Friday, April 29, 2016

Rope Rescue: Radium Release Hitch

At the American Alpine Institute, we teach two kinds of rescue programs. The first are self-rescue programs. These are programs and lessons that will allow a technical climber to perform a rescue of himself or his partner with the tools he is carrying. The second kind are team rescue programs. These are program where a team of rescue volunteers or professionals work together with specialized gear to perform a rescue. We also call this "rope rescue."

In self-rescue the most common releasable hitch is the munter-mule. In rope rescue - a place where the loads are much greater - the most common load releasable hitch is the radium release.

Like most hitches, there are several ways to tie them. The radium release is no different. But the following video provides you with a basic understanding of how to tie this hitch.



At the end of the video, the demonstrator puts the hitch into a bag. It's interesting that certain populations in the rescue community feel the need to pre-tie everything. It is our belief that a rescuer should have the essential knots and hitches so dialed that they can put them together upside down, wet, or whatever...

--Jason D. Martin


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.

Northwest:

--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.



Sierra:

--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.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Spring-Cleaning: How to Clean an MSR Whisperlite Stove


The MSR Whisperlite is arguably the world's best wilderness stove.  While not the lightest stove on the planet, nor the fastest boiling, it has one distinct advantage over all others- simple maintenance and repair that can be done in the field.  MSR has been making the Whisperlite with very few design changes since the late eighties and they are reliable and (almost) indestructible.

While they are easy to maintain in situ, I give mine a full cleaning at the beginning of any season or anytime it seems to be running a little ragged.  Some signs that your Whisperlite needs cleaning are uneven or "coughing" jets, leaking fuel, difficulty starting or holding pressure, or any other problems pertaining to performance.  Even if your stove isn't exhibiting signs of being dirty, it is a good idea to give it a good clean once a year.  Here's how:

If you don't already own an MSR Maintenance Kit, go get one.  Just the basic kit is all you need for regular maintenance. The basic kit contains extra parts, tools specific to your stove, and a helpful diagram to help you keep all the parts together.  If it has been a while since you did any maintenance on your stove, the "expedition" kit might be the way to go.  This contains a more comprehensive set of replacement parts, including a pump cup- a part that without regular maintenance and lubrication, can pretty easily become cracked.

I was excited to provide step-by-step instructions on cleaning a whisperlite, with beautiful, detailed pictures I took all on my own, but then a quick internet search revealed that in fact there is a multitude of info out there on cleaning these legendary stoves, including some great videos from MSR themselves.  Rather not get in the way of the experts, so...

Pump Cup Maintenance and Cleaning



Stove Maintenance



Well there you have it, your Whisperlite stove is all ready for another glorious year keeping you fed and well-hydrated in the backcountry!

--Andy Stephen, AAI Instructor and Guide

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

Climbing Tips: Mental Preparation

Jerry Moffatt is a world class climber. In this video, he talks about the mental preparation that he goes through in order to climb a route. To illustrate the process he uses a boulder problem as an example, but this type of thinking could easily be applied to a sport route or even a multi-pitch traditional line.



--Jason D. Martin

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.

Northwest:

--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: http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/community/boise/article72658822.html#storylink=cpy

Sierra:

--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.

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Universal Standard Belay - Toprope

Belaying is the baseline for everything that we do at the crags and in the mountains. The American Alpine Club, the Climbing Wall Association and the American Mountain Guides Association have been working hard over the last few years to try to develop a universal standard for belays in the United States.

Recently, the American Alpine Club produced a video that shows several belay variations. They demonstrate two versions of the PBUS (Pull. Brake. Under. Slide), one version of the two handed technique (a terrible and uncomfortable technique) and the shuffle technique (something that beginners should never do).

The universal part of the universal standard is that all belays should follow three baseline rules:
  1. The brake-hand should never leave the rope.
  2. Hands should only slide when the rope is in the braking position.
  3. Hands should be in a position of strength.
The video goes quickly through the belay commands. Unfortunately, the commands shown do use the word "take," which is a single syllable word and can be confused with slack, rock, or safe. At AAI, we prefer the term, "tension."

The video demonstrates a quick safety check, allows the two models to perform some of the worst line readings of "on belay" and "belay on" in history, and then launches into the belay technique for toprope climbers.

Check out the video below:



I am definitely not a fan of the shuffle technique. It is an acceptable technique, but I don't think it's appropriate for people learning to belay. If you are someone who has the opportunity to teach belaying, I would cut this from any training for beginners.

It's good to see that the AAC is putting these videos together. There are far too many people out there still using archaic belay techniques...and as a result, there are still too many accidents from inadequate belays.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 18, 2016

How to Make Tape Gloves

Professional climber Beth Rodden recently put out a video where she demos two different ways to make tape gloves. At the beginning of the video she says that she's going to show two tape glove techniques and one technique to tape a split finger. Unfortunately, she never goes into the split finger aspect in the video, but her tutorial on tape gloves is excellent.

The best way to really learn how to do this is to watch the video at home with tape. Try to make the gloves a couple of times until you have one of the styles mastered.



--Jason D. Martin

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

Northwest:

--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: http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/local/military/article70627732.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/local/article69533367.html#storylink=cpy


Sierra:

--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 (http://bit.ly/1W1IokQ) 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.

Colorado:

--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.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Route Profile: Armatron (5.9) II


Armatron is a super fun and unique route on the Brownstone wall at Red Rocks.  In an area that is known for immaculate sandstone and outrageous rock formations, Armatron is definitely one of the finest examples of the iron-hard stone the canyon is known for.

The amazing chocolatey goodness! The Brownstone wall from high on Jackrabbit
Buttress.  Armatron takes a line on the far right side of the formation (A. Stephen)
Armatron can either be approached by a 1 hr hike (long by Red Rocks standards) or you can climb one of the awesome routes on the lower apron of the Brownstone wall, known as Jackrabbit Buttress. Most people do Myster Z, a classic 5.6 that ascends the Jackrabbit buttress and drops you off right at the base of Armatron, but fellow AAI guides and Red Rocks locals Andrew Yasso and Doug Foust recently put up a route on Jackrabbit buttress called Saddle Up, which comes highly recommended!

However you decide to approach the Brownstone Wall, Armatron is easily recognizable as a 400 foot wall of black desert varnish with a "tortoise-shell" pattern.

The start of Armatron (A. Stephen)
The first 2 pitches climb through amazing juggy holds
on excellent rock (A. Stephen)
The first pitch is the crux of the four pitches, but is very well protected by several shiny new bolts and good small cam placements.  The climbing is steep, on great holds, and only gets better as you make your way through the second pitch and end up at a small belay stance below 250 feet of perfect, grid-like patina plates.

The patina on the upper headwall.
Slotting bomber stoppers behind the patina plates (A. Stephen)


Climb the patina plates using some amazingly thin and fun face climbing techniques for the grade all the way to the top of the buttress. Classic!

--Andy Stephen, Instructor and Guide



3:1 Haul with a GriGri

A lot of climbers get really wrapped up in using a GriGri on the ground, either for top-roping or for belaying a leader. But a GriGri can also be used effectively at the top of a crag, for belaying a second.

One very nice aspect to using a GriGri as your top-of-the-crag belay device, is that it can easily be converted to a hauling system. If your partner can't follow the pitch, you can help him through the difficulties, by quickly switching the GriGri from belay mode to hauling mode.

In this photo, a climber hauls a climber using a 3:1 system 
with a GriGri as a ratchet.

To swap your GriGri from belay mode to haul mode, you must simply:
  1. To start, belay directly off the anchor with your GriGri. Make sure that it is loaded properly so that the climber strand is going to the climber. It is also good to make sure that the handle to the GriGri is facing away from the rock.
  2. As you belay, make sure not to take your break-hand off the break-strand.
  3. When the person gets stuck, tie a catastrophe knot on the break-strand. This could be an overhand or a figure-eight on a bight.
  4. Take a short loop of cord and tie a friction-hitch to the load strand. This can be a prussik-hitch, a kliemheist, or an autoblock hitch.
  5. Clip a carabiner to the loop and then clip the break-strand to the carabiner.
  6. Take the catastrophe knot out.
  7. Yell down to the climber to climb, in order to help you.
  8. Then haul on the haul strand.
This is essentially a z-pulley system and so there is a mechanical advantage of 3:1. In other words, you're pulling a third of the person's weight, plus friction. This isn't really enough mechanical advantage to haul a person a significant distance, but it is more than enough to help a person pull a move or two.

Following is a video that I took of AAI Guide Andrew Yasso using this system:



We should note that a Trango Cinch will work exactly the same way, as will autoblocking devices like the Reverso and the Guide XP.

The GriGri is often overlooked as a tool by people who spend a lot of time on multi-pitch terrain or in the mountains, but it is an excellent device for single-pitch climbing. This application of it's use is only one of the many tricks that this device and others like it are able to perform.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 11, 2016

Sunburns in the Mountains

Over the sixteen years that I've been guiding, I've decided that the greatest enemy to the climber is not the rain, it's not the snow and it's not the wind. Instead, it is the sun. There is nothing more relenting and nothing that will have such dire long term effects as the sun.

There was a time in my life when I went from working in the heat of the desert directly to high altitude snow. These are both places where the sun is far more dangerous than in a city. And while I'm not aware of any reports of a higher incidence of skin cancer among climbers, it wouldn't surprise me if this were the case.

The most common places for climbers to get burned are on the tops of the ears, the tip of the nose and on the lips. High altitude climbers on glaciers will also see burns develop on the roof of their mouths and inside their nostrils.

The Author Belaying on Mount Baker
The bandanna covers both his ears and neck.

It might seem obvious, but it is incredibly important to wear sunscreen and cover as much skin as possible when you are in bright sunlight. Over the years I've had a few people on glaciers who decided that they "tan well" and elected not to wear sunscreen. In each of these cases, the climbers contracted serious burns that were so bad, they actually scabbed up.

Whether in the desert or at high altitude one must apply sunscreen and then reapply it often.

Many climbers on big mountains will wear a Buff to cover their faces or will carry multiple bandannas to pin around their faces and necks "Al Qaeda" style. Most will wear sunglasses with a nose beak. And many will apply sunscreen inside the nostrils.

In the desert, some will wear a bandana under their helmets and over their ears and neck. Sunshirts and shirts with collars are also popular. Sunshirts are designed to reflect most of the sunlight away while providing good coverage. Shirts with collars provide a little extra shade for the neck.

Sunshirt
These hiking oriented shirts can be found at most outdoor stores.

Following is a quick breakdown of how to treat a sunburn from the Sunburn Resource:

1. When treating sunburn, it is very important to prevent further damage or irritation. To prevent sunburned skin from getting worse, keep from further direct exposure to the sun, and stay indoors as much as possible.

2. Closely observe the affected areas for blisters. When blisters are present, this means that the skin has been severely damaged, and complications are highly probable. Don’t try to break them, or you’ll increase the risk of infection. If blisters are present on a large area of the skin, get to a hospital’s emergency room immediately. Other instances that warrant medical attention right away are when severe swelling causes breathing difficulty, when pain on the affected area is terrible, and when serious swelling occurs around the limbs such that it threatens to constrict blood flow and cause hands or feet to go numb or turn bluish. Too much sun exposure can also cause other related ailments, such as sun poison or heat stroke. When any of these are suspected or when high fever is detected, consult a doctor immediately.

3. Take pain relievers to help ease the pain and swelling. Aspirin and ibuprofen are examples of oral medications commonly taken to minimize these sunburn symptoms, but do avoid giving aspirin to a child or teenager. Also, consult a doctor before taking any pain killer if you’re also taking prescribed medication.

4. Drink lots of water. This will help you regain lost fluids in your body, as well as aid your system in its recovery from sunburn. Fresh fruit juice, such as watermelon, is also a good alternative. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, as these may cause further dehydration.

5. Regularly apply a cool, soothing cream or aloe lotion to the affected area to keep it moist. Aloe extract has powerful healing properties, and is most effective in its pure form. Vitamin enriched lotions and moisturizers may also help speed healing. When treating moderate to severe burns, 1% hydrocortisone cream may also be used. Avoid using butter, oil, and strong ointments on burned skin, as these will only irritate and worsen sunburn symptoms.


On mountains like Denali, climbers must completely cover their skin.

6. Shower with cool water whenever possible. This should help ease the pain and discomfort on your skin until it begins to heal. Use very mild soap, and refrain from using abrasive personal skin products, such as exfoliating skin formulas and body scrubs to avoid irritation.

7. Wear loose-fitting clothes made of natural fibers, such as cotton or silk, as sunburned skin tends to be extremely sensitive, and harsher fabrics will do more harm than good. When heading outdoors, wear long sleeved shirts and long pants that cover the affected areas.

8. Leave peeling skin alone. When your skin starts peeling, try your very best not to scratch, scrub or strip the dry skin off. The layer of skin underneath the peeling is still very sensitive, and will only lead to further skin damage when forcibly exposed. Just continue using moisturizer to help relieve itching and dryness.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, April 8, 2016

Top Managed Belays

Most leaders will do one of two things at the top of a route. They'll either build an anchor and lower off or they'll bring up a second to clean the route. It makes a lot of sense to bring up a second if you're going to continue up a multi-pitch line or if it isn't possible to rappel off.

In essence the leader who is stationed above the climber is working at a top-managed site. He is belaying the climber from above and is not top-roping. Most people only belay from above after they have lead a climb, but there are a number of situations where it is advantageous to actually top-rope from the top of a climb.

A Climber Belays from the Top

Acadia and Ouray are both popular places where many routes require top-managment, climbers literally have little to no choice in many parts of these parks. Acadia is a climbing area situated on a series of sea cliffs. One can only access the crags by lowering down or rappelling down. Ouray is an ice park in Colorado. All of the routes are accessed from the top and most people lower in and then climb back out on a top-rope.

Most places don't require a top-managed set-up like the preceding examples. But there are many advantages to managing a crag from the top.

Value of a Top-Managed Site:
  1. There is no chance that rocks or other debris will strike a belayer or another climber below. This is particularly nice in ice climbing. In Ouray, it is common for climbers to lower one another into a canyon to climb back out. There are very few people at the base that might be hit by falling ice.
  2. There is fifty percent less rope in the system. Less rope in the system allows for less elongation in a dynamic rope when a climber falls on a top-rope. This is a great advantage if there are a lot of ledges on a climb that someone might twist their ankle on if they take a short dynamic fall.
  3. If a climb is over a half of a rope length, it is often easier to manage the route from the top than to deal with two ropes tied together. 
  4. This provides you with the ability to easily monitor the anchor system.
  5. Smaller loads are placed on the anchor than in a traditional top-rope set-up. In a traditional set-up, the physics of the system make it so that both the climber and the belayer's weight are on the anchor whenever a climber falls or is lowered.
  6. Occasionally, the bottom of the crag is dangerous. Perhaps you are working on sea cliffs or in another medium that makes the base of the climb hazardous. Numerous crags have parking lots above the routes. In many scenarios the bottom of the climbs are steep and vegetated. In some cases, they are simply hard to access via a trail.
  7. If you know any quick hauling systems, it's nice to manage from the top because you can assist a person if they get stuck climbing.
  8. If you want to get a lot of top-rope routes in without leading, it may be fastest to top-manage the climbing area.
A Climber Lowers his Partner from a Top-Managed Site

Disadvantages to a Top-Managed Site:

  1. It is difficult to see and to coach the climber that has been lowered down. Sometimes it is also difficult to hear.
  2. The climber's rope is more likely to go over edges when managed from the top.
  3. There may be more impact on a fragile cliff-top ecosystem.
  4. If there are many climbers waiting to climb, it may be more dangerous to manage the route from the top. There is more exposure and more opportunities to make a mistake near a cliff-edge.
  5. It can be difficult to figure out where the route is from the top of the crag.
  6. People are unused to it and often don't want to try something new.
The most common way to access climbs in a top-managed situation is for the climber to lower down and then climb back up. Occasionally, a climber will rappel to the bottom and then climb back up, but this is not quite as safe as lowering. Lowering is safer because the belayer can check the climber's knot before he leaves.

This blog isn't to say that top-management is better. While it may be better in some situations, this article was actually designed to give you a quick taste of an alternative to regular top-roping. The best way to understand the strengths and weaknesses of such a technique is to experiment. Try top-managing at a crag you are familiar with for a day. It will be a very educational experience and will definately put another tool into your climber's toolbox.

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Double-Fisherman's Knot

Arguably, the most difficult knot to teach is the double-fisherman's knot. It is normal for our guides to spend a significant amount of time with students on this particular knot. And even with a lot of time spent focusing on it, some still don't come away with a master's level knowledge of it.

If you have this knot completely wired, then congratulations. If you don't, then this blogpost is just for you...!

The Double-Fisherman's Knot

The double-fisherman's knot is a knot that may be used to join two ropes together. The ropes may be of similar or dissimilar diameters. It is a very secure knot. Indeed, it is so secure, that it is often recommended for cords that will be permanently tied together such as prussik loops.

The biggest problem with the double-fisherman's is that it is very difficult to untie once it has been loaded. As a result, it is not recommended for quick situations where you want to tie two ropes together, such as in rappels.

The Canadian Guide, Mike Barter has put together the following video on how to tie a double-fisherman's knot:

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--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 4, 2016

Tips for Women on AAI Courses

On climbing trips and courses, it is not the grand gestures that dictate success, but a series of small, diligent habits. These form by consistently making choices to take care of yourself.

In the backcountry, some of these choices and habits can be different for women than for men due to key differences in physiology. Here’s a quick overview of some issues women can face in the mountains, and some simple tips and tricks to help you have a fun, safe and successful course.

Warmth

Women often feel colder than men in the mountains, especially in the hands and feet. There are several ways to deal with this difference.

The first is to regulate your overall body temperature by keeping your core warm. When your core is warm, your extremities will also be warmer. For women, making this happen can mean wearing a few more layers on your core than guys—perhaps carrying an extra lightweight puffy jacket or another thin, insulating layer like an R1. Move in lighter layers – you should be a bit chilly when you start out after a break – but keep a warm layer available in the top of your pack for when you stop.

For gloves, you’ll want to strike a balance between keeping your hands warm and making sure you have the dexterity required to hold an ice axe or clip carabiners. Make SURE you have a warm pair of gloves that you can comfortably handle carabiners with – a common cause of frostnip/bite is to take off gloves to mess with hardware.

Packs, boots and bags

Many women have smaller body sizes and do not have the same upper body strength as men. This does not mean they are unable to do certain things – they just need to figure out different ways to accomplish the same tasks without injury.

When carrying a heavy pack, make sure you understand proper lifting techniques. Grab the pack by the straps, lift it onto your knee, and then swing it onto your back. If you are using a new pack and you haven't carried a heavy load in it, put weight in it and go on a hike. Do all the adjustments you can to the waist belt, shoulder straps, etc. Adjust your straps so the majority of your load is on your hips and lower back and not your shoulders. Your hip belt should sit just on or above your hip bones. There are numerous packs on the market designed specifically for women, but ultimately choose the one that feels the most comfortable with your body type.

The climbing industry is catching onto the fact that women are climbing high, cold mountains, but many of the boot choices for these environments are still only offered in men’s sizes. Women’s heels can be skinnier than men’s, so if you’re a woman wearing men’s boots proper bootfitting is essential. If you can get to snow, go hiking/snowshoeing in your expedition boots, preferably with your pack. Then you will have time to get new footbeds or adjust your sock system before the trip. Small adjustments like this can make the difference between comfort and misery over the course of a trip.

Women’s sleeping bags are a good idea, as they tend to be shaped for women’s bodies and include more insulation in the footbed. The only downsides are that they are built specifically for women of short or average height (5’6’’ or smaller) so tall women need to either get a women’s long or a men’s bag. If you have to go with a men’s bag consider budgeting an extra 10 degrees (so if you need a bag that keeps you warm at 0, get a men’s -10 degree, etc.).

Pee Funnels

Pee funnels like the GoGirl or the Freshette provide a way for a woman to urinate while standing up. These are essentially funnels that you may press against yourself when you urinate.

There isn’t a tremendous amount of privacy on our mountaineering trips in the Cascades and elsewhere. On most days you will spend the majority of your time tied into a rope with your teammates. A pee funnel allows you a small modicum of privacy when you urinate.

Some female guides use these extensively whereas others prefer to simply have the team turn away while they squat to urinate. Ultimately the choice as to whether to use one of these devices is up to you.

If you choose to use a pee funnel it is recommended that you practice with it prior to the start of the expedition. In order to keep it from overflowing you will have to manage the rate at which you urinate.

The two most popular models are the Freshette and the GoGirl:



General Hygiene

Bring 1-2 pairs of synthetic or wool underpants and one pair of cotton underwear or boxers to sleep in. The cotton underwear can also help you feel cleaner if you have your period during the trip.

Bring a separate bottle to pee in at night (or in a storm) so you don’t have to get out of your tent. Collapsible Nalgene 1.5-2 L bottles work the best. Some women tell their tentmates 'I'm closing the bathroom door' or something similar so they know not to look. You can use the pee bottle with or without a pee funnel. Practice this at home in the shower so you know you’ll feel comfortable doing it in a tent later on.

Women are more prone to urinary tract and yeast infections if they don’t wipe regularly, so it’s a good idea to bring extra toilet paper or a bandana to wipe after peeing (even if you use a funnel). If you use a bandana (aka “pee rag”) you can tie it to your pack to dry out afterward as you continue to hike. Any used toilet paper should be placed in a Ziploc bag and packed out.

That Time Of The Month

And now for the big question for women on expeditions – how do I deal with that time of the month? Answer: it’s not that bad – read on for one Denali guide’s (quite specific) guide to dealing with it!  

For my period, I use a Diva Cup (the Keeper is another brand). I also use it in the rest of life when not on expeditions. I can carry one with me wherever I camp/hike/climb without worrying about running out of tampons, and if I don't have any tissues I can clean it with water from my water bottle or with snow. I don't use snow on the glacier because we use camps other parties use and I don't want to leave bloody snow for people to see. I take some toilet tissues and pour the blood from the cup into these. I clean the Diva Cup with more tissues. I wrap the bloody tissues in some more tissues and put it in the CMC (Clean Mountain Can, used on Denali) or other latrine. If I feel shy about putting this in a communal latrine I put the tissues in either a brown paper bag or an opaque plastic bag (this is better; it doesn't soak through) that I then carry with me. I clean myself with wet wipes, and sanitize my hands. Wet wipes freeze, but you can keep a travel packet inside your parka for bathroom time. If you want to use tampons, the method is very similar. Take the tampon out, wrap it up with tissue, put it in the opaque bag.  If the idea of using one bag for the whole trip is gross, you can bring a few bags set up this way.  

And obviously, if you choose to use tampons, it’s important to make sure that you have enough with you. You should pack out any used tampons in a Ziploc bag, and you can wrap the bag with duct tape ahead of time to conceal the contents for privacy. If you get menstrual cramps, bring whatever painkillers you usually use to help ease them.

Attitude

The single most important muscle that a climber of any gender will use is between the ears. A positive attitude, good self-care, and the willingness to face and work with the realities you are presented by your body and environment are the best predictors of success. You will have good days and bad days. You and your teammates will take turns being the stronger or weaker members of the expedition, but it is your bond as a group that will get you up and back.

We strive to provide all our climbers with the best information and recommendations for our programs around the world. If you have any questions regarding the information in this document or would like to speak with a female AAI guide, please feel free to contact the AAI office.

Happy climbing!

--Shelby Carpenter, AAI Instructor and Guide


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