Thursday, April 28, 2016

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 4/28/16

Important Recall Notices:

--WARNING: Petzl has reported that a third party has been selling "modified" Petzl ASPIR harnesses on ebay. These harnesses have been modified in a way that makes them EXTREMELY DANGEROUS. If you own a Petzl ASPIR harness, click here to learn more..

--Black Diamond Equipment has issued another recall. They are recalling the Easy Rider and Iron Cruiser Via Ferrata lanyard sets, Index Ascenders, Camalots and Camalot Ultralights. This is in addition to previously announced recalls of select carabiners and nylon runners. To learn more and to see if your equipment has been affected by this recall, click here.


--An individual recently posted a video of a climb of the Fairmont Hotel in Vancouver, BC. The individual is unsuccessful in his climb and fall from a 17-story building. Amazingly, he walks away from the incident with minor injuries. We are not proponents of "buildering." We believe that climbing is a means to experience the mountains and that soloing up manmade objects is way more dangerous -- and way more illegal -- than any climbing experience you could have in the wilderness. I've posted the video below, but beware, it's hard to watch. To read more, click here.

--The North Cascades Highway has reopened!

--Stevens Pass, who wrapped up for the season over the weekend, announced Tuesday that skier visits were more than double last year's -- 132% more, in fact. It's the most skiers they've had since they've been electronically counting all their visitors in the 2008-09 season. To read more, click here.


--At least one party lost their dog to high water crossing the river at the Owens River Gorge climbing area. It's likely that the dog was killed. Several other people also had close calls with their dogs. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Onlookers watched in horror Wednesday afternoon as an 18-year-old hiker nearly fell to her death off of Camelback Mountain. To read more, click here.

--Joshua Tree National Park rangers, operating on a tip from park visitors, apprehended and cited four men for vandalism and possession of a controlled substance. About 2:30 p.m. April 15, climbers in the Oyster Bar area of the park called park officials to report they smelled and saw fresh paint in the area; they also copied the license plate numbers of the only two other vehicles in the parking lot. When a ranger arrived, both cars were still at the site. To read more, click here.

--Zion National Park has seen an increase in attendance as of late, as well as an increased amount of search and rescues in the park. With the summer months ahead park officials are offering a few helpful tips when it comes to exploring the southern Utah terrain. Andrew Fitzgerald, SAR coordinator at Zion National Park said 2015 was a busy year for rescuers, he added in May of 2015 they had 16 searches and as of today they have 17 so far. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Maxim Arsenault, a skier from Whistler, Canada, died last Wednesday in an avalanche near Haines, Alaska. Arsenault’s death comes just days after another avalanche and a speedflying accident claimed the lives of Estelle Balet and Jordan Niedrich, respectively, both beloved members of our mountain community. To read more, click here.

--Remember a few weeks back when that guy climbed Morro Rock to propose to his girlfriend over FaceTime, then required a helicopter rescue and was subsequently arrested for suspicion of being high on meth? Of course you do! And no climber could soon forget, seeing as Michael Banks’ pioneering first ascent has been added to the online, open-source guidebook Mountain Project and already has more than 8,000 page views. Banks is respectfully credited with the first ascent of the only route on the 576-foot-tall formation at Morro Bay — and it’s an instant mega-classic! At the moment, “The Michael Banks Proposal Ramp” is literally number one on Mountain Project’s list of the top 10 most classic climbs. To read more, click here.

--A group of adventurous Aymara women from Bolivia, known as cholitas, is taking on some of the tallest peaks in South America. While the conditions on the excursions can be tough (they’ve dealt with steep andsnowy terrain and thin air at high altitudes) they’ve already climbed five mountains outside of La Paz, Bolivia, all of which top 19,500 feet above sea level. To read more, click here.

--Gordon Irwin is a guide with the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and recently reported about a large rockfall at the Black Band crag on Tunnel Mountain near Banff. The wall is busy in the spring as it faces south and requires about 10 minutes of easy walking to approach. There are a number of well-bolted 5.10s up to 30 metres. Irwin reported that on Wed. April 20, three climbers witnessed a large rockfall. The climbers were descending from the crag to the main trail after climbing a number of routes, including Farrago 5.9. The rockfall they watched swept down Farrago and sent “torso-sized” blocks on the trail below. The climbers continued their descent and did not inspect the damaged route. To read more, click here.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Stuart Range: The Enchanting Triple

Cascades hardmen, Blake Herrington and Jens Holsten, recently posted a video about an awesome enchainment that the pair made in the Cascades. They climbed three hard routes in a single 24-hour period. The pair linked up:

Let it Burn (5.12a, IV)
Dragons of Eden (5.12a, IV+)
Der Sportsman (5.12a, IV)

Check out the video of the linkup below:

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, April 22, 2016

Using Your Camera in Extreme Cold or Wet Weather

This is an article I wrote a couple of years ago but still get a lot of questions about. I have updated with some recent information.

As a guide who always carries a camera, I am often asked about cameras on climbing trips and whether it is a good idea. My answer to that is always YES! Bring along your camera! The results are often amazing.
Inside and ice cave in the Erebus Glacier, Antarctica. 

There is a wealth of information on outdoor camera use already available on the internet, but much of it does not apply to taking cameras up mountains and in arctic areas where conditions are considerably more severe than what the internet articles are presuming. The information in this article is my personal opinion. It's a description of what has worked for me over the last twenty years of shooting outdoor photographs, including six climbing trips to Alaska and time in Antarctica in which I have never had a camera failure.

Point and Shoot vs SLR

A point and shoot camera is lightweight and easy to carry and cheaper; a single lense reflex (SLR) is bulky and heavy and expensive. Most people I know use point and shoot cameras, and for most people they are the best option. One camera I highly recommend is the Cannon G12 or its latest version. I carry a Nikon SLR with a multi purpose zoom lens (and sometimes a tripod), because it allows me more freedom to shoot the exact photo I want. The debate here goes on forever all across cyberspace. For more information on this subject, you can just Google it.

Shooting Weddell seals on a bad weather day in Antarctica. 
How to Carry Your Camera

Carrying is easy with a point and shoot type camera, because it fits nicely in a pocket; however, I recommend a small camera case that fits on the shoulder strap of a backpack. This keeps the camera close by for quick use and outside clothing so there are no potential moisture issues.

For a large SLR I sometimes will keep the camera in my pack to protect it, but most of the time my camera hangs on the hip belt of my backpack. This allows me to get to the camera quickly, but can be a bit annoying when I am on more technical terrain. Another option that I have seen with SLR cameras is to hang it between the shoulder straps so it is right in front of you. From a comfort perspective this is not my favorite option, but you should try several different things to see what works best for you.

Cold Weather Camera Use

One of the most common myths I hear about camera use in the mountains is that the new digital cameras don't work in the cold. I have never seen a camera that does not work in the cold. The working temperature range for most electronics is well below the temperatures you are likely to encounter in the mountains. So your camera will still work. There are however some parts of your camera that could be less likely to work in very cold weather, so if you are going to Denali or Antarctica, keep reading; if not, you can skip to the next section.

An exceptionally difficult day of work on the Antarctic sea ice.

Very cold temperatures do effect some non essential parts of a camera directly and other parts indirectly. One example is the LCD screen on the back of a camera. These can freeze at low temperatures, or just not work quite right, so you can't depend on that. Get yourself a camera with a view finder so you can see what you are shooting photos of. In VERY cold and dry conditions, even an eyepiece viewfinder can be a problem. On one trip I did to the Alaska Range, every time I held my camera up to my eye, my viewfinder fogged from the moisture near my body. These were the coldest temperatures I have ever encountered, and it is not likely that you will see these types of conditions. To put it simply, your camera is actually better suited to working in the cold than it is in extreme heat. On hot sunny days, don't leave your camera in the car. The batteries are another story that we will discuss next.

This photo shot from the summit of Mt. Crosson was shot in temperatures close to -40 degrees. If you would like a copy of this photo you can purchase it by clicking on it.

The problems most people encounter with their camera in cold weather are only indirectly related to the cold weather and can be avoided by a few simple rules. This brings us to the second most common myth of cameras in the cold. I often hear people say they keep their camera in their jacket so it stays warm. This works great with water bottles, but is not a good thing to do with a camera. Picture a man with glasses walking into a warm room after having been outside in cold weather. Glasses fog, and so will a camera the second you put it back in your warm jacket. As long as it is dry outside, keep it outside. Cold is not your cameras enemy, changes in temperature are. This moisture problem applies to the inside of your tent as well. Tents can be very moist. I keep my camera in my backpack out of the tent at night and hanging on the outside of my backpack when I am moving during the day.


Your camera won't have any problems in the cold, but your batteries might. Batteries do not loose their power in cold weather; they are just not able to give quite as much of it up. So as soon as a battery is warmed up, it is good again. Older metal hydride and nickel cadmium batteries are not very good in cold weather. Battery technology is advancing very fast, and this has been a great thing for digital cameras. Most new camera batteries are Lithium ion. They are expensive, but they work well in the cold. If you camera uses over-the-counter AA or AAA, buy the more expensive lithium ion batteries. They will last twice as long and save you money in the long run.

If you don't want your camera to die on summit day, spend some time learning how long your batteries last. I know that given normal temperatures I can shoot all the photos I want with my Nikon SLR and spend a lot of time reviewing them and not run out of battery power for any trip three weeks or less. I carry two extra batteries just in case on Denali, and almost never carry an extra for any other trip. I have never run out of batteries with this system, but cameras vary. You should know about how many photos your camera can shoot on one battery and then subtract 30% to know what you might get in cold weather. I have seen lots of battery failures on small point and shoot cameras. I feel like more of these camera have problems than don't so be very careful which camera you buy. If you can find one that uses AA batteries that is the best option. Either way you will need to bring lots of extras on a long trip.


The only time I would think about leaving my camera at home is in very rainy weather, for example, the Cascades in early spring. Even then I usually bring it along anyway. Moisture probably won't completely kill your camera, but it might. Keep your camera in a plastic bag if it is raining. Skip the long photo sessions, since they probably won't be great photos anyway. I always try to think about where the most moisture is and keep my camera somewhere else. I will remove the camera from the plastic bag quickly shoot and then return it to the bag. Sometimes I open the bag poke the lens out and leave the rest of the camera in the bag while a shoot a couple of photos. I keep my camera in the tent when I am in wet climates and outside the tent when I am in Alaska. Remember, snow is not the same as rain. It is a lot easier to keep a camera dry in the snow than the rain. If your camera ever does get wet, immediately take the battery out and do not use it for the rest of the trip. Attempt to dry it out as soon as possible by leaving it in the sun or some other warm (not hot) area. Get a bag of rice wrap the camera in cheese cloth and bury it in rice for a week. I have heard of some people putting their electronics in an oven to dry them out, but I don't suggest you try this. I just had an amusing email from a fellow guide asking for everyone's phone numbers after cooking his phone in the oven and losing all the data. Heat is one of the primary enemies of electronics.

A south polar skua in very wet snow.

I just returned from a trip to Antarctica where temperatures were the coldest I have ever encountered. I spent some time shooting in volcanic vents which are warm and very moist. This creates some of the most difficult conditions for shooting that exist. In order for the camera not to fog the second it is taken into the cave it must be the same temperature as the cave. The temperatures outside the cave were -20 and inside they were often above freezing (thats over a 50 degree change). I entered the cave with the camera sealed inside a ziplock bag and placed the camera on the floor (the warmest part of the cave). After finishing all my other work I then pulled the camera out to shoot photos which was sometime as much as an hour after entering the cave. This is the only way to shoot in this type of environment.

Camera Use

The most important thing about having a camera in the mountains is using it. The best thing about shooting digital photos is that it does not cost you any more to shoot more photos. You won't automatically get better photos because you shoot more on a given trip, but if you consistently take a good quantity, two things will happen. You'll accelerate your learning of what works and what doesn't work in creating quality images, and if it becomes automatic to be taking photos throughout the day or throughout a climb, you are unlikely to miss great photographic opportunities - many of which are only there briefly. Shoot away!

--Alasdair Turner, Instructor and Guide

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 4/21/16

Important Recall Notices:

--Black Diamond Equipment has issued another recall. They are recalling the Easy Rider and Iron Cruiser Via Ferrata lanyard sets, Index Ascenders, Camalots and Camalot Ultralights. This is in addition to previously announced recalls of select carabiners and nylon runners. To learn more and to see if your equipment has been affected by this recall, click here.


--A 48-year-old woman was found dead at the base of a 25-metre cliff at the Whistler Blackcomb ski resort on Wednesday afternoon, according to the RCMP. The local woman was discovered by another skier in the West Ridge area on Whistler Mountain around 3:30 p.m. PT. said Sgt. Rob Knapton. To read more, click here.

--It took a Boise Fire Department rescue team at least 45 minutes to carefully walk the climber out of the ravine he fell into Tuesday, Capt. Randy Barnack told reporters. Firefighters and medics responded to a ravine in the Black Cliffs along Highway 21, about a half-mile east of the diversion dam, after a noon call to dispatchers. The 56-year-old “was climbing up there with a partner, and something went wrong and he ended up taking a fall,” Barnack said. To read more, click here.

--The American Alpine Institute has gone "greener." The company has already been offsetting energy use with carbon credits, but recently AAI had solar panels installed at the company's headquarters in Bellingham. To read about AAI's green initiative, click here.

Read more here:


--Rebuilding hiking trails and restoring the Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias are among nearly three dozen projects being funded by a $15 million donation to Yosemite National Park. The Yosemite Conservancy is funding the projects. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--National parks in Utah are reporting less trash in their bins thanks to bans on selling bottled drinks within the parks. Arches and Canyonlands National Parks have seen 15% less overall waste, including 25% less material in the recycling bins. Zion National Park estimates its ban prevents more than 5,000 pounds of plastic bottles ending up in the trash every year. To read more, click here.

--A pair of California Condors has chosen to nest in the main canyon of Zion National Park, providing visitors with the opportunity to see one of the world's most endangered species as it makes a comeback. To read more, click here.

--Vandalism is hitting our country's national parks hard, and it's keeping park rangers on their toes. That problem echoes all the way to Southern Utah. Zion National Park officials said the problem is only getting worse with the record-breaking attendance. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A university educator who was mauled by a bear while teaching a mountaineering course to a group of students in southeast Alaska was in critical condition Tuesday. A sow with two cubs attacked Forest Wagner on Mount Emmerich, where he was leading 11 students and two teaching assistants Monday, University of Alaska Southeast spokeswoman Katie Bausler said. A student hiked down the mountain to get cellphone reception and called for help. No one else was hurt. To read more, click here.

--A dramatic rescue operation was conducted on Alberta's Mount Yamnuska Tuesday after a climber sustained a 'traumatic injury' halfway up the Forbidden Corner climbing route. High winds made it unsafe to conduct a helicopter rescue and rappelling from the peak of the mountain was too dangerous -- so rescuers had to resort to a 'Plan C', the CBC reports. To read more, click here.

--Tyler Armstrong wanted to be the youngest person in the world to summit Mount Everest. He trained hard, applied for a permit from the Tibetan side and anxiously awaited approval. At a mere 12-years old, he was denied. To read more, click here.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Will My Boots Work?

"Will the boots that I already have work?"

This is by far the most common question that we get at AAI. People generally want to know if a pair of light hikers will work on a glaciated peak. The answer to this question is that it depends.

First, it depends on the time of the year. In April, May and June, double plastic boots work better than anything else on the glaciers of the Pacific Northwest. This is because of the fact that they are warm, they stay somewhat dry in the sloppy wet snow, and if they don't stay dry, they are easy to dry out.

Heavy leather boots are quite difficult to dry out. As such they aren't recommended for longer early season trips. If the climb will only take a couple of days, a heavy leather boot might be fine. But if you plan on spending a week on the glacier, plastics are the best.

As the glacier drys and becomes more icy, heavy leather boots perform well. They are certainly lighter than plastics and provide a lot more precision in climbing. But they are nowhere near as warm...

Most crampon compatible boots have a protrusion on the rand at both the toe and the heel.

Second, are your boots crampon compatible? Heavier boots have a protrusion on the rand that allows one to clip a crampon to the boot. Lighter leathers often only have the protrusion on the heel rand. And extremely light hiking boots don't tend to have a protrusion at all.

If your boots do not have any type of crampon compatible rand, it is unlikely that they should be used for glacier mountaineering. The word from the previous sentence that is important to take home is the word "unlikely." There are a handful of boots that will work in a mountaineering setting that are not officially crampon compatible. However, these are definitely in the minority.

If you are not sure about your boot and whether or not it will work in a given season on the glaciers, feel free to give us a call at 360-671-1505. You might also be interested in a Blog we posted about how to choose the right footwear for your objective. To read the post, click here.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 4/14/16


--Mt. Rainier is hiring for climbing rangers. To learn more, click here.

--There are two Adopt-a-Crag events taking place in Washington this weekend. There is a Gold Bar Boulder Clean-Up as well as the Dallas Kloke Memorial Work Party at Mt. Erie.

--Bellingham ecologist and bear expert Chris Morgan appears in and narrates a new film short called “Wanted: Grizzly Bears?” It’s being released as federal agencies consider restoring a self-sustaining grizzly bear population to the U.S. side of the North Cascades, where they are nearing extinction. To read more, click here.

--Joint Base Lewis-McChord is putting a controversial helicopter training proposal back in the hangar while it looks for high-altitude sites in the state where its aviation crews can train without disrupting hikers and campers. Its initial proposal drew strong criticism from outdoors advocates who especially opposed the Army’s selection of a site in a wilderness area near Leavenworth. To read more, click here.

Read more here:

Read more here:


--The New York Times published a very informative, eye-opening article about the Sierra Nevada snowpack and California’s drought today. The article informs us that moving forward, climate change is going to mean more rain and less snow for the Sierra Nevada and that will equate to big problems for the California water supply. To read more, click here.

--Well, the guy below is lucky to be alive. This incident, that took place in Squaw Valley, is definitely the "crash of the week:"

Desert Southwest:

--A rock climber who was found dead after a possible medical emergency at the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area has been identified. The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported ( Friday that the Clark County Coroner's Office identified the climber as 59-year-old Thomas Allard of Las Vegas. To read more, click here.

--Southeastern Utah is one of the most revered climbing destinations in the US, if not the world. But can you imagine if the splitter cracks in Indian Creek, the stunning towers of Valley of the Gods, and the high adventures of Texas and Arch Canyons were surrounded by oil rigs or were off limits to climbers? The Access Fund needs your help to protect climbing in southeastern Utah. Right now, lawmakers are considering two initiatives that may impact access! To read more, click here.

--The Southern Nevada Climber's Coalition received some great press this week. Check it out, here.

--The beauty of Red Rock Canyon may be timeless, but a new poster commemorating the conservation area is straight out of the 1930s. The Bureau of Land Management unveiled the limited edition, vintage-style poster in a ceremony at the Red Rock vistor center Friday morning. To read more, click here.

Congratulations to AAI Guide Andrew Yasso and his lovely new wife, Kyle!

--AAI Guide Andrew Yasso got married on Sunday. The ceremony was officiated by AAI Guide Doug Foust and was terribly fun. Congratulations, Andrew!

--Washington County Search and Rescue crews from St. George, UT, went to great lengths to save a dog named Toby that fell 350 feet down a cliff during a family outing at Gooseberry Mesa Thursday afternoon.The team received a call from the St. George Communications Center reporting a dog injured from falling 350 feet down a steep cliff, asking if the search and rescue team could respond, Washington County Search and Rescue Deputy Darrell Cashin said. To read more, click here.


--The 24-year-old rock climber who fell 70 feet on Saturday in Eldorado Canyon is recovering at Denver Health Medical Center. His family said he underwent surgery on his ankle and will have to undergo additional surgeries. By all accounts, Jamie Shaw is lucky to be alive. The 70-foot fall he endured happened in a dangerous part of Eldorado Canyon State Park. According to rescuers, Shaw hit a rock face, causing significant injury to his lower right leg. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Jim Curran, British Climber and Author of "K2, The Story of The Savage Mountain," died on April 5 from a cancer-related illness. His nearly 50-year climbing career was as versatile as it was long – he was a celebrated videographer, climber, author, artist and teacher. To read more, click here.

--A helicopter rescued an experienced Japanese climber from an Alaska mountain where spring storms had created significant avalanche risks. Masatoshi Kuriaki, a 42-year-old climber from Fukuoka, Japan, was rescued Sunday at the 8,600-foot level of 14,573-foot Mount Hunter, Denali National Park said in a news release. To read more, click here.

--Michael Banks will forever remember the day he asked his girlfriend to marry him. But not for the right reasons. The 27-year-old from Fresno scaled the southern side of the 581-foot high Morro Rock, off California’s Central Coast, early Thursday, the San Luis Obispo Tribune reports. Banks used the spectacular backdrop to propose to the love of his life via his iPhone’s FaceTime app. She said yes. But he took a steeper trail back down the eastern side of the cliff and became stranded on a sheer ledge. A witness heard him yelling for help at 8:30 a.m. and dialed 911. To read more, click here.

--A man stranded on a glacier in Alaska was rescued on Tuesday, his father says. Chris Hanna, and another skier, Jennifer Neyman, were rescued Tuesday afternoon by helicopter from Bear Glacier, said his father, Gene Hanna. To read more, click here.

--According to Bloomberg, Eastern Mountain Sports' parent company, Vestis Retail Group, is preparing for bankruptcy filings, and could file as soon as next week. Vestis also owns the Sports Chalet and Bob's Stores chains. The news no doubt casts speculation that EMS will have to follow their parent organization into Chapter 11. To read more, click here.

--So somebody out there thinks that wolverines are a good option for avalanche rescue... To read more, click here.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Belaying a Leader

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

In this video, AMGA Instructor Team Member Jeff Ward demonstrates the key steps involved with effectively belaying a leader.

Here are some of the main notes from Jeff's lesson.

Belaying a Leader
--Athletic stance
--Stand close to the wall
--Pay close attention to your leader
--Light jumps allow for a "soft catch"
--Gloves can be helpful

--Jason D. Martin