Sunday, February 28, 2010

March and April Climbing Events

-- March 5 -- Dayton, OH -- Wright State University Adventure Summit

-- March 6-7 -- Steven's Pass, WA -- Hope on the Slopes

-- March 6 -- Warrenville, IL -- Vertical Endeavors No Hold Barred

-- March 13 -- Washington, DC -- HERA Foundation Climb4Life

-- March 18 – Las Vegas, NV -- Banff Mountain Film Festival Tour

-- March 18 -- Washington, DC -- Chris Warner speaking on 8km peaks, presented by the Mountaineering Section of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club

-- March 19-21 -- Red Rocks NV -- Red Rock Rendezvous

-- March 24 -- Washington, DC -- Glen Denny speaking on Yosemite, presented by the Mountaineering Section of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club

--April 10 -- Grand Junction, CO -- "MOG" Outdoor Gear Sale & COPMOBA Bike Swap

-- April 16 -- Seattle, WA -- Snowball! NWAC Fundraiser

-- April 17 -- Central Washington University -- Ropeless Rodeo Bouldering Competition

-- April 23,24 -- Maryland/DC Area -- EarthTreks Roc Comp

-- April 24 -- Joshua Tree, CA -- Bridwell Fest at the Gordon Ranch

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you stoked!

So I don't have a television, and don't spend a ton of time online, so I haven't watched any of the Winter Olympics. Regardless though, the Olympic spirit is in the air and I'm always down for watching people overcome incredible odds and perform amazing feats. Here is one such feat:

BLIND AND NAKED from Cedar Wright on Vimeo.

Pretty crazy huh? Moving in a somewhat similar direction, I found this clip of adaptive downhill skiing. Not only is the music killer, around 1:00 the tricks start happening. It always amazes me and what people can overcome. This guy not only "overcomes" but excels.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Trip Report: The North Face of Chair Peak

In 2003, I climbed Chair Peak for the first time.

A post on made it sound as if the route was in excellent condition. I had been ice climbing a lot that winter and wanted to up the I decided to solo the route.

I arrived early in the morning, skied in and sent the route. Of course that all sounds very simple. The reality is that the route wasn't in very good shape. In fact, one might say it was in quite poor shape. There was a lot of steep unconsolidated snow on the line and the crux moves demanded mixed climbing above a five-hundred foot void.

In other words, the climb was mildly terrifying.

And I was tremendously proud of my solo accomplishment...

In the seven years since that ascent, things have changed. I've become a father. And this particular life-changing experience has made me quite a bit more conservative in my personal climbing. It's now hard for me to justify soloing to myself. That's not to say that I think soloing is a universally bad thing. It's just not right for me anymore.

I'm still proud of that 2003 ascent. So when former AAI guide Gene Pires sent out an email in an attempt to find a partner for a Chair Peak trip, I eagerly accepted. I've always wanted to go back to that mountain with a partner in the hopes of finding better conditions...and perhaps reliving some of fun of that solo without reliving the danger.

I've been climbing on and off with Gene since we met in college in the early nineties. He's always been a reliable partner who is more than ready to joke about pretty much anything. He also has a toddler that is about the same age as my daughter. In other words, half the day was spent talking about climbing and the other half was spent talking about potty training. It was a lot of fun to spend the day with an old friend.

We made the approach on snowshoes and climbed the route in good style, swapping pitches to the top. We found excellent conditions. The line was "in-shape" and was composed of a mix of water ice and neve. The route varied in angle from fifty to seventy degrees with occasional spots of thin ice over rock. There was almost no comparison to the way the route was in 2003. Back then it felt extremely insecure. On our recent ascent, with the exception of a handful of thin moves, it was an absolutely delightful climb.

Alpine climbs can change dramatically from one day to the next, especially alpine ice climbs. People don't change as fast, but inevitably they change too. I'm a very different person than I was seven years ago and it was good to look at the mountain with the eyes of a father looking to get out with a partner, instead of with the eyes of a hungry alpinist trying to define himself...

The Tooth is a popular peak with an easy multipitch line on the south face.
The peak can be seen in the center of this photo.

Approaching Chair Peak
The Northeast Buttress is on the right hand skyline

Gene standing in front of Chair Peak
The Northeast Buttress is the ridge in the center of the photo and the
North Face can be seen in the shade

Approaching the base of the North Face

Gene leading the the "Left-Facing Corner" pitch

Jason following the first pitch.

Jason with a big smile

Gene approaching the belay.

Gene leading the last technical pitch

Gene and Jason on the Summit

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Route Finding: Magnetic Declination

Your compass is pointing in the wrong direction. You know it's not north. Indeed, it's nowhere near north.

So what's up? Is it broken? Defective? What?

The problem is that it's not pointing at "true north." Instead, it's pointing at "magnetic north." Most people don't realize that there are two North Poles, the real one and the fake one, the true one and the magnetic one.

The Compass Dude puts it a bit more succinctly:

Why are there two different poles? Good question!

The magnetic north and south poles are the ends of the magnetic field around the earth. The magnetic field is created by magnetic elements in the earth's fluid outer core and this molten rock does not align perfectly with the axis around which the earth spins.

There are actually many different sources of magnetic activity around and in the world. All those influencing factors combine to create the north and south attractions at each spot on the globe. The actual strength and direction of 'north' is slightly different everywhere, but it is generally towards the 'top' of the planet.

The difference between true north and magnetic north is referred to as the declination. If you are not aware of the declination in a given area, then you may not be able to locate true north.

Example of magnetic declination showing a compass needle
with a "positive" (or "easterly") variation from geographic north.
From Wikipedia

Modern compasses are designed in such a way that the declination may be set. If you adjust the compass properly allowing the arrow to line up, then you will get a reading which shows both where true north is as well as magnetic north.

Most compasses require one to set the red compass point a given number of degrees off of true north. Usually there is a screw on the back of the compass that will allow you to set the declination. Two lines, often referred to as "the shed," will shift the appropriate distance off of true north. Once this is set, you will be able to shift the compass to the point where the needle is in the center of the shed. The printed "N" will then point toward true north.

Unfortunately, the declination is not always the same from one area to another. Every place on the planet has its own local irregularities and due to the fact that magnetic north isn't actually at the top of the globe, there are other variables that need to be taken into account before setting the declination. Following is a short explanation from Wikipedia on the variables:

Magnetic declination varies both from place to place, and with the passage of time. As a traveller cruises the east coast of the United States, for example, the declination varies from 20 degrees west (in Maine) to zero (in Florida), to 10 degrees east (in Texas), meaning a compass adjusted at the beginning of the journey would have a true north error of over 30 degrees if not adjusted for the changing declination.

In most areas, the spatial variation reflects the irregularities of the flows deep in the earth; in some areas, deposits of iron ore or magnetite in the Earth's crust may contribute strongly to the declination. Similarly, secular changes to these flows result in slow changes to the field strength and direction at the same point on the Earth.

The magnetic declination in a given area will change slowly over time, possibly as much as 2-2.5 degrees every hundred years or so, depending upon how far from the magnetic poles it is. This may be insignificant to most travellers, but can be important if using magnetic bearings from old charts or metes (directions) in old deeds for locating places with any precision.

There are many ways to determine the declination. The first and most common way is to simply get it off of a USGS topo map. Unfortunately many maps are out-of-date and the declination may have changed. You may also get your declination from the web at the NOAA website, here.

Following is a short video which reviews many of the key points in this article:

To learn more about compasses and declination, the Compass Dude has a great site with a lot of valuable information.

Knowing how to use your compass well will help to keep you from getting lost... And staying found makes every trip a lot more fun!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, February 22, 2010

Field Seminars and Teacher Trainings at Denali NP

The American Alpine Institute just received the following email from Denali National Park:

Registration Open for 2010 Field Seminars and Teacher Trainings in Denali National Park and Preserve

A wide variety of summer classes designed to immerse participants in different aspects of Denali National Park and Preserve’s cultural and natural history and provide an in-depth park experience are now available for registration with the Murie Science and Learning Center. The classes are small (no more than twelve participants), but the classroom is grand – the mountains, tundra and forest of Denali National Park and Preserve!

The seminars and trainings are for participants of all ages, and some are designed specifically for families. Offerings include seminars on birds, mammals, wildflowers, fly fishing, field journal writing, landscape painting, and drawing. Teacher trainings include geology, science writing, and using iMovie in the classroom. Professional development credit is available for both seminars and teacher trainings through the University of Alaska Anchorage.

A complete list of the seminars and trainings and registration is available at or by calling (888) 683-1269 or (907) 683-1269.

Most courses are based out of the Murie Science and Learning Center Field Camp, located 29 miles inside Denali National Park along the Teklanika River. From this spectacular location participants set out daily to explore Denali's diverse environments. The Field Camp includes rustic tent cabins and a common dining tent. All meals, accommodations, transportation, and instruction are included.

The Murie Science and Learning Center (MSLC) hosted at Denali National Park and Preserve, consists of many strong partnerships focused on ultimately increasing the effectiveness and communication of research and science results in the national parks. Specifically, the MSLC focuses its mission on providing research, discovery, and learning opportunities within arctic and subarctic National Parks to promote appreciation and caring for our natural and cultural heritage.

For additional information or to register, visit or call (907) 683-1269 or (888) 688-1269.

The Impact of Guns in the National Parks

On the tiny summit of Forbidden Peak, a climber takes off his pack and empties the contents. He pulls out a water bottle, some sunscreen and his Glock handgun. On Astroman's crux Changing Corners pitch, a climber decides that it would be better to haul his shotgun. That way if it were to swing off his shoulder a little bit, it wouldn't get in the way of his cams. And on Denali's West Buttress, a team digs a cache at 13,100 feet. They fill the cache with bandoliers of ammunition...


Not even close.

Climbers up high in the mountains are unlikely to have to worry about the change in national park rules that goes into effect today. But climbers and hikers down low, in public campgrounds where the RV hordes and the wanna-be survivalists drink their beer, things have changed; and now those people will be allowed to legally carry weapons.

The nearly 100 year-old rule will be relaxed today on more than 84 million acres of land which include national parks, monuments, historic sites, recreation areas and trails. This change, an evolution of changes sought by the Bush administration and Second Amendment advocates, was passed in May as an amendment to an Obama administration credit card reform bill.

Visitors will now be able to bring concealed and loaded weapons into national parks, as long as they abide by state rules regarding firearms. They still won't be permitted to bring weapons into federal buildings such as visitor centers or the White House; and they won't be allowed to bring them into concession buildings or on concession busses.

Obviously, some people carry weapons because they wish to defend themselves against violent crime.
However, in the national parks such crime is extremely uncommon. An article on AOL news brings this into perspective:

Violent crimes -- homicide, rape, robbery and aggravated assault -- have been declining for more than a decade in the national parks, according to FBI statistics. The rate for those crimes in 2008, the latest figures available, was 0.13 per 100,000 recreational park visitors. The nationwide crime rate: 454.5 per 100,000.

Arguably, permitted firearms have always been allowed on National Forest and BLM land and climbers have had few problems. Whether we will start to have safety issues in the national parks is subject to debate. However, more "tourists" visit the national parks than the National Forest and BLM locales. And it is possible that gun-toting city people in particular, who wish to express their Second Amendment rights may not be quite as responsible as those who visit the wilderness regularly.

What many news stories on this topic seem to have missed is the impact on animals in national parks. In September an armed angler shot a 175 lb female black bear near Lake Mary in the Eastern Sierra. The animal apparently got into the man's snack food. Scared and ignorant of how little danger he was actually in, the man subsequently shot and killed the bear.

The situation in the Lakes Basin was outside of any national park. And, by all accounts, the man was legally allowed to carry the weapon that he had with him. However, the angler was completely ignorant about bears, about food storage and about the reality of his situation. I have no doubt that the man thought that a bear getting into his marshmallows was a life-threatening situation and I have no doubt that his life was NOT in danger.

The result was a dead bear.

It is possible that with the advent of these new rules in the national parks that there will be a lot more dead animals. Many people who don't spend a significant time in the outdoors are likely to bring and show off their weapons simply to exercise their second amendment rights. Theoretically, it will be illegal to discharge said weapons, but that won't stop a few ignorants from shooting when they get scared by animals doing what they do in the woods...

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Feburary and March Climbing Events

-- February 20 -- Eugene, OR -- University of Oregon Vertical Circus Climbing Competition

-- February 27 -- Seattle, WA -- Stone Gardens Sport Climbing Series Comp

-- March 5 -- Dayton, OH -- Wright University Adventure Summit

-- March 6-7 -- Steven's Pass, WA -- Hope on the Slopes

-- March 6 -- Warrenville, IL -- Vertical Endeavors No Hold Barred

-- March 13 -- Washington, DC -- HERA Foundation Climb4Life

-- March 18 – Las Vegas, NV -- Banff Mountain Film Festival Tour

-- March 18 -- Washington, DC -- Chris Warner speaking on 8km peaks, presented by the Mountaineering Section of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club

-- March 19-21 -- Red Rocks NV -- Red Rock Rendezvous

-- March 24 -- Washington, DC -- Glen Denny speaking on Yosemite, presented by the Mountaineering Section of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you stoked!

A few weeks back I posted something in relation to aid climbing, which of course gets me interested in big walls. I found this video of some guys taking some solid whips off of what they are arguing to be the most difficult big wall to date. This is a trailer to a longer film by BigUP Productions.

The following may as well be a trailer to a blockbuster film! I've got a couple titles already planned - "The Men with the Golden Cams," "Sending Takes Forever," or "The Asgard Project." Wait... the last one is the actual title. If you can put up with my horrible attempt to play off of James Bond Titles, you will accept the fact that this climbing film has the potential to thrill and create suspense in any viewer, just like 007 does. Check it out.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Red Rock Rendezvous Clinic Guides and Events

For the fifth-year running, the American Alpine Institute will be a key sponsor at the Red Rock Rendezvous in Red Rock Canyon.

Las Vegas, Nev. – The seventh annual “Mountain Gear Presents: Red Rock Rendezvous” (RRR) rock climbing festival announced its initial list of expert climbing guides to lead the event’s scheduled clinics. Clinic guides include internationally renowned athletes such as: Peter Croft, Alex Honnold, Brittany Griffith, Olivia Cussen, Matt Segal, Emily Harrington and the guides of the American Alpine Institute.

RRR will take place at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near Las Vegas on March 19-21 to benefit The Access Fund, a climbing and environmentally focus organization, and other local and national non-profit organizations. This year’s event is limited to the first 1,000 registrants and early registration is recommended. To register, visit

The festival will also offer clinics for advanced and intermediate climbers on Saturday and Sunday. Registration is $99 per person for the Saturday and Sunday events, and $179 per person for the Friday “Intro to Climbing: UClimb” day and Saturday and Sunday clinic combo (without the gear package). Registration includes the Friday night opening celebration, a dinner buffet on Saturday night, demos, comps and mini-seminars by event sponsors, slideshow and movie on Friday
night, a blow-out party on Saturday night, pancake breakfast Sunday morning and service projects to assist in the environmental conservation of the Red Rock Canyon and Spring Mountain.

For the first time, RRR will also offer an intro to mountain biking clinic on Friday, March 19 that will teach basic biking skills and how to read off road trails. This Friday clinic along with the Saturday and Sunday climbing clinics will be $159 and will include the rental of a mountain bike provided by Specialized Bikes. Red Rock Rendezvous will also offer beginner, intermediate and advanced mountain biking clinics as part of the Saturday and Sunday clinic schedule.

RRR will also again offer a special “Intro to Climbing: UClimb” day designed for less experienced climbers and those who have never attempted the difficulty levels of the Red Rock Canyon. The intro day will be held on Friday, March 19 and will be hosted by UClimb, an organization designed to teach all ages how to rock climb in comfortable, small-group settings with other amateur climbers. The full-day introduction clinics will teach climbing fundamentals to succeed at the Red Rocks and other outdoor settings.

The introductory clinics will take place in an intimate clinic setting by professional guides from the American Alpine Institute who are also some of the world’s most accomplished climbers and mountain educators. “Intro” participants will then be able to enjoy one full day and one half day throughout the weekend. There will also
be an optional gear package that will include harness, helmet, shoes, belay device, carabineer, chalk bag and a membership to the Access Fund. The gear package with the “Intro” day and the weekend climbing clinics is $349.

All of the festival activities, outside of the climbing clinics, will take place at Spring Mountain Ranch State Park located approximately 10 minutes from the entrance to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. This year’s Red Rock Rendezvous participant camping will be at Bonnie Springs, one mile south of Spring Mountain Ranch. The festival will be running a shuttle bus between the campground and the festival locations throughout the event.

Event proceeds will benefit The Access Fund, a national non-profit organization dedicated to keeping climbing areas open and conserving the climbing environment. Other benefiting organizations include the American Safe Climbing Association, the American Alpine Club, Friends of Red Rocks and the Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Council.

For additional information, call 800.829.2009 or visit
If you're already visiting Red Rock Rendezvous, don't forget that we have a lot going on in Las Vegas around the Rendezvous. Following is a quick breakdown of everything that is happening:

In addition to all of the events going on around Red Rock Rendezvous, don't forget that AAI will have a lot of guides available for private guiding and instruction in Red Rock Canyon. To learn more, send us an email at or give us a call at 360-671-1505.

--Jason D. Martin

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Timber Thinning Closes Tinkam Road to Public

The American Alpine Institute just got the following press release from Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest:

Everett, Wash. Feb. 17, 2010— The Forest Service has closed Tinkam Road (Forest Service Road 5500) at milepost .5 for logging 8 a.m. Monday through noon Friday until mid-March. Tinkam Road parallels the south side of I-90 from exit 42 to 47. The road will open for traffic Friday noon through Sunday and holidays. Hikers can still reach Asahel Curtis and McClellan Butte trailheads. The road is closed for public safety. “Tinkam Road is narrow with limited turnarounds. The area is not safe for public access with timber equipment that includes a loader, yarder, log decks and skyline cables,” said Jim Franzel, Snoqualmie District Ranger for the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. Access to some recreation sites may require backtracking from exit 47, rather than ascending up the South Fork valley from exit 42. After the thinning on the south side of I-90 is complete, harvest operations will move in late spring and summer to the north side of I-90.

The Forest Service is thinning 350 acres of western hemlock, Douglas-Fir and western Redcedar, cutting trees 60-80 years old to improve the growth and health of those remaining according to Franzel. “Dense unthinned stands are more susceptible to insects, diseases, climate changes,” he said. “These are areas that were logged 70 to 80 years ago and we want to restore the stands to a healthy vigorous condition.”

Call Snoqualmie Ranger District for updates at 425-888-1421, or stop by the office at 902 S.E. North Bend Way, North Bend, Wash., 98045. For updated information about trails and roads, go to alerts and conditions on .

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Forearm Excercises to Make You Strong!

There's no question about it. When your forearms are fried, the dishes are done. You're going to fall off your route.

Technique is important for climbing and it can save your strength. Indeed, on routes with a rating below 5.8, strength may not even be an issue if your technique is adequate. But as you start to push up through the grades, you'll find that forearm strength becomes more and more important.

The more you train your forearms, the stronger you'll be. And the more you train your forearms, the more likely it is that you will be able to rest them quickly and adequately by shaking out or finding a stance on which to take a break.

There are a handful of exercises that work to build forearm strength and endurance. Following is a quick breakdown of some of these exercises:

Static Hangs

You probably remember from your days of lifting weights in the high school weight room that muscle is most effectively built when you workout until muscle failure. Commonly, an athlete will work a specific muscle group by lifting a weight a number of times (referred to as reps) until the muscle fails. Most will know that with a given weight, the muscle will begin to fail after a given number of reps.

A static hang works the muscle in much the same way. For this to work effectively, you have to hang until your muscles fail. This doesn't mean that you have to hang until it hurts or even until it hurts a lot. You have to go beyond those thresholds to the point of complete muscle failure.

After failure, allow the muscles to rest for five minutes or so and then try again. Ideally, you will do this exercise three or four times in order to get the most out of it.

Endurance Static Hangs

Hang on a bar or a hangboard with both hands. Drop one hand and shake it out while still hanging on the other. Hang for at lease five seconds on one arm before switching.

This particular exercise is great for climbers because of the way it imitates real life!

Forearm Curls

There are two effective ways to do forearm curls. One may use a regular barbell or a dumbell.

To use a barbell, you will need to lay your forearms across a weight bench holding the barbell. Your hands should hang over the edge, palms up. All the bar to roll toward your fingers and then flex, bringing it up into your palm.

With a dumbell, the system is almost the same. Allow the dumbell to roll out toward your fingers and then flex, allowing int to roll back into your palm.

With both of these exercises, it tends to be more effective to work toward a combination of strength and endurance by working on time as opposed to reps. Try to do as many curls as possible in a minute and then work up from there. Remember most sport routes take five to ten minutes to climb, so that should be a goal in the exercise.

Indoor Gym Exercise

One of the best ways to build forearm strength and endurance is to traverse around the climbing gym on easy holds. Try to stay on the wall for at least twenty minutes. Another version of this same exercise is to try to down-climb the routes after you reach the top.

As with other excercises, a series of these twenty minute sessions will be more effective than a one time run at them.

Forearm Exerciser

There are a number of different commercial forearm exercising devices out there. Perhaps the most popular is the blue latex rubber doughnut. The value of these devices is that they work out both fingers and forearms. This should be used like any weight device. Do a series of reps until failure, rest and then repeat two more times.

Additional Resources

You can find more on forearm workouts here. For information about why forearms pump out and about lactic acid buildup in forearms, click here.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Terror of Rockfall

The only thing in the mountains that is scarier than someone yelling the word,"rock," is someone screaming the word "rock" repeatedly. Rock! Rock!! ROCK!!! When someone yells the word multiple times, you know that what's coming is huge...and you know that what's coming could kill you.

Loose rock is utterly terrifying and we were able to find a couple of videos that really demonstrate that danger. In this first video a couple of climbers are descending a loose trail in the Desert Southwest. One of the climber's slips and barely arrests her fall before the "real" near miss takes place.

In this second video a couple of climbers on Mt. Kenya find some loose rock...some loose rock that had been used as a rappel anchor for years. Check out the terrifying results of a kick to the anchor below:

Is it completely possible to avoid rockfall?


Just like all objective dangers, the danger of rockfall can be mitigated by good decision making. Following are some simple rules that will help you to manage this mountain danger:

1) When you choose a route, it's not a bad idea to climb a route that has seen a lot of traffic over the years, but is not seeing a lot of traffic the day that you're on it.

If a climb has a long history, a lot of the most dangerous chunks will have been removed. If the route isn't busy, then the likelihood of party inflicted rockfall decreases.

2) Wear a helmet. The magazines regularly show high-end climbers without helmets. This is an unfortunate trend that really should go away. There is no legitimate reason not to wear a helmet when you are climbing.

3) Yell rock (or ice), not stick, not sunglasses, not camera, not anything but rock or ice. Yelling something other than one of these two words can lead to confusion. People may not protect themselves adequately from a falling object if the alarm isn't sounded properly.

4) Practice leaning into the wall while keeping your helmet above your head. Don't look up. Hopefully any debris that comes down will bounce over you.

5) Beware of the danger zone ten to thirty feet from the base of a wall. Bouncing objects often land away from the base of the cliff. If you want to create a safe zone where people don't have to wear helmets, make sure it's sufficiently far enough away from the wall.

6) Check and double check all rap anchors on trees and boulders. There have been far too many tragedies from the use of loose natural features.

7) If you elect to climb a "loose" route, be extremely wary of everything that could fall off. It could be argued that it's irresponsible to climb a significantly loose route above a popular climb.

While it's impossible to completely avoid rockfall, following the preceding rules certainly could help you to keep the danger to a minimum...

Jason D. Martin

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Feburary and March Climbing Events

-- February 12 -- Cody, WY -- Wyoming Waterfall Ice Fest

-- February 19 -- Rancho Cordova, CA -- Granite Arch Climbing Friday Flash Fest

-- February 20 -- Eugene, OR -- University of Oregon Vertical Circus Climbing Competition

-- February 27 -- Seattle, WA -- Stone Gardens Sport Climbing Series Comp

-- March 5 -- Dayton, OH -- Wright University Adventure Summit

-- March 6-7 -- Steven's Pass, WA -- Hope on the Slopes

-- March 6 -- Warrenville, IL -- Vertical Endeavors No Hold Barred

-- March 13 -- Washington, DC -- HERA Foundation Climb4Life

-- March 18 – Las Vegas, NV -- Banff Mountain Film Festival Tour

-- March 18 -- Washington, DC -- Chris Warner speaking on 8km peaks, presented by the Mountaineering Section of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club

-- March 19-21 -- Red Rocks NV -- Red Rock Rendezvous

-- March 24 -- Washington, DC -- Glen Denny speaking on Yosemite, presented by the Mountaineering Section of the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you stoked!

With the weather being completely wonky this year in the Pacific Northwest and seemingly everywhere else in the country, you really start to appreciate those beautiful days in the mountains. I feel like we get so hung up on the climbing and skiing, and don't stop to realize how beautiful our surroundings are. I feel like a beautiful sunset or cool crisp morning should get us just as stoked as a killer line or splitter crack. This video does a good job of making you appreciate this world we live in.

40hr Inukshuk timelapse from Rocky Mountain Sherpas on Vimeo.

Obviously though, our goal is to take advantage of the beautiful days and get out there. Here are some guys that are just getting out and hucking big.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Climbing Word Origins

Every word has an origin somewhere. In climbing there are tons of interesting words and most of them probably came from interesting places. As there are too many interesting words to cover in a short blog, I've chosen three, Belay, GriGri and Arete.


As climbers we use the word belay every day. And those of us who sail or work in theaters know that the word is occasionally used in other settings as well.

Belay is a word that was derived from the Old English word "belecgan." The original literal meaning of the word was: to surround a thing with objects. It was commonly used figuratively to refer to an kind of encircling or coiling around something. Over time this evolved into a nautical meaning, "to secure a length of rope by wrapping it around a cleat or pin, especially a rope attached to sails."

It wasn't until the 20th century that belay took on the meaning, "to tie oneself, as a stationary member of a roped party, to a firm rock projection, or to piton, in order to secure oneself and to afford a safeguard to the moving climber." Source.


Yes, we all know the GriGri as a mechanical belay device. But most people probably aren't aware that the term grigri is derived from Voodoo. Yep, the same mysticism that gave us pin dolls and zombies gave us a term that we use every day in climbing.
According to TheMystica.Org, "gris-gris resemble charms or talismans which are kept for good luck or to ward off evil. Originally gris-gris were probably dolls or images of the gods, but presently most gris-gris are small cloth bags containing herbs, oils, stones, small bones, hair and nails, pieces of cloth soaked with perspiration and/or other personal items gathered under the directions of a god for the protection of the owner."

As climbers we often feel like we get to summits or finish routes because we were lucky one day. And indeed, whether a climber is religious or not, most feel some kind of a spiritual connection to the mountains when they get to the top of something. As such it makes a lot of sense for the marketing people at Petzl to name a device after a mystical good luck charm.


Arete is generally thought of as a French word that means "a sharp, narrow mountain ridge or spur." Climbers generally use this word as such. Often we use it interchangeably with buttress or ridge.

The word arete was derived from Greek. It originally meant the goodness or the virtue of a person. Answers.Com notes that, "in the thought of Plato and Aristotle virtue is connected with performing a function (ergon), just as an eye is good if it performs its proper function of vision. This is its telos or purpose (see also teleology). Aretē is therefore identified with what enables a person to live well or successfully."

For a climber this makes sense. An arete is often a line of weakness in a feature. These are also often considered "good" or fun lines.

Knowing the background of climbing words will not make you a better climber. It will not allow you to fit your fingers into a tinier crack or crimp a smaller hold, but it will give you something cool to talk about at the crag. And really, part of the fun of climbing is talking about cool stuff with people you met at the crag...!

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

First Aid - When Animals Attack!

So you're on the third pitch of a route when you accidentally annoy a cute and fuzzy squirrel. And while squirrels are cute and fuzzy, they also have very sharp teeth. So while finishing your lead, you note that the cute and fuzzy squirrel has fastened his not-so-cute and not-so-fuzzy teeth to your wrist...

So obviously, you do what any big and tough climber would do in such a scream like a little girl.

You scream and you scream. And the squirrel looks at you like it's possessed by the devil and its no longer cute and fuzzy at all. In fact, at that moment, you know that you will have nightmares about squirrels attacking you for the rest of your life. Every time you see a little fuzzy animal -- even a happy teddy bear at Build-a-Bear -- you'll roll up in a little ball and sob...

And while all that is going through your head, your partner laughs.

And then tells everyone about your little girl scream for years and years and years.

While being attacked by a squirrel might give your partner a great story, it could also be very dangerous. Animal bites can happen on any type of trip. And the most important thing a victim can do is to note what kind of animal it was that attacked and what the nature of the attack was. Were you poking it with a stick and throwing rocks at the animal, did you disturb it's "nest," or did it just seem to attack for no reason?

Don't mess with me, I've got a lot more than rabies.

Unprovoked animal bites are particularly dangerous. The unfortunate likelyhood is that warrantless animal attacks are due to rabies, which is almost always deadly in humans who contract it and do not receive treatment. As a result, animal bites must be taken extremely seriously and medical attention should be sought with all animal bites.

Puncture wounds are also dangerous. Animals teeth are covered in bacteria and a bite that breaks the skin could inject said bacteria deep into the tissue. Infection from such a bite develops extremely quickly. A serious infection can develop in as little at 24 hours. Tetanus -- a life-threatening illness -- can develop from any bite, human or animal.

Additionally, bites to the hand, the wrist, the foot or a joint can be very serious. Bite wounds to the hand may result in major complications because the skin's surface is so close to the underlying bones and joints. Other wounds in such areas could create life-long disabilities without proper treatment and antibiotics.

The jist of this is that while being bit by a squirrel might be funny to your partner...all animal bites should be seen as serious events and medical attention should always be sought. Once you're better you can beat-up on your partner for spreading rumors about your childlike scream...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, February 8, 2010

The Right Way

I officially completed the first thing on my "intern duties list" just the other day. I saw the ultra-classic mountaineering film, "Touching The Void." Originally a book by Joe Simpson, the movie details two climbers ascent, and subsequent epic descent, of Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. How I hadn't seen this film before is beyond me, but apparently I can now call myself a climber. Besides simply being an entertaining piece of cinematography, I found myself asking questions during and after the film. What should he have done in the situation? What would I have done in the situation? What is the proper way to go about lowering someone like this?

What I realized, after not reaching an answer I felt completely satisfied with, is that in the climbing world it is very hard to define and explain every situation that you will encounter. There are books out there, such as Freedom of the Hills, which attempts to define and diagram every system possible as well as determine when they are appropriate. Regardless of these types of books though, they still can't detail and prepare you for everything you will encounter in the mountains.

This realization reiterated the importance of quality training and experience in my mind. Two years ago I was a client of the American Alpine Institute, and went through the Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership, 3 part course. I remember coming off the course with a breadth of knowledge that I simply didn't know existed before. More important than the hard facts however, was the new analytical and judgment skills I had developed over the course of 36 days. Knowing what is "industry standard" and what the climbing community accepts as safe and responsible is absolutely necessary. There really is no excuse for not following accepted practices in the mountaineering world. But when things go horribly wrong and you are in the middle of a situation that doesn't exist in any textbook or guided course, do you know how to think your way out of it?

Choosing the right technique or system in climbing is all about having the understanding of the hard skill, and knowing when and how it is appropriate to implement it. Gaining this ability for me, meant taking a guided course with AAI. I'm not suggesting this is the only way to learn how to think in the mountains, not at all. I'm simply advocating for beginning, and even advanced climbers to continue to focus on learning "how" to think in the mountains. At some point you have to put down the textbook, and starting gaining real and valuable experience.

To read a review of Touching the Void, written by senior guide, Jason Martin, click here.

--Andrew Yasso, Intern

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Summit Success on 19,348' Cotopaxi in Ecuador

AAI guide Pepe Landazuri called at 8:40am Ecuador time (5:40am Pacific time) this morning from the slopes of Cotopaxi with the following report:

“Good morning.  This is Pepe calling from Cotopaxi.  We had a successful climb this morning.  We had excellent conditions, we made good time, and we summited around 6:30.  I climbed with Charles and Rebecca.  Brian climbed with Ramiro and wasn’t able to make it all the way.  There were some low clouds over the Amazon Basin, and we has some very nice colors during the sunrise.

It is such a beautiful day today.  It is sunny and clear, and the views are great.  We can see all the peaks to the north and to the south.  Antisana and the Illinizas are the closest, and they are looking very beautiful in their fresh snow cover.  There was a little snow yesterday, but it was no problem for us at all.  

So after a little rest and some food at the hut, we plan to head back to Quito.  We’ll have our final dinner in the capital, and then folks will head home tomorrow.  It’s been a great trip, and of course we are really happy about the good conditions and making it to the top.”

Photo:  a fresh dusting of snow on Cotopaxi

This photo shows the team's route well.  It starts at the top of the snow triangle at the base of the mountain (directly below the rock wall), ascends fairly directly toward the rock (Yanasacha), veers to the right before reaching the rock, and then ascends to the summit just to the left of the right skyline.

The trip they were on is described here:

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Team Poised for Ascent of Ecuador's Cotopaxi Tonight

AAI guide Pepe Landazuri called this morning by satellite phone to give us an update on his team’s climbing.  Earlier in the week they were thwarted on Cayambe because of extremely high winds, so they did a strategic retreat to some near-by hotsprings to plan their next moves.  After a night a Tambopaxi Lodge in Cotopaxi National Park Friday, they moved today to the Jose Ribas hut on the flanks of 19,348-foot/5897-meter Cotopaxi today.

His message was received today at 1:46pm Ecuador time (10:46am Pacific time):

"Hello everyone.  This is Pepe calling for Charlie [Montange], Rebecca [Montange], and Brian [Semkow] to give you the latest news on our climbing here in Ecuador.  Today we are in the refugio on Cotopaxi and all is well.  We just had lunch, and in about an hour we are going to leave and move up the mountain part way for some ice climbing on the glacier.  We did some good practice climbing on Cayambe on Wednesday, but it will be good to stretch our legs this afternoon and get in some more.

The weather has improved, and we are very excited.  It’s not perfect, but the wind has largely stopped, and it is plenty good enough for us to climb.  So tonight we will leave at midnight and give it a good try.

Everybody is feeling really good:  good health, no problems with the altitude, and good appetites.  So we are totally ready.  We’ll leave tonight at about midnight, and we’ll call tomorrow during or after the climb and to pass on word of how it went.  Wish us luck.  Hello to everyone back home. We’ll talk to you soon.”

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you stoked

After watching people like Dean Potter "freeBASE-ing," I started to realize how ridiculous you have to be to get noticed in the climbing world these days. With that said, it seems like people are out there continuing to push the limits of their disciplines, be it in sport climbing, trad climbing, aid climbing, or whatever "head pointing" is. I guess you start to get numb when the next wonder climber shows up and creates their own niche which the media and climbing culture can praise them for. Here is one that I found that doesn't seem like it will get a ton of repeats.

The same guy in the video above was noticed for something much more impressive in my opinion. Will Gadd accomplished something during the Ouray Ice Festival that in it's individual pieces, doesn't seem like a big deal. He climbed a 40m WI4. On a top rope. In an ice park. So far not so impressive huh? Well, here is the thing, he climbed that route, "Pic O' The Vic," 194 times in 24 hrs. A minimum height of 25,414 feet, climbed in 24 hours! To me, that is way more impressive than someone sending their 5.15+ project. This goes beyond skill and determination, into a realm that I don't believe a word exists for yet. Even better, he did it for the dZi Foundation and raised a ton of money. I guess I won't feel that cool when I manage 5 laps in a row at the indoor gym here...

Friday, February 5, 2010

Skiing and Climbing Colorado

For the past two weeks I've managed to change out of my climbing and skiing clothes only twice. In the background now, I can hear the hum of the washing machine tumbling those stinky, overworked garments. The full moon is filling Silverton wall-to-wall with blue light. And
outside my window is the singular focus of my skiing attention this season.

Panoramic view of Red Mountain Pass ski terrain

Mt. Kendall is just over 13,000 feet, and my house is at 9,280. Every day when I am doing dishes or making coffee I dream of the sweeping arcs I will one day make down Kendall's "Naked Lady" slide path. Two weeks ago, before mother nature deposited over five feet of new snow on us, I awoke one morning to a sight; both disturbing and exciting....

Mt. Kendall from Danny's Kitchen. The "Naked Lady" slide path is the one directly facing the viewer, on the left side of the photo

Carved like the rhythm of a metronome, was a singular, perfect track down the center of the "Naked Lady." Someone had stolen my line out from under me as if they had snuck into my dreams! I paced about the kitchen wondering when, and with whom, I would ride the waves of the Naked Lady from the summit to valley floor. I could see the plumes of snow coming off my partners skis as they sliced through endless white.

Matt Wade in the entrance to the Granddaddy Couloir in Commodore Basin, Red Mountain Pass

Sheldon Kerr ripping up the Grandad Couloir

Matt Wade ripping the Grandad Couloir

And then one snowed, and snowed, and snowed. The avalanche report called for "Extreme hazard, at all elevations and aspects." Some said it rivaled the biggest storm they'd seen in a decade in Silverton. What is meant for me and my Naked Lady...she'd have to wait until things settled out and calmed down.

Danny leading "Santa Claus Pillar" WI5

But living in the heart of Colorado's San Juans means that we have options. This is, in fact, the center of the US ice climbing universe. Ouray is only 40 minutes away and is arguably the best
venue in the country, if not the world, to improve upon one's ice climbing, and mixed climbing abilities. There is more ice than I can shake a stick at, and too many good climbing partners to let a day pass by unused for some adventure.

Gary Falk skiing up to Santa Claus Pillar

Hence why its been difficult to find any time to change out of my climbing clothes. Whats the point? I'm going to wear them tomorrow anyway! I've stumbled upon that magical efficiency in which all actions lead to the desired end, in this case, climbing.

Gary Falk leading up pitch 1 of Whorehouse Hoses in Silverton WI4/5

So while my clothes are nearing the spin cycle, I imagine the beautiful snakes of blue ice that are still begging for me to climb them. My mind gravitates towards that perfect ski mountaineering line I see every time I drive by Sultan Mountain, "The Elevator Shaft." It, like the Naked Lady, and all the climbs I dream of doing this winter, occupy my mind like a disease, and remind me how lucky I am to be living in the best place on Earth.

Looking up the second pitch of "Skylight" WI5, in the Camp Bird Mine Road in Ouray

If you're not too busy with your own adventures, come visit for some of mine. For now, the view out my kitchen window taunts me like a mean older sister. It knows exactly how to push my buttons. But I know when the time will be right to strike....

--Danny Uhlmann, Instructor and Guide

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Parkour and Art

Steve Casimiro at The Adventure Life posted the following video a couple of weeks ago. If you haven't checked out The Adventure Life, it's definitely time to take a look. They have a very good blog.

Parkour is the urban climbing, bouldering, gymnastic movement that has become popular in some circles. The Urban Dictionary defines Parkour as:

Parkour can be thought of as being chased by someone. You want to get away as fast as possible, right? But lets say you begin running into rails or walls or other obstacles as such. If you go around them you're only wasting time and energy.

The trick of parkour is to use as little wasted movementt while going past an obstacle. This is why most consider tricking and flips "not parkour" as they simply aren't necessary and will most likely slow you down in someway.

To parkour is to be able to control your body and mind into one being, so that you can find a path quickly, and move your body in a way that the path can be followed into the next path you're given. If you're running towards and obstacle and start to slow down in order to maneuver around it, most likely you need to practice more.

In the following video an artist has developed a cartoon of sorts showing parkour movement...and it is awesome. Check it out below:

parkour motion reel from saggyarmpit on Vimeo.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, February 1, 2010

Historical Book Acquisition

While going about our daily operations, we received a phone call from a nice elderly lady who mentioned she had some mountaineering books she would like to donate. An address was taken down, and our intern Andrew headed over there to see what she had to offer. What he found, was a rare collection of books pertaining to both local and international mountaineering history. Most of the books are in pristine condition, and some of them may be impossible to find in a library. They include early editions of books by Heinrich Harrer, Maurice Herzog, and others.

We feel extremely privileged to happen upon such an amazing collection, and are discussing ways to share it with the general public. This is the second time in a year that we have received a book donation, and we feel that it would be wrong not to share such amazing and rare literary works with the climbing community.

Some of these books are so old (1907) that a route we often climb on Mt. Baker (the Coleman-Deming), is denoted on a map as "unexplored glaciers." It is pretty amazing (and humbling) to think of our predecessors and what their first ascents must have been like.

-Andrew Yasso