Wednesday, November 30, 2011

International Mountain Day - Prize Update

On Saturday we are celebrating International Mountain Day in Bellingham.  We have had a lot of things developing for the event.

Just to remind people of what this is, we're doing a benefit for the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center with rock rescue clinics, an avalanche awareness seminar and a party. This is all happening on Saturday, December 3rd and you can get details on locations and times, here.

We have booked food (pizza and beer) for the evening event. We have also booked a acoustic musician (Quinton Rundell).  And we will be premiering the film, Fifty Years in the Mountains.

In addition to all of this, we will be having a raffle and an auction.  Raffle tickets are $5 each and they can be purchased any time.  If you purchase a ticket and are not on site to pick it up, then we will mail the prize to you.

Following is a list of donations for the raffle:

Mountain Gear - 4 $50 gift certificates
Stevens Pass - 4 day passes and 4 hats
Petzl - Snowracer Ice Axe ($95 value)
Julbo - Zebra Revolution Googles ($160 value)
Tendon Ropes - 30 meter ski rope ($100 value
American Alpine Institute - 2 T-shirts
American Alpine Institute - Ski Tune and Wax
American Alpine Institute - Splitboard or Snowshoe Rental
American Alpine Institute - $25 Shop Gift Certificate

We will be having an auction for five extremely valuable items.  Four of the items will be available for a silent auction and the last item will be available for a live auction.  Here is a list of the silent auction items:

Mountain Equipment UK - Firefox Shell Jacket
We have one male and one female version of the jacket.  These each have a value of $350.  The minimum bid will be $25 and will be in the silent auction.

Rab - Xenon Jacket
We have one male and one female version of the jacket. These each have a value of $225. The minimum bid will be $25 and will be in the silent auction.

And lastly from Hilliberg, we have a Nammatj 2GT tent that's green. This tent has a value of $685.  This will be the only item in the live auction and will have a minimum bid of $50. 

If you do not think you'll be able to attend the event, but would like to put down a bid on either the official silent auction items, or you would like to place a bid on the tent remotely, please call us at 360-671-1505.

--Jason D, Martin

Monday, November 28, 2011

An Accident and a Self-Rescue

Recently an amazing video was uploaded onto YouTube. And no, it has nothing to do with puppies or overweight cats. flash-mobs or kids hopped up on laughing gas. Nope, instead this one has to do with a climbing accident.

Brice and Ed were ascending a multi-pitch ice funnel when an avalanche struck, knocking them both from their positions. In the aftermath, Brice was fine, but Ed had a seriously broken ankle and a lacerated knee.  This video shows how the team successfully self-evacuates after the accident.

Brice and Ed did a great job. However, there is one moment in the film where the team could have clearly made a better decision. 

During Ed's rappels, there was no backup. Ed was rappelling with one hand while trying to protect himself with his other.  It would have been better if Ed had an autoblock on the rope, or if Brice were protecting him with a fireman's belay.  Had Ed slipped, this very bad situation could have become significantly worse.

Self-rescue is a difficult and often time-consuming process. But when bad things happen, we often don't have much of a choice.

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, November 27, 2011

November - December Events

-- November 29 -- Bellingham, WA -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- November 30 -- Seattle, WA -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- December 1 -- Seattle, WA -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- December 3 -- Bellingham, WA -- International Mountain Day

-- December 3 - 4 -- Olympia, WA -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- December 6 -- Tacoma, WA -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- December 7 - 8 -- North Bend, WA -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- December 10 -- Port Townsend, WA -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

Friday, November 25, 2011

Eye Protection on Long Expeditions

Anyone who has spent any time on a glacier when the sun is out, will tell you how fast their skin started to tan or burn.  The reflective nature of snow and ice greatly magnifies the suns power, and proper measures need to be taken to protect our skin and eyes from UV rays.  Putting on sunscreen and wearing sun glasses seems like basic common sense when the sun is out, however it is not as obvious when the clouds are overhead.  The fact is though, that even when the clouds are out, those damaging UV rays are still making their way through, and your chances of becoming snow blind or burning your skin is still high.  On long expeditions, the chance of you encountering bad weather and having to deal with variable conditions is almost a guarantee, and as such you should come prepared.

The author, rocking out his Spectron 4 shades in the bright light on Denali

This leaves you with a bit of a dilemma, seeing as sunglasses generally are made for when the sun is out, right?  Most sunglasses are just too dark to use when the clouds are out, making visibility even a bigger issue.  Julbo USA realizes this issue, and as such have created glacier glasses with much higher visible light transmission.  They use a lens system which range from Spectron 1 - 4, with the higher number eliminating more of the visible light.  They have even created a lens system, which they call Camel, that is photochromatic - meaning it transitions between two different lens categories depending on the amount of light available.

This feature however, can price some people out of these glasses, and personally, I choose another option anyway.  On long expeditions, I will bring 3 different sets of eye wear, for a variety of reason.  The first, is a pair of sunglasses that have Spectron 4 lenses, for those days that are bluebird and the sun is out shining.  The second pair, will have Spectron 3 lenses in it, and an anti-fog coating.  I tend to find that when I'm in a white out, there is a lot more heat and moisture and my glasses will fog up.  That is why it is most important to have an anti-fog coating on this pair.

The author, with his Spectron 3 glasses - preparing for when that fog rolls in.

My final pair, will be some goggles, with the highest visible light transmission possible.  If I have goggles on, it is probably because the weather is so terrible and the wind is blowing so hard, that I will need to be able to see as much as possible.  Smith Optics makes a great pair of lenses called the sensor mirror, which seem to increase contrast and really help with the flat light that can be found in a blizzard.

Smith goggles with the Sensor Mirror Lens.

The important thing to note, is that all of these glasses/lenses filter out 100% of UVA/UVB rays.  The amount of visible light that is transmitted is a completely different story, which is why you can still remain protected while altering your lens to the current conditions.  Additionally, you could very well get a pair of glasses with Spectron 3 lenses, and they would serve most all of your purposes.  I choose 3 pairs of eye protection because I like to have redundancy in this system.  If I, or someone else on my team, loses or breaks their glasses - there will be a back up pair.  I would rather carry the extra weight of a second pair of glasses, than go snow blind.

The author, covering up his skin and rocking a different pair of shades on the summit of Denali.

Let's not forget the most important reason to carry more than one pair of sunglasses however.  Sometimes it's nice to switch up your style while on the mountain!

--Andrew Yasso
Program & Expedition Coordinator

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Skiing Mount Baker

Spent the weekend about two weeks ago skiing around Mt. Baker.   The snow wasn't quite there yet. But it's there now.  Go get after it!

Photos from the Baker Ski Area back country...

Jason skiing rocks

American Dipper

Heliotrope Ridge...


Luna the super dog

Monday, November 21, 2011

Washington's North Cascades Highway Closed for the Season

The American Alpine Institute just received the following note from the Washington State Department of Transportation:

OKANOGAN – The gates are closed until spring on the North Cascades Highway. SR 20 was closed temporarily at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 15, in advance of heavy snow storms. When conditions and forecasts were reassessed early Monday morning, Nov. 21, maintenance and avalanche teams determined it wasn’t safe to attempt reopening the highway for Thanksgiving.

8” of new snow accumulated by noon today and the forecast calls for 4” more by this evening, 9” more overnight and as many as 16” Tuesday. Coupled with warming temperatures, those quickly-filling avalanche chutes won’t remain stable and it’s unsafe for either our crews or motorists to be under them.

Last year, the highway closed temporarily on Nov. 29 and two days later after a storm dropped 2’ of new snow, it closed until spring on Dec. 1. The 37-mile winter closure zone begins seven miles east of Diablo Dam at milepost 134 on the west side of Rainy Pass (elevation 4,855 feet) to nine miles west of Mazama at milepost 171 below Washington Pass (elevation 5,477 feet).

Last spring, the highway reopened May 23, marking the second latest in the highway’s 39-year history. SR 20 typically reopens between the last week in March and the first week in May. The earliest opening ever was March 10, 2005. In 1976, a drought year, it remained open all winter.

Visit the North Cascades web page: and the North Cascades Flickr - photo site: 

International Mountain Day Celebration - December 3, 2011

At the American Alpine Institute, we love mountains for their beauty and challenge, and for the livelihood they provide us as guides and outdoor educators. But there are ample reasons for flatlanders to love mountains as well. Mountain ranges function as engines of water production, provide habitat for game, and supply resources for industry. In view of the universal value of mountains, the United Nations established International Mountain Day to celebrate this shared natural heritage.

This year, we have decided to benefit the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center with our International Mountain Day activities.

The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center (NWAC) promotes safety by helping reduce the impacts of avalanches and adverse mountain weather on recreation, industry and transportation in Washington, and northern Oregon through data collection, mountain weather, avalanche forecasting and education.  

To achieve this mission, the Northwest Avalanche Center:

  • assists a variety of snow safety and snow maintenance programs by providing and analyzing useful weather, snow and avalanche data, and by producing and distributing a variety of mountain weather and avalanche forecast products.
  • assists backcountry travelers by providing current information on snowpack structure and avalanche danger, and by forecasting expected changes in snow and avalanche conditions.

The professional mountain meteorologists and avalanche specialists at NWAC are on duty from September through June, issuing twice-daily forecasts from about mid-November through mid-April and special statements as warranted in the early Fall and mid-late Spring.

You can develop your personal climbing skills, your avalanche awareness skills and help us to benefit this important cause by participating in our International Mountain Day events.

We will be offering two two-hour rock rescue clinics at the YMCA climbing wall in downtown Bellingham. The clinics will focus on the baseline skills required to perform a rescue in a high angle environment. We will be offering these from 11:30-1:30pm and from 2:00-4:00pm.
We will be offering an Avalanche Awareness Seminar and reception (with beer and pizza and music) in the evening at Allied Arts (next to the Old Pickford) in Bellingham.  Doors will open at 6pm, with the seminar starting at 7pm.  This seminar will be a short introduction to the skills required to safely and effectively move through the backcountry during the winter season.

At all events we will be selling raffle tickets ($5 per ticket) to raise money for the Northwest Avalanche Center.  

To learn more, click here

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, November 20, 2011

November - December Climbing Events

-- November 18-19 -- Minneapolis, MN -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- November 19 -- Little Rock, AR -- Little Rock Boulder Bash

-- November 19 -- Bishop, CA -- Buttermilks High Ball Work Day w/ John Long

-- November 20-21 -- Duluth, MN -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- November 21 -- Ellensburg, WA -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- November 22 -- Leavenworth, WA -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- November 25 -- Bellingham, WA -- AAI Equipment Shop Sale Begins

-- November 29 -- Bellingham, WA -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- November 30 -- Seattle, WA -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- December 1 -- Seattle, WA -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- December 3 -- Bellingham, WA -- International Mountain Day

-- December 3 - 4 -- Olympia, WA -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- December 6 -- Tacoma, WA -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- December 7 - 8 -- North Bend, WA -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- December 10 -- Port Townsend, WA -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!

Are you part of the 99%?

Occupy Mountains: Maxim Arsenault 2011 Segment from Dendrite Studios on Vimeo.

Mount Baker opened on Friday - were you there?
Here's a clip from earlier this week.

The good folks at Salomon Freeski TV also recently toured the PNW and had a chance to enjoy the new snow of the season as well.

Friday, November 18, 2011

25th Anniversary of the AORE Conference

At the beginning of November, I had the opportunity to attend the 25th annual AORE Conference in San Antonio, Texas.  For those of you that are not-in-the-know, AORE stands for the Association of Outdoor Recreation and Education.  Their mission is to...

...provide opportunities for professionals and students in the field of outdoor recreation and education to exchange information, promote the preservation and conservation of the natural environment, and address issues common to college, university, community, military, and other not-for-profit outdoor recreation and education programs.

As most of you know, the American Alpine Institute is both a climbing school and a guide service.  Our mission has always been to educate our climbers so that they can get out there to do things on their own. Additionally, our emphasis on education has always been broad enough to reach out and engage those who would like to become climbing guides, climbing instructors, and outdoor educators.

It only makes sense for us to be involved with a phenomenal organization like AORE.

I attended the AORE conference last year in Keystone, Colorado and found it to be an exciting and engaging event. So this year, I packed up my bags and made my way to San Antonio.  As my brother lives in Austin, I decided that I would make my way to the conference from there.

I had the opportunity to man a booth in the vendor hall for AAI, to present a lecture on how to become a mountain guide, to hold a career seminar, and to teach a class on multi-pitch rock rescue in Enchanted Rocks State Park.  Additonally, I attended seminars on legal issues in guiding, on field risk management and on indoor climbing wall certification.  There were literally dozens of seminars I would have liked to attend, but couldn't due to my other duties at the conference.

Here are a few of the seminars that I missed, that looked "super cool!"
  • Silo Ice Climbing - Techniques for creating your own outdoor ice park.
  • Getting Past the Cruxes of Planning Climbing Competitions and Events
  • Diversifying the Field of Outdoor Education - How organizations are trying to diversify outdoor pursuits and education.
  • The Ins and Outs of Environmental Sustainability in Outdoor Programming
  • Missing the Link: The Importance of Nature Education for City Parks and Recreation Departments
Of course these are things that interested me.  Many might be more interested in how to run a bike program at a university or through a bike guide service. Others might want to learn how to set-up a student program to a foreign location.  And yet others might want to talk about stand-up paddle boarding.  By my count there were around 130 different seminars, discussions or trainings that one could have taken at the event...

Following is a photo essay from the conference.  And from San Antonio, Enchanted Rock and Austin.

The Centerpiece of Any Tour of San Antonio is the Alamo

Out in front of the Alamo is a large white sculpture with many of the important figures of the battle carved into it.

Another not-to-be-missed element of San Antonio is the Riverwalk.

A Statue of San Antonio, a Catholic Saint the city was named after.

The Riverwalk is an incredible Venice-like experience. The San Antonio River runs right though the center of the city and numerous shops and restaurants populate the edges of the canal.

During one of the night socials for the students, professors and outdoor professionals, they brought in a mechanical bull to ride.  And now I can say from experience, that this is not a very easy thing to do.

I went out to Enchanted Rock State Park twice.  This is the nearest trad climbing area to both Austin and San Antonio.  The locals affectionately call it, E-Rock.

A lot of climbing areas really stand out when you approach them.  One usually crests a hill and then the angels start to sing as some steep face or beautiful pinnacle comes into view.  That is not the case with Enchanted Rock.  The crags are on the periphery of low angled -- but very cool -- granite domes.

The Main Dome at Enchanted Rock

Hikers and backpackers from all over come to Enchanted Rock to check out these strange low-angled domes.  But on my first trip there, I went to check it out for the rock rescue course I was supposed to teach later on.  That, and to climb.

I spent my first day at E-Rock alone.  I used my Ushba to complete a handful of toprope solo routes.

Most of the routes are found on boulders lying against the edges of the domes.  I did a handful of routes on the steeper face on the left-hand side of this picture.

A Self-Portrait while at a rest on Orange Peel (5.10a)

Most of the climbing is slabby with edges.  There are a few really fun cracks.  E-Rock is a really great climbing area!

 The Main Dome

 At the end of the event, I returned to Enchanted Rock to teach a multi-pitch rock rescue clinic.  Following are some photos from the clinic.


 I couldn't help myself. I had to take a picture of the backpackers pulling a cooler...

After the rock rescue seminar, I made my way back to Austin.  Which is a really cool city.  These photos are from a tour I did of Ladybird Lake and Barton Creek.

Yep, that says, Lets Pretend we are Robots. 
Click on photo for full image.

 More fun street art.
Click on photo for full image.

Barton Creek has a little bit of the Central Park Feel

I'm already looking forward to the AORE conference in 2012.  It looks like I'll be able to wax my skis up to meet all my new friends again in Snowbird!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Teacher Scholarships Available for Summer Courses in Denali National Park and Preserve

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

DENALI PARK, Alaska: With support from Alaska Geographic, the Murie Science and Learning Center is awarding scholarships to teachers for accredited trainings and seminars taking place in Denali National Park and Preserve. These field-based courses are small group intensives that expose teachers to science, research, and educational opportunities using Denali as their classroom.  Most courses are three days in length. Professional development credit (1-3 hours) is made available through the University of Alaska.  For additional information and an application please visit the Murie Science and Learning Center website at The application deadline is December 18, 2011.

The courses available for the 2012 scholarships are:

Teacher Trainings:
iMovie: Moviemaking and Podcasting in Denali (June 5-7)
Taking it Outside: Connecting Science, Writing, and Students (June 18-21)
Teaching about Climate Change (July 10-13)
Bears of Denali (July 31-August 2)

Field Seminars:
Birds of Denali (May 31-June 3)
Wolves and Dall Sheep: Denali’s Key Predator Prey Tale (June 8-10)
Denali’s BIG Five: Large Mammals in the Park (June 12-14)
High Country Wildflowers (June 15-17)
Denali Mosaic: Exploring Patterns of Plant Diversity (June 22-24)
Denali’s Changing Landscape: What Historic Photos Reveal (July 6-8)
Wildlife Tracking and Signs (July 13-15)
Geology of Denali (July 20-22)
The Science of Fly Fishing (July 28-29)
Glaciology: Backcountry Citizen Science (August 3-7)
Paleontology: Searching for Denali's Dinosaurs (August 9 - 12)
Wolves of Denali (August 14-16)
The Turning Tundra: How Plants & Animals Prepare for Winter (August 24-26)

The Murie Science and Learning Center is a collaboration among the National Park Service and several non-governmental partners. Alaska Geographic is a proud supporter of the center’s mission to provide research, discovery, and learning opportunities within northern Alaska National Parks to promote understanding, appreciation, and caring for our national and cultural heritage.  For additional information or questions email or call (907) 683-1269.

Additional park information is available on the park website at or by calling (907) 683-9532 between 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

Mountain Gear Announces New Friday Clinics at 2012 Red Rock Rendezvous Event in Las Vegas

The ninth annual Mountain Gear Presents: Red Rock Rendezvous (RRR) rock climbing festival, title sponsored by The North Face with support from the American Alpine Institute, will return to the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area near Las Vegas on March 30 through April 1, 2012. Registration started Monday, Nov. 1, and is limited to the first 1,000 registrants. For the 2012 RRR, Mountain Gear is adding Special Friday Clinics to the three-day event that include a range of outdoor activities and classes.

“We are excited to announce changes to Friday’s clinics for the 2012 Red Rock Rendezvous,” said Phil Bridgers, RRR event coordinator. “We will now be hosting intensive training clinics on Friday. These clinics are a great way to kick off the three-day event while focusing on gaining climbing, biking and wilderness skills in a fun and educational manner.”

Special Friday Clinics include:
  • Multiple pitch climbing for intermediate climbers 
  • Wilderness first aid – an eight-hour course to earn certification card
  • Warrior’s Way with author and climber Arno Ilgner
  • Map and compass class
  • Self-rescue rock rescue class
  • Intensive trail running
  • Half-day mountain biking clinic
  • UClimb’s Learn to Climb clinic for less experienced climbers and those who have never attempted the difficulty levels of the Red Rock Canyon. UClimb is designed to teach all ages how to rock climb in small-group settings with other amateur climbers. The full-day introduction clinics will teach climbing fundamentals to succeed at Red Rocks and other outdoor settings. 
The clinics will take place in an intimate clinic setting by professional guides who are also some of the world’s most accomplished climbers. UClimb participants will then be able to enjoy one full day and one half day throughout the weekend. There will also be an optional gear package that will include harness, helmet, shoes, belay device, carabineer, chalk bag and a membership to the Access Fund.

The festival also will offer clinics for advanced and intermediate climbers on Saturday and Sunday. Registration is $99 per person for the Saturday and Sunday events, and $179 per person for the Friday Learn to Climb clinic and Saturday and Sunday clinic combo (without the gear package). For $188, participants can have access to events for all three days.

For a complete list of registration packages and prices, visit
Registration includes the Friday night opening celebration, a dinner buffet on Saturday night, demos, comps and mini-seminars by event sponsors, slideshow and movie on Friday night, a blow-out party on Saturday night, pancake breakfast Sunday morning and service projects to assist in the environmental conservation of the Red Rock Canyon and Spring Mountain. 

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

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

For more information, call (800) 829-2009 or visit

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sport Safety

Recently we spent some time covering the dangers of backclipping.  Occasionally, when things don't seem to be going your way on a sport climb, you might want a little extra security aside from just clipping the draw correctly.

For extra security, one of the most obvious moves is to use a locking carabiner on your draw. This will ensure that you don't come unclipped.

Another extremely quick and easy tactic is to clip your draw in backwards (i.e. the tight end of the draw goes to the bolt) and then clip your rope through the loose end.  Once clipped, you can flip the rope carabiner over, thus making it nearly impossible to unclip.

Here's an example:

Note that the rope is still running over the spine.

I don't think one needs to do this on every bolt.  It doesn't provide that much additional security, but it provides enough that you might think about doing it before launching out onto a blank face with no idea where your next bolt is...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, November 14, 2011

A Quick Trip Up Ruth Mountain

A couple of weeks ago I did a trip to Ruth Mountain.  It was one of the more perfect fall days I have seen in the mountains.  The most incredible thing about this trip was the views of the North Cascades.  It is very clearly winter in the North Cascades.  October has in the past been my favorite time of the year to climb in the mountains.  There is already too much snow in many places.  

Hannegan Pass.

Flowers still peaking out of the snow.

Snow on the summer plants.

Bird in the snow.

Bear tracks at Hannegan Pass.

Skiers heading up to Ruth.

Mt. Shucksan in the distance.

Skiers on Ruth Mountain.

Wind patterns in the snow.

Perfect weather.

--Alasdair Turner, Instructor and Guide