Friday, May 29, 2015

AAI Class of 2015 - Guide Training!

Mike Powers and I just finished the 2015 American Alpine Institute guide training program. The new guides participated in two weeks of guide skills training, followed by a week of student teaching.

Every one of the new guides is awesome. They are all absolutely lovely people. Every one of them has previous guiding experience, AMGA training and outdoor education experience. And they will all start their careers at AAI working in the Cascades.

To read about their backgrounds, check out our staff page.

Following is a photo essay from the guide training. To enlarge photos, simply click on them.

Class of 2015 from left to right. Backrow: Jim Mediatore, Mike Powers (Instructor). Front Row:
Angela Henderson, Jess Lewis, Will Gordon, Justin Moynihan, Jenny Merian, Dave Richards
and Jason Martin (Instructor).

It's well known that there aren't that many female mountain guides. As such, we take special pleasure in the fact that we have three new female guides all in the same class!

 Angela Henderson, Jenny Merian, and Jess Lewis

Master van packing by new AAI Guide Dave Richards.

Mike Powers teaches shortrope technique.
Shortroping is a guide technique where the guide uses his or her body
as well as terrain belays.

Mike demos how to shortrope on an arete on a log.

Jenny Merian gets rescued from a crevasse.

Will Gordon teaches prussik technique while student teaching.

Dave Richards practicing shortrope technique in Washington Pass.

Learning how to guide steep snow is an important part of guide training.

And so is guiding rock in the rain.

Skiing Spire Gully in Washington Pass.

We loaded Dave Richards up with ropes for rock rescue.

Angela Henderson practices rock rescue.

Will Gordon and Dave Richards get "rescued."

Getting guided up steep snow with skis.

The iconic first pitch of the Beckey Route on Liberty Bell.

Angela Henderson high on the Beckey Route.

An ugly summit day on South Early Winter Spire.

Jess Lewis and Will Gordon in Washington Pass.

Jess Lewis

Will Gordon

Jenny Merian and Will Gordon skinning in Washington Pass.

Justin Moynihan sport climbing near Mazama, WA.

Mike Powers showing how it's done.

Sport Climbing!

Shortroping on the ice.

Angela Henderson hauls someone out of a crevasse.

Practicing crevasse rescue.

Dave Richards enjoying the Mt. Baker sun.

Jenny Merian climbing steep ice on Mt. Baker.

Angela Henderson on steep ice.

Step cutting practice.

On Mt. Baker.

Guides can't help a little competition.
Here's a pushup comp!

Angela Henderson in Leavenworth.

Jim Mediatore in Leavenworth.

Dave Richards, Will Gordon and Justin Moynihan on February Buttress in Leavenworth.

Angela Henderson

Jim Mediatore leading February Buttress.

Jess Lewis and Jim Mediatore

Jenny Merian on February Buttress.

We are super excited about our new guide staff. If you've booked a course with us this summer, it's possible that you might meet one of these outstanding people on your trip!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 5/28/15


--It appears that a permit is required by climbers hoping to access the Twin Sister range via the logging roads. To read more, click here.

--Law enforcement officers uncovered seven storage containers of stolen goods in Olympic National Forest on May 22, after convicted bank robber Bradley Steven Robinett revealed its location as part of a plea deal. To read more, click here.

--There will be an Adopt-a-Crag event at Exit 38 on June 20th. To read more, click here.

--When some local snowboarders took over a closed Stevens Pass Ski Resort, they had the opportunity to build something awesome. Check out their video below:

--Wildfires in the U.S. have gotten bigger, more frequent and more expensive to fight in recent years. But every dollar spent fighting fires means less money for preventing them, or at least making them less destructive. Over time, climate change and the sprawl of new homes and developments throughout the West have pushed the U.S. Forest Service to devote more and more resources to fire suppression. Over the past 20 years, the agency has more than tripled the share of its budget spent fighting fires. To read more, click here.


--The prolific climber, wingsuit BASE jumper and high line slackliner, Dean Potter was killed with Graham Hunt in a BASE jumping accident in Yosemite last week. The climbing websites are currently filled with articles about Potter and the accident. Here are a few that stand out: Dean Potter's Final Flight: One Risk Too ManyThe Other Man: Graham Hunt, Poet of Light and Air: Dean Potter, and finally, Climbing magazine put up five short films that feature Dean Potter.

Desert Southwest:

--A 23-year-old man died Thursday afternoon after suffering a head injury while climbing near Big Cave in Green Canyon in Utah's Cache County. To read more, click here.

--A rock climber was rescued Monday after he fell about 40 feet down and landed on his back at Windy Point on Arizona's Mount Lemmon. To read more, click here.


--The New York City doctor being sued over an alleged ski collision on Aspen Mountain involving her and another woman who died filed a motion this month that says the victim’s boyfriend caused the crash. Virginia Chen is the defendant in a lawsuit brought by the estate of Natalie Egleston, the Pennsylvania resident who died of her injuries from the Feb. 4, 2013, accident. In a motion filed May 13, Chen wants a judge to allow Ron Konsza, also a Pennsylvania resident, to be designated as a nonparty to the lawsuit. To read more, click here.


--AAI Denali Team 2 summited yesterday with all members. This was the first team to summit the mountain this season! AAI Denali Team 3 is preparing to move to Camp 3 at 14,200'. To learn more about the AAI Denali expeditions, check out our dispatch blog.

--Two American climbers have made an ascent of a Grade III, WI 4 climb on the Stikine Ice Cap in Alaska. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The glaciers surrounding Mount Everest may be all but gone by the end of this century
The Himalayan region is particularly susceptible to climate change, a new study finds. To read more, click here.

--A year or so ago, a harness simply fell apart. Black Diamond did some experiments on the harness to understand why. They finished with an excellent article on chemicals and climbing gear. To read the article, click here.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Weekend Warrior - Videos to get you STOKED!!!

This past week, the climbing community lost a true innovator, someone who pushed the limits of what was thought possible.  Dean Potter was killed in a base jumping incident in Yosemite National Park.  Sometimes Dean was a polarizing figure, inspiring to some, reckless to others, but always pushing himself and the activities he loved to the next level.  So for this Weekend Warrior, we're taking a look back at Dean and some of his accomplishments, both in the world of climbing and base jumping.

Back in 2006, Dean Potter was the first to free solo Ron Kauk's iconic Yosemite climb, Heaven.  At first glance, the steeply overhanging 5.12d/5.13a doesn't seem too big of a deal for a world-class climber.  Unfortunately, the following video doesn't zoom out to show you the big picture - from the base of the route, the cliff slopes steeply away and as Alex Honnold says, "if you fell anywhere past the middle of the route, you'd bounce all the way down to the valley floor" which is about 3,000 ft below.  Alex is the only other climber to solo the route.

Also in 2006, Dean was the third climber to solo Separate Reality, another Ron Kauk classic going originally at 5.12a, then later downgraded to 5.11d after a block fell off the end and exposed a better finish hold.  The 6 meter long roof crack, awkward finish and amazing setting made this a big standout in the climbing world.  It has since been climbed by other standout soloists like Honnold and Will Stanhope.

Also in 2006, Dean, Ammon McNeely, and Ivo Ninov set the speed record on the Reticent Wall, one of the hardest routes on El Capitan.  As he mentions in the next video, Dean soured on the notion of speed climbing and climbing "competitions," but was eventually drawn back to the world of speed climbing.  In 2010, Dean and Sean Leary broke the speed record of the Nose of El Capitan by shaving off 20 seconds from the previous record.

Beyond the world of climbing, Dean was also a major innovator in the world of slacklining and especially highlining.

Last year, Dean stirred up controversy when he based jumped with his dog in a specially designed backpack.  Some thought it was cruel and selfish, but it Dean's mind it was more cruel to leave his faithful companion at home while he was out embracing life.

In the final video this weekend, Alex Honnold discusses with CNN how Dean not only pushed the sports he loved, but how he also pushed himself to overcome his fears.

Have a good weekend! - James

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 5/21/15

--The 'hidden' Cascade volcano that poses a threat.  Glacier Peak lurks within the northern Cascade Mountains. Unlike most of the other Cascade volcanos viewable from I-5 or even Seattle, this is the mountain no one notices. Yet Glacier Peak sits within the borders of Snohomish County and has a record of violent, even extreme eruptions. Full article here.

--Extreme sports legend Dean Potter was one of two BASE jumpers found dead in Yosemite National Park after attempting an aerial descent from Taft Point, authorities said. More here.

Desert Southwest:

--The grave new threat facing the Grand Canyon.  A massive new development promises housing, hotels and boutiques. Opponents say it will deface a national monumentThe U.S. Forest Service is accepting public comment for a controversial plan that would pave the way for a foreign developer to build a mega-development at the edge of the Grand Canyon.  Full article here.

--Updates for AAI 2015 Denali Teams: 
Team 1 has begun the descent.
Team 2 is planning to move up to Camp 3
Team 3 has moved up to Camp 1.
Follow the dispatches at our Dispatch Blog 

Notes from All Over:
--Bernhard Hug of Switzerland and Tony Sbalbi of France climb seven peaks, some of more than 4km (13,123ft), within 24 hours. Hug and Sbalbi set off just after midnight skiing and climbing the mountains all within a day. After setting off under cover of darkness, their lights can be seen ascending and descending the slopes

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 5/14/15

--AAI's Denali Team 1 is progressing up the mountain on its way to Camp 3. Follow their journey on our dispatch blog.

--Team 2 will be landing at Base Camp to start their expedition. Follow along here.

--British climbers Jon Griffith and Will Sim have made the first ascent of the northwest face of Mt. Deborah, a seldom-climbed, 12,339-foot peak in the Hayes Range, a group of mountains at the eastern end of the Alaska Range. Read full article here.
Notes from All Over:

--Maggie Daley Park Climbing Wall opens in Chicago. Touted by Park District officials as one of the largest outdoor climbing structures in the world, the walls reach 40 feet at their peak and encompass a total surface area of 19,000 square feet. Up to 100 people can climb on the structure at a time, Guthrie said.

--After a quick jaunt up to the Northern Hemisphere, Aussie Logan Barber made the first free ascent of The Firewall (5.13d) in Liming, China last week—now considered the hardest traditional climb in the country. Full article here. 

--Global Warming Hitting Highest Peaks Harder Than Expected.   After one of the mildest winters on record, it may come as no surprise to hear that the world’s highest mountains may be warming much faster than than the global average — and faster than previously thought. Full article here.

--VIDEO: Freeskier Survives HUGE Avalanche with ABS Backpack. Watch here.

Friday, May 8, 2015

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

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 5/7/15


-- Crews are on the scene at Rocky Butte Park near Portland, Oregon, where a rock climber suffered a fatal fall Friday afternoon. Details of the accident remain unclear, but crews responded to the area around 4:30 p.m. The climber, who has not yet been identified, was pronounced dead at the scene. To read more, click here.

  --A National Park Service report shows that nearly 770,000 people visited the North Cascades National Park Service Complex last year, spending more than $33.5 million in nearby communities. To read more, click here.

--Jens Holsten and Vern Nelson Jr. recently climbed a new route on the north face of Argonaut Peak in Washington’s Stuart Range. The pair dedicated their line to the memory of Chad Kellogg, a prolific climber who was killed in Patagonia last year. To read more, click here and here.

Desert Southwest:

--The state of Utah would like to reclaim Bears Ears and surrounding public lands, including places like Indian Creek, for “energy exploration,” declaring livestock grazing and “energy and mineral development” to be the “highest and best use” for the area. To learn how to fight this, click here. To see a video about this, click below. To sign a petition to protect this area, click here.

--On Thursday, May 7th the Las Vegas Climber's Liaison Council in partnership with BeyondVegas and Desert Rock Sports will be hosting Jeremy Collins, artist, climber, and adventurer, at the Clark County Library theater on 1401 E. Flamingo. This event is a multi-media evening with the showing of Jeremy's film "Drawn" and he will be doing a book signing for his newly released, fully- illustrated book Drawn: The Art of Ascent. There will also be a raffle with some great prizes and Jeremy will likely be creating some live art! To read more, click here.


--American Alpine Institute's first expedition team of 2015 is steadily making its way up Denali.  As of yesterday they were already at Camp 1.  Follow their progress and cheer them on at our Dispatch Blog here.

--In Anchorage, telltale signs of spring’s arrival include budding willows and returning geese. In Nenana, locals watch for the tilting tripod in the annual Ice Classic. In Talkeetna, this winter’s end was heralded by the arrival of 25,000-pound U.S. Army Chinook helicopters, which help the National Park Service set up the camps used by rangers patrolling Mount McKinley and other high peaks in the Alaska Range. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Mammut Pro Team athlete Dani Arnold just completed the north face of the Eiger in 1 hour and 46 minutes, a new speed record. To see a video of the ascent, click below. To read more, click here.

--The UIAA has posted a blog on this year's best climbing films, with many of the films embedded. To check it out, click here.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The Start of the Alaska Season: An Annual Van Migration

AAI guide and photographer Alasdair Turner and our Alaska logistics coordinator Mik Metzler completed the long Alaska Highway drive with food and equipment to supply this season's Alaska Range trips.  Although it is a long drive it is an amazingly beautiful one and they both enjoyed it. It was done in four days, and they even had a little time to sightsee on the way.  Below are some photos of the drive.  More of Alasdair 's photos can be found on his website

An American Bison seen at the side of the road.

It was a cold morning.

The first moose we saw.  It was sleeping I think.

Caribou attempting to end up like the moose above.

One of the many stretches of very pretty road on the drive.

Taking a break.

Another one of the roadside attractions. 

Gas stations are often closed at night, and are spread a long way apart.  Always stop to top up the tank. 

The Toad River Lodge.  Apparently home of the "world famous" hat collection.

The hat collection.  So impressive we spent almost a minute looking at it.  

The Laird Hot Springs.  Don't miss this!  It is amazing.

A cold rainy walk to the the springs, but very worth it. 

It did this a lot the first two days of our drive.  

Im hungry!  Hmmmm, this place looks nice.  

Never drive past a cafe that lets you sign the building.  

Alaska or bust.

British Columbia is a big place.  Finally made it to the Yukon.  

The hat collection was great.  Almost as great as the signpost forrest. 

Crossing the still frozen Yukon River. 

I don't really know where this was, but Mik mistook the frozen surface for a beach.  

Alaska somewhere. 

Finally in Talkeetna and unloading the tents.  Do we have enough?

Time to go flying with our friends at K2.

Denali in the distance. 

The east face of Denali.

Mount Huntington.

We should turn the plane now!

An army chinook at the Talkeetna airport helping the rangers install camp.  

--Alasdair Turner, AAI Instructor and Guide