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, RockClimberGirl.com) 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

Monday, November 3, 2014

Book Review: The Alchemy of Action by Doug Robinson

In 2001, I attended my first American Mountain Guides Association Annual Meeting in Yosemite Valley. I was standing at the campfire, looking for someone to talk to. I didn't really know anyone as I hadn't been guiding very long.

Suddenly, a small-statured man with white hair and muscular forearms offered me a beer. I accepted and was quickly stunned to find out that the man was a living legend:

Doug Robinson

Doug welcomed me to the meeting and I spent the evening talking to him. I was still a young guide and had a lot to learn. The wise old guide had a lot to say and I found it to be a very enjoyable night...

Doug is an incredibly well-known and respected climber and guide. He was at the forefront of the "clean climbing" movement in the early 1970s. He pushed back against the use of rock-altering pitons in favor of equipment that didn't damage the rock. In his essay, “The Whole Natural Art of Protection,” he argued for the use of "chalks" or what we refer to now as wired nuts in lieu of pins.

Doug did more than lecture his contemporaries. He practiced what he preached. In 1973, he made the first clean ascent of Half Dome. This and the subsequent article in National Geographic magazine cemented his place in climbing history.

Doug Robinson

In addition to leading the clean climbing revolution, Doug has been responsible for dozens of first ascents in the Sierra. Most notably, he made the first ascent of Dark Star on Temple Crag, made the first ice ascent of V-Notch Couloir, made numerous first ice ascents in Lee Vining Canyon, made the first ascent of Ice Nine, and finally he made the second ascent of Ama Dablam (22,495') in Nepal.

As a mountain guide, there may be no one more prolific. He was the first president of the American Mountain Guides Association and has been working as a rock and alpine guide for over fifty-years...

In addition to being a climber and a guide, Doug is a writer. And his most recent offering is a book that explores climbing in a very different way than anybody has previously. The question as to why people climb is as old as the sport; and people answer it in lots of different ways. Doug takes on the question and answers it in a completely new way. In his book, The Alchemy of Action, Doug argues that people climb because the activity releases a series of complex brain chemicals, which provide a feeling of euphoria. Indeed, the cover of his book reads:

Why do people climb mountains?
Because it gets us high.
But adrenaline junkies we are not,
and beta-endorphin isn't behind the runner's high either.
The surprising answer reveals natural psychedelic transformations
at work deep in the brains of adventure athletes.

The book is an exploration of brain chemistry through the lens of adventure sports. Doug looks at skiers and runners and climbers and delves into the complex cocktail of brain drugs that induce feelings of euphoria when climbing or the "runner's high."

There are five hormones that are released into the brain to create the feelings that we strive for in the mountains. They are noradrenaline, anandamine, serotonin, DMT, and dopamine.  Each of these are released for different reasons.

Note that adrenaline was not one of the hormones on the list. Adrenaline is a "fight-or-flight" chemical. It generally comes in a rush when something very dangerous almost happens. It is not really what people strive for in their mountain sports, the idea that climbers are "adrenaline junkies" is completely false.

Doug's book delves deeply into each of the chemicals and then discusses how they interact with an athlete and make him feel. He explores these through a mix of chapters on brain chemistry and active adventure stories, bringing us on a complex journey to understand why we actually climb mountains...

The Alchemy of Action is a little dense at times. There is a lot of science packed into the book. But there is also a lot of adventure in there. And while there are a few sections that take a lot of focus for someone who isn't "science-brained" to get through, it's well worth it. Doug's anecdotes and his take on what makes us do what we do is well worth the time...

--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