Friday, September 30, 2011

American Alpine Institute Used Gear Sale - Today and Tomorrow!

The American Alpine Institute used gear sale is in full swing right now.  Here are a few pictures from the event:

The Ever-Popular Richard Riquelme

The Shop Basement is chocked full of great new and used equipment!

Want crampons or climbing gear cheap? We got it!

Hank and Stephen in front of the shop this morning.

Today, Friday, is day one of the two-day blow-out. Tomorrow will be even more exciting as AAI Guide Kurt Hicks will be doing climbing clinics adjacent to the sale, all day long!

--Jason D. Martin

Somethin' 'bout Nothin': Kelly Cordes on Alpinism

In the following video, climbing writer, former American Alpine Institute Guide and Patagonia product tester Kelly Cordes discusses his training techniques and his style of climbing. Cordes refers to his alpine climbing strategy as "disaster style."

Monday, September 26, 2011

Clinics and Gear Sale - Sept. 30-Oct. 1

Click on Image to Enlarge

The Equipment Shop at the American Alpine Institute in Bellingham will be having its huge, in-store new and used equipment sale on September 30th and October 1st.

Save up 60% on new in-store merchandise and up to 75% on used Rental Equipment. Get a raffle ticket for every $25 spent and win course vouchers of up to $750 and lots of other prizes!

In addition to the sale, AAI guides will be presenting free climbing clinics!

Following is the schedule:

Sale, Friday September 30th, 8-6

Sale and Free Clinics: Saturday, October 1st, 9 to 4 (Sale is officially 8 AM - 2PM, but may go longer)

9am - Crevasse Rescue Techniques

10:30am - Avalanche Beacon Search

12:00pm - Rock Rescue Techniques: Passing a Knot/Lowering an injured partner

1:30pm - Rock Rescue Techniques: Escaping the Belay

3:00pm - Crevasse Rescue Techniques

If you would like to attend one of the clinics, please contact us to sign up at either: or call the Equipment Shop at 360-671-1570.

Additional raffle tickets may be purchased to benefit both the American Safe Climbing Association and the North Cascades Institute.

The Equipment Shop at the American Alpine Institute is located at 1513 12th Street, Bellingham, WA, on the corner of 12th Avenue and Old Fairhaven Parkway.

Thanks for your support and see you there!

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, September 25, 2011

September - October Events

-- Sept 26 -- Seattle, WA -- Former AAI Guide speaking on Coffee

-- Sept 26 - Oct 1 -- Yosemite Valley, CA -- International Climbers' Meet 

-- Sept 30 - Leavenworth, WA -- Mt. Waddington Slide Show

-- Sept 30 - Oct 1 -- Bellingham, WA -- AAI Equipment Shop New and Used Gear Sale!!!

-- Oct 1 -- Portland, OR -- RBCC Meet and Greet Party

-- Oct 1 - Nov. 5 -- Various Southeast Locations -- Triple Crown Bouldering Comp

-- Oct 7 - 8 -- Seattle, WA -- Mountainfilm Tour

-- Oct 7 - 9 -- Red River Gorge, KY -- Rocktoberfest 

-- Oct 15 - 16 -- Tucson, AZ -- UClimb Event 

-- Oct 20 - 24 -- Las Vegas, NV -- Chicks Rock Fall Clinic

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!

The local boy is at it again! Northwest native Colin Haley is back in Chamonix for a triple: Skis on his feet, crampons on his feet and rock shoes on his feet - all in the same day.

Colin Haley in Chamonix from Bjarne Sahlen on Vimeo.

Have a great weekend!
James Pierson - Program Coordinator

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Denali Park Road Open to Mile 30 through September

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

The busy summer season has ended at Denali National Park and Preserve, and visitors can now drive private vehicles on the Denali Park Road as far as the Teklanika River Rest Area at Mile 30, weather permitting. Visitors are advised to call ahead for weather and road information, as conditions can change rapidly at this time of the year.

On Tuesday, September 20, a project to replace all culverts under the paved portion of the road, i.e. Mile 1 – 15, will begin. Visitors should expect minor traffic delays due to one lane traffic at several locations along that portion of the road.

Vault toilets will be available at the Mountain Vista Trailhead (Mile 12), Savage River parking area (Mile 15) and the Teklanika River Rest Area through September. Other park facilities west of headquarters, such as campgrounds and restrooms, are closed for the season.

Beginning on Saturday, October 1, the park road will be closed to vehicles beyond Park Headquarters (Mile 3) in order to replace the large culverts between there and the Savage River (Mile 15). Both lanes will need to be excavated due to the large size of the culverts, making sections of the road impassable by vehicle. The road will be available to pedestrians and bicyclists, but they will need to walk around construction sites and stay alert for trucks and other heavy equipment. The culvert replacement project is scheduled to continue until November 23, weather permitting. Work will resume in the spring.

On Wednesday, September 21 the Murie Science and Learning Center (MSLC) will begin functioning as the winter visitor center. The MSLC is open daily from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm to provide park information and backcountry permits.

The Bear Loop of the Riley Creek Campground at Mile 0.2 will remain open for camping, but the water has been turned off for the season. A vault toilet is provided for campers and water can be obtained at the Murie Science and Learning Center. Gas, food service and lodging are available in the communities of Healy and Cantwell.

Denali National Park and Preserve collects an entrance fee year-round. The entrance fee of $10 per person or $20 per vehicle is good for seven days. The majority of the money collected remains in the park to be 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 at the Murie Science and Learning Center.

Additional park information is available on the park website at or by calling (907) 683-9532 from 9:00 am – 4:00 pm daily. Stay connected with “DenaliNPS” on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and iTunes – links to these social media sites are available at

Rappelling Safety

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

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

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

I have recently started to experiment with tying the ends of the ropes off and clipping them to my harness.  In a multi-pitch rappel setting this decreases the likelihood of ropes getting stuck below the next belay station, as well as providing the security of a closed system.

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

Rappelling with a Prussik above the Device

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

A Prussik Hitch on a Rope

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

Note the autoblock coming off the climber's leg-loop.
Most people will put their hand on the autoblock hitch while rappelling.
You might notice that the backup in this scenario is on a non-locker. Generally, you don't need a locking carabiner for a back-up, but if you want more security, you can certainly use one.

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

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

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

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

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 19, 2011

Denali Park to Burn Debris Piles near Kantishna

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

Fire Management staff at Denali National Park and Preserve will burn piles of debris in Kantishna, at the western end of the Denali Park Road, beginning late evening on Monday, September 19 and continuing through Friday, September 23, conditions permitting. The debris pile is located in a gravel pit near the junction of Eureka Creek and the park road.

Smoke may be visible from the surrounding area and from aircraft. NPS Fire Management staff will be monitoring the burn on site, which is expected to last three to four days.  The material being burned is natural debris resulting from hazard fuel reduction treatment (fire protection) around structures, brushing along the park road, and from various park maintenance projects.

Additional park information can be obtained by calling (907) 683-9532 from 9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. daily or on the web at Stay connected with "DenaliNPS" on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Flickr, and iTunes – links to these social media sites are available at .

Route Finding: Magnetic Declination

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

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

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

The Compass Dude puts it a bit more succinctly:

Why are there two different poles? Good question!

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

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

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

Example of magnetic declination showing a compass needle
with a "positive" (or "easterly") variation from geographic north.
From Wikipedia
Modern compasses are designed in such a way that the declination may be set. If you adjust the compass properly allowing the arrow to line up, then you will get a reading which shows both where true north is as well as magnetic north.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, September 18, 2011

September - October Events

-- Sept 17-18 -- Pocatello, ID -- Pocatello Pump

--Sept 23 -- Golden, CO -- "Facets of Winter" Film Event

-- Sept 26 - Oct 1 -- Yosemite Valley, CA -- International Climbers' Meet

-- Sept 30 - Oct 1 -- Bellingham, WA -- AAI Equipment Shop New and Used Gear Sale!!!

-- Oct 1 -- Portland, OR -- RBCC Meet and Greet Party

-- Oct 1 - Nov. 5 -- Various Southeast Locations -- Triple Crown Bouldering Comp

-- Oct 7 - 8 -- Seattle, WA -- Mountainfilm Tour

-- Oct 7 - 9 -- Red River Gorge, KY -- Rocktoberfest 

-- Oct 15 - 16 -- Tucson, AZ -- UClimb Event

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!

I was up at Washington Pass last weekend, soaking up the sun before the seasons start to change too much.  One of the routes we did was the South West Buttress of South Early Winters Spire, a really fun 7 pitch 5.8 near the south end of the Liberty Bell Group near North Cascades National Park.  The Liberty Bell Group is composed primarily of 5 pillars - Liberty Bell, Concord Tower, Lexington Tower, North Early Winters Spire and South Early Winters Spire.  There are tons of great lines on the Liberty Bell Group, starting with beginner routes like the South Arete of South Early Winters Spire at 5.5.   Or maybe you are up to the challenge of Liberty Crack on Liberty Bell which was freed at 5.13a?  No matter what class you climb at, there is something for everyone in the Liberty Bell Group.

This area is one of my favorite climbing destinations.  So I though I would dedicate this Weekend Warrior to the Liberty Bell Group.  This first video gives you a great overview of the scenery and views from the area.  It's hard not to take a look around when you are dangling from a rope half-way between two of the peaks!

Tyrolean from Joel Reid on Vimeo.

This second video is from the Smiley's, a husband and wife team who climbed Liberty Crack last year in an attempt to climb all the routes from the book "50 Classic Climbs In North America."  You should definitely check them out.

Liberty Bell Mountain, Liberty Crack from Mark Smiley on Vimeo.

Have a great weekend!
-James Pierson, Program Coordinator

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bear Attacks

Some time ago we published a blog that dealt extensively with bear issues. We recently found this video and thought it might be a good comic supplement to that blog. Certainly this is nowhere near as extensive as the information that we originally presented, but it is funny:

To read the original blog on how to protect yourself from bears, click here.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Naming of Routes

Note: The following is a reprint. This article was first published online in 2008.

The naming of routes is a difficult matter,
it isn't just one of those holiday games;
You may think at first that I'm as mad as a hatter
when I tell you a route must have the most perfect of names.

When a climber makes a first ascent he or she secures a great honor. The climber claims the right to name the route. This honor has led to some very interesting names over the years. Following are ten of my favorites:
  1. Tammy Baker's Face (5.10c - Smith Rocks)
  2. Magical Chrome Plated Semi-Automatic Nuclear Enema Syringe (5.6 - Lumpy Ridge)
  3. A Dream of Wild Turkey's (5.10a - Red Rock Canyon)
  4. Meat Grinder (5.10 - Leavenworth - Yes, it's a crack climb...)
  5. Unimpeachible Groping (5.10c - Red Rock Canyon - Yes, this was put up in the late 90's.)
  6. Candy Colored Tangerine Flake Streamlined Baby (5.10c - Joshua Tree - Now called Illusion Dweller)
  7. Deck Chairs on the Titanic (5.9+ - Brown Cloud Rocks)
  8. Let them Eat Flake (5.12a - Reimer's Ranch)
  9. Be Sharp or Be Flat (5.10x - Catherdral Ledge)
  10. Smear Campaign (5.8 - Red Rock - Yes, it's slabby.)
There's a lot to the preceding route names. Some are intentionally funny, whereas others are descriptive. Some give you an idea of what was going on in the world when the route was put up and others give you an idea of what was going on in the first ascentionist's head when he did the route. The real art of naming a route exists in those names that are creative, funny and descriptive all at once.

A climber working out the moves on a previously unclimbed route.
This route became The Good Boy Scout (5.11a) on the Boy Scout Cliff.

I have had the opportunity to put up a number of routes over the years. Early on, I was primarily interested in giving routes funny names like Stuffed Animals on Prozac, Amish Girls Gone Wild and Don't Touch That in Front of Grandma.

As I got older, I decided that themes on walls were more important than individual names. I authored a new route next to a number of routes with the word "soup" in the name and called it Soup Nazi. There is a popular beginner and intermediate area in Red Rock Canyon called the Panty Wall. Every route on that wall are named after some form of underwear. My first ascents there are respectfully called Granny Panties and Tighty Whities.

Last year I had the opportunity to develop a new crag which we called, the Hamlet. Every route name on the wall is lifted from or is a literary allusion to Shakespeare's Hamlet. Routes on the wall include the likes of Goodnight Sweet Prince, The Play's the Thing, The Rest is Silence, and When the Blood Burns.

Back when I was putting up a lot of new routes I was always looking for name inspiration. That's part of the reason that I picked an easy subject for the development of the Hamlet. Recently I have discovered a new inspiration. I have two babies. One is seventeen-months old and the other is five-months old. I've repeatedly found that the things I say to the babies could make for some very funny route names. Here are a few examples:
  1. Time for a New Diaper (Definately for a scary route.)
  2. Don't Go Crying to Mommy (This route would have to be hard.)
  3. It's Jammy Time (This should be a climb that requires a lot of jamming.)
  4. Big Girls Don't Throw Oatmeal (or soup, or spinach, or pizza, there could be a whole wall.)
  5. No Bubblebath for Bad Babies (Probably a hard sport route that requires days of practice working on the route before it is able to be climbed.)
Anything and everything in life could potentially lead to a good route name. Indeed, perhaps the naming of the route is the easy part. Finding and climbing a new line is the real challenge, as well as the real adventure.

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, September 11, 2011

September & October Events

--Sept 15th -- Boulder, CO -- Reel Rock Film Tour

-- Sept 15-18 -- Salt Lake City -- HERA Climb4Life

-- Sept 17-18 -- Pocatello, ID -- Pocatello Pump

--Sept 23 -- Golden, CO -- "Facets of Winter" Film Event

-- Sept 26 - Oct 1 -- Yosemite Valley, CA -- International Climbers' Meet

-- Sept 30 - Oct 1 -- Bellingham, WA -- AAI Equipment Shop New and Used Gear Sale!!!

-- Oct 1 -- Portland, OR -- RBCC Meet and Greet Party

-- Oct 1 - Nov. 5 -- Various Southeast Locations -- Triple Crown Bouldering Comp

-- Oct 7 - 8 -- Seattle, WA -- Mountainfilm Tour

-- Oct 7 - 9 -- Red River Gorge, KY -- Rocktoberfest 

-- Oct 15 - 16 -- Tucson, AZ -- UClimb Event

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we have been graced with some great climbing weather these past few weeks, and the forecast looks like it will continue for at least a little while longer.  With such nice weather, there has been a lot of great climbing going on around here.  This first clip is from a Labor Day ascent of Forbidden Peak, a great climb here in the North Cascades.

But I know there are some of you, yes an awesome, crazy few of you out there, who are looking forward to a change in the weather.  You can hardly wait for the cold to come, the snow to start flying and that magical, wonderful ice to start forming.  I didn't forget about you out there - I have a little something for you too.  Here is a newly released edit of the highlights from this year's Ice Climbing World Cup in Saas Fee, Switzerland.  Hopefully this will feed your icy need for a little bit.

Have a great weekend!
--James Pierson, Program Coordinator

Friday, September 9, 2011

Insect Repellent

It's late summer in the Cascades, which means that it's bug season. Sometimes it comes a little before July, sometimes a little after, but this year it came right smack dab in the middle. And it's still here. Racking up at the Blue Lake Trailhead parking lot for a climb in Washington Pass is near suicidal this time of year, as the bugs can seriously ravage you in minutes if you don't start hiking as soon as you step out of the car. You can however, take some preventative measures. Sure you can cover as much skin as possible by wearing pants, long socks and long sleeves, but it sure is hot out and your face, neck, and hands are still exposed. The next thought is, bug spray.

There are many repellent options out there, some which are just down right ridiculous (ultrasound based electronics) and others which may spark arguments among friends. Personally, I find it is an argument (or at least a discussion) starter when I whip out the 100% DEET. Personally, I have found nothing that works more effectively and universally than DEET 100%. Some may recommend that you try products such as Deep Woods OFF which is made up of a mixture of 25% DEET and 75% who knows what. What I find people generally do, is use these compressed aerosol can mixtures and spray copious amounts of repellent all over themselves. The result of this is that they get the same, if not more DEET on them than if they used a more concentrated version sparingly, as well as 75% more of whatever else was in the can.

I choose to use the 100% DEET version and place perhaps one spray pumps worth, or a couple of drops, on my hands and rub the chemical on my exposed skin. Most companies say 100% DEET will last around 10 hours, and I think that's about right, but it doesn't matter because you will know when its effectiveness stops (it's rather dramatic). There are arguments against DEET, such as it discolors skin, decomposes synthetic fabrics and can cause seizures. There have even been four deaths which the EPA says DEET may have played a part in. However the number of reported cases lead the EPA to say that the likely seizure rate is only one in one million users, and I feel like my chance of contracting West Nile Virus, Malaria, Lyme disease, or the bubonic plague is much greater than one in one million. Not to mention the complications of those diseases are generally much worse than seizures.

There are other options besides DEET however, and I suppose I should mention those at least briefly. Avon Products produces a "Skin So Soft" line that contains the chemical IR3535 and some tests have shown that it is just as effective as DEET (if not better), at least when it comes to repelling mosquitoes. I think that this is probably the next best option and what I would try if I took the time to shop around for this product.

"Avon Skin So Soft Bug Gaurd Plus IR3535 Gentle Breeze SPF 30 Sunscreen with Aloe and Vitaman E." Man, I just want to keep the bugs away... not moisturize.

And then there are natural options, which honestly I'm not going to bother discussing. I have never used a single natural product that did anything more than make me smell delicious to koalas. You are more than welcome to experiment with these options, however I encourage you to have some anti-itch cream on hand as well.

Andrew Yasso - Program Coordinator

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Denali National Park to Increase Mountaineering Fee

Well, we knew this was coming:

Denali National Park and Preserve recently concluded a multi-year public engagement process regarding a proposed increase to the Special Use Fee that directly supports management of climbing activities on Mt. McKinley and Mt. Foraker.

After a lengthy examination of current program costs, analysis of public comment, and collaboration with national climbing organizations, Denali National Park and Preserve will increase its Mountaineering Use Fee from $200 to $250 for youth ages 24 and under, and $350 for all other Mt. McKinley and Mt. Foraker climbers. The fee increase will go into effect for the 2012 mountaineering season. In future years, fees will be adjusted periodically based on actual costs, not to exceed changes in the cumulative consumer price index.

Denali National Park's mountaineering special use fee was established in 1995 when the National Park Service (NPS) was charged with developing a program to reduce the accident rate and loss of human life on Mt. McKinley and Mt. Foraker. At that time, an NPS regulatory notice announced that a $150 fee per climber would be used to "help offset mountaineering administrative costs associated with prepositioning and maintaining the high-altitude ranger camp at 14,200-feet on the West Buttress route, mountaineering patrol salaries, education materials aimed at reducing the number of accidents, transportation of supplies." Over the years, the fee has also enabled the park to start and sustain effective human waste and garbage management programs on Mt. McKinley.

Despite a 2005 increase in the fee from $150 to $200, fee revenue covered only 17% of the cost of this specialized program in 2010, whereas the fee initially covered approximately 30% of the cost. Climber numbers over the past decade have remained essentially flat, as has NPS staffing. Excluding costs of the high altitude helicopter portion of the program, operational expenses have gone up significantly, due mainly to inflation.

In an effort to find a more sustainable funding model, park management began informal discussions in 2006 with leadership from the American Alpine Club, the Access Fund, and the American Mountain Guides Association, as well as park concessioners and other stakeholders in the climbing community. In October 2010, the park formally initiated a proposal to increase the fee.

The public was invited to comment on the proposal last year during a formal public comment period. During that period, five public open houses were held in Alaska, Washington, and Colorado as a forum for park staff to present information on the program and answer questions. Almost 500 public comments were submitted, the majority of which indicated they would support some aspect of a climbing fee increase, as long as the increase was reasonable and equitable. Other comments submitted called for the elimination of the use fee altogether, while at the opposite end of the spectrum, several comments suggested full cost recovery including a fee increase up to $1,500 per climber.

According to Park Superintendent Paul Anderson, "Mountain climbing represents a longstanding tradition at Denali National Park dating back to the first ascent of Mt. McKinley in 1913. Climbing fulfills one of our park's fundamental purposes. As such, we are committed to sharing in the cost of the program and continuing to allocate appropriate levels of the park's base funding to the climbing program."

Based on input collected during the public process, the National Park Service has determined to implement a basic fee increase from $200 to $350, as well as a discounted fee of $250 for all climbers age 24 and younger. This recommendation supports both NPS and Department of the Interior youth initiatives and responds to public concerns about the potential impact of fee increases on young and less affluent climbers, students, and families.

In a statement by Phil Powers, Executive Director of the American Alpine Club said, "This is an example of the kind of considered process that results in policy we can support. I want to applaud Paul Anderson and the National Park Service for opening up their process and listening to the concerns of the climbing community."

Superintendent Anderson indicated the park's mountaineering program will strive to institute many of the suggestions for operational efficiencies gathered during the public process. "We are grateful to the various climbing organizations for investing significant time and resources into learning more about Denali's climbing program, and for helping to inform the general public."

For additional information on the mountaineering program or cost recovery special use fee visit the park website. Contact South District Ranger John Leonard for questions about the fee at (907) 733-9105 or by email. Media inquiries should be directed to Public Affairs Officer Kris Fister at (907) 683-9583 or by email.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Marking Your Gear

The Facebook post was incredibly embarrassing. "It looked like a crime scene," my wife wrote. "An entire bottle of blood red nail polish spilled from the kitchen counter top, all down the cabinet door, and ending in a 3-foot spray across the tile floor. Who could have created such a mess? My 2-year old? My 3-year old?"

I could imagine her smile as she typed the next line for all of her friends to see. " was my husband! And it was HIS nail polish."

Yes, I admit it.

It was MY nail polish. And yes, I did spill it everywhere. But in my defense, I was using it to mark my climbing gear...which is exactly what I wrote in response to her post. But that didn't stop the good-natured ribbing.

When the accident took place, I was trying to update all of my gear with the latest in gear marking technology, nail polish. Most of my climbing friends and nearly all of the guides at the American Alpine Institute long ago moved away from multi-colored tape on hardware and toward the use of nail polish.

Both of the carabiners in this photo have been marked for about the same amount of time.
The carabiner on the left has nail polish painted in strategic location. Whereas the carabiner
on the right has electrical tape on the spine. Clearly the tape did not hold up as well as the polish.

In the past, each of my carabiners had two strips of electrical tape around the spine. One strip was black and one was red. The dual colors helped to keep them from getting mixed up with other people's gear. The problem with the tape though is that it wears off. It starts to fall off in a sticky mess, creating micro-trash in the mountains.

To keep the nail polish from rubbing off, I try to paint it on near the hinge at the base of the gate and next to the nose. Because these areas are mildly inset, ropes and rocks don't tend to rub as much and the paint markings stays on for a long time.

It is also possible to mark cams and stoppers with nail polish dots in strategic locations. Look for a spot where your dots will not be easily scraped off, but where you can see them without too much trouble.

I put two dots on each of my cams. My colors are red and black. It's always
good to mark your gear with more than one color.

It is important to note that I still have multi-colored electrical tape on my slings, over the stitching. You definitely would NOT want to put nail polish onto a soft good like a sling. While I don't know exactly what's inside nail polish, I can only assume that the chemicals would have a negative and perhaps even dangerous impact on the material.

Those who swap partners a lot should really play it safe. Protect yourself. Mark it carefully and you'll lose less of it. Mark it poorly and your gear will slowly migrate away to your partners racks...

Jason D. Martin

Sunday, September 4, 2011

September and October Events

-- Sept 2-5 -- Penticton, BC -- Skaha Climbing Festival

-- Sept 9-11 -- Gower Penninsula, UK -- Gower Climbing Festival

--Sept 10 -- Index, WA -- Craggin Classic

-- Sept 10 -- Hamilton, MT -- Lost Horse Climbing Festival

--Sept 15th -- Boulder, CO -- Reel Rock Film Tour

-- Sept 15-18 -- Salt Lake City -- HERA Climb4Life

-- Sept 17-18 -- Pocatello, ID -- Pocatello Pump

--Sept 23 -- Golden, CO -- "Facets of Winter" Film Event

-- Sept 26 - Oct 1 -- Yosemite Valley, CA -- International Climbers' Meet

-- Sept 30 - Oct 1 -- Bellingham, WA -- AAI Equipment Shop New & Used Gear Sale!!!

--Oct 1 -- Portland, OR -- RBCC Meet and Greet Party

--Oct 1 - Nov. 5 -- Various Southeast Locations -- Triple Crown Bouldering Comp

--Oct 7 - 8 -- Seattle, WA -- Mountainfilm Tour

--October 7 - 9 -- Red River Gorge, KY -- Rocktoberfest

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!

Here's a new clip from Chuck Fryberger and Rock & Ice's new film, The Scene.  In it, Chris Sharma shares what it's like to play a part in the climbing scene in Spain and the adventure that he finds while sport climbing.  For more info on the film, the tours, and how to buy a DVD...visit

The Scene: Chris Sharma from Rock & Ice on Vimeo.

So what is your "scene" like?  Do you go to the gym weekly and crush plastic with all your friends?  Or are you and your buddy the only climbers in your town and you go out every weekend in search of new, hidden local gems?  Or is your scene something completely different?  Tell us more in the comments below.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Sea to Summit: Ruth Mountain

"I want to ski Mount Baker."


"In a day," Andrew said. "And I want to bike there to do it."

Riding to the mountain and skiing it seemed reasonable to me. I'm not really much of a cyclist. I ride to work and use my bike for exercise sometimes. But I don't have tight bike shorts and it seems like everyone who does passes me on the road like I'm standing still. But even without speedy shorts, it still seemed like riding up to the mountain and skiing it was reasonable.

Doing it in a day however, seemed a little extreme.

But then Randall Nordfors arrived. Nordfords rode 58 miles from Bellingham to the Mount Shuksan Trailhead. He climbed the peak via Fisher Chimneys, then traversed over to Mount Baker, climbed the Park Headwall, and descended the Coleman Glacier. From the parking lot he rode back to Bellingham. His entire adventure was 33 hours and 29 minutes long. It involved 15 volunteers, four hired hands, and two-years of meticulous planning.

I'm no Randall Nordfors. I'm not that fit. Nordfors is a real athlete, a cyclist and a runner. I'm a mountain guide that bikes from here to there sometimes.

So I came up with my own plan, a plan that included no volunteers, and about an hour of planning. I wasn't going to do Baker on a bike in a day. Instead, I wanted to see what it would be like to do something a little easier. How about Ruth Mountain?

I've guided Ruth Mountain (or Mount Ruth) four times. It's a pleasant beginner peak with a small glacier on its flanks. But the views are absolutely stellar. The whole way up the mountain one can see Mount Shuksan. As you get higher, Mount Baker, Mount Slesse, Glacier Peak and the Northern Pickets all come into view.

So on Friday, August 25th, I left work at 2pm. By 2:30, I was on my bike, pulling the kids cart full of gear up the Mount Baker Highway.

My Commuter Bike with Kid Cart filled with 30lbs of Gear just before Departure

I rode from Bellingham to Glacier (approximately 33 miles) in about three hours. That felt like an okay speed with a heavy cart. I stopped in Glacier for dinner and then continued my journey up the highway.

The first of many self portraits on the trip.

The next eighteen miles from Bellingham to the Hannegan Pass Trailhead were quite a bit slower. On that stretch I gained 2,500 feet. It took me two hours and forty-five minutes from Glacier to make the trailhead and my camp. The total approach on the bike was fifty-one miles and the total elevation gain was 3,000 feet.

Mount Shuksan at Sunset from the Hannegan Road
Note: Click on Photos to see in larger format

I arrived at camp at about 9pm. I quickly put up my tent and went to sleep. The following morning, I woke up at 4am and was hiking by 4:15.

The first views of Ruth Mountain from the Hannegan Pass Trail.

Another Self Portrait, this one at Hannegan Pass

In order to go faster on the trail, I elected to wear approach shoes until I reached the Pass. From there I switched into boots.

Mount Shuksan is one of the most photographed mountains in the world.
Here is a shot of the peak with the morning alpenglow.

As the sun came up and I got higher, the views just got better.
The tower on the left-side of the peak is the Nooksack Tower.
The central glacier is the Price. And the steep slope on the right is the North Face.

The ugliest part of an ascent of Ruth Mountain is the infamous Ruth Track.
This mud and root track gains 500 feet of elevation in a quarter of a mile. It is not pleasant.

Ruth Mountain

A Self Portrait Moving up the Mountain

Mount Baker from Ruth Mountain

Me, trying to be artsy.

Mount Shuksan and Mount Baker from near the Summit of Ruth

Me, on the summit!
After traveling 56 miles and gaining 7000 feet of elevation, I stood on the summit of Ruth Mountain at 8:15am. It took me exactly four hours from camp to summit the mountain.

The total time, without breaks and sleeping, from Bellingham to the summit was 9 hours and 45 minutes. I don't believe that this was any kind of speed record, but I was proud to have made the ascent.

Relaxing on the summit.

U.S, Geological Survey Benchmark on the Summit

The Hannegan Trail in the late summer is extremely buggy. This helped expedite my descent. I was back at my bike by 11:00am.

Repacked for the Ride Home

The ride home wasn't super fast. I took two longish breaks on the way home. I took an hour for lunch at a restaurant in Glacier and then another half-hour in Deming. I arrived at my house at approximately 5:30pm. The total time from house-to-house was 27 hours on the nose.

So this adventure was by no means as big as Mr. Nordfors'. But it was big for me. Prior to this, I'd never toured on a bike, pulling my gear and I'd never done any kind of dual adventure like that. So it was an experiment more than anything else. When I was done, I was definitely tired, but it was clear to me that I could have done a bit more too...

So skiing Baker in a day with a bike approach might be feasible. I'm just going to have to do more of this kind of stuff to find out if it's feasible for me...

--Jason D. Martin