Friday, May 31, 2013

Top-Managed Belays

Most leaders will do one of two things at the top of a route. They'll either build an anchor and lower off or they'll bring up a second to clean the route. It makes a lot of sense to bring up a second if you're going to continue up a multi-pitch line or if it isn't possible to rappel off.

In essence the leader who is stationed above the climber is working at a top-managed site. He is belaying the climber from above and is not top-roping. Most people only belay from above after they have lead a climb, but there are a number of situations where it is advantageous to actually top-rope from the top of a climb.



A Climber Belays from the Top

Acadia and Ouray are both popular places where many routes requiretop-managment, climbers literally have little to no choice in many parts of these parks. Acadia is a climbing area situated on a series of sea cliffs. One can only access the crags by lowering down or rappelling down. Ouray is an ice park in Colorado. All of the routes are accessed from the top and most people lower in and then climb back out on a top-rope.

Most places don't require a top-managed set-up like the preceding examples. But there are many advantages to managing a crag from the top.

Value of a Top-Managed Site:
  1. There is no chance that rocks or other debris will strike a belayer or another climber below. This is particularly nice in ice climbing. In Ouray, it is common for climbers to lower one another into a canyon to climb back out. There are very few people at the base that might be hit by falling ice.
  2. There is fifty percent less rope in the system. Less rope in the system allows for less elongation in a dynamic rope when a climber falls on a top-rope. This is a great advantage if there are a lot of ledges on a climb that someone might twist their ankle on if they take a short dynamic fall.
  3. If a climb is over a half of a rope length, it is often easier to manage the route from the top than to deal with two ropes tied together.
  4. This provides you with the ability to easily monitor the anchor system.
  5. Smaller loads are placed on the anchor than in a traditional top-rope set-up. In a traditional set-up, the physics of the system make it so that both the climber and the belayer's weight are on the anchor whenever a climber falls or is lowered.
  6. Occasionally, the bottom of the crag is dangerous. Perhaps you are working on sea cliffs or in another medium that makes the base of the climb hazardous. Numerous crags have parking lots above the routes. In many scenarios the bottom of the climbs are steep and vegetated. In some cases, they are simply hard to access via a trail.
  7. If you know any quick hauling systems, it's nice to manage from the top because you can assist a person if they get stuck climbing.
  8. If you want to get a lot of top-rope routes in without leading, it may be fastest to top-manage the climbing area.
A Climber Lowers his Partner from a Top-Managed Site

Disadvantages to a Top-Managed Site:
  1. It is difficult to see and to coach the climber that has been lowered down. Sometimes it is also difficult to hear.
  2. The climber's rope is more likely to go over edges when managed from the top.
  3. There may be more impact on a fragile cliff-top ecosystem.
  4. If there are many climbers waiting to climb, it may be more dangerous to manage the route from the top. There is more exposure and more opportunities to make a mistake near a cliff-edge.
  5. People are unused to it and often don't want to try something new.The most common way to access climbs in a top-managed situation is for the climber to lower down and then climb back up. Occasionally, a climber will rappel to the bottom and then climb back up, but this is not quite as safe as lowering. Lowering is safer because the belayer can check the climber's knot before he leaves.
This blog isn't to say that top-management is better. While it may be better in some situations, this article was actually designed to give you a quick taste of an alternative to regular top-roping. The best way to understand the strengths and weaknesses of such a technique is to experiment. Try top-managing at a crag you are familiar with for a day. It will be a very educational experience and will definately put another tool into your climber's toolbox.

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Book Review: Last Child in the Woods

Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder By Richard Louv
Algonquin Books, 336 Pages
Hardcover $24.95

Everybody has a theory about what’s wrong with the kids these days. Some scream that they play too many video games. Others say that they eat too much fast food. Some say it’s the teachers, whereas others say it’s the parents. Some argue it’s cell phones and others argue it’s street gangs. But if all of these people have one thing in common, it’s that they believe there is something wrong with this generation of children.

Newspaper columnist and child advocate, Richard Louv, threw his hat into this never-ending argument with his new book, Last Child in the Woods: Saving our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder. And ironically, Louv agrees with pretty much every theory postulated above. Indeed, he links the vast majority of the problems with youth in America today to living inside with a focus on technology in conjunction with a systemic lack of outdoor and nature related experiences. He calls the result of this modern lifestyle, “nature deficit disorder.”

Louv takes a close look at many of the chronic problems that children have today and relates them directly back to wilderness and nature oriented experiences. On the one hand there are the creative elements that evolve in children who spend time outdoors. They create games and fantasies, build forts and take on characters. On the other hand they develop a number of higher function cognitive and psychological skills by spending time in such an environment. They do this through self-imposed rules that evolve out of unstructured play.

Louv provides an apt example with a discussion about a tree fort. Children learn a great deal from both the building of the fort, as well as the subsequent play in the fort. First, there’s the construction. That’s where they learn about architecture, mathematics and geometry. Then there’s the use of the finished product. Suddenly, it’s no longer a bunch of wood haphazardly nailed to a tree, but a spaceship or a castle. This unstructured play allows children to stretch their imaginations. Their fantasy worlds have rules (i.e. the tree is a monster and if you touch a certain branch it will eat you). The playacting that takes place in a tree fort allows children to work on their executive function. This cognitive skill is incredibly important to a child throughout his or her entire life. Strong executive function helps students concentrate in school; it helps them control themselves and it helps them understand abstract concepts.

Louv offers a number of dire warnings in his book. Children who don’t spend time outdoors will not value green space or fight for the environment in the future. Children who don’t go camping or spend time in national parks will not become stewards of parks and wilderness areas. Children who don’t spend time outside are far more likely to develop childhood obesity, ADD or ADHD among a number of other ailments.

Ultimately, Last Child in the Woods is not all gloom and doom. Louv passionately argues that a return to the “way it was when we were kids” when parents just let their kids run around the neighborhood to climb trees and dig holes and ride bikes and play will at least partially heal a number of these social ills. He argues that it’s time for our culture to reacquaint our children with the outdoors. There is no doubt that those who read this book will be convinced. The only problem with his argument is that he is likely to be making it to the very people who already encourage their children to spend time outside.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, May 27, 2013

In the Company of Ticks

As the weather warms, it feels surreal as I step out of my winter dreams of warmth and into a bright sunny reality. I love wearing shorts on approaches... But as it warms I cannot rid myself of the feeling that some little bloodsucker feels the same spring euphoria as I when he sees my bare white calves approaching.

Now I don’t want to sound like some kind of entomophobian (yes, there actually is a word for fear of insects), but lets be honest, nobody enjoys cavorting with these little monsters. So if you're like me and want to avoid ticks this summer, here are some tips, tricks and general info about these crazy arachnids.



Adult Deer Tick
Photo from Wikipedia

Ticks are viscous little creatures. They've figured out that since they can't jump or fly, the best way to get their vampire on is to wait in brush, tall grass, and bushes along deer and human trails. Some ticks have even developed the “oh-so-not-cool” move of falling out of trees and onto an unsuspecting host.

Once they have reached their delicious meal, ticks will insert a barbed feeding tube into the host to secure themselves in place while they feed. This blood feast can last from a few hours to several days. Once satiated the creepy little parasite will drop off and hide while it spends some time digesting your blood.

While the tick is stuck to the host it might feel guilty about taking so much away and thus want to give a small poisonous “present” in return. These presents are numerous as ticks are capable of transmitting a variety of diseases, the most common of which is a fun little thing called Lyme disease. If you are one of the lucky 1% of all tick bite recipients to contract Lyme disease, you will know in anywhere from 3 to 32 days after being targeted by the creature. The present will start off as a headache with fever, fatigue, depression and a bulls-eye shaped rash around the bite mark. If at this point you decide that you don’t want to keep this gift, you will not be able to return it to the tick, (besides that would be rude). Instead, you will need the help of a doctor and his antibiotics, which in most cases will rid you of the disease.

However, if you decide that you would rather keep the bloodsucker's gift, then you will begin to contract chronic problems as the disease attacks your organs, especially the brain, heart, and bone joints. The longer that you wait to get treated, the harder it will be to treat the disease. In an extreme case Lyme disease could lead to a permanent paralysis.

Luckily though, there are ways to prevent ticks from getting to skin level. When playing in popular tick habitats (pretty much any wooded or forested area in the world), one should wear long sleeved shirts, pants, and a hat. Another trick is to tuck your pant legs into your sucks so as to look like such a dork that the tick will be embarrassed to be seen on you (it also will prevent them from crawling up your boots and socks into the promised land).

However, even with the best of defenses, the ticks still might find their way through and therefore it is good to do a thorough tick check a few times a day while paying special attention to the warm places of your armpits and groin. It's also a good idea to check your pets over to make sure that they haven’t become a blood buffet.

If a tick is found, then the best method of removal it is use tweezers. Pull in line with the creatures body and it's entrance hole while holding it its body as close to the head as possible. Be careful and move slowly; as much as you might hate these guys, the last thing that you need is for one's head to pop off while beneath your skin.

Following are two videos which show methods of tick removal. The first shows the use of a forceps and the second discusses a number of tick related issues before demonstrating removal.





Ticks are gross, but good prevention and treatment will keep them from being anything more than a major nuisance.

--AAI Staff

Friday, May 24, 2013

Climbing Holds Defined

The following video describes and defines a series of different holds for rock climbing. These are somewhat basic terms for what you will find in both a indoor gym environment as well as in an outdoor setting.


 The preceding video skips a specific series very important definitions. It completely skips hand jams and crack climbing. As the video was produced in a gym and there aren't very many cracks in gyms, this isn't that strange. The following video addresses this kind of climbing.



--Jason D. Martin

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Climbing Events May & June 2013



5/25 -- Yerevan, Armenia -- http://uptherocks.com/content/view/197/138/

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

2013 IFSC Calendar -- http://www.ifsc-climbing.org/index.php/world-competition

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

6/22 -- Boulder, CO -- Hera Climb for Life Fundraiser

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Climbers are Funny!

Mountain Guide Jokes:


What do you call a mountain guide without a girlfriend?

Homeless.


How do you get ten mountain guides into a closet?

Tell them they can live there.

How do you get them back out again?

Tell them that they have to pay rent.


How do you know the mountain guide at the party?

Don't worry, he'll tell you.


Other Funny Climbing Related Things:

You might be a Mountain Climber if...

1. You own a $75 dress suit and a $1000 Gore-Tex suit.
2. You have ever frozen your lips to an ice screw while blowing an ice plug at your partner.
3. You have ever used an ice axe to chop weeds in the garden.
4. You have more summit pictures than wedding pictures.
5. You've ever had icicles hanging from any part of your face.
6. You've ever fallen so far that you've run out of adrenaline before you ran out of rope.
7. You say "Namaste" instead of "Hello."
8. You like the smell of burning yak dung.
9. What you call cold is not on the thermometer scale.
10. When you hear the words "nose," "captain," or "aid," your hands start hurting and swelling.
11. You arrive at a climbing gym with stoppers and cams still in your bag.
12. You hear the name "Hillary" and think about Everest instead of the Secretary of State.
13. And finally, you understood all the previous lines. If you laughed at any of these lame lines, then you should definitely get back to work.

--Most people get to the top of a climb and pose for a photo. This is a great piece on the many many different photogenic and not-so-photogenic poses of climbers after they've summitted.

--Some people write some really dumb comments on the Forest Service Comment cards. To read some of these, click here. My favorite is, "a small deer came into camp and stole a bag of pickles. Is there any way I can get reimbursed?"

--Jason D. Martin

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

This weekend's first video features the globe-trotting Dave Graham, as he hops from his projects in Colorado to other climbs around the world.  Wherever he went, the lure of these Colorado boulder problems drew him back, and was finally able to send his latest challenge, an 8c (V15) named Bridge of Ashes.



Our next video features Oli Lyon and Chris Bevins climbing through Indian Creek's splitter sandstone.



Jon Glassberg has had Leavenworth on his list of bouldering destinations for a long time, and last week he finally had a chance to come out and sample all of what Central Washington's Bavarian Village had to offer.  Sehr gut!


Washington Bouldering - Jon Glassberg from Jon Glassberg on Vimeo.

Have a great weekend! - James

Friday, May 17, 2013

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

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Climbing Events May and June 2013



5/17 - 5/19 -- New River Rendezvous

5/25 -- Yerevan, Armenia -- http://uptherocks.com/content/view/197/138/

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

2013 IFSC Calendar -- http://www.ifsc-climbing.org/index.php/world-competition

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

6/22 -- Boulder, CO -- Hera Climb for Life Fundraiser

Friday, May 10, 2013

Glacier Climbing Etiquette

Climbing etiquette is a weird and wily thing. What is acceptable in one area may not be considered acceptable in another. What is common practice in one spot, may be looked upon with horror in another. In the larger climbing world, there are millions of etiquette questions, but on a glacier there only tends to be a few.

1) What is the etiquette for passing a rope team on a glaciated climb?

It is acceptable to pass a rope team on a glacier. However, this must be done without hindering the other team's progress that you're passing. If a team has a pace and continues to hold that pace, then they have a right to the boot-pack trail no matter how fast they're moving.


A team works its way up Mount Shuksan
Photo by Alasdair Turner

In order to pass the slower team, the faster team must step out of the boot-pack and pass the other team without slowing them in any way. This may take considerable energy if the snow outside the boot-pack is soft or deep. The passing team should not complain about having to pass as they didn't get up as early as the slower team.

If your rope team is walking in a boot-pack and needs to take a break, the polite thing to do is to step out of the trail. You should not take a break in a place that blocks others. If your team is slow and is taking a lot of standing mini-breaks (i.e. stopping for a few seconds or even a minute or so), then you should step out of the boot-pack and allow faster teams to pass in the trail without protest.

2) Who has the right to the steps that have been kicked in the slope?

There is a nice line of steps kicked into the slope going all the way up the mountain. Clearly, it is easier to use the steps that another team has put in than to create your own. As you're climbing up the mountain, you see another team descending in the steps. Their plunge-steps are completely destroying the steps as they descend. And while this may make things more difficult for your team, you didn't create the steps and as such, don't have any ownership over them.

A team camps on the Easton Glacier on Mount Baker
Photo by Alasdair Turner

If you create a series of steps up the mountain, you do have the right to use them on your descent. However, it is far more polite to leave these steps for others. I will almost universally try to leave my steps for other climbers, unless the snow is incredibly soft and difficult to move through. Occasionally, the snow is so deep that new downhill steps could cause a climber to hyper-extend his or her knee. When conditions are this severe, I use my uphill steps for downhill travel.

3) What should I do with my human waste? Should I leave it on the summit for all to see with a nice pile of toilet paper? Or should I do something else with it?

You should do something else with it.

On expeditions or on big mountains, sometimes you can put your waste in a crevasse, but you should pack out your toilet paper. On smaller glaciated peaks, you should use a Wag Bag or the equivalent and pack everything out.

If you have other etiquette questions, feel free to post them. This is such a large topic that a single Blog cannot do it justice.

--Jason D. Martin

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Climbing Events May and June 2013


5/11 -- Bend, OR -- Smith Rock Spring Thing

5/17 - 5/19 -- New River Rendezvous

5/25 -- Yerevan, Armenia -- http://uptherocks.com/content/view/197/138/

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

2013 IFSC Calendar -- http://www.ifsc-climbing.org/index.php/world-competition

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

6/22 -- Boulder, CO -- Hera Climb for Life Fundraiser

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The 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

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

The first video this week comes from AAI's very own Tad McCrea and Dustin Byrne on the Alaskan classic, "Ham and Eggs" on the Moose's Tooth in the Ruth Gorge.  Dustin and Tad were one of the first parties in this season and had a great climb.


occupy mountains from tad mccrea on Vimeo.

Tad and Dustin weren't the only ones to take advantage of the recent weather window.  Moose's Tooth had a flurry of new lines and first ascents go up in these last weeks.  You can read more about these new lines here.

Speaking of first ascents, this next video from FiveTen highlights a flash of fresh lines as climber Ben Spannuth travels through Columbia.



Have a great weekend! - James

Friday, May 3, 2013

The Ethics of Leaving Fixed Ropes, Caches and Draws

The ethics of leaving gear in the mountains or at the crag is complex. Some might consider anything left behind anywhere, akin to abandoning gear. Indeed, some National Parks and the Bureau of Land Management identify any gear left behind for any reason at all as abandoned.

So under these draconian policies, if you leave a tent up on a mountain, hike down to your car to do a resupply, and then bring your food back up, a ranger could decide that you've abandoned your tent. And while resupplying is not a common tactic, it definitely happens to some extent in every mountain range in the country.

There are three tactics that climbers regularly employ that require them to leave equipment unattended for -- potentially -- extended periods of time. These include fixed ropes, caches, and fixed draws. And unfortunately, not every climber is educated on the ethics of these issues, so sometimes gear is stolen.

Aid climbers commonly fix lines on big walls. They will climb as high as they can, fix ropes and then rappel to the ground and return to camp. Their ropes will remain fixed in position. The following day, they will climb up the rope with mechanical ascenders to reattain their high point. These lines are regularly unattended at night and sometimes during the day. Obviously, these climbers are trusting that the equipment will not only be there when they return, but also that nobody will have messed with it creating a dangerous situation.

Mountaineers fix lines on steep and exposed snow or ice slopes. These types of ropes tend to be set-up by guides or by large expeditions that need to get a lot of people through a dangerous section quickly. Fixed ropes in a mountaineering setting are almost always left on popular trade routes that require them. However, occasionally a person will leave a fixed line on a less popular route to help facilitate quick movement early in the morning.


A Fixed Hand-Line Employed by Guides to Assist Beginners on Exposed Terrain


Photo by Jason Martin

There are numerous places throughout the country where fixed lines have been left permanently to help facilitate safe movement. Most of the areas where such ropes have been left don't provide many other alternatives. Some of these are employed on sketchy rock sections, but others are used to bypass steep mud

Occasionally, large groups will set short fixed lines at cragging areas to help beginners safely move up and down a sketchy section. Unlike the other examples, these lines are unlikely to ever be left unattended for more than a couple of hours.

Obviously in every example, the loss of a fixed line could result in a dangerous situation. It's pretty unlikely that somebody straight-out abandoned a rope in decent shape that is clearly tied off for a reason...

In many mountaineering and expeditionary settings, a food or gear cache is an important part of a team's strategy. Commonly these cache's are buried in the snow and marked with wands or an avalanche probe. If such a cache were to disappear, it could mean the end of an expedition...it could also be very dangerous for those who were expecting it to be in place.

It is the responsibility of those who employ the use of fixed lines and caches to clean them up when they are done. If they don't, this creates a negative impression about climbers with land managers and the public. If land managers know who abandoned a cache (in a place like Denali National Park), they will impose a fine. Additionally, climbers who permanently leave these types of things behind provide a better argument for the ethically challenged to steal your cache or your fixed line.

A Climber Confronts the Thief Responsible for Stealing Draws Off His Route in Smith Rock State Park
Photo by Ian Caldwell


Many high-end climbers (5.11-5.15 climbers) regularly employ the use of fixed draws on their projects. In other words, they leave draws fixed on hard bolted sport climbs so that they can easily come back in order to continue working on the ascent of their routes. Many sport climbers will come back to the same climb over and over again, sometimes logging weeks or even months, working to successfully complete their climbs.

This technique of "working" a climb used to be looked-down upon, but has become the norm for people trying to climb very difficult routes. The technically hardest rock climbs in the world are now regularly being climbed this way.

The issue with this technique is that it is now common for climbing draws to be almost permanently left on hard climbs. There are two problems with this. First, some land managers don't like the nearly permanent installation of these draws. And second, the fact that these draws have been left behind provides a major temptation to individuals who don't know any better and for thieves.

There are many climbers out there who don't like the fact that there are bolts in the rock. And there are many climbers out there who really don't like the fact the bolts have draws permanently affixed to them. But when all is said and done, regardless of your beliefs about this issue, if you know that the draws have been set to assist in a climber's ascent, then taking them is stealing.

There is controversy around each of these three topics. But fixed lines, caches and fixed draws are an important part of many climbers experiences and it is important to respect those who choose to employ such tactics as long as they do it in a way that is in line with a local climbing area's ethics.

--Jason D. Martin

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Climbing Events - May & June 2013




3/15 - 5/4 -- Bay Area, CA -- http://www.touchstoneclimbing.com/comps
  • 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 -- http://uptherocks.com/content/view/197/138/

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

2013 IFSC Calendar -- http://www.ifsc-climbing.org/index.php/world-competition

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