Saturday, April 27, 2013

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

You may start watching this first clip, and ask yourself, "wait, is this the right blog...?" but give it a second until the climbing kicks in, then you'll get why I added it.  Sick...

Be sure to check out Baraka Films' (the makers of that last clip) 20 min. movie featuring high-ball bouldering in Argentina, "Tuzgle"

Since we're already on a Latin American kick here, let's continue with this one from Mammut and AceCine highlighting Cochamo, which is in the Los Lagos region of Chile.  Enjoy the footage of these stellar alpine lines!

Have a great weekend!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Book Review: True Summit

In June of 1950, a small French team made it to the summit of Annapurna under the leadership of Maurice Herzog. The mountain became the first 8,000 meter peak ever to be climbed and Herzog's best-selling account of his climb, Annapurna, is one of the most cherished mountaineering stories in the sport's history.

The summit of the mountain cost Herzog dearly. He lost all his fingers and toes to frostbite. Louis Lachenal, the man he went to the summit with, lost all of his toes. The other two climbers, Lionel Terray and Gaston Rebuffat, were forced to descend with the injured climbers after they made the summit, forgoing their own chances of success in order to provide the assistance that their teammates required.

Upon the team's return, Herzog was treated like a hero. He became an icon of the French mountaineering community and even held office as mayor of Chamonix. While hardcore mountain literature buffs know something about Lionel Terray and Gaston Rebuffat, most have never heard of them. And few know anything about Lachenal.  For all intents and purposes, the Annapurna experience placed Herzog squarely in the realm of celebrity, while the others drifted into obscurity.

Part of the reason that Herzog became so well known was because of the book that he wrote. Annapurna is a classic mountaineering tale, filled with bravado and legendary feats. It also paints Herzog as a heroic and intelligent character that kept a difficult expedition together and on track.

In True Summit, author David Roberts explains that he was very young when he first read Annapurna, and that the narrative had a profound effect on him. "When I put down the book -- swallowed in one sitting, as I recall -- I wanted more than anything else in the world to become a mountaineer."

As an adult, a mountaineer, and a well-read author himself, Roberts befriended a French book publisher named Michael Guerin, who had knowledge of the Annapurna expedition. He noted that, "according to Lachenal and Rebuffat, the team had been frequently and rancorously divided; Herzog's leadership had been capricious and at times inept; and the whole summit effort and desperate retreat lay shrouded in a central mystery."

Listening late into the night to Michel's disquisition, I felt my shock and dismay transmute into something else. The true history of Annapurna, though far more murky and disturbing than Herzog's golden fable, might in the long run prove to be an even more interesting tale -- one fraught with moral complexity, with fundamental questions about the role of "sport" in national culture, perhaps even with deep veins of heroism quite different from those Herzog had celebrated.

True Summit is the story of Annapurna told from the viewpoint of a meticulous researcher. It cuts through the idealized version of the story published in Herzog's tome and attempts to find the true narrative; the narrative where there isn't just one hero and those who would repress him, but instead the narrative where every character is shrouded in shades of gray.

Perhaps the most important aspect of the book is not that it takes Herzog off of his pedestal, but instead that it elevates Lachenal, Terray and Rebuffat to a level that they deserve. The trio worked hard to get to the summit, and two of the three worked hard to save their companions lives after they returned from the summit.

The true story of Annapurna is both fascinating and disturbing. Armchair mountaineers a have long relished in Herzog's self-promoted version of glory. Perhaps the time has come to hear a different version of the that is a little less biased...

--Jason D. Martin

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Climbing Events - May & June 2013

3/15 - 5/4 -- Bay Area, CA --
  • Friday, March 15th, 2013 • Concord Diablo Rock Gym 
  • Friday, April 19th, 2013 • Oakland Great Western Power Co 
  • Saturday, May 4th, 2013 • Mission Cliffs in San Francisco
5/11 -- Bend, OR -- Smith Rock Spring Thing

5/17 - 5/19 -- New River Rendezvous

5/25 -- Yerevan, Armenia --

5/30 - 6/1 -- Boulder, CO -- Climbing Wall Association Summit

2013 IFSC Calendar --

6/1 - 6/8 -- Chamonix France -- Chamonix Mountain Festival

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

2013 Red Rock Rendezvous Round-Up!

I have attended Red Rock Rendezvous every year since 2003. This year was the ten year anniversary of the event and there is no doubt in my mind that it was the best. Mountain Gear, the event organizer, pulled out all of the stops and put together an absolutely perfect climbing festival.

There are two aspects to the Red Rock Rendezvous. The first is the educational aspect. Mountain Gear brings in nearly sixty climbing instructors, guides and professional climbing athletes to teach clinics in Red Rock Canyon at a highly reduced rate.  These programs include everything from multi-pitch climbing with an AAI guide, to learning big wall climbing from someone like Conrad Anker, to learning how to belay from the likes of Beth Rodden. This is a place to not only learn things, but also to  come into contact with America's climbing royalty.

The second aspect is the front-country party aspect. A great deal of the event takes place at Spring Mountain State Park, a state park inholding within the Conservation Area. The space that we use at Spring Mountain Ranch is perfect for camping in the grass and partying at night.

Following are some photos from climbing around Red Rock during the event:

AAI Red Rock Rendezvous Staff - From Left to Right (Click to Enlarge)
Cliff Palmer, Andrew Yasso, Chad Cochran, Mike Pond, James Pierson, 
Ian McEleneyMike Powers, Richard Riquelme, Tad McCrea, Paul Rosser, Mark Cionek, 
Ben Traxler, Alasdair Turner,Ben Gardner, Dustin Byrne, Erin Smart, Dustin Byrne, 
Quino Gonzalez, Jason Martin

The shadow of two climbers on Sidewinder (5.7)

Climbers on Jabba the Hut Rock

 A climber on Soup Nazi (5.10a)

 Climbing a 5.6 crack in Moderate Mecca

Pulling through a 5.8 roof.

Leading a 5.6.

Back at the Spring Mountain Ranch, there was a lot going on during the day:

AAI Guide Erin Smart on the bus headed to the crag. 

The AAI Booth with Mt. Wilson in the background. 

Mt. Wilson in the morning

Camping at Red Rock Rendezvous 

A climber practicing aid work on the artificial climbing wall at Spring Mountain Ranch

Slacklining is always popular at the event.

Slackline Trickery

 AAI Guides Alasdair Turner, Richard Riquelme and Mark Cionek

AAI Guide James Pierson wearing goofy belay glasses.

AAI Guides Doug Foust, Andrew Yasso, Ben Traxler, Cliff Palmer, Richard Riquelme, 
Dustin Byrne, James Pierson and Erin Smart

On Friday night, there is generally a small party with a slideshow. However, on Saturday night there's a huge blowout.  This year was the most fun ever because there were so many activities. There was a dyno comp, a tug-a-war, and a "quick-draw rigging competition." In the quick-draw competition, competitors raced to set-up ten draws with carabiners. Whomever set-up the draws first won them.

One of the competitions was built for AAI guides. Mammut set-up a "rope-coiling" race. Competitors had to coil the rope "backpack style," put it on your back and tie it off with a square knot.  There was a competition for both men and women. AAI guide Erin Smart won for the women.

The men's competition was much more contentious.  I took an early lead with a time of 47.9 seconds. Later, AAI Mike Powers beat me with a time of 47.7 seconds. This time was beat by a Red Rock Rendezvous athlete who brought the time down to 40 seconds, but had sloppy coils. After that, I went again and brought my time down to 42 seconds. Neither the athlete, nor any of the other guides beat my time...  So I won the rope!

Contentious Moments in the Rope Coiling Contest 

The author (Jason Martin) on AAI Guide Tad McCrea's
 shoulders moments after victory

Another innovative aspect of the Saturday party was the photo booth. The North Face set up a photo booth on site where people could come and get their pictures taken together.  The following is a group shot of some of our guides taken at the booth. To see more of these photos, click here.

Attempted to describe from left to right:
Ian McEleney, Dustin Byrne (top left), Jason Martin (big head), Mike Powers (above big head), 
Andrew Yasso (middle), Erin Smart(bottom middle), Doug Fous (above Andrew), 
James Pierson(Andrew's right), Ben Traxler(top right), Ben Gardner(bottom right)

Red Rock Rendezvous has already been planned for 2013, the dates will be March 28-30.  And as always, I can't wait to go back next year...!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 22, 2013

Bonatti Couloir - Italy

AAI Guide Liz Daley has spent the majority of the winter in the Alps, splitboarding. The following is a trip report from one of her adventures:

Looking back on the season here in Chamonix, it's been insane how good of a winter it's been. There's been more snow in zee Alps than I've seen here in the past four years. The freeriding has been amazing and riding bigger lines in pow for a change has been awesome!

Drew Tabke, Freeride World Champ himself, has been crashing on mine and Dave's couch for countless nights this winter and we were hungry for a mission with this awesome snow pack. I've been obsessed with the Bonatti Couloir on the Petite Mont Blanc all season and have been waiting for a good window to get back there. The couloir is almost 3,000 ft long and super wide, it almost seemed more like a giant face. It's directly adjacent from the super gnar of the West face of Mont Blanc. We saw no one back there the entire day except some people who were getting heli dropped at the end of the flat Miage.

It was so nice to get away from the crowds of Cham. I'm sick of worrying about people either dropping in on my head or worried about sluffing people below me, back here there were no such worries. Only worries of rockfall and slabs, super! It's a fairly big day to do it in a day so we decided to stay at a hut to make the approach a bit easier.

G7 in the Toponeige, Mont Blanc

Sunrise at the Elisabetta Soldini hut.

The easiest way to ski this couloir, in my opinion, is to stay at the Rainetto bivouac atop the Petite Mont Blanc and drop in from the top. When we got back in the basin the weather was horrible so we decided to stay under the clouds at the lower hut. When we woke up the entire approach to the up and over way was solid ice so we decided to boot straight up the thing.

'Merica! The snow seems super stable and shreddable!

W Face of Mont Blanc across the glacier, behind the clouds.

2.5 hours we got to the point towards the top where the route splits and gets steeper. I'd been making hasty pits the whole way up and was getting no results. Though when we got higher I was getting an 8 inch and a deeper sheer slab result. This kind of creeped me out so we dug a couple pits on different aspects of the face, getting pretty much the same results everywhere. Drew and Dave thought it was "probably" ok and I was pretty sketched out at the time. Due to the uncertainty amongst the group we decided to retreat 300 ish feet from the top.

Drew dropped in first and ripped huge GS turns down half of the face. Super clean, great snow, stable, confidence inspiring. Phew!

Half way down the face the sun appeared from the clouds directly above the line, shedding a celestial light down the couloir. It was like the line to heaven.

Then I did it. Then Dave did it. It was the "best steep skiing I've ever had"- all of us. Perfect snow that you could really charge.

I was kind of bummed we didn't make it to the top but glad we had the balls to turn around. "If that was fail, I don't wanna win" - Davide De Masi One of the most magical descents I've had in the Alps. YEAH!

--Liz Daley, Instructor and Guide

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Climbing Event April & May 2013

3/15 - 5/4 -- Bay Area, CA --
  • Friday, March 15th, 2013 • Concord Diablo Rock Gym 
  • Friday, April 19th, 2013 • Oakland Great Western Power Co 
  • Saturday, May 4th, 2013 • Mission Cliffs in San Francisco
5/25 -- Yerevan, Armenia --

5/30 - 6/1 -- Boulder, CO -- Climbing Wall Association Summit

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Ultimate Head to Head: Jetboil vs. Reactor

When it comes to stoves in the wilderness, over the last few years everything has changed. It used to be that guides almost universally usedMSR Whisperlites or XGKs. And while these are still the standard on expeditions, most guides have made the switch to canister stoves for non-expeditionary climbing trips.

There are two canister stoves that stand out as the best on the market. They are the MSR Reactor and the Jetboil. Each of the two has advantages and disadvantages and when choosing between the products, one must weigh these carefully in order to get the right cooking system.

I spent the last month-and-a-half comparing the two stoves to one another in the field. Both stoves were used in both front-country camping situations as well as in backcountry camping situations. Both stoves were used in the snow, as well as on dry ground. This lead me to some very interesting conclusions...

Before launching into a discussion of the pros and cons of these two products, we should first list the advantages and disadvantages of canister stoves over other stoves.

Advantages of Canister Stoves:

--Canister stoves tend to be small and compact. They are light and take up little room in a backpack.

A standard experience with a Whisperlite.

--These stoves do not need to be primed. Some models have a sparker that lights the stove, while others require a lighter, but none require you to burn off a bunch of fuel trying to get the stove to prime.
--The canister stoves discussed here are extremely efficient.
--Many of the standard stoves have stove repair kits and cleaning kits that have to be used regularly to keep the stoves running. Indeed, I have personally come to the point with many of my previous stoves where they needed to be cleaned or worked on in some way for nearly every meal.
--While these stoves can flare up, it is not as common as it is with older style stoves. This makes them more convenient for cooking in your vestibule.

 Disadvantages of Canister Stoves:

--Every ounce of fuel must be carried in disposable canisters. The canisters may be recycled, but some recycling companies do not like to take these. I usually puncture the canisters before recycling them and sometimes I even crush them with a rock. When I do this, it seems like the recycling company is okay with them being in my recycle bin.
--It can be difficult to gauge how much fuel is in a given canister at the end of a trip. This sometimes leads to carrying extra almost empty canisters which take up space and add almost useless weight.
--It can be difficult to "cook" real meals on canister stoves. If you're looking for something that allows for a lot of different settings for a lot of different kinds of cooking, then you should consider a Whisperlite, an XGK or a Simmerlite.
--If you are going to do a foreign trip, it may be difficult to find canisters in a developing country.
--Because these stoves are "skinny," they can definitely tip over.
--The biggest disadvantage of all canister stoves is their performance in the cold. None of the stoves are as effective is extreme cold. And many of them perform poorly if they are placed directly on the snow-covered ground. To perform more effectively, the stoves will either need a hanging kit or they will need to be placed on a "stove-board."

Advantages of the Jetboil:

--The Jetboil collapses within itself. The system is completely integrated and every part of it, including the fuel canister, fits inside the pot.
--When cooking, the pot attaches to the stove, which is attached to the canister. This makes it very easy to move the entire thing around.
--I have used the Jetboil for cooking in my tent extensively. The fact that it is easy to move around means that I can actually cook pretty much anywhere. I often hold the entire fixture between my thighs, which also helps keep the fuel warm, making it burn more effectively. Please note that cooking in a tent does hold some danger, both of burning down the tent and of suffocating on carbon monoxide. If you elect to do this, be sure to keep your tent well-ventilated.
--The Jetboil pot has been designed to be used as a mug as well as a pot. This does provide for the ability to cut a little bit more weight.
--Jetboil sells a hanging kit for the stove. It is also very easy to build a kit for the stove. The nice thing about hanging the stove is that it gets it up off the snow, which allows the canister to work more effectively.
--A specialized and very light-weight frying pan is available for other types of cooking.
--Jetboil sells a larger pot that can be used to cook or melt water for groups.
--There is some limited ability to control the heat (i.e. to turn it down). This makes it easier to "cook" in the system.
--The Jetboil has a "clicker" which sparks and automatically lights the stove.
--The newest version of the Jetboil has a regulator that is supposed to allow it to work better in cold temperatures. I do not have the newest version, so this hasn't been tested.

Disadvantages of the Jetboil:

--This is a very small system. If you are melting snow for more than one person, it can be taxing. If you want to cook or melt snow for more people, you need to purchase an extra pot...
--The fact that the pot that comes with the system is small, makes it difficult to cook in.
--The optional frying pan may be slightly too light. With repeated use, I've had the pan become damaged by heat. It is also very difficult to control the heat to a point where you can effectively make frying pan type things like pancakes or quesadillas.
--The Jetboil doesn't work well in the wind. This is okay if you have a tent and are willing to cook in it, but this makes it difficult for bivies.
--When trying to make a lot of water, the Jetboil commonly boils over. There is a marker line inside the pot which shows the most you can put in without boil-over, but I often want more hot water than that. In order to keep it from boiling over, you have to watch it very closely.
--The knob on the Jetboil which controls heat is under the body of the pot, so when it does boil over you often have to put your fingers through a waterfall of boiling liquid to turn it off.
--While cooking noodles in the pot, I constantly have to stir them, or they will get burned at the bottom. This is a function of the size of the pot. It's a bit too small to ignore.
--The "clicker" which lights the stove broke days after I got the Jetboil. I have been lighting it with a lighter ever since.

Advantages of the Reactor:

--Like the Jetboil, the Reactor is an integrated cooking system. It is compact and easy to travel with. The stove and the fuel canister both fit snugly inside the cooking pot.
--The pot is not attached to the stove. There are disadvantages to this, but one advantage is that in a boil-over, it's easy to remove the pot prior to turning off the stove.
--The cooking pot that comes with the Reactor is large, which allows for easier cooking, more space to melt snow, and more volume for food or drink. The fact that there is more volume makes it easier to keep things from burning in the pot.
--The larger pot and greater volume allows more liquid to boil without boiling over.
--And the larger pot also makes it easier to cook for more people than just one or two. Some people have complained about the volume of this stove, but those that have, haven't compared it to the Jetboil.
--And lastly, the larger pot is certainly easier to clean than the smaller profile pot on the Jetboil.
--This thing boils water fast. I mean really fast. I don't think I've ever used a stove that boiled water so quickly.
The Reactor is far better in the wind than the Jetboil. I intentionally used both next to one another at a windy front-country campground and the Jetboil blew out immediately. The Reactor continued to work effectively.

Disadvantages of the Reactor:

--The Reactor pot does not connect to the stove surface. This leads to all kinds of problems, like an inability to hang the system to keep it out of the snow, and less convenience when cooking inside a vestibule or tent. While using this in the field, I placed the stove on a snowshoe and it seemed to work okay, but it would have been better if I could have hung it.
--There isn't really any ability to control the heat levels. This makes it difficult to cook anything that requires finesse.

--An early version of the Reactor emmitted a high and potentially dangerous volume of carbon monoxide. This was attributed to the fact that the jets were improperly set-up in the prototype model. That said, the problem delayed the release of the stove for some time. This background makes me hesitant to do anything with the Reactor inside the tent. I still cooked with it in the vestibule, but kept the vestibule completely open.
--The Reactor is a bit of a fuel hog. The surface of the stove heats evenly over a large surface area. This allows for a very quick boil, but also a very quick use of the fuel in the canister. I never really figured out how much fuel I would need for demanding activities like melting snow. This caused me to bring a lot of extra fuel on backcountry trips.
--The fuel hog element of the stove made it hard to melt snow. I was constantly worried about how much fuel I was using while trying to fill up my water bottles.
--At this point there are no accessories, like frying pans or different sized pots.
--It would be nice if there were some type of rubber top or other protective cover, so that -- like the Jetboil -- the pot could be used as a mug without burning one's lips.

In a nutshell, this is how I felt about the two systems: I liked the Reactor more for backpacking applications. I liked the reactor more for simple water heating tasks. I liked the fact that it wouldn't blow out so easily in the wind. And I liked it more for it's speed at bringing water to a boil. But I liked the Jetboil more for it's integrated systems. I liked the Jetboil more for mountaineering and cold weather because of the fact that it could be hung or be used inside the tent more effectively. And I liked the Jetboil more because of the fact that it seemed to use fuel more efficiently.

So there you have it. In my humble opinion, these similar systems are different enough that one is better than the other in different backcountry the broadest of strokes, the Reactor is better for backpacking and the Jetboil is better for mountaineering and backcountry skiing.

Whatever stove system you choose, be sure that it is right for you. None of these systems are exactly cheap...and while it would be nice to own both a Jetboil and a Reactor, such a thing is not realistic for most people. These are both very good products and I believe that most will be pleased with either of them in both backpacking and mountaineering endeavors...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 15, 2013


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

This diagram from shows an incorrectly clipped rope
and how it may become unclipped in the event of a fall. Click on the photo for a larger image.

This image from shows the proper way that a rope should be clipped.
Note that the rope runs out of the top of the carabiner and over the spine.

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

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

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

--Jason D. Martin

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

In October of last fall, Alex Honnold undertook a project to establish a direct line to link up routes on Yosemite's Leaning Tower, an imposing 1,500'+ granite feature.  Alex's line, "A Gift from Wyoming" pays homage to an early mentor of his, Todd Skinner, who died in 2006 while working to establish a line on the upper half of the prow.  Honnold sent the lower half of the Tower in his new route, rated at mid-5.13, however Skinner's original project has yet to see a free ascent and is estimated to go at somewhere between 5.14 and 5.15.

Video #1: BD athlete Alex Honnold making the first ascent of A Gift From Wyoming (5.13) on Yosemite's Leaning Tower from Black Diamond Equipment on Vimeo.

Here's Part 2 of the video:

Video #2: BD athlete Alex Honnold making the first ascent of A Gift From Wyoming (5.13) on Yosemite's Leaning Tower from Black Diamond Equipment on Vimeo.

Friday, April 12, 2013

The Mountaineers 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

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Climbing Events April & May 2013

4/13 --Seattle, WA -- The Rain City Send Climbing Wall comp at UW

4/6 -- San Angelo, TX -- Angelo State University Climbing Competition

3/15 - 5/4 -- Bay Area, CA --
  • Friday, March 15th, 2013 • Concord Diablo Rock Gym • 5pm-10pm
  • Friday, April 19th, 2013 • Oakland Great Western Power Co • 5pm-10pm
  • Saturday, May 4th, 2013 • Mission Cliffs in San Francisco 
5/25 -- Yerevan, Armenia --

5/30 - 6/1 -- Boulder, CO -- Climbing Wall Association Summit

Monday, April 8, 2013

Double-Fisherman's Knot

Arguably, the most difficult knot to teach is the double-fisherman's knot. It is normal for our guides to spend a significant amount of time with students on this particular knot. And even with a lot of time spent focusing on it, some still don't come away with a master's level knowledge of it.

If you have this knot completely wired, then congratulations. If you don't, then this blogpost is just for you...!

The Double-Fisherman's Knot

The double-fisherman's knot is a knot that may be used to join two ropes together. The ropes may be of similar or dissimilar diameters. It is a very secure knot. Indeed, it is so secure, that it is often recommended for cords that will be permanently tied together such as prussik loops.

The biggest problem with the double-fisherman's is that it is very difficult to untie once it has been loaded. As a result, it is not recommended for quick situations where you want to tie two ropes together, such as in rappels.

The Canadian Guide, Mike Barter has put together the following video on how to tie a double-fisherman's knot:

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, April 5, 2013

Triaxal Loading on Trees

Surprisingly, there is one mistake that both beginners and advanced climbers alike tend to make. Many people will wrap a tree with a sling and then clip the sling. Often the sling is wrapped around the tree in such a way that it is loading the carabiner improperly. A carabiner that is loaded from three directions is often referred to as being triaxally or tri-directionally loaded. This is very very bad...

In this photo the carabiner is radically tri-loaded.
An impact on such a carabiner could cause failure.

A tri-loaded carabiner is crossloaded. It will not hold a high impact fall. As such, it is important to use slings that are long enough to tie off. In the preceding example, there is not enough sling material to get all the way around the tree, but even if there was enough for the carabiner to hang more loosely, it could still triaxally load it.

One could tie the sling off with a pre-equalized knot, but this isn't required. The following photo shows one quick example of a tie-off that eliminates the possibility of triaxal loading.

Triaxal loading is a detail that a lot of climbers don't think about. But it is just these kinds of minor details that can get you in the end. The phrase, "the Devil's in the details," didn't come from nowhere.

--Jason D. Martin

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Climbing Events April & May 2013

4/5 --Seattle, WA -- NWAC Snowball Dinner and Auction

4/5 - 4/7 Las Vegas, NV -- Red Rock Rendezvous

There are at least 4 Alpine Institute Guides in this video, Andrew Yasso, Paul Rosser, Tom Kirby, and Ben Gardner. Who do you know?

4/13 --Seattle, WA -- The Rain City Send Climbing Wall comp at UW

4/6 -- San Angelo, TX -- Angelo State University Climbing Competition

3/15 - 5/4 -- Bay Area, CA --
  • Friday, March 15th, 2013 • Concord Diablo Rock Gym • 5pm-10pm
  • Friday, April 19th, 2013 • Oakland Great Western Power Co • 5pm-10pm
  • Saturday, May 4th, 2013 • Mission Cliffs in San Francisco 
5/25 -- Yerevan, Armenia --

5/30 - 6/1 -- Boulder, CO -- Climbing Wall Association Summit

Monday, April 1, 2013

Will My Boots Work?

"Will the boots that I already have work?"

This is by far the most common question that we get at AAI. People generally want to know if a pair of light hikers will work on a glaciated peak. The answer to this question is that it depends.

First, it depends on the time of the year. In April, May and June, double plastic boots work better than anything else on the glaciers of the Pacific Northwest. This is because of the fact that they are warm, they stay somewhat dry in the sloppy wet snow, and if they don't stay dry, they are easy to dry out.

Heavy leather boots are quite difficult to dry out. As such they aren't recommended for longer early season trips. If the climb will only take a couple of days, a heavy leather boot might be fine. But if you plan on spending a week on the glacier, plastics are the best.

As the glacier drys and becomes more icy, heavy leather boots perform well. They are certainly lighter than plastics and provide a lot more precision in climbing. But they are nowhere near as warm...

Most crampon compatible boots have a protrusion on the rand at both the toe and the heel.

Second, are your boots crampon compatible? Heavier boots have a protrusion on the rand that allows one to clip a crampon to the boot. Lighter leathers often only have the protrusion on the heel rand. And extremely light hiking boots don't tend to have a protrusion at all.

If your boots do not have any type of crampon compatible rand, it is unlikely that they should be used for glacier mountaineering. The word from the previous sentence that is important to take home is the word "unlikely." There are a handful of boots that will work in a mountaineering setting that are not officially crampon compatible. However, these are definitely in the minority.

If you are not sure about your boot and whether or not it will work in a given season on the glaciers, feel free to give us a call at 360-671-1505. You might also be interested in a Blog we posted about how to choose the right footwear for your objective. To read the post, click here.

--Jason D. Martin