Saturday, March 31, 2012

Weekend Warrior -- Videos to get you STOKED!!

Our first video this weekend is of a series of attempts at a First Ascent of (currently) the hardest route in Indian Creek, "Carbondale Short Bus" at 5.14-



The second here is a preview of the documentary about the life and legacy of Shane McConkey, a big mountain skier, BASE jumper and father of fat, rockered, powder skis. Unfortunately, Shane's life was cut short by a skiBASE accident last year. Just watching this short clip will move you.



And lastly, this video is a little inspiration for those of you who need a little push to get over the edge, to face your fears and to revel in the joy of knowing you can do it, whatever "it" may be.



Have a great weekend! - James

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


NORTHWEST:

-- Roads, Routes, Trails --



Work will close Mason Lake Road (Forest Service Road 9031) at milepost 2.0 starting April 1 until June 1, blocking access to Ira Spring Trailhead. Mason Lake Road parallels the north side of I-90 and is off exit 45.  The area is not safe during the cutting, yarding and hauling operations, according to Forest Service officials. Workers are thinning 45 acres of western hemlock, Douglas-Fir and western Red cedar, cutting trees 60-75 years old to improve the growth and health of those remaining. This is the third year timber thinning has closed Mason Lake Road. The contract will end in 2014.

--Weather and Avalanche--

SIERRA:


-- Roads, Routes, Trails --


--Weather and Avalanche --
-- Webcams --
Moab, Utah:

-- Roads, Routes, Trails --


--Weather and Avalanche --


-- Webcams --





RED ROCK CANYON:

-- Weather --


-- Webcam --
-- The late exit and overnight permit number for Red Rock Canyon is 702-515-5050. If there is any chance that you will be inside the park after closing, be sure to call this number so that you don't get a ticket.

--The scenic drive currently opens its gates at 6 in the morning.


JOSHUA TREE:


--Weather 
--Webcam

ALPS:


-- Roads, Routes, Trails --


ALASKA:


We will begin regular conditions reports in the Alaska Range in late April.

Monday, March 26, 2012

New Rope Technology

In 2001, I was climbing a big wall in Zion National Park with two of our former guides.  Prodigal Son is an "easy" aid route that ascends the Northeast Face of Angels Landing.  As it was late in the Fall and it was getting dark early, we elected to fix the first aid pitches and then complete the ascent to the top on the following day.

On the second day of the climb we made our way to the base of the wall in the dark.  The approach was not pleasant.  We had to forge the freezing Virgin River at 5am.  And then we each began to jug the fixed lines with mechanical ascenders.

For some reason, I was the last person to climb the ropes.  As I climbed up the second rope, dawn was breaking and it was much easier to see.  And what I saw was terrifying...

Near the top of the second line, there was a hint of white peaking through a seriously damaged rope sheath.  The line was core shot.  And I was below the damage!

I quickly climbed through the damaged section of rope and clipped into the anchor.  Safe.

Three of us climbed up that rope on jumars.  The bouncing motion of our movement and the dynamic nature of the rope caused it to repeatedly rub on the sandstone, allowing the coarse stone to saw through the sheath.

Ultimately, we finished the wall.  But that particular incident has stuck with me for years.  Indeed, it has made me extremely cautious while aid climbing and constantly concerned about sharp edges while free climbing.

Recently the rope manufacturer Beal, revealed a new technology that they are calling Uni Core.  The concept is that the core and the sheath are integrated and that it will be much harder for rope damage to have a catastrophic effect.

The following video is pretty convincing: 



Certainly the catastrophic effect of the knife on the rope would have been mitigated by knots in the rope.  Aid climbers on jumars are taught to knot the rope as they climb for just such a possibility.  And indeed, in my situation back in Zion, had the sheath completely come apart, I would have been shaken up, but okay.  I had placed knots in the rope.

I haven't used one of these ropes yet and have no idea how well they handle.  But as this is a major jump in rope safety, I thought it important to discuss it here.

To learn more about Uni Core and the new Beal Rope, click here.

To read a discussion on these new ropes, read the thread at supertopo.com.

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, March 25, 2012

March and April 2012 Climbing Events


03/31 -- Oklahoma City, OK -- Rocktown Climbing Gym USA Climbing Comp

3/30 -- 4/1 -- Red Rock Canyon, NV -- Red Rock Rendezvous

03/31 -- Columbus, OH -- Ohio State University Vertical Mile Challenge  


3/31 - 5/20 -- Snoqualmie, WA -- Mountains to Sound Greenway Volunteer Opportunities

4/11 -- Tucson, AZ -- Tucson Climb-n-Brew

4/12 --  Phoenix, AZ -- Phoenix Climb-n- Brew


4/12 -- Chongqing, CHN -- IFSC Climbing WC  Live on the internet : Boulder and Speed

4/13 -- Flagstaff , AZ -- Flagstaff Climb-n-Brew


4/13 -- Las Vegas, NV -- "Welcome to the Hood" video release party: Learn more


4/21 -- Loc Dragomer, SVK -- IFSC Climbing WC Live on the internet: Bouldering

4/24 -- Vancouver, CA -- Will Gadd Slideshow: 30 trips in 60 minutes.


4/27 -- Vienna, AUT -- IFSC Climbing WC Live on the internet: Bouldering

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

With Red Rock Rendezvous just around the corner next weekend, I thought I'd tempt you with some clips featuring some of the great climbing there. First, here's a quick glimpse of the beautiful scenery of the area.



Here's a great clip of a Red Rock Classic: Epinephrine, 5.9, 15 pitches!



Here's another classic Red Rock moderate, Johnny Vegas:



This last one's a little longer, but has footage of some of the harder climbs in the canyon.



If you'd like to sign up to climb with AAI in the few days before or after Rendezvous, please email us at info@aai.cc or call 1-800-424-2249
We hope to see you next weekend!

Friday, March 23, 2012

Waxing Skis and Snowboards

Surprisingly, only a small percentage of skiers and snowboarders take the time and energy required to properly wax the base of their equipment. Skis and snowboards simply don't perform as well when they are not maintained.

There are different waxes for the different temperatures. Colder snow with sharper snow crystals need a more robust wax to keep the skis from getting damaged, whereas warmer, wetter snow causes more friction, which can slow you down without the right wax.

For those that are lazy, there are rub on waxes that can easily be applied in a few minutes. But before you get too lazy, you should always remember that the more time you spend putting the wax on, the longer it will last.

Once you have determined the temperature of snow that you are likely to encounter, you will need the following items:

  • Iron for ironing the wax into the ski base
  • Vise for stabilizing skis while waxing
  • Scraper for removing extra wax
  • Brush for removing extra wax
After you have obtained the proper equipment, you're ready to make a foray into the world of waxing. We have mined the internet for two films on this subject. This first video from REI, provides a solid base of information for those who would like to wax. The second video expands on the information in the first video and provides a few extra tips for snowboarders. If you are going to start waxing your skis or snowboard, it is strongly suggested that you watch both videos to build a solid basis of knowledge. It is possible to damage your equipment without a good understanding of what you're getting into...





For more techniques including some waxing techniques for first time waxers, check out this awesome Spadout article on How to Wax Skis.

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

The Mountaineer's Rest Step

When I first started mountaineering it became clear to me that there were two things I needed to be successful. And no, I'm not talking about a lighter ice axe or more breathable clothing.

Nope. What I need were legs and lungs.

I realized that I needed to be able to walk uphill forever. And I realized that I needed to be able to breathe while I walked uphill forever.

The problem is that nobody can really walk uphill forever. Going up into the sky on a snowy peak really works the quads. Tired quads, plus walking uphill early in the morning, plus altitude, equals tired lungs.

There is a simplistic trick that can help you to preserve both your legs and your lungs. The Mountaineer's Rest Step is a technique that slows you down a bit -- which helps you keep your breath -- and allows you a micro-rest on every step. In the simplest terms, all that you have to do is lock your knee on every step. Locking your knee allows your body to rest on your skeletal system instead of on your muscles.

The Rest Step definitely slows you down. Some might say that this is far from ideal when trying to cover a lot of ground, but the reality is that slow and steady wins the race. It's always better to go slower and take less breaks than to go fast and have to stop a lot.

The Rest Step is a key mountaineering technique. On long summit days it doesn't get any better than taking a mini-rest with every step.

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Climbing Events March & April 2012


03/22 -- Boulder, CO -- Women's Wilderness Institute Gear & Cheer Auction

03/24 -- College Station, TX -- Texas Aggie Pumpfest  


3/24 - 3/25 -- Joshua Tree, CA -- Spring Cling Service Project and Slideshow

03/31 -- Oklahoma City, OK -- Rocktown Climbing Gym USA Climbing Comp

3/30 -- 4/1 -- Red Rock Canyon, NV -- Red Rock Rendezvous

03/31 -- Columbus, OH -- Ohio State University Vertical Mile Challenge  


3/31 - 5/20 -- Snoqualmie, WA -- Mountains to Sound Greenway Volunteer Opportunities

4/11 -- Tucson, AZ -- Tucson Climb-n-Brew

4/12 --  Phoenix, AZ -- Phoenix Climb-n- Brew


4/12 -- Chongqing, CHN -- IFSC Climbing WC  Live on the internet : Boulder and Speed

4/13 -- Flagstaff , AZ -- Flagstaff Climb-n-Brew


4/13 -- Las Vegas, NV -- "Welcome to the Hood" video release party: Learn more


4/21 -- Loc Dragomer, SVK -- IFSC Climbing WC Live on the internet: Bouldering

4/24 -- Vancouver, CA -- Will Gadd Slideshow: 30 trips in 60 minutes.


4/27 -- Vienna, AUT -- IFSC Climbing WC Live on the internet: Bouldering

Saturday, March 17, 2012

A few months ago, I posted a video about a hybrid snowboard/surfboard that worked beautifully in both conditions:



Then we found this video of another hybrid sport - ski surfing:



So then I started thinking about what other hybrid sports are out there:
Speed flying - combination of skiing and paragliding



Snow kiting - combination of snowboarding kiteboarding



Sky surfing - combination of boarding/surfing and skydiving



What other crazy hybrid sports do you know of out there?

Friday, March 16, 2012

Harness Alternatives

A few years ago, I was running a trip up on Mount Shuksan. One of the climbers on the trip had a problem with her harness. The end of the waist belt strap was slightly damaged and the belt simply wouldn't double back.

I decided that the best alternative was to give her my harness. I then proceeded to guide the route wearing a bowline-on-a-coil. I descended the rock portion of the route by rappelling in a diaper harness made out of a double shoulder-length sling...and everything worked out fine.

While that experience wasn't the most comfortable of my life, I definitely drew on my knowledge of harness alternatives to make it happen the trip happen. It's important for every climber to have a small bag of tricks to reach into when something weird goes down.

In this Blog, I have assembled a couple of short articles on harness alternatives and have found a nice video that will help you develop your own bag of tricks.

The following demonstration of how to tie a bowline on a coil is from the website for the Blue Ridge Mountain Rescue Group.

Bowline on a Coil

Start with 15 or so feet of the belay line wrapped around your torso with about 3 feet left over
Create a loop in the long end of the line, just like you would for the regular bowline.
Use the short piece on the other side of the wraps to finish off the bowline
The finished knot.
This was often used long ago as an impromptu harness. this is not recommended today because of the availability of pre-fabricated harnesses and the ability to tie a much better harness from 1 inch tubular webbing. If none of those are available, however, this method is preferable to a single loop around the body because it distributes the weight much more across all those wraps.

There are two options when it comes to creating a harness out of webbing. The first option is to use a long sling or runner and to wear it like a diaper. The second option is to create a hasty harness, also known as a swiss seat harness. Naomi Judd wrote the following breakdown of how to do this for trails.com:

Step 1

Find a piece of webbing that is 7 to 9 feet long, depending on how large the person using the harness will be.
Step 2

Tie a water knot with the ends of the webbing so that it creates one big loop. Do this by making a loose overhand knot with one end of the webbing, then take the other end of the webbing and insert it into the loose overhand following the curves of the knot. Pull tight so that the knot has the two ends coming out on opposite sides.

Step 3

Wrap the webbing around the back of the person with one strand above the hips and one below.
Step 4

Reach for the lower strand, and bring it between the legs and to the front of the body.

Step 5

Attach a locking carabiner to the three strands meeting in the front of the body, near the navel. You now have your makeshift harness.
Following is a nice video that demonstrates how to build a hasty or Swiss harness out of webbing. Clearly a harness made out of webbing -- as well as a harness made out of a long sling -- would be very uncomfortable to hang in...not to mention the fact that it would be far easier to fall out of such a harness. But occasionally you need something on the fly.

In the video you are about to watch, the climber says that you should get instruction at a climbing gym. I would argue that one should never go to a local indoor climbing gym to learn about anything funky at all. Climbing gyms do a good job at teaching the basics of belaying and tying in. But you should never turn to a climbing gym person for instruction beyond that.



Obviously these techniques are unusual. As Scott in the video says, practice them, but then get checked out by a guide. A mistake in any of these harness alternatives could put your life in danger.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Games that Climbers Play

Red Rock Rendezvous is coming really fast.  The event takes place on March 30, 31, and April 1 in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.  We have a lot going on before and after the event. to learn about what's up, click here.

As we're all getting excited for the event, we thought that we should put up this post about last year's after-party.  It sounds like some of the games we played will be used in the main event...

_____________________________________
 
Yesterday, we did a Red Rock Rendezvous news round-up. But we left something out...something that was a high point for our guides at the event.  And indeed, something that will now become a part of future Red Rock Rendezvous Spring Mountain Ranch games.

On Sunday night after all of the Rendezvous participants leave the festival grounds, Mountain Gear hosts a dinner for the athletes and guides.  This is usually a pretty laid back affair where Paul Fish, the president of Mountain Gear, thanks those who helped put on the event.  But this year something happened that was a little bit different.  The usually laid back event turned into a series of competitive non-climbing climber games.

The centerpiece of the evening was a game called "Cups." In the game, a person must not allow his or her feet to pass a line, but they can crawl out from the line using wine bottles for hands.  Once they stretch out as far as they can, they place one of the two bottles upright, then using the single bottle work their way back to the line.

The goal is to place a wine bottle as far out from the line as possible.


AAI Guide Mike Pond working backwards by bouncing on the bottle after making a placement.

AAI Guide Mike Pond helps AAI Guide Mary Harlan place a bottle by holding one foot.  
This gave Mary a bit more reach than she would have had.

When we started, this game was somewhat subdued.  It was simply a matter of, how tall are you and how far can you stretch?  But as the game went on, teams got more an more creative.

In this first video, AAI senior guide trainer, Mike Powers, makes a very standard bottle placement.



In this second video, we start to see how the guides became a little more competitive and started to be a lot more creative.  Here we see AAI guide Ben Traxler with the bottles, AAI Guide Cliff Palmer is holding his legs and AAI guide Richard Riquleme climbs across Ben's back to place a bottle as far out as possible.



This last video shows the extent and creativity that our guides combined with Mountain Gear employees went to in order to place a bottle as far as was humanly possible.  In this video, Richard Riquleme, Cliff Palmer, Scott Massey, and Dana Hickenbottom, along with a Mountain Gear Employee hold another Mountain Gear Employee using sling material, while AAI guide Mary Harlan squirms across the guy in order to place a bottle waaaay out there.



This game was really fun, though it could certainly be dangerous.  After we finished we imagined what might happen if one of those bottles broke, and we didn't come up with many positive outcomes.

Next year this will become an actual competition at Red Rock Rendezvous, though they will use bowling pins instead of bottles to create a little bit wider margin of safety.  A room with thirty people in it came up with some spectacular and creative ideas.  I can't wait to see what a thousand people with dozens of different teams will come up with for this game...

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, March 11, 2012

March and April Climbing Events

3/15 -- Las Vegas, NV -- Bureau of Land Management Open House at Red Rock Visitor Center 1- 6pm, call for details. 702-515-5356

03/24 -- College Station, TX -- Texas Aggie Pumpfest  

03/31 -- Oklahoma City, OK -- Rocktown Climbing Gym USA Climbing Comp

3/30 -- 4/1 -- Red Rock Canyon, NV -- Red Rock Rendezvous

03/31 -- Columbus, OH -- Ohio State University Vertical Mile Challenge  


4/12 -- Chongqing, CHN -- IFSC Climbing WC  Live on the internet : Boulder and Speed


4/13 -- Las Vegas, NV -- "Welcome to the Hood" video release party: Learn more


4/21 -- Loc Dragomer, SVK -- IFSC Climbing WC Live on the internet: Bouldering


4/27 -- Vienna, AUT -- IFSC Climbing WC Live on the internet: Bouldering


Saturday, March 10, 2012

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!

We'll start this weekend's videos with an impressive link-up of three separate lines by Robert Jasper. Although this was intended as a true mixed line, the area was hit with a warm spell and the only option was to drytool it. Some may say he is just aid-climbing, but is there anybody else lining up to do this 20+ meter roof's worth of figure-fours and forearm pump? Ironman: D/M 14+

Robert Jasper | 1st Ascent | Ironman from funst on Vimeo.



This next one features Sonnie Trotter with some stellar climbing on the granite of Squamish along with great thoughts on climbing, life, friends and everything else that goes along with it all.

Crescendo |krəˈ sh endō| Sonnie Trotter AliasCinema from AliasCinema | Alex Lavigne on Vimeo.



Have a great weekend! - James

Friday, March 9, 2012

Film Review: The Thing (2011)

A lot of AAI guides have spent time working in Antarctica over the years.  These include Tom Kirby, Dylan Taylor, Tim Connelly, and Danny Uhlmann, among others.  Some guides have worked on Mt. Vinson, but most have spent time working at Antarctic bases.

One of the most popular films in all of Antarctica is the 1982 John Carpenter film, The Thing.  People who work in Antarctica literally love that movie.  They often watch it when they arrive on site.  And those who winter down there always watch it right before the last plane leaves for the season.

The Thing has had a lot of lives on the big screen. First, there was the 1951 film, The Thing from Another World.  Then there was the 1982 remake, where they dropped "from Another World," from the title.  And then lastly, in 2011, they made a prequel to the Carpenter film, also entitled, The Thing.


If you're not familiar with the mythology behind The Thing, it goes like this.  A crew of Norwegian scientists find ta massive spacecraft buried in the ice.  They retrieve the body of something and bring it back to their base.  The 1982 film starts with a crew of Americans finding the burned out remains of that base and also finding the thing that caused the death and destruction there.

The 2011 prequel tells the story of the Norwegian scientists who find the spacecraft and retrieve the body of an alien frozen in the ice. They bring it back home and realize -- much too late -- that it is not dead.  And indeed, that not only is it not dead, but that it is a murderous thing that has the ability to mimic people.  The scientists secluded in the Antarctic are picked off one by one by the monster, while never knowing whether their friends are still their friends, or whether they are monsters disguised as people.

The 2011 film is a fun B-movie style ride.  It is not as tightly written as the super-popular 1982 film.  And indeed, sometimes it feels a little bit too similar to that film.  The storyline is quite similar: scientists, Antarctica, monsters, ice, impostors, everybody dies...  And maybe that's what makes it fun.

The biggest difference between the 1982 film and the 2011 film is the protagonist.  Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays paleontologist, Kate Loyd. The character is smart and logical, which is exactly the opposite of what we tend to see of characters in most horror films. She doesn't panic.  She doesn't explore weird dark rooms where she just heard a strange noise.  She acts like we hope that we would act were we in such a situation...

Throughout the film we are treated to some great shots of high glaciers and peaks. It's not clear where these shots are from.  It seems unlikely that it was filmed in Antarctica and a quick google search doesn't provide information beyond studio locations...

One of the most terrifying moments in the film for our readers is an early moment where a a large truck drops through a snow-bridge into a crevasse and gets wedged between the two walls.  Unfortunately, the filmmakers decided to skip over the rescue of the truck's passengers, which is too bad, because regardless of the monsters running around, getting wedged into a crevasse is not a good thing and would have created more drama in the story.

These films are attractive to climbers because they take place in an environment that we are familiar with.  While most of us haven't spent significant time in Antarctica, most of us have spent a lot of time secluded in the snowy mountains, somewhat cutoff from the rest of the world.  As a result, of our experiences in these places, some of us might find them more spooky than our non-outdoorsy friends.

If you're not a The Thing fan, then this movie really isn't for you.  But if you love the 1982 film, then you'll probably like the 2011 film...

I thought it might be fun to look at the trailers for all three versions of The Thing.  First, we have the 1951 version.  Second, we have the 1982 version.  And then lastly, we have the prequel:







--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Belay Backup

When should a person have a belay backup?

In the American Alpine Institute Single Pitch Instructor Course, this question comes up constantly.  When should I have someone back up my new belayer?  When can I let them belay without a backup?  And how should I back them up?

These are questions that exist throughout the climbing world. Many climbers who are not professional instructors regularly teach people to belay.  So these are not simply esoteric guide questions, but are real and fundamental questions that anyone who has ever taught someone how to belay must consider.

New climbers should always have a backup of some sort. The possibility of dropping someone is very real for the rank beginner and is often still a possibility for someone with a little bit of experience.

The answer to when a person should no longer need a backup belayer is twofold.  First, you should be comfortable with the fact that the person no longer needs a backup.  A second, and far more important consideration, is when the individual feels comfortable enough to belay without a backup.

It is not uncommon for climbers -- especially very young climbers -- to teach their friends to belay and then to give them a hard time when they show concern about the level of responsibility they have been given. This is a recipe for disaster.  One should never ignore or belittle a person's concerns about his or her belay skills.  Indeed, this is exactly the type of red flag that would lead a guide to continue employing a belay backup.

Belay Backup Techniques

There are a number of individuals out there that have their hearts in the right place by providing a belay backup, but are doing it very poorly.  Indeed, while putting together this blog, I found an instructional video that demonstrates poor belay backup technique.

It is unfortunately quite common for climbers to simply hold the rope to backup a belayer. This is often done in a lackadaisical manner (see photo below) and may not provide the appropriate amount of friction to adequately stop a fall if the belayer panics and lets go of the rope.


This is an example of a VERY BAD belay backup. Note that the backup 
belayer is not really holding the rope and that he is not in line with the device.
It is highly unlikely that he will be able to arrest a fall if the kid on the tree lets go. 

There are two simple techniques to back someone up who is on flat terrain. The first option is to give the belayer a hip belay. And the second option is to simply run the rope through a second device on the backup belayer.

Occasionally I work with kids. In such a setting I tend to add yet another piece of redundancy to the system.  I employ a backup belayer as well as a knot tyer.  In other words, I have a kid tie backup knots every six or eight feet.  This keeps a person occupied who would otherwise be a potential crag management hazard.  Admittedly, tying knots in the rope is overkill with adults and even with competent high school students.  But when it comes to middle school kids, the more activities they have the better...

If the belay is running through a GriGri or a Cinch, then it might be okay to have a slightly less radical approach to your backup belay.  It doesn't take much to arrest a fall in such a device.

If you are not on flat ground and a backup belayer can get below the belayer, it might be acceptable to simply hold the rope for a backup.  This is what is refered to as an inline belay backup.


An Inline Belay Backup

Another option that allows you to hold the rope is to create an inline redirect.  In other words, the belay rope runs from the belayers device, to a ground anchor and then back to the backup belayer.  In such a situation it is super easy for a backup belayer to arrest a fall by holding the rope.

A Backup Belay Running through a Redirect

Backup belays are an important part of the safety net for the beginner climber.  If you're new to climbing don't hesitate to ask for a backup.  And if you have the opportunity to teach someone how to belay, always always always employ a belay backup.  It could save someone's life!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Mug Dilemma

Well, it's not really that much of a dilemma. A few years ago, somebody suggested to me that one could save space and go lighter if he ditched his mug for hot drinks. The idea was that you're already carrying water-bottles...why not use those instead?

So I did. I ditched the mug and started to drink all of my hot fluids out of my Nalgene bottles. This worked for awhile, until I found out about polycarbonate and Bisphenol A.

If you haven't heard some rumblings about this, you've probably been in the backcountry too much. This controversy set the outdoor blogs and forums on fire a few years ago.

Essentially, many water bottles are made out of polycarbonate. The problem with this is that the bottles may leech Bisphenol A into the contents. This is exacerbated in hot liquids, older bottles, or in bottles that you store fluid in for a long period of time.

The problem with Bisphenol A is that this estrogen-like chemical has been linked to breast cancer and the onset of early puberty. Studies have also raised concerns about the effect of such feminizing hormones on men, such as breast enlargement or dropping semen counts.

So after finding out about this, I wasn't that psyched on my water-bottles any more. I know that many companies have taken steps to keep this chemical out of their bottles, but I didn't want to chance it. As a result, I invested in a little metal water bottle, which mostly worked well.

It was always a bit difficult to hold the plastic bottles after filling them with boiling tea. This was much worse when I used the metal bottle. Indeed, I actually made a little cosy in order to comfortably hold the bottle.

And so all was well for a time... But then it happened.

Inexplicably, I put a plastic water-bottle into my pack instead of a metal bottle. I don't know why I did this. And the bottle I put in the bag wasn't from one of the well-known bottle manufactures. No, it was from a gear rep and it had a company name on it...

I didn't think this would matter. It looked just as heavy as any Nalgene bottle I'd carried in the past. But it turns out that it wasn't. When I put my hot water into the bottle, it changed shape and became something all together different.


A bottle melted out of form by boiling water.
This had never happened to me before, so I was a bit shocked. I didn't expect the bottle to melt.

The moral of the story isn't that I've gone back to carrying a mug, but instead to say, check your bottles with hot water in them before you take them into the backcountry, If there's something weird about them, it's better to know ahead of time than during a trip...

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Climbing Events March and April 2012




3/6 -- Bellingham, WA --REI Avalanche Awareness Class: Register

03/10 -- Charleston, SC -- Palmetto Pump 


03/24 -- College Station, TX -- Texas Aggie Pumpfest  

03/31 -- Oklahoma City, OK -- Rocktown Climbing Gym USA Climbing Comp

3/30 -- 4/1 -- Red Rock Canyon, NV -- Red Rock Rendezvous

03/31 -- Columbus, OH -- Ohio State University Vertical Mile Challenge  


4/12 -- Chongqing, CHN -- IFSC Climbing WC  Live on the internet : Boulder and Speed


4/21 -- Loc Dragomer, SVK -- IFSC Climbing WC Live on the internet: Bouldering


4/27 -- Vienna, AUT -- IFSC Climbing WC Live on the internet: Bouldering

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you Stoked!!!

Every once in a while I will have a specific focus to the Weekend Warrior Videos, sometimes it' a place or maybe an athlete. Well this time it's a special style of skiing. This weekend's videos are for a special breed of skier, those that free their heels, drop their knees, and get low!

Yes, it's the telemarker.



This guy can rip some tele-turns!



I wish my form was half as good as this guy's.



For those of you who prefer other forms of downhill transport, here's a laugh for you.



Have fun and be safe out there this weekend! - James

Friday, March 2, 2012

Members of Congress Support Guided Climbing in the Black Canyon

The American Alpine Institute just received this letter from the American Mountain Guides Association:

Boulder, Colorado------- In response to the National Park Service's recent draft proposal to prohibit guided climbing in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, Senator Mark Udall (D-CO), Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO), Senator Max Baucus (D-MT), and Representative Scott Tipton (R-CO) recently urged the National Park Service to reconsider the proposal.

In a joint letter written by Udall, Bennet and Baucus the Senators wrote, "While most climbers in the park choose not to climb with a guide, many do utilize guides, and we believe that given the extremely challenging nature of climbing in the Black Canyon, the option to climb with a guide should be available." This sentiment was reinforced by Rep. Tipton, who wrote in his letter, "...if adopted, the Proposal will reduce opportunities for safe, facilitated wilderness recreation and education not only at the Black Canyon but also in other areas of our country's great National Park System."  Betsy Winter, Executive Director for the AMGA, applauded the congressional intervention and renewed the organization's request for a suitable Wilderness management plan.

"The AMGA is grateful for the support of Senators Udall, Bennet, Baucus and Rep. Tipton, and shares their goal to protect the unique wilderness character of the Black Canyon.  Like our partners in Congress, the AMGA believes that sound wilderness management policy for the Black Canyon does not require elimination of a service that enhances safety, enjoyment, and personal growth for the countless visitors that choose to partner with a licensed guide when enjoying the legendary vertical challenges found only in the Black Canyon.  Consequently, the AMGA looks forward to working with our partners in Congress and in the National Park Service to ensure that visitors to the Black Canyon continue to have access to guided climbing in 2012 and beyond.

While the proposal to eliminate guided climbing access in the Black Canyon is still on the table, I am very encouraged by the support and attention our Senators and Congressmen have given to this very important issue. By far, this is one of the most consequential proposals our profession has faced, due to the potential negative impacts it could have on AMGA membership and the mountain guiding community at large. The AMGA and our constituents, therefore thank the members of Congress for taking notice of the concerns expressed by the climbing and guiding profession, and look forward to working with the National Park Service to reverse their draft proposal."

About the American Mountain Guides Association
For over 30 years, the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) has inspired an exceptional client experience as the premier source for training, credentials, resource stewardship and services for professional mountain guides and climbing instructors in the United States. A national non-profit, the AMGA is committed to enhancing the quality of outdoor services provided to the public, while serving as a resource for accessing and protecting the natural environment. The AMGA is our nation's exclusive representative to the International Federation of Mountain Guides Associations (IFMGA), the international governing body responsible for guiding standards and education around the world. For more information please visit www.amga.com.

To access the full text from the congressional letters as well as video of Representative Tipton questioning NPS Director, Jon Jarvis on the proposal, please visit http://amga.com/about/BlackCanyon_Response.php.

How to Sharpen Your Crampons

After running a blog about sharpening ice screws, we had a request on how to sharpen crampons. 

Mixed climbing, moving from an ice climb onto a rock climb and then back, can be very hard on technical crampons.  Most mixed climbers who get out a long will need to sharpen their cramponsat least once a season.  We found the following video from mixed climber Stephen Kotch on how to sharpen technical crampons for mixed terrain:



General mountaineering often also requires one to sharpen crampons.  It's not uncommon for a mountaineer to walk from ice or snow onto a rock feature and then back onto the ice.  In the short term, this has a minimal impact on one's equipment.  However, in the long term crampons can become dangerously dull.

Following is a quick breakdown of how to sharpen your mountaineering crampons:

  1. Mountaineering crampons get beat up. You move over all kinds of terrain in them, so in addition to getting dull, they often get quite dirty. Before sharpening your "poons," you're going to want to rinse them down and clean them off.
  2. Some people will put the crampons into a vice while sharpening them.  If you elect to do this, be sure not to place them in such a way that the vice-grip will warp the crampons.  On many models, you can detach the toe from the heel and place each section in the vice without the threat of damaging them. However, this will be model-dependent. You'll notice that Stephen simply holds the crampons. He does this bare-handed, but you may want to wear leather gloves to protect your fingers.
  3. Be sure to file the edges down toward the point. Do not file the broad side of the crampon point as this will weaken the teeth.  You should not be making the points "thinner."
  4. Once you've completed the process of sharpening, wash and wipe down your crampons. Make sure there are no burrs or chips in them.
  5. If your crampons have been sharpened many times and the points seem to be getting thin or weirdly shaped, then it might be time to replace them.
Final Tip:

When  you come out of the mountains, make sure that your crampons are completely dry before storing them away.  If you put them away before they dry out, next time you want to use them, you will find them covered in rust.

--Jason D. Martin