Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Art of the Plunge Step

The plunge step is a simple technique for walking downhill in the snow. However, it is one of those techniques that seems relatively straight-forward in certain snow types, while difficult in others.

To do a standard plunge step, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your knees and drop your rear end. As you step down the hill during your descent, be sure to lead with the heel of your foot. The heel of your boot should be like a dagger, the pointy section of the heel slicing into the snow first.

In soft snow, this technique is relatively easy to understand. On our courses, we will often play games of Red Light/Green Light with students racing down the hill. In soft snow, everybody tends to stay on their feet and in control when we say red light. Hard snow is a different story. It's not uncommon to see people slip and fall trying to plunge step in such conditions. And sometimes it can be quite amusing to play Red Light/Green Light in such conditions...

The main reason that plunge stepping becomes more difficult in firm snow conditions is because your heel doesn't penetrate the snow as easily. Indeed, you have to be incredibly aggressive to get your heel into the snow.

In hard conditions, it's not uncommon for people to become tentative in their steps. Such movement can cause an individual to be more likely to slip as opposed to less likely. Occasionally this develops into a dangerous and frustrating cycle. A climber slips once, becomes more tentative, slips again, and becomes even more tentative, creating yet even a higher likelihood of slipping. The only way to kill this potentially hazardous cycle is to become more aggressive, stabbing your foot deeply into the snow no matter how hard it is.

Moving effectively in the snow is one of the most important things that climbers do. And learning to employ a solid plunge step in all the different kinds of conditions that you might encounter can only help you to become a faster and more solid climber.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, June 29, 2015

Route Profile: Mt Triumph - Northeast Ridge (5.6, III+)

Mt. Triumph is one of those mountains that looks both incredible and incredibly hard to climb. It is a sharp tooth sticking up above the town or Marblemount that begs to be climbed.

The Northeast Ridge is a reasonable route to the summit. It's only about 5.6, but that doesn't mean any of the climbing on the route should be taken for granted. It is a full-on alpine experience that includes some loose and scratchy rock, some moss and giant snow blocks. The mountain is not that far back, but the approach is extremely physical.

Though the route can be done in two days, it is a far more comfortable ascent in three...

Here's a write-up on the mountain from Summitpost.org:

Mt. Triumph is an important mountain in North Cascades National Park. It is located about six miles WNW of the town of Newhalem, WA. It lies entirely within the Skagit River drainage. The peak is not as high as a lot of the other important peaks of the park, yet it possesses just as much chutzpah. Certainly, on the whole, it is more precipitous than most of those peaks. You can see the very top of the peak from Marblemount as it rises over the nearer summit of Oakes Peak. This extra rise hints at its prominence above peaks immediately to the south. Mt. Triumph is connected via Triumph Pass to a slightly higher Mt. Despair--an aptly named tandem if their ever was one. Although Despair is an easier climb than Triumph (at least in terms of the climbing on the mountain itself; Despair requires a longer approach) maybe the peaks should be named in reverse. But then, one feels triumphant to have climbed Triumph, for there is no easy way up it.

Yes, Mt. Triumph is characterized by verticality and sharpness. It is rugged on all flanks. On a topo or from directly overhead, the peak has the appearance of a three-bladed propeller. Evenly spaced Northeast, Northwest, and South Ridges divide evenly spaced East, North, and West Faces. The mountain cradles two rapidly declining glaciers below the East and North Faces. In particular, the eastside glacier is very sickly. It is much reduced from that depicted on topographic maps. A veritable pool table slate of slabs below the glacier makes for quite the tumbling ground for billiard cubes of ice excising themselves from the glacier's lower terminus. The northside glacier isn't faring much better. On both of these we often heard blocks of ice careening down the slabs.

A note about the name: Triumph was named by Lage Wernstedt, the famous surveyor of the North Cascades (namely, in the Pasayten region) in the early part of the 20th Century. In addition, Wernstedt was responsible for the naming of Mt. Despair, Mt. Fury, Mt. Terror, Mt. Challenger, Inspiration Peak, and the "Picket Range." It should be noted that Wernstedt did not climb any of these peaks. Information courtesy of Harry Majors.

Following is a photo essay from a recent ascent of Mt. Triumph:

The approach passes by a series of beautiful alpine lakes.

 The approach is very physical. 
Camping options are at the top of the pass shown in the picture.

Mt. Triumph: The Northeast Ridge is the right-hand skyline. 

The final approach to the ridge requires a traverse across steep snow. 

 The Southern Picket Range

Mt. Triumph 

Looking back at the col where most people camp. 

Climbing the Northeast Ridge






 The obligatory summit selfie.

Looking back at Triumph on the way out.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, June 26, 2015

Healthy Forest Fires

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



--Erik Budsberg, AAI Staff

Thursday, June 25, 2015

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

Northwest:

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

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

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

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

 


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

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

Sierra:

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

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



Desert Southwest:

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

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

Colorado:

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

Alaska:

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

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

Notes from All Over:

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Route Profile: Forbidden Peak, West Ridge, 5.6, Grade III

If you are an alpine climber in the Cascades, you can basically be divided into two groups.  You have either climbed the West Ridge of Forbidden, or you want to.  With amazing views, thrilling exposure, solid rock and moderate climbing, there is no wonder why it is listed as one of 50 classic climbs in North America.

Forbidden Peak from Boston Basin.  The summit is to the far right.  Dawn Glanc.


The climb starts up the finger of snow to the right of the photo.  There are also rock variations to the left of the couloir.
The West Ridge to the left, with Mt. Torment to the far left.
Taken from the summit of Sahale Peak.  James Pierson
Climbing up the snow couloir.  Alasdair Turner
Heading up the ridge.  Alasdair Turner.

Climber on the last pitch of Forbidden with Moraine Lake and
Eldorado Peak in the background.  Dawn Glac

Monday, June 22, 2015

Nine Lessons from Rock Climbing

Recently this video has been making its rounds on the web. The piece is from a motivational speaking conference sponsored by TED -- a motivational speaker agency -- and features Matthew Childs, a former climbing guide.

Matthew Childs is a specialist in digital branding and interactive services. According to his biography, Childs seeks out new trends in competitive markets. As an advertising lead at Razorfish, he draws from extensive experience in the marketing world, having led Nike's global internal communications department. Before that, he was a writer and editor for Outside Magazine and Playboy.

In this video, the speaker relates nine lessons learned in rock climbing to the "real world." Though the video was created for non-climbers, Childs uses enough climbing lingo that it's likely that climbers will get the most out of his insights.



--Jason D. Martin

Friday, June 19, 2015

Self-Arrest Techniques

Self-arrest is perhaps the most important skill that we practice in snow school. The British Mountaineering Council put together a nice video on the self-arrest techniques that one should practice.



Though this video is quite good, there are a couple of things that we teach differently:
  1. It is breezed over in the video, but the best way to self-arrest is to avoid falling. Good snow climbing technique should be practiced on low-angle slopes so that when you are on high-angle slopes it comes as second nature.
  2. We teach the piolet canne (cane) position as the baseline position. We only hold the piolet in the self-arrest position when it appears that a fall is likely. As the piolet canne position is the most stable walking position and it provides the most security, we like to see people move up the mountain in this position. One should practice self-arrest starting from the piolet canne position.
  3. There is some debate on whether you should put your feet up or not. The concern -- as the guide in the video points out -- is that if you put your feet down and your crampon points catch, that you might flip head-over-heels. On the other hand, it might stop you more quickly. We teach people to put their toes into the snow to arrest the fall.
There is some controversy about whether to use a leash on an ice axe or not. Most of our guides choose not to use a leash on standard mountaineering routes like the Coleman/Deming on Mount Baker or on the Emmons Glacier on Mount Rainier.

Many people like wrist-leashes because they limit the possibility of dropping the axe. Our guides prefer them for steep terrain. There are two downsides to the constant use of a leash. First, it adds time to a turn, because the axe must be on the uphill side of your body. Moving the wrist-leash from one hand to the other many hundreds of times throughout the day adds time to the clock. Second, if you fall and lose control of the axe, it may become a liability. The last thing that you want in a fall is to be punctured by the axe.

Some people like to attach the ice-axe leash to their harness. This is a very bad place to attach a leash. Any loss of control during a fall could lead to a catastrophic torso puncture injury.

People are very adamant about wanting to use a wrist-leash while climbing for fear of dropping the axe. But really, how common is it for a climber to drop an axe? Not common at all. An ice axe is like a mountaineer's weapon. How many soldiers in the heat of battle drop their weapons? While mountain climbing is definitely not as intense as a war, it can be a dangerous pursuit and most climbers are unlikely to drop the most important tool they carry.

In preparing this blog, I watched a number of videos about self-arrest techniques. There were quite a few bad examples and indeed, some that were just flat dangerous. If you practice self-arrest, always wear a helmet and do not attach the leash of the axe to yourself. Always practice in a place where there is a good run-out. And be conservative in your practice of the head-first/stomach technique as this is a very easy one to get hurt practicing.

Jason D. Martin

Thursday, June 18, 2015

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

Northwest:

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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



Sierra:

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

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

Desert Southwest:

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

Colorado:

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

Alaska:

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

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

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

Notes from All Over:

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

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Three-Piece Pre-Equalized Anchors

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

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



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

1) Create a high master point.

2) There are multiple ways to create equalization.

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

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

--Jason D. Martin


Monday, June 15, 2015

Film Review: Wild

Long ago in a different life, I had worked as a high school English and Drama teacher. In that role, I had the opportunity to teach the book, Jurrassic Park to high school freshmen. The students were enthralled, they had all seen the movie and were upset that the film didn't have everything in it that the book had...

"The book is better, Mr. Martin," they told me. And as a young teacher, I thought I had accomplished something with that.

But then I went to graduate school and studied writing with an emphasis on theater, film and criticism. (That was also when I started guiding.) In any case, I discovered that a book cannot be better than a movie. A book can only be better than another book. A movie can only be better than another movie. I discovered that these are different mediums and though they tell the same story, they can't really be compared effectively.

Books and films are different. A book is a very personal experience. You are inside the writer's head. A film can be a personal experience or a communal experience, but regardless of the way the content is consumed, the way the content is presented is uniformly different than that of a book...

And that brings us to the film adaptation of Cheryl Strayed's Wild. I absolutely adored the book. I truly feel that it is a great work of outdoor adventure literature. And I said so with an in depth book review a few years back.


Wild -- staring Reese Witherspoon as Cheryl Strayed -- is the story of a woman who hikes a large portion of the Pacific Crest Trail after loosing her mother. Cheryl hikes the trail to rid herself of the demons that haunted her after her mother's death. After her mom died, she quickly fell apart with a combination of drug abuse, random affairs, and the end of her young marriage. Cheryl knew that she needed a change. She needed to find a way to deal with her grief while building herself back up; so with little knowledge of wilderness travel, she decided to hike a large portion of the Pacific Crest Trail.

The young woman didn't really understand what she was getting herself into. She had never been backpacking before and she had no idea how to pack her pack or how to select boots for the trip, or even how to light her stove.

Right from the start the film version of Wild had one major piece of the book working against it. The story is a deep exploration of pain and grief that is ultimately cured by a self-imposed wilderness therapy. Clearly this is heady and hard to do in a screenplay. Novelist and screenwriter Nick Hornby (About a Boy, High Fidelity) was the perfect writer to adapt the autobiography. He understood how to get into Cheryl's head and how to present the dual story of her wilderness adventure with what lead her to the backcountry.

This isn't to say that the screenplay is perfect. Some of the flashbacks are hard to understand and key moments of the book appear are brushed over. For example, in the film she announces that she's pregnant and then it just seems to go away. It's never addressed later on. And a key moment with the death of a family pet that symbolizes the loss of Cheryl's mother happens quickly with little explanation and doesn't have anywhere near the impact it has in the book.

However, as stated at the beginning, this is a film and not a book. Director Jean-Marc Jean-Marc Vallée (Dallas Buyers Club) has a keen eye for shooting the wilderness. Many shots bring us to the PCT and to the cathartic experience that Cheryl had on her long-distance hike. One can understand why the wilderness impacted her and how she found her way into her soul through the experience via the work that Vallée did to bring us to the trail.

Reese Witherspoon (Election, Water for Elephants, Mud) is one of those actresses who is in dozens of films, but that you don't think about too much. She's always adequate in her roles, but she often doesn't stand out as being exceptional. But this was something different. This film allowed her to shine. It allowed her to show what she could really do. And indeed, she was nominated for Best Actress in the Academy Awards for her work in the film. We understand Cheryl through Witherspoon's portrayal and we understand her need to find herself...which is no easy task with a cerebral piece like this.

Ultimately, Wild is a very good, but not a great film. It aspires to be great and many of the elements are there -- we have an emotional ride with an excellent actress, a strong screenplay put together by a well-versed director -- but it doesn't quite make it. The flashbacks don't always work and that occasionally takes us out of the story. That's not to say that this film isn't worth your time. It is. It's incredibly engaging. Not only that, but there aren't that many serious films about the wilderness and what it does for people, and that alone makes it an important film for our community...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, June 12, 2015

Intro to Aid Technique

Free climbing is the technique of ascending a route with equipment and climbing protection, but without directly using that equipment to assist one's ascent. Instead, the equipment is used solely for safety. In direct opposition to this, aid climbing is the direct use of climbing equipment to climb a wall.

A basic aid pitch requires one to place a piece of protection. Once the piece is secure, the climber will clip an etrier or aider to that piece of gear. An etrier (which some people refer to as an aider) is a nylon ladder. The climber will climb up the etrier until she is as high as possible. The climber will then place another piece of gear and clip another etrier to this. An aid pitch requires one to do this repeatedly as he or she works up the route.

A big wall climb is a route that is so big, that it generally takes more than a day to complete. Many walls require one to haul bags full of food, water and equipment as well as to use a portable ledge (a portaledge). This type of climbing can be equated to vertical backpacking.

Most big wall climbs require a great deal of aid climbing. Part of the reason that one must sleep on the wall is because aid climbing is incredibly slow. There has to be a piece of gear of some sort every six feet. If a climber is not quick with her system, then the time will add up very quickly and a Grade IV will turn into a Grade VI.

Aid climbing requires a lot of unusual gear. Following is a quick glossary of simple aid terms. There is a lot more to this aspect of climbing and this should simply be thought of as a quick intro:
  1. Hook -- This is literally a hook that one might use as a piece of protection. A climber will put a small metal hook over a rock lip and then clip the etrier to it in order to move up.
  2. Jumar -- The second (the follower) on an aid pitch is required to climb the rope instead of the rock. The second will usually do this with mechanical ascenders called jumars. The act of climbing up the rope with these is called jugging.
  3. A1-A5 -- The aid grade system. An A1 placement is perfect and could hold a bus. An A5 placement is really bad and will only hold bodyweight.
  4. Daisy Chain -- This is a personal anchor system with a series of loops sewn into it. A climber can place a hook (called a fifi hook) on her harness an hook the loops of the daisy to shorten it.
  5. Hauling -- The act of dragging a bag up the wall. This is the most miserable part of an aid climb.
  6. Copperhead -- A wire with a maleable copper top. These can be pounded into a crack and will usually hold bodyweight on high end aid climbs.
  7. Nailing -- A pitch that requires the use of pitons.
The following videos provide an introduction to aid technique with a focus on the methods required to climb a big wall.





At AAI we currently teach aid climbing in our Aid and Big Wall Seminar.  Additionally, we teach it in one of the Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership Part III options.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, June 11, 2015

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

Northwest:

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

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

Sierra:

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

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

Desert Southwest:

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

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

Colorado:

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

Alaska:

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

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

Notes from All Over:

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Training: Lockoffs and Campusing

The Climbing Movement Essential Training Series on Youtube is kind of awesome. The series is composed of a number of well produced videos that focus on different aspects of training for climbing.

The ability to lockoff your arms right after pulling up is a key movement to steep climbing on both rock and ice. This video explores some workout techniques that you might use to train for this.



In review:
  1. Set-up a campus sequence using big holds. The goal here is to set-up a sequence where you can lock off each move for 3 seconds.
  2. 3 Campus sequences in the wall, with three sets and 90-seconds of rest between sets.
  3. You will climb up and down using this technique until you're brought to failure.
  4. Failure should happen in 20-40 seconds. If you can hold on longer than 40-seconds, change the holds and make it harder.
  5. Keep track of your time.
  6. And practice!
--Jason D. Martin

Monday, June 8, 2015

Route Profile: Liberty Bell - The Beckey Route (5.6, II)

When I was twenty-years-old, some friends and I made our way up toward Liberty Bell Mountain in the North Cascades. We had climbed a few multi-pitch routes prior to that, but this was going to be one of our first real alpine multi-pitch climbs.

We approached in the late afternoon with the intent to bivy. That was the night that a marmot tried to cuddle up with me in my sleeping bag. I awoke with a shout, just as scared as the little furry animal as it darted away into the night.

The next morning we made our way up to the Beckey Route. I remember thinking that it was hard for the grade, which is something that I still think over twenty years later. I remember my partner being terrified on the rappels, even though they're not that exposed. And that's about all I remember from that first ascent of the route.

Since then, I've climbed the route literally dozens of times. I'never camped below it again. The route is totally reasonable from the car and back in a day. But it remains an incredibly fun line.

Most of the time the approach to the base is trivial. But in the spring of 2013, we found
getting on the route to be the crux of the day. A snowstorm had plastered ice all over the 
base of the route. Luckily, we were able to climb past it and up into the sun.

 This is a photo of a climber leading the first pitch of the route.
As this is an easy photo to get, it is a popular spot to take an iconic photo.

 Climbing the chimney on the second pitch. This pitch is always easier
without a backpack.

 AAI Guides James Pierson and Jeremy Wilson high on the Beckey Route.
Jeremy is on a variation in this photo.

Climbers moving down the upper part of the mountain.

The AAI Guide Class of 2012, on the summit of Liberty Bell.
From left to right: Liz Daley, Everett Chamberlain, Tad McCrea, James Pierson, Jeremy Wilson

--Jason D. Martin




Friday, June 5, 2015

Everest - Official Trailer




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

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

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, June 4, 2015

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

Northwest:

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

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

Sierra:

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


Colorado:

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

Denali Team Updates:

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

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


Notes from All Over:


(Photo: Pamir Horse Adventure)

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

How it's Made: Climbing Ropes

The Discovery Channel used to have a wonderfully engaging television show entitled, How it's Made. Some time ago, they ran an episode on how ropes are made with a focus on climbing ropes and yachting ropes.

Check out the video below:



Sterling Ropes also produced a video on how climbing ropes are made. Though the production values of this video are a little bit lower than that of the Discovery Channel show, there is a great deal more specific information about climbing rope construction. There are also a few goofy jokes that make this video fun to watch.

See the Sterling video below:



--Jason D. Martin

Monday, June 1, 2015

AAI Alpinism 1 and Baker Skills Climb

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

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

Hiking over the glacier toward the icefall.

Practicing roped team travel in complex terrain.  

White out navigation on the glacier.

A perfect place to fill our water bottles. 

Checking on the victim while practicing crevasse rescue.

Hauling the victim using pull systems.



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










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