Friday, January 29, 2016

The "What People Think" Internet Meme

A couple years ago, there were a lot of "what people think" memes placed on social networking sites.  These usually involved a series of pictures subtitled with lines like, "what my mom thinks I do" or "what society thinks I do." Usually at the very end there is a final photographic punchline.

We've scoured the internet in order to find a handful of these that apply to our culture. If you find these hard to read, please click on them to enlarge:

It should be no surprise that there are some skiing memes out there:

Unfortunately, we couldn't find any that applied to mountaineering or mountain guides.  So our very own Andrew Yasso made the following memes:

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 1/28/16


--Wolf Bauer, a staple of the 20th century climbing and rescue scene in the Pacific Northwest, died this week at the age of 104. Wolf was a leader in the creation of the Mountain Rescue Council. To read more, click here.

--A Bellingham skier’s body was recovered Monday afternoon, Jan. 25, a day after he died in an avalanche on Mount Herman, near the Mt. Baker Ski Area. On Sunday afternoon the man, identified as Mark Panthen, 36, and a friend had been skiing at the 4,200-foot level on the north slope of Herman, a popular backcountry destination just north of Mount Baker when the slide hit. To read more, click here. Mark leaves behind a wife and two children. A memorial fund has been set up to help them out, here.

--Not much info, but a BASE jumper apparently got stuck in the trees in Index. To read more, click here.

Read more here:

--American Alpine Institute Guide Like Liz Scholarship applications are due on January, 31, 2016.

--AAI Guide and Director of IT and Marketing, Tom Kirby, recently talked to Backcountry Magazine about the Guide Like Liz scholarship. To read the article, click here.


--There is a new opportunity available for guides to access Yosemite National Park. Currently the Park only provides climbing through a concession run by the same large concession holder that oversees food service and busses. This new plan will allow guides from companies like AAI to access the park. Please write in support of this potential change. Here is some information that you might use:

Here is the link to the public announcement. The form to submit comments is here. For a public comment to be valuable, the comments must be individualized and personalized. That means that copying and pasting is not going to work well.

Below are some general talking points that can help you craft a letter. If you would like further information on any of these ideas, is a good resource.

1. The current system does not provide sufficiently diverse opportunities for visitors who would choose to access Yosemite wilderness with a guide.

2. Modern professional mountain guiding helps realize the formal educational public purpose of wilderness-from the skills training we all provide to guide education programs such as the AMGA.

3. As rock climbing and mountaineering are not at capacity in Yosemite wilderness, the plan's analysis of commercial services should reflect that, and should provide for additional diverse opportunities for the guided public.

4. Modern, trained guides are invested, professional stewards of the land and the wilderness resource.

5. Additional rock climbing and mountaineering guiding opportunities should be made available in the form of limited, low-ratio Commercial Use Authorizations (CUAs) that are reasonable for sole proprietors and small businesses to obtain.

6. The highest professional terrain-specific credentials should be considered as selection criteria for obtaining a CUA. These provide the highest quantifiable assessment of guide quality and skill, and serve to enhance visitor safety, resource stewardship, and reduction of social impacts. Those credentials are the AMGA Rock Guide, the AMGA Alpine Guide, and the IFMGA Mountain Guide (certified in rock, alpine, and ski mountaineering).

--Brady Robinson, the executive director of the Access Fund, wrote an excellent opinion letter to the New York Times about the Delaware North Company and it's immoral theft of Yosemite National Park's place names. To read the letter, click here.

--The independently-owned Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe is officially up for sale. Fritz Buser, majority owner of the Reno-area winter resort since 1971, “is looking to sell the resort,” according to a statement issued late Saturday afternoon. To read more, click here.


--The best climbing festival of the year is now accepting registrations. Red Rock Rendezvous will run from April 1-3. Come on out to Vegas and get your climb on! To read more, click here.

--Las Vegas rock climber David Allfrey got a big nod from the American Alpine Club last week, winning the prestigious Robert Hicks Bates Award. The annual award recognizes a young climber who has exhibited exceptional skill and character in the climbing or mountaineering arts, and who has outstanding promise for future accomplishment. To read more, click here.

--A small earthquake hit Joshua Tree National Park on January 24th. There were no reports of damage. To read more, click here.


--After making it through mid-January without an avalanche death, Colorado, the country's notorious leader in such deaths, has recorded its first two deaths just two days apart last week. To read more, click here.

--A skier suspected of throwing a snowboarder off a chairlift Sunday at Aspen Highlands will be charged with a crime “in the near future,” a law enforcement official said Thursday. To read more, click here.

--It shouldn't be that surprising that ski area employees are having a hard time with housing in posh exclusive ski towns.

--The Environment Foundation, an Aspen Skiing Company employee-funded, founded and directed foundation has awarded more than $2.8 million to 469 diverse local environmental projects since its inception in December 1997. Almost 1,800 employees per year contribute to the foundation directly from their paychecks. During the fall 2015 funding cycle, the Environment Foundation Board’s largest grants focused on renewable energy and planning efforts to preserve the heavily impacted Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness areas. Grants to improve the health of the Roaring Fork River, support communities opposed to inappropriate oil and gas development, cultivate future environmental stewards, and ensure popular hiking and biking trails remain in sound condition were also funded. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--British explorer Henry Worsley set out in November to become the first person to traverse Antarctica solo. After 913 miles and suffering from a stomach infection, he was airlifted to a hospital in Chile on Friday, where he died over the weekend. To read more, click here.

--An avalanche near Big Sky that resulted in a ski patrol member's death was triggered by humans, an investigation shows. On Jan. 19, Darren Johnson, 34, died while assisting the Montana State University Avalanche Research Team in the Cedar Basin area, according to a release from the Yellowstone Club. To read more, click here.

--A 22-year-old skier was caught, partially buried and injured in a large avalanche at Holy Toledo Tuesday afternoon. Officials said the avalanche was on a steep northwest slope about 10,200 ft. in Cardiff in Big Cottonwood Canyon. To read more, click here.

--The editor-and-chief of Alpinist magazine is being recognized at the American Alpine Club dinner for excellence in climbing literature next month. This is a well-deserved award. To read more, click here.

--Professional freeskier Angel Collinson recently took a major fall on an Alaskan peak. In a gut-wrenching video she can be seen tumbling down a guy over a thousand feet. Luckily, she only injured two fingers in the incredible fall. To see a video of the fall, click below. To read more, click here.

--Alpinist, Colin Haley recently completed the the first solo ascent of Torre Egger, a peak considered the most difficult summit of the Torre Group in Patagonia. To read more, click here.

--Motorists in Northern California have been dealing with a new kind of road hazard: Overly aggressive coyotes who may have consumed hallucinogenic mushrooms. Pacific Sun reports that at least two coyotes have been staring down motorists on Highway 1 in Bolinas, a community in Marin County, and striding onto the road. When a driver stops to avoid hitting them, the coyotes usually sniff around the car before running off. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Closing the System and Staying Alive

It was a short day in December of 2007 and I had to get at least one more route in. The climbers who'd come in to climb with me were supposed to do a multi-pitch the next day.  So I rushed to the top and moved the rope from one top-rope anchor to the next.

I didn't notice that the ends on the ground had become offset.

I rappelled the rope, until one end slid easily through my device and I fell.  It was a short fall, only six feet, but I still ended up in the hospital. It took three months to recover from my fractured pelvis.

When I think back on this accident, the thing that burns me the most is that it could have been easily prevented. All that I had to do was to put stopper knots in the end of the rope, then it wouldn't have mattered if the ends were offset.

Most people think of rappelling off the end of your rope as some kind of grand thing that only happens way up off the ground. The reality is that it happens all the time in much less dramatic circumstances. It happens exactly the way it happened to me, with one end that didn't quite touch the ground. Often times the injuries are minor, but sometimes they're not.

The thing is that it is very easy to protect yourself from this type of accident. The way to do it is to "close the system." In other words, make sure that what happened to me simply can't happen to you...

Single-Pitch Rappel

In a single-pitch setting it's very easy to put a stopper knot in both ends of the rope.  This works well as there are limited concerns about the rope getting stuck somehow below you. The best knot to use is the barrel knot, or stopper knot. This is essentially half of a double-fisherman's knot. Though any knot will do.

A Stopper Knot (Barrel Knot)


A second situation that is different, but related, is the possibility of dropping someone by lowering them  until the rope runs out.  In such a situation, the rope runs through an unsuspecting belayer's hands, and then it's gone...and the climber falls to the ground.

Once again, this is extremely preventable.  Every single time you climb, you should tie a stopper knot in the open end of the rope. It doesn't matter if there is a hundred feet of rope on the ground.  The idea is to make knotting the end of your rope part of your process, so that when something does happen, nothing happens...

Multi-Pitch Rappels

When I preach the gospel of tying knots in the ends of ropes, a lot of people bring up a very valid concern.  On multi-pitch rappels, it's not uncommon for the ends of the rope to fall past a rappel station. If there are knots in those ends below, they can get caught down there.

One simple way to avoid this is to tie an overhand or an eight on a bite at the ends of the ropes.  Clip these to your harness before tossing the line. Then when you are ready to pull your rope, you can untie them.  If you keep them clipped to your harness until the very last moment, there are three advantages:

  1. The first advantage was the point of all this. You won't rappel off the end of your rope.
  2. The second advantage is that the knots can't get stuck below you and you have the end of your rope.
  3. And lastly, if you keep these clipped to your harness until the very last moment, it will also help you to remember to untie the knot at the end of the rope before pulling it.
Rappelling off the end of your rope or dropping someone are both things that most of us would like to avoid.  Climbing is dangerous. Something as simple as tying a knot can make it less so...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, January 25, 2016

Route Profile: Denali - West Rib

Denali - 20,320 ft (6194 m)

Route: Complete West Rib

Our approach is to climb this line "alpine style." In other words, we climb the normal West Buttress route up to Camp III at 14,200 feet to acclimatize. Leaving a cache of food and fuel at Camp III, we descend back down to Camp I at 7,800 feet with light packs. This approach will allow us to efficiently climb the West Rib in a single push without the use of fixed ropes.
Climbing the entrance couloir to the West Rib.
Climbing the entrance couloir to the West Rib. AAI Collection
The following day we will travel up the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna and establish a Camp at 9,400 feet. From the base of our route at 11,100 feet, we face a rather spectacular beginning: a 2000-foot couloir of 45 to 55-degree snow and ice. Pitching out this steep section is important because it is very strenuous and there are no options for shelter before reaching West Rib Camp III at 12,800 feet.
Once comfortably established on the crest of the Rib, we are confronted with another ice dome that requires additional pitching and climbing on hard alpine ice up to 60 degrees. Above the ice dome the climbing eases some, with a mixture of 45-degree snow and rock climbing as we work our way to Camp IV at 14,700 feet and Camp V at 16,400 feet. On summit day we climb snow and ice couloirs and then easy mixed rock, which leads us to the summit plateau at 19,400 feet. From that point we turn east and climb gradually to the final summit ridge.
Besides offering high quality climbing, this entire line of ascent is aesthetically attractive and provides great views of surrounding peaks and routes. As soon as we reach the rib crest we have the impressive outline of the Cassin Ridge off to our east; as we climb higher we see the West Buttress route and then look down onto its 14,000-foot plateau camp; and finally as we ascend the high snow and ice couloirs, we are able to look out to all the major peaks of the Alaska Range. With a descent via the lower half of the West Buttress route, we enjoy varied and remarkably beautiful terrain from beginning to end of this expedition.
Advantages to Climbing the Complete West Rib
1. This is a highly aesthetic line on one of America's most beautiful mountains. Were it not for the extreme popularity of the West Buttress to the left of the route, and of the notoriety of the world-class Cassin Ridge to the right of the route, this line would be one of the most recognized and sought after on the mountain.
2. An ascent of the Upper West Rib misses nearly 5000 feet of interesting and engaging climbing on the crest of the Rib proper adjacent to the beautiful Cassin Ridge.
3. An ascent of the entire West Rib is significantly more committing than an ascent of the Upper West Rib. Many see mountain commitment as an attractive element and seek out trips with such an aesthetic.
4. Many find the exposed and complex terrain of the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier to be both exhilarating and frightening. An ascent of the complete West Rib requires late night/early morning travel through this well-known zone. 

Route: West Rib Cutoff

Many individuals are interested in climbing Denali via a route other than the West Buttress, but don't want to commit to something as serious as the complete West Rib.
The Upper West Rib provides for a fantastic adventure on a classic line while still providing you with many of the aesthetics found on the West Buttress. On this climb, out team will ascent the standard West Buttress route up to Camp III at 14,200 feet. From there, we will climb up the West Rib Cut-Off to join the upper Rib.
High camp on the West Rib
High camp on the West Rib.
Joe Stock
After arriving at Camp III, most teams will make an acclimatization climb up to the 17,200-foot West Buttress camp. There they will leave a cache set-up for their descent a few days later.
After waiting for an appropriate weather window at Camp III, the team will work its way up the Cut-Off to join the ridge crest at 15,700 feet. Once the crest is reached, the climbing is absolutely fantastic. The team will climb a steep and sustained couloir to a protected camp at 16,400 feet.
On summit day, we will climb a six-hundred foot steep and windy couloir with sections of sixty-degree terrain to a flat spot at the base of the last crux. From here the team has two options, a traverse across the top of the infamous Orient Express couloir or an ascent up another steep couloir to the east. Both options top out on the "Football Field," a flatish spot below the final summit ridge. From here, the route once again joins the West Buttress to the mountain's summit at 20,320 feet.
Our descent will take us back down the West Buttress route to the camp that we prepped on our acclimatization ascent at 17,200 feet. From there, we will make our way down the West Buttress and back to Base Camp.
Advantages of Climbing the Upper West Rib
1. Climbing the Upper West Rib allows for a lighter ascent. If you climb the complete route, you must carry multiple days worth of food and fuel on your back. If you only climb the Upper Rib, the ascent to 14,200 feet will be sled assisted.
2. After climbing all the way up to Camp III at 14,200 feet, it can be demoralizing to descend all the way back down to the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier to start your "real" ascent.
3. Though this is an incredibly physical climb, it is ultimately an easier ascent than the Complete West Rib.
4. An ascent of the Upper West Rib avoids the complexity and the objective danger that complete Rib climbers face in the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier.
Climbers approaching the summit after a successful climb of the West Rib.
Climbers descending after a successful climb of the West Rib.
AAI Collection
Feel free to call or email for more information about the West Rib route!

Dylan Cembalski
Alaska Programs and 7 Summits Coordinator
AAI Guide

Friday, January 22, 2016

Film Review: The Grey

A plane crash in the middle of the Alaskan winter? A pack of wolves hunting down the survivor's of the crash one by one?

Implausible? Sure...

Somewhat ludicrous? Of course, but aren't most of the outdoor survival movies out there...? And even if it is ludicrous I know that the adventurer within you is intrigued by the premise. I certainly was.

The plot of The Grey is ludicrous. A team of oil workers are involved in a serious plane crash in the middle of a snowstorm. John Ottway, played skillfully by Liam Neeson, quickly takes charge of the survivors, leading them away from the crash site toward perceived safety.

But there's a catch.

The team is being chased by a pack of viscous wolves, wolves that seem to enjoy killing people for fun instead of for food. Wolves that don't appear to be afraid of people or fire or anything else...

Liam Neeson likes to play the tough guy. He does a great job of this in literally dozens of films, from the likes of Taken to Rob Roy, from Clash of the Titans to The A-Team...but he has also been in a number of films where he has played softer characters like Oscar Schinder in Schindler's List, a writer in search of a soul mate in Love Actually, and Alfred Kinsey in Kinsey. So it's not a great stretch for Neeson to jump into the troubled persona of John Ottway in The Grey.

Ottway is troubled not because he is stranded deep in an Alaskan white-out with a number of foul-mouthed vagabonds, but instead because he has deep inner demons which haunt him throughout the film. And this is where the story steps away from your standard running and jumping thriller. The Alaskan winter and even the wolves are metaphors for Ottway's inner demons. As a result, the film doesn't truly fit in the action movie genre. Instead, it becomes a meditation on loss, death and letting go...

Joe Carnahan -- the film's director -- cowrote the screenplay with author Ian McKenzie Jeffers. The script is based on Jeffers' short story, The Ghost Walker. Director Joe Carnahan has been involved with a number of other action based films, such as Smokin' Aces and The A-Team. But this particular film feels different from his other efforts. There is more to the story than meets the eye. The script that Carnahan and Jeffers developed tries, sometimes successfully and sometimes unsuccessfully, to dig deeper into the human psyche and our fears about death and mortality.

From an outdoor adventurer perspective, the film leaves something to be desired. Characters make mistakes that normal outdoors people would never make. The worst of all is the moment when the team ties a bunch of clothing together in order to use as a rope to get across a chasm.  They shimmy across with little concern about the stitching or the fact that it's really hard to hang on a rope. The moment that they decide to do this, you just want to slap your hand on your forehead and ask the characters if they are trying to die...

In addition to the strange decisions that some of the characters make, there is the whole wolf hunting people thing. This is pretty unrealistic, but I'm somewhat willing to suspend my disbelief.  Though not everyone was impressed by this part of the story. Wikipedia states that there was quite a bit of controversy surrounding the opening of the film:

On 19 January 2012, British Columbia's The Province featured an article about the movie's buying four wolf carcasses from a local trapper, two for props for the movie and two wolves for the cast to eat. This angered environmentalists and animal activists, who were already irate that the movie depicts wolves in a negative light, specifically at a time when gray wolves had recently been removed from the Endangered Species Act in many western American states. In response to the portrayal of wolves in the film, groups including PETA and WildEarth Guardians started drives to boycott the film. Open Road responded by placing a fact sheet about the gray wolf on the film's official website, with cooperation from the Sierra Club. Carnahan has responded by downplaying the significance of the violent wolves portrayed in the film, instead highlighting the significance of man's interior struggle for survival.

I doubt that a film like The Grey could ever have a real impact on the wolf population or on people's perspectives on the animals. This wasn't a major blockbuster like Jaws, a film which lead to the mindless killing of sharks. And there just aren't enough wolves out there for people to really spend a lot of time thinking about whether or not they're being stalked every time they're outside...

The Grey is a film that looks like an action movie on the surface, but has a lot more to say underneath. It doesn't actually get around to saying much about loss, death and the human condition -- subjects it attempts to address, but it tries to.  And while not perfect, there's something to be said for trying...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 1/21/16


--American Alpine Institute Guide Like Liz Scholarship applications are due on January, 31, 2016.

Round Table on Climate, Post Meeting Ski Group:
Martinique Grigg (former Executive Director, Mountaineers), (Seattle REI Flagship Store Manager), Barry Collins (Forest Service), Katherine Hollis (Conservation and Recreation Manager, Mountaineers), Jason Martin (American Alpine Institute), Bill Granger (Re-Align Environmental), Congresswoman Suzan DelBene, Kurt DelBene, John Meriwether (Stevens Pass), and Taldi Walter (REI Government Affairs)

--AAI Director of Operations, Jason Martin, participated in a roundtable discussion on climate change and its effect on the outdoor industry with Congresswoman Suzan DelBene at Stevens Pass Ski Resort this week. Jason was part of a select group of industry leaders from the Pacific Northwest. The team discussed issues revolving around increased wildfires, floods, and uneven snow years. After the productive conversation, the group all went skiing together. And Congresswoman DelBene can rip. She grew up in Colorado and was on a ski team...! To read more, click here.

--Oregon ski area operators and the state’s trial lawyers association are trying to craft a compromise on an update to the state’s ski statute within the next two weeks. On Friday, the House Interim Committee On Consumer Protection and Government Effectiveness held an informational hearing in Salem on the case for an update to the 1979 statute. A state Supreme Court ruling in 2014 on a personal injury lawsuit brought by a skier who was injured at Mt. Bachelor has brought the issue of ski area liability to the attention of the Legislature. To read more, click here.


--The search for missing California ski instructor Carson May, who disappeared in an avalanche-prone area north of Lake Tahoe, was suspended Tuesday night. To read more, click here.

--Pro skier JT Holmes says he’s still shaken five days after being buried and going unconscious in an avalanche northwest of Lake Tahoe. Holmes, who is known for pushing the boundaries of big mountain skiing and speed riding, said he was skiing with friends on Thursday near Truckee, Calif., when the slide occurred during the group’s fourth run of the day. To read more, click here.

--The names of iconic hotels and other landmarks in Yosemite National Park will soon change in an ongoing battle over who owns the intellectual property, park officials said Thursday. The luxurious Ahwahnee Hotel will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, and Curry Village will become Half Dome Village, said park spokesman Scott Gediman. The move comes in an ongoing dispute with Delaware North, the company that recently lost a $2 billion bid — the National Park Service’s largest single contract — to run Yosemite’s hotels, restaurants and outdoor activities. To read more, click here.

--Dynamite saved the day when a gigantic, 20-ton boulder rolled onto a California roadway and blocked traffic for six hours on Wednesday. Road crews from the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) drilled holes into the 15-foot wide rock after it landed on the westbound lane of Highway 50, about 30 miles west of Lake Tahoe, according to NBC Bay Area. To read more, click here. To see an image of the rock exploding, look below:

--An avalanche triggered by a snowboarder in a closed area of Sugar Bowl Resort on Friday, Jan. 15 has been fully investigated by resort officials, and the snowboarder now faces prosecution. Christian Michael Mares triggered an avalanche at approximately 12:45 p.m. on Friday Jan. 15 after knowingly traversing into an area of the East Palisades called “Perco’s,” which has not been open to the public since the 2010/11 ski season. The area is clearly marked as closed from both the Mt. Disney and Mt. Lincoln directions, and it is a very active avalanche area. As such, Mares put himself, his friends, ski patrol and the skiing public at risk. To read more and to see the video that lead to the resort's decision to prosecute this snowboarder, click here.

--The 12-pitch WI 5 Widow's Tears in Yosemite Valley has seen several ascents over the last couple of weeks. This obscure ice route is seldom climbed. To read more, click here.

--Despite a fourth consecutive year of drought, rockfall activity in Yosemite National Park in 2015 was about average, with 66 documented events (rockfalls, rockslides, and debris flows). The cumulative volume of all events was about 8,700 cubic meters (roughly 25,000 tons). To read more, click here.

  Desert Southwest:

--Rescue team volunteer Scott Hicks was responding to a call about a woman who died while rock climbing when he received a shock: The body belonged to his ex-wife. Hicks, 58, and other members of the Santa Fe County Fire Department technical rescue team were sent to Diablo Canyon to recover a body Monday afternoon, the Santa Fe New Mexican reported. They were told a 59-year-old woman fell 175 feet to her death. To read more, click here.

--The best climbing festival of the year is now accepting registrations. Red Rock Rendezvous will run from April 1-3. Come on out to Vegas and get your climb on! To read more, click here.

--Climbers have been exploring Grand Canyon National Park for decades. The desert alpine climbing area provides many classic summits such as Zoroaster Temple and Mount Hayden. Much of Grand Canyon National Park is classified as “proposed Wilderness,” and as such it is managed under the same set of guidelines as a designated Wilderness area. The Park recently issued a DRAFT Backcountry Management Plan / Environmental Impact Statement, which proposes fixed anchor regulations, day-use and overnight permits, climber use monitoring, climbing impact assessment, climber education, and the development of a standalone climbing management plan. To read more, click here.


--So this is odd. During the Ouray Ice Festival Elite Climbing Competition, a 3-foot wide water pipe burst above the canyon. Climbers had to be evacuated from the lower canyon due to rising water levels, but the ice competition continued. Check out the video of the burst pipe below:

--For a round-up of the Ouray Ice Festival mixed competition results, click here.

--Skiers and snowboarders often don't see eye to eye, but one skier who shared a chairlift with a snowboarder took things to a new level Sunday at Aspen Highlands. The skier, a white man in his late 20s or early 30s, took offense to a seemingly innocuous comment by the snowboarder sitting next to him and threw the man off the Loge Peak chairlift, said Seth Beckton of Aspen, the snowboarder who was pushed. To read more, click here.

--Earlier this month, Jefferson County Open Space (JeffCo) in Colorado released its Final Climbing Management Guideline (CMG) that will govern climbing in Clear Creek Canyon, Mt. Lindo, North Table Mountain and other JeffCo-managed climbing areas. The county released a draft of its CMG in November with little public input, alarming many local climbers with proposed regulations that would unnecessarily encumber climbing access and route development. In response, JeffCo officials initiated an abbreviated public process and solicited input from the Access Fund and local climbers. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A skier died in an avalanche in the northern Madison Range near Big Sky on Tuesday afternoon and officials warn of dangerous conditions throughout the mountains of Southwest Montana. A release from Doug Chabot, director of the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Advisory, said the man died after the avalanche swept him into some trees near Cedar Basin. Three of his skiing partners rescued him quickly but he died as a result of trauma. To read more, click here.

--The man who died in an avalanche near Hatcher Pass Saturday was identified as 25-year-old Warren Carlyle, Alaska State Troopers wrote in a dispatch. Troopers were notified of that an avalanche took place Saturday afternoon just east of Summit Lake on Hatcher Pass Road in Palmer. To read more, click here.

--A ski patroller in Utah was buried in an avalanche Tuesday and remained under the snow for as long as 10 minutes before being rescued, police said. The 31-year-old man was performing avalanche reduction just northeast of Powder Mountain's James Peak around 9:15 a.m. when a loose slab of snow triggered an avalanche that dragged him about 1,800 feet down the mountainside, said Weber County Sheriff's Lt. Brandon Toll, who oversees the agency's search and rescue team. To read more, click here.

--Despite a low snowpack and seemingly early-season conditions on Mount Washington, an avalanche on Sunday triggered by two climbers swept a Tuckerman Ravine gully, catching four and leaving two injured. The slide occurred just before1 p.m., according to the U.S. Forest Service Mount Washington Avalanche Center, in The Chute, a narrow gully just left of the Tuckerman Headwall. To read more, click here.

--A skier was caught in a two-foot deep avalanche and carried along the Park City ridgeline Tuesday afternoon. The skier was not seriously injured. To read more, click here.

--A bizarre tree that appears to be on fire has captured the attention of more than a million people. Hikers walking through Defiance, Ohio, discovered the so-called “devil tree” before capturing it on video. The guy who takes the video has a hard time taking video and walking. He falls down at least twice. But the video is still cool. To read more, click here. To see the Devil Tree video, click below:

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Backpack as Luggage

Air travel is a pain. And frankly, I'm sick of it. I sometimes think it would be better to drive eight hours than to take a short flight...

I used to really enjoy the process of flying...when I was eight or nine. But now as an adult, I find it to be an expensive, uncomfortable and nerve-racking process. It's a game. What will I have to pay for? Will I get to use the arm-rest? Have the others in my row elected to use deodorant? Will my neighbor's body fat "share" my seat? Will my luggage get there? How long will I have to sit on a plane that isn't moving?

I hate it.

But I also recognize that it is part of the process. To go anywhere really cool, you have to fly. And flying somewhere on a climbing trip means that you have to check baggage.

Obviously one of the key components to a flight is your backpack. There are a couple of ways to deal with this ever-so-important item.

A smaller pack (under 3500 cubic inches) can often be brought into the cabin with you. On foreign mountaineering trips, we often recommend that climbers stow their boots and hard-shells in the pack. These are things that you won't be able to replace if your luggage gets lost.

Some people suggest carrying a rock rack or harness in your carry-on. If you elect to do this, expect to spend significant time at the security check-point. If you have things on your harness, don't forget to check your harness knife, otherwise they'll take it away.

This should be common sense, but don't even consider carrying an ice rack, ice tools or an ice axe in your carry-on. You can expect to have significant problems trying to get through security with such items...and an attempt to bring so many sharp things through, could lead to all kinds of additional problems (i.e. a "backroom" search).

If you intend on checking a backpack, it should be noted that pack-straps can cause significant issues on the different machines used in airports to maneuver luggage. It's important to pull the shoulder straps tight and to clip the waist belt around the body of the pack.

In this photo, note that the shoulder straps have been pulled as tightly as possible and 
that the waist belt has been clipped on the opposite side of the pack.

There are still a lot of straps that could get caught, but by pulling everything tight, 
there are a lot less loops that could get caught in airport machinery.

Some airlines will simply put a backpack in a large plastic sack. This would also be a perfectly acceptable way for you to ensure that nothing on your pack got stuck.

Airline travel is terrible...but to do what we love to do, it is often a necessary evil.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, January 18, 2016

Crampon Technique for Ice Climbing

It is said again and again in rock climbing, "use your feet." Unsuprisingly, it is also said over and over again in ice climbing. Good foot technique is the core to overall good climbing technique.

Ice climbers don't have as many options as rock climbers. When an ice climber is on a frozen waterfall, there are only a few things that she can do to use her feet. She can frontpoint (the German technique), she can use the American technique or she can use the French technique.

Following is a simple breakdown of these techniques as they pertain to ice climbing.


In mountaineering, we try to avoid frontpointing as much as possible. This is because it wears out the calves quickly. In waterfall ice climbing, it is incredibly difficult to avoid this technique. Indeed, most of the climbing that one will do on steep and vertical ice will require frontpointing.

In this photo, the author's feet are splayed out and he is frontpointing on steep ice.
Photo by Gene Pires

Proper frontpointing requires that not only the front two spikes are engaged, but that the second set of teeth are also engaged. To do this, a climber must drop her heels. This allows the secondary spikes to bite into the ice.

In this frontpointing photo, it is possible to see that the climber has dropped his heels.

Ice climbing requires a tremendous amount of calf strength. One of the best things that you can do to prepare for an ice trip is to train your calf muscles for extended periods of use. You could also do your best to limit the amount of time you spend on your frontpoints...

American Technique

The American Technique is a great way to rest your calves while ice climbing. It is quite common for people to get fixated on frontpointing and not to take rests. The American technique allows for rests.

American Technique Demonstrated on Glacier Ice

This technique, also referred to as Pied Troisieme, requires one foot to be placed with the frontpoints engaged while the other food is flat in a French position. French technique is essentially a technique wherein the spikes on the bottom of the crampons are fully engaged on the ice.

French Technique

Fully engaged crampons do not work the legs anywhere near as hard as techniques that require frontpoints to be engaged. As stated above, French technique is a way to avoid overuse of your calves.

The simplest way to explain French Technique is that the feet stay flat. All points are in the ice. If you can do this on steepish terrain, then this will really allow you to rest. Indeed, areas where you can employ this technique are also some of the best for placing ice screws. Never ignore an opportunity to rest if it allows you to get gear, this can be scarce on ice climbs sometimes...

Some time ago, we did an entire article on French Technique and the use of the Cross-Over Step. To read that article, click here.

Whenever you ice climb, think about your feet. But don't just think about them as cold lumps that might help you through the climb, but instead as a dynamic part of your body. If you always think of them as dynamic, it is far more likely that you will be able to use them in an effective way.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, January 15, 2016

Frostbite: Symptoms and Treatment

When you start to get cold, it's not uncommon for it to feel like your face, your ears, your hands and your feet are affected first. This is a reaction that everybody is predisposed too. As you get cold, your blood vessels constrict in order to avoid heat loss and the possibility of hypothermia. This allows areas of your body which are already cold to get colder. Ultimately, frostbite will occur in these extremeties.

Frostbite is the result of frozen skin and/or other tissue under the skin that becomes frozen. Naturally, this causes cell damage.

Three types of frostbite have been identified by severity. Like burns, they are listed as first degree, second degree and third degree. The following breakdown is from
  • First degree, also called frost nip: Most people who live in very cold climates or do a lot of outdoor activity in the winter have had first degree frostbite (just as most people have had a first degree burn when they get sunburn). Frost nip presents itself as numbed skin that has turned white in color. The skin may feel stiff to the touch, but the tissue under is still warm and soft. There is very little chance of blistering, infection or permanent scarring as long as it is treated properly.
  • Second degree, superficial frostbite: Superficial frostbite is a serious medical condition that needs to be treated by a trained medical professional. The skin will be white or blue and will feel hard and frozen. The tissue underneath is still undamaged. Blistering is likely which is why medical treatment should be sought out. Proper treatment is critical to prevent severe or permanent injuries.
  • Third degree, deep frostbite: The skin is white, blotchy and/or blue. The tissue underneath is hard and cold to the touch. This is a life threatening injury. Deep frostbite needs to be treated by a trained medical professional. The tissue underneath has been damaged, in severe cases amputation may be the final recourse to prevent severe infection. Blistering will happen. Proper medical treatment in a medical facility with personnel trained to deal with severe frostbite injuries is required to aid in the prevention of severe or permanent injury.
As first degree frostbite is common on expeditions or ice climbing trips, it is also common that it needs to be treated in the field. The most important thing with this mild frostbite is to rewarm the area. Rewarm the injured areas slowly and start working from the outside in. In other words, go toes to feet and fingers to hands. Extremities may be warmed under inside clothing or sleeping bags, arm pits or in the groin. Never rub or massage a frozen area. This merely rubs the ice crystals around on the delicate cell walls which causes additional injury and pain. Once it is rewarmed and thawed, it is very important that the area is not re-frozen. If the injury is re-frozen theseverity of the injury will increase.

Second Degree Frostbite

Unfortunately, treating second and third degree frostbite in the field is extremely difficult. Such cold injuries will require medical attention.

Second and third degree cold injuries are the types of injuries that people read about in the climbing literature. These are the injuries that result in blistered skin and blackened digits upon rewarming. The rule is never to walk on frozen feet unless you absolutely have to. Such use will increase the level of injury. But if you are in a situation where you will die of hypothermia if you don't walk on frozen feet, then you're going to have to walk on frozen feet. If they thaw and you are unable to walk on them, or you thaw them and they refreeze later, the situation could become significantly worse.

Third Degree Frostbite
From Land of 10,000 Perspectives

The reality of frostbite is that in most cases it's avoidable. Dressing right and paying attention to your body are two simple ways to avoid this debilitating and dangerous injury.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 1/14/16


--A small group of skiers skied off the top of Mt. Si recently. This may not seem that astonishing, but the mountain is capped by a tower of rock...which they skied. To read more, click here.

--People everywhere have really gotten into bouldering. This is a bit outside the focus or our blog, but it does provide great training for longer routes and the mountains. Here is a link to info about a new bouldering guidebook for Western Washington that is currently under development. Also, the following video is really well done and will get you psyched for the sport:

--American Alpine Institute Guide Like Liz Scholarship applications are due on January, 31, 2016.


--A rockfall occurred above the El Portal Road (Highway 140) at approximately 5:45 tin the morning on Thursday, January 7, 2016. Due to the rockfall, the El Portal Road (Highway 140) is closed from the park boundary in El Portal to the junction of El Portal Road/Big Oak Flat Road (Highways 140/120). The road will remain closed as park crews assess the situation. There is no estimated time for reopening. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The remains of a man police believe shot and wounded a state park ranger in 2010 and eluded more than 100 officers in a desert manhunt have been found, authorities said. Skeletal remains believed to be those of Lance Leeroy Arellano were discovered Thursday in a narrow cave near Moab, the Grand County Sheriff's Office said in a press release. Arellano was 40 when he disappeared. To read more, click here.

--The best climbing festival of the year is now accepting registrations. Red Rock Rendezvous will run from April 1-3. Come on out to Vegas and get your climb on! To read more, click here.

--A spike in radiation levels in soil around an active uranium mine just a few miles north of Grand Canyon National Park has led the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) to suspend air pollution permit renewal applications for three uranium mines. All three mines are located on public lands near the park popular with campers and hunters. To read more, click here.

--A report released this week by the Interior Department’s inspector general revealed a years-long pattern of sexual misconduct on Grand Canyon river trips conducted by National Park Service boatmen, contractors, and other federal employees. The report, spurred by a letter sent by 13 alleged victims to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, cited some 35 incidents spanning 15 years. And though it doesn’t name the subjects of its investigation, the report focused on three former and one current Park Service employees, identifying them only as Boatman 1, Boatman 2, Boatman 3, and Supervisor 1. To read more, click here.

--Looking for a summer internship in Zion National Park...? Click here.


--Richard Wright, a prolific Colorado new-route and crag developer, passed away January 4 after three years of fighting mantle cell lymphoma. Wright developed countless new routes along the Front Range of Colorado, and was a pioneer in the Rifle area. To read more, click here.

--A backcountry skier was rescued in the Sugar Bowls area Monday evening, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff's Office. Around 5 p.m., a skier called the Pitkin County Regional Emergency Dispatch Center because she was stuck in the Sugar Bowls area after experiencing an equipment problem. The skier left the Buttermilk Ski Area after hours to ski alone in the Sugar Bowls and reported that she was cold, weak, tired and unable to move. To read more, click here.

--People skinning up inside Aspen Mountain Ski Resort are making it difficult for snow cat drivers. To read more, click here.

--Skier visits at 21 Colorado mountain resorts were up 10 percent during the first two months of the ski season compared to a year earlier, Colorado Ski Country USA reported Tuesday, with its CEO citing "some well-timed storms" early in the season. To read more, click here.

--Climbing magazine is looking for a digital intern.

--Despite the armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon, voters in the Rocky Mountain West still strongly support keeping their public lands in federal hands, according to the latest version of a bipartisan conservation poll. “These findings show us the Bundy family and the politicians who sympathize with them are far out of touch with most people in the West,” said former U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, who participated in Monday’s Colorado College conference call on the annual Conservation in the West poll. “What Westerners are actually concerned about is drought, water scarcity and climate change.” To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A 30-year-old Calgary man limped away with a knee injury this week after an avalanche swept him and his friend down a steep gully in Canada's Banff National Park. To read more, click here.

--The following video is bound to give you nightmares for weeks, or maybe longer. A massive western rat snake slithered down the wall, down the anchor and down a climber's leg in West Virginia's Seneca Rocks recently. To read more, click here. To see a video that will give you the heebee jebies, click below.

--Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort wants two chairlifts and a zip line on property it owns in American Fork Canyon. Located north of Tibble Fork Reservoir in the canyon, some of the area is owned by the resort company. Based in Little Cottonwood Canyon in Salt Lake County, Snowbird shares a common ridgeline in the Wasatch mountain range with its American Fork property in Utah County. To read more, click here.

--Here's a cool concept. A new website is promoting outdoor company start-ups with GIVE-AWAYS. They are primarily promoting mom-and-pop style companies that build and market their own gear. To learn more about the website (, click here.

--Colin Haley and Andy Wyatt, both from the United States, have completed the first known one-day “car to car” ascent of Cerro Fitz Roy in Patagonia. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Red Rock Rendezvous - April 1-3, 2016

The American Alpine Institute will be a primary sponsor of the 13th Annual Red Rock Rendezvous in Red Rock Canyon just outside of Las Vegas. This will be the eleventh time that our guides will be involved, teaching clinics and partying alongside everyone else at the event.

This year our guides will be running multi-pitch climbing trips throughout the event and beginner to advanced climbing programs on April 1st. They will also be teaching a variety of programs on the April 2nd and 3rd.

If you have never attended Red Rock Rendezvous before, you are missing out. This is considered by many to be the best climbing event of the year. Everybody meets in the desert for three-days of climbing instruction, clinics, food, and fun. It's a great place to rub elbows with the biggest names in climbing. But it is also a great place to just sit back and soak up climbing culture. Following is a video that was made at the event:

Every year the event just gets better and I have to say that last year's was the most fun so far. Here is a blog with a number of photos and videos from the 2015 Red Rock Rendezvous.

Major climbing athletes make their way out to the Mojave Desert for the Rendezvous every year. Big names at the event include the likes of Beth Rodden, Peter Croft, Katie Brown, and Andreas Marin. But some of our best guides will also be on hand. These include people like Mike Powers, Richard Riquelme, Alasdair Turner, Ian McEleney, Paul Rosser, Ben Traxler, Mike Pond, Andrew Yasso, Chad Cochran, Dustin Byrne, Ben Gardner, Tad McCrea, Doug Foust, Quino Gonzalez, Britt Ruegger, Jeremy Devine, Jared Drapala, Will Gordon, Justin Moynihan, Jess Lewis, Jenny Merian, Zach Lovell, Jim Mediatore, and Dave Richards.

AAI Guides at Red Rock Rendezvous

Before and after the event, AAI has a number of courses running. Check them out below:

March 28-March 31 - Outdoor Rock Climbing - Intensive Introduction
March 28-March 31 - Big Wall and Aid Climbing
March 28-March 31 - Learn to Lead: An Intro to Trad Climbing
March 28-March 31 - Technical Rope Rescue Level I: Operations
March 28-March 30 - AMGA Single Pitch Instructor
April 1-3 - Red Rock Rendezvous
April 4-April 5: Technical Self Rescue for Climbers
April 8-April 9 - Single Pitch Instructor Exam
April 8-April 11 - Outdoor Rock Climbing - Intensive Introduction

In addition to all of the courses going on around Red Rock Rendezvous, don't forget that AAI will have all of our best guides available for private guiding and instruction in Red Rock Canyon. To learn more, send us an email at or give us a call at 360-671-1505.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, January 11, 2016

Book Review: Cascades Rock by Blake Herrington

Professional climber and writer, Blake Herrington, has been a staple of the North Cascades climbing scene for several years now. He has over two dozen new routes and first free ascents in a combination of the Cascades, the Alaska Range, in Colorado and in Argentina. His writing has been featured in Alpinist, Climbing and Rock and Ice...

Digging deeply into the treasure trove of knowledge he has acquired throughout his years a climber in the North Cascades, Blake has just finished a new guidebook. Cascades Rock details 160 routes in the region and includes dozens of topos, interviews and photos. And, it's in full color!

Blake took a chance with this book. Many of the mountains and features covered here are covered in other texts. There is a lot of competition. But he needn't worry too much. His book is absolutely beautiful and stands out dramatically against the competitors.

The book covers peaks, like Dragontail and Prussik. And it also covers walls, like Snow Creek and Green Giant. But what makes this book stand out is the attention to detail. I've climbed Green Giant Buttress three or four times, and every time I've found myself floundering, trying to understand where routes are. But Blake's book is so detailed the I don't think that will happen again.

In addition to some of the well-known walls, Blake's book also includes several lesser known areas. He covers places like the Twin Sisters, Mamie Peak and the Supercave Wall.

Each chapter starts with a map of the area, a breakdown of camping issues and red tape and then launches into the meat. Many of the routes have photos and topos, and every route has a description. Each page is filled with multi-color information which is incredibly pleasing to the eye.

Some of the routes are a bit remote. It can be somewhat daunting to burn a day trying to get to a route, only to get stymied by bad approach or climbing beta. This is unlikely with Cascades Rock. The book doesn't get bogged down in any one thing. Instead it provides all the beta you need to climb a route.

A Topo for the Northwest Arayete on Mt. Shuksan

The only criticism that I have of this book, is that it is heavy on harder climbs. There's no doubt that the climbs in the book are awesome, but he probably could have added a couple dozen more routes in the 5.5-5.7 range for those who want to get after it with a little bit less commitment.

The most important thing that any guidebook can give you is a bit of psyche. There are a lot of routes in Blake's book that I was aware of, but didn't have that tight a grasp on. The situation is different now. I can't wait to get out there and try some of the lines that he's detailed in this book!

Check out Blake's book, here.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, January 8, 2016

Equipment Review: Camp Cassin Blade Runner Crampons

The Camp Cassin Blade Runner crampons are a new super modular addition to the world of crampons. They are designed with several elements that can easily be changed. 

First, they can be configured with a mono-frontpoint or a dual-frontpoint. This isn't really new, the Petzl Lynx does essentially the same thing. The big difference here is that there are two options for the frontpoints. The Blade Runners come with both vertical and horizontal options.

Second, there are multiple options for the toe bail allowing the crampon compatibility with highly technical boots as well as with less technical options. As there is a clip on the back of the crampon, a heel welt is required for the boot to work. 

These are super aggressive crampons. I don't think I've ever encountered a pair that sports fourteen points. Indeed, there are even points on the extender bar. After using these crampons on technical ice for several months, it didn't seem like the points on the bar did anything extra, but provide additional weight to the body of the crampon. I like the aggressive nature of the crampon, but wasn't psyched on the the aspects that added weight.

On the subject of weight, at first glance, these guys seem heavy. They clock in at approximately 36 ounces (2.25 lbs), which is certainly more than I was used to. I had been using mountaineering crampons for ice climbing for the last couple seasons, which isn't a fair comparison. Other similar technical crampons are actually a hair heavier:  Lynx, 38 oz, 2.3 lbs; Rambo 4, 41 oz, 2.5 lbs. So the Blade Runners are a better option than many of its technical competitors.

The problem with comparing the weight comes in when you consider that these crampons are meant to do it all. The horizontal frontpoints exist for mountaineering routes, and as soon as you compare the Blade Runners to common mountaineering crampons, they are bit heavier. Consider the Petzl Vasak, which clocks in at 33 ounces (2 lbs), or the Girvel G12 which clocks in at 31.7 oz (1.98 lbs).

For some this difference doesn't matter. And if you're not one of those that counts every ounce, then maybe this doesn't matter. The crampon can do it all and as such maybe the $350 price tag is worth it, so that you don't have to buy one pair of mountaineering crampons for $200 and one pair of tech crampons for $250.

But I digress...

There were two things about these crampons that irked me a little bit.

First, I didn't like the immediate options presented for the mono-vertical frontpoint. There are several options available immediately for frontpoint configuration, but for some reason, three of those options requires one to actually cut a in the antibot plate on the bottom of the crampon.

Note in the picture above where the crampon point is placed. This particular crampon was for the right foot and the point was set to be close to the right big toe. And this worked fine. However, if you wanted the frontpoint to be centered in the middle of the crampon, then you would have cut a hole in the notch directly left of the current frontpoint's placement. You'll also note that there are other notches that have to be cut out in order for all the options to be easily accessible.

I suspect that the lack of holes for the crampon frontpoint attachments in the base of the crampon has something to do with its design. The engineers didn't want a bunch of extra holes that might not be used. And though I like the frontpoint closer to my big toe than in the middle, it does seem odd that a common configuration requires one to alter the crampons the day that one buys them.

Second, the crampon bag is a bit too small. This may seem like a small thing, but in order to fit the crampons into the bag, one has to unclasp the extender bar. Most other crampons collapse without this step. It isn't awesome when it's cold out and to have to reset the extender bar every time you put the crampons on.

If your feet are even mildly big, the best thing to do is to use an alternative for a crampon bag. A lot of guides use a heavy-duty USPS envelope. But there are plenty of crampon specific bags on the market that will fit the crampons.

The preceding items made me concerned that I really wouldn't like these crampons. At the start, it felt like these things were just way over-engineered. 

But then I changed my mind.

I have not done any mountaineering in the Blade Runners, but I have done a great deal of steep ice and drytooling with them, and they work exceedingly well for that. The vertical frontpoints look just like the blade of an ice tool and indeed, they slice into the ice just as effectively. They are perfectly oriented at the front of the crampon to attain the best bite. And the secondary points are perfectly positioned to bite when climbing with appropriately dropped heels.

The mono-vertical frontpont worked well for drytooling as well. The steep angle of the frontpont and it's thin profile allowed for perfect hooks. On several drytool ascents, I did a direct comparison between these and other crampons (the non-technical G12s and the Lynx), and found that these almost universally provided a better experience due to the angle of the frontpoint.

I'm not sure I'm of the mind that I would replace a pair of mountaineering crampons with these. But I would definitely feel good about using these as my primary pair of technical crampons. Though pricy, the aggressive shape and performance is worth it...

Finally, it should be noted that there was a recall on these. However, CAMP has been very proactive in fixing the problem. None of the new models have the problem that the crampon was recalled for.

--Jason D. Martin