Saturday, September 29, 2012

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

I know many of us are trying to hold on to the last remnants of summer, but some climbers are embracing the cooler temps that are coming with the change of the seasons.  Jason Kruk and Josh Lavigne definitely embraced it on their recent ascent of Mt. Alberta in the Canadian Rockies.  As an added bonus, they found a crazy cave system penetrating the North Face about halfway through the route.


Mt Alberta, North Face from Joshua Lavigne on Vimeo.

This next video is the trailer for the European Outdoor Film Tour. Think "Banff for just the EU." A couple of the clips look familiar, but there are some other interesting new clips in there as well.



And lastly, another video that embraces the change of the seasons and helps fuel the Ice Stoke. This little gem is from Will Gadd and Arc'teryx, and features the amazing Helmcken Falls.

"THIS WAY" Episode 4 - Spray Ice from ARC'TERYX on Vimeo.


Have a great weekend!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Eye Protection on Long Expeditions

Anyone who has spent any time on a glacier when the sun is out, will tell you how fast their skin started to tan or burn.  The reflective nature of snow and ice greatly magnifies the suns power, and proper measures need to be taken to protect our skin and eyes from UV rays.  Putting on sunscreen and wearing sun glasses seems like basic common sense when the sun is out, however it is not as obvious when the clouds are overhead.  The fact is though, that even when the clouds are out, those damaging UV rays are still making their way through, and your chances of becoming snow blind or burning your skin is still high.  On long expeditions, the chance of you encountering bad weather and having to deal with variable conditions is almost a guarantee, and as such you should come prepared.
The author, rocking out his Spectron 4 shades in the bright light on Denali

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


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


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


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

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

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

--Andrew Yasso, Instructor and Guide

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Mountain Conditions September 26, 2012


WASHINGTON:

Fires: 

-Open Fire Ban beginning in Mt. Baker Snoqualmie National Forest due to dry conditions.

-8 Mile Road in Icicle Canyon is currently closed due to a fire.

-Stewart Lake and Colchuck Lake Trailhead is currently closed due to a fire.


Road Updates: 

-Mt Baker Highway open to Artist Point.

Gold Bar Climbing Access: As of Winter 2012 the Washington Climbers Coalition (WCC) has secured access to the gate on the road which leads up to the Gold Bar boulders and the approach to Zeke’s Wall. Climbers who are members of the WCC are welcome to climb at the Gold Bar Boulders and to park there for access to Zeke’s Wall, as guests of the Manke Timber Company. Please note: all climbers using this road must be members of the WCC and have a WCC sticker as well as a valid Discover Pass.


    ALASKA:

    -- Weather --

                Mount McKinley Recreational Forecast

    -- Webcams --

                Denali from Wonder Lake


    SIERRA:

    U-Notch: Out of condition

    Dana Couloir: Out of Condition

    -- Webcams --
    RED ROCK CANYON:

    Red Rock Canyon Campground Is now open for the season. 



    -- 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:

    Tuesday, September 25, 2012

    My Favorite Layer: The Windshirt


    I think this is about to be the most conceited, narcissistic, and vain post that I will ever make. But honestly, when I take 1 minute to look at my Facebook photos, 50% of them are of me in my windshirt. I knew I loved my windshirt, that it was my go-to layer; I didn't know I loved it this much!

    My windshirt happens to be a Patagonia Houdini, and I really am quite fond of it. It does anything and everything that I need an action layer to do. What follows is a photo essay of me in my windshirt in all sorts of environments.


    Wearing my windshirt while ski-touring near Mt. Baker in Washington State in November. Perfect on the uphill with a light wind, adds just enough warmth under a shell on the way down.


    Wearing my windshirt as a little extra warmth and wind protection during a rapid descent off Mt. Stuart in the Cascades in August


    Topping out on a route up Squamish, B.C.'s Lower Apron in July. The windshirt is a perfect "momentarily in the shade and I'm cold," layer.


    Racked up at the base of a route about to head up into the sun. This climb is the Southwest Rib of South Early Winter Spire in the Washington Pass area of Washington State. I did this climb in July.


    Showing off my tennis shoes at base camp on Denali in Alaska in June. I never took this layer off, even as I went higher.


    Bouldering on a beach in April. The sun is out but the light breeze made the windshirt a must.


    Climbing ice in the Canadian Rockies in February. When it's cold and dry and you're working hard, the Houdini keeps your warm enough without sweating, while keeping the snow/water off your skin!


    Celebrating a link-up of Black Orpheus and Johnny Vegas to Solar Slab in October (actually on Halloween, hence my buddy's racing suit) in Red Rock, NV. October in the desert can be cold and windy. We were moving fast and simul-climbing most of the route, so the windshirt kept me at the perfect temperature.


    Finishing a climb up a steep couloir in the Sierra of California. It was a cold and snowy september, and with the altitude, I really appreciated that perfectly thin and perfectly light windshirt that added the right amount of warmth and protection from the elements.


    Slogging through some awkward conditions on Mount Rainier in March. It was humid out and I would have sweat too much in a hardshell, hence the windshirt!


    So, I'm really sorry about that. I'm even a little sick of looking at myself at this point. But really, I was just trying to prove to you how much I love this layer, and how often I use it. Go and get your windshirt today! I doubt you'll be disappointed.

    --Andrew Yasso
    Instructor and Guide

    Monday, September 24, 2012

    Using Your Rope in the Anchor

    It's not uncommon for us to get up to an anchor point only to find that we've left our cordellete on our partner's harness or to find that it is impossible to hear.  Most people will just deal with these problems without thinking outside-the-box.  One outside the box thought though is to use your rope for these things.


    This first photo was taken in Red Rock Canyon at the start of the "Tunnel Pitch" on Tunnel Vision (III, 5.7).  If you're not familiar with this route, it is an absolutely stellar ascent.  On the fourth pitch, one has the opportunity to actually climb through the mountain in a tunnel. In other words, the route requires a bit of vertical spelunking.

    The top of the third pitch, at the start of the tunnel, it is difficult to see or hear the second.  The route follows a corner and chimney system up the wall.  In order to see my climber, I built an anchor and then, using the rope, extended the anchor to the edge where it was far less difficult to see and hear.

    Some might argue that this system lacks redundancy.  I'm not too worried about that as I can see the whole anchor to ensure that there is no rubbing and we never have redundancy in the rope while we're climbing with a single line...

    This second picture was taken in Leavenworth, Washington on one of ourAMGA Single Pitch Instructor courses.  The assignment was for the student to create a fixed line across a catwalk on the slab shown.  This particular student didn't have the webbing or the cordellete to create a perfect SRENE anchor.  Instead, he built a pre-equalized anchor with his rope. In this application, this worked really well.


    In this picture, another Single Pitch Instructor candidate built a top-rope anchor, wrapping a rope around a boulder and tying it off with a double-bowline.  In order to create some flexibility in the anchor he tied an figure-eight on a bite and clove-hitched it to the line going to the edge of his top-rope anchor.

    This last picture shows a close-up of the figure-eight and the clove-hitch mentioned above.

    Flexibility and thinking outside the box are two major tenants of climbing efficiency.  One way to be efficient and to be flexible and to be outside-the-box is to use your rope for anchoring instead of other materials.  Your rope is always on you and as such, it definitely provides an option that really shouldn't feel like it's that far out-of-the-box...

    --Jason D. Martin

    Sunday, September 23, 2012

    September and October Events 2012



    9/25 - 9/30 -- Yosemite, CA -- Yosemite Facelift

    9/26 -- Bellingham, WA -- Peter Zuckerman reading of Buried in the Sky, 7pm at Village Books.

    9/28 -- Bellingham, WA -- Mountain Rescue Fundraiser: Colin Haley Slideshow

    9/27 - 9/30 -- Castle Rocks/City of Rock, ID -- Idaho Mountain Festival

    October is Reel Rock Season


    Click Here to go to the calendar and find a showing near you. 


    10/5 - 10/8--Keene Valley, NY-- Chicks with Picks Girly Gathering

    10/6 -- Flagstaff, AZ -- Trailwork Days 9am to 4pm

    10/9 -- San Francisco -- Planet Granite ASCA Fundraiser Auction w/ Tommy Caldwell

    10/19--San Francisco -- Planet Granite Block Party

    Saturday, September 22, 2012

    Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

    Chris Sharma, Adam Ondra, Sasha DiGiulian, Daila Ojeda, Conrad Anker, Jimmy Chin, Renan Ozturk, Tom Randall, Pete Whittaker, Alex Honnold: Reel Rock 7



    If you don't have any mountains, cliffs, or boulders to climb, maybe you could get some hints from this next video.  All you need is a little creativity, some historic masonry, and some of the skills (and guts) of pro climber, Manu Romain.



    Hopefully you've already seen last season's epic from Sweetgrass Productions, "Solitare" (if you haven't, I highly recommend it!) This next clip is a little behind-the-scenes of what happens after the film gets released.  It shows some of the life on the road during the filmmakers tour, and gives insight to the thoughts, motives and hard work that goes into promoting a great outdoor film.


    On The Road Episode XII - Two Years, Five Winters from Sweetgrass Productions on Vimeo.

    Last this week, but definitely not least, is the the trailer for this season's flick from Absinthe Films. The handrail at about 1:17 is enough in itself to make your jaw hit the floor, but combined with all the other sweetness of this trailer... well, just see for yourself.



    Friday, September 21, 2012

    Why Would a Climber Need a Knife?

    It's not always super easy to find things to write about in this blog. So I often lurk on different websites looking for topics to write about.  This particular post on rockclimbing.com caught my attention:

    I am a new climber-and I've seen many climbers carry knives. Many of them are really attached to them-and consider them their favorite tool. I've met climbers that have stories about their knives and talk about them like a companion. I was thinking I should invest in one-but would love to hear about your experiences or knife stories.

    I'm hoping that it will help me with this decision.

    This individual must have a strange local ethic.  I've never heard a climber talk about his knife like it was a companion.  No, instead I've heard climbers complain that their "harness knives" aren't sharp enough or to debate whether or not carrying such an item is even appropriate.

    So there are two parts to this question.  First, what might a climber need a knife for.  And second, why is there even an argument about whether such a tool is appropriate.




    Many of you have read the book or seen the movie, Touching the Void.  In that particular incident, two climbers found themselves caught in a tremendously dangerous situation.  One hung over a cornice, while the other held him on a rope in a precarious stance.  As the stance deteriorated and it appeared that both would die, the climber holding the rope decided to cut it...

    Lucky he had a knife!

    But this was an incredibly unusual situation.  In over two hundred years of climbing history, this has happened exactly one time.  So this isn't exactly why you need a knife with you.

    No, instead you need a knife with you to deal with this:




    In the picture above, there are seven or eight slings wrapped around the rappel horn. Most of them are quite bad. Some are crusty.  Some have been eaten by mice.  And so the best thing to do is to add one more cord, right?

    Wrong.

    The best thing to do is to add a cord (which you may need a knife to fashion) and then to cut the other tat away (which will also require a knife), so that there is one nice and clean redundant anchor on the horn.  Clearing away the garbage at rappel stations provides great stewardship and it shows that you care about the crags where you climb.

    Cutting cords and sling material is a common occurrence on long multi-pitch routes that don't see a lot of traffic.  It is not at all uncommon to have to do some work to beef up anchors or to clean up old materials left years before.  Additionally, a knife could be used to cut away damaged sections of rope, be used in a first aid situation, or even be used to trim materials for a makeshift shelter.  There are a million uses for a knife, especially on long routes...

    I alluded to the possibility that there was some controversy about carrying a knife.  That is not at all the case.  Every guide carries a knife.  No, instead the controversy lies in what kind of knife you should carry and  how you should carry it.

    It is not uncommon for people to carry cheap "gas station" knives on cords hanging off their harnesses.  Indeed, some people even carry more expensive knives the same way.  The concern is that a knife might open and become dangerous, both from the possibility of getting cut as well as the possibility of it damaging gear.  As such, there are some guide trainers that don't allow guides to carry knives on their harnesses.  They prefer if they were in a pack.



    There are a couple of popular harness knives available on the market that theoretically will not open on your harness.  The Trango Piranah Climbing Knife (pictured above) is a very small knife that takes up very little space on your harness.





    The Trango Sharktool (pictured above) is a nice hybrid between a nut-tool and a knife.  It is a nice way to eliminate some of the extra baggage of the other knives described here.  In other words, you will only need to have one carabiner for both the knife and your nut-tool.




    The Petzl Spatha (pictured above) is a tried and true classic.  I would say that I've seen this particular knife on more peoples harnesses than any of the others listed.

    Certainly many climbers carry a multi-tool.  This is especially useful if you are on an expedition or on a big alpine climb.  Some will elect to carry their multi-tool on a harness, but most will stow it in a pack.

    So to answer the original question, there are many uses for a knife.  But if you start to see your knife as a companion or a close friend, then you should seriously consider therapy...

    Jason D. Martin

    Tuesday, September 18, 2012

    Captain Kirk likes to Climb Mountains

    Captain Kirk likes to climb mountains.

    In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the movie starts with Captain Kirk most of the way up a free solo ascent of El Capitan. Of course, Spock has to mess things up by showing up in his jet boots.

    We've posted this clip in the past, but we've never had William Shatner's commentary on the scene before. It's pretty funny. William Shatner is clearly not a climber.

    So before we look at Mr. Shatner's comments on climbing, we have the scene from Star Trek V to refresh your memories:



    This is the clip where William Shatner explains that mountain climbers like to hug and make love to the mountain:



    And this is the remix of the clip fashioned as a musical:



    Yep, Captain Kirk sure does like to climb mountains!

    --Jason D. Martin

    Monday, September 17, 2012

    Freerider!

    Crest Pictures recently released their epic short film FreeRider to internet audiences. FreeRider is a phenomenal little piece of filmmaking about the renowned splitboard mountaineer, Kyle Miller.

    Here is a snippet from Crest Pictures press release on the film:

    Crest Pictures is proud to announce the release of their latest production, FreeRider, a short film about splitboard mountaineer Kyle Miller. FreeRider is a documentary chronicling Miller’s passion for his sport, his ski bum lifestyle, his great love of the wilderness and mountain scenery, and his unyielding dedication to fulfilling his boarding dreams.

    Miller says, “I’m a skier first and a mountaineer second…I do it for the love of snowboarding.” But, every time he is in the backcountry he knows he is putting his life on the line. Often completely isolated, he and his climbing partners are fully aware that they are out there alone facing whatever is thrown at them…be it avalanches, bad weather, whiteouts, gear malfunctions, injury or worse. When asked if it’s worth all the hardship he suffers on splits just to get to these remote places? He happily answers, “I believe so!” That single ride is definitely worth skinning miles, sometimes even days, and digging deep to quiet his fears while boot packing up steep exposed lines to some lofty summit for that one 15-minute, 4000-foot run.

    FreeRider follows Miller on his “epic hunt for good snow” while trying to live a super frugal lifestyle just so he can ride nine months out of the year. And then things start to change for him. Along the way we see his pain and his joys…his disappointments and his accomplishments.

    Snowboarding has come a long way in the last few years, and splitboard mountaineering is at the forefront now. Miller is part of this new vanguard. He is an admired and respected splitboarder who has been featured in articles in Off-Piste, Backcountry and Frequency magazines. This year, he became part of Eddie Bauer’s First Ascent group of elite athletes. Each season Miller sets a high bar for himself. In 2010, he successfully climbed and rode all 25 volcanoes in the Western United States. This year Miller went for and completed Washington’s 10 highest peaks while the cameras rolled for the making of FreeRider.

    Following is the film:


     

    --Jason D. Martin

    Sunday, September 16, 2012

    September and October Events 2012



    9/22 -- Flagstaff, AZ -- Trailwork Days 9am to 4pm

    9/21 - 9/23 -- New River Gorge, WV -- Chicks with Picks Girly Gathering

    9/25 - 9/30 -- Yosemite, CA -- Yosemite Facelift

    9/28 -- Bellingham, WA -- Mountain Rescue Fundraiser: Colin Haley Slideshow

    9/27 - 9/30 -- Castle Rocks/City of Rock, ID -- Idaho Mountain Festival

    October is Reel Rock Season


    Click Here to go to the calendar and find a showing near you. 


    10/5 - 10/8--Keene Valley, NY-- Chicks with Picks Girly Gathering

    10/6 -- Flagstaff, AZ -- Trailwork Days 9am to 4pm

    10/19--San Francisco -- Planet Granite Block Party

    Saturday, September 15, 2012

    Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

    I hope you all are ready for another great weekend.

    Jeremy Jones' "Further" premiered in Seattle last night. If you weren't there, here is a highlight of what you missed:



    AAI Guide and Jones Snowboards sponsored athlete Liz Daley was on-hand at the Seattle show. She will be tearing it up in the Cascades this season with us, so if you would like to get out and sharpen your backcountry skills with her, give us a call!

    The next video this weekend features the man, Chris Sharma, bolting up and throwing down in Ceuse!


    Chris Sharma - BACK in Céüse - Sport climbing and bolting in France from Petzl-sport on Vimeo.

    BD athlete JP Ouelet and Matt McCormick put up a First Ascent in the Bugaboos of British Columbia. AAI's Andrew Yasso recently returned from a trip with climber Holden Gibson. If you want to do your own Bugaboos trip, we can put one together for you!



    Have a great weekend! - James

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012

    Mountain Conditions September 12th, 2012



    WASHINGTON
    :

    Mt. Adams: The south climbing route is closed due to a forest fire.

    Road Updates: 
    -Mt Baker Highway open to Artist Point.

    -FS Road 5500-101 and McClellan Butte Trailhead: Closed Weekdays Aug. 20 - Mid September due to helicopter timber thinning. 

    -Mason Lake Road/Ira Spring Trailhead closed weekdays through mid August for Helicopter logging. 

    Gold Bar Climbing Access: As of Winter 2012 the Washington Climbers Coalition (WCC) has secured access to the gate on the road which leads up to the Gold Bar boulders and the approach to Zeke’s Wall. Climbers who are members of the WCC are welcome to climb at the Gold Bar Boulders and to park there for access to Zeke’s Wall, as guests of the Manke Timber Company. Please note: all climbers using this road must be members of the WCC and have a WCC sticker as well as a valid Discover Pass.

      ALASKA:

      -- Weather --

                  Mount McKinley Recreational Forecast

      -- Webcams --

                  Denali from Wonder Lake


      SIERRA:

      U-Notch: Out of condition

      Dana Couloir: Out of Condition

      -- Webcams --
      RED ROCK CANYON:

      Red Rock Canyon Campground Is now open for the season. 



      -- 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:

      Tuesday, September 11, 2012

      Route Profile: Johnny Vegas (5.7, II+)

      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 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