Thursday, August 27, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 8/27/15

Important Legislative News:

--The Land and Water Conservation Fund is about to expire. This important piece of legislation has funded parks and public lands for a generation. Here's a quick explanation of the legislation from the Mountaineers Blog:

LWCF was created in 1965, with the idea that a small portion of the revenue from offshore oil and gas drilling would go back to conservation. The LWCF Coalition calls the fund: “a simple idea: use revenues from the depletion of one natural resource - offshore oil and gas - to support the conservation of another precious resource - our land and water.”

If you'd like to learn more about this legislation, click here to read a post about it from the Outdoor Alliance.

The Outdoor Alliance has also created a portal that you can easily use to write your representatives. To support the renewal of this important legislation, click here.


Liz Daley

--On Saturday, September 26th, there will be an event in Tacoma celebrating the life of AAI Guide Liz Daley. Liz was tragically killed in an avalanche last September. This event is a fundraiser to build a climbing park called Liz Rocks at Point Defiance Park. To read more, click here.

This is a map of the Puget Sound with the fires overlayed on top of it,  just to give you an idea of how much has burned.
Fires essentially cover Everett to Tacoma.  See more, here.

--Some are wondering how this has affected AAI programming. Rest assured, AAI has a lot of commercial operating permits and as such we are just avoiding areas where there are fires.

--With wildfires straining resources, Washington officials say that for the first time in state history they're coordinating help from residents who have and can operate equipment like backhoes and bulldozers to dig fire lines. The Department of Natural Resources says its command posts have been inundated with offers. Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark says his agency appreciates the support, but he wants the fire officers on scene to be able to stay focused on actually fighting fires. To read more, click here.

--Washington Fire Lookouts are being impacted by the fires too. It looks like two have been burned and three more are threatened. To read more, click here.

--A disastrous year is unfolding in 2015 for North Cascade glaciers, if normal melt conditions continue the range will lose 5-7% of its entire glacier volume in one year! To read more, click here.

--Paul McSorley, Mayan Smith-Gobat, and Ines Papert recently put up a new mixed line on the remote Southwest Buttress of Mt. Waddington (northwest summit) in British Columbia. To read more, click here.


--British big wall climber, alpinist and writer, Andy Kirkpatrick recently soloed the Sea of Dreams (A4+, 5.9, VI) in Yosemite. To read about the ascent, click here.

--So this woman plans to eat nothing but bugs on El Cap.

-- It was announced this week that there are going to be several changes in Mammoth Resorts’ Executive Management Team. Greg Dallas, Chief Operating Officer for Mammoth and June Mountains, announced his resignation and will be leaving the company this fall to pursue other endeavors. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Moab, Utah is one of the most popular outdoor meccas in the western U.S. Boasting national parks, incredible rock climbing, and world famous mountain biking trails, the Moab region attracts millions of visitors every year. Moab is also home to significant oil, gas, and potash resources, some of which are adjacent to the Colorado River or to campgrounds and climbing areas. In the past, the nearly million-acre region was managed with a plan that offered numerous oil and gas leases in areas adjacent to protected landscapes, including Delicate Arch in Arches National Park. In response, President Obama and former Interior Secretary Ken Salazar decided to develop a process to help balance conservation, recreation, and development in this important area. To read more, click here.


--Nine volunteers from Mountain Rescue Aspen spent the night with a 55-year-old climber from Milwaukee who was injured after falling 25 feet near the summit of Pyramid Peak Friday. To read more, click here.

--On Saturday, a large group of climbers gathered in Rifle Canyon in remembrance of Dave Pegg (1967-2014). This iconic climber was a force in the Colorado climbing community and will be missed. To see some photos of the event, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Two women died when they fell about 200 feet while trying to climb a mountain in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. The National Park Service says the accident occurred around 11 a.m. Saturday on the 12,300-foot Teewinot Mountain, the sixth-tallest peak in the Teton Range. To read more, click here.

--An injured rock climber dangling from a rope, lost and injured hikers and campers, and a lost canoeist were among in dire situations recently helped by state Department of Environmental Conservation forest rangers in the Adirondacks. To read more, click here.

Helicopters used to fight fires in Leavenworth, WA

--It's easy to forget sometimes that if you don't pay attention to the mountains that many people have no idea what's going on with this fire season. A San Francisco based blogger notes, that Everything is on Fire and No One Cares. It's our duty to make sure non-mountain people know what's going on too. This is a big deal.

--How young is too young for Mount Everest? It appears that a 12-year old will be attempting the mountain next year. Expedition writer Taylor Zajonc has written an editorial about this attempt. To read the editorial, click here.

--Nepal is reopening Mt. Everest for mountaineers after a massive earthquake hit the country in April. To read more, click here.

-- Scott Bennett and and AAI graduate Graham Zimmerman climbed a new route on K6 West, a 7,040-meter (23,097-foot) peak in the Karakoram that had only received one other ascent. To read more, click here.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 8/20/15


--A 46-year-old Bellingham climber was killed by a rockfall in North Cascades National Park on Sunday, the park service said Tuesday. The rockfall occurred in the Fisher Peak area near Easy Pass. Denise Shultz, public information officer for the National Park Service, told the Bellingham Herald that Eric Moldver was hiking Sunday, his 46th birthday, with a group in a steep area on some loose rock when a boulder fell from above Moldver and hit him on the head. To read more, click here.

--A section of Highway 20, the North Cascades Highway, is currently closed. For more information, please see the following:

Highway 20 is closed at MP118 to MP 157.

It is closed on the west side just above the Goodell Creek put-in for rafts. At this time it is possible to put in at Goodell but that could change at any time due to wind direction and fire activity.

Please look for updates at the following websites...

Park Website -

Facebook -

Twitter -


Mt. Baker

--A Navy helicopter rescued an injured climber near Mt. Baker last week. 20-year-old Jasper Yao of Seattle sustained several injuries in a nearly 50-foot fall on the top of Heliotrope Ridge. To read more, click here.

--A glacial outburst Thursday sent a torrent of rocks, trees and debris 4 miles down Tahoma Creek, damaging and forcing the closure of Westside Road and Tahoma Creek Trail at Mount Rainier National Park. To read more, click here.

--Search and rescue responses are up 40% in Mt. Rainier National Park. To read more, click here.

--An uninjured rock climber was rescued in Tillamook, Oregon over the weekend. To read more, click here.

--Will Stanhope recently redpointed the Tom Egan Memorial Route on the east face of Snowpatch Spire in Canada's Bugaboo Provincial Park. Stanhope rate the route 5.14, Grade V. To read more, click here.

Read more here:

--Two minors were killed early Friday morning when a limb from an oak tree fell on their tent at Yosemite National Park, park officials said. The incident took place around 5 a.m. local time at the Upper Pines Campground in Yosemite Valley. Park spokesman Scott Gediman declined to release the ages or any details about the two to the Associated Press, describing them only as under age 18. To read more, click here.

--Officials at Yosemite National Park closed the Tuolumne Meadows Campground on Monday after two squirrels contracted and died of the plague near the area. Park employees will use the closure to spray flea-killing insecticide into burrow holes where rodents live. Rodents like rats, chipmunks, and squirrels carry the fleas that carry the plague. To read more, click here.

--The Tioga Pass Road between Highway 395 and the Yosemite National Park Entrance re-opened over the weekend. No stopping is allowed along the eastern six miles of the road. This will be strictly enforced. The fire remains active to the south of the road and this is essential for firefighter and public safety. To read more, click here.

--Escorts are being provided to those who need to get to campsites evacuated on the Tioga Pass Road. To red more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--AAI Guides Doug Foust and Tracy Martin helped the BLM in Red Rock facilitate a day of climbing for two children who lost their father in the Iraq war. The event was covered by local media. To see a video and read an article about the event, click here. And here. And here.

--With a narrow window of opportunity, the Access Fund secured temporary ownership of a critical access point to The Homestead in central Arizona to save the area from indefinite closure. With over 250 sport climbs on 12 limestone walls, The Homestead is one of the best winter limestone climbing areas in the country, boasting true “tufa” sport routes. But in 2014, access was imminently threatened when the bank foreclosed on a piece of private property that overlapped key portions of the access road, trailhead, and first few dozen routes. If sold to a non-climber-friendly buyer, access to the entire Homestead area could have been lost. To read more, click here.

--In June, the Grand Canyon was named one of the “Most Endangered Places” in America by the National Trust for Historic Preservation. But the designation came just two months too late to possibly influence U.S. District Court Judge David Campbell. In April, he denied a request by the Havasupai tribe and a coalition of conservation groups to halt new uranium mining next to Grand Canyon National Park, just six miles from the Grand Canyon’s South Rim. To read more, click here.


--The Colorado Avalanche Information Center would like to add another forecaster. To learn more about this job opportunity, click here.

--This winter, Vail Resorts is trying something different on its ski slopes:Crowdsourced, real-time wait times for ski lifts offered via smartphone app. Vail Resorts says that an update to its EpicMix smartphone app will collect data from the RFID-enabled season passes skiers carry at the resort. It’s one of the most ambitious efforts yet to bring Waze-style crowdsourced location data into the sports and vacation spheres. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The Access Fund and the American Alpine Club are proud to announce a joint grant program available to local climbing organizations and anchor replacement groups seeking funding for fixed anchor replacement at climbing areas across the United States. By partnering on this program, the nation’s two national non-profit climbing organizations are filling a need unmet by their existing climbing conservation grants—replacing fixed anchors at local crags. This grant program is made possible by corporate support from ClimbTech, Petzl, and Trango. To read more, click here.

--Uli Steck just completed all 82 4000-meter peaks in the Alps in 61 days. His victory wasn't without tragedy though. One of his partners - Martijn Seruen - was killed in a fall. To read more, click here.

--After buying Park City Ski Resort in Utah for $182.5 million, Vail is now now connecting Park City to The Canyons (which Vail already runs) to create the largest ski resort in the USA at 7,300+ acres. The new ski resort will simply be called “Park City” but the old canyons infinity symbol will live next to the name in the logo. To read more, click here.

--The New York Times reports on the "culture clash" taking place in the backcountry between people shooting guns and other backcountry users. To read the article, click here.

--And finally, we all have to have hobbies. I guess. These guys love to ski down escalators in Salt Lake City shopping malls:

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 8/13/15


--An individual has confessed to starting the Hull fire in Idaho that broke out Wednesday. Carrie Bilbao, a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Land Management in Boise, said the fire was caused by a mountain biker who burned toilet paper after making a restroom stop. To read more, click here.


--California officials say a child camping in Yosemite National Park fell ill with plague and was sent to a hospital. The state’s Department of Public Health said Thursday that the family from Los Angeles County camped at Yosemite’s Crane Flat Campground in mid-July and visited other places in the Stanislaus National Forest. No other family members became sick, and the child is recovering. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The federal Land and Water Conservation Fund may expire soon. The fund supports projects at conservation areas across Southern Nevada, such as Red Rock Canyon and the Moapa Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Over five decades, the fund has paid for some $100 million worth of conservation efforts in Nevada. To read more, click here.

--Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR) is looking towards the future, and the future means a major expansion of 500 acres for skiing, riding and biking. Their proposal calls for two new chairlifts, a replacement of the North Face surface lift, more snowmaking on current ski terrain, and 15 miles of singletrack trail to add to the resort’s Evolution Bike Park. Recently, the resort received a letter from the US Forest Service’s Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forest District Office initiating an environmental review of the project, stating that they are “officially accepting project proposal components [in accordance with] the 2013 Master Development Plan”. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Two employees of an Alaska backcountry lodge startled an adult grizzly bear while running on a trail in Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. The bear stepped out of thick brush and mauled one woman while the other ran for help. Gabriele Markel, 20, was recovering last week at an Anchorage hospital. Her wounds, which authorities described as bites and scratches on her head, back and arm, weren't considered life-threatening. To read more, click here.

--Access Fund has been awarded land trust accreditation from the Land Trust Accreditation Commission, an independent program of the Land Trust Alliance. "Land Trust accreditation is an important milestone for the Access Fund," says Access Fund Executive Director Brady Robinson. "It helps strengthen our land acquisition and protection program and it illustrates to local climbing organizations, landowners, and partners that Access Fund is the leading organization in land conservation standards, tools, and resources when it comes to protecting and stewarding America's climbing areas." To read more, click here.

--The remains of two young Japanese climbers missing on the Matterhorn mountain since a 1970 snow storm in the Swiss Alps have been identified through DNA testing of their relatives, police said on Thursday. Human bones spotted by a climber last September on a shrinking glacier at an altitude of 2,800 meters were sent to the medical examiner for identification, cantonal (state) police in the Valais said. To read more, click here.

--The U.S. Forest Service projects that the cost of fighting wildfires could rise to $1.8 billion in the next decade, reflecting fire seasons that "have grown longer and more costly," the agency said this week. The wildfire season is now an average of 78 days longer than it was in 1970, the agency said, and the frequency, size, and severity of those fires has also increased. The report attributes that to climate change. To read more, click here.

--Camp has recalled two types of crampons, the Blade Runners and the Nanotech crampons. To read more, click here.

--This is a cool portaledge.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Your Food Vs. Alpine Animals

Picture this. You are on the second day of your trip up into the mountains. It’s hot. You’re hungry. The bag of potato chips you have stashed in your tent is sounding mouth-wateringly good right about now. You’re just coming off the Deming Glacier, practically dragging your ice axe as you stumble, mind in a haze, towards the alluring potato chips ­– your post summit prize food. You unzip your tent, fingers trembling, and find to your horror a pile of confetti in the corner next to a scraggily looking hole, sunshine filtering through the tatters of your tent.

Do not, dear reader, become this sad climber.

Marmots, mice, and ravens are a real hazard when it comes to food in the backcountry and I wager, have had years more experience thieving than you have likely had in protecting your food from their greedy little mouths.  I myself woke up recently to not one, but two mice in my tent having a nice little feast on my food bars, which I had set aside for the summit the next day. One even had the audacity to run over my face. This was not fun. 

That being said, here are some things to do and some things not to do with your food in the alpine.

-       Do not hang your food from rocks in an attempt to mimic food protection from bears in lower country. This seems to be a common recommendation on the Internet at the moment. However, I personally see a few flaws in the system. Firstly, marmots can climb rocks and so a small boulder simply wouldn’t do. This means you would need to hang your food over a cliff and a) that sounds like a lot of effort/potentially sketchy and b) ravens, being birds, can in fact fly and they will get it even if the rodents don’t. So, nix the “marmot bag” option.

-       The best option I know of is to store your food inside your tent. You might be wondering why I would suggest such a thing when we have already learned about the confetti threat but there are ways to store it properly and ways to store it improperly. For starters don’t leave your food along the walls of your tent. You would be significantly increasing the risk of an animal chewing its way inside. What you can do though is put your food in your sleeping bag (which reduces smells) and place the sleeping bag as centrally in the tent as possible. So far, I have not had any issues while employing this technique and it is one that seems popular among the crowds that frequent the mountain slopes.

Note: at night you still should try to keep your food away from your tent walls and zip the door closed at the bottom.

-       You can also dig a cash in the snow and burry your food there if you are concerned with the possibility of animals chewing into your tent. This is a perfectly reasonable option when there is snow at the camp. However, if you employ this technique be sure that you dig down fairly deep. A foot simply doesn’t cut it. Three feet would be a minimum depth for proper storage, but even that might be too shallow. Four to six feet is best. Don’t forget to mark the location of your cash. Losing your food would be just about as bad as it being eaten.

Good luck with the food ventures! Remember, don’t be the sad climber with out his potato chips. 

Yellow Bellied Marmot
Photo Credit: Alasdair Turner AAI Instructor and Guide

--Jess Lewis, Instructor and Guide

Monday, August 10, 2015

Route Profile: NE Buttress, Johannesburg Mountain (V, 5.8, AI 2)

Johannesberg Mountain is massive. It is one big mountain and it literally towers above the popular Cascade Pass trailhead.

The Northeast Buttress is the longest line on the mountain on one of the biggest walls in the range. There is a long history of people suffering epics on this route, and it is not uncommon for people to return one to two days late from an ascent of the mountain.

This reputation has always scared me a bit. I've spent a lot of time looking at the mountain from Boston Basin and I've always thought, I should try that. But then figured it was a dumb idea, that the wall was too big, too bushy and too demanding.

But with the help of the internet, some of my fears dissipated. Steph Abegg has an awesome website devoted to climbing in the Cascades and everywhere else. Her excellent description gave us just enough to commit.

So in July of 2015, we climbed the line. And this is what we found...

Johannesberg Mountain Route Topo
Click to Enlarge

Johannesberg Mountain
Profile by Steph Abegg
Click to Enlarge

The route can be split into several sections:

Chossy Start

Climb up to the base of the slabs on steep snow. Climb up onto the slabs and work your way up to a place where you can cross the waterfalls.

These slabs look benign from below and they aren't really any harder than 5.5, but they are loose and there is very little protection. Knife-blade pitons can provide some extra security.

A typical lead low on the mountain.

Vertical Bushwacking

After the slabs, the goal is essentially to climb up and right toward the ridge. This sounds reasonable at first, but then you realize that to do this, you will have to make your way through a literal wall of brush. Climb up vertical and semi-vertical brush and trend right. You'll be doing a lot of tree climbing on this trip.

If you brought an ice axe or a picket or anything else, be sure to put them inside your pack. The trees will try to take them away. Rest assured, anything and everything on the outside of your pack will get caught on branches.

Steep Heather

Eventually you will break out of the trees on the buttress proper. The character of the route changes here. Now you will be working your way up steep heather slopes on the ridge. If you elect to simul-climb there will be marginal protection every 200-feet or so.

You may wish to use your ice axe and crampons in the heather to increase your security.

AAI Guide Will Gordon on the Buttress in the Heather

Moderate Rock

Eventually the heather begins to fade into rock. You'll reach a sharp ridge followed by a headwall.

Some parties elect to rappel down into the gully climber's right of the ridge. Apparently there is a piton rap station somewhere. From there they climb forty-degree snow. We elected to traverse to the left to a short chimney that was mostly 5.5, with a couple of 5.8 moves right off the deck.

Following the chimney follow moderate rock up to a bivy site at 7,100-feet, at the base of the glacier.


For most parties it will take 8-12 hours from the base of the buttress to the bivy site. If summer, there will likely be running water at the site.

AAI Guide Will Gordon at the Bivy
with the Torment-Forbidden Traverse in the background.

Snow Arete

Following the bivy, climb up onto the glacier. Follow the steep snow arete up onto the broader glacier. The arete drops off steeply on both sides. Be prepared to take appropriate precautions here.

The snow arete.

Looking back down at the snow arete from above.

Glacier Travel and Ice Climbing

Continue up the glacier, trending toward the final steep headwall. There are reports online that the final headwall can be quite steep and icy. In July of 2015 we found it to be a single 200-foot ice pitch. Three ice screws were adequate to protect it and we didn't feel the need for a second tool.

Trending toward the ice pitch. The ice pitch can be seen up in the left-hand corner of the picture.

It should be noted that there are many low-angle and flat spots on the glacier that could be carved out for a higher bivy than the one found on the rocks below the glacier. However, due to sun cupping in the summer, you may have to do some work to create a platform.


Once on top of the ice pitch, there will be two notches in front of you. Climb up to the notch on the right and drop over to the west side. Scramble to a small notch and then up to the summit.

AAI Guide Will Gordon climbing up and through the right-hand notch
near the summit.

You may leave your packs at the snow if you want to move quickly. The summit is only a few minutes away.

It should take between 1 and 3 hours for most parties to get to the summit.

East Ridge Descent

Many of the descriptions on the internet do not give credit to the sketchiness of this descent. They often say things like, you can rappel or descend a loose third and fourth class gully. This is all true, but there is significant traversing along the southwest side (right) side of the ridge before you reach the gully and rappels.

From the summit go back to the snow and climb through the left-hand notch. You will now be on the right-hand side of the ridge. Descend along this side of the ridge, staying below the ridge crest until the final two small ridge summits come into view. There may be a few carins along the ridge to help you along your way. When you see the final two mini-ridge summits, climb back up onto the ridge onto better rock.

At this point you will be looking down a sketchy gully. Note that on the left-hand side of the gully, approximately 200-feet down there will be a little tower. In 2015 there was a carin on this tower next to the first rap anchors.

Scramble down to the rap anchors and make one rope stretcher rap or two shorter rappels to a big block. Make two or three more rappels down until you are in the heather once more. Climb down through heather to another slightly hidden rap station and then make two more rappels down to the CJ Col. This could require up to seven rappels.

Many of the rappels are around large blocks. Be sure to bring lots of cord to backup sketchy anchors. And double check the boulders that are wrapped, some of them are suspect.

In theory, one could descend the loose gully instead of rappelling, but that looks sketchy.

It will take 3-5 hours for most parties to negotiate the ridge descent.

Doug's Direct

There are three ways that you could get back to the Cascade Pass parking lot. The first is to descend the CJ Col, which would be super sketchy. The second is to traverse below the Cascade Peak, the Triplets and Mixup Peak to join the Ptarmigan Traverse Trail and to drop over Cache Col. And the third, and perhaps quickest way is to use Doug's Direct.

To use the Doug's Direct Route, traverse under the south faces of Cascade Peak and the Triplets and then ascend up the North Ridge of Mixup Peak. The crossover is not obvious, and it's not a bad idea to have a waypoint or the awesome picture that Steph Abegg took below.

Doug's Direct
Overlay by Steph Abegg
Click to Enlarge

The other side of Mixup is composed of slightly better 3rd and 4th class rock, that steps down. Drop down on the steps and contour right into steep heather and 3rd class terrain. Be careful here as a fall would be deadly.

Eventually you will find a heather filled gully that will drop you down onto the Cache Glacier.

Personally, I found the steep heather to be a bit much when dehydrated on day two of the climb and would probably opt for the Cache Col option if I were to do the route again.

It will take most parties 4-6 hours to complete the Doug's Direct descent and make their way back to the parking lot.


People go a lot of different ways on this mountain. Amazingly, trip reports vary from people finding literally vertical ice at the top, to people finding a way to avoid roping up for most of the ascent. If these notes don't make sense to you, follow your nose... You'll get there.


--Small single rack up to a #2 Camelot
--3 ice screws
--1-2 snow pickets
--2-3 knife blade pitons (optional)
--Ice Axe (with a hammer if you have pitons)
--60-meter rope


It took AAI Guide Will Gordon and I, the following to get to each area:

--Base to Bivy - 9 hours, 15 minutes - we took one 15 minute break, but spent a lot of time in the brush. Upon later reflection it's likely that we weren't on the best line. It took Steph Abbeg about 8 hours. It was also 90-degrees on the day we climbed and we ran out of water. This slowed us down a bit.

--Bivy to Summit - 2 hours, 30 minutes - Others report two hours, some report more. We had one ice pitch and a little poking around to find the actual summit. If you have to climb an overhung bergshrund, this could be a lot longer.

--Summit to Base of East Ridge - 5 hours - Another complex area. This would be a lot faster with better beta. Hopefully, I've given that to you above.

--Base of Ridge to Car via Doug's Direct - 6 hours - This was at least two hours longer than it needed to be. We were definitely slow due to dehydration again and it was ninety degrees out again. But we spent some time trying to figure out where Doug's Direct was...

In the summit register it shows a well known sponsored climber's name who has since passed away as being 11-hours, car to summit. Our total time was 11:45 car-to-summit. So this seemed good. However, AAI guide and super-athlete Chad Cochran and AAI Guide Mike Pond, did the route car-to-car in 11-hours...!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 8/6/15

Public Lands Heist:

Have you heard about efforts in Western States, including Washington, to transfer federal public lands to the state? A campaign to transfer public lands to state control threatens hundreds of millions of acres of national forests, rangelands, wildlife refuges, wilderness areas and historic sites across the Western US.

This public land heist threatens the landscapes we love and the notion that public lands belong to everyone. America’s craggy mountains, golden plains, and rivers belong to all of us, whether we live in New York or Montana, whether we visit these places weekly or hope that our children will someday see them.

Imagine if the place where you love to hike, climb, paddle, ski, bike, or camp were suddenly sold off for profit, or to cover the cost of a wildfire or drought. Once our mountains, forests, and rivers are gone, there’s no replacing them. To read more, click here. To sign a petition to stop this, click here.


--This is a very interesting graphic that shows Mt. Baker in 2013 in early July and Mt. Baker in 2015 in early July. The lack of snow in 2015 is insane.

An outraged hiker posted this photo of a family defacing USFS
property on Facebook. Over 53,000 people have shared the photo.

--Hikers, rock climbers, bird-watchers, and folks who want to watch water cascade over a 97-foot-high cliff are frequent visitors at Tumalo Falls Park in Oregon’s Deschutes National Forest. Allegedly, so are vandals—a whole family of them who etched their names into a railing in the park. That’s what resident Brett Nelson spotted while trekking through the park, which is about 25 miles west of Bend, last Saturday afternoon. Thanks to Nelson’s savvy use of social media, the faces of the three individuals—a dad and his two children—have been blasted out for the world to see. Given the photographic evidence, the U.S. Forest Service is now on the hunt for them. To read more, click here.


--After the rockfall incident in Yosemite, the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome has been re-established. To learn more, click here.

--The U.S. Forest Service’s Pacific Southwest Region is sharing its draft proposed species of conservation concern (SCC) lists as part of the land and resource management plan revision process for the Inyo, Sequoia and Sierra National Forests. We are asking for public input that provides additional scientific information that may affect the draft proposed SCC lists. To read more, click here.

--There were a couple of backpacking SAR issues in the Sierra this week. To read about them, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--President Obama announced last week that he is designating three new national monuments, according to a White House press release. The new monuments will protect over one million acres of public land. The monuments include Berryessa Snow Mountain in California, Waco Mammoth in Texas, and Basin and Range in Nevada. To read more, click here.

--Echo Mountain ski area in Clear Creek County, Colorado announced that it will reopen to the public this December. The 226-acre ski area closed to the public in 2012 when it was purchased by Nora Pykkonen, who converted it to a ski-racing training facility that focused on school-aged kids. Pykkonen now hopes that by reopening, they can extend the ski hill’s hours as well as build more opportunities for ski training at the mountain. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The Access Fund recently issued an article on "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" on NPS bolting rules. These rules were all supposed to fall in line after Director's Order #41 removed the threat that bolts would be banned in wilderness. To read the article, click here.

--The family of an 11-year-old boy has filed a lawsuit against the YMCA of South Florida after he fell nearly 40 feet from the top of a portable rock-climbing wall that is owned and operated by the Weston YMCA. The lawsuit alleges that the staff at the Weston facility were not properly trained, supervised or monitored in the operation and use of the climbing wall and the equipment. To read more, click here.

--The general manager for Maine’s Saddleback ski area said Friday the resort has extended its self-imposed deadline by a few days for securing $3 million in financing for a new chairlift. On July 20, Saddleback’s co-owner Mark Berry announced the ski area would cease winter operations if it could not secure $3 million in financing needed to purchase a new four-person chairlift to replace the aging double chairlift that currently services much of the resort’s intermediate terrain and provides access to the resort’s upper chairlift, the Kennebago Quad. To read more, click here.

--The world-renowned Italian climber Reinhold Messner was among the first to scale Mount Everest in 1978 without bottled oxygen and was the first person to climb all of the world’s 14 mountains higher than 8,000 meters (26,247 feet). In recent years, the 70-year-old adventurer and author has also built a physical legacy that consists of a half-dozen Messner Mountain Museums. These interdisciplinary spaces located throughout South Tyrol and Belluno in northern Italy are devoted to exploring the nature and culture of mountains and those who love to climb them. To read more, click here.

--Many state associations and the National Ski Area Association tally snowsports visits, or one person skiing/snowboarding one day (or night). Total snowsports visits is an important indicator of the overall volume of people participating and the total business levels of a ski area - when more people visit to ski and ride, more hamburgers and beers get sold, more lessons get taught, and more tall tees and beanies leave the retail store racks. According to National Ski Areas Association, the total number of snowsports visits in the US for the 2014/15 season was 53.6 million--more than three times as many as the number of people who attended NFL games in 2014. To read more, click here.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

2015 Guides Choice Awards

We have announced the new Guides Choice Award winners for the 2015 spring and summer season. Through extensive testing by our professional guides these pieces of equipment have proven to exceed all performance expectations, based on all gear evaluated over the past testing periods. Congratulations to those receiving the Guides Choice Award this season, and we thank all the manufacturers that have submitted equipment for us to review.

Mountain Equipment Kinesis Jacket

The Kinesis Jacket embodies what a functional, active insulation piece should be. The Kinesis Jacket uses Polartec Alpha insulation in the body and a gridded wicking liner in the arms. The structure of Polartec Alpha allows it to be sewn to much more breathable and open liner fabrics, enhancing the garments breathability and decreasing the weight since not as much stitching is need to hold it in place. The Kinesis' high level of breathability allows the user to wear the jacket in a wider range of temperatures and at a higher level of physical activity without becoming too hot and sweaty. The Kinesis is sure to make it in your pack for nearly all of your outings.
Mountain Equipment Squall Hooded Jacket 
The Squall Hooded Jacket from Mountain Equipment got high marks due to its lightweight, yet protective features.  AAI Guide and gear tester Chad Cochran explains his take on the Squall Jacket, "The squall jacket is awesome!  I have been super impressed by the way it packs down but still is as durable as a suit of armor.  I used the jacket in as many different venues as possible including the High Sierra, the Tetons, Bear Tooths, dessert towers of the Canyonlands, Red Rock Canyon the Alaska Range and of course The Cascades. Rock, Ice, and Snow, it does it all. I really liked the large zippers and the chest pocket.  Without side pockets this soft-shell fit unencumbered under a harness and stayed put on long days in the mountains.  The offset zipper for the hood was a nice comfort when hunkering down in inclement weather, keeping the zipper away from ones mouth.  After over 100 days of use and abuse it only managed to get a small tear in the chest pocket from having something hard stashed there while wiggling through a squeeze chimney."
Darn Tough Hike / Trek Socks
Darn Tough Socks are exactly what they say they are, tough! If you haven't had a pair of socks that lasted for years, then you need to try these out. Some of our testers have had pairs that are 4 or 5 years old and still don't have holes in the toes or heel. Made from high quality Merino Wool the Hike / Trek series are constructed to not slip or bunch up in your boot. The seams are sewn so that there are no ridges or pressure points that could cause problems while hiking. Most people just plan on buying a new pair of socks if they wear them out. If you wear out a pair of Darn Toughs, they will give you a new pair! Backed by an unconditional lifetime guarantee they fully stand behind their product. 

Petzl Summit Evo Ice Axe
The Petzl Summit Evo is a long overdue improvement on the classic Summit ice axe. The Summit Evo features a much sexier water-jet-formed shaft that makes for a very ergonomic feel when used in mid-dagger position. We found the classic pick to work very well for self-arresting and provided plenty of purchase when swinging the axe to climb steeper terrain. The wide adze was especially useful when needing to chop steps or clear away surface snow and ice before placing ice screws. The rubberized grip on the lower shaft make the Summit Evo an especially good axe to pair with a technical tool for climbing moderately steep terrain. The curved shaft clears bulges and provides a nice balanced swing.
Cassin X-All Mountain Ice Tool

The X-All Mountain Ice tool is designed to be incredibly versatile ice tool meant for climbing ice of all steepness and difficulties. One of the biggest key features of the X-All Mountain is that the grips can easily be replaced and there are even three different grip types to choose from. Regarding performance, our lead tester for the X-All Mountain, Jason Martin stated "I primarily used the tool for vertical waterfall ice climbing, and for that application, I honestly cannot imagine a better tool." The curved shaft and ideal head-weight provide a very balanced swing that does not produce pick bounce, or shoulder fatigue that you will get with some swinging other similar tools on the market.  

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Equipment Review: Brooks-Range Alpini Sleeping Bag

This is a solid and durable bag for climbing and backpacking in the mountains. Filled with 850-fill down, this 15-degree bag has consistently kept me cozy and warm on summit climbs of Mount Baker and throughout the Cascades. This bag isn't ultra-lightweight, but it's still lighter than most synthetic models and weighs in at 2 pounds.

Most of all, this bag is just plain COMFY. There's a halo around the collar that helps trap heat and cocoons you as you sleep, and the hood cradles your head without making you feel claustrophobic. The bag maintains loft well and there's plenty of room in the footbox to dry out wet boot liners. My only complaint is that the zipper has the tendency to snag, so be careful with it when you're opening and closing the bag.

*Disclosure: I received this bag directly from Brooks-Range Mountaineering in exchange for writing a review on this blog.

--Shelby Carpenter, AAI Instructor and Guide

Monday, August 3, 2015

Rappel Technique: Throwing Ropes

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

In this video, AMGA Instructor Team Member, Jeff Ward, demonstrates several techniques for throwing ropes down a pitch for a rappel.


In his first demonstration, Jeff shows a technique wherein you stack the rope carefully and then wrap up an end. You throw this end down and it pulls the rest of the pile down with it.


Mark Twight referred to the second technique as "staging" in his book Extreme Alpinism. In other words you throw the rope down in separate stages. In the video, Jeff throws the rope down in two stages, starting from the middle. This often allows the rope to get down further and to get hung up on less items.


And finally Jeff demonstrated the Saddlebag technique. This is the technique where you lap coil the rope and then hang it off of slings on either side of your body. The rope then feeds out from the slings. This allows you to rappel into the wind or to avoid dropping a rope on top of someone.

--Jason D. Martin