Friday, April 30, 2010

Falling on Lead and "Cratering"

It was a beautiful spring day in Red Rock Canyon. I was overseeing the second day of an American Mountain Guides Association Single Pitch Instructor exam and all of the guide candidates were doing a great job. It was a great day to be in the mountains.

It was a great day until we saw a "runner."

People who are running to get help for an injured climber are often referred to as runners. In this particular instance it was a young woman running down the canyon. She yelled for help and told us she was trying to get a better cell signal...she kept losing 911.

Two SPI Candidates, Kevin and Brenden, and I grabbed our first aid kits and made our way up canyon. Kevin was a firefighter and Brenden was a nursing student. They were excellent people to have with me on a rescue.

When we finally discovered the injured climber, we found a man in his late fifties. His head was seriously lacerated and he had been knocked unconscious for two to three minutes before coming back. There was blood in his helmet and it appeared that the the tab on the back had perpetrated the laceration. The rear of helmet was also cracked. It looked like it had been pushed up under his scalp and then pulled back out as the helmet contracted around his skull.

The man's two college-aged daughters were both there as well. All of them, the man and his grown children, seemed to be rank beginners. A tote bag that was used to carry their gear sat next to the rocks.

We immediately held the man's head to keep him from moving it, providing C-spine. Clearly the fall could have caused a spinal injury and we didn't want to take any chances whatsoever. Kevin cleverly created a spinal collar out of coiled up rope and wrote the time of the accident on a piece of medical tape holding the rope in place.

The Patient Getting Ready to be Short-Hauled

Not long after we finished with the C-collar, a helicopter arrived. The Las Vegas Search and Rescue team is one of the best in the world. They packaged the man on a litter and were quickly able to extract him in the tight canyon. We assume that he safely made it to the hospital and is now back to his normal every day life...

Rescues can be extremely interesting to watch. There are helicopters, medical people, cool hauling systems, and often some blood. But they aren't that cool if you're the one that is getting why did this individual need to be rescued...?

A Search and Rescue Office being hauled back to the Helicopter

Obviously we weren't there, but there were clues. The group was climbing at the Cut Your Teeth Crag in Calico Basin. This is a beginner crag, but it is also a very young crag. It was developed in 2006 by Mike McGlynn and Todd Lane. The route that the party was on is a bolted 5.7 called Introproximal Stripper. The importance of knowing the age of the crag is that on sandstone, holds can sometimes crumble or even break on newer routes...

The lead rope ran through draws on the first two bolts. The girls claimed that their dad was trying to clip the third bolt when he fell. The dad was tall, at least six-feet four inches tall, and probably weighed around 200 lbs. The girls were both small and probably didn't weigh more than 120 lbs each.

So looking at the situation, there are a lot of possible factors. Following are some speculations based on the story that the girls told.

Rope behind the Leg:

It's unfortunately quite common for climbers to lead with a rope running behind their leg.  If this is not something that you are constantly paying attention to, it is an element that could easily cause you to fall, catch your leg and flip upside down. 

Both of the man's daughters claimed that he flipped upside down in the fall.  This could have been from the rope running behind his leg and it could have been from his feet hitting something and flipping him.  However, since he had no obvious injuries to his feet, heels or ankles, it seems more likely that he was flipped by the rope.

Over the Head Clipping:

It's very dangerous to clip over your head. This is because when you pull slack to clip the rope, you are also putting a lot of extra slack into the system. If you are close to the ground and take a fall at this time, it is likely that you will "crater."

Some people put the slack rope in their mouth when they are getting ready to clip. It is not uncommon for those who take leader falls in such a situation to have teeth pulled out by the rope. While this didn't happen in this case, it is definitely something to be worried about.

The safest way to clip a rope is to wait. Wait until the draw is at your waist to clip it. That way, you will take the smallest possible fall. Unfortunately, this can feel very unstable. It's always more satisfactory to have the rope clipped than not to. And indeed, many routes are designed to clip the rope above the head...but we should be very aware of the dangers implicit in the action.

It is quite possible that the individual in this accident was trying to clip over his head when he fell.

Weight Differences

When weight differences are small, sometimes its nice to have a situation where a person can be pulled off the ground a little bit. This provides a soft catch. But when weight differences are large, it's important to make sure that the belayer is tied to the ground. This will limit the distance that the person falls.

The Cut Your Teeth Crag is a short crag and the weight differences between the two individuals was large. It's likely that the young woman who was belaying was pulled significantly off the ground as her dad landed. I did not confirm this at the time, but I did ask if she was tied down.

Slack in the Belay

Lastly, it's possible that the lead belay had additional slack. Sometimes belayers allow the lead line to sit on the ground in front of them. The line going from the device to the wall should have a mild smile to it. It should not hang down on the ground.

As we were not there, we don't know what the belay looked like and this may not have been an issue. But clearly one or more of the factors described contributed to the accident.

Accident Avoidance

The best way to avoid an accident is to avoid climbing all together. But for most of us, that isn't a possibility. So instead of avoiding the sport we love, we have to constantly study how accidents take place and learn from them.

Every year the American Alpine Club produces a book of accident analysis entitled, Accidents in North American Mountaineering. It is a grim read, but it also provides us with many many opportunities to see what not to do.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 26, 2010

Denali Overflights Advisory Council Meeting in May

The American Alpine Institute just received the following email from the American Alpine Institute:

The seventh meeting of the Denali National Park Aircraft Overflights Advisory Council will be held on Thursday, May 6 at the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge in Talkeetna, Alaska.

The Denali National Park Aircraft Overflights Advisory Council advises the Superintendent, through the Secretary of the Interior, on mitigation efforts that should be made to reduce the impacts from aircraft overflights at Denali National Park and Preserve. The group is developing voluntary measures for assuring the safety of passengers, pilots, and mountaineers and for achieving desired future resource conditions at Denali that were outlined in the 2006 Backcountry Management Plan. Council membership contains broad representation of interested stakeholders and has a balance of local, state, and national interests.

Information on the Advisory Council can be found at

Information on Denali's 2006 Backcountry Management Plan is located at

For additional information on the meeting, please contact Miriam Valentine at (907) 733-9102 or via email at

Yoga, Climbing, Smiling, and Asanas.

Return To The Womb, Leavenworth, Washington.

“If you smile to yourself, you really mean it”. I think I read that on a fortune cookie when I was about 12 years old. For some reason, it has stuck with me throughout all these years….

Last night, I stood in Tadasana (otherwise known as Mountain Pose) during my yoga class. I was smiling so much I burst out laughing at myself (yes, I got looks from other students). I can’t explain why the act of standing, breathing, and stretching was so exhilarating to me. It was the same feeling I have when I’m climbing – that peculiar feeling of thinking without thinking and being in the moment. To borrow from the movie Garden State: I was “in it”.

This whole situation made me think of how much I smile when I climb. I have been practicing yoga since high school, but in the last year, yoga and climbing have become more intertwined and interconnected. I’ve applied much of my yoga philosophy towards climbing. Hence, climbing has been a lot less serious for me. Don’t get me wrong, climbing has become my life; by less serious I mean I put less pressure on myself. I let my climbing goals manifest themselves naturally and don’t let them get the best of me if I don’t reach them right away. I’ve noticed I smile a great deal more when I’m climbing, too - and not just smiling when I’m topping out - I have a huge geeky grin on my face just before I pull through the crux.

Climbing and yoga are symbiotic activities. One helps the other. They are incredibly similar. More and more, I see climbing gyms are offering yoga classes. Some of the best climbers I know move with incredible yogi grace. Even pros are transferring ideas of yoga onto climbing. Steph Davis relates in her book, High Infatuation, “All winter, I thought about Free Rider, especially the moves on the Huber Pitch…The move seemed completely improbable. But I realized that the body positions for setting up to leap were similar to certain yoga poses, so I did warrior poses day after day.”

One of the best postures for climbing is Tree Pose (Vrikshasana). Physically, it encourages balance and strengthens leg and (most importantly) tiny foot muscles. It also helps correct for having one dominate leg. Mentally, it improves concentration and confidence. There are many variations to this pose. Try to hold this pose on each side for a few breathes each day. (Trust me, you have time.) And try to smile. You might even laugh.

Next time you are climbing, think about how tense you keep your face. Try to relax your face muscles. Relax your throat. Don’t furrow your eyebrows. Breathe. Breathe loudly. What is your posture like? Are you slouching your shoulders? You would be amazed at how these small tweaks can greatly improve your climbing mentality and consequently your physical ability.

And remember: when you smile to yourself, you really mean it.

--Dyan Padagas, Program Coordinator

Sunday, April 25, 2010

April and May Climbing Events

-- April 27 -- Bellingham, WA -- Backcountry Essentials Malcolm Daly Slideshow

-- April 29 - May 2 -- Carbondale, CO --
Five Point Film Festival

-- May 2 -- Redmond, WA -- Redmond Vertical World Spring Rendezvous

-- May 8 -- Seattle, WA -- Rain City Send, University of Washington

-- May 8 -- Tuscon, AZ - SCS Regionals

-- May 30 -- Bellingham, WA - Ski to Sea

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you stoked!

I have a piece of gear that I don't think I deserve, my chalk bag. Nothing really separates this chalk bag from others in design and function, other than the graphic on the front of it - Thomas the Tank Engine. I didn't purchase it due to the graphic, more due the price - however the idea of "I think I can, I think I can," from The Little Engine That Could inspiring me while on the sharp end was a good one. Here is a young guy, Adam Ondra, who seems to follow a similar through process of, "I think it's possible."

Adam Ondra - "I think it's possible" from Alberto Malinverni on Vimeo.

I feel like it is lazy of me to post two videos of the same guy, but Adam climbs really smoothly in my opinion. The optical quality of this video, the sweet remixed song, the fluidity of Ondra's movement in slow motion, and the beauty of his belayer's eyes combine to create something I could watch many times over. Enjoy.


Friday, April 23, 2010

A Weekend in Leavenworth

Photo Credit Alasdair Turner.

I am so not a crack climber. I mean, why lie? I, just like many other climbers of my generation, stated climbing at my college gym. I like face holds, for god’s sake. Maybe that’s why I like Red Rock so much, I don’t know.

In any case, last weekend I headed over to Leavenworth with co-worker Andrew Yasso to “get after it” as they say. On Saturday, we climbed the R&D route (5.6) on Icicle Buttress with a slight variation on the (5.7) slab and then over to Cocaine Crack, a (10-) crack. I decided to lead it after some gentle encouragement from my belayer. The first few moves were not that bad. The crack took pro quite well, my hands were miraculously finding jams, and I was feeling more confident with every move. Then, the crack traversed to the right. Um….what do I do now? Long story short, I dropped a couple nuts, got Elvis leg, and bailed. Oh well. Keeping in mind I climb gear routes at about 5.6 (fortunately the grade of the next pitch!), I was just glad to have given it a shot. Yasso, on the other hand, killed it. Very cool.

Turns out, we ended up climbing more cracks this past weekend that I had in the last 12 months. Andrew was designated rope gun and led Classic Crack (the hardest 5.8 known to mankind) and DogLeg Crack (5.8). My consensus: Cracks are hard. And they HURT. But once you find that perfect flinger lock or hand jam or whatever else you crack climbers do, it will make even the most mentally insecure person (read:me) feel like they can stay there for hours on end.

AAI guide Alasdair Turner met up with us on Sunday. I hadn’t climbed with Alasdair before, but I can now say the rumors are TRUE. He IS a total badass. I think Return to the Womb (10+) was one of the scariest, awkward, yet enjoyable climbs I’ve done all year.

Thanks for the productive weekend, guys. I’ll try to find more hand jams when I climb now, and I might actually enjoy it.

--Dyan Padagas, Program Coordinator

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The American Safe Climbing Association and the Anchor Replacement Inititive

It was 2006 and I was preparing for the American Mountain Guides Association Rock Guides Exam. At that time I was trying to climb as many long routes in Red Rock Canyon as possible in order to be as prepared as I could be. One of the prep routes was a fantastic thirteen-pitch 5.9 called the Birdhunter Buttress.

The thirty-something year-old route had one big problem though. It was a heavily bolted route. The bolts were homemade. The bolts were rusted out. And the bolts were only 1/4 inch. In other words, the route was somewhat terrifying.

But there was something else about the route that stuck out. It was an absolutely stunning line.
The problem was that people couldn't safely climb it. The bolts -- and there were a lot of them -- were way too sketchy. Shortly thereafter, I let everyone know that I was looking for partners to work on rebolting the route. And not surprisingly, it didn't take long to find some people who were interested.

The problem was the number of bolts. We needed to replace dozens and dozens of them on the line. The combination of bolt and a hanger costs approximately $6 each. Rebolting such a long line was going to be incredibly expensive. And that's where the American Safe Climbing Association came in.The ASCA is an all volunteer non-profit organization run by the guidebook authors, Greg Barnes and Chris McNamara. The group's goal is to replace old and dangerous bolts with new and no-so-dangerous bolts. To date, the ASCA is responsible for the replacement of over 6000 bolts throughout the United States.

Our mission to rebolt the Birdhunter Buttress was a success primarily because of the fact that the ASCA was able to donate new stainless steel bolts and hangers to our project. And while the route has not become the ubber-classic that I thought it might become, it is certainly seeing a lot more traffic these days.

Since we were in designated wilderness, our rebolting effort on the Birdhunter Buttress
was done completely with hand drills.

The Anchor Replacement Initiative is a corporate sponsored entity that has a similar mission. ARI is not an official non-profit organization like the ASCA, but instead is an initiative that was founded by Climbing Magazine, The North Face and Petzl. The group has been donating bolts to individuals and organizations that are engaged in rebolting efforts throughout the country.

AAI guides have become somewhat involved in rebolting efforts, primarily through the ASCA. I've worked on a handful of routes in Red Rock Canyon, and AAI guide Scott Massey has also done a good amount of work in Red Rock as well as on some crags near Bellingham.

A rusted out bolt on "The Boatlaunch Wall" in Bellingham

Bad bolts are everywhere. They are so common that they are considered a danger that you have to be willing to face anytime anywhere. It's ironic that so many people who start trad climbing after spending a number of years on sport routes have a hard time trusting their traditional gear. It's ironic because, most of the time you have absolutely no idea who put in a bolt or if they knew what they were doing when they placed it. I would gladly trust one of my cams over almost any bolt.

The great value of the ASCA and the ARI is that the individuals who are responsible for replacing bolts generally have some expertise in boltcraft and aren't just placing bolts to get their names in guidebooks.

This rusted out bolt was removed from the Red Rock classic sport climb,
Rebel without a Pause (5.11a)

This blurry photo shows an anchor chain that has been seriously damaged from individuals lowering directly off the bottom link. Always lower off your own gear to keep this from happening to your anchors.

AAI Guide Scott Massey works on rebolting a classic sport route.

If you climb on bolts, then you should seriously consider donating to the ASCA. Like the Access Fund, this is a fundamental organization to the the safety and protection of climbing areas throughout the United States.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 19, 2010

Movie Review: Dead Snow

Some months ago, Ski Magazine was promoting a foreign language film about a group of twenty-somethings that go on a ski trip to a remote cabin in the mountains of Norway. This same film made a bit of a splash as an official selection at the Sundance Film Festival... So I thought I would check it out.

Dead Snow is not about skiers or climbers, but it does take place in the mountains and there are avalanches and cornice collapses; so it does apply loosely to the focus of this blog. And of course, I use the term loosely, loosely...

Three young couples, all medical students, decide to take a trip into the mountains for Spring Break. The film starts like most horror movies start. There's a fair bit of sexual energy, lots of electric guitars playing in the background, and some adrenaline sports, in the form of snowmobiling. What the group of students don't know at the start of their trip is that the area they are playing in is zombies...Nazi zombies...

Zombie movies have been popular now since they re-emerged on the film scene with Danny Boyle's fantastic horror morality play 28 Days Later in 2002. In the last eight years, this sub-genre of horror has constantly been re-explored by filmmakers looking for new angles. Some zombie movies like Shaun of the Dead (2004) and Zombieland (2009) were experiments in action/comedy. Others like Fido (2006) and Planet Terror (2007) were experiments in campy horror comedy. But of course the vast majority of the films have been more deeply seated in the action/horror camp like the remake of Dawn of the Dead (2004) and the Resident Evil series (2002-2007).

Dead Snow is harder to categorize. It's about Nazi zombies. The subject matter alone leads one to believe that this is going to be a very campy movie, and it is. There is some great situational comedy in the film, and of course there are battles with chain saws and scythes that are bloody, but also kind of funny. However, at its heart there is no doubt, this is a blood and guts horror film. Indeed, there is one gruesome scene where a zombie puts his fingers into a young man's eyes and then tears his skull in half, spilling his brains on the floor. And even worse, there is a sex scene in an outhouse, on an outhouse toilet, which is really pretty gross too...

The biggest problem with the film is that it never really settles into a tone. While it is a gruesome horror movie, it wants to play up the campiness of the situation. The film probably would have been much better if it let go of the categorization of horror and either played more into the silliness of the concept or played up the zombie metaphor in relation to Nazism.

Arguably, the re-emergence of zombie movies has more to do with opinion news and opinion blogs (on both the left and the right) than it has to do with the horror genre. The idea is that people become slaves to a certain viewpoint and that they are no longer able to see the other side. Metaphorically, zombie movies are about mindless people who just do what they're told or get caught up in propaganda to the point where they become dangerous. The rise of Nazism is a great subject for a metaphorical zombie movie and when I saw the trailer for this film, I sincerely hoped that the piece might be a more high-brow version of this zombie metaphor... I can assure you that it is not...

I was engaged by the film. I was definitely grossed out a few times. And there were a few, "aw, come-on" moments. That said, I've never seen a movie about Nazi zombies before, and in a genre that has been explored so deeply in the last decade, it was refreshing to see something completely different.

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, April 18, 2010

April and May Climbing Events

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

-- April 20,26,28 -- Bay Area, CA -- Chris McNamera REI Slideshow

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

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

-- April 29 - May 2 -- Carbondale, CO -- Five Point Film Festival

-- May 2 -- Redmond, WA -- Redmond Vertical World Spring Rendezvous

-- May 8 -- Seattle, WA -- Rain City Send, University of Washington

-- May 8 -- Tuscon, AZ - SCS Regionals

-- May 30 -- Bellingham, WA - Ski to Sea

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you stoked!

So lately I have been playing this game with the weather here in the North Cascades. I keep trying to fake it out, sneak in when it's not looking, and generally fight it when it decides not to cooperate. I believe I'm taking the completely wrong approach, and if I'm going to become a true Cascade climber, I've got to learn how to make the weather work for me. Here are some guys from South Africa that seem to be having a fantastic time in Patagonia, regardless of the rather crummy weather. I can't help but smile watching and listening to this video.

As long as we are in the Southern Hemisphere, let's take a short jaunt over to a country just North of South Africa. Some climbers made a trip to Namibia to explore the culture and climbing in the area. I really like the idea of using climbing as simply an ends, but a means to exploring new parts of the world and sharing new experiences with people. If that doesn't do it for you, maybe the awesome climb near the end of the video will.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Route Profile: Artesonraju

Artesonraju is perhaps the most famous mountain in the world.

What? You've never heard of it! Well maybe not, but you've definitely seen it. The 19,768 foot mountain's north side inspired the current incarnation of the Paramount Pictures logo. And at the start of movies all over the world, climbers drool over the fantastic lines that exist on the seemingly imaginary mountain.

The truth is that Artesonraju is a real mountain in Peru's Cordillera Blanca. Often compared to Peru's more well-known Alpamayo, Artesonraju has a similar shape and profile. It is a perfect pyramid with beautiful clean and steep slopes leading directly toward the mountain's tiny summit.

And while Artesonraju looks similar to Alpamayo, it is different in two very important ways. First, it is nowhere near as well-known as its neighbor. This keeps the crowding down. And second, the standard route on Alpamayo has a considerable amount of objective danger. Artesonraju doesn't have anywhere near the number of cornices threatening it's flanks as Alpamayo.

The Southeast Face of Artesonraju is as classic as they come. The route works directly up a massive slope with a gradient that ranges between 45 and 55 degrees for most of the way, but is capped by two pitches of 60-70 degree terrain. Most climbers will pitch the route out, climbing nine to twelve rope-lengths straight to the mountain's summit. Once on top, one still needs to make a dizzying descent down the terrain he or she just climbed. This is generally done with a combination of rappels and downclimbing.

The Southeast Face went out of condition last season. A catastrophic avalanche cut down to rock. It is expected that this route will slowly rebuild it's snowcover. Last season we began to run trips on the north ridge, which is quite similar. The coolest part of the north side of the mountain is that it is the side that was used as the Paramount Pictures model.

Following a short photo essay from a series of trips to the mountain.

The Southeast Face of Artesonraju is the right-hand face.
Photo by Andrew Wexler

Artesonraju High Camp
Photo by Andrew Wexler

The Andes of the Paron Valley
Photo by Marco Gabbin

Alpamayo can be seen on the left. Artesonraju is on the right.
The souteast face route climbs up just right of the rock ridge in the center of the picture.
Photo by Marco Gabbin

To learn more about Artesonraju, check out our webpage on the mountain, here.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Access Fund Invited to White House Conference on America's Great Outdoors

The American Alpine Institute just received the following notice from the Access Fund:

Access Fund Invited to White House Conference on America's Great Outdoors Obama Administration Officials will host a White House Conference on America’s Great Outdoors tomorrow to address the challenges, opportunities, and innovations surrounding modern-day land conservation and the importance of reconnecting American families to the outdoors. Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, Nancy Sutley states, “Too many of these places are disappearing. In launching this conversation, we strive to learn about the smart, creative community efforts underway throughout the country to conserve our outdoor spaces, and hear how we can support these efforts.” The Access Fund looks forward to representing climbers at this important event.

Watch the conference LIVE tomorrow!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Stevens Pass Building Mountain Bike Park, New Water Treatment System

The American Alpine Institute just received the following email from Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest:

Everett, Wash., April 13, 2010--Stevens Pass Ski Resort will start construction on a new mountain bike park and water treatment system this summer. The Forest Service announced the decision approving the proposed plan April 13. The resort will also build a new water treatment system.

The mountain bike park includes seven miles of downhill-mountain biking trails just south of the Granite Peaks ski lodge. The resort is building trails between five- and eight-feet wide with natural berms and jumps, two miles of single-track trails and developing three areas to teach technical skills and safe riding techniques.

Stevens Pass management saw the park as an opportunity to use the area in the summer and meet a growing demand for mountain biking.

The Forest Service requires ski area permit holders prepare a master development plan that describes future improvements and changes in the upcoming years. The plan must include an environmental assessment with a comment period for the public to review and comment on activities that might affect the environment.

"Public response to this proposal was mostly supportive,” said Sean Wetterberg, winter sports and special uses specialist. “The development of a bike park will provide a great recreation opportunity up at the pass ," he said.

The environmental assessment can be viewed at

For more information or interviews, contact Sean Wetterberg at 425-783-6022, or Joel Martinez, Stevens Pass director of operations, 206-812-7374,

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

NPS Moves to Protect Bears and Wolves in Alaska

The American Alpine Institute just received the following email from Alaska's National Parks:

ANCHORAGE – The National Park Service today announced three actions to help protect bear and wolf populations and park values within NPS units in Interior Alaska.

Within Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, a temporary closure to the taking of wolves under state hunting and trapping regulations will go into effect on April 14, 2010. At Gates of the Arctic National Preserve and in Denali National Preserve, a closure to taking of black bear sows and cubs at a den site while using artificial light will also go into effect tomorrow. This practice was recently allowed by the State of Alaska’s general hunting regulations in portions of the preserves.

The Yukon-Charley closure, under the procedures of 36 CFR 13.40 and 13.50, will provide for the protection of wolves and wolf packs in the preserve, while ensuring the opportunity for federally qualified rural residents to continue to take wolves under federal subsistence hunting and trapping regulations.

On NPS managed lands, natural processes are expected to take place, including natural fluctuations of wildlife populations. Predator control activities occurring outside the preserve have potential implications for wolves with home ranges in Yukon-Charley. The NPS has monitored wolves since 1993, obtaining detailed data on wolf population dynamics and home ranges. A normal decline from fall and spring populations ranges from 11% to 37% due to natural mortality, dispersal and hunting and trapping.

To date, this year’s decline in the population of wolves in packs that frequent the preserve is 43%, including the loss of an entire pack, bringing the total number of wolves with home ranges in the preserve to 26. The closure is based on concern that additional spring sport hunting and trapping in the preserve and the potential for additional predator control action outside the preserve could further decrease the population and alter the preserve’s naturally functioning ecosystems.

The temporary closure runs through May 31, 2010.

The National Park Service is also moving today to prohibit hunting practices recently made legal under state general hunting regulations for portions of Denali and Gates of the Arctic National Preserves.

These closures provide that artificial light may not be used to take a
black bear at a den site (except to retrieve a dead bear or dispatch a
wounded bear), and that bear cubs or a sow accompanied by a cub may not be
taken at a den site.

Within certain state game management units, these practices are open to all Alaska residents and, because of that, provide increased efficiency for the taking of vulnerable denning sows and cubs and a potential to create pressures on natural abundance, behavior, distribution and ecological integrity of this species. Additionally, the state provisions pose unacceptable impacts to the purposes and values of the preserve as established by Congress in 1980. The Congressional record states the “standard in regulating the taking of fish and wildlife is that the preeminent natural values of the Park System shall be protected in perpetuity and shall not be jeopardized by human uses.”

The use of lights for hunting, and the taking of sows and cubs at dens, have historically been prohibited under state law, but were recently authorized in two game management units which overlap portions of the two preserves. While the state Board of Game cited customary and traditional subsistence practices by some Alaska residents in allowing these bear hunting methods, subsistence hunting in NPS units is authorized for federally qualified rural residents under rules adopted by the Federal Subsistence Board.

A NPS request to the Alaska Board of Game in March 2010 to exempt the preserves from these practices by amending the state regulations was unsuccessful.

Additional information on the wolf hunting closure at Yukon-Charley Rivers, and bear hunting restrictions at Denali and Gates of the Arctic are available at under the Compendium link.

Hidden Crevasse Danger

The reality of most crevasse falls where an individual goes in over his or her head, is that they tend to take place when a person slips above a crevasse and falls in. But occasionally someone will fall through a hidden bridge and drop deeply into a crevasse.

It's really hard to find videos of accidental crevasse falls on the internet. But the following video is an absolutely stunning look at a catastrophic snow bridge collapse:

And while this next video isn't as scary to watch, it was taken shortly after an unroped skier nearly fell to his death in a hidden crevasse. He is still slightly in shock as he talks about the incident. All that saved him from the bottomless pit was a single ski binding attached to a ski jammed at the top of the crevasse.

Sometimes it is completely impossible to detect crevasses buried under the snow. Every now and then your foot will blow through a thin spot, but you won't go all the way in. In many ways a field of crevasses where you occasionally punch a foot through is a very safe field. When you know your moving through a minefield, you tend to take more precautions. So if you do go all the way through, it's unlikely that you'll go over your head.

Of the many thousands of days our guides and climbers spend in the mountains, we only see someone go in over their head once every two or three years. It's far more likely that this will happen in a spot where it is completely unexpected.

The best way to avoid a serious crevasse fall is to always be on guard. Unless an area has been heavily probed, assume that there are thin and dangerous crevasses beneath you. Avoid areas where it looks like the snow is sagging. And always make sure that there isn't too much slack in the rope between the climbers.

If an area looks dangerous, make the rope between the climbers tighter. You might even allow it to come up off the ground. If someone starts to go through, everybody should self-arrest.

Using good judgment and being on guard all the time is the best way to avoid the danger of a crevasse fall.

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, April 11, 2010

April and May Climbing Events

--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 20,26,28 -- Bay Area, CA -- Chris McNamera REI Slideshow

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

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

-- April 29 - May 2 -- Carbondale, CO -- Five Point Film Festival

-- May 2 -- Redmond, WA -- Redmond Vertical World Spring Rendezvous

-- May 8 -- Seattle, WA -- Rain City Send, University of Washington

-- May 8 -- Tuscon, AZ - SCS Regionals

-- May 30 -- Bellingham, WA - Ski to Sea

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Weekend Warrior - Videos To Get You Stoked!

Just a little while ago I believe Jason put up a post in defense of free soloing. I had a little look around the net and found this interest solo by Colin Haley in Patagonia. If you are not a fan of Tool's music, I suggest you mute this video from the get go, but it is an interesting insight to what you might encounter as a free soloist. It's kind of weird having video of it, like seeing something only the climber soloing should see. Regardless, we once again aren't discouraging or encouraging free soloing, just sharing another part of the climbing world with you.

On a different note, everything I heard about Red Rock Rendezvous made me jealous I didn't make it this year! The following video, by Prana, is a good mix of all the happenings that go on during the Rendezvous. Climbing, yoga, climbing, slacklining, food intake, climbing, gear promoting, and more climbing! Book your spot for next year!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Toproping on Sport Climbs

Pulling through the last few moves on “Lude Crude and Misconstrued,” a popular 5.9 located in the Black Corridor of Red Rocks, is not a particularly difficult thing to do. The moves at the top are easy. No instead, the scariest part of the climb is not the climb itself, but the anchors. So many people have put their rope through the chains at the top of the route and then proceeded to toprope or lower off the anchors that the sawing action of hundreds of ropes has nearly eaten them clean through.

This is a chronic problem at sport climbing areas across America. Chain and quicklink anchors are severely damaged due to ignorance or laziness. The problem is most visible however, in places where it is sandy. Once a rope gets sand in the sheath it literally becomes like sandpaper. The repeated sawing action of a moving tensioned rope -- especially one with sand in the sheath -- may severely damage anchor chains in as little as a matter of hours.

The question then must be asked, who is responsible for a newly damaged anchor? Is it the first ascent party's responsibility to replace the anchor? Is it the responsibility of a local guide service? Does it become the problem of local climbing conservation groups? Or are the people who damaged the anchor responsible?

There is no right answer to the preceeding question. I have personally replaced innumerable anchors out of my own pocket. I know a number of others that have done the same. We do this because we don't want to see anybody get hurt. But it's not something that we want to do.

Most of us who put up new routes or repair existing climbs simply avoid toproping directly through the chains. Instead, we use a cordelette or a double shoulder-length sling in conjunction with locking carabiners.

To the left is an example of a rope threaded directly through the anchor. Do not do this for anything but a rappel.

On the left-hand side, the anchor is composed of quick links. These are easier to change-out when they are damaged. On the right, the anchor is made up of chain purchased from a hardware store. This is more difficult to replace when damaged.

The photo on the right provides an example of a properly set-up toprope. The anchor is composed of a double shoulder-length sling, tied into a pre-equalized eight. At the bottom, clipped into the power-point (sometimes called the master-point) are two opposite and opposed locking carabiners. This is the best possible system as it meets the requirements for a SRENE or ERNEST anchor and protects the anchor chains from damage.

There are two organizations that are currently replacing bolts and anchors throughout the country. The first is the nonprofit American Safe Climbing Association (ASCA) and the second is the Anchor Replacement Inititive (ARI) sponsored by Climbing magazine, the North Face and Petzl . It is possible to support the ASCA with donations and to support the ARI by purchasing items from their corporate sponsors.

Checking anchors to make sure that they are not damaged, replacing those that are or providing financial support to those who will replace them, and reporting damaged anchors to individuals who will fix them is the responsibility of every climber. But perhaps the greater responsibility is to simply avoid damaging an anchor to begin with.

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Trucker's Hitch and Water Knot

Mike Barter, the video-savvy Canadian guide, has a new video that describes a couple of knots. In this piece he covers the trucker's hitch and the water knot.

Check out the video below:

After re-posting a lot of these videos, I've started to notice that Mike is a bit gun-shy. I get the impression that a lot of people are giving him negative feedback on some of his content...which is too bad. He's making some very good instructional videos.

So instead of negative feedback, I'd just like to make a couple of additional notes.

First, I'd like to reiterate the fact that the trucker's hitch is primarily for tents and tying things down. It doesn't have an application in climbing proper.

And second, I'd also like to note that the biggest danger of the water knot is cyclic loading. In other words, weighting and unweighting the knot can cause the tails to slowly work out. You can occasionally see this at rap stations with old webbing. As such, it is very important that there is plenty of tail when you tie the knot and that you always check rap stations closely.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 5, 2010

Pricks and Ticks - A Red Rock First Ascent

Imagine a rock climber’s utopia: Abundant climbing partners, too many routes to count, good music, copious swag, and stomachfuls of glorious beer. Yep, it’s that time of the year. Red Rock Rendezvous. My time was limited there, and I was pleasantly surprised to get in so much climbing….

I fly in Wednesday night, crashing at Viren and Julie’s. I see other AAI personnel have the same idea. Jason, Kevin, Viren, Forest, Alasdair, Kurt, and Alaina (and now me) pack the place like a free-range guide homestead. Jason is pouring over some papers in the corner – printouts of the Disappearing Crag. “So you wanna do an FA tomorrow?,” he asks me. Jason knows Red Rocks (um, I mean Red ROCK. “It’s not called Red Rocks!”, as the Jason diatribe starts) better than ANYONE. Really. He knows the best routes, best beta, and the most obscure crags.

Hence, Jason, Kevo, and I take the van down a janky-washed-out-backroad early Thursday morning to bag the climb. We hike for an hour in tick-infested wasteland, heading to our proposed destination. I didn’t really care about an FA. I just felt lucky to be climbing with two awesome people. Every time I go out and climb with one of our guides, I learn in a day what probably would have taken me a season of climbing to figure out on my own. What I saw and did was awesome climbing. I was happy with being deadweight – they did all the leading (Jason busting out the 5.9 crux lead on a traversing crack with no feet). After checking a million times to see if we were keeping off the route that was next to us (or “inverse” route finding as I call it), we finally top out. We were all feeling pretty darn good. I perform my tenth OCD tick-check and I lace up the tennies and we walk off. Then, upon the decent, Jason falls on a cactus – full-on-hand in-the-spines fall. Yes, the cactus pretty much stopped his fall. Route name: Pricks and Ticks (5.9, II+).

Check out Jason’s Mountain Project post here.

Dyan Padagas, Program Coordinator

Sunday, April 4, 2010

April and May Climbing Events

-- April 7 -- Skagit Valley, WA -- Dallas Kloke, 50 Years of Climbing

--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

-- April 29 - May 2 -- Carbondale, CO -- Five Point Film Festival

-- May 2 -- Redmond, WA -- Redmond Vertical World Spring Rendezvous

-- May 8 -- Seattle, WA -- Rain City Send, University of Washington

-- May 8 -- Tuscon, AZ - SCS Regionals

-- May 30 -- Bellingham, WA - Ski to Sea

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you stoked!

Alright ladies & gents, I missed last week - my bad. I was on my Wilderness First Responder course, something I highly recommend to all of you if you don't have it already. I firmly believe it is one of the most responsible things you can do for your climbing partners. Anyway, while slacking off in the middle of that course (I think I missed the part on emergency tracheotomies) I found this video on Petzl's website. Twenty-five minutes of High Definition video of climbing in Ben Nevis. Totally worth it.

Scottish Icetrip - English from Petzl-sport on Vimeo.

Man, that video had everything for me. Awesome climbing on varying terrain, funny commentary, and beautiful videography. This next clip has none of the above, except perhaps unintentional hilarity. This video leaves me asking so many questions... Why does MacGyver free solo with a full body harness on? What was the need for the hammer/ice ax combo? What is the point of the tag line he takes off once he gets to the top of the cliff? Did Dean Potter watch this as a kid and plagiarize MacGyver's idea of "freeBASEing?" How does he open his parachute when he jumps off the cliff on the "bottom" of the guy he grabs onto? What stunt-man has such low self-esteem to allow himself to be part of this fiasco!?

Friday, April 2, 2010

Denali Park Road to Open to Mile 30 on Saturday, April 3rd

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

Mild spring weather and low snow and ice levels have helped the efforts of
the National Park Service to open the park road further west for access by
park visitors. The portion of the Denali Park Road between the Savage River
(Mile 15) and the Teklanika River Rest Area at Mile 30 will open for travel
by private vehicles at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, April 3, weather permitting.
This could be one of the earliest openings of the road to this point since
the early 1980s. Weather can change rapidly in the spring, and visitors are
encouraged to call for updated road status before traveling to the park.

Snow conditions have deteriorated, but there is still good snow for skiing
on north-facing slopes. Visitors have reported sightings of lynx, caribou,
and moose along the first 15 miles of the park road. There have been no
bear sightings yet this season, although park employees saw tracks in late

Motorists should expect to encounter snow, ice, and mud on some portions of
the road, particularly shaded areas. Please be alert for heavy equipment
used on road opening operations and park personnel working on the edges of
the road. There are toilets for visitor use at the new rest area east of
the Savage River Campground, the parking lot on the east side of the Savage
River, and the Teklanika River Rest Area. Only half of the Teklanika Rest
Area parking will be available for visitor use. The remainder has
construction materials staged for the upcoming rehabilitation of the rest
area, which will include replacement of the chemical toilets with vault

The park road will be open to Mile 30 through April, and possibly longer.
Construction on the Teklanika Rest Area will be initiated sometime after
May 1. When construction begins, or on Saturday, May 15 at the latest, the
rest area will be closed and the park road will be open only to Mile 25
(large pullout on the north side of the road). This is the site of a
temporary rest area which will be used until work on the Teklanika Rest
Area is completed.

On Thursday, May 20 the shuttle bus system will begin operations for the
summer season, providing access beyond the Savage River as far west as the
Toklat River (Mile 53). Bus access to points further west will be available
in June. The first fifteen miles of the park road will remain open to park
visitors in private vehicles throughout the summer season.

Visitor information and backcountry permits are available at the Murie
Science and Learning Center (Mile 1.3) from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. daily.
The Riley Creek Campground is open for free camping until May 15, but water
and sewer services are currently not available. A vault toilet is provided
for campers in the open loop, and water can be obtained at the Murie
Science and Learning Center. Other facilities west of park headquarters,
including campgrounds, are scheduled to open in mid-May.

Denali National Park and Preserve collects an entrance fee year-round. The
entrance fee of $10 per person or $20 per vehicle is valid for seven days.
The majority of the money collected remains in the park, and is used for
projects to improve visitor services and facilities. Interagency Federal
Recreation Passes such as the Annual, Senior, and Access Pass, and the
Denali Annual Pass are also valid for entry into the park. Visitors can pay
entrance fees and purchase passes at the Murie Science and Learning Center.

Additional information can be obtained by calling the park at (907)
683-2294 from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. daily or on the web at

Red Rock Rendezvous Enjoys Successful Seventh Year - Camping to Return to Spring Mountain Ranch in 2011

The American Alpine Institute just received the following email from Mountain Gear:

Las Vegas, Nev. – With more than 920 climbers from across the nation converging on Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near Las Vegas for the seventh annual “Mountain Gear Presents: Red Rock Rendezvous” rock climbing festival in March, the event continues to be one of the largest climbing festivals in the nation for paid participants. Presented by Mountain Gear and sponsored by The North Face and the American Alpine Institute, Red Rock Rendezvous has earned a reputation for having some of the world’s best climbers as instructors in the unique surroundings of Red Rock Canyon.

The 2010 climbing festival raised approximately $14,000 for non-profit organizations including: The Access Fund, a national non-profit organization dedicated to keeping climbing areas open and conserving the climbing environment; American Safe Climbing Association; American Alpine Club; Friends of Red Rock; and the Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Council. The event also garnered 100 more memberships for the Access Fund.

Representatives of the Red Rock Rendezvous also announced that event participants will be able to again camp at Spring Mountain Ranch in 2011 for the eighth annual rock climbing festival.

Since its inception seventh years ago, Red Rock Rendezvous has offered clinics for advanced, intermediate and beginning climbers. The festival also includes: an opening night celebration; a dinner buffet; demos, comps and mini-seminars by event sponsors; a beginners climbing package that includes registration to the festival as well as climbing gear; a blow-out party and slide show; pancake breakfast; and service projects to assist in the environmental conservation of Red Rock Canyon.

The Dangers of Glissading

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

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

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

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Forest Service Closes South Sultan River Road

The American Alpine Institute just received the following email from Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest:

Everett, Wash. April 1, 2010— Beginning April 5 officials are closing South Sultan River Road 6122, also known as Jeanne Ring Road, located approximately 17 miles northeast of Sultan, Wash., and a third of a mile southeast of Culmback Dam. The Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest and Snohomish County Public Utility District are closing the road for a year to prevent road erosion, which will protect water quality in the municipal watershed. The agencies plan to eventually convert the road into a trail for walking and kayak portage to the Sultan River. Officials will install a gate to keep traffic from damaging the road and stop trash dumping.

For more information call Skykomish Ranger District at 360-677-2414 or go to alerts and conditions on