Saturday, December 27, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Water is a powerful and amazing thing.  Back in the early 1900's the little Norwegian town of Rjukan harnessed this power and built the first hydroelectric powerplant in Norway.  Since then, it has gone through a series of highs and lows, and now it has emerged as an amazing destination for ice climbing.

A 30 minute tram ride takes you from Baguettes and Cafes to some of the most technically challenging terrain out there.  It's no wonder why some of the top alpinists in the world call Chamonix their second (or even first) home.

Gaining precision through persistence.  Breaking your project into a series of smaller attainable victories.  Overcoming the improbable.  All of this is part of honing your craft and good advice to apply to not just your climbing, but the rest of your life as well.

Have a great weekend! - James

Friday, December 26, 2014

Popular Anchor Acronyms

Over the last decade, the use of anchor acronyms has become quite popular. For awhile, it seemed like everybody had a different acronym for the "ideal" anchor. Following are a few examples of anchor acronyms:


Rumor has it that this term was initially coined by an east coast guide. As I am unable to independently verify the truth of this, I'm going to keep his name out of this blog. In any case, the preceding acronym stands for:

R - Redundant
E - Equalized
N - No
E - Extention

"Redundant" simply means that there is more than one element involved in every aspect of the system. "Equalized" means that the all the weight is evenly distributed. "No Extention" means that if one piece fails, the anchor will not shockload other parts of the system.

John Long's How to Rock Climb series added an element to the acronym. In his books he began to use SRENE. The RENE part remained the same, but he added the "S". This stood for "secure" or "strong." In other words, are all the pieces strong and secure?

The 2008 AMGA Single Pitch Instructor manual added another letter to the acronym. In this recent publication they made the acronym, SERENE. The new "E" stood for "effective;" as in, was the construction of this anchor quick? Was it well-placed? Does it do the job without too much equipment or fuss?

Popular books like Freedom of the Hills, Rock Climbing: Mastering the Basic Skills, and Alpine Climbing: Techniques to Take You Higherhave gone a completely different route. Instead of SERENE, they use ERNEST.

E - EqualizedR - Redundant
N - No
E - Extention
S - Secure/Solid
T - Timely

The only real addition to this particular acronym is the "T" for "timely" which could well equate to the "E" for "effective."

When all is said and done, it doesn't really matter which acronym you prefer. It doesn't matter as long as your anchors are RENE, SRENE, SERENE and ERNEST...

--Jason D. Martin

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Our first video this weekend was made not so long ago, in a ski town not so far, far away...  It's Mt. Bachelor Strikes Back!!

Maybe if you were a good boy or girl this year, you'll get some Legos for Christmas and can make your own sweet Lego snowboarding video like this one!

And lastly, I couldn't pass up some good ol' Skiing Santa Videos!

Happy Holidays!! - James

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Last week we ended "Weekend Warrior" with a soul-stirring, melodically paced, artful ski edit.  This week were starting off with a what-the-heck, holy-cow, those-guys-are-crazy ski edit!

So let's just continue on this same track with another unbelievably crazy line.  If you've seen "Days of My Youth" you're already familiar with this clip.  But for those of you who haven't, prepare to have your mind blown.  In an interview with Outside Magazine, Cody Townsend said he got up to 65 - 70 mph, and the exit of the chute was only about 6' wide.  You'll need to see this to believe it!

This weekend is the Bozeman Ice Fest and the first UIAA World Cup Ice Climbing Event held in the US.  So to celebrate the Fest, I had to have a Hyalite video in here this weekend.  And boy, is this a good one.  Here we see Conrad Anker and Kris Erickson adding a variation to Hyalite Canyon's crown jewel route, Winter Dance.  Their new line, Nutcracker, adds a M7 and a M8 pitch to the start to reach the main ice line.  Not only is this a film about the climbing, but it's also a brief narrative of Conrad and his fallen friend, Alex Lowe, who this new line is a tribute to.

Have a great weekend! - James

Monday, December 8, 2014

How to Be a Skier

The following video is awesome. It will tell you everything you need to know to be a skier. The most important of which is that if anything goes wrong at all, just blame the snowboarders...

--Jason D.  Martin

Saturday, December 6, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Kevin Fogolin's job is to keep people safe. But in order to do that, he has to cause a little destruction now and then. You see, Kevin is an avalanche controller in the Canadian Rockies.  His job is to be out in the snow, to ski, and sometimes he gets to ride in helicopters and drop bombs.  Sounds like a pretty cool gig, eh?  It is, as long as everything goes as planned.  But when things go wrong, they can go really, really wrong...

The Controller - Salomon Freeski TV S8 E05 from Salomon Freeski on Vimeo.

Dry-tooling is an interesting sport.  You're rock climbing, but using ice tools.  It sounds easy, right?  Well think about it this way:  you no longer have 10 fingers and nice, sticky rubber holding you to the rock, instead you have all your weight balanced on 4 pieces of 3-4 mm thick sharpened steel.  Angelika Rainier is a master of those steel points, and in our next video she shows us how it's done in the first ascent of KamaSutra, one of the hardest dry-tool lines in Italy at D13+ (about 5.13c/d).

Angelika Rainer, first ascent of KamaSutra D13+ from ANGELIKA RAINER on Vimeo.

Most of the videos I put here are more fast-paced, get-your-heart-pumping, adrenaline-rush type videos.  But every once in a while, I find something that might be a slower-paced on the surface, but stirs something a bit deeper in your soul.

kOnneX : the ski film from Hanno Mackowitz on Vimeo.

Have a great weekend! - James

Friday, December 5, 2014

Book Review: 'The Calling: A Life Rocked by Mountains' by Barry Blanchard

I just finished reading Barry Blanchard's memoirs, which I immensely enjoyed.  For those of you who don't know who Barry is, he is a cutting edge Canadian alpinist who was most active in the 80's and 90's, and most known for establishing some of the proudest alpine lines in the Canadian Rockies, as well as pushing the envelope on high altitude objectives in the Himalaya.  Barry began climbing when rock protection consisted of pitons and chocks, hip belays and home-made webbing harnesses. Free climbing rock beyond 5.8 was yet to be realized.  He was born and raised around Calgary, in an impoverished and violent community, and discovered climbing at a young age.  He harrowingly describes his first rock climbing experience.

'His right hand was frantically sweeping the rock overhead as he strived to find something to hold on to. There was nothing. He clanged through the rack and unclipped an orange knifeblade piton and stabbed it at a crack. The pin rebounded from his grip and clattered down the face, pinging into free fall and a whirring rotation before pinging into the head of my right clavicle. My breath exploded in a wave of white pain.'

This kind of narrative is constantly present, and kept me on the edge of my seat throughout. Blanchard doesn't concern himself too much with trying to find a moral in his climbing, and limits his prose to incredibly descriptive stories of his life, which I have always appreciated.  At times, however, Barry hits you over the head with description, and his use of simile is substantial to say the least.  In most cases, his descriptions create beautiful imagery- pure poetry.

'The last long ribbons of sunlight touched the north face of Alberta: wedding-dress-white ice, abrupt and brutal black rock, and the glowing whit bridal veil of the summit glacier.'

I also learned some new techniques from 'The Calling' that I had never considered, the best example being the "flash-freeze climbing hold", in which you lick your fingertips and place them on an iced-over hold, turning crimps to jugs.  Yeah, when you move past the hold, some skin will be left behind, but greatness such as Blanchard's pays no mind to these minor details.  'I hurt, therefore I am.'

The real shining moments Barry achieves in the passages of 'The Calling' are found in the relationships between he and his climbing partners.  His partners are as much a part of the book as his own experiences, and he brings the reader to know them, love them, and occasionally grieve for them.

'A travel pack he had used earlier sat on his back and it had a suitcase handle on one side and a rectangular metal frame sewn inside to make it stand like baggage. The shoulder straps could be concealed by a zippered panel on the back. 

"T.P., you're a ... lawyer, man," David said. "Buy yourself a proper alpine pack." 

"Ya, you cheap b@%*," I added.

"I will just as soon as we get off of this route."

In some ways, I can identify with 'The Calling.'  In other ways, not so much.  As someone who has spent the last five years living the dirtbag lifestyle in an effort to gain as much mileage in the mountains as I can, I identify with some of his struggles, and found assurance in his perseverance.  I would like to think that I am brave and strong enough to push myself to the limits some of his narrative describes, but fear that the desire to take quite as much risk as Blanchard may not be there. Still, there are plenty of passages that simply allude to his pure love of being high in the mountains, which I can whole-heartedly agree with.

Barry is one of those great figures in alpinism who inspire so many, and 'The Calling' is an important narrative for our sport. It is real, and raw, and wildly entertaining.  Whether you can relate with some of his near-misses and triumphs, are dreaming of them, or would prefer to white-knuckle your armchair, 'The Calling' is not to be missed.

--Andy Stephen, AAI Instructor and Guide

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

For many of us, whether we are climbers, skiers, boarders, bikers, paddlers or flyers, a large part of our sport is pushing our limits and challenging ourselves - challenging what our bodies and our minds tell us is possible. For some, there are more challenges imposed upon them than others. But those challenges only hold you back if you let them.

Telemark Skier Magazine sent crew to Niseko, Japan to find the soul of backcountry skiing there. They sure found it, and a whole lot more.

Last for this weekend, but definitely not least, is this edit from Crystal Wright during her 2013/2014 season. Not only does she have awesome footage of some great lines, she also has a touching dedication to fallen AAI Guide, Liz Daley. Thank you Crystal for helping keep Liz's spirit alive!

Crystal Wright Ski 2013/14 from Brian Mulvihill on Vimeo.

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Cheers, James

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

That Thing Called Twitter

When I first heard about Twitter, I thought it was dumb.

Outdoor social media guru, Sara Lingafelter, (also known as rock climber girl, after her extremely popular blog, came to visit us in 2009. At that time she introduced us to the art of tweeting.

We started slow.  Really slow.

But we got some tweets out there are started to get a few followers.

And in an email to the guides, I even wrote, "we're on twitter now.  So if you're interested, check out @AlpineInstitute, but if you don't know what Twitter is, don't worry about it.  It's kinda' stupid.

My initial response was more due to the fact that some people use Twitter to announce things to the world that don't matter.  I could care less if your grocery cart has a squeeky wheel.  And I definitely don't care if the person next to you on the bus smells bad...

But then I discovered that Twitter can be fun and useful.  This became especially true when we discovered some of the best "Twitterbugs" out there.

Here is a list of some of our favorites:

Climbing Gear Shops:

@AAI_Shop - Yep, that's our gear shop, chocked full of equipment specialists that work with our guides to understand the strengths and weaknesses of every type of outdoor equipment that we use!

Climbing, Skiing, and Mountaineering News:

The following is a list of the best of the best when it comes to climbing and skiing news:

@AmericanAlpine, @AlpinistMag, @ClimbingMag, @SkiingMag, @OutsideMagazine, @YosemiteNews, @rockandice, @GrippedMagazine, @BackpackerMag, @AccessFund, @MtRescueAssoc, @UIAAMountains, @supertopo

National Park,  National Forest and BLM News and Information:

@NPCA -- This is the National Parks Conservation Association. They provide a great overview of National Parks issues.

Here are some other important twitterfeeds from land managers that regularly concern climbers and skiers:

@DenaliNPS, @JoshuaTreeNP, @BLM_Nevada, @GrandTetonNPS, @YosemiteNPS, @SequioaKingsNPS, @WrangellStENPS, @AlaskaNPS, @NCascadesNPS, @OkaWenNF, @BlackCanyonNPS, @ZionNPS, @ParksCanada

Hodgepodge of Others that We Like:

@Jetboil, @ArcTeryx, @OspreyPacks, @MtneersBooks, @ConservationNW, @SharpEndBooks, @MetoliousClimb, @CascadeClimbers, @UCMAG, @Petzl, @AMGAUSA, @ExtremeSurvival, @RichLouv, @NWF, @Wilderness, @PowderMagazine, @5Ten, @K8tlevy, @SARblip, @backpacknews, @ChildrenNature, @leavenotrace, @TetonGravity, Friends_NWAC, @OurayIcePark, @BlackDiamondUSA

Guilty Pleasure Twitterbugs:

We have one really great guilty pleasure Twitterfeed:

@DeathStarPR - These guys are really funny. They are supposed to be the PR department for the Death Star.  Yeah, that Death Star, the one from Star Wars.  Here are a few of my favorite tweets:

Kids, if a man in a brown bathrobe who lives in a cave offers to show you "the ways of the Force," DON'T GO. #JediAwarenessWeek

Tyler Perry is the highest paid man in Hollywood. See, this is why you guys don't deserve to not get exploded.

Nothing in life is free. Unless you can crush people's windpipes with your mind. Then people are strangely generous.

 We didn't destroy Alderaan, we created the Alderaan Memorial Asteroid Park.  #DeathStarCares

So that's how I waste my day.  How about you guys?  What am I missing that's consistently informative and interesting for the climber/skier...?

--Jason D. Martin

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Last year, Cedar Wright and Alex Honnold shared with us an adventure with possibly as many laughs and it did climbs during their biking and climbing epic, "Sufferfest."  Well, they are back at it again - this time with desert towers.  "Sufferfest 2" looks to be just as awesome!

Sufferfest 2: Desert Alpine, AKA 34 Pieces of Choss and 5 Horrendous Life Experiences, Starring Alex Honnold and Cedar Wright - Trailer from Cedar Wright on Vimeo.

Last week we showed DPS Skis' first foray into cinema, and it was no disappointment.  This week brings the second episode in their Shadow Campaign.  "Whitewash"  features Zach Giffon, Olaf Larsson, Piers Solomon, and some deep, deep Mt. Baker backcountry.  Keep up the good work DPS!

The Shadow Campaign // Whitewash from DPS SKIS on Vimeo.

While most of the Northeast is getting pummeled by the massive lake-effect snow storm, I am sure lots of folks are going to be out this weekend enjoying some amazing powder.  But I found this video of a couple enjoying the storm in a different way and had to share it!

WNY - Blizzard Surfing from Kevin Cullen on Vimeo.

Have a great weekend! - James

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Weekend warriors.  Dawn patrol.  Full-moon tours.  All examples of us trying to squeeze the things that we love to do in to the mix of our busy, every-day lives.  This short from a series by Vaude highlights some "5 to 9 Adventures" for those who try to get the goods before and after the normal work day.

Last month, The North Face announced a partnership with the Department of the Interior's 21st Century Conservation Service Corps (21CSC) program to help get young adults and veterans working on conservation and restoration projects that help protect our land, water and wildlife.  The video below is part of the unveiling of the project and here is the link to more information about it.

Ever since pro snowboarder (and Bellingham local, I might add) Lucas Debari saw a small, pixelated photo of a captivating, yet unnamed, peak in Greenland, he was determined to plan an amazing expedition there.

For this last video of the weekend, grab a cup of something warm (or a frosty, cold one if you prefer) sit back for the next half hour and enjoy this snowboard awesomeness from Nitro.

The Bad Seeds! FREE snowboard video by Nitro Snowboards from Nitro Snowboards on Vimeo.

Have a great weekend! - James

Friday, November 14, 2014

Access Fund - The Pact

The Access Fund has just launched an ambitious new project. They are trying to get the word out about "The Pact," a series of guidelines that all climbers should universally follow in order to preserve our access to climbing areas. According to the Access Fund, "The Pact is a promise—a covenant with our fellow climbers to practice a set of 10 responsible outdoor behaviors that protect climbing access."

Following are the ten key points of The Pact:

A large group of pro climbers have come together with the Access Fund to produce a video about The Pact. Please see it below:

This is something that we at the American Alpine Institute support completely. Please sign The Pact and support our continued climbing access.

--Jason D. Martin

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

I just can't say this enough - I want to go to Japan!  I am just blown away at every video I see from there!  This first video for the weekend is no exception.

This year, the Big Mountain World Heli Challenge moved to Mt. Cook in New Zealand, and served up some pretty amazing lines.  This not your typical GS or halfpipe style competition.  This is taking it to another level.

For most people, the words "desert" and "ice" don't usually go together - unless your sentence is something like, "This desert is so hot!  I wish I had some ice!"  But over the last couple seasons those two words have come together to form something amazing in Zion National Park.  There has been an explosion of development in ice climbing there, and the lines are pretty incredible!

Have a great weekend! - James

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

North Face Prank

So there have been quite a few funny marketing pranks in the last couple years. Most of them have been to promote scary movies, like this one to promote the Carrie remake, and this one to promote a Chucky movie.

But now the North Face has got in on the fun. Check out this prank that played on Korean customers:

Essentially the customers come in. The floor begins to roll away so that they're forced onto the climbing wall. A large, presumably inflatable, pad appears deep down below them. Then a product comes out of the ceiling which they can jump for.

I can't imagine that a North Face shop in the US could get away with something like this without getting sued. But it sure would be awesome!

--Jason D. Martin

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

I hope everyone had a great Halloween!  In case you didn't get enough scares last night, here's a few more frights for this weekend.  For the first video, we have a nice compilation of palm sweating, pebbly, run-out Gritstone climbing.

Once you've slowed your pulse down a little and caught your breath, how about you check out this next one.  John Freeman is a climbing guide and rope access supervisor, and according to Will Gadd, one of the safest and most knowledgable climbers around.  But when the pillar he is climbing shatters near the top, it makes for one scary fall.

It must be something about Brits, but they sure know how to push the "scary meter" to the limit.  Hazel Findley did just that, with her ascent of "Once Upon A Time in the West," an E9 (which translates to both hard and scary) on the seaside cliffs of Devon, UK.

And last, but not least, one more ice climbing scare.  In this one, the climber is topping out on a thin, wet pitch and can't get any good sticks.  It's warm and wet, and the ice is quickly breaking off around him.  Luckily, there are some other climbers above him setting up a rappel who are able to help him out with a top rope just in the nick of time.

Hope you have a great, scare-free rest of your weekend! - James

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Making of a Metolius Master Cam

Metolius has a great little video out about the life of a cam. It literally starts with a piece of aluminum and finishes with the cam being placed. Check out the video below:

--Jason D. Martin

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

DPS Skis has taken their first steps into making ski movies with their new short, "Sanctuary."  Set in Valle Nevado, Chile, this is the first in their four-part "Shadow Campaign" series that will later feature Mt. Baker, Baldface, and Refugio Frey.

The Shadow Campaign // Sanctuary from DPS SKIS on Vimeo.

Canadian Mountain Holidays is the worlds longest running heliski operation.  So when the Solomon team see their advertisement for "The World's Best Skiing," they decide to call them out on twitter.  To their surprise, CMH decides to prove their claim by inviting the crew to experience the awesome tree skiing for themselves.

Even though the temps are dropping here in the PNW, there is still plenty of good climbing to be had out there.  For those of you who are enjoying you own versions of Rocktober, here's some sweet Macedonia Bouldering from the Petzl Roctrip 2014.

Have a great weekend! - James

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Alpine Sandstone: In Pursuit Of A Castle Valley Testpiece

Last April, I attempted a challenging link-up in Castle Valley, Utah with my good friend Steffan Gregory.  For those who aren’t too familiar with the area, Castle Valley is located just outside of Moab.  The area is centered around Castleton Tower, which was the first Utah desert tower ever climbed, but contains several other towers and island mesas.  Desert tower climbing is a unique climbing experience.  Imagine 4-6 pitches of steep sandstone cracks to summits that are sometimes pinnacles just wide enough to stand on.  Throw in some loose rock and sections of funky climbing for a bit of an alpine feel, and you’ve got Castle Valley.
                                       (The main Castle Valley attractions, R-L: Castleton, The Rectory, and The Priest.  
                                       Sister Superior is about a mile to the North from the Priest)

I had stood on Castleton before and been inspired by the very aesthetic ridgeline that connected the towers- from Castleton to The Rectory, The Priest and, a mile down the ridge, Sister Superior.  Each tower held at least one classic route in the 5.10+ to 5.11 range.  Here the idea to connect them-doing a route on each of the formations in a day- was planted in my mind.  It would be the perfect testing ground for where we were at both in strength and technical ability.
                                       (The link-up, as seen atop Castleton Tower.  The formation to the far North 
                                     along the ridge is called the Parriot Mesa, and wasn’t included in our objective)

When we arrived in Moab and started putting the gear together, we quickly realized that this was going to be more difficult that we had originally thought.  3+ miles of hiking, and 18 pitches of full-value, gear intensive climbing.   After doing some research, we also discovered that the somewhat broken ridgeline between Sister Superior and the others did not have an established trail, and the topo map showed what looked to be some vertical steps in what we could only assume was some classic Utah mudstone, which is just as it sounds- terrifying.  We spent some time debating from which side to start.  In the end, we decided to shuttle the gear that wasn’t needed for the far-off Sister Superior to the bottom of Castleton and start on the far end the next day- get the longest amount of hiking over with.
                      (Leaving camp in the predawn light.  Sister Superior would be the first tower of the day)

We got a predawn start towards Sister Superior, and despite having to force our way up steep sand to the tower, arrived just as the sun was coming up.  Our route on Sister Superior was Jah Man, a classic 5 pitch 5.10. 
 The route was indeed amazing, with a bit of everything- chimneying, face climbing, and a steep and pumpy crux pitch culminating in a summit just big enough for the two of us to stand on.  We took some pictures, and started our rappel.
                                             (running along the broken ridgeline toward the Castleton group) 

Unsure how the ridgeline was going to go, we began to run to make up time.  We were stoked to find passage through the rock bands that didn’t involve down-climbing mud.  Coming up towards the Priest, we found the steep steps more difficult, with some mud-aneering required, but just as we got to the steepest part, we found a knotted rope hanging from the top of the cliffs.  Rather than fully commit to using the questionable rope to ascend the cliffs, we simply used it as a measure of protection and free-climbed to the top.  At the top were many pieces of re-bar fixed vertically into the sandy rock, the rope anchored to a few of these.  We would find out in conversation with a local guide later that these were most likely left in place after an adventure race that was held along the ridgeline a decade ago. 

    (Steffan contemplating the mental crux of the Honeymoon Chimney- a committing move off a ledge into a 
     squeeze chimney.)

Our route on The Priest was called the Honeymoon Chimney, and featured 2 pitches of chimney climbing, followed by some 5.11 face climbing to the top of the tower.  The first pitch was said to be pretty mentally taxing, so chimney-master Gregory agreed to put the rope up.  The chimney, while only rated 5.9 was just tight enough to wedge your body in, and establishing yourself required a wide lie-back which could only be marginally protected without the use of a big-bro or appropriately sized 2x4.  Some cursing followed by the sound of metal scraping on sandstone, and Steffan yelled, “Off-belay!”  My pitch featured enjoyable chimney moves protected with a Beckey-era pin.  The face-climbing proved to be quite a bit harder than 5.11, and in an effort to keep our momentum, we ended up french freeing quite a bit of it.  An airy step-across move would prove to be one of the highlights of the link-up. 

                                                (The ultra rad step-across leading to the summit of The Priest)

 Upon hitting the ground, we made a dash for our route on The Rectory, Fine Jade. This was statistically the most popular route in Castle Valley and sure enough, upon our arrival a party was on route, with two in line.  The sun was approaching the horizon.  We were hosed.

If we were smart, we would have left the gear stashed on the ridge, and attempted the link-up after a day of rest.  Instead, we started driving for Zion early the next morning.  100 miles down the road, we stopped for coffee.  An off-hand check of the smartphone yielded a 70% chance of T-storms in the Springdale area.  We weren’t going to be climbing in Zion anytime in the two days we had left.  “We could go home to the ladies,” Steffan suggested.  But we both knew that the link-up would persist in our thoughts until we put it to bed.  We had to find out if we had what it took.

            (Leading up to the crux on pitch one of the NF)                                        (Castleton Tower’s North Face)

First thing the next morning we left our camp at the base of Castleton.  An hour and a half later, the gear was stashed at the bottom of the iconic tower.  Tomorrow we would start with Castleton, and work our way towards Sister Superior.  An alpine start the next morning, and I was leading up the first pitch of the North Face of Castleton as dawn broke.  Endless fist-jams led to a difficult move on slick calcite rock to the chains.
                                                    (Stoked after making great time to the top of
                                                           Castleton Tower on our 2nd attempt on the link-up)

Steffan followed quickly up and took the lead on the next pitch of funky 5.10+.  I took over again at 8 AM, an hour and thirty minutes after starting the route.  We dispatched the last two 5.10 pitches and began our rappel.  Reaching the ground we ran towards Fine Jade, the route that had SNAFU’ed us two days before.  We were moving well and had a great chance of finishing in the day light.  To our dismay, two parties were on route, with one waiting.   
     (The Rectory from atop Castleton, with the Priest in the background.  Fine Jade takes a crack system up the center of              the sunlit face.)

Our only hope was to continue on, with hope of hitting Fine Jade last, but adding 2 miles of hiking and 9 pitches of climbing before we’d have our turn.  Quickly dispatching Honeymoon Chimney, we sprinted towards Sister Superior.  A long shot.  We roped up for the first pitch of Jah Man at 3pm, and with the desert sun berating us on the windless face, we fought our way to the summit.

(On the summit of Sister Superior, getting worked by the                   (Racing up Honeymoon Chimney)
desert heat)

Running back towards Fine Jade pushed us to beyond our fitness.  At the base of the Priest, with a waning sun, we sat and tried to recover our psyche.  “Let’s go see if it’s open at least,” Steffan said.  I followed, fully ready to demolish mac and cheese back at camp, but, like Steffan, unwilling to admit defeat.

There were no parties blocking our way on Fine Jade. We sat underneath the route absolutely spent, and watched the sun sink to illuminate the splitter cracks of Fine Jade as it made its descent.  The pursuit of the link-up would have to wait for another time, when we were stronger, and luckier.  
                                                                     (Witness the thin-ness: Sister Superior)

As we made our way down to camp in the waning light, a perma-smile took residence on my face.  I noticed the same gleefulness in Steffans expression as we humped our gear-laden packs down the side of the ridge.  There were no feelings of disappointment, and no regrets.  We had just realized the climber's dream- to attempt something we weren't sure we could finish.  And though we were defeated, in our shortcomings we were able to honestly evaluate the progress we had made in our sport.  As we laughed and joked our way down the hillside, it was obvious we had won in at least one aspect.

-Andy Stephen
Guide and Instructor at the Institute

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

Flakes are falling, passes are on sale, wax is being melted, and bullwheels are even starting to turn. And with the return of the ski season comes the return of the ski-movie season. We've already had a couple great ones roll through town, and have a couple more to look forward to.

Sweetgrass Productions has already made its mark with it's stunning cinematic feats, but what happens when you pair them with a big-budget LED manufacturer?  "Afterglow" happens...

We've seen epic ice climber Will Gadd tackle some tough routes before. When he brought Helmcken Falls into the ice climbing spotlight, we knew there was some amazing potential. In this latest teaser, we see Will working on his 7 pitch project to connect the base of the falls all the way to the top.

Coming up on November 7, AAI will be at Aslan Brewery with Mt. Baker Experience for the showing of Matchstick Production's "Days of My Youth."  Here's the trailer to whet your appetite and help you remember the good ol' days.

Have a great weekend! - James

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop - 11/2/2012

Time to reward those that are loyal to all things snowy…...

For those of you unfamiliar with The Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop (NSAW), it is an all-day seminar in Seattle with speaker's from all over North America all speaking to a common theme. It is a great way to start your snow season with an emphasis on safety, while having one heckuva great time!

This year the theme is, " Accidents, Surprises, and Near Misses".

Talks are no longer than 35 minutes, the breaks are long, and their are a TON of venders offering Pro Deals for participants (BCA, Brooks Range, Mammut, etc.). At the end of the day there is an after party on premise with FREE BEER (New Belgium), Smoked Salmon, Pizza, and a few other munchables.

The great part is that you don't have to sacrifice too much sleep to attend. NSAW starts at 9:00am the morning AFTER the switch to Daylight Savings. Yup, an extra hour of sleep to bank for your drive. Parking is FREE on the UW campus for NSAW, and children under 16 are FREE as well.

Go to the link below and click on Get Tickets

Click on Enter a Password or Discount Code

Type in active, all lower case

Purchase your ticket and save some money ( you can then spend it on raffle tickets cuz there will be over $10,000 in gear!)

Mt Whitney's Mountaineer's Route in the Winter

Mount Whitney (14, 505’)
Winter Ascent

Thousands of people climb Mount Whitney in the summertime - it’s one of the most popular peaks in the country, due to its beauty, accessibility and its status as the tallest peak in the Lower 48. However, from sometime in late fall to early summer, it’s a different beast. Snow, ice and low temperatures turn what is often considered a hard day-hike (especially if we’re talking about the Whitney Trail) into a more difficult snow climb. Fewer people climb the mountain in the winter, but the experience can be one of beauty and solitude - something rarely found on Mount Whitney.

The following are pictures from a Winter Mountaineering in the Sierra Course offered by AAI, in which climbers learn winter camping and mountaineering skills and get in a summit of Mount Whitney via the Mountaineer’s Route. The pictures were taken by Chris Brinlee - a phenomenal professional photographer. As you can see, it’s a gorgeous route, and very rewarding!

If you are interested in climbing Mount Whitney in the winter with AAI guides, give us a call at 360-671-1505 or email!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Toproping Etiquette Questions

This article is Part II of our climbing etiquette series. To read Part I, Glacier Climbing Etiquette Questions, please click here.

The following is a series of etiquette oriented questions that arise around toproped climbing at popular cragging destinations. The answers to these questions should be adhered to at North American Climbing destinations. Locations outside of North America may have different etiquette issues.

A Climber Lowers Off a Route in Leavenworth, Washington
Photo by Ruth Hennings

1) Where should I set-up my "camp" at a crag that I'm going to climb at all day?

Gear and equipment should not be placed directly under the wall. It's good to set-up a "safe" area away from the wall where you can relax without a helmet on and eat lunch. This will also keep the base of the wall from being crowded with gear and packs.

It's a good idea to consolodate your group's gear. Avoid allowing equipment and packs to be scattered around.

A Climber Leads Tonto (5.5) in Red Rock Canyon
Photo by Jason Martin

2) What if I have a large group and want to "take-over" a crag for the day?

It is not appropriate for a group to "take-over" a crag. Climbing areas are public areas that are open to everyone. As such, it is incredibly rude for a group to hold an entire area -- or even a few routes -- hostage for the day.

If you have a large group, you have a large impact on both other users as well as the area. The best thing that you can to mitigate that impact is to keep a low profile, allow others to work in on the wall that you're using. Never leave a rope up that is not being used to "hold" a route.

If you do have a lot of ropes up and other users wish to climb routes that you have ropes on, it is okay to allow people to use your ropes if they look like they know what they're doing. If they don't appear knowlegable and they are climbing on your gear, you could become legally liable if something happens to one of the climbers that aren't with your group.

A group climbs at the Cowlick Co. Crag in Red Rock Canyon
Photo by Jason Martin

3) What if a large group is using a crag and refuses to give up a climb to my small group?

If you've got moves, then offer to have a dance-off for the climb. Seriously, joking with people will often loosen them up. In most cases, people that have had a good laugh will be more polite and more open to allowing people to climb.

If the large group is very rude and refuses to give up a climb, then politely find another place to go. It's not worth lecturing an ignorant climber about crag ettiquete. More often than not, a lecture will just reinforce negative behavior.

4) Is it okay to use the same anchor bolts as the person on an adjacent route?

Yes and no. Will this cause the person next door problems? If so, they were there first. If not, then be sure to ask them before clipping in next to their carabiners. If they say yes, then clip the bolts, but be sure not to do anything that changes their set-up in any way.

5) Where should I go to the bathroom when I'm cragging?

If there is an outhouse nearby, always use that first. Avoid urinating at the base of the wall and always avoid urinating in cracks on a wall as this causes the smell to linger.

If you have to defeicate, know the rules of the area. Some areas require the use of WAG Bags, while other areas require you to dig a cat hole and pack out your toilet paper. Never go to the bathroom on the ground, stack the toilet paper on it and then put a rock on top.

6) When should I say something to a person who is doing something dangerous?

This is up to you. I usually don't say anything unless there is real and iminent danger. If there is mild danger, I will usually chat with the people for awhile in a non-threatening way before providing any unsolicieted beta.

7) Is it okay to toprope the first pitch of a multi-pitch climb?

More often than not, the answer is no. This is a more complex issue than the others and it does depend on the route and the route's history. People who are doing multi-pitch climbs always have the right of way over those who will TR a climb.

Some climbs are multi-pitch climbs, but nobody does anything but the first pitch. In this case, all the other ettiquete rules apply. Other climbs are commonly climbed as multi-pitch routes and are seldom done as single pitch routes. Such climbs should not be toproped.

8) It it okay to yell beta at people who didn't ask for it that I don't know?

No, many climbers like figure out the moves on their own.

Climbers who keep these concepts of etiquette in mind will almost universally have a much better time with a lot less conflict at the crags. And climbing isn't about conflict. It's about having fun...!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, October 6, 2014

Liz Daley - Memorial Articles

One week ago today, we lost a dear friend and an inspiration to the climbing and splitboarding community. On September 29th, AAI Guide Liz Daley was killed in an avalanche in Patagoina while on a photo shoot.

We announced this tragic news last Wednesday when Dunham Gooding, the American Alpine Institute's Director wrote this blog.

In the last week, we haven't stopped thinking about her. And neither have many others. Here are a few articles about Liz, her life and her tragic death:

Bellingham Herald

Seattle PI

Outside Magazine

The Adventure Journal

Powder Magazine

Eddie Bauer

Outside Online


And here is a wonderful article she wrote for Teton Gravity Research, which we reposted on our blog.

--Jason D. Martin