Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Frostbite Symptoms and Treatment

When you start to get cold, it's not uncommon for it to feel like your face, your ears, your hands and your feet are affected first. This is a reaction that everybody is predisposed too. As you get cold, your blood vessels constrict in order to avoid heat loss and the possibility of hypothermia. This allows areas of your body which are already cold to get colder. Ultimately, frostbite will occur in these extremeties.

Frostbite is the result of frozen skin and/or other tissue under the skin that becomes frozen. Naturally, this causes cell damage.

Three types of frostbite have been identified by severity. Like burns, they are listed as first degree, second degree and third degree. The following breakdown is from outdoorplaces.com
  • First degree, also called frost nip: Most people who live in very cold climates or do a lot of outdoor activity in the winter have had first degree frostbite (just as most people have had a first degree burn when they get sunburn). Frost nip presents itself as numbed skin that has turned white in color. The skin may feel stiff to the touch, but the tissue under is still warm and soft. There is very little chance of blistering, infection or permanent scarring as long as it is treated properly.

  • Second degree, superficial frostbite: Superficial frostbite is a serious medical condition that needs to be treated by a trained medical professional. The skin will be white or blue and will feel hard and frozen. The tissue underneath is still undamaged. Blistering is likely which is why medical treatment should be sought out. Proper treatment is critical to prevent severe or permanent injuries.

  • Third degree, deep frostbite: The skin is white, blotchy and/or blue. The tissue underneath is hard and cold to the touch. This is a life threatening injury. Deep frostbite needs to be treated by a trained medical professional. The tissue underneath has been damaged, in severe cases amputation may be the final recourse to prevent severe infection. Blistering will happen. Proper medical treatment in a medical facility with personnel trained to deal with severe frostbite injuries is required to aid in the prevention of severe or permanent injury.

As first degree frostbite is common on expeditions or ice climbing trips, it is also common that it needs to be treated in the field. The most important thing with this mild frostbite is to rewarm the area. Rewarm the injured areas slowly and start working from the outside in. In other words, go toes to feet and fingers to hands. Extremities may be warmed under inside clothing or sleeping bags, arm pits or in the groin. Never rub or massage a frozen area. This merely rubs the ice crystals around on the delicate cell walls which causes additional injury and pain. Once it is rewarmed and thawed, it is very important that the area is not re-frozen. If the injury is re-frozen theseverity of the injury will increase.

Second Degree Frostbite
From wildernessutah.com

Unfortunately, treating second and third degree frostbite in the field is extremely difficult. Such cold injuries will require medical attention.

Second and third degree cold injuries are the types of injuries that people read about in the climbing literature. These are the injuries that result in blistered skin and blackened digits upon rewarming. The rule is never to walk on frozen feet unless you absolutely have to. Such use will increase the level of injury. But if you are in a situation where you will die of hypothermia if you don't walk on frozen feet, then you're going to have to walk on frozen feet. If they thaw and you are unable to walk on them, or you thaw them and they refreeze later, the situation could become significantly worse.

Third Degree Frostbite
From Land of 10,000 Perspectives

The reality of frostbite is that in most cases it's avoidable. Dressing right and paying attention to your body are two simple ways to avoid this debilitating and dangerous injury.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, June 28, 2010

Top-Managed Belays

Most leaders will do one of two things at the top of a route. They'll either build an anchor and lower off or they'll bring up a second to clean the route. It makes a lot of sense to bring up a second if you're going to continue up a multi-pitch line or if it isn't possible to rappel off.

In essence the leader who is stationed above the climber is working at a top-managed site. He is belaying the climber from above and is not top-roping. Most people only belay from above after they have lead a climb, but there are a number of situations where it is advantageous to actually top-rope from the top of a climb.

A Climber Belays from the Top
Photo by Jason Martin

Acadia and Ouray are both popular places where many routes require top-managment, climbers literally have little to no choice in many parts of these parks. Acadia is a climbing area situated on a series of sea cliffs. One can only access the crags by lowering down or rappelling down. Ouray is an ice park in Colorado. All of the routes are accessed from the top and most people lower in and then climb back out on a top-rope.

Most places don't require a top-managed set-up like the preceding examples. But there are many advantages to managing a crag from the top.

Value of a Top-Managed Site:
  1. There is no chance that rocks or other debris will strike a belayer or another climber below. This is particularly nice in ice climbing. In Ouray, it is common for climbers to lower one another into a canyon to climb back out. There are very few people at the base that might be hit by falling ice.
  2. There is fifty percent less rope in the system. Less rope in the system allows for less elongation in a dynamic rope when a climber falls on a top-rope. This is a great advantage if there are a lot of ledges on a climb that someone might twist their ankle on if they take a short dynamic fall.
  3. If a climb is over a half of a rope length, it is often easier to manage the route from the top than to deal with two ropes tied together.
  4. This provides you with the ability to easily monitor the anchor system.
  5. Smaller loads are placed on the anchor than in a traditional top-rope set-up. In a traditional set-up, the physics of the system make it so that both the climber and the belayer's weight are on the anchor whenever a climber falls or is lowered.
  6. Occasionally, the bottom of the crag is dangerous. Perhaps you are working on sea cliffs or in another medium that makes the base of the climb hazardous. Numerous crags have parking lots above the routes. In many scenarios the bottom of the climbs are steep and vegetated. In some cases, they are simply hard to access via a trail.
  7. If you know any quick hauling systems, it's nice to manage from the top because you can assist a person if they get stuck climbing.
  8. If you want to get a lot of top-rope routes in without leading, it may be fastest to top-manage the climbing area.
A Climber Lowers his Partner from a Top-Managed Site
Photo by Jason Martin

Disadvantages to a Top-Managed Site:
  1. It is difficult to see and to coach the climber that has been lowered down. Sometimes it is also difficult to hear.
  2. The climber's rope is more likely to go over edges when managed from the top.
  3. There may be more impact on a fragile cliff-top ecosystem.
  4. If there are many climbers waiting to climb, it may be more dangerous to manage the route from the top. There is more exposure and more opportunities to make a mistake near a cliff-edge.
  5. People are unused to it and often don't want to try something new.
The most common way to access climbs in a top-managed situation is for the climber to lower down and then climb back up. Occasionally, a climber will rappel to the bottom and then climb back up, but this is not quite as safe as lowering. Lowering is safer because the belayer can check the climber's knot before he leaves.

This blog isn't to say that top-management is better. While it may be better in some situations, this article was actually designed to give you a quick taste of an alternative to regular top-roping. The best way to understand the strengths and weaknesses of such a technique is to experiment. Try top-managing at a crag you are familiar with for a day. It will be a very educational experience and will definately put another tool into your climber's toolbox.

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, June 27, 2010

July and August Climbing Events

-- June 25-27 -- France -- Vibram Natural Games

-- June 25 -28 -- WA -- WTA Restoration Project

-- June 25 (Application Deadline) -- WA -- Mountain Stewards Project, Mt. Baker

-- July 7 -- Golden, CO -- Climbing in China

--July 14-18 -- Squamish, BC -- Squamish Mountain Festival

-- July 15-18 -- New River Gorge, WV -- HomoClimbtastic

-- July 20 (Deadline) -- REEL ROCK Filmmaking Contest

-- July 31 - Aug 1 -- Golden, CO -- Managing Human Waste

-- Aug 6-7 --Utah -- Cedar Mountain Adventure Experience

-- Aug 7 -- Denali Park, AK -- Denali Education Center Auction

-- Aug 21 -- Moose, WY -- Grand Teton Climber's Ranch Anniversary

-- Aug 28 -- Truckee, CA -- Craggin' Classic

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get your Stoked.

One thing I love about climbing is that it takes you places. It takes you to new landscapes, new countries, new cultures....

(Turn the speakers up. The music is good.)

However, one should not forget their native homeland. For me, this is the Cascades. There is TOO MUCH good climbing here. As I transition from rock climbing into more snow and ice, Baker keeps staring me in the face. I feel like the worst Bellingham resident when I tell people I just haven't done it yet. The bottom line is that it needs to get done, soon. Good weather is here, and people are starting to summit Baker along with many other things in the Cascades. You should too.

These fine folks descend in style....

The Fabulous Baker Boyz from Kevin Ault on Vimeo.

Even more Baker action....Looks like this group hit that ONE good weather window in May.

Mount Baker May 2010 from AdrienHD on Vimeo.


Friday, June 25, 2010

How Good is that Bolt?

Leavenworth, Squamish, Joshua Tree, the Sierra, Red Rocks, Yosemite, and the Gunks are just a handful of places where climbing pioneers used fixed gear that was subpar a long time ago. Bolts used thirty or forty years ago still exist throughout the climbing world. And every year that they remain in the rock, their quality deteriorates more. So what does a bad bolt look like? The following diagram shows a number of old bolt fixtures. It is unlikely that any of these ancient bolts or hangers would hold body weight...much less a fall.
The question then becomes, what should you do if you come upon an ancient bolt?

First, remember where you found it. Keep track of bad bolts and report them on you local climbing website. There are a few good Samaritans out there looking for bolts to replace.

Second, decide whether or not you need it. In some cases, there is good natural gear nearby. In others, you will have to commit to using the bolt. If you do have to use it, continue climbing and try to get something solid in as soon as possible. If it doesn't look like solid gear is a possibility and the terrain above the bolt is difficult, consider bailing.

If the bolt is part of an anchor system, you may be required to "beef-it-up." Some climbing instructors use a 12 point rating system to evaluate an anchor. Different pieces of gear are given a value of 0-12. Once you reach 12, your anchor is considered "bomb-proof." In other words, a good cam is worth 4 points, a good bolt is worth 6 points and a giant tree with a good root base is worth 12 points. Most of the time climbers have to equalize a number of different pieces in order to bring the value of their anchor up to 12.
Bolts like those in the diagram above should only be given a value of 1 or 2. Many people have been taught that an anchor is composed of two bolts or three pieces. The reality is that an anchor should include whatever you need in order to make it worth 12 points. If two bad bolts are equalized, the anchor would only have a value of 3 or 4. In such a case more pieces would have to be added to supplement the bolts.
What then, does a good bolt look like? The following diagram shows a series of bolts that will hold a substantial fall if they are placed correctly:
Don't get lulled into a sense of complacency by shiny new-looking bolts, a small percentage of these are bad too. Some bolters use substandard equipment because it's cheaper. Others may place a bolt incorrectly. These are hard things to evaluate on the sharp end of the rope when your forearms are completely pumped out and you're about to whip. There are three ways to evaluate a route with new-looking bolts prior to climbing it. First, look through the guidebook and see how many routes the first ascentionists put up. The more routes they have to their names, the less likely it is that they made a mistake bolting. Second, the more popular the route is, the more likely it is that the bolts have been evaluated by people who have placed a lot of bolts. Indeed, on a popular route it is also more likely that the bolts have held falls. And third, question the locals. If there is something amiss on a route, local climbers are usually aware of it. People laugh when I tell them that I trust traditional gear more than I trust bolts. The reality is that with trad climbing I can always assess my own placements and I can always adjust them until they're perfect. There is little that I can do with a bolt that was placed by a stranger. And even less that I can do if it's thirty years old. That's not to say that I don't trust new-looking bolts. I do...but I do so with reservations. (Diagram Credits -- "Bolts: Bomber or Time Bombs" by Todd Vogel. Rock and Ice #62, July 1994 -- Reprinted at the American Safe Climbing Association website.)

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Munter-Mule

Since we covered the super-munter yesterday, I thought that it might be good to revive this old post about the munter-mule.

In the following clip, a climber demonstrates two things. First, he shows us how to tie a munter hitch on a carabiner clipped to a harness. And second, he shows us how to mule off a munter hitch that is clipped to a locker on a pre-equalized anchor.

The munter-mule is one of the most useful combination's that one can employ in any rock rescue scenario. It provides the basis for load transfers and for a number of other rescue techniques.

In the video, the climber refers to the mule knot as a slip knot...which it is, but the official name for what he is doing is the "mule."

It is important to watch how the climber releases the mule. He never takes his hand off the break strand. I believe that the most common mistake that people make in this particular setting is that they completely let go of the break strand as they jump their break hand up the strand and closer to the hitch. When you practice, be aware of this and be careful to avoid letting go of the break strand.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, June 21, 2010

UIAA Responds to Everest Age Restrictions

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

The UIAA welcomes China’s decision to ban people under 18 years of age from climbing Mount Everest.

According to press reports and climbing and trekking agencies in Nepal, the decision was taken on June 10 by the Lhasa-based Chinese Tibet Mountaineering Association (CTMA) - a branch of the Chinese Mountaineering Association, which is a UIAA Member.

The move was welcomed by the Nepal Mountaineering Association (NMA).

“While concerned about the restrictions on the freedom for exploration and human endeavour, the UIAA Access Commission applauds the actions of the CTMA and the NMA to protect minors by placing a lower age restriction on summiting Everest,” said commission president Clare Bond.

UIAA President, Mike Mortimer, also greeted the Chinese decision, saying young mountaineers lacked not only climbing “experience”, but also maturity.

However, Mortimer is critical of the maximum age of 60 set by the CTMA.

“The issue of an upper age limit would seem to be very arbitrary and should be of concern,” Mortimer said. “Many climbers over the age of 60 have safely climbed Everest and other high peaks. Although medical considerations might present problems, the older climber often has a wealth of experience missing from younger people.”

Climbing for all ages
For her part, Bond emphasises that the UIAA continues to “encourage the active participation of all ages and members of society in climbing and mountaineering and the freedom to participate in the sport and enjoy the mountains”.

President of the UIAA Youth Commission, Anne Arran, added: “Climbing Everest is a great challenge but not without risk and young climbers should not be pushed to undertake it.”

The UIAA co-ordinates around 10 youth events in the world’s mountains each year, and in 2011 plans to run a youth project in Nepal, which, according to Arran, will “focus on an exchange of mountain skills between countries and supporting environmental and sport development challenges relevant to youth in Nepal”.

China and CTMA
The CTMA is the official channel through which climbers must apply for permission to attempt peaks in Tibet.

According to Lindsay Griffin of the British Mountaineering Council (BMC) writing on the BMC website, it is not yet unconfirmed if these age restrictions will also apply to other high peaks on the Himalayan divide.

Griffin says “the decision has been made in the aftermath of (May’s) Everest ascent by 13-year-old Jordan Romero”.

“Nine years ago Nepali schoolboy Temba Tshiri became the youngest Everest summiteer at the age of 16 (and 17 days) but lost several toes and fingers to frostbite. This put pressure on the Nepalese government to ban young climbers, and in 2003 it set a minimum age of 16. However, there is currently no upper limit,” Griffin added.

“There do seem to be loopholes in the Chinese regulations. In exceptional circumstances the CTMA may issue a permit to a mountaineer outside the declared age range. Applications will be considered from climbers outside this age span if they can provide a medical certificate showing they are fit enough to make the ascent, though it is believed that this is most likely aimed at climbers over 60.”

The Super-Munter

In a serious rescue situation, it might be possible that you would have to lower an extreme weight down a rock face. For example, there is the possibility that you might have to lower two climbers, one cradling another one, or you might have to lower a climber and a litter. There are many ways to do this, but there is one really smooth technique.

The super-munter is a variation on the munter-hitch. It creates a tremendous amount of friction and doesn't have one of the main problems of the munter-hitch, it doesn't tangle the rope. Indeed, the action of the rope as it goes through the super-munter twists the rope and then twists it back.

Following is a short video on how to make a super-munter:

The super-munter creates a great deal of friction. I have never used this for a rescue, but occasionally I have lowered two climbers together with this who didn't feel comfortable rappelling. I've always found it to provide more than enough friction to deal with 400+ lbs of dead weight.

While it is unlikely that you will use this particular hitch very often, it is a valuable rescue tool to have in your back-pocket.

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, June 20, 2010

June and July Climbing Events

-- June 25-27 -- France -- Vibram Natural Games

-- June 25 -28 -- WA -- WTA Restoration Project

-- June 25 (Application Deadline) -- WA -- Mountain Stewards Project, Mt. Baker

-- July 7 -- Golden, CO -- Climbing in China

-- July 15-18 -- New River Gorge, WV -- HomoClimbtastic

--July 20 (Deadline) -- REEL ROCK Filmmaking Contest

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you Stoked!

Last week, I made my first real climbing tick list. For those of you who follow this blog, you may have realized that my climbing background was fairly limited to bouldering and sport climbing (until I started working here, that is). The list is quite long and it's just for the Cascades.

The Fifty Classic Climbs Of North America is a climbing guidebook and history written by Steve Roper and Allen Steck first published in 1979. (If you've never heard of this, click here to see it.)

Mark and Janelle Smiley have a pretty big goal: To be the first people to climb all of the routes on that list. No married couple has attempted such an endeavor to climb over 164,000 vertical feet of technical terrain on a road trip that will cover over 25,000 miles.

Kudos to them for making it happen. I hope to do the same (but for my list.)

Fifty Classic Climbs of North America from Mark Smiley on Vimeo.

Smileys Project Committed: Castleton Tower (1 of 50) from Mark Smiley on Vimeo.

-Dyan Padagas, Program Coordinator

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Problem with Rappel Back-Ups Off Modern Leg-Loops

Innovation in climbing equipment almost always leads to better and more effective gear. But it also leads to problems. This is why it is important for every climber to educate themselves about new equipment and gear as it comes out.

I recently was shocked to find a somewhat major problem with my brand new harness. I bought a harness with "fast-buckle" systems. These systems have been around for five years or so, but are becoming an increasingly popular system on harnesses. The fast-buckle is essentially a system that allows you climb into your harness and tighten it up. You don't need to double it back or anything, once it's been tightened, it's supposedly good.

I've always been concerned that these harnesses might cause people to forget to double themselves back if they use a "normal" harness after using a fast-buckle for a period of time. But such a concern is nowhere near as disturbing as what I found when playing with my new fast-buckle harness.

I discovered that the leg-loop can actually unbuckle itself if you clip your rappel back-up friction-hitch directly into it near the buckle. See the following picture for what not to do with your carabiner on your leg-loop.

Note the location of the carabiner on the buckle. If you actually had to use a rappel back-up
clipped to this carabiner, it could potentially cause the buckle to release. Do not do this.

The best thing to do with the friction-hitch back-up in order to avoid an unintentional unbuckling, is to clip it to the leg-loop near the crotch. The strap that goes up to the belay-loop will isolate the carabiner from the buckle and will not allow it to unbuckle.

A carabiner clipped into the appropriate place on a fast-buckle harness for a rappel back-up.

A climber set up to rappel properly with the carabiner to the back-up friction-hitch
clipped near the crotch.

Every new piece of equipment has a few bugs to work out and the fast-buckle harnesses are no exception. The problem is that a lack of knowledge on this particular issue could lead to an injury or a fatality. So spread the word far and wide. This is a great invention, but it's really only great if everyone knows its limitations.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, June 14, 2010

Saddlebags for Rappelling

Rappelling is always tricky. It is the most dangerous thing that we do in the mountains and there are a lot of things to worry about. Are the ropes touching the ground? Are you clipped in properly? How many rappels do you have to do? Should you knot the ends of the rope or not? Are there people coming up below? And will the rope hang up when you throw it?

This particular article is about the last two issues. Are there people climbing up from below and will the rope get hung up when it's thrown? If there are people below or the rope looks like its going to get hung up, then the best means of descent might be with saddlebags.
Saddlebags are essentially a means by which you can stack your rope in a sling and clip it to yourself so that it will easily feed out as you rappel down.

A climber sets up his saddlebag on the side of his harness.

In order to create a saddlebag for your rope:
  1. Center your rope on the rappel anchor.
  2. Coil the rope from the ends to the middle.
  3. Clip a single shoulder-length sling to your harness.
  4. Center the rope on the sling.
  5. Clip the other end of the sling to the carabiner already clipped to your harness.
  6. Put an extension on your rappel device.
  7. Add a back-up friction hitch to the double-ropes going through your device. This can be clipped directly to your belay loop if you are using an extension or to your leg-loop if you are rappelling directly off your harness.
  8. Rappel.
  9. If the rope gets tangled, unclip the carabiner that isn't clipped to your harness and allow the rope to fall down the cliff-face.
A climber rappels on an extension with a single saddlebag.

One of the best uses of this technique is to navigate low-angled terrain
where it might be difficult to throw the rope to the ground.

The term "saddlebags" is plural because you might have to manage a great deal of rope in a rappel. If you have to tie two ropes together to do a full-length rappel, then you should place one coil on one side of your body and the other coil on the other side of your body. In such a situation, you will have to rappel on an extension in order to effectively deal with the amount of rope on your body.

I regularly use this technique to deal with climbers below, low-angled terrain or wind. It is an easy and effective way to keep the rope from knocking someone down or becoming a mess...but like everything else, it takes practice to get it to work properly...

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, June 13, 2010

June and July Climbing Events

--June 2 - 4 -- Italy -- UIAA Safety Commission plenary session

-- June 3-6 -- Vail, CO -- US World Bouldering Cup

-- June 11-12 -- Colorado -- HERA Climb4Life

-- June 25-27 -- France -- Vibram Natural Games

-- June 25 -28 -- WA -- WTA Restoration Project

-- June 25 (Application Deadline) -- WA -- Mountain Stewards Project, Mt. Baker

-- July 7 -- Golden, CO -- Climbing in China

-- July 15-18 -- New River Gorge, WV -- HomoClimbtastic

--July 20 (Deadline) -- REEL ROCK Filmmaking Contest

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you stoked!

There is something to be said about local crags. Oftentimes, our backyards are composed of friable rock, sketchy bolts, and generally, they are sorry excuses for something to climb on. However, they still hold a special place in our hearts - our our "go-to" security blanket for after-work compulsions.

We all have one, right? And if we don't, well, there is always plastic, right?

Right! I can't make fun of the people in these videos. Maybe they live in the flattest, most desolate part of America, and this is all they have. So, props to them for being inventive. And stylish, too (those tights are kind of amazing). Plus, you can bring your kids.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Tent Melt-Out

When the spring is sprung and there is more rain and warmth than snow and cold, an odd thing starts to happen in the mountains around your tent. The bottom of the tent acts as an insulator or a blanket, keeping the snow cold. On overnight trips or short summit trips, you may not even notice this. But on longer trips, the warmer temperatures and the rain cause the snow to melt everywhere...everywhere except for under your tent.

Slowly your tent develops its own little pedestal. There are two problems with this. First, your tent-stakes will start to melt out and second, the edges of the insulated tent floor will begin to melt-out.In the snow, tent-stakes should be buried in a T-slot instead of buried vertically. Work-harden the snow to make sure that the stakes stay in place. If there is any metal showing from a stake, it becomes more likely that the stake will melt-out. Warmth radiates through metal. Making sure that a placement is solidly work-hardened will decrease the likelihood of a stake melting out in the short term.

When the snow underneath the tent starts to melt-out, it tends to do so from the edges. Over the course of a couple of days the melt-out will force the tent's occupants to cuddle more and more closely together. The sides of the tent become a trough, eating up all the extra equipment.

If you plan to camp in a given location for a longer period of time, the trick to avoiding problems is to pile snow all around your tent. Pile the snow heavily along the sides of the tent and over the snow-stakes. If the edges of the tent are well-covered, the problems that arise with longer camps become less prevalent.

A tent in the snow without additional snow piled-up to prevent melt-out

A tent that has a significant amount of snow piled around it so that it doesn't melt out on a warm day.

While this might not be the most technical tip that we've ever provided on this blog, stacking snow around your tent can certainly make your life a lot more pleasant.

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Climber Fatality on Denali's Cassin Ridge

AAI just received the following email from Denali National Park.

A 27-year-old Belgian mountaineer was killed in a fall while climbing the Cassin Ridge of Mt. McKinley in the early afternoon of Monday, June 7. Joris Van Reeth of Borgerhout, Belgium was leading a highly technical section of the route known as the Japanese Couloir when his anchor appeared to fail and he fell 100 feet in rocky terrain. Van Reeth fell to the approximate elevation of his partner Sam Van Brempt, age 24, who was positioned below him. Van Brempt was not injured, and after confirming that his friend had died in the fall, he used his satellite phone to call Denali National Park rescue personnel.

A climbing ranger was flown in the park helicopter to Van Brempt’s location at the 13,000-foot level to assess the terrain for a possible shorthaul rescue, although fog and clouds moved in before a rescue could be performed. While on the reconnaissance flight, the ranger had observed a second, unrelated team climbing on the route several hundred feet below the Belgian party. According to Van Brempt who called back via satellite phone later that night, two Japanese climbers reached him in the early evening and assisted Van Brempt in lowering Van Reeth’s body down to a safer location just above the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier at 11,500 feet. When weather permits, Denali mountaineering rangers will evacuate both Van Brempt and the remains of Van Reeth.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Pre-Equalized Anchors

Last summer I saw a family climbing on an American Death Triangle in Leavenworth. They were blissfully unaware of the danger of such a set-up and appeared to be even more unaware of pre-equlaized anchors. It's incredibly important to avoid the American Death Triangle. The term "death" isn't in there for nothing.

The American Death Triangle
Picture from the Chockstone Website

This entry is about pre-equalized anchors. The Canadian guide, Mike Barter has put together a variety of videos on youtube that are valuable to both the novice and the advanced climber alike. Following are three of his videos on pre-equalization. The first two are for novice anchor builders, and the third is for all those looking for a short-cut.

A Pre-Equalized Anchor
Photo from the ACMG Website

There is a little bit of controversy over pre-equalized anchors. Some feel that one leg of the anchor will get more force than another, which means that such an anchor could never be fully equalized. While there may be some truth to this concern, the impact on the anchor as a whole is minimal and professional climbing guides throughout the country are generally not concerned about it.

In this first video, Mike describes a sliding-x, followed by the basics of pre-equalization.

The following video takes what Mike just described to the next step. In this video he demonstrates a pre-equalized anchor off three pieces.

The stuff in the preceding video is quite rudimentary when it comes to anchor building and most advanced climbers have this skill dialed. It's important to practice a variety of anchors with legs that are a variety of different lengths. It's also important to practice building anchors with many pieces as well with only a few.

Speaking of building an anchor with only a small number of pieces, more advanced climbers that already have a strong understanding of their anchoring skills may find this next video a bit more valuable.

In this video, the guide provides a quick tip for keeping the power point high.

Practice makes perfect in every one of these techniques. So keep on practicing!

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Bolivia - Dispatch #9

Bolivia Trek and Climbing Program May 29 – June 19, 2010

Guides: Danny Uhlmann, Alasdair Turner, and Juan Churra

Climbers: Danny Griffith (Bellingham, WA), Alfred Kwok (Claremont, CA), Diccon Westworth (Sacramento, CA), Jim Bonadonna (Poughkeepsie, NY), Raymond Gregory (Marquette, MI), Nancy Burke (Dallas, TX), and Margen Burke-Karr (Missouri City, TX).

Danny called at 5:06 pm Bolivia and Eastern US time on Sunday, June 6th with the following dispatch:

This is Danny calling from our base camp in the Condoriri Valley.  Today after breakfast we made a fairly leisurely hike up to 17,000 on Pico [this was garbled but probably] Austria.  It was great weather once again and we had excellent views of the Altiplano, Lake Titicaca, Pequeño Alpamayo, and the other peaks that we are going to be climbing.  The route up is a rock and scree trail with no technical aspect to it.

We scouted the cabeza (face) of Condoriri for later in the week and reconfirmed that it’s a pretty dry this year with more crevasses open than normal.  It an inconvenience, not a danger, and it all looks passable.  We got up to the base of the couloir, and it looks fine.

Jim Bonadonna’s birthday is the 11th but we celebrated tonight because of the relatively short life-span of the cake that we got for him.  Waiting until today was fine, but waiting until his true birth day would not have worked well for the cake.  It was a total surprise for him.  We had candles and all.  He made a wish but wouldn’t tell us because that’s bad luck.  Hopefully he’ll get his wish.

Tomorrow we’ll get up at 8 and do some skills on the glacier and then go ice climbing.  Everyone is doing very well!  We’ll give you more news soon.  By for now.

June and July Climbing Events

--June 2 - 4 -- Italy -- UIAA Safety Commission plenary session

-- June 3-6 -- Vail, CO -- US World Bouldering Cup

--June 3 -- Boulder, CO -- Yosemite Project

-- June 11-12 -- Colorado -- HERA Climb4Life

-- June 25-27 -- France -- Vibram Natural Games

-- June 25 (Application Deadline) -- WA -- Mountain Stewards Project, Mt. Baker

-- July 7 -- Golden, CO -- Climbing in China

-- July 15-18 -- New River Gorge, WV -- HomoClimbtastic

--July 20 (Deadline) -- REEL ROCK Filmmaking Contest

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you stoked!

Have you read Steph Davis's book, High Infatuation?

The memory of reading this book is pretty vivid as far as book-remembering goes. This is probably because I read it two years ago on a plane ride from Chicago to Munich, and finished it in 6 hours without putting it down. I didn't even use the bathroom or eat. I don't think I've read any book in my adult life in one sitting like that.

Yes, it was that good. It's way too cliche to say a book is inspiring, but I'm going to do it anyway: this book was inspiring. Steph Davis's writing is open, beautiful, and candid. It's a wonderful conglomeration of climbing, travel, life, love, loss, gain, fear, and dogs. I encourage you to 1) enjoy these videos (that never get old in my opinion) and 2) check out her blog.

Steph Davis: So In Control from Prana Living on Vimeo.

Salathe Wall from steph davis on Vimeo.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Cerro Torre and Red Bolt - The Controversy Continues

In November of 2009, 19 year-old Dave Lama of Austria went to Patagonia's Cerro Torre to free climb it's famous and infamous Compressor Route (VI, 5.10, A2). Lama went with a large team from Europe that included a film crew and a group of guides. And the entire expedition was bankrolled by the climber's primary sponsor, Red Bull.

Due to weather and conditions, the team was unable to complete the ascent. But they were able to install sixty new bolts on the established route and to leave behind nearly 2,300 feet of fixed line. Needless to say, this was not a popular thing to do.

The Compressor Route is already an extremely controversial line. Indeed, it is arguably the most controversial bolted route in the world.

In 1970, Cesare Maestri climbed the route to prove that he could get to the top of the mountain. An earlier ascent made on a different line was seriously disputed in the climbing community. Maestri proved that he could get to the top of the mountain, but he did it with a "by-any-means-necessary" attitude. He and his team hauled an air compressor up the spire's southeast ridge and it was with this that they installed over 450 bolts. The air compressor remains frozen to the side of the mountain to this day.

It was Maestri's 1970 ascent that lead to serious debate in the climbing community about the use of bolts. In response to the ascent, high altitude climber Reinhold Messner wrote a famous essay entitled The Murder of the Impossible. In the essay, Messner laments the fact that modern climbers "carry their courage in a rucksack" and are all too willing to employ the easiest and least challenging solution to alpine problems.

The debate about Maestri's bolts on Cerro Torre never really cooled off. Though the route is heavily climbed, arguments for and against the route still rage in the climbing community. It was these arguments that lead to a series of attempts to climb the route bolt-free.

In 2007, Josh Wharton and Zack Smith got the closest to a near boltless ascent of the line. They avoided clipping bolts until the last four pitches where the weather forced them to either commit to the bolts or to descend. They chose to commit to the bolts, but felt that it was still reasonable to do the route without them.

The 2007 ascent turned cold opinions on the route into hot rhetoric. Not surprisingly, the debate may have become so heated in Patagonia at that time that there are rumors of fist fights over it.

It is also not surprising that Dave Lama's attempted ascent of the line in November hit the climbing community with such a sour taste. The question that must be asked is how could anyone who knows the history of the route condone the placement of new bolts? How could they leave thousands of feet of fixed line? How could they hold their head up after such a high profile debacle.

Extreme climber and filmmaker Will Gadd responded to the incident in a blog post by saying essentially that it was a 19 year-old looking for fame and fortune. And that at least some of the blame should be placed on the Austrian guides who rigged the wall specifically for the film crew to get the shots that they wanted. He writes:

I can imagine Lama arriving in Patagonia with a film crew, a few European guides (they are reportedly the ones who did the bolting for the film crew, the bolts weren't for Lama's climbing), and some bad weather. The Austrian guides want safe rigging for the film crew in the sketchy weather, bolts are safe, bad decisions are made in the interest of time. Lama may not even have really seen the repercussions of this; he's focused on climbing, not filming or rigging, and he's 19 so if an older guide is making decisions about safety and rigging he might just defer, or perhaps just not even get the issue (his statement shows he clearly doesn't get the issue actually). Still, as climber, you're responsible for what goes on on your trips. Lama is responsible for those bolts, and like it or not, so by extension are Red Bull and Lama's other sponsors.

Much of the climbing community is reacting specifically to Red Bull as a sponsor of the expedition. Supposedly there is a Red Bull boycott by climbers in Boulder and people have began to call the energy drink, "Red Bolt" or "Red Bullsh*t." This seems a little bit extreme, as Red Bull really had nothing to do with what actually happened on the expedition.

In response to Gadd's post and an article on the Alpinist website, a number of people angrily went off on the energy drink company. But one commenter on Gravsports hit the nail on the head when he wrote:

LOL. I'm sure Red Bull is shaking in their boots. Red Bull doesn't make money off people who follow this sort of thing. They make money off the "Extreme Dudes" who buy cases of the stuff to help overcome their morning hangovers, afternoon sleepiness and to add to their Vodka at night.

It seems incredibly unlikely that Red Bull is worried about climbers boycotting their product. While some outdoors people drink Red Bull, such individuals are probably not even a blip on the screen of their corporate radar. Indeed, it is likely that most people who drink the energy drink have never even heard of Cerro Torre or Dave Lama or bolting ethics or even of the word "alpinism."

No, instead the pressure should be on this young climber. He doesn't appear to understand that he did anything wrong and there is evidence that this might not be the first time such a thing has happened. It appears that he might have a hard time understanding climbing ethics. As he interacts with older and more experienced climbers -- particularly alpinists with strong anti-bolting views from North America -- the gravity of the situation will likely become more clear.

It would be terrible if this incident becomes a life-long blight on this young climber's career in the mountains. But there really is only one way to keep that from happening:

The kid's got to go and clean up after himself...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, June 3, 2010

NPS Alaska Awards $13 million in Contracts

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

ANCHORAGE – The National Park Service in Alaska has recently awarded more than $13 million in construction and other contracts from funding received through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed by Congress last year.

The three largest projects will result in major improvements in the front country of Denali National Park and Preserve. The park’s wastewater treatment lagoon will be replaced and its collection system will be rehabilitated. The $5.35 million project – awarded to Northstar Paving and Construction of Anchorage -- includes a new 100,000-gallon per day wastewater treatment facility to replace the lagoon.

A second project in the Denali front country will be a new emergency services and law enforcement facility will be built, replacing an aging dispatch office. The facility will provide heated and secure parking for multiple emergency vehicles and work space for the ranger staff, as well as house the park and regional communications center. An additional Denali project is the rehabilitation and replacement of a major utility system in the front country employee housing area. The work includes removing and replacing three large underground storage tanks and replacing with above-ground tanks; replacing electrical transformers with new, high-efficiency models; and the replacement of waterlines and waste water collection lines. The $7.49 million projects were awarded this month to Dawson Construction of Bellingham WA.

In Glacier Bay National Park, McGraw Custom Construction of Sitka was awarded a $539,600 contract to demolish and replace storage buildings used as boat, vehicle and equipment storage in winter months.

Seven NPS units in Alaska will benefit from energy audits funded by the Recovery Act funds. The audits will evaluate energy and water consumption, identify energy efficiency and renewable energy projects at the parks, and demonstrate to the visiting public the technologies and opportunities for sustainable management. The contract for $101,214 was awarded to Gable Associates of California.

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act appropriated $3 billion to the Department of the Interior. Of that amount, $750 million in funding goes to the National Park Service.

The ARRA funds are part of a stimulus package that is an important component of the President's plan to jumpstart the economy and put a down payment on addressing long-neglected challenges so the country can thrive in the 21st century. Under the ARRA, Interior is making an investment in conserving America's timeless treasures – our stunning natural landscapes, our monuments to liberty, the icons of our culture and heritage – while helping American families and their communities prosper again. Interior is also focusing on renewable energy projects, the needs of American Indians, employing youth and promoting community service.

“With its investments of Recovery Act funds, the Department of the Interior and its bureaus are putting people to work today to make improvements that will benefit the environment and the region for many years to come,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said.

Secretary Salazar has pledged unprecedented levels of transparency and accountability in the implementation of the Department’s economic recovery projects. The public will be able to follow the progress of each project on www.recovery.gov and on www.interior.gov/recovery. Secretary Salazar has appointed a Senior Advisor for Economic Recovery, Chris Henderson, and an Interior Economic Recovery Task Force to work closely with Interior’s Inspector General and ensure the recovery program is meeting the high standards for accountability, responsibility, and transparency set by President Obama.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

VOLUNTEERS NEEDED: Mountain Stewards Protect Mt. Baker ecosystems

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

Volunteers are needed to teach day hikers, backpackers and climbers on the three busiest Mt. Baker area trail systems: Heliotrope Ridge, Park Butte/Railroad Grade and Heather Meadows. As a Mountain Steward volunteer you will train in low-impact recreational skills, natural history and back country management. Volunteers work in the lower segments of the trails with fellow Mountain Stewards interacting with the public for three daytime shifts.

Qualifications: Volunteers must be 18 years or older with hiking and outdoor recreation skills.

Timeline: Volunteers attend training July 10 & 17 and commit to volunteer a total of three weekend days between July 24 – Sept. 12. An optional training for Heather Meadows volunteers is July 24.

Apply: Return the application by June 25. Applications are available at www.fs.fed.us/r6/mbs/volunteering/mtn_steward and can be emailed to brichey@fs.fed.us. Mail to Mt. Baker Ranger District, Mountain Stewards, 810 State Route 20, Sedro-Woolley, WA 98284, or fax to 360-856-1934. Call 360-854-2615 for more information.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Grizzly Bear Shot by Backpackers in Denali National Park

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

Two backpackers, a man and woman, encountered a grizzly bear Friday evening while hiking in the dense brush along the edge of Tattler Creek, which is at the west end of the Igloo Canyon, approximately 35 miles from park headquarters. The man, who was in the lead, drew a .45 caliber semi-automatic pistol when they heard a noise coming from the brush. When the bear emerged from the thicket and ran toward the other hiker, he fired approximately nine rounds in its general direction. The bear stopped, turned, and walked back into the brush, where it quickly disappeared from view.

The backpackers ran and hiked approximately 1-1/2 miles back to the road, where they encountered a National Park Service employee, who called in the incident to the park’s communication center and transported them to the Toklat Road Camp. A ranger there did a short preliminary interview with them at approximately 10:00 p.m. Because of the concern that a wounded bear was in the area, four backcountry units were immediately closed, and bus drivers were instructed to not drop off day hikers in the Igloo Canyon on Saturday.

Early Saturday morning rangers and wildlife technicians flew to Toklat via helicopter to conduct a secondary interview with the two backpackers. Afterwards they flew over Tattler Creek and all of side tributaries, very low at times, to determine if there was an active, wounded bear. No bears were seen during the overflight, and late in the afternoon three rangers hiked into the site. The bear was found dead in a willow thicket approximately 100 feet from the pistol casings at approximately 6:00 p.m. The bear’s body was transported via helicopter to a landing site on the park road and brought back to headquarters on Sunday, where park wildlife biologists are assisting with the investigation of the bear carcass. The backcountry units have been reopened.

The case is still under investigation, and the names of the backpackers are not being released at this time. Park wildlife biologists and rangers are trying to determine if there was a justification for shooting the animal. It is legal to carry a firearm in the former Mt. McKinley National Park portion of the park, but it is not legal to discharge it.

This is the first known instance of a grizzly bear being shot by a visitor in the wilderness portion of the park. The estimated grizzly bear population in the park north of the Alaska Range north is 300-350 animals.