Thursday, March 31, 2016

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 3/31/16

Northwest:

--One climber has likely died from hypothermia and exposure on Mount Rainier after he and his climbing partner were caught in a winter storm over the weekend, a spokeswoman with Mount Rainier National Park said. A Chinook helicopter crew and other rescue teams were working Monday to reach the 58-year-old man from Norway. He and a 41-year-old Canadian woman apparently took shelter at about 11,000 feet when a fierce winter storm hit the mountain Saturday evening, park spokeswoman Patti Wold said. To read more,click here.

--A Portland man climbing at Smith Rock State Park was injured Saturday in a 15-foot fall at the bottom of a 125-foot-deep ravine, prompting the use of a high-angle rope rescue system to reach and treat the man and bring him to safety, authorities said. To read more, click here.

--At Mount Rainier National Park, Mother Nature can undo even the best laid plans. Even months before a trip. An early March storm critically damaged the park’s wilderness permit reservation system, leaving the park unable to process an estimated 2,000 requests for this year, park superintendent Randy King said Wednesday. Instead, all wilderness permits, including those for the park’s iconic 93-mile Wonderland Trail, will be distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. To read more, click here.


Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/state/washington/article67967962.html#storylink=cp

Sierra:

--The iconic Sierra climber Glenn Dawson passed away last week at 103 years old. Dawson was an important first ascentionist in the high Sierra and donated a tremendous amount of time to the Sierra Club. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:


--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.

Colorado:

--The skier who allegedly pushed a snowboarder off a chairlift at Aspen Highlands in January is planning to plead not guilty by reason of insanity, according to statements made by his attorney in a Colorado courtroom. To read more, click here.

--A skier barely escaped with his life after triggering an avalanche near Vail. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A climber has died after falling from Gibraltar Rock in the mountains above Santa Barbara.
The 20-year old fell 100 feet at the popular climbing area. To read more, click here.

--New Hampshire officials say a skier who left a trail and went into a wooded area at Cannon Mountain was found dead Sunday morning. Fish and Game officials say 29-year-old Trevor Hennessey of Holden, Massachusetts, died of injuries he suffered when he left the trail. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Training: Throws and Deadpoints

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

A dynamic throw is a move that allows you to get to a hold that is out of your reach. This particular video will help you train for big moves.



In the video they use a system board for the training. If you don't have a system board you can always find moves at the rock gym that will still allow for this training.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, March 28, 2016

Layering: Staying Comfortable in the Mountains

For any trip into the mountains I make decisions about what to wear. The precise combination of clothing can be critical to my success on any given objective. If I blow it I can end up overheating and sweating out or struggling to stay warm in minimal gear. So nailing just the right set up for any given day is something I spend a lot of time thinking about while packing.

I accomplish the perfect clothing system through layering. Layering describes a system of clothing that allows for thermo-regulation through the addition or subtraction of different pieces. It also aids in moisture transfer away from the body while exercising. The different types of layers fall into 4 key categories:

Baselayer: To be worn against the skin. Primary function to transport sweat away from the body for evaporation.

Midlayer: Worn over baselayer and underneath outerlayer. Primary function to trap warm air and provide insulation.

Outerlayer: Protection from weather. Everything from wind to precipitation. 

Belay Puffy: Optimum warmth to throw on over everything. For when you stop moving to belay, lounging around in camp, or when its just too cold!

Proper use of the Belay Parka on the summit of Mt. Hood. Cold! 
Now I'll outline a little bit about what goes into these layers, what options you have, and what each option does well. I'll also include a description of my typical clothing systems for my favorite climbing destinations.

Materials

Baselayer

Synthetic: Best wicking properties to transport sweat away quickly. High output activities like hiking with a load or simul-climbing.

Wool: Largest comfort range. Will keep you warmer when its cold, and cooler when its hot than a similar synthetic piece. Doesn't wick as well as synthetic.

Midlayer

Synthetic Fleece: Best breathability especially in the thinner weights. Fair warmth to weight ratio.

Synthetic Puffy: Great warmth to weight ratio. Lower breathability. Maintains loft and warmth when wet.

Down Puffy: Best warmth to weight ratio. More breathable than synthetic puffy, but less than fleece. Down will lose its loft and warmth if wet. New water-resistant down technologies may be changing that.

Wool: Great comfort range again. Okay warmth-to-weight ratio.

Outerlayer

Softshell: A synthetic shell made to be water-resistant and wind-resistant. Great breathability for high output activities in cold weather where the only precipitation will be snow.

Hardshell: Synthetic shell made water-proof and wind-proof by incorporating a membrane within the fabric. The membrane is engineered in such a way that it has microscopic pours so small liquid water droplets can't pass through, but large enough for gaseous water vapor to pass freely. This creates a "water-proof breathable" material. Great storm protection.

Windshell: Paper-thin synthetic material for wind and water resistance. Ideal emergency shell for multi-pitch rock in fair weather as they can weigh as little as 4 ounces.

Belay Puffy

Synthetic: Maintains loft and warmth when wet. An indispensable factor in variable conditions in alpine terrain.

Down: Best warmth-to-weight ratio and best breathability. Only appropriate in fair weather climates like the desert southwest.

Wool: New technology has brought about belay style puffy coats insulated with wool. They don't loft as much as the synthetic or down, but they don't need to in order to achieve warmth. Not having tested this yet myself, the jury is out on its effectiveness.


Systems

Choosing which clothing to wear is influenced by weather conditions, exertion level, and personal physiology. I'm a very lean person and don't have a thick layer of lipids to keep me warm. I normally compensate by climbing faster to keep my metabolism cranking. But on more casual trips where I may be stopping to do a lot of instruction, my exertion level is lower and I'll layer up with thicker warmer options. Dialing in just what to wear for yourself can take some experience, so be prepared for trial and error.

Summer Alpine Climbing in the North Cascades
Trailhead can be 80°F and the summit engulfed in freezing fog.


Mt. Baker summit in May 2013.

Tops
Baselayer: Long-sleeve synthetic T-shirt.
Midlayer: Thin fleece.
Midlayer: Micro puff synthetic 1/2 zip pull over.
Shell: Ultralight hardshell hooded jacket.
Shell: Windshell.
Belay Puffy: Micro puff synthetic hooded jacket.

Bottoms
Baselayer: Synthetic boxers.
Baselayer: Micro weight wool tights.
Shell: Softshell pants.
Shell: Hardshell full-zip pants.

Fall Rock Climbing in the Desert Southwest
Generally warm and sunny, but a blustery wind and a cold snap can blow in unexpectedly.

Tops
Baselayer: Short-sleeve wool T-shirt.
Midlayer: Thin fleece.
Shell: Windshell
Belay Puffy: Micro puff synthetic 1/2 zip pull over.

Bottoms
Baselayer: Synthetic boxers.
Shell: Synthetic pants.

Winter Mountaineering in New Hampshire
Trailhead is 30°F and sunny, but you're traveling to -15°F with 70mph winds!

Tops
Baselayer: Short-sleeve wool T-shirt.
Midlayer: Long-sleeve wool 1/2 zip pull over.
Midlayer: Fleece vest.
Midlayer: Micro puff synthetic 1/2 zip pull over.
Shell: Softshell hooded jacket.
Belay Puffy: Micro puff synthetic hooded jacket.

Bottoms:
Baselayer: Micro weight wool tights.
Shell: Softshell pants.
Shell: Hardshell full-zip pants.
Belay Puffy: Synthetic puff pants.

Patagonia Kit Builder

Check out this link to a new function Patagonia has implemented on their site. You can build your own layering system there, or browse those used by their most experienced ambassadors. I particularly like the ratings bars they have for Temperature, Conditions, and Exertion level. These shaded bars really help indicate how much these considerations are on a sliding scale.

Other Tips

Taking off a shirt or adding a jacket can be pretty easy, but switching out layers on your legs can be a real pain. I layer light on my legs for that reason and if I'm getting cold try to adjust my tops to compensate. Also remember that most of your exertion in the mountains is with your large leg muscles hiking and climbing, and their constant use will keep them warm.

Put your Belay Puffy on immediately when you stop. Don't wait 10 minutes while sipping water to get cold and want the extra warmth. Trap the heat you've earned while its still there.

For hiking into ice climbing day trips I often bring a spare baselayer. I'll sweat through the one I'm wearing hiking and strip it when I arrive at the base of the route. Nice dry layer to start the climbing instead of being a popsicle!

Thanks for reading and I hope all of this technical garble has been somewhat useful. Just don't do what I'm doing in the photo below!

My friend Conor and I demonstrate how NOT to layer while hunting for early season ice.
--Jeremy Devine, Instructor and Guide

Friday, March 25, 2016

Film Review: 40 Days at Base Camp

There have been a number of documentaries that have come out over the last few years concerning Mt. Everest. These have ranged from the mediocre television climbing documentary, Everest: Beyond the Limit, to the absolutely phenomenal IMAX film about the disappearance of Mallory and Irving, The Wildest Dream. (To see our review of The Wildest Dream, click here.) 40 Days at Base Camp, a new "short" film, can now be be added to the Everest film cannon.

In a 54-minute documentary, 40 Days at Base Camp follows a combination of guided and unguided expeditions through a season at Everest base camp and higher on the mountain. The film looks at both the gritty existence in base camp to the high-end accommodations some people garner. It also examines both success and failure on the mountain.


In some regards 40 Days at Base Camp covers ground that we are all aware of. For example, Base Camp is dirty. Some expeditions are doing everything that they can to clean it up, while others continue to make a mess of it.  This isn't new ground in the cannon of Everest documentaries, but what is new is the other part of the dirtiness at base camp: human remains.

As the glacier moves and recedes, it's churning up things that have been left higher on the mountain.  And these things include not only the garbage of a generation past, but the remnants of human bodies.  Many expedition leaders have chosen to clean up both the literal garbage on the mountain as well as the bodies of those left behind.  This is a grim, but necessary task. With body retrieval fees of over $80,000, it's not surprising that many of those who perish are left on the mountain.

In light of the recent scuffle on Mt. Everest, it should be no surprise that there is crime on the highest mountain in the world. One of the most disturbing moments in 40 Days at Base Camp comes when an expedition leader discovers that someone has stolen six of his oxygen containers, effectively undermining his entire summit plan. The thought of spending weeks preparing for a single push and then to come up short because of the inept planning and thievery of someone else would be a lot to take in.



We are all aware of the decadence that takes place at base camp. Some people who come to Mt. Everest truly want to climb the highest mountain in the world. Others merely want to get to the top in order to say that they did it. Some of those who fall in the latter camp will do anything to make their trip easier. In one scene a climber decides to helicopter out to Katmandu for a few days off. In another, a successful summit climber, flys out the same way. There's something that isn't quite right about this type of attitude toward the mountain. And while lots of mountains require one to fly on and off, that's not the part of the history of Everest, and seems almost disrespectful to the experience of climbing the mountain.

40 Days at Base Camp is an excellent short documentary film that sheds new light on the experience of climbing Mt. Everest. And though the film exposes the grittier side of existence on the mountain, it also reminds us of how beautiful the place is. Even with the garbage and the human remains and the crowds and the stress that all of that brings, it's still the highest mountain in the world, and one of the world's great challenges...

40 Days at Base Camp can be watched online. To learn more about it, click here.

--Jason D. Martin


Thursday, March 24, 2016

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 3/24/16

Northwest:

--A Portland man climbing at Smith Rock State Park was injured Saturday in a 15-foot fall at the bottom of a 125-foot-deep ravine, prompting the use of a high-angle rope rescue system to reach and treat the man and bring him to safety, authorities said. To read more, click here.

--Some people peer into ice caves and see yawning caverns tucked deep in glaciers, the glassy sheen on scalloped walls and a brilliant blue glow from beneath the ice. Eddy Cartaya and Brent McGregor see a chance to study what life on Mars might be like, the opportunity to develop a warning system for communities at risk from lahars and the excitement of doing something no one else in science is doing. To read more, click here.

--The shrinking of glaciers in the Pacific Northwest is reducing the summer water supply in regional watersheds, according to a geologist for the National Park Service. Jon Riedel, a researcher with North Cascades National Park, delivered the alarming news at the Columbia Forum, held Tuesday evening at the Columbia Memorial Hospital Community Center. Using data from his glacier-monitoring studies and the work of other scientists, Riedel discussed how higher global temperatures impact glaciers in Washington state’s national parks and what it means for the wider ecology. To read more, click here.

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/article67159227.html#storylink=cpy


Sierra:

--It looks like the Mountain High Ski Area will be closed for the season due to lack of snow. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:


--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.

Colorado:

--A 69-year-old skier died at Telluride Ski Resort Saturday after he collided with a tree. The incident occurred between 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. George A. Nolan, 69, of Greenwood, S.C., was skiing with his daughter-in-law on a single black diamond run, according to a press release from the San Miguel County Sheriff's Office. She told deputies he was skiing slightly behind her but then passed her, one ski missing, sliding head-first on his side. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A skier at Snowbird in Utah was killed in a collision after losing control over the weekend. To read more, click here.

--A woman on a backcountry ski trip in Montana was rescued by a helicopter over the weekend after falling and injuring herself in the Cabinet Mountain Wilderness. To read more, click here.

--Two serious avalanches took place on New Hampshire's Mount Washington last week. To read about them, click here.

--A Montana snowmobiler trying to rescue his buddies was severely injured after crashing through a steel road closure gate in Montana. The snowmobiler was racing to his friends' aid after they texted him that the had been in an avalanche. The text was a hoax... To read more, click here.

--The Huffington Post recently posted a long story about the issues with sexual harassment that women face in the National Parks and in the US Forest Service. The article is very good and very disturbing, but it is well worth the read. To see the article, click here.

--Interested in seeing ski resorts from space...? Check out this link!

--Check out the video below as the French speedrider drops into a line on the North Face of the Aguille du Midi, taking a few turns before sending lots of snow sliding down. Sound dangerous? Well, if you're going to set off an avalanche, it's better to have a wing attached. To read more, click here. To see the video, click below:


--Beer manufacturers have rarely been accused of having good taste when it comes to their advertising, but a new commercial from Coors Canada is drawing fire that it’s irresponsible and dangerous. The ad shows skiers and snowboarders debating whether to leave a ski area boundary, a voiceover asking, “Will you brave going out of bounds?” and then showing them exiting the area with no safety equipment. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Route Profile: Diedre - 5.7, II+

Between Vancouver, British Columbia and the Whistler-Blackcomb ski resort lies one of the best rock climbing playgrounds in North America. Squamish, sometimes referred to as the "Yosemite of the Northwest," is home to hundreds - if not thousands - of spectacular routes, many of them moderate, and most of them easily accessible.

In the early nineties as I learned to climb, I spent a lot of time on the cliffs and crags of Squamish. When I was twenty years old I climbed Diedre (5.7, II+) for the very first time. And at that point in my climbing career, the ascent was life-changing. I had never really done anything longer than two pitches prior to that, and so the completion of a six pitch moderate route was a major achievement.

Diedra was put up in the early sixties on a formation in Squamish called "The Apron." There are a number of moderate routes on The Apron as it is a lower-angled formation. Diedre climbs through some slabs to attain a beautiful corner crack, which you follow for three pitches.

The climbing is never terribly hard, but it is exhilarating. The views of Howe Sound, the Stawamus Chief and nearby Mt. Garabalidi are absolutely stellar.

 AAI Guide and Program Coordinator James Pierson on Pitch 2.

James, approaching the belay station on moderate ground.

AAI Guide Tad McCrea, being a doofus, on moderate ground.

AAI Guide Mike Powers making his way up the fantastic finger crack on pitch 3.
 Another shot of pitch 3.

 James, leading pitch 3.

James, getting after it!

A mother and daughter team following pitch 4. 

 Near the anchors at the top of pitch 4.

 I have climbed Diedre at least twenty times over a timeframe exceeding twenty years. And I never get tired of it. The route seems fresh every time. Writing this today makes me wistful for the route. I can't wait to go back and climb it again...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, March 21, 2016

Using Trees and Bushes for Anchors

All types of climbing requires all types of anchors. One commonly used anchor in top-roped climbing as well as in multi-pitch climbing is the ubiquitous tree. Trees and bushes are everywhere. You can find solid trees sticking out of cracks in the middle of a route and you can find weak trees sitting on top of a crag. As a result it is very important to look carefully at a tree before using it.

In traditional anchors, we often use the acronym SERENE to determine whether an anchor is good or not. The letters in SERENE stand for the following:

S -- Solid -- Are all the pieces in the anchor solid?
E -- Equalized -- Are all the pieces equalized?
R -- Redundant -- Is there redundancy throughout the sysytem?
E -- Effective -- Was the anchor construction simple and quick with no fuss?
NE -- No Extension -- Will the system be shock-loaded if a piece blows?

All anchors should pass the SERENE test or come extremely close to passing this test.

When we find a big fat tree that we elect to use as an anchor, the tree generally will not pass this test. Why? Because a single tree is not redundant. However, if the tree is giant and has a good root-base, redundancy doesn't matter as much. All the other letters in the acronym will be satisfied.

The SERENE acronym becomes significantly more important when the tree or bush that you wish to use in your anchor isn't very good. Occasionally, we have to link together a series of shrubs in order to create a SERENE anchor. It's important to use as many as you need to use in order to make the anchor as strong as it needs to be.

Following is a video about what to look for in a good tree anchor:

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--Jason D. Martin

Friday, March 18, 2016

Attaching an Ice Axe to a Pack

This morning I was putting away my rock rack in the garage when I noticed that one of my ice axes was lying on the floor. Both of my children appeared to still be intact and they both were each carrying around their favorite toys (an stuffed horse and a Minecraft Creeper). In other words, there had been no viscous ice axe attacks so that one might have the other's favorite toy...

The mystery was fleeting, but the idea of a blog wasn't. That ice axe lying on the floor reminded me that one question regularly arises when we are getting ready to go into the field: How do I attach my ice axe to my backpack?

Most backpacks have two loops that hang down off the back of the pack. To attach the ice axe, one must slide the shaft down into one of the loops with the pick facing in toward the center of the pack.

In this photo it is possible to see that the ice axe's pick
is facing toward the center. You can see that if the straps that hold it
in place were to fail, the axe would not fall off.

After the axe has been dropped down into the loop, rotate the spike up toward the top of the pack. Usually there is some kind of strap or buckle that can be fastened over the shaft so that the axe stays in place. The Black Diamond pack in the following picture has a special cord with a toggle to hold the axe in place.

A pack with an ice axe properly stowed.

After I took these pictures I found a nice hole in the backyard. It looked a little bit like somebody had been using a hoe to scrape up the grass. I immediately knew better. To me, it looked like an adze had been been at work.

After discovering that, I decided that it would probably be best if two little kids were not playing with an ice axe. There will be time enough for that when they're older...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 3/17/16

Northwest:

--A skier has died at the popular B.C. resort of Whistler Blackcomb.  RCMP say the 32-year-old Whistler resident became separated from her husband in a treed area on Blackcomb Mountain on Tuesday morning. When they found the individual, it appears that she had expired in a tree-well. To read more, click here.

--A Castlegar man is dead following yet another snowmobiling avalanche incident, this one in the Kootenay region.RCMP confirms the local man died on Monday and his body was located on Tuesday. To read more, click here.
 
--Two climbers were rescued from the North Gully of the Stawamus Chief in Sqaumish, B.C. this week. To read more and to see a video, click here.

--A climber was rescued from Mt. Hood this week after being pinned down by a storm. To read more, click here.

--It got pretty windy in the Cascades last week. Mt. Baker Ski Area reported winds of up to 109 miles per hour! To read more, click here.

--Ever since steam was spotted rising from Mount Baker two decades ago, the volcano has been a focus of geologists in the North Cascades. When Mount Baker erupts, crumbles or both, the Skagit Valley may be in trouble, geologist Dave Tucker said. But the extent of the damage will depend on many factors, including which side of the mountain gives way and which way the wind is blowing. To read more, click here.

A climbing gym staff member texts while a child cries,
suck half-way up the wall.

--A staff member at Funtopia in British Columbia was fired after a parent took a video of a staff member texting while a child hung on the wall for several minutes crying. To read about the incident and the company's response, click here.


Sierra:

--Luke Solum, 43, of Reno died Sunday while skiing near Reno. Authorities have yet to determine the cause. The Washoe County Medical Examiner’s office released the identification Thursday morning. To read more, click here.

--The recent renaming of many of the facilities at Yosemite National Park is drawing considerable criticism from current and former Valley climbers, residents and visitors. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--On Wednesday, March 9, Eric Michael Klimt died in a fall from Moonlight Buttress (5.12d), a  classic 11-pitch crack climb in Zion National Park, Utah. He was an accomplished climber and teacher. To read more, click here.

--A climber was killed after some kind of "equipment failure" on the Rambo Wall in Utah's Beef Basin Canyon. Information is sparse on this incident and it's not clear what actually failed. 50-year-old Mark Davis died of head trauma after the accident. To read more, click here.

--A climber fell approximately 50 feet Saturday after losing control while descending a 100-foot cliff near St. George, Utah. Emergency responders were dispatched at approximately 1:40 p.m. to the Cougar Cliffs area 6 .miles north of St. George off state Route 18. The extent of the climber's injuries are not known. To read more, click here.

--A mine proposed in Arizona and championed by Senator John McCain would  essentially erase one of the country’s best bouldering spots. This battle to save Oak Flats is being called the biggest threat to climbing access in US history. To read more and to find out what you can do, click here. You may also check out the video below about a bouldering competition and a rally to save Oak Flat:



--A backcountry skier was taken to the hospital Wednesday afternoon after being rescued from an avalanche on Utah’s second highest mountain range, located on the eastern border of the state about 15 miles east of Moab. At approximately 1:30 p.m. last Wednesday, several backcountry skiers were skiing in the Gold Basin – northwest side of Mount Peale – area of the La Sal Mountains when one of the skiers became caught in an avalanche. To read more, click here.

--Graffiti is surging at Joshua Tree, Arches and Zion national parks, and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area. At Capitol Reef and Independence Rock, ignorami scrawl their names over 100-year-old pioneer inscriptions. Even 4,000-year-old drawings from the Archaic Period have been scribbled on. To read more, click here.

--It sounds like somebody has been shooting at the Fringe climbing area in Red Rock Canyon. Climbers have reported finding dozens and dozens of gun shells. Shooting is not allowed inside the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. 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.

Colorado:

--Authorities say a 19-year-old man who died Wednesday while skiing at Copper Mountain Resort lost control on an intermediate trail and crashed into a tree. To read more, click here.

--A skier died after losing control during a trip with his daughter at Telluride Ski Resort this week, according to a San Miguel County Sheriff's Office spokesperson.  William Scott Elligott, 49, of Colorado Springs, was skiing in the Gold Hill area with this 20-year-old daughter on Wednesday when he fell to his death, San Miguel County Sheriff's spokeswoman Susan Lilly said. To read more, click here.

--Skier visits are up 6.2 percent for the season and 3.8 percent for January and February for 21 ski resorts across the state, according to Colorado Ski Country USA. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Military courts in Pakistan have sentenced 13 militants to death for terrorism-related offences including the 2013 massacre of 10 foreign mountaineers, the army said Tuesday. Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) member Irfan Ullah was sentenced for the attack on the base camp at Nanga Parbat, Pakistan's second highest mountain, which shocked the world and scarred the country's climbing tourism industry. To read more, click here.

--A new study led by Eastern Kentucky University finds rock climbers have a significant economic impact in the Red River Gorge region of southeastern Kentucky. The Red River Gorge region is renowned for its rock climbing areas, which attract climbers from across the country and around the world. The study indicates climbers are a substantial economic force in the Red River Gorge, contributing $3.6 million annually. It also indicates that climber spending directly creates jobs and contributes to the local and state tax base. To read more, click here.

--Mad River Glen in Vermont has closed for the season due to lack of snow. To read more, click here.

--Jackson Hole Mountain Resort will be adding another Gondola. To read more, click here.

--This is a super cool Mt. Everest Tour of the South Col route.

--Canada's Ghost River in Alberta has had an access update. To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund has published a nice piece on what the development of National Monuments means for climbers. To read the article, click here.

--Snowboarding — which scarcely existed 30 years ago and took over ski resorts around the world seemingly overnight, adding 5 million participants in two decades — has tumbled to earth recently. As the sport has been abandoned by participants and advertisers, equipment sales and sponsorship opportunities for athletes have dipped below their peak numbers of five years ago. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Non-Event Feedback Loops

Many climbing and ski mountaineering accidents are the result of human error. There are a number of types of human error, but the most disconcerting and common type results from a non-event feedback loop.

--I've been doing it this this way for years and nothing bad has ever happened.

--We skied the slope all day and it was fine. How were we to know that it would slide?

--The boot-track went right under the ice cliff. I just went the way everybody else went.

The thinking process behind non-event feedback is predicated on the following belief: Nothing bad happened last time and nothing bad happened to someone else; therefore, nothing bad will happen this time to me. The psychology of non-event feedback is complex, but its very existence leads to following reality:

The crag that you climb the most, the slope that you ski the most, the mountain that you've been up the most times...these are the most dangerous places that you will ever go.

Non-event feedback takes on a new dimension with group dynamics. A beginner may follow a competent leader up a mountain. The leader may look at the conditions and decide that they're safe. If the leader doesn't go through his entire thinking process, the beginner may then make the assumption that the conditions are always safe.

Avalanche research indicates that the likelihood of skiers tackling a dangerous slope increases dramatically after one person successfully skis the slope first. In other words, once someone sees someone else get away with something, they subconsciously believe that they can get away with it too.

The only way to avoid getting stuck in non-event feedback loops is to constantly question yourself. Is this safe today? Am I just following the leader? And lastly, am I responding to the conditions as they are or as I wish they were?

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, March 14, 2016

Pre-Equalized Anchors

Last summer I saw a family climbing on an American Death Triangle in Leavenworth. They were blissfully unaware of the danger of such a set-up and appeared to be even more unaware of pre-equlaized anchors. It's incredibly important to avoid the American Death Triangle. The term "death" isn't in there for nothing.
The American Death Triangle
Picture from the Chockstone Website

This entry is about pre-equalized anchors. The Canadian guide, Mike Barter has put together a variety of videos on youtube that are valuable to both the novice and the advanced climber alike. Following are three of his videos on pre-equalization. The first two are for novice anchor builders, and the third is for all those looking for a short-cut.

A Pre-Equalized Anchor
Photo from the ACMG Website


There is a little bit of controversy over pre-equalized anchors. Some feel that one leg of the anchor will get more force than another, which means that such an anchor could never be fully equalized. While there may be some truth to this concern, the impact on the anchor as a whole is minimal and professional climbing guides throughout the country are generally not concerned about it.

In this first video, Mike describes a sliding-x, followed by the basics of pre-equalization.


The following video takes what Mike just described to the next step. In this video he demonstrates a pre-equalized anchor off three pieces.

The stuff in the preceding video is quite rudimentary when it comes to anchor building and most advanced climbers have this skill dialed. It's important to practice a variety of anchors with legs that are a variety of different lengths. It's also important to practice building anchors with many pieces as well with only a few.

Speaking of building an anchor with only a small number of pieces, more advanced climbers that already have a strong understanding of their anchoring skills may find this next video a bit more valuable.

In this video, the guide provides a quick tip for keeping the power point high.


Practice makes perfect in every one of these techniques. So keep on practicing!

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Bowline

The Canadian Guide Mike Barter is a funny dude. In this video, he talks about a tying the bowline...while dressed as a cowboy.

Perhaps the best line of this video is when he says that a bowline is "strong enough to pull a snowboarder off his sister."

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There are a couple of things that I'd like to add to this excellent video.

In addition to what Mike demonstrated, we are now teaching the double-bowline in the curriculum for the AMGA Single Pitch Instructor course. This knot is quite a bit stronger than a single bowline and not as easily untied due to cyclic loading.

Mike repeatedly states that he doesn't want to see people tie-in with a bowline. You may be aware that there is a trend in the sport climbing community wherein people tie in with a double-bowline. There are two big problems with this. The first is that many climbers don't use this technique to tie-in and will not be able to check their partner adequately. And second, if there is a problem in the knot, it is far more likely to fail than a figure-eight follow-through.

There have been a few high-profile accidents with people using a double-bowline for their tie-in. These accidents could have been avoided if the individuals simply used the industry standard figure-eight and checked each other out...

The bowline is a very important knot. And as Mike said in the video, it could even be considered a king of the knots. But when all is said and done, it really should only be used for anchoring to boulders and trees.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 3/10/16

Northwest:

--The well-known director of the Wallowa Avalanche Center was killed Tuesday by the catastrophe he had taught many students to avoid. Kip Rand was killed in a steep fall and avalanche while backcountry skiing near Chief Joseph Mountain, west of Joseph in the Eagle Cap Wilderness. To read more, click here.

--A snowmobiler will killed near Kelowna, BC this week in an avalanche. To read more, click here.

--It's busy in Bellingham this weekend. The Boulderham climbing competition will take place at Vital Climbing Gym and Splitfest, the splitboarder festival, will take place at Mt. Baker.

--On March 2nd, Mt. Baker broke 500-inches of snowfall! That's over 41-feet of snow. To read more, click here.

--The U.S. Forest Service plans to reopen the popular Monte Cristo hiking trail and historic townsite by the end of May. The trails and town were closed over summer and fall while crews cleaned up mine tailings contaminated with toxic minerals. To read more, click here.

--There is a new reservation system for Olympic National Park. To learn more, click here.


Sierra:

--It appears that the Incredible Hulk had it's first winter ascent. To read about it, click here.

--There was a lot of snow in the Sierra this week!

Desert Southwest:

--Family and friends are mourning the loss of 27-year-old Annabelle Follosco. She was found dead Monday afternoon at Red Rock Canyon after going missing during a hike on Turtlehead Peak. He spoke with family members and Red Rock Staff who are both wondering how this happened. Staff members at Red Rock say they are devastated. To read more, click here.

--Access Fund and Petzl have teamed up to bring the Future of Fixed Anchors II conference to Las Vegas, Nevada on April 1-2, 2016. The conference will address the issue of aging climbing bolts and outline a vision for the future of fixed anchor replacement in the United States. 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.

Colorado:

--A 23-year-old Telluride man was hurt after he began a descent of San Joaquin Couloir — the iconic chute in upper Bear Creek, visible from the top of the Telluride Ski Resort — around 11 a.m. on Saturday. To read more, click here.
  Notes from All Over:

--Rescue crews were called to the area of the King & Queen Seat rock formation in Rocks State Park near Baltimore Tuesday afternoon for a report of a climber in trouble. To read more, click here.

--A young skier was injured Saturday morning in an accident at Sunday River Ski Area in Newry, Maine. The skier was airlifted out. To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund has recently presented their annual Sharp End Awards. To see who the winners were, click here.

--The National Park Service has a massive backlog of unfunded projects throughout the country. To read more, click here.

--The second edition of the Youth Winter Olympic Games concluded in Lillehammer, Norway last week following a ten-day competition which crowned 70 different gold medal winners.While the next generation of athletes showcased their talents across the official competition programme in sports from biathlon to figure skating to snowboard, ice climbing continued its own development within the Olympic movement through its involvement in the Sjoggfest (snow festival). To read more, click here.

-Mountain High ski resort, 80-miles northeast of Los Angeles, closed its doors on February 28th and they’re hoping to open again at some point in March if they get snow. If they don’t get snow, the season could be over at Mountain High… To read more, click here.

--The National Park Service wants you to get out into nature. But the success of campaigns like the National Park Service's Find Your Park and others from state tourism offices has created a huge demand. Last year, a record 305 million people visited national parks. As the Park Service likes to point out, that's more people than went to every single Disney park, NFL, NBA and MLB game and NASCAR race combined. To read more, click here.

--Five climbers recently spent a week in a remote area of Quebec and climbed several large new mixed and ice routes. To read more, click here.

--Looking for a place that no one has ever skied before. Pluto has snow!

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Backcountry Skiing: Effective Transitions

Backcountry skiing is one of the most fun mountain adventures out there. But it is gear intensive and there is no more gear intensive moment in a backcountry skiers day than the transition from climbing to skiing or from skiing to climbing.

AMGA Instructor Team Member Jeff Ward and Outdoor Research came together to do a video on this subject. Check it out below:


--Jason D. Martin

Monday, March 7, 2016

Belay Devices and Beginners

“Why do helmet heads always belay with an ATC……always”
 That was the quote I read on facebook from a friend of a friend. Hating to get in online debates, I resisted the urge to comment, but this did bring flashbacks of the previous weekend at Walla Walla Wash on Mt. Charleston where I watched a guy (not wearing a helmet) get dropped from 20 feet while being lowered by a new belayer using a GriGri. He was lucky, despite the rocky terrain, no damage to his melon, just a dislocated left shoulder which we were able to reduce.

The Petzl GriGri is one example of an Assisted Breaking Device.

I think the GriGri is a great device and prefer using it to belay when sport climbing. Once you get the technique down, I feel you can feed rope even smoother than with a tube (ATC) style device.


Many people think that when they teach a new climber how to belay that they are safer having them use a GriGri. In my opinion it is just the opposite, I think the Grigri is a more advanced device and that people should first learn to belay with a tube style device using the PBUS method, then learn to use a GriGri.

When someone learns to use a GriGri, they typically learn steps:  this is how to load it, this is how to feed rope and you pull this lever to lower your partner. When learning to belay with a tube device, you learn principles of how to create friction to control the load which can then be applied to any type of belay device.

The Black Diamond ATC is a Tube Style Device.
ATC stands for (tongue in cheek), Air Traffic Controller.

Additionally, as a climber, you are most vulnerable when you are being lowered from a route. Lowering with a GriGri is quite finicky and can even be a bit tricky for experienced belayers especially if the climber significantly outweighs the belayer. Having solid understanding of using friction can help you find good balance with the brake lever and friction for a more smooth descent with a GriGri.

So if you are teaching a new climber how to belay, I would recommend teaching them on a tube device until they have solid PBUS technique, then moving on to the GriGri.

Doug Foust, Instructor and Guide

Friday, March 4, 2016

Ski Crampons

Ski crampons: Sometimes they are a necessary evil to move over firm snow. They are generally one of those devices that you carry and hope you don't have to use. Simultaneously, they are one of those devices that you know you really need when you need them...

In the following video, AMGA Instructor Team Members Margaret Wheeler and Jeff Ward demonstrate the use of ski crampons and when it is appropriate to attach and remove them.


--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 3/3/16

Northwest:

--A skier in BC survived a close call with an avalanche near Nelson. To read more, click here.

--There are rumblings that they are going to begin to charge skiers, climbers and snowshoers for use of Mt. Baker Ski Area's Upper Parking Lot. To read more, click here.

--The American Alpine Institute is hiring. We are seeking a new Southwest and Foreign Programs Coordinator. To learn more, click here.

Sierra:

--A 62-year-old woman suffered a fatal fall while skiing at Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe on Saturday. To read more, click here.

--The body of a Northern California ski instructor, who was missing for more than a month, was found Monday buried under five feet of snow in an area prone to avalanches, officials said. Carson May, 23, was a ski instructor at the Sugar Bowl Resort in Norden and went missing Jan. 14, according to the ski resort. Immediately after his disappearance, more than 400 volunteers and law enforcement personnel began searching for May. The rescue effort was suspended after five days. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Sen. Dianne Feinstein has reintroduced legislation that could expand Joshua Tree National Park and attempts to balance conservation with off-road recreation and renewable energy development in the California desert. The legislation is similar to a bill the California Democrat introduced last February but it leaves out 1.8 million acres of California desert that are part of three national monuments – Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow and Castle Mountains – that President Barack Obama designated earlier this month. 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.

Colorado:

--A 26-year-old Colorado skier died after an accident at Breckenridge Ski Resort Tuesday. Breckenridge Ski Resort officials said the man had an "incident" on an intermediate trail that was reported at 11:15 a.m. To read more, click here.

--Rocky Mountain National Park has become the third-most visited national park in the country after topping 4 million visitors for the first time in 2015. To read more, click here.

--Can drones change the game when it comes to avalanche victim location and avalanche control...? One company thinks so. Read more, here.

--Avalanche dogs are an essential part of an emergency response plan for Breckenridge Ski Resort. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Scott “Cozzy” Cosgrove, 51, passed away while hiking alone in the Santa Monica hills near his home in California on February 24, 2016. Although the cause of his death is unknown at this time, friends and family believe that he likely died due to complications from past injuries. Cosgrove is well known for his bold ascents in Yosemite Valley. He was also involved in several high end ascents in places like Patagonia and the Canadian Yukon. To read more, click here.

--Calvin Swoager Jr. was killed in a climbing accident in Dunbar Township in Georgia. The 66-year old was considered a local legend by those who knew him. To read more, click here.

--On February 27, the team of Alex Txikon, Ali Sadpara, Simone Moro, and Tamara Lunger safely returned to basecamp after the first winter ascent of Nanga Parbat, successfully completing one of the most sought-after challenges in alpinism. To read more, click here.

--The Adventure Journal recently posted a list of every ski area price in the United States. They've broken down prices by state and have also identified the most expensive ski areas in the country. To see the list, click here.

--The hardest drytooling route in the world recently saw a second ascent. To read more and to see a video of the ascent, click here.

--The Upper Devil’s Kitchen of Platte Clove, NY has been donated to the state of New York to be included as part of Catskill Park, for future generations to access and enjoy. Elka Park, New York. Two ice climbers and local land owner work together to donate a unique parcel of land known as the Devil’s Kitchen to the State of New York. To read more, click here.

--The authorities in Nepal are to extend for free permits for foreigners prevented from climbing Mount Everest by last year's earthquakes. More than 800 foreign climbers had paid up to $11,000 for permits for expeditions cancelled after quakes in April and May. Climbers who missed out will be able to use the same permit for 2016 and 2017.