Friday, June 26, 2015

Healthy Forest Fires

As the warm and dry weather of summer approaches, we all get excited about going out to play in the splitter weather. However, along with the blue skies comes the increased likelihood of forest fires...and for most of us, the idea of a forest fire in the areas we frequent turns our stomachs.

Forest Fires often ravage the areas we care for, leaving them desolate waste lands in which the native flora and fauna are devastated, rural houses are destroyed and our access to the mountains is blocked. The list of the cons to forest fires seems daunting, especially the list of cons for those fires which are responsible for the loss of property, or even worse the loss of human life...but surprisingly, some wildland fires can actually be beneficial, especially the smaller ground fires which do not ravage the entire forest.

Forest fires can help stimulate the new growth and germination of many different plant species. For brevity, we'll look specifically at one type of plant that is affected positively by wildfires, the sequoia tree.

Sequoia trees in Sequoia National Park need forest fires to help them reproduce. When a fire moves through, the heat dries out the cones up high in the canopy, which causes the seeds to release and fall to the ground. In addition to this, the fires clear out the lower vegetation that would otherwise block the light and compete for nutrients with the sequoia seedlings. Without these fires, the great sequoias and other plants that need fires to aid in germination would not be able to successfully repopulate.

In the same way that wildland fires clear out brush and smaller trees to help the sequoia seeds get the nutrients they need, fires can also “reset” the vegetation for an area. Aggressive plants often choke out slower growing plant-life. When the existing vegetation is burned-up, the competition is limited and this promotes more diversity of plant-life on the forest floor.

In addition to aiding in the life cycle process of some vegetation and vegetation diversity, forest fires are also efficient in pest eradication and pest population control. This has a positive affect on a number of forest trees and plants that are adversely affected by these pests.

Certainly, some fires are bad. Some fires completely devastate everything in their path. And while these large fires have some benefits, it's more common for the smaller ground fires to provide the most benefit. Indeed, part of the reason that some fires are so large, is because there haven't been enough of these smaller fires to clear out the debris on the forest floor; the debris that when stacked-up can create a real tinderbox. This is part of the reason that some National Parks and National Forests have taken to setting controlled burns. By doing this they are helping manage some of that debris on the forest floor while providing the positive benefits of a small ground-fire.

So while none of us want a forest fire in any of the wilderness areas that we visit regularly, it is good to know that when they do affect these areas, they're not all bad.

To keep up with the forest fires in your area, click here.

Following is a public service announcement about forest fires that was produced in the 60s. You'll probably recognize the celebrity who narrates this commercial as Rod Serling, Mr. Twilight Zone himself...

--Erik Budsberg, AAI Staff

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 6/25/15


--An injured climber was rescued Sunday after he fell while ascending Dome Peak in the Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. To read more, click here.

--For those of you who have been to the Grand Wall boulders at the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park lately, the forest appears to be in an unnatural state. Ropes, stages, fake boulders and florescent flagging tape line the boulders, as a film crew sets up for a shoot that will take place at the end of the week. When walking through the area, it feels as though the boulders have been invaded without care from BC Parks, who granted access for filming in this location, or the film crew, who has been setting up since last Monday. To read more, click here.

--A massive year-round ski resort project has been put on hold in British Columbia. Environment Minister Mary Polak has determined that the Jumbo Glacier Resort project has not been substantially started. As a result, the environmental assessment certificate has expired and Glacier Resorts Ltd. cannot proceed with developing this project unless a new certificate is obtained. To read more, click here.

--Some guys recently put up the longest slackline in Canadian history in Squamish. The following video shows some awesome slacklining, but the Squamish stuff doesn't come on until about 2:51.


--Washington state expanded a burn ban statewide Monday as hot, dry weather persists in drought conditions. "Westside forests are drying out and the outlook is for continued warm, dry weather," said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark. "These conditions make it clear it's time for a statewide burn ban." To read more, click here.

--As the clock ticks down on Washington state’s second overtime legislative session, House Democrats released their latest budget proposal Monday, a plan that doesn’t include any new taxes but looks for additional revenue through closing or limiting several tax exemptions. If Washington state officials fail to pass a budget by June 30, the state will go into a partial shutdown starting July 1, a move that would partially close some departments and completely close others including state parks. This means popular state-owned camping and recreational areas could be closed for business just in time for the Fourth of July weekend. To read more, click here.


--Last week the National Park Service announced it has selected Aramark, the food and hospitality partner for national and state parks and other leisure and cultural attractions across the country, as the new concessioner for Yosemite National Park. Under the 15-year contract, scheduled to begin on March 1, 2016, Aramark will manage Yosemite’s hospitality programs encompassing lodging, food and beverage, retail, recreational and transportation services. To read more, click here.

--A massive rockfall ripped down one of the canyon walls of Tenya Canyon in Yosemite on June 14th. To read more, click here. To see a video with some embedded photos, click below:

Desert Southwest:

--A 38-year-old woman from Flagstaff was injured last week while climbing at Arizona's Mount Elden. It appears that a handhold broke while she was placing protection. To read more, click here.

--The new climbing gym in Vegas -- Origin Climbing and Fitness -- is awesome! Check it out.


--A college student in Colorado fell nearly 100 feet off a cliff and survived. Maggie Michael was studying rare plants when she lost her footing. To read more, click here.


--AAI Team 6 made Denali's summit on Sunday. And now there is only one expedition still on the mountain. AAI Team 7 will be moving to high camp soon. To check out their progress, click here.

--In a new study, scientists with the University of Alaska at Fairbanks and several other institutions report a staggering finding: Glaciers of the United States’ largest — and only Arctic — state, Alaska, have lost 75 gigatons (a gigaton is a billion metric tons) of ice per year from 1994 through 2013. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The USA has averaged 28 avalanche fatalities per year over the past 10 winters. This winter, there have only been 11 avalanche fatalities. That is an enormous drop in avalanche deaths. That’s 60% less avalanche deaths this year than the annual average. To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund and the American Alpine Club have come together to create one unified document that describes desired fixed anchor policy. To read the document, click here.

--Two Swiss climbers lied about their need to be rescued in the Alps. And now they're paying the price, literally. They have been fined 3000 euros. To read more, click here.

--There is a small glimmer of hope that climbing will still be included in the 2020 Olympics to take place in Tokyo, Japan. To read more, click here.

--Ueli Steck of Switzerland and Michi Wohlleben of Germany plan on climbing 82 summits in 80-days. To read more, click here.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 6/18/15


--A man who apparently died while climbing Mount Rainier had a passion for climbing and the outdoors, his father said. Searchers on Saturday recovered a body believed to be that of 25-year-old Kyle Bufis, of Springdale, Utah. A helicopter had spotted the body of a deceased male climber near the summit. To read more, click here.

--A 57 year old man from San Carlos, Calif., died after he fell while climbing Mt. Shasta Thursday, June 11. The Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office reported today, June 15, that it responded to a search and rescue call at about 6:22 a.m. Thursday. To read more, click here.

--A climber broke his leg on Mt. Baker on Saturday morning. Mountain Rescue did several technical lowers to get the climber into position for a helicopter extraction. Following is a video of that extraction:

--There was another broken leg on Mt. Hood this week. A boulder hit a 27-year old female climber and broke her leg. To read about the incident, click here.

--A 41-year-old climber has been hospitalized after falling in an area above Colchuck Lake in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness. The Chelan County sheriff's office says a rescue helicopter from Naval Air Base Whidbey Island hoisted James Adkins from the area around 1 a.m. Monday. To read more, click here.

--They've done it again! A group of ultrarunners lead by Bellingham resident, Daniel Probst have run from Bellingham Bay to the top of Mount Baker and back in a forty hour push. To read more, click here.

--The National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) have released the report analyzing public comments received during the first phase of an environmental impact statement (EIS) for grizzly bear restoration in the North Cascades ecosystem. The EIS is a three-year process to determine a range of actions that could be taken to restore grizzly bears to the North Cascades ecosystem, a 9,800 square-mile area of largely federal lands in north central Washington state. FWS listed the grizzly bear as a threatened species in the lower 48 United States in 1975. The species was listed as endangered by the state of Washington in 1980. The EIS is being developed jointly by the FWS, which administers the Endangered Species Act, and the NPS. The U.S. Forest Service and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are cooperating agencies in the process. To read more, click here.

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

--Approximately 40 small wildland fires are burning across the Northwest -- and it’s only early June. Governor Jay Inslee highlighted the concern Wednesday at an event where he practiced getting into a fire shelter. He did the fire shelter test with Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark. They had 30 seconds to deploy and get into a mock fire shelter. To read more, click here. To see a video of the governor practicing with a fire shelter, click below:


--The public got a sneak peak at six areas in the White and Sierra Nevada mountains that may be recommended as Wilderness areas Tuesday evening at the Inyo National Forest offices in Bishop. To read more, click here.

--It appears that the Access Fund is trying to buy land near Donner Summit. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Global climate change is having a serious impact on the Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park. To read more, click here.


--If you’ve paid any attention to the snowpack across the western United States this spring, it’s probably pretty obvious that the Pacific Northwest and California have no snow, while Colorado continues to get pounded on. The influx of precipitation would have been perfect for ski resorts in January, rather than when they began to close down in mid-April. To read more, click here.


--AAI teams are spread all over Denali. To get the most recent updates, check out our dispatch blog!

--Alaska says Denali, Ohio says McKinley...What in the world is a congress to do...? Find out, here.

--In late May, Erik Bonnett and Max Fisher climbed two new routes on the border of southeast Alaska and British Columbia in the Coast Mountains. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Three climbers who were attempting the East Ridge of Mount Logan are safe in Haines Junction after being rescued. To read more, click here.

--The Salt Lake Tribune posted a cool infographic on where NPS visitors are being rescued. To see it, click here.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Three-Piece Pre-Equalized Anchors

In cooperation with Outdoor Research, the American Mountain Guides Association has made several videos for beginning level climbers.

In the following video, former AAI Guide and AMGA Instructor Team Member, Angela Hawse demonstrates several techniques for the creation of a three-piece "pre-equalized" anchor. The anchor is pre-equalized because of the fact that the knots in the system will only allow for equalization in one direction.

At the end of the video, three major points were made:

1) Create a high master point.

2) There are multiple ways to create equalization.

3) Strong anchors are mandatory. Your life depends on it.

The video did not talk about placement quality. If you have concerns about the quality of a piece of gear, replace it, or add another piece to the system.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 6/11/15


--A 66-year-old Idaho climber who died on Mount Hoodlast week suffered blunt-force chest trauma in a fall, according to autopsy results released Monday. Ward Milo Maxfield of Paul, Idaho, was injured Thursday when he tumbled an estimated 400 feet while climbing the Hogsback route. To read more, click here.

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


--The drought had a major impact on some of Tahoe's biggest ski resorts last winter. According to the latest earnings report released by Vail Resorts, Tahoe area ski areas Heavenly Mountain, Northstar California, and Kirkwood mountain collectively saw a 33.1 percent drop in skier vists for three months ended April 30, compared to the same period last year. To read more, click here.

--A hiker who died near Shepherd Pass was recovered this week. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Search and Rescue Ropes Team in Iron County responded to a popular hiking destination just outside of Cedar City Monday evening after receiving a frantic call for help.
Police say that when they arrived they learned that a 19-year-old man was rock climbing with friends when he fell about 30 feet. To read more, click here.

--The Las Vegas Valley added two new rock climbing gyms in the past nine months, doubling the number of local indoor climbing centers and signaling increased interest in a sport helped by Red Rock Canyon’s popularity. Origin Climbing &Fitness, which holds a grand opening at its Henderson facility June 20, joins Refuge Climbing & Fitness, which opened on Valley View Boulevard in October as the new kids on the climbing block. To read more, click here.


--Sales of Epic Passes have reached record levels for Vail Resorts, enabling the Colorado-based resort company to withstand a decline in visitation and dry winter conditions at its ski resorts in California and Utah. Lift revenue at Vail's nine U.S. mountain resorts climbed 13.2 percent to $285.2 million for the three months through April, driven largely by a 21 percent increase in season pass sales for the company's third quarter. Pass sales through May 26 for the 2015-16 ski season were up 12 percent in units and 20 percent in dollars when compared with the same period in 2014. To read more, click here.


--AAI Denali Team 4 is currently on their way down the mountain. AAI Team 5 is at high camp and AAI Team 6 is at Camp 1. To read more dispatches, click here.

--Hansjorg Auer and Michael Mayr recently made the first ascent of a climb they called Sugar Man (M7, 85-degrees, A1, 2,500'). The route climbs a 7,500-foot peak they named Mt. Reaper. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Eleven people have died after a powerful earthquake struck a Southeast Asian mountain. "Sad Day! I have just announced the recovery of 9 (additional) bodies by rescue teams," Malaysia's tourism minister Masidi Manjun said on Twitter. "Trying to get helis to bring them down. Fatalities to date: 11." Mountain guides have helped 167 climbers to safety after the quake stranded them atop Kinabalu, one of Southeast Asia's tallest peaks, according to the official Twitter account of the Malaysia Fire and Rescue. To read more, click here.

--In a related report, Malaysian authorities have arrested a European man for allegedly stripping naked and urinating on Mount Kinabalu prior to a deadly earthquake, reports said. To read more, click here.

--A skier wearing a GoPro fell into a crevasse this week in Switzerland. He dropped about twenty feet before stopping. In the video you can see him putting an ice screw into the wall to keep from dropping further. After about thirty minutes a guide arrived and dropped a rope down to pull him out. The skier was uninjured but was transferred to a hospital anyway. The video can be seen below:

--A Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter rescued a stranded hiker from atop a cliff in Little Cottonwood Canyon early Tuesday morning. To read more, click here.

--There are already more than 1000 hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail this year. Many of them have read Cheryl Strayed's book entitled Wild or have seen the Reese Witherspoon film. They're call it the Wild effect. To read more, click here.

--Unfortunately, like other law enforcement agencies, there are just some people who should not be given policing powers. This includes some law enforcement rangers. To read more, click here.

--AAI guide and writer Shelby Carpenter has a new article out about how drones can help detect wildfires. Check it out, here.

--Has the last person trekked to the North Pole?

Friday, June 5, 2015

Everest - Official Trailer

I'm not sure how to respond to this. It seems overly dramatic. There is some crazy music around walking over a crevasse. And lots of people seem to get hit by icefall, again with super dramatic music...

But I'm sure I'll see it...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 6/4/15


--It appears that the car camping fees at North Cascades National Park will be increasing to $16 at the most popular campgrounds. To read more, click here.

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


--On May 27, a 22-year-old from Colorado, died in rappelling accident after a 200-foot fall on the Nose of El Capitan. To read more, click here.


--Stacking rocks is an art most climbers practice while sitting at crags or in parking lots post-session. Boulder resident Michael Grab does it for a living and now the cops have made it illegal! To read more, click here.

Denali Team Updates:

Team 2 - After a successful summit. Everyone is back down and on their way home.
Team 3 -After a successful summit they have descended to Base Camp and are waiting to fly back to Talkeetna.
Team 4 - Holding up at Camp 3 waiting out a weather system. They plan to move up to Camp 4 anytime.
Team 5 - Move up to Camp 2 yesterday. Enjoying some down time after two big pushes up.

All teams are doing awesome and everyone is high spirits and staying strong. GO TEAMS!

Notes from All Over:

(Photo: Pamir Horse Adventure)

-- The Pamirs, Tajikistan is one of the least visited places in the world and a haven for adventure ecotourism. In 2010 Quboniev founded Pamir Horse Adventure, a community-based ecotourism company that promotes and encourages sustainable tourism in the Pamirs. The organization was the recipient of the UIAA Mountain Protection Award in 2014.

--The body of New Zealand teenager David Erik Moen was discovered at the foot of Tasman glacier 42 years after being buried in an avalanche. The body has been identified and returned to his family. More here.

--Valley Uprising an American film that traces the recent history of climbing in the Yosemite Valley through interviews with living legends is the winner of the UIAA Award for Best Climbing Film at the Trento Film Festival.

--11-year-old boy falls from rock-climbing wall at YMCA in Weston, FL. Family members say boy wearing harness when he fell.  More here.

Monday, June 1, 2015

AAI Alpinism 1 and Baker Skills Climb

Two weeks I worked two back to back trips for American Alpine Institute. These two trips on Mount Baker are AAI's most popular trips and two of my favorite to work.

The AAI 6 day Alpinism 1 course covers the skills needed to climb a large glaciated mountain and then makes an attempt on the summit at the end of the course. Our trip did not have the best weather but we were able to cover all the skills we wanted to. Some photos of the trip are below.
Walking on the Lower Coleman Glacier.

Hiking over the glacier toward the icefall.

Practicing roped team travel in complex terrain.  

White out navigation on the glacier.

A perfect place to fill our water bottles. 

Checking on the victim while practicing crevasse rescue.

Hauling the victim using pull systems.

Rock climbing at Mount Erie.  
I started a Mount Baker skills and climb the day after the Alpinism 1. This trip is a three day course thats has the main goal of summiting Mount Baker, and the weather was looking good to make that happen.

Alasdair Turner is a guide and professional photographer. Additional images can be found at his website