Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The Birth and Death of a Carabiner

A few weeks ago we put up a post on rope construction. Black Diamond has produced a little video entitled, "The Birth of a Carabiner." The video doesn't dwell on narration or anything else, it's just a quick peak inside a shop where carabiners are made.

Of course, once carabiners are made, a couple are tested from every batch. In other words, this is the death part of this blog.

The following video from Omega Pacific shows a force test on a carabiner. This is an awesome video. It's pretty intense to watch as the tester puts more and more and more pressure on it...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 28, 2015

Definitions for Beginners: Top-Rope vs. Lead vs. Bouldering vs. Free Solo

There is a legitimate concern that some have put forward concerning this blog. Occasionally, I get a little bit too techy and forget that climbers with a multitude of skill levels read these articles. It's good to step back a little bit sometimes and make sure that everyone is on board with some of the basics.

There are four terms that we use quite often on this blog.  First, the term top-rope.  Second, the term lead, as in lead-climber. Third, the term bouldering.  And fourth, the term free-soloing.  Following is a breakdown of these terms and their definitions.

Top-Rope Climber

A top-rope climber is a person who has a rope running from his or her harness, up to an anchor at the top of a cliff and then back down to a belayer at the base.  This is a standard technique, and it is the technique regularly used for beginning level climbers and at rock gyms.

A Climber Belays another Climber on Top-Rope in Joshua Tree National Park
Photo by Jason Martin

The value of a top-rope is that it is highly unlikely that a climber will fall very far.  The rope can be somewhat tight if the climber is a beginner or somewhat loose if he or she is comfortable.

Lead Climber

In essence, the lead climber is the guy that "gets the rope up there." A belayer pays out rope to a person as he climbs up.  The leader places rock protection as he goes and clips his rope to it.  He then continues climbing above the protection.  Should the leader fall ten feet above his last piece of protection, he will fall past his gear, and the belayer will catch him after he has fallen twenty feet.  The rope stretches so that the impact is not as great on the leader.

A Leader Working His Way Up a Climb

The act of falling on lead can be very safe, or quite dangerous.  It all depends on whether the fall is "clean" or not.  A clean fall means that there is nothing for the leader to hit.  A fall above a ledge or a protrusion could lead to serious injury.

Leading can be done in a very responsible way that limits one's exposure to danger.  But it does take a lot of training and practice to bring one's abilities to such a level where he or she has a good understanding of what kind of gear placements will hold a fall and what kind will not.


Bouldering is one of the fastest growing types of climbing.  In this, a climber does not use a rope, but also does not climb more than a few feet off the ground.  A boulderer is focused on making a handful of hard moves and will often work on those moves for a long period of time before completing a sequence.

Most boulderers use a pad or commercial bouldering mattress to protect themselves from ground-falls.  Every climber who falls bouldering hits a mat or the ground, as such there is some danger involved in the sport. 

Free Soloing

Often confused with free climbing, (which is simply climbing without the use of direct aid, but with a rope) free soloing is the art of climbing a route without a rope.

Obviously free soloing is the most dangerous type of climbing that there is.  If an individual falls in this situation, survival is highly unlikely.

Climbing is a varied sport with many different aspects to it.  Not every aspect is for every person.  Ultimately, the amount of risk that you choose to engage in within the sport is completely up to you. Indeed, the level of accomplishment you feel engaging in any kind of climbing is also completely personal.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 25, 2015

Snake Bites: First Aid and Prevention

As the climbing season in the Southwest goes through the high season of March and April, I am often asked about snakes. Are there snakes in Red Rock? Are there snakes in Joshua Tree? Are they dangerous?

The answer to all three questions is yes...and no. There are rattlesnakes in both Red Rock and Joshua Tree, but they are uncommon in both venues. Large populations of predatory birds help keep the snake populations low. It is unlikely that you will encounter a snake in either location. And even if you do, the likelihood of a problem with a snake is very low.

Mojave Rattlesnake
Statistically the mostly likely group of individuals to be bitten by a snake are between the ages of 15 and 25 years-old and are male. Most of these bites take place on the hands or forearms. I couldn't find any statistics about the involvement of alcohol in snake bites.

Based on my last sentence, what do you suppose such statistics suggest?

Yep, you guessed it. They're messing with them.

Millions of people live, work and play in the same places where snakes live, work and play. In the continental United States less than 8,000 people are bitten by snakes every year and as stated above, a large percentage of them are literally asking for it.

In the unlikely event that somebody in your party does receive a snakebite, don't panic and try to keep the victim calm. Many snakebites happen because the snake is defending itself. When a snake bites out of defense it is less likely to envenomate. So there is the possibility that there is no venom in the bite. So there may be nothing to panic about.

If there is venom in the bite, panicking will only raise one's heart-rate and allow the venom to move more quickly through the system. It is incredibly important to keep the victim calm. Remove any jewelry or rings from any extremity that has been bitten. If there is venom in the bite, there will be significant swelling -- so much that a ring could become stuck, cutting off blood flow and ultimately causing the loss of a finger.

In the old movies, John Wayne loved to cut open a snakebite to suck out the venom. John Wayne was apparently unaware of hepatitis, HIV, cytomegalovirus or any of a number of other blood-borne dangers. Doctors and nurses don't wear latex gloves for nothing. Sucking venom out of a wound flies in the face of a basic tenant of first aid, body substance isolation.

Obviously if someone is bitten by a snake, call for emergency assistance immediately. Responding quickly is crucial. While waiting for emergency assistance:
  • Wash the bite with soap and water.
  • Immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than the heart.
  • Cover the area with a clean, cool compress or a moist dressing to minimize swelling and discomfort.
  • Monitor vital signs.
If a victim is unable to reach medical care within 30 minutes, the American Red Cross recommends:
  • Apply a bandage, wrapped two to four inches above the bite, to help slow the venom. This should not cut off the flow of blood from a vein or artery - the band should be loose enough to slip a finger under it.
  • It is possible to place a suction deviceover the bite to help draw venom out of the wound without making cuts. These devices are often included in commercial snake bite kits. However, the value of these devices is debatable.
Physicians often use antivenin -- an antidote to snake venom -- to treat serious snake bites. Antivenin is derived from antibodies created in a sheep's blood serum when the animal is injected with snake venom. Because antivenin is obtained from horses, snake bite victims sensitive to horse products must be carefully managed.

The best way to avoid a snakebite is to avoid a snake. If you see one, don't mess with it. Both you and the snake will be much happier in the long-run.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/24/15


--Linn County Sheriff's Search and Rescue on Monday afternoon recovered the body of a mountain climber from Bend who fell several hundred feet and died Sunday near the summit of Three Fingered Jack in the Mount Jefferson Wilderness. To read more, click here.

Liz Daley guides a climber up the North Ridge of Mt. Baker.

--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.

--Timberline Lodge, the only ski area in the United States to offer near year-round skiing, is facing a dilemma. The Palmer Snowfield on which Timberline Lodge offers skiing and riding is melting, fast. In a rare move, Timberline Lodge closed early this year due to lack of snow. To read more and see photos, click here.

--The U.S. Forest Service is moving 15,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil from popular hiking trails near the Monte Cristo mine in the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. The site was a gold dig area for decades starting in the early 1890s. Miners left waste rock behind, filled with high levels of arsenic and lead. USFS received $11 million from a bankruptcy settlement to fund the project, which has drawn criticism. Some believe the landfill where the dirt is going to be stored has not been properly stabilized. It is also less than 200-feet from Glacier Creek and hiking trails. To read more, click here.

--The book Crossing Zion will have a release party/presentation on October 1st at Village Books in Bellingham. To learn more, click here.

--After being closed for a period of time, the Three Fingers Lookout is open again...

--So, a father and son team shot a bear with an arrow. The bear was angry and came after them. And now -- unless the bear died -- there's a bear running around out there somewhere with an arrow sticking out of it... To read more, click here.

--A camera was found near the Goat Flats in the Three Fingers area. The person who found it has the memory card. To read more, click here.


--It appears that there was a fatality on Mt. Whitney last week during a rain storm. However, there is little information on it at this time. Supertopo has a thread on the incident, here.

--Ski mountaineer and guide Bela Vadasz died last Tuesday. Outside of California’s Sierra Nevada, many may not know his name, but his impact on the backcountry community stretched far across the world. To read more, click here.

--A young mountain lion is fighting for his life after rescuers were lucky enough to find him among the rubble and ruins of California's rampant wildfires. The 3- to 4-month-old cub was found early last week, underweight and singed from the flames. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A hiker was injured in Ice Box Canyon this week. To read more, click here.


--A federal jury on Monday convicted a Colorado man of murdering his wife by shoving her from a cliff while they hiked in Rocky Mountain National Park on their 12th wedding anniversary. Harold Henthorn, 59, had claimed that his wife fell 130 feet to her death while pausing to take a picture on Sept. 29, 2012. But after 10 hours of deliberations, the jury in Denver convicted him of first-degree murder. A life sentence is mandatory when he is formally sentenced in December. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A climber was rescued at Hanging Rock State Park Thursday night in North Carolina. To read more, click here.

--A climber was injured in a fall at Signal Mountain in Tennessee. To read more, click here.

--The American Safe Climbing Association is making a push for funds to replace bolts throughout the US. To read more, click here.

--O Friday, the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources’ ranking member, Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Arizona), and five other Democrats formally introduced a new bill in an effort to bring more funding to national parks, according to Environment & Energy Publishing. To read more, click here.

--The National Park Service announced Monday that electronic cigarette use is now banned anywhere smoking is prohibited on its vast and far-flung landholdings. National Park Service Director Jonathan Jarvis publicly announced the new policy in a press release, describing it as a step to safeguard people’s health – fighting words for advocates of the devices, which vaporize liquid that's generally laced with nicotine. To read more, click here.

--Here's a nice article on why we need more female outdoor leaders...

--A youth climbing team in Alaska is looking for funds to travel to climbing competitions. To learn more, click here.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Film Review: Meru

Conrad Anker and Jimmy Chin have been major names in the climbing world for a long time. Both of the athletes have built themselves into climbing superstars.  Conrad is world famous for his ascents and even made waves in the non-climbing world by finding the body of George Mallory on Mt. Everest. Jimmy is well known for his climbing photography and cinematography.

In 2004, I was living in Las Vegas and guiding in Red Rock Canyon every day. Many of my friends at the time were living the "dirt bag" lifestyle, living out of their cars and getting after it whenever they could. It was then that I met a young climber who had just linked up three huge classic lines in Red Rock. Renan Ozturk linked Epinephrine (5.9, IV), Cloud Tower (5.12a, IV) and Levitation 29 (5.11c, IV) in a single day. I was absolutely amazed. Each of those lines are not only big, but are nowhere near each other...

It didn't surprise me when I started to hear stories about Renan climbing with Conrad and Jimmy. There's no doubt that he had the chops to play in the same world class arena as the other two.

There have been several articles and films that featured each one of these climbers over the last several years. But none of them come close to the aesthetic quality and the human tension that exists in the film, Meru.

Meru tells the story of the three climbers and one mountain: Meru. Or to be more specific, the Shark's Fin of Meru, which is a massive granite peak that combines mountaineering, ice climbing, mixed climbing and A4 big wall climbing skills to ascend. Dozens of parties have tried the route, but no one had succeeded.

Conrad attempted the route in 2003 with Doug Chabot and Bruce Miller, but failed. They simply didn't expect it to be as challenging as it was. The film chronicles his return to the mountain with Renan and Jimmy in 2008 and 2011.

In the course of the film, we discover that all three of the men have dealt with close calls and loss. Conrad's mentor died first, and then his best friend. Renan becomes seriously injured in an avalanche. And Jimmy barely escapes from another avalanche with his life.

The three men all have different reasons for climbing Meru. It was a dream passed down to Conrad from Mugs Stump, his alpine mentor. It was a passion for Jimmy as he slowly brought himself back into the climbing and skiing world from his brush with death. And it was an absolute necessity for Renan to prove to himself that he still is who he was before his accident.

Meru is a beautiful film. The scenery mixed with the expert cinematography is breathtaking. But the real story is the story of the three men, mountain partners who work together to achieve a goal while sealing the bonds of friendship...

There is no doubt that it was a tremendously difficult task to make such a film in such conditions. There were times when I was amazed by the fact that the camera elevates as if by a boom (where did they get a boom in the mountains?) to provide a better shot. There were other times that I was shocked that they kept the camera rolling when someone was clearly in pain or at the edge. And there were times that I was amazed by the fact that they probably had to climb something twice or even three times in order to get a shot. And indeed, I was amazed by the fact that it all came together so seamlessly. Meru is a testament to documentary filmmaking. It is a testament to what can be done...

I had an unusual experience in this film. It was the first documentary-style climbing film that I had ever seen with a non-climber audience. Most of the films that I see like this are at Reel Rock Film Festival, at Banff Film Festival or at 5 Point Film Festival. The people watching films at these types of festivals tend to be like-minded individuals, who don't hyperventilate at the heights depicted or question the motives of the climbers.

It was valuable to have this experience watching the film with non-climbers, in part because hearing the reactions and the gasps of the audience reminded me what a beautiful place the mountains are, and how the images of what we do inspire others. But we need inspiration too. And that's where the value of a movie like this comes into play. Those of us who are not world class climbers need people like Conrad, Jimmy and Renan to inspire us. And a film like Meru does exactly that. It reminds us what is possible...

Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/17/15


--A climber killed in a fall at a mountain in Mount Rainier National Park has been recovered. The climber fell Sunday while climbing The Chief, a peak of Sluiskin Mountain located northwest of Mount Rainier. According to the National Parks Service, the climber was part of a party of three camping and climbing in the Lake Crescent area. The climbing team gained the 7,026-foot summit, but the climber fell on the descent. To read more, click here.

--Check out the ROCK PROJECT this weekend in Index. The event is brought to you by the Access Fund. AAI Guides Mike Pond and Chad Cochran will be teaching. To learn more, click here.

--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.

--It looks like many of the Pacific Northwest fire bands have been lifted. To read more, click here.

--A new route has been climbed on Mt. Triumph. To read a trip report, click here.

--The recent "renaming" of Denali has brought up several other place names that should have a conversation about naming. The most egregious places are not those that have had their native names taken away, but those that have had racist names applied to them. To read more, click here.

--Oregon’s Mt. Bachelor is facing more than $20 million in lawsuits accusing it of negligence in building its terrain park, and so far the courts have not been the resort’s favor. To read more, click here.


--Legendary mountain guide Bela Vadasz passed away yesterday at the age of 62. Bela was a technical director of the International Federation of Mountain Guides (IFMGA), Owner of Alpine Skills International (ASI), a fully IFMGA certified mountain guide, recipient of the American Mountain Guides Association’s Lifetime Acheivement Award, and absolute god on skis. To read more, click here.

--Hans Florine of the Bay Area has completed his 100th ascent of the Nose Route of El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. To read more, click here.

--California's snowpack was the worst it's been in 500-years. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Four people were found dead and three people were still missing Tuesday after flash floods in Utah's Zion National Park Monday, officials said. The deaths occurred as a group was exploring Keyhole Canyon. In a community to the south of the park, flash floods Monday also killed at least 12 people. The National Park Service said 0.63 inches of rain fell over Zion National Park between 4:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Monday, causing flooding. To read more, click here.

--The Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Campground has reopened.

--The Los Angeles Times ran a story on the Red Rock Canyon program that AAI helped to facilitate with the Bureau of Land Management. To read the story, click here.

--In a long-sought victory, a group of preservationists has completed the acquisition of a 690-acre land parcel west of the western entrance to Joshua Tree National Park. Ten years in the making, the Joshua Tree-based Mojave Desert Land Trust — which since 2006 has purchased 54,000 acres of desert land for protection — plans to restore the property, called Quail Wash, and to donate the parcel to the national park. To read more, click here.

--Climbers universally do better at the American Ninja Warrior than non-climbers. It appears that professional climber Isaac Caldiero, recently won $100,000,000 at the event. To read more, click here. To see his final run at the event, click on the video below.


--Dr. Matt Davis was killed in a fall on the Crestone Needle. It appears that he unroped in a section where people commonly unrope and slipped. To read more, click here.

--Here's an interesting article about the demise of Branner Snowboards, a boutique splitboard company.

--Local Summit County resorts are putting the finishing touches on their annual round of upgrades. This year’s changes might not be as obvious to skiers and snowboarders as in 2014-15, when Arapahoe Basin Ski Area’s $2.3 million kids center became the fourth building in its base area, Breckenridge Ski Resort put in a higher-capacity Colorado Superchair and Loveland Ski Area constructed an on-mountain cabin. Vail Resorts is focused on Utah this year as it integrates the resort formerly known as Canyons into one unified Park City. Local ski area visitors can expect remodeled buildings, more snowmaking and new app features for the 2015-16 winter season.

--So there is a trail that has been closed because of too many bear selfies. In other words, some idiot takes a picture of him or herself in front of a bear. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--An accident took place in Canada near Field, but little else is known. To see the info available, click here.

--A 62-year-old man used his cellphone to call 911 after he was mauled by a bear while walking a neighbor's dog in Alaska woods, authorities said Monday. Danny High of Funny River, Alaska, was in intensive care at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said his family doesn't want details released about his injuries. To read more, click here.

--DMM has issued a carabiner recall. To read more, click here.

--Toronto firefighters staged a potentially dangerous rescue to save a climber who got stuck near the top of the Scarborough Bluffs. Toronto Fire Capt. Mike Strapko said the climber's brother reported the emergency around 2:13 p.m. after the man couldn't top an edge near the top of the steep cliff near the Bluffer's Park Beach. To read more, click here.

--A recent analysis of avalanche fatalities on the worlds highest peaks suggests that 75% of those fatalities were the result of poor decision making and forecasting. To read more, click here.

--If nothing is done, then by the middle of next year the world will run out of one of the safest and most effective treatments for snakebites. This could lead to tens of thousands of preventable deaths, warns the international medical organization Doctors Without Borders (MSF), which urges the global health community to take action in tackling one of the planet’s most neglected public health emergencies. To read more, click here.

--Ultramarathoner Scott Jurek will pay a $500 fine for drinking atop Mount Katahdin in Maine after his record-breaking Appalachian Trail run as part of a plea bargain in which two other citations were dismissed. District Court Judge Kevin Stitham approved the plea deal during a hearing Wednesday in Millinocket District Court. To read more, click here.

--It was announced last week that 21st Century Fox and the National Geographic Society are creating a for-profit, commercial company that will encompass all National Geographic properties, including its magazines, websites and television channels. Fox will own 73% of this new company. To read more, click here.

Hipster Hiker Barbie uses canister stoves.

--So, Hipster Hiker Barbie is a thing... Who woulda thunk?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Film Review: High Lane

There are a lot of horror-style movies out there that involve climbing in some way. Most of them are not just bad, but are really bad. It's actually somewhat uncommon to come across one that is...mediocre.

The reality of most film of all genres is that it's mediocre. You're often not totally bored. You find some engagement with the characters and then when the movie is over, you quickly forget it. Surprisingly, really bad films tend to stay with you a bit longer.

High Lane (2009) is one of those mediocre films that will likely drop out of my brain shortly after I write this blog. But that doesn't mean that I wasn't engaged by it. For a "horror-thriller" style film, set in the mountains, it was much better than most of its competitors, but that's not really saying much.

Five friends decide to go on a trip to Croatia where they will take a via ferrata route up into the mountains. For those who are uninitiated, via ferrata is a form of climbing where one wears a harness rigged with lobster claws. The via ferrata routes follow cables and ladders -- many of which were set during World War II -- through the mountains. If you fall, the lobster claws attached to your harness will catch you.

In any case the friends are composed of two women and three men. One of the women, Chloé (Fanny Valette), previously dated one of the men, Loïc (Johan Libéreau) and is currently dating one of the other men, Guillaume, (Raphaël Lenglet). This provides a bit of tension throughout the story, and indeed, is one of the subplots that raises this film above many of its competitors.

The group is lead by Fred (Nicolas Giraud), an accomplished climber who is sure that he can bring the group up into the mountains on a via ferreta route that is rusty and falling apart. Needless to say, he doesn't do a good job and the team gets caught in the mountains. And of course, the fact that they're caught is compounded by the fact that there is a delusional psychopath in the mountains that has set traps all over the place and might be a cannibal...or something. All of this leads to where most horror movies lead to, a combination of blood and guts and edge-of-your-seat tension.

There is one scene that is particularly interesting for climbers. The via ferrata completely falls apart and the climbers are stuck with two injured people in the forest above the cliffs. They have a rope, but pretty much nothing else: no gear, no extra clothes, nothing.

One of the great values of a film like this is that we tend to put ourselves in the characters shoes...and I have to admit that this was one time where I wasn't sure what I would do. The situation was incredibly difficult. Especially with the lack of equipment to rig anything. It's scenes like this that make this type of film worth watching. What would you do...?

High Lane is a French film that has been dubbed. This is a bit disconcerting at the start. I generally prefer films that have subtitles. But the dubbing is doubly disconcerting because there are sections in English where the characters lips line up, but then they start speaking in French again. This is annoying. However, the plot is just interesting enough to allow you to forget about the dubbing.

A second larger problem with this film is the way that the director (Abel Ferry) elected to cut together footage that was designed to raise tension.

Here's an example: A character is running. Another character is loading a crossbow. A character is running. Another character is still loading the crossbow. The first character is still running and the music is intense so he must be in danger, but the other character is still loading the crossbow.

Most directors would make three cuts where Ferry elected to make six or seven. The intent to create tension goes on for so long that there is no tension anymore...

Early in this review I noted that there is tension between two male characters over a female character. Though the characters actions are sometimes stupid (like fighting with one another while being hunted by a madman), this little subplot provides a small amount of depth to otherwise flat characters. It also provides a few plot twists that allow for a more interesting story.

The via ferreta sequences are mostly true to the way they would actually be...minus cables randomly breaking. That's a given in this kind of film, and I'm willing to suspend my disbelief. Indeed though, if nothing else, this film gets viewers psyched for cool via ferrata routes

High Lane is an engaging ride that explores some places that other similar mountain thrill-horror movies do not. But that doesn't mean it's a good movie...but if you've got nothing else to do, it might be worth an hour and a half of your time...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fixed Lines for Cragging

There are many types of fixed lines. Some climbers use fixed lines in aid climbing to get back to their high point. Some climbers use them in expeditionary climbing to protect exhaustingly long slopes. And others use them more simply just to move up and down from the top of a smaller crag.

Each style of fixed rope has its uses, but surprisingly, the style used the most is the third style. Short sections of fixed rope are common at cragging areas throughout the country. Most of these ropes are used to facilitate classes for beginners.

Fixed lines are designed to protect an individual who is moving over exposed second, third or even fourth class terrain. In this application (with beginners) they shouldn't be used for more difficult terrain. Instead, such terrain should probably be belayed.

Fixed lines are relatively simple to install. Build a 12-point SERENE anchor at the top and then work your way down the exposed area, placing gear along the way. At each piece of gear, the fixed line should be clipped in with an overhand eight knot. It should not run through the carabiners freely as this would defeat the purpose of the pieces. Each stretch of rope should be isolated.

There are three ways that an individual might use a fixed line. First, they might simply use it as a handline. This is the simplest way as there is little for climbers to do but hold the line. Such a use indicates that the likelyhood of a fall is low and that an individual or a group simply needs a little bit of additional security.

Climbers moving down a hand-line.

Second, they might use the lobster claw technique. This is where an individual girth-hitches two slings to their tie-in point. A locking carabiner is then clipped to the end of each sling. A climber can then clip both slings to the fixed line as he or she moves up the line. As the climber gets to set pieces, he or she can clip past the piece without coming completely off the rope.

A static line protecting a brushy ledge. Note the pieces along the rope.

Another view of a static line protecting an exposed area along a trail.

The third technique is to place a prussik on the fixed line. A prussik offers the most security as it won't allow a person to fall anywhere if they slip. If you have one section that requires such tactics, it's not a bad idea to pre-rig the prussiks so that the beginner doesn't have to rig it in an exposed area.

No matter which style of line you employ, a good rule of thumb is that only one person should be attached to a given part of the line. You should never have two people in the same part of the system.

Fixed lines are great, but they should not take the place of a real belay. Before exposing your beginner friends to a fixed line, be sure that it makes sense. Be sure that it is the best solution to your problem. And be sure that everybody knows what they're supposed to do when they move up or down the line...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/10/15


--The North Cascades will have the biggest single year glacial volume loss in fifty-years this year. To read the depressing news, click here.

--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.

--Here's an update on the teenage girl who was involved in a plane crash in the North Cascades, lost her grandparents in the crash, and then walked out alone...

Desert Southwest:

--Zion National Park’s trail crew will be working on two of the bridges along West Rim Trail from Sept. 21 to Oct. 15. Due to the locations of the bridges and the work needing to be done, portions of the West Rim Trail, including the section needed to reach Angels Landing, will be closed intermittently. These closures will affect both day hikers and those wishing to obtain wilderness permits for canyoneering and overnight camping/climbing. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--It appears that Chris Christy, the Republican Governor of New Jersey, just lost the climber vote. Here are some comments he made as reported by the Adventure Journal:

“You have rocks. Right out there,” Christie said. “What the hell do you need a rock climbing wall for? Tell the kids at UNH, ‘Go outside and climb those rocks.’ Not the rocks inside. Climb the other rocks.

“What have I found as I’ve gone around the country? There’s a rock climbing wall epidemic going on. There’s a rock climbing wall at Notre Dame. Two of them in fact. There’s a rock climbing wall at Princeton. I went to Iowa State. There’s a rock climbing wall there. They’re everywhere. God knows what else they’re building on these campuses that’s costing us a ton of money that we don’t know. Imagine if you saw your bill and then we had one percent of your tuition went to the rock climbing wall. We would march on these places!”

--A psychology student is looking for volunteers to participate in a study on personality traits in climbers. To participate, click here.

--Mt. Malaspina (12,388') in the Yukon has seen only only one documented attempt in 1976. In mid-August, Camilo Rada and Natalia Martinez became the first to summit the peak, the highest named, unclimbed peak in North America. They rated their 6,000-foot line up the peak's East Ridge TD AI2 55-65 degrees. To read more, click here.

--Scott Bennett and Graham Zimmerman completed a new route on K6 West in Pakistan’s Karakoram in late August. It was their second first ascent since arriving in the Nangmah Valley in July. To read more, click here.

--The lawyer for a runner who set a speed record for completing the Appalachian Trail is set to meet with a prosecutor and judge in Maine to see if a settlement can be reached over citations issued for violating rules in Baxter State Park. Scott Jurek of Colorado was cited for drinking Champagne, littering and hiking in an oversize group when he reached the summit of Mount Katahdin in July. To read more, click here.

--Denali is officially 20,310 feet, ten feet shorter than previously thought, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced last week. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

UIAA Gear Testing Videos

A couple of weeks ago, we posted a video of a carabiner strength test. The video was very popular. We got to see a press destroy a carabiner. Videos of gear breaking are always engaging. As a result, today we have posted a few more climbing gear testing videos from the UIAA. These are both terrifying and a lot of fun all at the same time!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 7, 2015

Urban Dictionary Definition - MountainSexual

Yep, the urban dictionary has defined us...


Similar to metrosexual, but one who lives in the mountains or otherwise pursues the outdoors adventure lifestyle. Kind of a cleaned-up granola, a woodsy GQ kinda' guy with a splash of bohemian. Knows that he doesn't have to look or smell like a dirtbag to enjoy climbing, hiking, cycling, skiing, (all forms), snowshoeing, etc. Probably reads Men's Journal, Outside, and Alpinist. Brands: Patagonia, Keen, Kuhl, The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, Mountain Khakis. Stong environmental ethic. Drives a well-maintained truck, performance SUV, or cross-over when absolutely necessary but walks or rides a bicycle whenever possible. Works out at the gym, but primarily to be in shape for outdoor pursuits. Shuns chain stores and shops.

"For such an outdoorsy guy, that dude sure has great style."

"Yeah, he's a veritable MountainSexual!"

It's funny because it's true...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 4, 2015

Equipment Review: Z-Packs 40-Degree Sleeping Bag

It was a cold night, and I found myself on top of Liberty Bell shivering. My co-instructor and I had decided to do a double-whammy in Washington Pass: climb the South Arete of South Early Winters Spire and then the Beckey Route on Liberty Bell in a day with our students. So we executed a planned bivy on the summit of Liberty Bell, and packed light because we also had to carry extra water, first-aid kits and of course a rock rack while leading.

But as the temps dipped into the 40's, I found myself regretting the decision not to bring a sleeping bag. I had all my warm layers on, but still shivered through the night and barely slept at all. That's when I resolved to invest in an ultra-lightweight sleeping bag for climbing trips, and ended up buying a Z-Packs 40-degree down sleeping bag (Full disclosure: Z-Packs gave me a discount on my purchase in exchange for writing a review).

Photo by Caitlin Brown

Overall, I have been impressed with this bag. My 40-degree bag squishes down to about the size of two Naglene water bottles put together, and Z-Packs sends the bags out with lightweight and strong Cuben fiber stuff sacks.

The bag is filled with 900-fill down inside a ripstop nylon shell and holds true to its temperature ratings--it's kept me warm and cozy on trips to climb Mt. Russell, in the Emigrant Wilderness, and on multiple Mt. Baker summit climbs. The 40-degree bag is incredibly lightweight at just 11.4 ounces, and it's also available in 30-degree, 20-degree, and 10-degree versions. These are great bags for ounce-counting climbers operating in environments where they can depend on staying dry (it's not water-resistant down, so if you've got rain in the forecast stick to a synthetic bag).

One of the main ways Z-Packs able to make the bags so light is by cutting out any extraneous features. Since a lot of people don't use the hoods of their sleeping bags unless it's REALLY cold out, they cut out the hood altogether and the bag just goes up to your shoulders and cinches down with a drawcord. The zipper also only goes 3/4 of the way down and is designed for you to lay on top of it instead of using a draft tube to trap heat.

The cuts to these features means it's not most tricked-out bag with all the coolest design items. But it's simple, light and has what you need, which for minimalist climbers is all you ask for.

--Shelby Carpenter, AAI Instructor and Guide

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/3/15


--Glaciers on Mount Baker and other mountains in the North Cascades are thinning and retreating. Seven have disappeared over the past three decades, and the overall volume of glaciers in the range have lost about one-fifth of their volume. The shrinking glaciers here mirror what is happening around the U.S. and worldwide: As the planet warms, glaciers are losing volume, some faster than others. To read more, click here.

--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.


--The family of a woman who was rescued after being stranded in the rugged Sierra Nevada for nine days said Sunday that she is recovering from surgery to set the broken bones on her lower left leg. Miyuki Harwood's family said in a statement that she has asked for "uninterrupted rest and quiet." Harwood, 62, was found Saturday morning in a remote area of the Sierra National Forest after she used a whistle to get the attention of a search and rescue team looking for her. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The search continues in the Sandia Mountains for a missing climber. The team is looking for 40-year-old Bryan Conkling who failed to return after a weekend trip. To read more, click here.


--The eastbound U.S. 24 exit to Manitou Springs was closed Monday afternoon after a climber fell in the area, according to a tweet by Colorado Springs Traffic. To read more, click here.

--Vail Resorts and the town of Breckenridge have reached an agreement on a November ballot measure that will ask the town's voters to approve long-term funding for parking projects through a tax on winter-only lift tickets, but not season passes. The deal drops Vail Resorts' wildly successful Epic Pass from the tax plan to impose a 4.5 percent tax on lift tickets to raise money to support the town's parking and transit projects. Vail Resorts is guaranteeing the tax will raise at least $3.5 million a year for the town. To read more, click here.

--Vail Resorts will spend $100 million to $115 million on improvements at its nine ski areas for the 2015-16 winter, pushing the resort operator's five-year mountain investments beyond $500 million. To read more, click here.


--In huge news for Alaska, President Obama announced on Sunday that Mount McKinley was being renamed Denali, using his executive power to restore an Alaska Native name with deep cultural significance to the tallest mountain in North America.

--Some people are pretty upset about the renaming of the mountain that we all called Denali anyway. To read about it, click here.

--For those who are freaking out about this, here's a nice piece on why you shouldn't be freaking out. If you're a regular on our blog, you'll note that we never call in McKinley. So maybe this article isn't for you, but for your relative that's freaking out.

Notes from All Over:

--A climbing accident has killed two men in Wyoming's Wind River Range, marking the second double climbing fatality in the state in a week. The Fremont County coroner's office identified the victims from Friday's fall as Jonathan Peter MacDonald, 23, who lived both in Lander, Wyoming, and Scottsbluff, Nebraska, and Keith Murray Henderson, 57, of Cheyenne. To read more, click here.

--A 21-year-old Moran, Wyoming man was rescued from the Middle Teton after a fall Saturday afternoon. Justin Bodrero fell about 100 feet on a snow field and another 100 feet into a boulder field while descending the mountain. To read more, click here.

--The National Park Service’s 100th anniversary is being celebrated in 2016, and the party starts early for families with kids in fourth grade for the 2015-2016 school year. As President Obama announced earlier this year, the parks service is launching a special initiative for the centennial to help engage and attract children and families to our national parks and the great outdoors. It is called Every Kid in a Park, and starting September 1, all fourth graders in America are entitled to a free Every Kid in a Park Pass, which grants free admission for one’s family—or an entire car-full at locations that charge by the car—to all U.S. national parks, forests, monuments, and wildlife refuges. AAI Director Dunham Gooding is on the NPS Centennial Committee helping to plan the celebration. He recommended this idea based on the popular free 5th Grader program at Mt. Baker Ski Area. To read more, click here.

--Officials are threatening to reroute the end of the trail off Katahdin and out of Baxter State Park. The idea has stunned the hiking world. Katahdin has been the trail’s northern terminus for more than 80 years. For the thousands who set out annually to follow its entire path, moving the trail’s endpoint off the rocky peak would be a momentous detour, forcing long-distance hikers to end their treks not with a bang but a whimper. To read more, click here.

--Despite recent calls by some to charge uninjured recreationalists who call for help for the cost of their rescue, local search and rescue volunteers have historically opposed the idea. To read more, click here.

Smoke rises from a small wildfire.

--Wildfire is a striking story, often filled with the drama of danger. But there's a narrative missing from many of the reports: We need more controlled fires to prevent these runaway infernos, said fire historian and Arizona State University Regents’ Professor Stephen Pyne. To read more, click here.

--A 6-year-old girl in Austria is being sued for roughly $38,000 for causing a skiing accident that left an adult woman seriously injured and no longer able to ski. The child, who was part of a ski school group, allegedly made a sudden turn into the path of the woman and a judge will now have to decide whether the child can be held legally responsible for her actions. To read more, click here.

--The 12,740-acre Wasatch Peaks Ranch in Utah – part of an 11-mile Wasatch Mountains’ ridgeline of 24 peaks and 15 bowls that offers 4,600 vertical feet of snowy relief only 15 minutes from Ogden – is available for $46 million. The goal is to develop this area as a ski resort. To read more, click here.
--Two bills currently making their way through Congress should anger any American who cares about the nation’s forests. Introduced this summer, both bills are pro-industry and anti-environment — and seek to eliminate the public participation in federal decisions about forest management that could negatively impact local communities, ecological health and wildlife. To read more, click here.