surge.

Sea-level rise and storm surge place many U.S. coastal areas at increasing risk of erosion and flooding, especially along the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, Pacific Islands, and parts of Alaska.  Energy and transportation infrastructure and other property in coastal areas are very likely to be adversely affection. (p. 111, 139, 145, 149)

7. Threats to human health will increase.

Health impacts of climate change are related to heat stress, waterborne diseases, poor air quality, extreme weather events, and diseases transmitted by insects and rodents.  Robust public health infrastructure can reduce the potential for negative impacts. (p. 89)

8. Climate change will interact with many social and environmental stresses. 

Climate change will combine with pollution, population growth, overuse of resources, urbanization, and other social, economic, and environmental stresses to create larger impacts than from any of these factors along.  (p. 99)

9. Thresholds will be crossed, leading to large changes in climate and ecosystems.

There are a variety of thresholds in the climate system and ecosystems.  These thresholds determine, for example, the presence of sea ice and permafrost, and the survival of species, from fish to insect pests, with implications for society.  With further climate change, the crossing of additional thresholds is expected.  (p. 76, 82, 115, 137, 142)

10. Future climate change and its impacts depend on choices made today.

The amount and rate of future climate change depend primarily on current and future human-caused emissions of heat-trapping gases and airborne particles.  Responses involve reducing emissions to limit future warming, and adapting to the changes that are unavoidable. (p. 25, 29)

In the Company of Ticks

As the weather warms, it feels surreal as I step out of my winter dreams of warmth and into a bright sunny reality. I love wearing shorts on approaches... But as it warms I cannot rid myself of the feeling that some little bloodsucker feels the same spring euphoria as I when he sees my bare white calves approaching.

Now I don’t want to sound like some kind of entomophobian (yes, there actually is a word for fear of insects), but lets be honest, nobody enjoys cavorting with these little monsters. So if you're like me and want to avoid ticks this summer, here are some tips, tricks and general info about these crazy arachnids.

Adult Deer Tick
Photo from Wikepedia

Ticks are viscous little creatures. They've figured out that since they can't jump or fly, the best way to get their vampire on is to wait in brush, tall grass, and bushes along deer and human trails. Some ticks have even developed the “oh-so-not-cool” move of falling out of trees and onto an unsuspecting host.

Once they have reached their delicious meal, ticks will insert a barbed feeding tube into the host to secure themselves in place while they feed. This blood feast can last from a few hours to several days. Once satiated the creepy little parasite will drop off and hide while it spends some time digesting your blood.

While the tick is stuck to the host it might feel guilty about taking so much away and thus want to give a small poisonous “present” in return. These presents are numerous as ticks are capable of transmitting a variety of diseases, the most common of which is a fun little thing called Lyme disease. If you are one of the lucky 1% of all tick bite recipients to contract Lyme disease, you will know in anywhere from 3 to 32 days after being targeted by the creature. The present will start off as a headache with fever, fatigue, depression and a bulls-eye shaped rash around the bite mark. If at this point you decide that you don’t want to keep this gift, you will not be able to return it to the tick, (besides that would be rude). Instead, you will need the help of a doctor and his antibiotics, which in most cases will rid you of the disease.

However, if you decide that you would rather keep the bloodsucker's gift, then you will begin to contract chronic problems as the disease attacks your organs, especially the brain, heart, and bone joints. The longer that you wait to get treated, the harder it will be to treat the disease. In an extreme case Lyme disease could lead to a permanent paralysis.

Luckily though, there are ways to prevent ticks from getting to skin level. When playing in popular tick habitats (pretty much any wooded or forested area in the world), one should wear long sleeved shirts, pants, and a hat. Another trick is to tuck your pant legs into your sucks so as to look like such a dork that the tick will be embarrassed to be seen on you (it also will prevent them from crawling up your boots and socks into the promised land).

However, even with the best of defenses, the ticks still might find their way through and therefore it is good to do a thorough tick check a few times a day while paying special attention to the warm places of your armpits and groin. It's also a good idea to check your pets over to make sure that they haven’t become a blood buffet.

If a tick is found, then the best method of removal it is use tweezers. Pull in line with the creatures body and it's entrance hole while holding it its body as close to the head as possible. Be careful and move slowly; as much as you might hate these guys, the last thing that you need is for one's head to pop off while beneath your skin.

Following are two videos which show methods of tick removal. The first shows the use of a forceps and the second discusses a number of tick related issues before demonstrating removal.

Ticks are gross, but good prevention and treatment will keep them from being anything more than a major nuisance.

Erik Budsberg, AAI Staff

June and July Climbing Events

--June 16 -- Aspen, CO -- John Gill Visits Aspen

--June 20 -- Ute Valley, Colorado Springs, CO -- Summer Sandstone Series: Ute Valley Bouldering Comp and Clean-Up

--June 20 -- La Fayette, GA -- Rock Town Clean Up and Climb

--June 21 -- Salt Lake City, UT -- Mammut Bouldering Comp Utah

--June 21 -- Golden, CO -- Mountain Fest 2009

--June 24 --Seattle, WA -- Steve Swenson, President of American Alpine Club

Steve Swenson is the current president of the American Alpine Club and a member of the Seattle Vertical World. He will discuss his forthcoming trip to an unclimbed 7,500 meter peak in the eastern Karakoram in India as well as climbing in Pakistan, China, and Patagonia.

Seattle REI, June 24th 2009, 7:00pm

--June 26-27 -- Boulder, CO -- 3rd Annual HERA Climb For Life Celebration

--June 26-28 -- Gunnison, CO --Gunnison Rock & Race Festival

We're always on the lookout for events that bring the climbing community together. If you're aware of an event we don't have posted above, please feel free to email us with all the details. Event posts will be made at AAI's discretion.

--June 27-28 -- Rumney, NH --Women's Rock Climbing Weekend

--July 3 -- Harrisburg, PA --Climb up the 50

--July 11 -- La Fayette, GA -- Rock Town Clean Up

--July 8-12 -- Lander, Wyoming --International Climber's Festival

--July 18 -- Castlewood Canyon, Castle Rock, CO --Summer Sandstone Series: Castlewood Canyon Bouldering Comp and Clean-Up

--July 20 -- Reel Rock Film Competition Submission Deadline

--July 25 -- Obed/Clear Creek, GA -- Help Clean Up the Obed

Monday, June 15, 2009

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

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Denali Summit is Reached

AAI guides Richard Riquelme and Mary Harlan called at 1016am on Sunday morning with the good news that their team had summited Denali on Saturday, June 13 in a thirteen hour climb. They reported that the weather was really good all the way to the summit, and then as they started to descend the winds picked up and clouds started forming up below and then around them. They were able to make it back to their camp at 17,200’ in reasonable conditions.

As long as conditions are half-way decent, they will soon descend to the 14,000-foot camp (Camp 3) and probably continue on down to 11,000 (Camp 2), as they begin to make their rapid move off the mountain. They said everyone is feeling good and is really happy.

This fifth AAI Denali expedition is the fourth to summit this season. Team #1 missed by 400 feet when high winds forced them back.


You can follow the progress of all AAI Denali expeditions on the dispatch page of AAI's website: www.aai.cc The URL for the specific page is: http://aai.cc/currentnews/ Use the drop down to follow the team you want.

Dispatches are posted M-F on the dispatch page. Aside from special events (e.g., summits, major storms, etc), they are posted on this blog only on the weekends, and on Monday they are moved to the dispatch page.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Good Weather Continues on Denali

AAI guide Forest McBrian called in from Camp 2 on Denali with the following report Friday night:

"Greetings from 11,000 feet on Denali. We're having a grand old time here. Today, after a delicious breakfast of sausage and eggs that Lee cooked up, we carried a load of gear and supplies up the mountain and around Windy Corner and made a cache a little below 14,000. We were in the sun all day, and it was quite warm. We really enjoyed the great views, especially of Father and Sons Wall above the Peters Glacier.

Tomorrow we'll probably move to Camp 3 at 14,000 feet. Hopefully the weather keeps going like this! We'll try to call again Saturday night or Sunday and let you know what we have accomplished."

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you stoked!

Here are some videos to get you psyched for the Sierra climbing season!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Team 5 Starting Summit Attempt

We just got a call this evening from Team 5 on Denali.  They are leaving camp right now for a late evening summit attempt.  We should get a dispatch from them sometime tomorrow with news on how they did!

Fatal Fall on Denali

AAI just received the following email from Denali National Park and Preserve:

Two men died of traumatic injuries sustained in a several thousand foot fall on Mt. McKinley on Thursday, June 11. Dr. John Mislow, age 39, of Newton, Massachusetts and Dr. Andrew Swanson, age 36, of Minneapolis, Minnesota, were roped together at the time of the fall. Many factors remain unknown about the accident, such as the location where the initial fall occurred and whether the team was ascending or descending at the time. Although the onset of the fall was not witnessed, a team did observe them falling between the 16,500-foot elevation on the Messner Couloir and its base at 14,500 feet.

NPS rangers at the 14,200-foot camp were notified via FRS radio within minutes of the event, which occurred shortly before 2:00 p.m. on Thursday. Three skiers in the vicinity were first to respond to the climbers who were located approximately 30 minutes away from the 14,200-foot camp. A team of four volunteer NPS rangers, including an emergency room nurse and two medics, followed close behind and confirmed that the two men had died in the fall. The bodies were recovered by the park’s A-Star B3 helicopter that same evening and flown to Talkeetna.

The two men began an ascent of the West Rib route on May 30, and their climbing registration forms did not specify a particular descent route. Situated in between the West Rib and the West Buttress routes, the Messner Couloir is a steep, hourglass-shaped snow gully that drops from near Archdeacon’s Tower at 19,000 feet down to the 14,200-foot basin. With a 40 to 50 degree snow and ice slope, the Messner Couloir is an occasional advanced ski descent route, but is rarely descended on foot or ascended.

Drs. Mislow and Swanson were both experienced mountaineers. In 2000, Denali National Park and Preserve presented the two men with the Denali Pro Award, an honor recognizing the highest standards in the sport for safety, self-sufficiency, and assisting fellow mountaineers. During their 2000 attempt of the West Rib route, they aided several different teams in distress; assisted a National Park Service patrol with multiple visitor protection projects; and demonstrated sound risk assessment in their climbing objectives.

The Cascades By Airplane

The American Alpine Institute has a couple of aviators on staff. Jeremy Ellison is in the process of becoming a commercial helicopter pilot. Aiden Loehr moonlights as a pilot that delivers new planes to faraway buyers and Jeff Reis shares a small plane with a couple of friends.

On May 29th, Jeff took his small plane on a tour of the Cascades. Following is a photo essay from that flight:

Mt Hood with Adams in background

Three Fingers with Baker in Background

Emmons and Inter glaciers on Mt. Rainier

Sloan Peak

Mt. Hood

Monte Cristo Area with Mt. Rainer in Background

Glacier Peak

Alpine Lakes Area, with Mt. Rainer in background

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Prehistoric Hunting Artifact found in Denali National Park

AAI just received the following email from Denali National Park and Preserve:

A rare look at Denali’s prehistoric cultural past came to light when a portion of a prehistoric Athabaskan arrow was discovered by park visitors in mid-May 2009 along the gravel bar of the Teklanika River. The barbed arrow point, made of antler (probably caribou) is significantly worn, but it still has characteristics that indicate it was fashioned by human hands, and what it was used for. The cone-shaped end of the twelve inch long piece was fashioned to fit into the shaft of the arrow. The “tip” end has been broken off, but it may have been carved into a sharp point or fitted with a something harder, such as a copper tip. The arrows were designed to break apart after being shot at an animal.

Similar artifacts discovered in other areas of Interior Alaska and the Yukon have been radiocarbon dated to be 100 to 1,100 years old. Denali National Park and Preserve archeologists will submit a sample of this piece for radiocarbon testing to determine its age.

Given its unassuming size, it is remarkable that it caught the eye of a youngster who was picking up and playing with objects on the gravel bar with other children. It is extremely rare for this type of artifact to be discovered on the surface, as once they are exposed to the elements they begin to deteriorate. Typically, archaeologists only recover stone or “lithic” artifacts that are very durable. Well preserved organic items, such as this point, are seldom observed in archaeological sites, particularly in Interior Alaska.

Until this discovery, archaeologists have only recovered artifacts in the area from much earlier periods of human habitation, i.e. approximately 2,500 – 7,000 years ago. The discovery of this piece indicates that early Athabaskans used the area as well, providing concrete evidence that this site was continuously used for thousands of years.

All artifacts from public lands are protected under federal law, and can not be collected in Denali National Park and Preserve. When an artifact is discovered, it is generally best to leave it in place, as the specific location of the finding can yield even more information. If possible, take photographs and an accurate location (GPS) and report the find to a park ranger as soon as possible. In this instance the visitors felt that the artifact was in danger of being washed away by the Teklanika River, so they
removed it and brought it to the park headquarters.

Additional information on the park’s cultural resources can be found at www.nps.gov/dena/historyculture/index.htm.