Monday, October 31, 2011

The Haunted Hut of Ecuador

The Whymper Hut on Chimborazo

The hut keepers won't sleep in the Whymper Hut on Chimborazo. For them it's not a myth or a legend. It's a fact.

The Whymper Hut is haunted.

The hut keepers all have ghost stories about the place. They've all seen something in there. They've all felt something. Maybe it was nothing more than a candle inexplicably blowing out. Maybe it was nothing more than a door blowing shut. Maybe it was nothing. Or maybe it actually was something. They're certainly convinced.

It's not terribly surprising. Chimborazo is a dangerous mountain. Since its first ascent in 1880, this mountain has seen thousands of ascents and hundreds of fatalities. Many of those who died on the mountain have been stored in the empty third story of the hut. South Americans are superstitious and for them ghosts are simply a part of life. For them, a place that has been used as a morgue is no place to be when it is dark.

One of the stories goes something like this. A hut keeper was alone in the kitchen. There were no climbers there. He was washing dishes. Suddenly he felt something. It was like someone was watching him. But when he looked around there was no one there.

He went back to washing his dishes.

A moment later, somebody slapped him on the back. Whomever it was slapped him hard...so hard that it left a red mark in the shape of a hand on his skin. But there was still no one there. The young man immediately ran from the hut. After he got outside and into the freezing wind, he fell to his knees.

And threw up.

A lot.
Memorial Stones on Chimborazo
Another story goes like this. A hut keeper was sleeping in a bunk. The bunks in the hut are nothing more than wooden platforms where people lay out their sleeping bags and pads. The hut keeper was sound asleep when somebody grabbed the foot of his sleeping bag and dragged him from his slumber and onto the ground. It couldn't have been comfortable... One moment you're asleep and the next you've been pulled from your bed and thrown onto the wooden floor.

I suppose that the hut keeper could have simply rolled over and fallen out of bed. I suppose that happens a lot. But if he supposed anything, he supposed that the ghost of a dead climber dragged him from his sleep and onto the floor. He supposed that the climber wished to bring him with him into the next world.

And my favorite story of the group, goes like this...

An Ecuadorian guide and his client were alone in the hut. The guide told the client that they would wake up at one in the morning to start their climb. At midnight, somebody wearing an old school yellow one-piece Gore-Tex suit quietly came over to the guide's bunk and sat down on it. The climber never looked at the guide. Instead, he began to put on his boots.

"What are you doing?" the guide asked. "It's only midnight. Go back to sleep."

Without looking at the guide, the climber got up and walked away.

An hour later, the guide's client appeared wearing black pants and a red jacket. "What happened to the one-piece suit?" the guide asked.

"What are you talking about? I don't have a one-piece suit."

"But you were wearing a yellow one-piece Gore-Tex suit when you got up an hour ago."

"I didn't get up an hour ago," the client responded. "I only just woke up."



--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, October 30, 2011

November - December Events


-- November 3 -- Seattle, WA -- Snowbash

-- November 5 -- Dark Horse -- Newburyport, MA -- Bouldering Comp

--November 5 -- Victoria, BC -- Reel Rock Film Tour

--November 9 -- Fort Collins, CO --  Reel Rock Film Tour



-- November 11 -- Great Falls, MT -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- November 12 -- Red Rock, NV -- Coffee with a Ranger

-- November 12 -- Hillsborough, NJ -- Adopt-a-Boulder

-- November 12-13 -- Jailhouse Rock, CA -- Jailhouse Rock Adopt-a-Crag

-- November 13 -- Seattle, WA -- Northwest Snow and Avalanche Summit

-- November 15-16 -- Kalispell, MT -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- November 15 -- Bellingham, WA -- Reel Rock Film Tour

-- November 16 -- North Vancouver, BC -- Reel Rock Film Tour 


-- November 17 -- Collegville, MN -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- November 17 -- Portland, OR -- Steph Davis Clinic and Slide Show

-- 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 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 - 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, October 29, 2011

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

With "All Hallows Eve" right around the corner, I thought it only fitting for this weekend's videos to feature the thing that scares climbers the most - falling. Luckily, none of the climbers shown here were seriously hurt, but there are some pretty tense moments in these clips, so hold on to your seat. Muhahaha!








Friday, October 28, 2011

Backclipping!

Backclipping is one of the most common mistakes that beginning level leaders make. This is the process of misclipping a quickdraw so that the rope does not run smoothly out of the top of the carabiner, but instead runs behind the gate. If a leader falls with the rope clipped in such an orientation, it is possible that the rope could become unclipped.

This diagram from Spadout.com shows an incorrectly clipped rope
and how it may become unclipped in the event of a fall. Click on the photo for a larger image.
This image from Greatoutdoors.com shows the proper way that a rope should be clipped.
Note that the rope runs out of the top of the carabiner and over the spine.

It is quite common for those that are learning -- and even some of those that have been climbing for a long time -- not to recognize a backclipped carabiner. It is important for both leaders and belayers alike to be able to easily recognize an incorrectly clipped draw. It is also important to quickly correct this once it is recognized.

One of the best ways to avoid backclipping is to practice the art of clipping a rope into a draw. Climbers should be able to do this with both hands, regardless of the direction of the gate. This is a great technique to practice while vegging in front of the television. If you can wire it at home, then your muscles will remember how to do it and will do it right.

The following video provides a quick lesson on clipping a rope to a draw. Be sure to obtain real instruction from a live person before doing this in an environment that has consequences...



--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Terror or Rockfall!

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

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



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



Is it completely possible to avoid rockfall?

No.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jason D. Martin

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October - November Events

-- October 10 -- Logan, UT -- Radical Reels

-- October 11 -- New York, NY -- Gasherbrum II: The Hardest Way – 8000 Meters in Winter

-- October 12 -- Olympia, WA -- Whimsical Dreams: The Skiing Life

-- October 13 -- Sandpoint, ID -- Radical Reels

-- October 13 -- Seattle, WA -- Whimsical Dreams: The Skiing Life

-- October 14 -- Berkley, CA -- Mountain Hardwear Crag Clean-up

-- October 14 -- San Francisco, CA -- Planet Granite Bloc Party

-- October 14-15 -- Albuquerque, NM -- Yank-and-Yard on Yale

-- October 14-16 -- Indian Creek, UT -- Indian Creek Volunteer Day

-- October 15 -- Bozeman, MT -- Radical Reels

-- October 15 -- Breckenridge, CO -- Life on the Vertical

-- October 15 -- Zion National Park, UT -- Zion Canyon Access Project

-- October 15 -- Golden, CO -- Golden Cliffs Adopt-a-Crag

-- October 15 -- Boulder, CO -- Castle Rock Improvements

-- October 16 -- Hudson, WI -- Willow River Adopt-a-Crag

-- October 17 -- Fort Collins, CO -- Life on the Vertical

-- October 18 -- Bozeman, MT -- Life on the Vertical

-- October 22 -- Boise, ID -- Black Cliffs Cleanup and Climb

-- October 22 -- Boston, MA -- Black Light Bouldering Bash

-- October 28 -- Manchester, NH -- Vertical Nightmare

-- October 29 -- Durango, CO - Rock the X

-- October 29 -- Sandstone, MN -- Robinson Park/Banning State Park Adopt-a-Crag

-- October 29 -- Malibu, CA -- Malibu Creek Climber's Clean-Up

-- November 3 -- Seattle, WA -- Snowbash

-- November 5 -- Dark Horse -- Newburyport, MA -- Bouldering Comp

-- November 11 -- Great Falls, MT -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- November 12 -- Red Rock, NV -- Coffee with a Ranger

-- November 12 -- Hillsborough, NJ -- Adopt-a-Boulder

-- November 12-13 -- Jailhouse Rock, CA -- Jailhouse Rock Adopt-a-Crag

-- November 13 -- Seattle, WA -- Northwest Snow and Avalanche Summit

-- November 15-16 -- Kalispell, MT -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- November 15 -- Bellingham, WA -- Reel Rock Film Tour

-- November 17 -- Collegville, MN -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

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

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

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

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

The mountain film season has been excellent so far, and this clip is no exception. After premiering in Denver back in mid-September, it made it's rounds through the state before heading towards the Northwest. With a stop in Vancouver, BC, tonight and a showing in Seattle later this week, it has started it's tour down the coast. This is definitely one not to miss.



Have a great weekend!

Friday, October 21, 2011

Guided Climbing Threatened in the National Parks



Some National Parks are not fans of guided access for the public that would like to experience a park with a guide.  Unfortunately, there are a few individuals in these parks that don't see the value of such an experience.

Leigh Goldberg, the Access Director at the American Mountain Guides Association, has drafted the following letter:

The National Park Service wants to ban guided climbing and prohibit members of the public from being able to climb with a professional guide in one of our country's most adventurous wilderness climbing areas. This is a national threat, which could set a debilitating precedent for guided climbing access in National Parks across the country. We are requesting your urgent support to help preserve guided climbing access in the Black Canyon as well as in other National Parks the U.S.

Here is how you can help:

Send an email to Ken_Stahlnecker@nps.gov today using the talking points below. Our goal is to have 500 people (who are not guides) contact Ken Stahlnecker opposing the Park's plan to ban guided climbing in the Black Canyon and urging the Park to preserve guiding climbing access in this unique venue.

Dear Ken Stahlnecker,
Chief, Resource Stewardship and Science
National Park Service,
Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park

I am writing to urge you to keep guided climbing access available to the American public. Along with Yosemite National Park and Red Rocks National Conservation Area, the Black Canyon is one of only a few climbing venues in the country offering big wall climbing opportunities. There is often a scarcity of willing and adequate climbing partners to tackle the bold and remote terrain of the Black. Because climbing requires a team of two unless one is free soloing, my options for experiencing this unique wilderness area will be substantially reduced or eliminated altogether if guided climbing is banned in the Inner Canyon Zone.

Having the option to climb with a professional guide is necessary for me to be able to experience the vertical wilderness in the Black Canyon. Partnering with a professional guide will enhance my opportunity for an experience of adventure, challenge and self-reliance. I see no difference between climbing with a professional guide and climbing with a non-guide partner who happens to be stronger or more experienced than me. It is not uncommon for climbing partners to be of varying levels of experience. Climbing successfully in the Black always requires the self-reliance, commitment and personal fortitude of both climbing partners regardless of their varying experience levels.

Thank you for the opportunity to provide my opinion on this important matter.
--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The East Baker Lake Trail

During the summer I had two adventures that were different for me.  The first was a backpacking trip with my (then) two-year old and three-year old.  The second was a bike-to-summit trip up to Ruth Mountain.

Both adventures, being quite different from my normal lets go climbing type trip, were quite memorable. My kids hiked the first 1.6 miles of the East Baker Lake Trail, and I made an ascent of a mountain completely by human power.

I've been thinking about both adventures since completing them.  I want to take my kids on a longer backpacking trip, and I want to complete more human powered adventures.  So I decided to combine these two interests. On a beautiful October Saturday, I decided that I would park my car at the North end of Baker lake, ride my bike to the south end on the west side and then hike back on the east side.  This would be approximately 15 miles on a bike and 15 miles on foot...

The idea was to check out the whole trail to see if perhaps next summer I might be able to backpack the whole thing with my - still quite young - children.  I wanted to check out the camps and make sure that there weren't too many drop-offs on the trail and make sure that the whole thing was kid friendly.

And it mostly is, except for a brushy section in the middle.

Here is a photo essay from my trip:

The bike tour in the morning started with a lot of fog and moisture.

A blurry self-portrait 

 Baker Lake is a reservoir. Here you can see the remnants of old trees from before
the creation of the reservoir.
 Mt. Blum above Baker Lake

 The lush forest on the south end of the trail.

Mt. Baker reflected on Baker Lake

Silver Creek

Another Beautiful Creek

A far more leafy trail on the north end of the trail.

The Baker River

A very cool suspension bridge over the Baker River 
on the north end of the East Baker Lake Trail.

--Jason D. Martin


Monday, October 17, 2011

Denali Overflights Advisory Council Meeting in Anchorage

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

Denali Park, Alaska: The tenth meeting of the Denali National Park Aircraft Overflights Advisory Council is taking place on Friday, October 28 from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at the Marriott Residence Inn Midtown, located on 1025 E. 35th Avenue, Anchorage, Alaska.

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

Information on the Advisory Council can be found at
http://www.nps.gov/dena/parkmgmt/currentprojects.htm.

Information on Denali's 2006 Backcountry Management Plan is located at
http://www.nps.gov/dena/parkmgmt/gmp.htm.

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

--Jason D. Martin

Route Profile: Johnny Vegas

Johnny Vegas is an extremely popular, extremely cool little route that can be found on the lower tier of the Solar Slab Wall in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. This phenomenal 5.6 or 5.7 route (depending on who you talk to) climbs up through three enjoyable pitches, all of which are in a spectacular position.

A father and daughter team low on Johnny Vegas.
Photo by Jason Martin

This is a slightly older route. It was put up in 1994, but didn't make it into a guidebook until 2000. The result is that this super classic line was overlooked for a six full years.

In 1999, I was climbing Beulah's Book, a classic 5.9 found just to the left, when I saw a rock jock leading a 5.10 variation to Johnny Vegas. I looked down to see an older man with a very small frame encouraging his much younger partner on. The belayer was none-other than the iconic Red Rock climber, George Uriosite.

A happy climber on the second pitch.
Photo by Jason Martin

George and his ex-wife Joanne were Red Rock pioneers. They were responsible for dozens and dozens of classic lines throughout the park. It was very cool to meet such an important person in the history of Red Rock. And everytime I've run into him since has been just as great.

It was also cool to see those guys on a route that I knew nothing about. So I thought it was important as a Vegas local to get on that thing as soon as possible. The very next day my partner and I returned to the Solar Slab area to make an ascent of Johnny Vegas. And we were incredibly happy that we did.

A climber nearing the top of the route.
Photo by Jason Martin

Since that first time on the route, I've climbed the line dozens and dozens of times. There are a few little things that people should know before sending Johnny Vegas:
  1. Purists will say that the route is four pitches, not three. Indeed, super purists might even call it five pitches. It is three real pitches. Sometimes people make a tiny pitch to attain the base of the route. And there is a long stretch of 5.0 climbing at the top of the route.
  2. Some guidebooks say to rappel this route. It is a rope eating nightmare. It is far better to rappel the nearby Solar Slab Gully.
  3. There are two starts to the bottom of the route. If a party is going very slow on the right hand start, some may elect to pass them on the left.
  4. The bottom of the route goes into the shade in the winter from approximately 10am to noon. When it's cold in the shade, this can make the route very very chilly.
  5. This has become a super popular route. Make sure to get up early!
--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, October 16, 2011

October - November Events

-- October 10 -- Logan, UT -- Radical Reels

-- October 11 -- New York, NY -- Gasherbrum II: The Hardest Way – 8000 Meters in Winter

-- October 12 -- Olympia, WA -- Whimsical Dreams: The Skiing Life

-- October 13 -- Sandpoint, ID -- Radical Reels

-- October 13 -- Seattle, WA -- Whimsical Dreams: The Skiing Life

-- October 14 -- Berkley, CA -- Mountain Hardwear Crag Clean-up

-- October 14 -- San Francisco, CA -- Planet Granite Bloc Party

-- October 14-15 -- Albuquerque, NM -- Yank-and-Yard on Yale

-- October 14-16 -- Indian Creek, UT -- Indian Creek Volunteer Day

-- October 15 -- Bozeman, MT -- Radical Reels

-- October 15 -- Breckenridge, CO -- Life on the Vertical

-- October 15 -- Zion National Park, UT -- Zion Canyon Access Project

-- October 15 -- Golden, CO -- Golden Cliffs Adopt-a-Crag

-- October 15 -- Boulder, CO -- Castle Rock Improvements

-- October 16 -- Hudson, WI -- Willow River Adopt-a-Crag

-- October 17 -- Fort Collins, CO -- Life on the Vertical

-- October 18 -- Bozeman, MT -- Life on the Vertical

-- October 22 -- Boise, ID -- Black Cliffs Cleanup and Climb

-- October 22 -- Boston, MA -- Black Light Bouldering Bash

-- October 28 -- Manchester, NH -- Vertical Nightmare

-- October 29 -- Durango, CO - Rock the X

-- October 29 -- Sandstone, MN -- Robinson Park/Banning State Park Adopt-a-Crag

-- October 29 -- Malibu, CA -- Malibu Creek Climber's Clean-Up

-- November 3 -- Seattle, WA -- Snowbash

-- November 5 -- Dark Horse -- Newburyport, MA -- Bouldering Comp

-- November 11 -- Great Falls, MT -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- November 12 -- Red Rock, NV -- Coffee with a Ranger

-- November 12 -- Hillsborough, NJ -- Adopt-a-Boulder

-- November 12-13 -- Jailhouse Rock, CA -- Jailhouse Rock Adopt-a-Crag

-- November 13 -- Seattle, WA -- Northwest Snow and Avalanche Summit

-- November 15-16 -- Kalispell, MT -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- November 15 -- Bellingham, WA -- Radical Reels

-- November 17 -- Collegville, MN -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

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

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

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

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

While this first video may not necessarily get you Stoked, it is still something spectacular to watch. It is footage of a 150' - 200' tall sea-side cliff in North Cornwall, UK, collapsing due to wind and sea erosion at the base of it.




The second clip, is another 1-in-a-million situation caught on camera: a mountain biker in Africa has an unlikley encounter with the local wildlife.



So here is some Stoke for you! With the new snow forecasted to fall in the mountains this weekend, I am sure many of you have started thinking about getting your skis and boards waxed up in anticipation.



Have a great weekend!
James Pierson, Program Coordinator

Friday, October 14, 2011

DIY Leashless Ice Tool Tether/Umbilical

With more and more climbers going "leashless" these days, companies like Black Diamond have a large enough market to make a product like their Spinner Leash profitable. However, before you go out and drop $49.95 on a manufactured leash, don't forget that people have been making them at home for years. Here is one way to do it...


Materials:
  • 12 feet of 1/2 inch webbing
  • 1.5 feet of 1/2 inch webbing (different color than above)
  • 12 feet 1/8 inch elastic shock cord
  • 3/8 inch swivel or bigger
  • 2 carabiners or Spring Snaps
Take the 12 feet of webbing, put one end in your hand and stretch it out to full extension. At your farthest reach, pull the middle of the webbing to your waist.

Take double this length (plus a little extra if you need room for error, like me) and cut it.


Cut the elastic shock cord to mimic the length of the webbing. Open up the webbing and insert the shock cord into the webbing until it is all the way in. If your webbing is closed or "melted" at the end, just cut a little behind the tip and it will be easier to open up. Be patient, putting the cord inside the webbing takes time.


After the cord is inside the webbing, feed the swivel onto the cord until it is exactly in the middle and tie an overhand knot.


Stretch the shock cord 6-12 inches out of the webbing so the webbing bunches up, and tie a knot in the shock cord to hold it in place.


Here comes the tricky part; tie an overhand on a bite in the end of the webbing so that when the swivel is attached to your harness and the overhand is clipped to your tool, you can fully stretch without the webbing becoming taught. I do not have a great way to explain how to do this, or how to measure in advance, except to say I messed up two or three times. That is why it is nice to have extra webbing/shock cord, and then just cut off the excess. If you are using spring snaps, make sure to feed them on the webbing and incorporate these into the overhand knot.


The shock cord is running inside of the knot, which is what holds it in place. Repeat this process on the opposite side. With the smaller piece of different colored webbing, tie a sling using a water knot to the opposite side of the swivel. This piece of webbing will not have any shock cord in it.

Attach the umbilical to your harness by girth hitching the small sling to your tie in points.


Attach the two ends by clipping a carabiner that fits into the bottom holes of your ice tools. If you attached spring snaps, use those instead of the carabiners. If you don't have holes at the bottom of your tools, get creative.

And there you have it, pretty awesome, homemade leashless tool umbilicals! Homemade gear always tastes... err.. works better right!?


A few notes regarding design:
  • Two colored webbing is not necessary, it's just nice to be able to distinguish between the separate pieces of the umbilical quickly.
  • If you are using spring snaps, make sure these fit in the bottom of your tool.
  • You can really use anything to connect these to your tools, from small plastic carabiners to key chain rings.
  • This took me about an hour to do, including an initial failed attempt.
  • Buying "12" feet of webbing is not necessary, you could measure the amount you need in store and purchase only that amount. I estimated 12 feet because I figured only a giant would need more than that.
  • You can use a lighter to melt the ends of the webbing back together so they don't fray. Kids ask your parents for help.
A few notes regarding safety:
  • These umbilicals are not meant to be used as a personal anchor system or as a "back-up" while placing a screw. They are not load bearing.
  • I used two small, C.A.M.P Nano 23 carabiners to attach to my tools. If you use any kind of attachment method that isn't "full-strength" make sure they don't accidentally get used on your rack. While they may be heavier, I opted for full-strength carabiners to avoid any mistake.
  • Notice where I girth hitched the blue piece of webbing, to my two tie-in points. If you girth hitch anything to your harness, be it a sling, daisy chain, or umbilical, do it to your tie-in points. Girth hitching to your belay loop limits its ability to rotate, which is important for reducing wear on one specific part of the loop. A good rood of thumb is that all soft goods should be attached to the tie-in points, and hard goods clipped to the belay loop.
  • Over time, I found that I prefer to actually clip these to my belay loop, instead of girth hitching.  Clipping allows me to remove it quickly with gloves, and is worth the little extra weight in my opinion.
Let me know if you try to make your own and have any improvements to my directions or materials. I would love to hear your feedback! I'm pretty excited that I did this at the end of the season, right when they are no longer necessary.... Wait, our ice season isn't over in the North Cascades! If I went out and climbed the North Ridge of Mount Baker I could get a ton of ice climbing in during the summer season! It's a good thing our Alpine Ice courses take people to the North side and climb that route. Make yourself a pair of these and come climb with us!

-Andrew Yasso, Alaska Range Program Coordinator and Guide

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Climbing Allocation Comment Period Extended

The American Alpine Institute just received the following email:

In response to requests, the National Park Service is extending the public comment period for the Climbing Allocation for Mount McKinley Environmental Assessment (EA) through Monday, October 31, 2011.  The extension will ensure that the public has adequate time to comment on the allocation of climbing permits between commercial guided climbing operators and independent, non-guided climbers on Mount McKinley.

The EA for this issue is entitled “Climbing Allocation for Mount McKinley.”  It is available at the NPS planning website at http://parkplanning.nps.gov.

Comments may be submitted online at http://parkplanning.nps.gov, faxed to (907) 683-9612, or mailed to the address below:
                 Superintendent
                 Denali National Park and Preserve
                 ATTN:  Climbing Allocation EA
                 P.O. Box 9
                 Denali Park, AK  99755

For additional information about the about the EA, or if you need a hard copy, please contact Paula Homan, Project Planning Lead, at (907) 683-6223 or paula_homan@nps.gov or Martha Armington, Project Lead, at (907) 683-9529 or martha_armington@nps.gov.

Over the last ten years there has been a major shift on Denali.  More and more people wish to go with a guide. In 2010 49.1% of the climbers on the mountain wanted to climb the mountain with a guide.

If the park limits the number of guided climbers on the mountain, literally half of the guides who currently work there will not have access to work on the mountain.  And literally hundreds of people who wish to climb Denali with a guide will not be able to do so.

If you are interested in learning more about this, please feel free to give me a call at 360-671-1505.

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Climbing with Kids is Great!


 A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to observe Single Pitch Instructor Candidates work with three kids.  The kids were ages seven, nine and twelve, and were extremely excited about climbing.

Following is a photo essay of our day out:

Ethan, working on his belay techniques.

Ethan, helping his little sister Ella, tie-in.

Ella, ready to make it happen!

Ella, cranking on low-fifth terrain.

Ella, on her way down.

Ethan, belaying his sister.

Single Pitch Instructor, Ryan, working with Ethan.

Ryan, working with Ethan on rappel.

Ethan, rapping.

Rebbeca, on rappel!

Twelve-year old Rebecca, cranking on 5.10c.

This was a very cool experience for the SPI Candidates to have. Many people who work in the single pitch discipline work with kids a great deal, so it was a grand experience for them to work with these awesome kids.

At the end of the day, the kids were happy and five new individuals had passed their AMGA Single Pitch Instructor exam.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, October 10, 2011

An Ascent of Mount Baker - Awesome Video!

Every now and again one of our climbers does something creative with their experience.  Jefferson Morris joined us for a trip up Mount Baker's Coleman-Deming route this summer and made an absolutely spectacular video on his ascent.

Check it out, below:



--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, October 9, 2011

October and November Events

-- October 10 -- Logan, UT -- Radical Reels

-- October 11 -- New York, NY -- Gasherbrum II: The Hardest Way – 8000 Meters in Winter

-- October 12 -- Olympia, WA -- Whimsical Dreams: The Skiing Life

-- October 13 -- Sandpoint, ID -- Radical Reels 

-- October 13 -- Seattle, WA -- Whimsical Dreams: The Skiing Life

-- October 14 -- Berkley, CA -- Mountain Hardwear Crag Clean-up 

-- October 14 -- San Francisco, CA -- Planet Granite Bloc Party

-- October 14-15 -- Albuquerque, NM -- Yank-and-Yard on Yale

-- October 14-16 -- Indian Creek, UT -- Indian Creek Volunteer Day

-- October 15 -- Bozeman, MT -- Radical Reels

-- October 15 -- Breckenridge, CO -- Life on the Vertical

-- October 15 -- Zion National Park, UT -- Zion Canyon Access Project

-- October 15 -- Golden, CO -- Golden Cliffs Adopt-a-Crag

-- October 15 -- Boulder, CO -- Castle Rock Improvements

-- October 16 -- Hudson, WI -- Willow River Adopt-a-Crag

-- October 17 -- Fort Collins, CO -- Life on the Vertical

-- October 18 -- Bozeman, MT -- Life on the Vertical

-- October 22 -- Boise, ID -- Black Cliffs Cleanup and Climb

-- October 22 -- Boston, MA -- Black Light Bouldering Bash

-- October 28 -- Manchester, NH -- Vertical Nightmare

-- October 29 -- Durango, CO - Rock the X

-- October 29 -- Sandstone, MN -- Robinson Park/Banning State Park Adopt-a-Crag

-- October 29 -- Malibu, CA -- Malibu Creek Climber's Clean-Up

-- November 3 -- Seattle, WA -- Snowbash

-- November 5 -- Dark Horse -- Newburyport, MA -- Bouldering Comp

-- November 11 -- Great Falls, MT -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- November 12 -- Red Rock, NV -- Coffee with a Ranger

-- November 12 -- Hillsborough, NJ -- Adopt-a-Boulder

-- November 12-13 -- Jailhouse Rock, CA -- Jailhouse Rock Adopt-a-Crag

-- November 13 -- Seattle, WA -- Northwest Snow and Avalanche Summit

-- November 15-16 -- Kalispell, MT -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

-- November 15 -- Bellingham, WA -- Radical Reels

-- November 17 -- Collegville, MN -- Banff Mountain Film Festival

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

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

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




Saturday, October 8, 2011

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!

Here's another look at a couple more outdoor films coming your way this season.



This second clip is an inspiration and a reminder to live life to the fullest. Look for the full film later this fall.



Have a great weekend!

Friday, October 7, 2011

That Thing Called Twitter

When I first heard about Twitter, I thought it was dumb.

Outdoor social media guru, Sara Lingafelter, (also known as rock climber girl, after her extremely popular blog, RockClimberGirl.com) came to visit us in 2009. At that time she introduced us to the art of tweeting.

We started slow.  Really slow.

But we got some tweets out there are started to get a few followers.

And in an email to the guides, I even wrote, "we're on twitter now.  So if you're interested, check out @AlpineInstitute, but if you don't know what Twitter is, don't worry about it.  It's kinda' stupid.

My initial response was more due to the fact that some people use Twitter to announce things to the world that don't matter.  I could care less if your grocery cart has a squeeky wheel.  And I definitely don't care if the person next to you on the bus smells bad...

But then I discovered that Twitter can be fun and useful.  This became especially true when we discovered some of the best "Twitterbugs" out there.

Here is a list of some of our favorites:

Climbing Gear Shops:

@AAI_Shop - Yep, that's our gear shop, chocked full of equipment specialists that work with our guides to understand the strengths and weaknesses of every type of outdoor equipment that we use!

Climbing, Skiing, and Mountaineering News:

The following is a list of the best of the best when it comes to climbing and skiing news:

@AmericanAlpine, @AlpinistMag, @ClimbingMag, @SkiingMag, @OutsideMagazine, @YosemiteNews, @rockandice, @GrippedMagazine, @BackpackerMag, @AccessFund, @MtRescueAssoc, @UIAAMountains, @supertopo

National Park,  National Forest and BLM News and Information:


@NPCA -- This is the National Parks Conservation Association. They provide a great overview of National Parks issues.

Here are some other important twitterfeeds from land managers that regularly concern climbers and skiers:

@DenaliNPS, @JoshuaTreeNP, @BLM_Nevada, @GrandTetonNPS, @YosemiteNPS, @SequioaKingsNPS, @WrangellStENPS, @AlaskaNPS, @NCascadesNPS, @OkaWenNF, @BlackCanyonNPS, @ZionNPS, @ParksCanada

Hodgepodge of Others that We Like:

@Jetboil, @ArcTeryx, @OspreyPacks, @MtneersBooks, @ConservationNW, @SharpEndBooks, @MetoliousClimb, @CascadeClimbers, @UCMAG, @Petzl, @AMGAUSA, @ExtremeSurvival, @RichLouv, @NWF, @Wilderness, @PowderMagazine, @5Ten, @K8tlevy, @SARblip, @backpacknews, @ChildrenNature, @leavenotrace, @TetonGravity, Friends_NWAC, @OurayIcePark, @BlackDiamondUSA

Guilty Pleasure Twitterbugs:

We have one really great guilty pleasure Twitterfeed:

@DeathStarPR - These guys are really funny. They are supposed to be the PR department for the Death Star.  Yeah, that Death Star, the one from Star Wars.  Here are a few of my favorite tweets:

Kids, if a man in a brown bathrobe who lives in a cave offers to show you "the ways of the Force," DON'T GO. #JediAwarenessWeek

Tyler Perry is the highest paid man in Hollywood. See, this is why you guys don't deserve to not get exploded.

Nothing in life is free. Unless you can crush people's windpipes with your mind. Then people are strangely generous.

 We didn't destroy Alderaan, we created the Alderaan Memorial Asteroid Park.  #DeathStarCares

So that's how I waste my day.  How about you guys?  What am I missing that's consistently informative and interesting for the climber/skier...?

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Climbing and Outdoor News - 10/6/11

Northwest:

--An overdue climber on Mount St. Helens has been found safe. To read more, click here.

The raffle Box

--Last weekend, the American Alpine Institute had a gear sale and benefit. The benefit was for the North Cascades Institute and the American Safe Climbing Association. People bought raffle tickets to support the two causes.  Matt Hard and Chris Wright both won credits for AAI programs and expeditions. Congrats Matt and Chris!  A number of other people also won prizes, including Scotty Seren, Zachary Winters, Eric Strunke, Eric Page, Leslie Park and Jon Peterson.

--The National Park Service announced last Thursday that it has awarded a 10-year contract to Guest Services Inc. to manage a resort in the remote community of Stehekin. To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--A rock climber whose thumb was severed when he fell and it was caught in a rope has had the digit reattached by surgeons, officials at Yosemite National Park said Wednesday. The two climbers were nearing the summit of 7,569-foot-high El Capitan on last week when the lead climber fell, said park spokeswoman Kari Cobb. To read more, click here.

--Last week, children from Mammoth Lakes found the body of a large bear lying dead in the Rusty Lane area near the golf course.  It appears that the bear was well-known to the community and was not known to be a "problem bear." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The American Alpine Club is hiring.  They are looking specifically for someone to develop programs in the Southwest. To learn more, click here.

--The American Alpine Institute received the following note from the Bureau of Land Management, Las Vegas Field Office:

Las Vegas - Wildland fire officials will lift seasonal fire restrictions on public lands in Southern Nevada managed by the Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, National Park Service, Nevada Division of Forestry, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service on Monday, October 3, 2011.  

Spring Mountains National Recreation Area will remain in fire restrictions in some areas until November 15.  Those restrictions are as follows:  no campfires within one mile of homes in Kyle and Lee Canyons, Deer Creek, Cold Creek and the communities of Trout Canyon and Mountain Springs.  These areas are signed advising the public of the restrictions.

“We would like to thank the public for their prevention efforts this fire season,” said Chris Delaney, BLM Acting Fire Management Officer.  “We ask that visitors continue to be safe with campfires and other sources of ignition because brush, grass and trees remain dry from the hot summer temperatures.”

Himalaya:

--In early September, Slovenians Nejc Marcic and Luka Strazar climbed a new route on Pakistan's K7 West (22,500'). To read more, click here and here.

--In August, four Russians successfully completed a new line on Trango Tower in Pakistan (20,508').  To read more about this ascent, click here.


Notes from All Over: 


--A student at Binghamton University died Friday morning in a fall in the Trap Dike, a classic mountaineering route on Mount Colden in the Adirondacks.  Matthew Potel, 22, of Croton-on-Hudson was climbing the Trap Dike with seven other members of the school’s outdoors club. Although details are sketchy, sources say he fell on the dike’s second waterfall, the crux section of the climb. To read more, click here.

--A climber whose partner activated his SPOT locator device and triggered what is believed to be the first rescue in Grand Teton National Park activated by the emergency GPS device was fined for disorderly conduct. Dave Shade, 33, of Missoula, Montana, left his climbing partner, Jesse Selwyn, of Florence, Michigan, on the Grand Teton August 19 after Selwyn called for rescue, but before rangers arrived on scene. To read more, click here.



--This is a cool contest. Make a climbing video using as much climbing slang as possible.  To read more, click here.


--How did Sixty Minutes film Alex Honnold free soloing? Check out this page to find out.


--A Pennsylvania man has a new appreciation of the power of nature after a bear followed his dog into his house, then attacked him. The man received injuries that required seventy stitches. To read more, click here.