Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Photo Essay: Climbing in the Ouray Ice Park

This weekend, I ran a one-on-one ice climbing instruction course with Zheng Yang, an aspiring alpine climber and one smart cookie (he was in the military as an explosives expert and is now a mathematics major at Columbia).

It was a great weekend for the ice here in the park, and it was great to have some one-on-one time to really hone in on Zheng Yang's ice technique. Here's some photos from the weekend. (Note that they are thumbnails. Click on the pictures for the expanded files). Enjoy!

The auspicious entrance ice sculpture to the ice park. Quite fitting, really.

Getting some practice on the steep WI 4's in the South Park. 
Notice the good triangle form and stable leg position

Working steep technique. This stuff gets hard! It's almost like a little chimney with a roof on top. 
Techy, pumpy, and really great climbing!


Warming up on a mellow flow. If you look closely, you'll find there is something a bit... strange about this particular climbing session (for the answer, see next photo and caption).

Look ma, no axes! Nope, this isn't Photoshopped - this is a great way to work on your balance, 
footwork and using the available holds to your advantage. And it sure doesn't make you pumped!


A beautiful steep gully climb. To the left, there is a rope hanging on Le Saucisson, a great intro to steep mixed climbng (M6). Next to it is Chinese Water Torture. At M9, it is a testpiece at its grade and a project for many Ouray locals. Clipping bolts is the name of the mixed game in the Ouray Ice Park.

After the first powder dump of the month. The storm hit the area with up to 24" of light powder. 
Oh yeah, the skiing in the Ouray area is awesome, too!


The memorial to Karen McNeill and Sue Nott, two beloved climbers who passed while climbing in Alaska. 
The memorial graces the entry to the Ice Park's upper bridge area.

The plaque to the memorial.

Seconding some snow-covered ice. When there is a lot of snow on top of the ice, it takes extra effort to excavate the good sticks. While tedious at times, it is an excellent mountain skill (or, in many cases, a front country skill, too). Steeper lines usually do not collect as much snow as moderate lines like this, because the angle of the ice sheds snow better.

Diggin' the ice! Nothin but smiles on the last day of the course. Notice the good form!

Beautiful Ouray, Colorado.

Thanks for looking. It was a great weekend of climbing in the prime season of ice climbing in Ouray. Stay tuned to the blog for more updates on the ice season, as well as various climbing techniques to hone your ice climbing game. Climb on!

--Mike Pond, Instructor and Guide

Sunday, January 29, 2012

February and March Events


February and March The Forest Service is offering Snowshoe Hikes and Cross Country Ski Tours for all ages. Scroll down to  find one in your area and make your arrangements. 


2/2 - 2/4  Champagny en Vanoise, France -- Ice Climbing World Cup

2/2 - 2/5 Munising, Michigan -- Michigan Ice Fest


2/2 Las Vegas, Nevada -- Save Red Rock Meeting at REI

2/4 -- Everett, MA -- Dark Horse Bouldering Series Championship  

2/11 -- Bellingham, WA -- NC3 Climbing Comp at WWU

2/10 - 2/11 -- Busteni, Romania -- Ice Climbing World Cup


2/16 Las Vegas, Nevada -- Save Red Rock Meeting at REI

2/17 - 2/20 -- Cody, WY -- Waterfall Ice Festival

3/3 - 3/4 -- El Paso, Texas -- 
Hueco Rock Rodeo



3/3 -- Boston, MA -- American Alpine Club Annual Benefit Dinner

3/3 -- Moscow, ID -- University of Idaho NW Collegiate Climbing Comp. 208-885-6810



MT. BAKER
SNOWSHOE HIKES
Make reservations the Wednesday prior to the scheduled program by calling Glacier Public Service Center,
360-599-2714 weekends, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. or Mt. Baker Ranger District Office, 360-856-5700 ext. 515 weekdays,
8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. To offset the costs of the program a donation of $10 per person is suggested for all programs payable
by cash or check made out to Discover Your Northwest Interpretive Association.

Heather Meadows 90-Minute Walk
Feb. 4, 18, 19, 25, 11 a.m.
Meet at upper Mt. Baker Ski Area parking lot by the Bagley Lakes Trailhead.
Learn about area history, winter ecosystem, wildlife and safety.
Group size 15

Snowshoe Hannegan Road Feb. 11, 11 a.m.
Meet at the Shuksan Picnic Area at the base of the Hannegan Road, milepost 46.5 off the Mt. Baker Highway, SR 542.
Learn about area history, winter ecosystem, wildlife and safety.
Group size: 15 

STEVENS PASS
SNOWSHOE HIKES
Make reservations Jan. 8-Feb. 26 at Skykomish Ranger District, 360-677-2414. Trips for special events and school groups can also be scheduled. Sultan Shuttle offers transportation from Sultan to the resort. Check http://www.stevenspass.com/Stevens/the-mountain/sultan-shuttle.aspx  for fees and schedules. 

Introductory Snowshoeing
Sat. Sun. 11:30 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Learn about the history of the area, the winter ecosystem and wildlife on this beginning walk.
Group size: 20

SNOQUALMIE PASS
CROSS-COUNTRY SKI
No reservations are necessary. Participants must have intermediate ski skills. Meet at Grand Junction on the Nordic ski trail out of Summit East Ski area at 10:30 a.m. The program is free, but participants will need a ski area trail pass to access Grand Junction. For more information call 425-434-6111 or 425-434-7669.

Interpretive Tour
Sun. 10:30 a.m.
Learn about the history of the area, the winter ecosystem and wildlife.

SNOWSHOE HIKES
The 90-minute walk and extended snowshoe trips run Jan. 8-March 31, the winter photography and ecology outings Jan. 21-March 31 and the “Kids in the Snow” program Feb. 4-March 31. Make reservations at 425-434-6111. Trips for special events and school groups can also be scheduled. Meet 15 minutes early at the visitor’s center off I-90, exit 52 on Snoqualmie Pass.

Interpretive 90-Minute Walk
Sat. Sun. 10 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1 p.m.
Learn about winter ecosystem, wildlife and safety.
Group size 20

Extended Half-Day Hikes
Fri. Sat. Sun. 9:30 a.m.
Experience Commonwealth Basin in the winter surrounded by the Cascade crest peaks.
Group size 10

Winter Photography & Ecology Outings
Jan. 21, Feb. 4, 18, March 3, 17, 31, 9:30 a.m.-2 p.m.
Capture winter nature on film while learning about ecology.
Group size 6

"Kids in the Snow"
Feb. 4-March 31, Sat. 1 p.m.
Earn a Junior Ranger Snow badge! Learn about tracking, crawl into a snow cave and check out a snow crystal with a magnifier.
Group size 20




Saturday, January 28, 2012

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Here's a great video about someone who truly loves the world of climbing. Someone who calls a camper his home, and his back yard is Indian Creek. To have you own Moab climbing experience, be sure to check out our Guided Climbing Trips in Moab!



With the crazy weather we've had here in the PNW, we've been getting hit with dumptruck loads of snow. Here's a local vid showcasing the great snow we've been getting. As an added bonus, you get some quick and easy cooking tips thrown in there! Bon appétit!



Well, that's two videos of guys living in their trucks. Unfortunately I couldn't find a third of the same caliber, so how about something tasty from the good folks at Salomon and their latest from a trip up to our neighbors in the north.



And lastly, here's a highlight from the UAII Ice Climbing World Cup in Saas Fee, Switzerland. Pretty sweet!



Have a great weekend!

Friday, January 27, 2012

Avalanche Shoveling Technique

One of the most overlooked techniques in avalanche rescue is how one shovels.  This is the most time consuming part of any avalanche rescue.

The following video was put together by Backcountry Access, a company that develops avalanche beacons, shovels, probes and backpacks.



Following is a review of the key points from the video:

Technique for Rescue with One Person
  1. Start downhill of the probe strike.
  2. Make the hole approximately a wingspan wide.
  3. Begin shoveling 1.5 times the burial depth downhill.
  4. Save energy by shoveling snow to the sides of the pit.
  5. Once you have dug down to a point where the snow surface is above your waste, begin to shovel the snow downhill.
  6. Attempt to get at the victim's face as soon as possible.
  7. When you get to the victim, uncover the head and chest and establish an airway.
  8. Only leave the scene for help if there is a surplus of manpower or the victim has been excavated.
Technique for Rescue with Two People
  1. In a shallow burial (less than 1 meter) start shoveling just downhill of the probe.
  2. In deeper burials one rescuer should start just downhill of the probe.  The second rescuer should start to dig downhill 1.5 times the burial depth.
  3. Rescuers should shovel snow to the sides until the hole is waist deep. Once it becomes necessary to lift snow above your waist, then start shoveling the snow downhill.
  4. If the victim is unconscious when you reach him, the first thing that you should do is to clear the airway and begin CPR.
This element of an avalanche rescue is often overlooked.  But it is an extremely important part of rescue process and should be practiced alongside the use of a beacon and a probe.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Annual Benefit Dinner - American Alpine Club

The American Alpine Institute just received the following press release from the American Alpine Club:

American Alpine Club Announces One-of-a-Kind Boston Giveaway 

Enter by February 6 for a chance to win special AAC Annual Benefit Dinner prizes and access

Golden, CO—Today The American Alpine Club—dedicated to knowledge, inspiration, conservation and advocacy for the climbing community—released a chance to win a prize package so unique that it cannot be bought. The giveaway will offer one winner the following items, redeemable in Boston at the 2012 Annual Benefit Dinner on March 3: 

• Two VIP Passes to the Annual Dinner. The VIP reception, overlooking Boston Harbor, is an intimate gathering of North America’s most accomplished climbers and mountaineers. The guest list includes Jack Tackle, Tom Hornbein, Janet Bergman, John Bragg, Jimmy Surette, and more.

• Ice Axe signed in person by the Saser Kangri II team. Freddie Wilkinson, Mark Richey, and Steve Swenson—the evening’s keynote presenters—recently summited the world’s second-highest unclimbed mountain and will sign a special axe to the winner.

$100 toward the Silent Auction, which includes climbing art, one-of-a-kind trips, and gear packages from The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, and Outdoor Research.

• AAC backpack filled with goodies, including a signed hardback of One Mountain Thousand Summits, the award-winning book by Wilkinson. At the dinner, he will premiere The Old Breed, a video masterpiece about the Saser Kangri II expedition. Watch Trailer

Every person who buys a ticket to the 2012 Annual Benefit Dinner by February 6th automatically will be entered to win this giveaway package!

GIVEAWAY DETAILS: http://www.americanalpineclub.org/p/2012-annual-benefit-dinner-giveaway

The Annual Benefit Dinner is the AAC’s signature and largest annual event. In addition to fine dining and entertainment, the Dinner mingles climbers of all generations and abilities to celebrate the vibrant state of this 110-year-old organization. The event will be held in Boston at the Seaport Hotel and will celebrate a year of change and success through the theme of Partnership: Climbing through the Generations.

“In line with our theme, the weekend’s feature presentation will share the inspiring story of men and women from different generations climbing together in one of the world’s last uncharted places,” said Erik Lambert, Information & Marketing Director for the AAC. “The giveaway is an added incentive to bring younger climbers and more seasoned explorers together, celebrating the shared experience of the climbing life.”

Following dinner, Boston native Mark Richey (age 53) and climbing partners Freddie Wilkinson (age 32) and Steve Swenson (age 57) will share inspiration from their August 2011 Saser Kangri II expedition. They reached the 7,518-meter summit of the second-highest unclimbed mountain in the world—one of the last frontiers of Himalayan climbing. 

Every ticket sold helps The American Alpine Club raise funds to improve its programs: protecting and preserving the places we climb, bringing climbers together, expanding information resources, grants, lodging, and more. Founded by a Boston native in 1902, the AAC has advocated for climbers throughout the generations, with a progressive implementation of new programs. In 2011 the Club:
 
• Hired staff around the country to ensure that the AAC is vibrant in your backyard. These Regional Coordinators regularly connect with Members by hosting local events, conservation projects, and more. Sarah Garlick supports the Northeast Region from North Conway, NH.
 
• Expanded its Member benefits to include rescue insurance, gym and gear discounts, and new and improved places for climbers to stay, such as the rebuilt Snowbird Hut in Alaska and the new AAC Clubhouse in Kathmandu, Nepal.
 
• Purchased 40 acres of land on the rim of West Virginia’s New River Gorge. The AAC is
working with local conservation and climbing organizations to break ground this year on a Climbers’ Campground with amenities walking distance from popular crags.
 
• Launched a new website, bringing local communities together in a more
user-friendly and attractive online space.
 
• And in 2012, the Club will break ground on a new Climbers’ Campground with easy access to climbing in New York’s Shawangunks.
 
“The AAC is at its best when we can be helpful to climbers where they climb—in their own backyards,” said Executive Director Phil Powers. “Our Members in the Northeast raised their hands to host the Annual Dinner this year. Regional staff and volunteers are working together to make it a truly top-notch event with a great local flavor. This is just one example of how the AAC is changing. We’re listening to our Members and helping them build what they want from the ground up.”
 
For more information and tickets, visit americanalpineclub.org/2012dinner 
To encourage younger climbers to attend this gathering of the generations, those 28 and younger may purchase tickets at half price.

About The American Alpine Club
The American Alpine Club provides knowledge and inspiration, conservation and advocacy, and logistical support for the climbing community. The AAC advocates for American climbers domestically and around the world; provides grants and volunteer opportunities to protect and conserve the places we climb; hosts local and national climbing festivals and events; publishes two of the world’s most sought-after climbing annuals, The American Alpine Journal and Accidents in North American Mountaineering; cares for the world’s leading climbing library and country’s leading mountaineering museum; manages the Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch as part of a larger lodging network for climbers; and annually gives $80,000+ toward climbing, conservation, and research grants to adventurers who travel the world.

Learn about additional programs and become a member at americanalpineclub.org. Join the AAC’s online community at facebook.com/americanalpineclub.

Social Media Ready
Headed to the AAC’s awesome Annual Dinner in Boston? Now they’re offering a rad prize pack to one lucky winner: http://owl.li/8HaBk

Already got your AAC Annual Dinner tickets? Let us know and Invite your friends via the Facebook Event: http://owl.li/8HaTw

Didn’t really think the @americanalpine Annual Dinner could get cooler. Was wrong: http://owl.li/8HaBk

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Miley Cyrus Rock Climbing Parody

When we found this online, Andrew had to put his headphones in.  He couldn't even stand the parody version of this song.

But it is kind of funny.

Enjoy:



--Jason D. Martin

Monday, January 23, 2012

Climbing in the Ouray Ice Park

A Note from the Administrative Staff at AAI:

The following is a short article from Mike Pond about the absolutely awesome ice climbing found in the Ouray Ice Park.  But before you read it, we wanted to let you know that we have a SALE running on all courses and private trips in Ouray this season.

Climb Ouray with us in January or February 
and get a 20% discount.

Now onto Mike's article:


Dear Ice Climbers,

I am the AAI instructor/guide for Ouray, Colorado. I’ve climbed in a lot of places, and have never seen anything that quite matches up to the Ouray Ice Park. While there is a lot of great ice and mixed routes in the Ouray backcountry, the ice park is where it’s at for honing your winter climbing skills. The park’s history is interesting in itself, which I’ll leave for another day. It’s great to be back for another winter of ice and mixed climbing here in Colorado!


The Ouray Ice Park from the entrance.


Just one piece of the mile-long ice playground.

The stats: Ouray, Colorado. Elevation 7800 ft. Population 800. A charming small mountain town with  (developed) hot springs and a disproportionate amount of ice and mixed climbers given its small stature.

The Ouray Ice Park is right on the edge of town. Literally, I walk ten minutes from my house and I am in the park. The park itself is a slot canyon that has about one mile of ice climbing in it.

How, you may ask, would ice form for a continuous mile?

Well, the good people here in Ouray have a sort of mad scientist approach to ice climbing and have installed a piping system on the canyon rim, from which hoses spray water every night. This water flows over terrain of various angles to create a mega playground for ice climbers.

It is truly incredible. There are hundreds of ice climbs and dozens of mixed climbs. There is literally something for everyone here, with low-angle practice walls, fat flows, moderate-angle flows, steep flows, pillars, daggers, bolted mixed climbs from M6 (similar to 5.7) to M 10 (like 5.12), and even a few trad mixed climbs. Oh yeah. It is one of the best places in the world to learn how to climb ice and mixed. And, with an extensive backcountry at your doorstep, there is heaps of alpine climbing and longer ice routes to apply the skills learned in the park. 

Climbing a fat, blue ice flow. Oh, Colorado.

Despite some wacky unseasonably warm weather that’s been hitting the country, the ice is happening here, full force. Even when it’s warm weather in the medium-high country, the ice park itself never seems to get much above freezing. Literally, yesterday I was in the backcountry in a protected, sun-drenched area in a t-shirt for most of the day. Talking with other climbers, it was perfectly chilly down in the park. While this may seem intimidating, it’s not bad down there. It’s well protected from high winds and inclement weather (it’s a slot canyon) and hey, freezing is good for ice! And ice, after all, is what we’re here for.


The ice park is a great place to learn how to mixed climb, combining rock and ice in the same pitch.

The author getting psyched for the next lead.

As the season progresses, I'll plan on adding more photos, videos, and stories from one of the country's best ice climbing areas in its prime season. Happy winter!
--Mike Pond, Instructor and Guide

 

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Climbing Events January - February 2012

1/20 - 1/22 -- Saas Fee, Switzerland -- Ice Climbing World Cup

1/27 - 1/29 -- Franconia Notch Region, NH -- VICE Fest 2012

1/28 -- Ouray, CO -- Hilaree O'neil Slide Show
 

2/2 - 2/4  
Champagny en Vanoise, France -- Ice Climbing World Cup


2/2 - 2/5 Munising, Michigan -- Michigan Ice Fest

2/2 Las Vegas, Nevada -- Save Red Rock Meeting at REI

2/4 -- Everett, MA -- Dark Horse Bouldering Series Championship  

2/11 -- Bellingham, WA -- NC3 Climbing Comp at WWU

2/10 - 2/11 -- Busteni, Romania -- Ice Climbing World Cup


2/16 Las Vegas, Nevada -- Save Red Rock Meeting at REI

2/17 - 2/20 -- Cody, WY -- Waterfall Ice Festival

3/3 - 3/4 -- El Paso, Texas -- 
Hueco Rock Rodeo

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

With the recent dump of snow we've received over the past week, I thought this first video is fitting.



I started snowboarding as a teen in Wyoming, and even taught lessons at a resort in Colorado. In the last few years I started to Tele, and even more recently I have stepped into the world of surfing. So when I saw this video, my jaw dropped and I knew I had to share it.



For those of you who spend the winters in the gym training, how about trying this at your next trip to the rock gym - to the top in a little more than 6 seconds?!?!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Spirituality in Climbing


Calling all climbers!

Happy Winter.  I am Mike Pond. I’ve been a guide for AAI for four years now, and am going to unabashedly use our blog to get the word out for a research study I am doing. I am a graduate student at Ohio University. Last year, I put the nomadic climbing-guiding life to the side to pursue a master’s degree at OU. This year I am completing my thesis (while climbing and guiding in the Southwest – currently in Ouray, CO enjoying the stellar ice. But I digress). The study is called “Investigating Climbing as a Spiritual Experience.” A graduate-level thesis is basically a shorter version of a Ph.D., and I am using my experience as a climber and guide to help out the research.

There are three basic components of this study: background, research, and write-up.  So far, I’ve looked through some of the popular climbing literature out there that has spiritual elements in it, as well as scholarly religious works that are relevant to the topic.  I finished this part last spring, and am now on step two – doing the research. Research in this field is quite “soft” compared to, say, biology or astrophysics. There’s no double-blind pill popping or lab coats involved, just a bunch of climbers (which seems to be the case in every part of my life these days).

Here’s where I need your help! I am looking for interview participants for my study. If climbing is somehow spiritual for you, I would love to interview you.


There are two criteria: you must be a climber (if you have gone on one of our courses or expeditions, you’ve got this covered), and climbing must be somehow spiritual for you. I have had a number of people ask what I mean by “spiritual.” I am going to play the standard psychologist trick and ask you, “what do you mean by spiritual?” If climbing is spiritual as it fits into your definition of spirituality, that will work. As a side note, one of the goals of this study is to find out what climbers’ definitions of spirituality are, and how climbing fits into that, so I want to influence responses as little as possible.

Some fine print: You must be 18 years of age or older. You will not be compensated for your time. There are no risks, and no benefits of participating (other than making my day). Your personal information (name, employer, location) will be kept confidential.

I’ll make sure to put something out in the AAI blog when I’m done (est. Fall, 2012). Thanks in advance for your help, and have a great winter season!

If you’re interested, or have any questions, please email me at mike.pond [at] gmail.com or call/email AAI, they’ll surely send you my way. Thank you very much!

--Mike Pond, Instructor and Guide

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Bolt Failure in Australia

Okay, so I'm going to wag my finger a little bit in this blog post.  Here it goes.

Don't place bolts unless you know what you're doing!

There really is only one way to learn to place bolts correctly.  That is to find a mentor who has done a lot of bolt placement -- or even better, bolt replacement -- and learn from that person.

The problem with placing bolts without understanding the different issues behind such a process is that with bolt failure a person could easily be hurt or killed. When you place bolts, you are essentially placing gear for someone else...so that gear has to be good.

The following video is absolutely terrifying, but it shows what could happen if a person gets out there and starts to put in bolts who doesn't know what he or she is doing.   Nick Kaczorowski was killed at this crag outside Sydney, Australia due to inadequate bolting...



Forty kilograms is approximately 90lbs. This is akin to nothing in a climbing setting.

It appears that the person who placed these bolts, placed them in a form of very weak sandstone. He used expansion bolts instead of glue-ins, which are considered standard equipment in Australia's Blue Mountains, Nowra, and Mittagong climbing areas. The expansion bolts, as you've seen in the video, rip out very easily.

In may rock types, expansion bolts are really good.  But not in this setting...

This goes to show that beyond getting training and mentorship, knowing how to place one kind of bolt may not be good enough. To really do a good job, one must know not only how to place a bolt, but exactly what is standard at a given crag. In other words, how much torque should there be? Is this a place where glue-ins are appropriate? How long should the bolt be? Should this be a wedge bolt or a 5-piece bolt?  And so on...

Bolting seems simple enough...but when it comes to other peoples lives, simple enough might not be good enough...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, January 16, 2012

A Tale of Two Adventures

Recently AAI Guide, Doug Foust, took a couple of individuals out in Red Rock who were quite savvy with both video and photo editing. A week later they sent us this video of their adventures:

video

The Red Rock program is already ramping up for the spring climbing season. Red Rock Rendezvous is just around the corner and we currently have a sale on for those who would like to book climbing trips or courses the week before or the week after the event!  Give us a call to find out more!

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, January 15, 2012

January and February Climbing Events

1/20 -- Seattle, WA -- Backcountry Film Fest 

1/20 - 1/22 -- Saas Fee, Switzerland -- Ice Climbing World Cup


1/27 - 1/29 -- Franconia Notch Region, NH -- VICE Fest 2012

1/28 -- Ouray, CO -- Hilaree O'neil Slide Show


2/2 - 2/4 
Champagny en Vanoise, France -- Ice Climbing World Cup

2/4 -- Everett, MA -- Dark Horse Bouldering Series Championship 


2/17 - 2/20 -- Cody, WY -- Waterfall Ice Festival

2/11 -- Bellingham, WA -- NC3 Climbing Comp at WWU

2/10 - 2/11 -- Busteni, Romania -- Ice Climbing World Cup

3/3 - 3/4 -- El Paso, Texas --
Hueco Rock Rodeo

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Will Gadd tackles Roman Candle, a nice M8 in Hyalite with a short pillar of ice at the base. "What could possibly go wrong?" asks Will.



Here's some highlights of last week's Ouray Ice Fest:




And finally, well, I'll let this video speak for itself...



Friday, January 13, 2012

Winter Ascent of Whitney

We just got word that AAI Guide Ian McEleney and the participants on his Winter Mountaineering program successfully summitted Mount Whitney(14,505').  Ian stated that it was extremely cold and that he was forced to wear his puffy jacket all day.

Some of the members of the Winter Mountaineering program will remain with Ian for the next two days.  Tomorrow they will start a two day ice climbing intensive in the Eastern Sierra.

Congrats to the whole team!

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Pre-Equalized Anchors

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

The American Death Triangle
Picture from the Chockstone Website


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

A Pre-Equalized Anchor
Photo from the ACMG Website


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

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



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



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

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

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



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

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, January 9, 2012

Tricks in the Alpine - Episode 4


Traveling and living in the alpine environment can pose many challenges, and often times it is the little tips and tricks that make existing in the alpine more enjoyable. Many of these tips and tricks have been passed down from climber to climber and guide to guide, but some of them are stumbled upon randomly and seem so inconsequential that they often don't get shared.

Well - I would like to change that! In an effort to do so, I'm introducing a new series to this blog, called "Tricks in the Alpine." In each episode, we will attempt to share alpine trickery that you may or may not know already. Please feel free to comment on how you've used these tricks, expanded on them, or look forward to using them!

1. Use a hose clamp and cord to make a hanging kit for your stove


You can purchase a Jetboil hanging kit for $30, and it will come with a fancy triangle base and strong steel cable and a bunch of other stuff that is only used for hanging your Jetboil and extra weight.  Or, you could go to the hardware store and buy a $3 hose clamp and 50 cents worth of cord and make one yourself that is more simple.  The nice thing about the homemade kit, is that it never leaves your Jetboil, it's lighter weight, and the materials used to make it could be used for other repair needs if necessary.  I believe the photo is explanation enough for how to make this yourself.  



2. Bring different sized slings for different tasks

When I'm in the alpine, light is almost always right.  The skinniest Spectra slings out there (the middle white sling in the photo below) absorb the least amount of water and are the lightest, so most of my alpine-draws are made up of them.  However, sometimes I'm nervous about abrasion over a particularly sharp rock, and that's when I like to use more of a nylon-Spectra blend (the purple sling at the bottom).  These slings are a little thicker, yet are still lighter than full nylon slings and don't absorb as much water as nylon slings.  Lastly, I do like to bring one double length nylon sling for anchors.  When you're in the alpine, things are often wet or frozen, and you may be wearing gloves.  Trying to remove an overhand knot in a 10mm Spectra that has been weighted at an anchor can be next to impossible with gloves on.  Although the thicker (9/16" - 1") nylon cord is heavier, it is much, much easier to untie after being weighted.  This additional weight of one (1) nylon sling is worth the time I save at belay transitions and the warmth I maintain by being able to keep my gloves on.  While I mostly like to keep my rack as simple and uniform as possible, I do like incorporating one or two of the thicker slings for the purposes I mentioned above.  Having options can be nice sometimes.



--Andrew Yasso
Program Coordinator and Guide

Sunday, January 8, 2012

1/7 - 1/28 -- Skagit Valley, WA -- Skagit Valley Eagle Festival
1/14 -- Las Vegas, NV -- Save Red Rock Canyon Fun Run/Ride

1/14 -- 1/15 -- Cheongsong, Korea -- Ice Climbing World Cup

1/20 -- Seattle, WA -- Backcountry Film Fest

1/20 - 1/22 -- Saas Fee, Switzerland -- Ice Climbing World Cup

1/27 - 1/29 -- Franconia Notch Region, NH -- VICE Fest 2012

1/28 -- Ouray, CO -- Hilaree O'neil Slide Show


2/2 - 2/4 
Champagny en Vanoise, France -- Ice Climbing World Cup

2/4 -- Everett, MA -- Dark Horse Bouldering Series Championship 


2/17 - 2/20 -- Cody, WY -- Waterfall Ice Festival

2/11 -- Bellingham, WA -- NC3 Climbing Comp at WWU

2/10 - 2/11 -- Busteni, Romania -- Ice Climbing World Cup

3/3 - 3/4 -- El Paso, Texas --
Hueco Rock Rodeo

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Here's a funny take on your standard ski movie: it's called the Tilt/Shift affect. This camera trick makes everything look like a tiny toy set.



Here's another good one - digging the soundtrack for this too!



And just in case these "Tiny Mode" clips aren't your cup of tea, here's some Johnny Collinson ripping it up in Greenland.

VIDEO PROFILE: BD athlete Johnny Collinson skiing in Greenland from Black Diamond Equipment on Vimeo.

But maybe, just maybe you are one of those folks who can't stand winter or the snow (to each their own). Maybe you are yearning for warmer days and being out on some rock. Well, here's a little bit of Stoke for you. Hopefully this will help feed your need until it's time for some rock.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Adventure isn't always about the Summit!

Last month I had the opportunity to go out and take a look at an area with a lot of ice flows that hasn't yet seen much action.  According to my partners, they had went into this particular area two years ago and found a tremendous amount of ice. There were big blue flows everywhere.

Well, we went in a bit on the early side and didn't find those flows.

A series of ice flows on Hall Peak that were not yet climbable.

Nearly a decade ago I wrote about Hall Peak in Washington Ice: A Climbing Guide. There is one moderate route in the area called Silverton's Sickle.  At the time of the writing, I had not been into the peak.  I got the beta from the gentlemen who completed the first ascent of the line.

My friends completed the sickle in 2009 and then proceeded to climb a handful of first ascents in the horseshoe basin above the route.  Based on what we saw on our recent trip into the area, they weren't lying. The lines just needed a bit more time.

We were a big group.  There were six of us, which isn't always the best situation for making good choices in the alpine.  But we did come to a group decision.  We decided that if the ice climbs weren't in, then maybe we should try to climb Hall Peak itself.


We ascended a couloir up to a col at the base of the North Ridge (the Skubi Ridge). As we didn't have a guidebook, we weren't sure whether or not this route had been climbed. Apparently it had. It appears that the first ascent was made in 1962.  But there is no evidence of a winter ascent...

One of my partners decided that he wanted to drop down the other side of the col toward the northeast face of the mountain. The face looked absolutely stellar.  It was totally climbable...but maybe not totally protectable.  Most of the face was covered in a couple of inches of ice. which would be fine for movement, but not necessarily fine for building anchors.  And definitely not fine for a big team of six.

The Northeast Face of Hall Peak - The North Ridge is the 
Right-Hand Skyline

We all dropped down and skirted below the face and climbed up a steep couloir, where it looked like there might be a way to attain the north ridge at a low saddle.

 The Couloir - the Northeast Face is the the Right

There were two options to try.  The first was to ascend a steep styrofoam snow slope.  Both myself and one of the other climbers tried to do this, but found that the seventy-degree snow topped out on power covered slabs with no protection.

Looking up the slope.  We knew that there would be no pro until the trees.
Unfortunately, the styrofoam ice ran out about twenty-feet below the trees, replaced by sugar snow on a slab.

Another view of the steep terrain above the couloir.

After retreating from this slope, we tried to climb through the top of the gully.  There we found a steep rock step that was quite difficult to climb through.  Both I and one of the other climbers tried this as well.

The author approaching the rock step.
Photo by Kevin Riddell

The author - about to start the rock step.
Photo by Kevin Riddell

The author - in the rock step. There was a bit of bad protection at the start, and the
crack to the left was chocked full of ice. When I tried to place a cam and pulled on it, 
it slipped right out. I couldn't get into a good position to chip the ice out.
Photo by Kevin Riddell


The second climber was ultimately able to chip out enough ice to do some direct aid, but time was running short and we had to retreat.

Ultimately, we didn't get up Hall Peak.  And in a full-day out in the field, I was only able to climb about a pitch of rock and ice. But it didn't matter...

There was a time when such a day would have been really frustrating for me.  There was a time where I had the mantras, "summit or plummet," and "fingerlocks or cedar box," and "no mistake or big pancake."  But those days are gone... 

A summit is just a place.  It may be a goal or even an obsession, but it's not the most important thing.  Having a good day in the mountains with friends and coming back in one piece is far more important that any summit...

--Jason D. Martin

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Looking for Feedback - Our AMTL Video

We have recently had an individual create a video for us to promote our AMTL series.  Every time we watch it we think it's cool, but are having a harder and harder time talking about it critically.

We want to know what you think.  So please let us know!  Would this video psych you up to take our Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership series? What would psych you up more?  What doesn't work?  Check out the video below and let us know:


American Alpine Institute from John Grace on Vimeo.

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

How to Make a Splitboard

For the backcountry snowboarder the splitboard is a piece of equipment that offers an easy and efficient way to climb snow covered slopes without the hassle of carrying snowshoes. The problem with splitboards is that they are expensive. Thankfully there are kits on the market that give you the ability to make your own snowboard into a splitboard, and not blow the bank doing it. Taking on the task of building a splitboard requires some basic power tools and some patience.


I used Voile’s DIY Splitboard Kit to build my splitboard. The kit comes with touring brackets, heel risers, slider plates to attach your existing bindings to and all of the hardware that you will need to join the two halves of the board back together after it has been cut. 

Before cutting your board in half there are a few things you should make sure of. Make sure that the board has a full wood core. Foam core boards are not strong enough for mounting the split kit hardware, and touring brackets. It is also good to choose a board that is slightly on the stiffer side as cutting a snowboard in half and putting it back together again results in a slightly softer board that you started with. Lastly, boards that have threaded binding inserts on the center-line of the board can be more challenging to cut, so do take this into consideration if you have a choice in boards.


Splitting the board

The first step to building a splitboard is splitting the board. Find a solid surface to clamp your board to, and mark the exact center of the board from tip to tail with a marker or chalk line. 

Using a circular saw with a carbide blade (the narrower the better), carefully cut through through the steel edges at the tip and the tail first. You may want to consider using a dremel tool to cut through the edges instead of a circular saw for ease of control. After you are through the metal edges, make the cut across the entire length of the board from tip to tail.


The cut edges of the board will need to be sanded and sealed with some sort of sealant. I used several thin coats of hardwood floor varnish. It has held up well over the years and is easy to touch up if needed. 


Board hooks and tip / tail clips

Next you will want to install the board hooks. The board hooks hold the two halves of the board together while in board mode. In Voile’s instructions it said to go 1” in from the contact point, but this was not enough distance to allow for the board hook to sit flat on my board when in tour mode. You will want to find the first available flat spot on the top-sheet inward from the contact point of the boards running surface. You will want to make sure that the board hook will sit flat on the top-sheet when it is rotated into tour mode before drilling any holes. 

After you have found the correct mounting position for the board hooks, apply the mounting template, center punch the holes and drill small pilot holes all the way through the board. Refer to Voile’s instructions for the appropriate drill bit sizes to drill the final holes for the bolts to fasten down the board hooks. 

Before you bolt on the board hooks you will want to use a countersink bit to make the head of the bolts flush with the base of the board. Tighten the board hook bolts so there is some resistance when you rotated the hook into tour mode.

Left Photo: Board hook template placed on top sheet for punching and drilling.
Right Photo: Board hooks installed (The mark to the left of the board hooks was Voile’s recommended placement)


Left: Countersinking the holes in the base for the board hook bolts.
Right: Board hook bolts countersunk into the base.


The tip and tail clips secure the tip and tail of the board in board mode, and keeps them from chattering. For the tip and tail clip installation use the sticky template to locate and drill the holes. When installing the rivets make sure that you have a very solid surface to tap them into place, such as a concrete floor, anvil, or flat spot on a vise. Once the rivets hold the tip / tail clip so that it can still be rotated with slight resistance you are done, don’t overdo it.


Touring bracket

The first step to mounting the touring bracket is to find the balance point of each board half. Generally putting the touring bracket on the balance point works just fine. To achieve more tip float when skinning in deep snow, you can move the touring bracket a touch forward of the balance point, but usually no more than ~1-2 cm. 

To find the balance point secure a piece of dowel horizontally in a vise and find the place where the board half will balance on the dowel. It is important the you get the cut edge of the board and the dowel as close to perpendicular as possible, so that your balance point line ends up square. 

Once you have the board half balanced use a marker and place a tick mark on each edge of the board half at the balance point. Next use a square along the cut edge to transfer the balance point marks from the edges onto the top-sheet. Draw a line on the top-sheet at the balance point. Measure the width of the board half and mark its center point with a tick mark on the balance point line.

Balance point and center of board marked on one board half.


Using the mounting template mark and drill the holes for the touring bracket. You will need to counter sink the t-nuts that hold the touring bracket into the base of the board with a ¾” wood or forstner bit. I found the forstner bit a lot easier to line up and control than a wood bit like Voile’s instructions recommend. After you have drilled your countersink holes into the base of the board, tap in the threaded t-nuts, and then bolt the touring brackets on to the board halves. 

To fill in the holes that you have created in the base of the board epoxy in the p-tex discs that are included with the split kit. Some sanding may need to be done after the epoxy has cured to even out the base where the p-tex discs have been installed.


Left: Using a drill press and a forstner bit to counter sink the t-nut holes into the base.
Right: T-nuts for the touring bracket installed in the base.


Heel risers

After the touring brackets are in place, take a slider track and attach it to the touring bracket in touring mode, using a slider pin. Next take a heel riser and shim with the bail in the down position and place it under the heel of the slider track, so that the tab on the rear center of the slider track lines up with the indentation on the heel riser piece. Make sure that the heel riser is centered and straight on the board half, lift up the slider track and mark the mounting holes for the heel piece with a marker. Flip the wire bail up and make sure that the marked position is correct before drilling. 

In Voile’s instructions they say to drill all the way through the board and use t-nuts to mount the heel piece. I chose to use pozidrive screws and epoxy to avoid drilling more holes through my board than I needed to. If you choose to go this route just make sure that your pilot holes are drilled correctly. Either a 3.9mm x 10mm or a 4.1mm x 9mm pilot bit should work depending on the thickness of the board and the diameter of the screw threads you are using. 

If you are have never mounted ski binding before, you may want to take your board into your local ski shop and see if you can purchase the correct size pozidrive screws and find out what size pilot bit you will need for them.
Heel riser mounted under the slider track.


Nylon slider tracks

The last step to building your splitboard is mounting the nylon slider tracks to the stance that you ride. This step is relatively easy, but you will want to check and double check to make sure that you get your stance correct before drilling any holes. Voile mentions that the stance width cannot be any less than 18 inches, and the rear foot cannot be angled more than 25 degrees otherwise there may be interference with the touring brackets. Just make sure the slider tracks will slide on at the stance and angle that you need since they are not adjustable after you have mounted them. 

With the two board halves put together in downhill mode position the templates provided by Voile at the your stance width and angle. Center punch the holes on the template. Again here Voile says to drill all the way through the board and use t-nuts to secure the nylon slider tracks to the board. 

On my board I used pozidrive screws and epoxy to again avoid drilling more holes through my board just like the heel risers. I have been using my board for several years now and have had no issues with screws pulling out or loosening. 

When fastening the slider tracks to the board take extra care to get them lined up accurately so the slider track will slide on and off without too much resistance. After you have mounted the slider tracks you are done! Well almost. 

You will still need to buy and trim climbing skins for it.

Left: Split in tour mode.
Right: Put together in board mode.

Voile split kits and splitboard climbing skins can be purchased from the AAI Equipment Shop.  Additionally, the shop rents splitboards: http://www.guideschoice.com.

- Jeff Voigt