Friday, July 31, 2015

Understanding Fall Factors

Many climbers don't really understand fall factors. But it's actually is quite straightforward. Fall factors may be determined by a simple formula:

Fall Factor = Length of Fall/Length of Rope

Using this formula, you can determine how hard you've hit the anchor. A factor 2 is the maximum that may be attained in a typical climbing fall, since the height of a fall can't exceed two times the length of the rope. Under normal circumstances, a factor 2 fall can only occur when a leader has no protection and he falls past the belayer. Once protection is placed, the distance of the fall as a function of the rope length is lessened, and the Fall Factor drops below 2.

A fall of 30 feet is significantly more serious if it takes place with 15 feet of rope out after the climber has placed no protection and falls past the belayer, than if it occurs 100 feet above the belayer (a fall factor of 1.15), in which case the dynamic stretch of the rope more effectively cushions the fall.

A factor 2 fall is very bad. Indeed, it is actually possible that an anchor may fail in the event of such a fall. As such, it is imperative that climbers place gear immediately after they start to climb as they leave a belay station. This will limit the possibility of a bad fall.

In the following video a climber is approximately twenty-five feet out from his belayer. He falls eight feet above his last piece of pro. With rope stretch and slippage he actually falls approximately twenty feet. That piece of pro eight feet below makes his rather large fall totally acceptable with a fall factor of 1.32.

If you are interested in finding out what kind of fall factors you've sustained or might have come close to sustaining, an online fall factor calculator may be found here.

After a breakdown of fall factors such as this, some people will still be confused. So the question must be asked, what are the main points that you should take away from this? They're actually quite simple:
  1. Always put in a piece immediately after you climb away from the anchor. This will protect your anchor from sustaining a factor 2 fall.
  2. This should be an obvious one. Always use a dynamic rope that is in good shape.

--Jason D. Martin


There are two problems with this post that were pointed out in the comments below.  First, my math is a bit off in the last paragraph above the video.  And second, the online fall factor calculator doesn't appear to be working properlyNot surprisingly, I used the faulty calculator to come up with my number.  The actual fall factor would be 0.8.

Special thanks to the two anonymous commentators who pointed these things out.


Thursday, July 30, 2015

North Cascades News Release: Park Creek Trail Closed due to Goode Fire

The American Alpine Institute just received the following email from North Cascades National Park:

Sedro Woolley, WA – Lightning likely started a fire approximately 1,000 feet above Five Mile Camp near Goode Mountain in Lake Chelan National Recreation Area. The Goode Fire was detected Wednesday and was estimated to be approximately 2 acres in size. Fire access is difficult due to high cliffs and steep terrain. With continued high temperatures and dry weather, firefighters will monitor the situation and call in additional resources as needed.

Park officials have closed Park Creek Trail between Park Creek Pass and Park Creek Camp. Five Mile and Two Mile camps are both closed. Climbers attempting Goode Mountain will also be impacted, as descent via the southwest into the Park Creek drainage will not be possible. Climbers may still access the peak via the North Fork Trail, with descent via the same side. All other trails in North Cascades National Park Service Complex are open; however, caution should be used near the Thunder Creek and Chopping Block fires.

For climbing and backcountry information, contact the Wilderness Information Center at 360-854-7245. Area fire information is available online at

--Jason D. Martin

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 7/30/15


--Human remains found over the weekend inside Mount Rainier National Park are believed to be those of a missing 64-year-old hiker who vanished without a trace last summer while walking the Wonderland Trail. The remains were found Sunday by a group that was hiking off-trail at about 6,800 feet above sea level near the Frying Pan Glacier on the east side of the mountain, said park spokesman Kevin Bacher. To read more, click here.
--Here's a nice story about an older couple on the Pacific Crest Trail...

--Kate Rutherford and Jasmin Caton spent several days in Canada's Prucell wilderness and put up a couple of new lines. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--It's always a good idea to bring along water and watch your step during any trip to Red Rock Canyon. That advice has taken on added significance lately, as federal officials wrestle with a crumbling boardwalk and a faulty water system at the popular National Conservation Area. The Bureau of Land Management was forced to block off roughly a third of the half-mile boardwalk at Red Spring after a visitor fell through the deteriorating wood planks outside Red Rock Canyon's core fee area a few months ago. BLM spokeswoman Kirsten Cannon said the entire boardwalk will be replaced with composite material next summer, but the existing wood could be repaired and the loop reopened before then thanks to a volunteer service project now being organized for National Public Lands Day on Sept. 26. To read more, click here.

--On July 22, the Access Fund, in partnership with public land agencies and five local climbing organizations, purchased the northern section of the Dripping Springs Ranch, Arizona to preserve access to the Homestead’s 12 limestone walls with over 250 routes on the southern slopes of the Mescal Mountains north of Winkleman and the Gila River. To read more, click here.

A Joshua Tree in Joshua Tree National Park

--Joshua Tree’s surreal landscapes and stunning vistas offer a serene escape from urban Southern California. But the national park can’t escape the rampant air pollution that plagues the Coachella Valley and the Los Angeles basin. In a report released Tuesday, the nonprofit National Parks Conservation Association gave Joshua Tree an ‘F’ grade for smog, making it one of four national parks — all in California — that regularly suffer from unhealthy air. Joshua Tree also earned an ‘F’ for climate change impacts, since rising temperaturesthreaten to wipe out the park's iconic trees. To read more, click here.


--Search crews worked to recover the body of a woman who had fallen on Paiute Peak in the Indian Peaks Wilderness on Sunday. The victim is a 44-year-old Denver woman who was with a friend when she slipped and fell while climbing the peak. Sheriff’s deputies and search and rescue personnel were notified of the fallen climber about 8:20 p.m. Sunday after her companion called for help. He told authorities that she fell about 2 p.m. as they were attempting to descend the summit. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Dallas oilman Richard “Dick” Bass, a globetrotting adventurer and businessman, died Sunday night at his Dallas home of pulmonary fibrosis. He was 85. His sprawling interests ranged from ranching in Central Texas to coal leases in Alaska and Wyoming, but in business, he was best known as the co-founder and longtime owner of the Snowbird resort in Utah. On April 30, 1985, Bass put his name indelibly in the history books when he reached the summit of Mount Everest. It was the last leg of his Seven Summits challenge and the realization of his dream to be the first man to climb the highest peak on every continent. To read more, click here.

--On Tuesday, July 21, a large boulder dislodged and rolled over the arm of a hiker/climber, causing severe injury to his limb and prompting a helicopter-assisted rescue by Grand Teton National Park rangers. Tucker Zibilich, 26, of Jackson, Wyoming and his partner were on their descent after making a day trek to the Upper Saddle of the Grand Teton, elevation 13,285 feet, when he was injured by the boulder. To read more, click here.

--A North Texas dad claims a climbing gym's negligence may leave his son with a permanent injury — an allegation he is now taking to court. According to Clayton Greenberg, his 7-year-old son, Cope, cracked his elbow at the growth plate in January 2014 when he fell from a slide. To read more, click here.

--Last week, Powder Magazine recognized AAI's Guide Like Liz scholarship winners. This scholarship was built in memory of Liz Daley, an AAI guide and professional splitboard athlete who died in an avalanche last year in South America. To read more, click here.

Chad and Katy's feet before the wedding.
Photo by AAI Guide Alasdair Turner

--As we all know now, AAI Guide Chad Cochran married former AAI Program Coordinator Katy Pfannenstein on the Pika Glacier in Alaska, with AAI guide Mike Pond running the show and AAI guide Alasdair Turner shooting photos. What you might not have known is that the Weather Channel picked up the story and did a segment on it. Check it out, here.

--In a statement posted to his website Friday morning, Scott Jurek issued his first public response to the three summonses he received from Baxter State Park on his final day of breaking the Appalachian Trail thru-hike speed record.  In it, he describes interactions with park rangers that offer a contradictory account to a Facebook post published by the park on July 16. Jurek claims rangers approved the size of his hiking party and allowed them to carry alcohol to the summit; these two matters were the basis of two of the three summonses he received. To read more, click here.

--Researchers and citizens have known for some time that Turkey’s glaciers are shrinking. Now scientists have calculated the losses and found that more than half of the ice cover in this mountainous country has vanished since the 1970s. A team of researchers from Ege University (Turkey) and NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center analyzed four decades of Landsat satellite data to document this steady decline. The team, led by Dogukan Dogu Yavasli (Ege), published their results in June 2015 in the journal Remote Sensing of Environment. To read more, click here.

Friday, July 24, 2015

The Figure-Eight Follow-Through

The figure-eight follow-through -- also often referred to as the figure-eight retrace and the rewoven figure-eight -- is one of the hardest working knots in climbing. Most climbers tie this knot multiple times a day.

This short video shows one how to tie the figure-eight follow-through. The climber in this video does a great job of dressing the knot. In other words she doesn't have any weird crosses and the knot looks very clean. What she does a poor job with is her "back-up" knot. If you use one, it should be a single fisherman's knot which is also known as a barrel knot.

This second video shows the proper finish, but names it improperly. They call it a double fisherman's knot in this video, when it is actually a single Fisherman's Knot.

The reality of the so-called "back-up knot" is that it is not necessary. If your knot is dressed and there is at least one fist worth of rope sticking out of the end of the knot, then all will be well.

Many of my students tell me that after they related this information about back-up knots to the manager of their climbing gym, the manager wouldn't relent on his gym's back-up knot policy. This is not something to sweat over. If your gym requires that you tie such a knot, you should just do it. Some gyms have insurance policies that require this unnecessary step, whereas others have created protocol based systems that are hard to change without chopping through a lot of red tape. It is less of a headache if you just follow the gym's rules while you are there.

Some climbers like to finish their figure-eight with a "Yosemite tuck" or "Yosemite finish." This is common technique is accomplished by tucking the end of the rope back into the knot. The upside of this is that it can clean up the knot. The downside is that this technique may seriously weaken the knot if you use the inside of the knot as a belay loop. If you load the loop of the knot it is possible that it will invert, after which you will only have part of the figure-eight remaining. Some people cure this problem by passing the rope around itself before going through the hole, but that makes the knot a little bigger.

A Figure-Eight Follow-Through with a standard
Yosemite Finish.A Figure-Eight Follow-Through with an
extra wrap. This is better.

After learning about this, many people ask why one might use the inside of the knot as a belay loop. In alpine climbing, a small percentage of climbers still use harnesses without belay loops. In technical terrain it's always better to have a belay loop, so those without one often simply use the inside of their knot. If this is something that you wish to do, it might be better to avoid all types of Yosemite tucks or finishes. Even better, if you're going to be on technical terrain, you should use a harness with a belay loop.

And lastly, this is a nice video that shows an overview of a few different figure-eight knots from the figure-eight family:

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 7/23/15


--A climber fell 20 feet and broke his ankle when a rock gave way in the Mount Washington Wilderness on Sunday. Linn County Search and Rescue responded Sunday to assist. To read more, click here.

--Technical rescue crews from Vancouver and Fire District 6 were called to Beacon Rock State Park in Skamania County Saturday evening after an injured climber was reported to be stranded 150 feet above the ground. To read more, click here.

--Canadian homicide detectives are treating the death of a teenage Australian skier as suspicious after his body was found in a gravel pit near the ski village of Whistler. Jake Kermond, 19, from Harrietville, Victoria, was last seen about 7.30pm on April 26 when leaving the Adara Hotel. A dirt biker found his body in the pit in an industrial area on the outskirts of Whistler on June 17. To read more, click here.

--Here's an update on the Gold Bar Boulders access situation.

--The U.S. Army wants to create a North Cascades training area for helicopter pilots that would include a high-altitude landing site in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Area and another within a mile of the Pacific Crest Trail. To read more, click here.

--A new line has gone up in the Picket Range of the Cascades.


--The north face of Peak 11,440+, above Spring Lake in Sequoia National Park has a new route on it, The One That Got Away clocks in at 5.11b C1, 1,500'. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Opposition to the Oak Flat land exchange is heating up. Earlier this month, Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva introduced the Save Oak Flat Bill, HR 2811, into Congress. It has bipartisan support with three Republican and eight Democrat cosponsors. This bill would repeal the controversial land exchange legislation that was buried within the 2015 Defense Authorization Act. Attaching the land exchange bill (which was unable to pass on its own) to a piece of must-pass legislation circumvents the democratic process and provides another example of an inequitable federal land giveaway. The Access Fund has been working to protect the Oak Flat region, home to hundreds of roped climbs and thousands of boulder problems, from a foreign mining company for over ten years. The loss of Oak Flat climbing would result in the largest loss of climbing resources in the US. To read more, click here.


--A lightning strike likely killed a man and a boy in their tent Tuesday night or early Wednesday near West Maroon Pass, though two other children camping with them were unhurt, authorities said. The two dead were father and son, while the two survivors were an older daughter about 12 years old and younger son approximately 8 or 9 years old who had been staying in a separate tent, according to a U.S. Forest Service volunteer who spoke with the man who found the bodies, helped report the incident and saw the children come out of the wilderness. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Note that if you book an Aconcagua trip with the American Alpine Institute prior to August 1, you will be able to climb for the 2015 rate instead of the 2016 rate!

--A battle is currently looming in Congress over the transfer of a huge swath of America’s public lands in the west—putting millions of acres (and the climbing opportunities they offer) under siege. To read more, click here.

--The official trailer for Meru was finally posted on Tuesday. The film follows climbers Jimmy Chin, Conrad Anker, and Renan Ozturk as they attempt to ascend the Shark’s Fin of Mount Meru. The an alpine big wall in India’s Garhwal Himalaya. To see the trailer, click below:

--Is sponsorship commercialization of the wilderness? A ranger in Maine thinks so and cited Scott Jurek after he completed his record breaking trail run. To read more, click here.

--Reel Rock has officially announced their 2015-2016 lineup. To learn more, click here.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Leave No Trace: Leave What You Find

It's not especially intuitive...

You see a beautiful flower, a cool native arrowhead, a colorful rock, or something else that you just want to take home and keep...but you know what's going to happen to it. That flower will be destroyed in your pack. That arrowhead will just end up in a junk drawer. And who knows what you'll do with the rock?

In the fall of 2006, a friend and I were on our way out to climb Jackass Flats (II, 5.6) in Red Rock Canyon. The route is located in a part of the canyon that is not visited very often. Indeed, until a few years ago a heard of wild horses roamed freely in the desert there. Wild burros still make their way across the desert in this area with very little oversight by humans.

It was on this approach that we found it...the skeleton of a wild burro. The bones were a bit scattered, but they were all there. The most spectacular part of the skeleton was the skull, bleached white by the desert sun. It was an incredible find.

My friend indicated that he thought that he could sell the skull on Ebay for a fair bit of money. I didn't feel comfortable with this. Finding that skeleton made our day. Ultimately, we decided that it was best to leave the skull for the next visitor. We decided that the experience of finding something like that was one of the values of playing in the mountains.

A Burro Skull found in the shadow of Windy Peak in Red Rock Canyon
Photo by Jason Martin

When we left the skull, we were adhering to the fourth of the seven principals of Leave No Trace, Leave What you Find. The following text about this principal is from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics website:

Minimize Site Alterations

Leave areas as you found them. Do not dig trenches for tents or construct lean-tos, tables, chairs, or other rudimentary improvements. If you clear an area of surface rocks, twigs or pine cones, replace these items before leaving. On high impact sites, it is appropriate to clean up the site and dismantle inappropriate user-built facilities, such as multiple fire rings and constructed seats or tables. Consider the idea that good campsites are found and not made.

In many locations, properly located and legally constructed facilities, such as a single fire ring, should be left. Dismantling them will cause additional impact because they will be rebuilt with new rocks and thus impact a new area. Learn to evaluate all situations you find.

Avoid Damaging Live Trees and Plants

Avoid hammering nails into trees for hanging things, hacking at them with hatchets and saws, or tying tent guy lines to trunks, thus girdling the tree. Carving initials into trees is unacceptable. The cutting of boughs for use as sleeping pads creates minimal benefit and maximum impact. Sleeping pads are available at stores catering to campers.

Picking a few flowers does not seem like it would have any great impact and, if only a few flowers were picked, it wouldn't. But, if every visitor thought "I'll just take a few", a much more significant impact might result. Take a picture or sketch the flower instead of picking it. Experienced campers may enjoy an occasional edible plant, but they are careful not to deplete the surviving vegetation or disturb plants that are rare or are slow to reproduce.

Leave Natural Objects and Cultural Artifacts

Natural objects of beauty or interest such as antlers, petrified wood, or colored rocks add to the mood of the backcountry and should be left so others can experience a sense of discovery. In National Parks and some other areas it is illegal to remove natural objects.

The same ethic is applicable to cultural artifacts found on public land. Cultural artifacts are protected by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. It is illegal to remove or disturb archeological sites, historic sites, or artifacts such as pot shards, arrowheads, structures, and even antique bottles found on public lands.

Ironically -- as stated above -- even trash that has been left for over fifty years could be considered a cultural artifact. Imagine the remains of a mining operation that are hundreds of years old or the vestiges of an old pioneer settlement...these items develop value by staying where they are. Indeed, in some National Parks it's actually illegal to pick up items that are over fifty years old.

Leave What You Find wasn't designed for outdoor educators to wag their fingers at people with, but instead was designed to give people an opportunity to relish in an outdoor environment that hasn't been impacted by modern people. Finding beautiful plants, beautiful trees, beautiful rocks, beautiful animals, beautiful artifacts and beautiful vistas are one of the main reasons that we visit the outdoors. If everybody takes a bit of that a way, there will be nothing left to look at...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, July 20, 2015

Guide Like Liz Scholarship Winners - 2015

Just under a year ago the American Alpine Institute community, the climbing world and the skiing world were floored by the tragic news of Liz Daily’s death in the southern ice fields of Patagonia. The young guide and professional splitboard athlete was killed in an avalanche on September 29, 2014.

Liz left behind a legacy of outstanding professionalism, joy, enthusiasm for the mountains, and a tender patient care of not only her friends, but of her trip participants, as well in the backountry that she loved.

Liz began working as a guide for the Institute in 2012. Already a talented splitboard athlete with many technical descents around the world, she brought her joy and enthusiasm to all she met in her work at AAI.

In honor of her life as an exemplary guide and all around incredible woman, the Institute has awarded four women with a scholarship targeted to help them pursue their gown guiding ambitions. Each of these women have demonstrated an enthusiasm akin to Liz’s and a dedication to professionalism that speaks volumes for the up and coming female guiding community.

Every conversation about Liz includes comments about a few of her outstanding characteristics. As the Institute staff sorted through various applications for the Guide Like Liz scholarship they sought these out among the applicants: never ending supply of stoke, strong leadership, a deep and abiding love and respect for the mountains, and equal doses of ambition and humility.

Here is a little about the women who fit the criteria and won Guide Like Liz scholarships.

Liz taking a selfie while guiding Mt. Shuksan

Lizzy VanPatten, a Bellingham local, got her start climbing in 2013 and was immediately smitten with the sport. Generous friends tutored her during her first year of climbing, but by the summer of 2014 she was ready to be self-sufficient and signed up for a 12 day course with the Institute.

During her time on the program she gained an appreciation for the skill required to climb in more remote places and immediately following the course, she invested in her first big climbing purchase, a trad rack. The rest of the summer took her to crags and alpine routes alike around the Northwest and by the next fall she was gearing up for a big climbing trip down to South America to test her mettle.

After a three month climbing trip filled with tremendous new experiences, Lizzy returned to the States amped up and ready to begin pursuing guiding as a career. She found that not only does she love to push herself physically with climbing, but that she also wanted to share the joy she finds in the mountains with others. Ultimately, Lizzy would like to work in wilderness therapy, but hopes to have a solid background in mountain guiding before tackling the nuances of other peoples mental struggles.

Lizzy was awarded a $1000 scholarship and plans to use it to continue her guide education at the Institute. None of us can wait to see her out crushing in the mountains.

Katelyn Spradley was raised in the flatlands of the south, but eventually found her way into the mountains as a young woman and continues to return to the mountains every in order to get her fill of granite and clean mountain air.

After tromping up and down non-technical peaks for a few summers, she decided to try her hand in something a little more vertical. It only took a few gym sessions for Katelyn to realize that she was meant for the more airy environment. After college she made a b-line for the mountains and eventually settled in Colorado and acquired a job at the Fort Lewis College Outdoor Pursuits program as their intern. This gave her already substantial guide resume some more weight.

Katelyn is currently pursing a masters degree in sports management that she hopes will enable her to start her own company geared towards getting women into the outdoors – a place she believes women can find their strength, realize their abilities, and celebrate their femininity. Katelyn has found her inspiration in female guides like Liz Daily, Lindsay Dyer, and Melissa Arnot and hopes that through her own career she can inspire other women as these women have inspired her.

Katelyn has been awareded $750 to pursue her Single Pitch Instructor certification through the AMGA and is taking her first steps toward becoming a certified mountain guide.

Haley Johnston moved across the country five years ago after deciding that she would rather spend her days in the mosquito ridden and rugged landscape of the Alaska Range than strapped to a desk on the East Coast laboring through the realm of corporate finance. Life seems to have taken off for her since her arrival in the great northern state where she thrives as a volunteer snowboard instructor and is employed as a backcountry trekking, snowboarding, and river guide.

Haley has just started to test the waters of the world of vertical climbing, a place that continues to feed her love of the alpine environment. Although comfortable in glaciated terrain she wishes to round out her technical skills so she can more confidently guide in alpine environments. Like Liz, Haley loves splitboarding and has spent many days exploring the backcountry snow of the Alaskan mountains in her backyard.

Her desire to become a more technically competent leader stems from her passion for bringing women into the backcountry and giving them the opportunity to thrive in leadership roles. She understands the financial, logistical, and lifestyle challenges of guiding and the unique challenges that come with being a female guide. She believes that she could someday become a role model for other young women in the industry. She has been awarded $750 to help her follow her dreams.

A self-proclaimed, “addict of alpine,” Amy Ness’ personal climbing resume is not something to be taken lightly. With more than a handful of notable first ascents on grades 5.10 or harder both in the USA and abroad, Amy stands out as a strong female climber charging into terrain more commonly dominated by men.

Amy's passion began on the plastic climbing holds at a Portland State Fair as a young girl and since then has taken her from her current home in small town California, nestled at the base of the Sierra, to the towering and forbidding peaks of Patagonia. However, the bulk of her climbing experience has been personal and recently she decided that she is ready to start expanding her vertical environment to include guiding.

Amy plans to pursue AMGA Alpine Guide certification and hopes that in ten years she could be running her own guiding company out of the Sierras in California. Part of her vision includes a camp geared towards the younger climber and she hopes to share her love of rocks with kids in a stress-free and secure environment. She plans to become a certified Single Pitch Instructor in the coming years, and to assist her with this has been awarded $750.

All of the women who applied for the Guide Like Liz scholarship are making much needed strides in an industry largely dominated by men. The four women selected represent the strength and dedication of all female athletes and guides. The Institute is proud to sponsor a budding female guiding community and to do so in the name of Liz. Her life and legacy will continue to bless mountain communities around the world through the women who follow in her footsteps.

Congratulations to Amy, Katelyn, Haley, and Lizzy for being the first to receive the Guide Like Liz scholarship. We hope to see you all out in the mountains over the next many years.

Liz Daily in Charmonix France

The Guide Like Liz is sponsored by the American Alpine Institute and the Alta Group. If you would like to donate to this scholarship fund, please see the donation info below:

Make checks payable to "Liz Daley Scholarship Fund" 

Bank routing number = 325170835
Account number = 100413715

Bank name and address =
Heritage Bank
1318 12th Street
Bellingham, WA 98225
(360) 527-4960

--Jess Lewis, Instructor and Guide

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 7/16/15


--On Tuesday afternoon of last week Anna Dvorak, a professor of outdoor education at Eastern Washington University, died in a climbing accident in the Sawtooth Recreational Area near Stanley, Idaho. Dvorak was climbing on the Elephant’s Perch rock formation with a partner when she fell around 1:30 p.m. According to a news release from Custer County Search and Rescue, she sustained extensive injuries to her head and face. To read more, click here.

--A girl claiming to be Autumn Veatch walked out of the woods near Easy Pass on Highway 20 near Washington Pass, Washington and flagged down a passing driver. The girl told the driver she had been in a plane crash on Saturday night. The driver took the teen to The Mazma Store where store employees called 9-1-1. While Sheriff Frank Rogers of Okanogan County, says they still have not confirmed if the girl is the Bellingham teen that was on board the overdue plane, officials with Aero Methow Rescue Services confirm the girl is the missing teen. To read more, click here. A more recent update can be found, here.

--A climber was seriously injured in the Callahans in central Oregon. To read more, click here.

--AAI Guide and outdoor journalist, Shelby Carpenter, wrote an article for about the recent collapse of the Big Four Ice Caves that killed one person and injured several others. AAI Director of Operations, Jason Martin, was also quoted in the story. To read more, click here.

--The hollowed-out crater on Mt. St. Helens, where lava was flowing just a few years ago, now holds the world’s youngest glacier. And if that’s not surprising enough, the prosaically named Crater Glacier is also growing at a time when most glaciers around the globe are in rapid retreat. To read more, click here.

--On June 26, James Hillier, Jessie LaFleure, Andre Muller, Ava Gardner, Mike Shives, and mystery man Tucker, rappelled into a fire in Squamish and extinguished it. The June 26 blaze was one of many that’s been popping up around the world-class climbing destination, which has been under a thick cloud of smoke from near-by forest fires. To read more, click here.

Smokey views in the Cascades.

--A fire expert warns it may be a long summer of smoky conditions in Squamish. Air quality advisories spread across the Lower Mainland over the weekend and to Squamish Monday as approximately 184 active forest fires burned across B.C. The smoke impacting Squamish is primarily from three fires north of the district: the Elaho, Cougar Creek and Boulder Creek fires, according to fire information officer Melissa Klassen. To read more, click here.

--We joke about Bigfoot here sometimes, but it's no joke to some. The 'Finding Bigfoot' show has been on the air for six seasons and hasn't found Bigfoot. Do people really think that they're going to be watching this show and that suddenly the Finding Bigfoot crew is going to actually find Bigfoot? Apparently. Otherwise, it probably wouldn't still be on television. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A man suffered fatal injuries after falling about 100 feet in Heaps Canyon inside Zion National Park Saturday, and crews recovered the victim’s body Sunday. According to a press release from Zion National Park, the 24-year-old man from Las Vegas was in Heaps Canyon with three companions when he fell about 100 feet without any ropes into a side canyon around 7 p.m. Saturday. To read more, click here.


--Vail Resorts will begin paying its employees at least $10 per hour beginning September 26th, 2015 in all of the 8 states that they operate within. In California, Vail will pay $1 over minimum wage. In Wisconsin and Wyoming they’ll be paying $2.75 over minimum wage. In Colorado they’ll be paying $1.77 over minimum wage. To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund is hiring.

--A Colorado man says he has broken the speed record for climbing all of the state’s 14,000-foot peaks. The Denver Post reports that Denver-based climber Andrew Hamilton says he finished climbing all 58 points over 14,000 feet in the state at 2:21 a.m. Thursday, clocking the whole hike at nine days, 21 hours and 51 minutes. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Early Friday, President Obama announced that he will designate three new national monuments, permanently protecting more than one million acres of public lands. He designated pristine wilderness landscapes in Nevada as Basin and Range National Monument, scenic mountains in California as Berryessa Snow Mountain National Monument, and a fossil-rich site in Texas as Waco Mammoth National Monument. With these designations, President Obama is adding to the 16 national monuments he has already created with his authority under the Antiquities Act, setting aside “more public lands and waters than any administration in history.” Both Democratic and Republican presidents have used their authority under the law to designate national monuments, many of which have later become some of the country’s most iconic national parks such as the Grand Canyon, Death Valley, and Arches National Park. To read more, click here.

--Peter Metcalf, the CEO and founder of Black Diamond Equipment, recently wrote an op ed in Salt Lake City about how climate change threatens the ski industry and the outdoor industry as a whole. To read more, click here.

--In addition to packing out toilet paper and not collecting moose antlers as souvenirs, rangers now ask backcountry hikers to not post precise maps of their adventures on the Internet when they get home. That’s because detailed turn-by-turn instructions for GPS devices have the potential to threaten what’s supposed to be a trail-less wilderness as hundreds of footprints along the same routes scrape social trails into the landscape. To read more, click here.

--Vegan ultra running legend Scott Jurek just ran 2,200 miles to complete his masterpiece. Powered by plants and fighting through a knee injury and then a severe quadricep strain, Jurek set a new supported speed record on the AppalachianTrail (AT) last week. To read more, click here.

The Rock Gym industry is growing at an unprecedented rate.

--The climbing gym industry has grown at an unprecedented rate in the past several years. In 2014, 29 new climbing facilities opened (9% growth over the previous year); in 2015, 40 new facilities are planned. Yet in the past three years, only 8 out of 353 commercial climbing facilities in the United States have been sold or acquired. While the indoor climbing market has grown, it has not reached the point of a robust buying and selling market for facilities, and the industry hasn’t seen many owners of large gyms exit their investments. To read more, click here.

--Japan is the snowiest place on Earth and they’re looking for ski instructors next season. That’s a good combo for you. Last Thursday, Japanese officials announced that the Japanese government is planning on easing visa requirements for foreign ski instructors by March 2016 to deal with a surge in foreign skiers and riders visiting Japanese ski resorts. To read more, click here.

--Despite the first day of winter arriving yesterday, the majority of Chilean ski resorts are yet to receive their first sticking snowfall of the season this year. Northern Chile is doing especially poor this season with ski resort giants such a Portillo & Valle Nevado completely devoid of snow right now. To read more, click here.

--Climbing has climbed to the top spot in Japan Real Time’s poll asking readers which event should be added to the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Last month the Tokyo 2020 organizing committee narrowed down the list of sports that might be added to the Games. The candidates are wushu, surfing, squash, sport climbing, roller sports, karate, bowling and baseball/softball. Japan Real Time asked readers to weigh in on the topic and choose their favorite. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Equipment Review: Patagonia Houdini Jacket

The Patagonia Houdini Jacket is a windshirt designed primarily for running but which functions well in the mountains. Since I got it over a year ago, it has become a mainstay of my wardrobe--it blocks wind perfectly for those days where ambient temps are comfortable but the winds are blowing fiercely. While not designed as a rainjacket, it will also shed light precipitation for a little while. I've worn this jacket everywhere from Red Rock to Denali and couldn't love it more.

One of the best things about this layer is how compact and light it is--it packs down inside one of its own pockets and weighs just 4oz. I've taken to just always have it in my pack just in case since it's so light. 

The jacket is made of lightweight nylon. It's no-frills with no pockets except for the chest pocket (perfect for chapstick or a small tube of sunscreen) that the jacket also packs in to. The partially elastic cuffs at the wrists do a good job of blocking out wind and light precip, though they can be a pain if you pull your jacket on when you have gloves on because the elastic traps the glove cuffs inside. The jacket body is nice and long to fit underneath a harness.

This jacket works great for everything from desert rock climbing, to glacier slogging to Cascades alpine rock and ice. I'd recommend it to anyone in the market for a nice windshirt--it's so light, you'll hardly know it's there!

-Shelby Carpenter, AAI Instructor and Guide

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 7/9/15

Important News Development:

--A battle is currently looming in Congress over the sale of a huge swath of America’s public lands in the west—putting millions of acres (and the climbing opportunities they offer) under siege. A group of politicians have written bills proposing that individual states “take back” America’s parks, Bureau of Land Management lands, national forests, wildlife refuges, and open spaces, arguing that these lands and the profits that they generate should belong to the states. In an economically choked state like Nevada, where greater than 80 percent of the state’s land is owned and operated by the federal BLM, this kind of thinking is gaining traction. Imagine how profitable it would be for Nevada to sell off federally protected lands for development? Sadly, that might mean never getting to climb at Red Rocks again. To read more, click here. To sign a petition to stop this, click here.


--One person died and four others were hurt Monday in a partial collapse of the Big 4 Ice Caves near Granite Falls in Snohomish County. The body of the person killed remained under debris overnight while recovery efforts were suspended. In a stroke of irony, shortly before the accident a video was posted on youtube of some individuals barely escaping icefall at the same location on the same day. To see the video, click below. The cave collapses at approximately the 29 second mark. To read more about the accident and the fatality, click here. There are signs, but people seem to ignore them. An 11-year old girl was killed in this extremely accessible area

--On June 27 Joe Sambataro and Jason Schilling climbed a new 11-pitch line on Golden Horn (8,366') in Washington's North Cascades in the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest. Their route was authored ground up and without bolts or fixed protection. To read more, click here.


--Over 4th of July weekend more than 200 feet of rock fell off of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, erasing part of the famous Yosemite big wall route, the Regular Northwest Face (VI, 5.9 C1, 2,000'). To read more, click here.

--Yosemite National Park is experiencing very high fire danger along with continued hot and dry weather patterns. Due to current and predicted fire conditions and possible active fire behavior, the park implemented Stage 1 Fire Restrictions until further notice. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A climbing area at Joshua Tree National Park is open again following the flight of at least two baby hawks that were nesting there. To read more, click here.

--A man was arrested after police say he stole a Washington County sheriff's patrol car and led officers on a chase before being stopped in Zion National Park. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Officials at Acadia National Park are urging visitors to be careful this holiday weekend after four people were injured in separate incidents at the park Friday. A 32-year-old-man from Chelmsford, Massachusetts, sustained non-life threatening injuries when he fell about 60 feet from the rock climbing area of Otter Cliffs to the ledges below Friday morning, park officials said. The man, who was with a private climbing group, was transferred onto a Coast Guard boat and eventually taken by LifeFlight to Eastern Maine Medical Center in Bangor. To read more, click here.

--A 22-year-old Arizona man was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at Denali National Park and Preserve Tuesday morning. It is not clear at this time if the shooting was accidental or intentional, according to a news release issued by the National Park Service. To read more, click here.

--A large boulder struck and seriously injured a climber during a rockfall on July 7, in Grand Teton National Park. Michael Polmear, 27, of Bethesda, Maryland was ascending the Middle Teton near its black dike feature when a boulder — described by his wife, Stephanie, as the size of 5-6 microwave ovens — suddenly rolled down slope toward Polmear and hit his left arm, causing severe injuries. Luckily, Polmear did not sustain additional injuries during the rockfall incident. To read more, click here.

--A 39-year-old man from Gardiner, Ulster County, survived an approximate 75-foot fall in the town of Hunter’s Platte Clove in New York State last Thursday, and was successfully rescued after almost seven hours of hard and careful work by an assemblage of fire, rescue, environmental, and law enforcement personnel, all performing various functions during the incident. To read more, click here.

--This is a scary story about a near miss on a family climbing day. An individual pulled off a block that almost hit his daughter. Everybody walked away from the incident unharmed, but it was a close call and worth reading about it so that it doesn't happen to someone else.

--Our national forests are at risk from reckless logging! The U.S. House of Representatives is about to vote on legislation that would bypass essential environmental laws and deprive many stakeholders of the opportunity to fully participate in the process—putting outdoor recreation, wildlife and forest health in danger. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

An All AAI Wedding in the Alaska Range

Click on any Photo to Enlarge

Two good friends getting married with another good friend officiating, all in the perfect location, made for my favorite wedding experience ever. It was an all American Alpine Institute wedding with former AAI employee Katy marrying AAI guide Chad and AAI guide Mike (reverend Mike) officiating with another AAI guide and photographer Alasdair documenting the event. The wedding ceremony was on the Pika Glacier of the Alaska Range. The ceremony however was such a small piece of this amazing adventure wedding that it barely compares to the rest of the trip.

We started in Talkeetna AK by getting back country permits at the ranger station and then the all important bridal makeup and wedding hair. From there we shot some photos in and around Talkeetna, had a quick drink at the fairview and then headed to the airport.

After the gear weighing, a quick bridal slack lining session and some last minute bridal touches in the AAI equipment shed and we were ready to load the plane.


We flew to the Pika Glacier with K2 Aviation who were amazing and went out of their way to make everything perfect. Thanks K2!

The ceremony was short (it was getting late and we really needed to build camp). The paperwork was signed and then Chad could do what he had been waiting for all day. He quickly grabbed the shovel and started digging and soon camp was built. The champagne was opened and the salmon dinner cooked. AAI guide Ian and guest Clay joined us for the party and we watched the sun set over Mt. Foraker.


I flew out the next day but for the wedding party the trip was not over. There was no flight out for them. The plan was to climb the peaks of Little Switzerland for the next four days and then walk/float rivers back to Talkeetna. Their photos of this part of the trip are included below. More of my photos from the trip can be found on my website at

Alasdair Tuner, AAI Instructor and Guide

Monday, July 6, 2015

Route Profile: Poster Peak, House Buttress, 5.7 III

Poster Peak is a very cool little peak on the same ridge-line as the Liberty Bell Massif. The peak has a non-technical route to the summit via the southeast ridge, and two really cool lines on the two northeast buttresses.

A climber high on the House Buttress.

Following is a 2003 writeup from the Northwest Mountaineering Journal on the lines:

“Poster Peak”, East-Northeast Buttresses, New Routes

Poster Peak is shown on the Washington Pass quad as point 7565’, located one mile southeast of the Early Winters Spires. It is the terminating high point of the long but mostly flat ridge extending toward Copper Point from the Early Winters massif. The locals named the peak, which is very striking from most angles, after it was used on a ski poster and everyone wanted to know where it was.

In the summer of 2003, Poster Peak saw ascents by two probable new routes.

Larry Goldie and Blue Bradley climbed the leftmost of the two prominent east-northeast buttresses, as seen from Highway 20 just below the hairpin turn. This high-quality moderate route makes for a great day out, with a one-hour approach. It traverses onto the nose of the buttress from the left on a broad ledge 200 feet up and left from the toe. From there, staying true to the ridge crest on delightful, sound rock will take one right to the summit in about 12 pitches, with the most difficult near the summit at 5.7. This route is of higher quality than the often overcrowded South Arete of South Early Winters Spire. Consider it a good alternative on a busy summer day. Descent is by walk-off to the south and down to the base of the route. Its name is tentatively “Blue Buttress.”

Grade III 5.7.

Steve House free-soloed the rightmost of the two east-northeast buttresses in 45 minutes. The climbing is less continuous than on Blue Buttress, but is 5.9 at its hardest. Protection is a bit hard to find in spots. Staying on the crest as much as possible takes one up several steps and across two significant notches. The route begins in a shallow depression on down-sloping, awkward climbing for the first pitch. Two pins are fixed on the first pitch. Subsequent parties have reported as many as 17 roped pitches. The climbing quality is lower than that of the Blue Buttress. Descent is same as for above.

Grade III 5.9.

-Scott Johnston

I had the opportunity to climb Blue's Buttress a little while ago and I found it to be a stellar line. The route has a "choose your own adventure" feel to it, while never being very hard. Recently, I climbed the House Buttress and found it to be similar. I never found anything harder than 5.7, with the bulk of the route ranging between third-class and low fifth-class.

After climbing the House Buttress, we realized that we had just climbed something that felt a lot like the South Arete of South Early Winter Spire, except that it was over a thousand feet long. Super fun!


This is a somewhat obscure route, so there is very little information on it. As such, I thought I might put some in here.

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

Approach the base of House Buttress the same way that you might approach Blue's Buttress. The toe of the House Buttress is approximately a hundred meters north of the base of Blue's Buttress.

In theory there are two pins on the first pitch. We never found these pins. They are likely on a direct start to the buttress, which we bypassed.

To climb the route, make your way up to the base of the buttress and then contour around to the left. There are several fifth class options that could be made instead of this third class option.

Climb the ridge crest, choosing the best line until you reach a small notch. There could be snow at this point, especially early in the season. I used an ice axe here to chop steps across a short exposed area on the snow. If you're wearing boots, it wouldn't be a big deal to cross this area, but if approach shoes or rock shoes, an ice axe is an important tool to have on hand.

Just after the snow crossing before the rotten rock.

After crossing the gully, the rock quality deteriorates and there is less protection available. The combination of limited protection and poor rock make this area the crux. Continue up toward the ridge crest. Once on the crest the rock quality gets substantially better and there is more protection.

After you reach the ridge crest the climbing become pleasant again as you slowly work your way to the top.

This line could be as many as seventeen roped pitches, or a handful of roped pitches and some simulclimbing, or just a big simulclimb. It all depends on how comfortable you are on fourth and low fifth-class rock, with an occasional 5.7 move thrown in.

To descend the peak, drop off the short southwest ridge to an easy scramble. Continue down southeast to the obvious short couloir. Drop down the couloir and contour back around to the base of the route.

The House Buttress is a very cool little line and well worth any climber's time...

--Jason D. Martin