Friday, September 30, 2016

The Sin of Sponsorship

Elite climbers and well-known guides have been sponsored by gear manufacturers for years. The idea behind sponsorship is that a gear manufacturer will choose an individual who is making notable ascents and has good interaction with the public (through magazines, through guiding or through notoriety) to help promote their gear.

However, there is some controversy about this among sponsored climbers. Some ask, should certain individuals be sponsored? Certainly some may be asking this because they want to remain in a small elite crew of individuals. Others may be asking -- perhaps more legitimately -- the question because they don't see some of their peers as qualified.

Until recently, this particular question was left to the privacy of the brew pub...but then a couple of years ago Scott Semple wrote a blog entitled, "Is Sponsorship a Sin?" This question started a very serious conversation in the climbing community, both on his blog and in forums like cascadeclimbers.com.

Scott wrote specifically that the ability of some climbers to self-promote outweighs their actual climbing abilities. His thesis is that those who are lying or exaggerating about their abilities to secure their sponsorships shouldn't be sponsored.

Following is the heart of his blog:

The more you climb, the less you’re interested in reading the same recycled stories with the same characters smiling from new faces. And the less you can tolerate the self-promotion that comes from white lies and self-serving exaggerations in hopes of becoming (or staying) sponsored. And those indulgences are rampant and widespread.

If sponsorship isn’t backed up by a legitimate accomplishment that is significant to the sport, then being rewarded for something insignificant is sad and undeserved. And it’s immoral, because it creates a facade, and facades are lies.

This happens more often than you might think. Many of the athletes you often see in climbing magazines are phenomenal at self-promotion, but range from average to crap at actually climbing. Ice, mixed and alpine climbing have the worst offenders. (Rock climbing is usually too consistent, popular and objective for lies to last long.) Truth is, many climbers are sponsored for what they say, or how well they’re known, rather than for what they’ve done.

The problem stems from the fact that the “athlete” is the performer, but also the judge and the journalist. A lack of objectivity and a lack of integrity combine to create opportunistic self-promotion masquerading as journalism. The result is that average achievements beget above-average attention.

Scott got so many comments about this particular blog that he presented a slideshow on the topic at the Night of Lies event in Canmore. The 22 minute slideshow was videotaped and is one of the most interesting and intriguing issues that has been presented recently, that will never be covered by the major climbing news outlets.

I tired to link the video to this blog, but it appears that it no longer exists. However, after the slideshow, Scott wrote a second blog about the responses that he received. One of the main comments that he posted was from Dave Karl, a gear rep.

I disagree with the three-test rule. I have IFMGA & AMGA Mountain Guides that I sponsor that are totally worthy. Their personal (non-guided) climbing accomplishments may not be noteworthy among their elite peers, but they don’t bullsh*t either, and they do help sell product. These guides help the entire sport and climbing community by educating the public and introducing new participants to climbing. A good mountain guide can be a great sponsorship investment.

Scott agreed with this comment and indicated that "I agree with Dave that there are folks out there worthy of support that may not be on the cutting edge of climbing. They are typically local, grassroots climbers or industry-folk like guides that are in front of the target market on a daily basis. I have no objections to these athletes being supported, either by sales reps or by brands, on an informal basis."

The outdoor industry is full of sponsored individuals. And it is full of a lot of ego, arrogance and self-promotion. Sponsorship is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it's great. It provides us with an insight into who is at the top of the game. But on the other hand, if we can't trust the magazines and the gear manufacturers to screen their athletes, then the value of every sponsored athlete -- whether they deserve it or not -- is diminished.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/29/16

Northwest:

--The Global News is reporting, "Search and rescue officials say a climber is lucky to be alive after falling while attempting a free-climb at Crawford Falls in Canada's Kelowna. The incident happened Saturday when the man was hiking along the Crawford Falls trail and decided to attempt the climb. He fell 30 feet." To read more, click here.


--The Bellingham Mountain Rescue Council announces its annual fundraising slideshow at Backcountry Essentials (214 West Holly Street, Bellingham, WA) with Washington-based photographer and ski mountaineer Jason Hummel. The slideshow will take place on October 7th at 7:30pm.

Desert Southwest:

Red Rock Canyon in the Morning

--Red Rock Canyon is under threat, yet again. Developers would like to build thousands of houses literally across the street from the iconic climbing area. To undermine this movement, please sign this petition and try to stop the development. Pavement is forever...

--A former university professor has just published a book on the 1993 canyoneering tragedy in Zion National Park. The Kolob Tragedy tells the story of the incident, the deaths and the rescue that followed. To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--Resort officials with the largest ski area collective in the Southwest announced the acquisition of Hesperus Ski Area, joining Purgatory Resort (CO), Arizona Snowbowl (AZ), Sipapu Ski & Summer Resort (NM), and Pajarito Mountain (NM). Hesperus Ski Area is located 11 miles west of Durango, Colo. on US Highway 160. James Coleman, a Durango, Colo. businessman and managing partner of an investment group that owns four other ski resorts, will acquire the Hesperus Ski Area operations from Jim Pitcher, affectionately known as “Pitch.” Since 1988, Pitcher has held a lease agreement with private landowner, S. & I. Scott & Co., started by Sandy and Iola Scott. The corporation is now held by Jack Scott, Katy Scott Moss, and John Scott. The acquisition includes the Hesperus Ski Area’s lodge, rental shop, and tubing hill, in addition to its 160 acre lease. To read more, click here.

--Fox 31 in Denver is reporting, "A 16-year-old boy involved in a deadly collision on the slopes at Breckenridge Ski Resort is being sued for wrongful death. John Sherwood, 43, from New Jersey died after the collision on the expert trail Tiger Run on April 4. It happened under the Peak 8 Super Connect chairlift near tower No. 25. According to the lawsuit, the teen from New Hampshire was above Sherwood on the trail, was skiing at a high rate of speed and crashed into Sherwood from behind." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--According to the Calgary Herald, 27-year-old Trevor Sexsmith died in an avalanche on Mt. Victoria in Banff National Park on Sunday. Sexmith and his ski partner set out in the morning to ski Mt. Victoria but turned around mid-way due to strong wind and bad weather. They descended the same route they climbed. To read more, click here.

--In hard core news, Marc-Andre Leclerc summited Patagonia's Torre-Egger in the winter, alone. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Book Review: The Steady Climb - A Family Journey from Mountains to Markets by Jay Hack

In the year 2000, I met a jovial mountain guide at the Institute. Jay Hack was an extremely cheerful individual, a great climber and an absolutely stellar guide. Jay and I became fast friends and long term climbing partners.

I was living in Las Vegas at the time, and Jay would regularly come and stay with me. We would climb together whenever possible. And Jay would pick-up guide work whenever he could. Our Red Rock Canyon program was nowhere near as robust as it is now, and at the time it wasn't able to support multiple guides simultaneously.

Jay was a one of those guides who lived out of his car and followed the climbing and guiding seasons around he world. He worked in the desert, in the Cascades, in Alaska, and in South America. And for a time this lifestyle worked for him.

But then, it didn't.

He became restless and wanted a change. He decided to attend graduate school at American University in Washington D.C. It was there that he pursued and MBA.

There's an old joke about guides that goes something like this:

What's the difference between a mountain guide and a mutual fund?

A mutual fund will eventually mature and make money...

Jay, like a mutual fund, did eventually mature and make money. But alas, he did not only make money, but he became a financial consultant and now helps other people make money.

I, on the other hand, remain a mountain guide... Poor and immature.

But enough about me.

Jay moved away from guiding people in the complex terrain of the mountains and into guiding people through the complex terrain of investing. Fortuitously, he was invited to join an investment firm that his father started. And now the two of them work side-by-side, developing strategic money management plans for people from all walks of life.


In that setting, working alongside his father, Jay learned a tremendous amount about investing and the way that markets work. And there he developed an understanding of how his career as a mountain guide could help him in his career as a financial advisor. He realized that he was, after all, still a guide.

Mountains are metaphors for innumerable things that people experience. But the mountain as a metaphor is almost uniquely suited to the concept of investing. There are ups and downs, dangerous moments, moments of triumph and even moments of sheer terror. This is a perfect analogy for many peoples experiences with investing.

Jay has written a book about his experience applying the lessons that he learned as a climber and guide to his career as a financial advisor. The Steady Climb: A Family Journey from Mountains to Markets explores important tenants of investing and money management. He discusses a number of critical financial concepts, the bulk of which revolve around the notion of making long term solid conservative investments instead of short-term gambling on the market.

The Steady Climb provides an accessible way for someone who is not financially minded to look at investment strategies. The book uses a series of anecdotes from Jay's life as a guide, his father's work in financial consulting, and in his own work as a financial advisor to illuminate core concepts. This narrative style slices through the standard blah that accompanies other such books and provides one with an engaging window into the world of investment.

I've known Jay since the turn of the century and I've heard every one of his mountain stories several times. They never get boring because he is a great storyteller and often his stories are funny. In The Steady Climb, I experienced these stories again. But this time there was something different...

We tell stories to engage our friends and make them laugh. And Jay was always successful at this. But with the way these stories were told in the book, there was a greater point. Jay took each of his stories and expertly re-fashioned them to provide insight into the complexity of financial investment. And for that, I'm grateful. I learned a tremendous amount from The Steady Climb and I would heartily recommend it to anyone, young or old, that is trying to develop a solid investment strategy.

Indeed, after reading this book and following some of Jay's advice, perhaps I will no longer be a poor guide. I don't know if Jay or his book can do anything about my maturity level though...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 26, 2016

Anchor Technique: The Quad

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

In the following video, AMGA Instructor Team Member Jeff Ward, demonstrates how to construct a Quad and then talks about the anchor's benefits.



The benefits listed at the end of the video include:

1) Self-Equalizing
2) Separate clip in points
3) No need to break it down
4) Limited extension if there is bolt failure
5) Limits belayer and second from pulling on one another

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 23, 2016

A Children's Book about Mountain Guides?


Yep, you bet. Mark the Mountain Guide is a book for kids about Mountain Guides. The video doesn't give us the whole story, but I bet that the guide gets all of his climbers safely across the Grumpy Gorge!



I ordered both this book and a sequel to this book a couple of years ago. I have to say both of the books are quite good and my children really enjoy them...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/22/16

Northwest:

--The Register-Guard reports, "Authorities have recovered the body of a Portland, Oregon, man who went missing last fall during a climb of Colchuck Peak. The Chelan County Sheriff’s Office and a rescue team recovered the body of Adam Ochshorn from below the west buttress on Friday." To read more, click here.

--First Tracks reports that, "a massive new glacier ski resort planned for land just west of Jasper National Park, received a green light from the B.C. provincial government. Developers hope to have the CAN$175 million Valemount Glacier Destination Resort up and running by December 2017." To read more, click here.

Sierra:

Dr. Alfred Kwok

--Alfred Kowk, an AAI Alumnus, lost his life in a fall during a solo hiking trip this week. Kwok was a well known climber and physics/astronomy professor. Alfred was loved by both the Southern California climbing community as well as by the community at Pomona College. To read a remembrance, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Climber Greg McKee lost his finger in a fall in Indian Creek recently. He was climbing Fingers in a Light Socket (5.11+) when he took a fall, leaving one finger in the crack. To read more, click here.

--It appears that you will now have to pay to camp at Indian Creek. To read more about this, click here. To read a funny take-down of climbers complaining, click here.

--Waste removal with helicopters created temporary closures at Zion National Park last week. To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--The Daily Camera reports, "Fitness enthusiasts will be able to "earn their turns" this ski season at Eldora. The Nederland resort, which was purchased in June by the Utah-based chain Powdr, will allow uphill skiing — also known as uphilling or alpine touring — this winter with a temporary rule change." To read more, click here.

--Madaleine Sorkin recently became the first woman to free The Honeymoon is Over (5.13c, V) on the Diamond on Longs Peak. To read about the ascent, click here.

News from All Over:

--Climber Kim Shmitz was killed in a single car accident on September 19th. To read about this man's extraordinary life, click here.

--Gripped Magazine is reporting that, "there was an avalanche on Mount Edith Cavell in Jasper National park that took two climbers for a 75-metre ride. Luckily, the climbers escaped with only minor injuries." To read more, click here.

--According to the Winston-Salem Journal in North Carolina, "A rock climber was injured in a fall at Pilot Mountain State Park Saturday afternoon, authorities said. The man, who was not identified, was climbing with a group near the park's parking area, Ranger Nick Bowman said." To read more, click here.

--The GearJunkie is reporting that "Kaiha “Wildcard Ninja” Bertollini may have just broke every record ever set on the Appalachian Trail. Not only would this be the fastest self-supported through-hike of the A.T. (beating Heather “Anish” Anderson’s 2015 record of 54 days), but it even tops every supported hike (beating ultra-running legend Karl Meltzer’s day-old record of 45 days, 22 hours, and 38 minutes)." To read more, click here.

--The Banff Mountain Book Festival has announced finalists. To see the list, click here.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Sprained Ankles: Don't Do More Damage by Rushing Recovery

Ankle sprains are among the most common injuries, and unfortunately, they are more often than not, not well cared for. An article by health writer Jane Brody in the New York Times explains the dangers of not taking really good care of even a minor sprain.

She writes: “A sprained ankle is one of the most common joint injuries, prompting many people to consider it 'just a sprain' and not treat it with the respect it deserves. The too-common consequence of this neglect is a lasting weakness, an unstable joint and repeated sprains.
Given that some 25,000 ankle sprains occur each day in the United States, it is worth knowing how they can be prevented and how they should be treated.”

Under treatment means that 30 to 40 percent of people with simple ankle sprains develop chronic long-term joint pathology.

Experts say that after a sprain the ankle should be immediately immobilized to protect the joint and allow the injured ligaments to heal: at least a week for the simplest sprain, 10 to 14 days for a moderate sprain and four to six weeks for more severe sprains.

You can’t simply use pain as a guideline, because often times pains eases up or goes away in cases in which there is still a lot of ligament healing to be done.

Brody writes, “As with other such injuries, the recommended first aid for an ankle sprain, to be started as soon as possible after the injury, goes by the acronym
RICE:

R – for rest,
I – for ice,
C – for compression,
E – for elevation.

In other words, get off the foot, wrap it in an Ace-type bandage, raise it higher than the heart and ice it with a cloth-wrapped ice pack applied for 20 minutes once every hour (longer application can cause tissue damage). This should soon be followed by a visit to a doctor, physical therapist or professional trainer, who should prescribe a period of immobilization of the ankle and rehabilitation exercises. An anti-inflammatory drug may be recommended and crutches provided for a few days, especially if the ankle is too painful to bear weight.”

See her article for more details on care and healing:
http://tinyurl.com/mhj8oj

Brody writes on health every Tuesday in the NYT’s Science Times section.

Dunham Gooding

Monday, September 19, 2016

The 12-Point Anchor System

A number of years ago I was working one of our Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership programs with Jonathon Spitzer. Jonathon no longer works for AAI, but we keep in touch. In any case Jonathon asked what system I liked to use to teach anchor systems. At the time I had a system that I thought was clever where I graded each individual piece in a student's anchor with a standard A-F style American public school rubric.

Jonathon asked, "have you ever used the 12-point system?"

"The 12-point system?" I asked. "What's that?"

Jonathon explained that it's a system used to evaluate student anchors. The goal is for the powerpoint in each anchor to have a value of twelve. The value is provided by individual pieces. A good cam or a good stopper is worth four-points. So if you have three good cams or good stoppers, you have a value of 12 at the powerpoint.

I have used the 12-point system to teach anchor construction ever since that original conversation. I find that students understand this complex topic far more effectively when it is laid out before them in this way. Following is a breakdown of the 12-point evaluative system:

  • --A four-point piece is bomber. It should be able to hold a substantial fall.
  • --A three-point piece is pretty good. It should be able to hold a short fall. An example might be taking a fall with your feet at the piece.
  • --A two-point piece isn't very good. It will hold a fall with your waist at the piece.
  • --A one-point piece is essentially aid gear. It will hold bodyweight, but is unlikely to hold a fall.
With this in mind, consider the following pieces and how they might play into a 12-point system:
  • --A large cam, 1" or more -- 4 points
  • --A small cam, less than 1" -- 3 points
  • --Micro cams -- 2 points
  • --A large nut, a Stopper size 8 or greater -- 4 points
  • --A medium nut, Stopper 4-7 -- 3 points
  • --A small nut -- 1-2 points depending on size and rock quality
  • --A very large tree with a good root base -- 12 points
  • --A very large boulder that doesn't move and is on stable terrain -- 12 points
  • --A good bolt -- 6 points
The 12-point concept both plays into and undercuts the idea that you need three pieces of traditional gear to have a good anchor. It plays into it by saying that if you can get three 4-point pieces then you will have a solid anchor. It undercuts it by saying that some pieces might not be valued at four points.



A simple three-piece pre-equalized 12-point anchor in good rock
Note that you are not required to use lockers in the pieces and that these could have been non-lockers.

There are three additional pieces to this puzzle. The first is that the pieces must be good. In other words they have to be placed appropriately to achieve their full point status. The second is that the rock that the pieces are placed in must be good. If the rock quality is poor, you may have to subtract points. And the third piece of the puzzle is that due to weird rock, flaring cracks or a lack of pieces that fit properly, you may not be able to build a 12-point anchor with three pieces. The rock may force you to use four, five or even six pieces.

This is an anchor "in series." An individual may choose to use this kind of anchor
when there area lot of pieces in the system to obtain 12-points, but a cordellete
isn't long enough to link all the pieces together. In this photo there are
only three pieces, but there could easily be five, and they would be dealt with the
same way, by building anchors on top of anchors.

There are times in the alpine when it is not possible to build a 12-point anchor. In this circumstance you may only be able to fashion a four or six-point anchor. To do this, place a piece or two and then tie them off to your harness. Once you're tied in, you can use your body as a supplement to the anchor and then belay directly off your harness with a tube style device.

You should only build your body into a 12-point anchor if you need to do so for speed on a very big objective, or you cannot build a system that meets or exceeds 12-points. When you belay off your body it is difficult to escape the belay if anything went wrong...and if you're anchor is terrible, then a belay escape isn't really an option anyway.

There is only one magic bullet when it comes to building a good anchor, and that's experience. The concept of a 12-point anchor will provide you with a good foundation for anchor building, but to really feel confident, you're going to have to build a lot of anchors...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 16, 2016

The Worst Climbing Movies Ever!

For a non-climber, climbing is a foreign thing. All of the participants are adrenaline junkies looking for their next fix. This perception in conjunction with a serious lack of knowledge about climbing culture have come together over the years to provide us with some very bad climbing films.

You might think that there is little to no value in a poorly executed climbing film, but you would be horribly wrong. The value in these films is wholly unintentional. Most people can suspend their disbelief under certain circumstances. If there is something unrealistic here or there, we usually choose to ignore it. But in some films, it is utterly impossible to ignore the problems. They get it so wrong, yet play it so straight, that the films actually become quite comic.

The worst offenders take poor plot-lines, poor dialogue and incredibly ludicrous climbing scenarios and successfully -- though unintentionally -- weave them into a cinematic mess that is so unbelievable they seem surreal. Three films stand out as the worst of the worst. And indeed it is because these are the worst offenders that they are so fun to watch.

Cliffhanger (1993)

Synopsis: A high end climber and search and rescue expert -- who lost a friend in a tragic, but totally avoidable, climbing accident -- is forced to assist a group of gun-wielding thieves in their quest to find boxes of money scattered throughout the Rocky Mountains. Oh yeah, as this is a Sylvester Stallone movie, he does this mostly in the snow wearing a t-shirt. And sometimes he's even topless...


Cardboard characters, racial and ethnic stereotypes, and a script that is so unrealistic that there isn't a moment of the film where one doesn't laugh at the stupidity of the characters are all components of the vast majority of the Stallone films. This one certainly does not stand out as being different or of a higher quality.

Cliffhanger does have a few didactic moments for climbers. We learn that it is really not a good idea to shoot a machine gun at the cornice that you're standing beneath. We learn that we should be terrified if the stuffed animal in our backpack falls. And of course we learn that you shouldn't mess around with Rambo.

Suprisingly, the original storyline of this film was based on a true story. Climbing author, John Long, gets story credit for the film. In 1977, a plane filled with marijuana crashed in the Lower Merced Lake in Yosemite National Park. At the time it was winter and the lake was difficult to get to. Long lived in Yosemite when this happened and watched the incident unfold. It is likely that his original story pitch represented this true story, but was warped by Hollywood into a Sly Stallone vehicle which really is too bad.

Vertical Limit (2000)


Synopsis: A high end climber and photographer -- who lost his dad in a tragic, but totally avoidable, climbing accident -- must rescue his sister from a crevasse as well as from a crazed climber. Oh yeah, and he's supposed to do it with bottles of nitroglycerin. On K2.


A great deal has been said about this film in the climbing community. Indeed, it may be possible that this was the most talked about "bad" climbing film of all time. Why? It's just way over the top.

In the opening scene, somehow all kinds of cams and pins rip out of a desert tower leading to an incredibly unrealistic accident. Somehow they mixed up the party scene in Joshua Tree National Park with base camp on K2. And somehow, they thought that a mountain climbing rescue drama needed a few things to spice it up. It needed a villainous character who murders people high on the mountain. It needed characters wandering around on the glacier with full racks of shiny cams with no rock climbing in sight. And clearly to make any climbing movie realistic, you need to have unstable nitroglycerin.

A lot of people like to talk about leading man, Chris O'Donnell, and his radical running leap over a chasm high on K2. My question is, have you ever run in crampons? Have you ever run at altitude? Were that me, I would have probably tripped over my crampons while hyperventilating, thus falling down to the bottom of the bottomless chasm.

I know that I'm not the only one who noticed another problem with O'Donnell's portrayal of a world-class climber. Every time he talks to his sister (Robin Tunney) throughout the film it looks like he's trying to seduce her. It appears that O'Donnell only knows how to play one thing while working with a female counterpart on screen and in light of these two character's relationship, it's a little bit icky.

Vertical Limit was way over the top. Every scene was an excercise in excess. And every beat of the story seemed more unrealistic than the previous. It's likely that this was -- to some extent -- intentional. Film-makers often build action with sequences that are more and more dramatic throughout a movie. In Vertical Limit, this one-upmanship did not lead to an edge of your seat movie experience. Instead, it lead straight to serious unintentional comedy.


Take it to the Limit (2000)

Synopsis: A bad boy from the city -- who was in a tragic, but totally avoidable accident with a stolen car -- hangs out with a bunch of inept climbers who appear to have near-terminal cases of ADHD. Oh yeah, he does this to pick up a girl.


Famous B movie producer Roger Corman was behind this strange adventure. And ironically, even though it is a B movie, this film probably has the best script of the three. The problem is that with little to no knowledge of climbing culture or climbing itself, an okay script turns into an exercise in the ludicrous.

There are a few scenes that stick out as being over the top. There's the time when the hero and his girlfriend get stuck on a cliff approximately a hundred feet up a third class pitch with no way to get down. Then there's the time when they go "climbing" on a water tower; only to leave the hero stuck on top because he doesn't have climbing shoes. And then there's the time that they go toproping, but they give each other so many high fives when it's suggested that you literally wonder what they were smoking.

Perhaps the best part of the entire film is the rap. A rap, you say? Yes, a rap. Every time they go climbing the rap starts. It goes something like this:
  • Take it to the limit, the limit, the limit
  • Take it to the limit, the limit, the limit
  • Take it to the limit, the limit, the limit
By no stretch of the imagination is this a difficult rap. No, it probably took about ten minutes to write. But if one thing is for sure, once you see Take it to the Limit, you won't be able to get the words Take it to the Limit, out of your head...

Ironically, outside the climbing world, these three movies no longer have a life of their own. Clearly, they weren't just bad climbing movies. They were just plain bad. For better or worse, we're responsible for keeping these movies alive. I suppose I can live with that...

Trailers for Cliffhanger and Vertical Limit may be seen below. Follow the link to watch the trailer for Take it to the Limit.









--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Film Review: Vertical Frontier

Mount Everest is deeply embedded in the minds of climbers and non-climbers alike all over the world. People think about it constantly.  We hear it all the time: "what do I need to do to climb Everest?"

Mount Everest is the highest mountain in the world. But that's not what's made it such a household name. No, instead, it was the countless books and documentaries that have been produced over the years describing the gruesome details of expeditions gone wrong, and the heroic efforts of climbers on successful ascents. Popular culture lore helped to create the Everest that exists in our minds...


And while there are other mountains that the collective climbing psyche is fixated on, there are few that have seen so many popular culture references. And fewer yet that have hundreds of documentary films chronicling the tales on their flanks.  Mount Everest is an international household name.  It was the scene of many heroic alpine struggles...but there are other places that deserve such an honor.  One of those places is Yosemite Valley.

Like Mount Everest, Yosemite holds an important place in the history of climbing. It is where modern rock climbing evolved the furthest, the fastest.  And it is a place where technical skill and big wall proficiency is still at the cutting edge.  One great difference between Mount Everest and Yosemite is the fact that there simply have not been as many popular culture explorations of the place and its history to climbers.

Vertical Frontier, subtitled, "A History of the Art, Sport and Philosophy of Rock Climbing in Yosemite," is a Mount Everest style documentary built for the masses.  But unlike many of the Everest documentaries, Vertical Frontier caters to climbers as well as to non-climbers, making it one of the rare films that is entertaining to both audiences.

Vertical Frontier is a slick PBS-style feature documentary narrated by Tom Brokaw that tells the story of climbing in Yosemite from the first forays onto big features in the 1800s to a battle between climbers and the National Park Service at the turn of the century.  In between these two bookends, the film follows the development of climbing skill and technique by chronicling the important ascents over the last 100 years.

Much of the film is done in a standard documentary format; a format that easily allows the filmmakers to tell the story. And though engaging, climbing history is fraught with emotion and one-upsmanship. This, unfortunately, doesn't always penetrate the documentary style.

The capstone of Yosemite's story in the film is the "coming-together" of climbers after a flood seriously impacted the valley's tourist infrastructure in 1997. The National Park Service proposed a change in Camp 4, the campground used by generations of Yosemite Climbers. They wanted to build a new lodge at the historic site.  The last minutes of the film are quite different from the rest, as they are filled with emotion as decades worth of climbers pull together to save the place that provided them with such inspiration.

This 2002 documentary won the "Best Film on Climbing" at the Banff Mountain Film Festival in 2002 and at the Kendall Mountain Film Festival in 2003. The film won first prize in the Mountaineering Category at the International Mountaineering Film Festival at Teplice nad Metuii in the Czech Republic in 2004.  Additionally, it won the "Viewer's Choice" award at the International Festival of Outdoor Films in 2004 and the "Best Cameraman" at the Tbilisi International Mountain Films Festival in Georgia in 2006. It may be one of the better-awarded documentaries of its type...



Many of the films we see on Youtube or at the Banff Film Festival today are about people pushing standards. They are often slickly produced and are extremely entertaining. But they don't usually give us a glimpse into what came before the climbers on screen demonstrating their acrobatic skills.  Vertical Frontier provides this and is extremely entertaining for it...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 12, 2016

Finger Injuries in Climbing

The hangboard.

It sits above the doorway in the office, taunting me. It sits above the doorway, daring me to train. It sits above the doorway, and stares me down. It sits above the doorway...

I can't help it. I'm a climber. It's in my genes. I have to hang on it. I have to do pull-ups on it. I have to climb.

But the reality is that hanging on a hangboard is not climbing. Hangboards are supposed to be for training. In truth hangboards are one of the best ways climbers have devised to obtain sports injuries.

I know only too well. One day I succumbed to the devious taunts of the board and began to train on it. I succumbed and pulled something in my ring finger.


A climber on the Boy Scout Wall in Red Rock Canyon
Photo by Jason Martin

After doing a little research I discovered that I probably injured one of the pulleys in my finger. A great website called climbinginjuries.comprovided me with everything that I needed to know in order to get better. They indicated that I had a pulley injury in my finger and they identified three levels of pulley injury.

  • Grade III: A grade three injury usually involves a complete rupture of the pulley creating bowstringing of the tendon. Symptoms of this severe soft tissue injury includes local pain in the pulley, swelling or even bruising, pain when squeezing, pain when extending the finger, and most disturbingly those who get this injury often hear a pop inside their finger.
  • Grade II: A grade two injury is identified by a partial rupture of the pulley tendon. This injury is characterized by local pain at the pulley, pain when squeezing and occasionally pain when extending a finger.
  • Grade I: A grade one injury is characterized by local pain at the pulley, pain when squeezing and a sprain of the finger ligaments (collateral ligaments).

Treatment:


These injuries can be quite serious. Some people may require months to recover from a Grade III pulley rupture. Climbinginjuries.com has a prescribed method for treatment:



Go buy some TheraPutty! All orthopedic doctors and physical therapists will recommend putty as a tool for successful recovery.(2) The fingers generally receive poor blood flow so getting blood to the injured area is important. Contrast baths have had mixed results in the literature, but it wouldn't hurt to try. To do a contrast bath, get a bowl of warm water, and cold water. Put injured finger in cold water for a few minutes, then place it immediately in the warm water for a few minutes. Repeat 3-5 times. Finish with the cold water. This could be done after squeezing the putty ball to "flush out" the injured joint. Massaging the effected area can be effective as well. Start out lightly and gradually increase the pressure.

Pulleys
  • Grade III: - Immediately- Stop climbing Apply ice or cold immediately, no more than 15 minutes at a time (1-2 days) Take ibuprofen for 1- 2 day Keep the hand elevated Week 1-2 Don't climb! Don't immobilize the finger. Unless there is a lot of pain, open and close your hand often VERY light massage at the site of the injury. Concentrate on other aspects of your life. Week 4-8 Warm the hands by use of a bath or an electric blanket, then squeeze the yellow (softest) putty. Don't push it, if there's pain…stop. Repeat a few times per day. Go to Grade II Treatment.
  • Grade II: (Week 1-2) No climbing Warm the hands by use of a bath or an electric blanket, then squeeze the red putty. Don't push it, if there's pain…stop. Repeat a few times per day. Lubricate and lightly massage at the site of the injury. (Week 3-6) Tape the injured finger, stretch your forearms (this relieves the stress on the finger tendons) and climb thebiggest holds you can find. Start easy, this will be the quickest way to recovery. If you climb too hard, too fast, then return to the start of Grade 2 and do not collect $200. Always stretch your forearms after warming up and prior to climbing. Start squeezing the medium to firm putty. Lubricate and massage the finger at the site of the injury a couple of times/day. Start lightly and gradually increase the intensity using very short strokes on the injured site. Go to Grade I Treatment
  • Grade I (Week 1) Tape the injured finger and continue to climb at a level well below your normal level. Gradually increase the stresses on the fingers. Stretch your forearms after warming up and prior to climbing. This relieves the stress on the finger tendons. Squeeze the medium to firm putty a few times per day. Lubricate and massage the finger at the site of the injury. Start light and gradually increase intensity. Very short strokes on the injured site. Expected outcome Take advice from a practitioner who specializes in climbing. However, if treated early and effectively, with an appropriately graded return to activity, recovery will usually take 3-8 weeks. However, if the injury is pushed beyond its stage of recovery, re-injury will occur and may result in a chronic injury that will require a much more protracted rehabilitation period.

The best way to recover from a finger injury is to avoid getting hurt in the first place. Here are a few rules to live by:

  • Always warm up on easy climbs. Don't jump straight onto the hardest thing you can get up. 
  • Stretch your fingers. 
  • Don't overtrain. If you are climbing hard then you should probably avoid climbing every day. Strong sport climbers will often climb every other day. 
  • Stretch your fingers again. 
  • Massage your forearms between burns. 
  • Stretch your fingers more.

Sooner or later my finger will heal up and when it does I'll train more consciously. The hangboard definitely requires a bit more care. The last thing I need is another finger injury to crimp my crimping style!

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Mug Dilemma

Well, it's not really that much of a dilemma. A few years ago, somebody suggested to me that one could save space and go lighter if he ditched his mug for hot drinks. The idea was that you're already carrying water-bottles...why not use those instead?

So I did. I ditched the mug and started to drink all of my hot fluids out of my Nalgene bottles. This worked for awhile, until I found out about polycarbonate and Bisphenol A.

If you've had you haven't heard some rumblings about this, you've probably been in the backcountry too much. This controversy set the outdoor blogs and forums on fire a few years ago.

Essentially, many water bottles are made out of polycarbonate. The problem with this is that the bottles may leech Bisphenol A into the contents. This is exacerbated in hot liquids, older bottles, or in bottles that you store fluid in for a long period of time.

The problem with Bisphenol A is that this estrogen-like chemical has been linked to breast cancer and the onset of early puberty. Studies have also raised concerns about the effect of such feminizing hormones on men, such as breast enlargement or dropping semen counts.

So after finding out about this, I wasn't that psyched on my water-bottles any more. I know that many companies have taken steps to keep this chemical out of their bottles, but I didn't want to chance it. As a result, I invested in a little metal water bottle, which mostly worked well.

It was always a bit difficult to hold the plastic bottles after filling them with boiling tea. This was much worse when I used the metal bottle. Indeed, I actually made a little cosy in order to comfortably hold the bottle.

And so all was well for a time... But then it happened.

Inexplicably, I put a plastic water-bottle into my pack instead of a metal bottle. I don't know why I did this. And the bottle I put in the bag wasn't from one of the well-known bottle manufactures. No, it was from a gear rep and it had a company name on it...

I didn't think this would matter. It looked just as heavy as any Nalgene bottle I'd carried in the past. But it turns out that it wasn't. When I put my hot water into the bottle, it changed shape and became something all together different.

A bottle melted out of form by boiling water.

This had never happened to me before, so I was a bit shocked. I didn't expect the bottle to melt.

The moral of the story isn't that I've gone back to carrying a mug, but instead to say, check your bottles with hot water in them before you take them into the backcountry, If there's something weird about them, it's better to know ahead of time than during a trip...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/8/16

Northwest:

--A pair of Northwest hardmen freed the Liberty Crack on Liberty Bell this summer! To read more, click here.

--Bellingham paraglider pilot and ultra runner Jesse Williams recently made a flight around both Mt. Baker and Mt. Shuksan. This was the first time this has been done in a paraglider. To read more, click here. To see a video about the flight, click below:



Desert Southwest:

--Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area’s developed campground will reopen Friday, September 2, in time for the beginning of its busiest camping season. Cooler temperatures during the fall and winter months make Red Rock Canyon a destination for visitors from around the world. To read more at Mesquite Local News, click here.

--Just a few months ago, opponents of two major developments near the Grand Canyon seemed like they could relax, after the Forest Service shut down a proposal to build 2,200 homes and a luxury resort six miles from the South Rim and a new administration for the Navajo Nation expressed opposition to a massive tourist center proposed for the east side of the canyon, the centerpiece of which would be a tram from the rim to the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers. But now the latter project, known as Grand Canyon Escalade, has moved onto the front burner with the submission of a bill to earmark $65 million for development and approval to enter into a contract with the Arizona developers who want to build the tram. To read more from the Adventure Journal article, click here.

--Hikers be warned – the National Park Service says it’s now tarantula mating season. The mating season of tarantulas lasts through the end of October, according to the National Park Service officials at Joshua Tree National Park. Click here to read more from CBS Los Angeles.

Notes from All Over:

--The search for American climbers Kyle Dempster and Scott Adamson on Ogre II in Pakistan has been called off. Pakistani military helicopters and climber Thomas Huber participated in search and rescue efforts between August 28 and September 3rd. To read more, click here.

--A climber who reportedly fell 40-feet at Chapel Ledges in Massachusetts was rescued and transported by a LifeFlight helicopter for treatment of non-life-threatening injuries last Wednesday night. Rescue workers were called at 6:15 p.m. after the climber fell. Just down the path from where rescuers worked, other climbers said the victim fell about 40-feet into a tree. To read more from the Daily Hampshire Gazette, click here.

--Gripped Magazine is reporting that an injured climber took a massive lead fall on Canada's Yamnuska mountain. It appears that the climber took nearly a 50-foot lead fall and hit a ledge on the Diretissema (5.8+, III+) route. To read more, click here.

--The New York Times published an editorial this weekend about mountain bikes in federally mandated wilderness. They argue that bikes should be kept out. They argue that this is a slippery slope that those who wish to undermine wilderness are using for their nefarious purposes. We tend to agree. We've seen this before with an olive branch for climbers concerning the use of power drills for wilderness bolting. It's all a trick. They don't want to stop with drills or mountain bikes. They want to undermine the Wilderness Act itself. To read the article, click here.

--A massive avalanche was recently recorded on video in the Zanskar area of the Himalaya. To read more about the avalanche and the area, click here. To see the video, click below:



--On August 24, Tommy Caldwell and Adam Stack completed the first known car-to-car ascent of Mt. Hooker in the Wind River Range. The duo covered fifteen miles of trail before ascending Hooker's north face via Jaded Lady (VI 5.12a, 1,800') and hiking back to their car in 19 hours and 39 minutes. Click here to read the full report from Alpinist.

--Here's an article on how to survive a wolf attack! Though, there are very few modern accounts of people being attacked by wolves... And then the same guy wrote an article about how to survive a bear attack...

--Check out the trailer for the new film about skiing in the National Parks. The film was produced by Powder Magazine and REI. For information on how to see this film, click here.



--Here is a very disconcerting view of the glaciers in the Alps as they've melted over the last century...

--Here's an awesome piece on the White Mountain Trail crew put together by NPR.

--Record visitor numbers at the nation’s first national park have transformed Yellowstone National Park’s annual tourist rush into a sometimes dangerous frenzy. Photo-snapping visitors routinely break the rules, getting too close to elk, grizzly bears, wolves and bison. To read more at Fox 13, click here.

Monday, September 5, 2016

Vertical Limit: An Instructional Video?



Hold your breath! Okay, you can let it out now. There wasn't that much a reason to hold your breath, because the 2000 film, Vertical Limit is dumb.

It has been discussed here in the past and in many other climbing forums and blogs. There is no other way to put it...

Vertical Limit is stupid.

Maybe I should make this a little bit more clear. Vertical Limit is perhaps the most ludicrous climbing film of all time. There is not one iota of truth or reality in the entire movie from the beginning to the end. And in many cases, the storyline is so outrageous that it is actually comical.

So a small group of climbers decided that the best way to use the content of this film was to make an instructional climbing video out of it. Hilarity ensues...



--Jason D. Martin


Friday, September 2, 2016

Climbing and Mountaineering in Space

As scientists make plans for a Mars trip, some are already thinking about the mountain climbing prospects on the red planet. Indeed, some even argue that it is a necessary step in the planet's exploration. Read more about it here.
Sooner or later human beings will go beyond our moon to explore the solar system. And sooner or later, some of those astronauts will be drawn to the high cliffs and peaks of distant worlds. We can do little more than think about such objectives right now. But someday, perhaps AAI will run trips toMons Huygens, the tallest mountain on the moon or to Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain on Mars and the biggest known volcano in the solar system.



Sooner or later human beings will go beyond our moon to explore the solar system. And sooner or later, some of those astronauts will be drawn to the high cliffs and peaks of distant worlds. We can do little more than think about such objectives right now. But someday, perhaps AAI will run trips to Mons Huygens, the tallest mountain on the moon or to Olympus Mons, the tallest mountain on Mars and the biggest known volcano in the solar system.

In 2006, the Cassini Spacecraft discovered a gigantic mountain range on Titan, Saturn's largest moon. One scientist compared the range to theSierras! I wonder how good the rock is... A report on this new range range may be found here.

The mountains of Venus were all named after the goddesses of different cultures. This planet, often called the morning star, might harbor one of the harsher environments for climbers. In the Cascades we worry about getting wet from a rain storm. On Venus, it rains sulfuric acid. If a storm came, getting wet would be the least of your problems. In such an environment, ropes would melt, slings would distigrate and all the cool stickers on your helmet would vanish!

Scientists believe that the tallest mountains in the solar system are on Io, a moon of Jupiter. There are mountains twice the size of Everest scattered about the planet. Although it appears that the geology there is quite active; and unfortunately active geology equals extreme danger to Earth climbers who don't need pressure suits or space ships to move around. I suspect that it means that it's a no go for future climbing expeditions on the small moon. To read more about these massive mountains, click here.

And as long as we're talking about inaccessible climbing, did you know that there is a gigantic mountain range under the sea? The Mid-Ocean Ridge System is the largest single volcanic feature on the planet. This massive range snakes its way around the Earth beneath the ocean. But I suppose that if the ocean were ever to dry up, people wouldn't be that psyched to check out the climbing. They'd probably have other things on their minds...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/1/16

Northwest:

--Erol Altay, a Chicago architect known for his climbing prowess, died Tuesday after an accident in the Canadian Rockies. Altay fell while soloing what was likely easier terrain on Mount Assiniboine in Kootenay National Park. It appears that one of his hold broke. To read more, click here.

--There was a massive rockfall event at the Exit 38 climbing area. Specifically this happened at the Gun Show area. It appears that multiple routes were damaged, but no one was injured. To read more, click here.

--It appears that somebody intentionally blocked a Forest Service Road near Mt. Adams, trapping several cars. To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--Things are dry in the Eastern Sierra, really dry. So dry that all it took to begin a wildfire on August 5 along the Lower Rock Creek singletrack trail north of Bishop and south of Mammoth was a mountain bike pedal cracking against a rock and sending a spark into the underbrush. To read more, click here.

--It appears that there are some people out there that are educating Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers on current political issues and working to get them registered to vote. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Chief Ranger Jeff Ohlfs will retire Aug. 31 after 32 years with the National Park Service, one-third of its existence. Ohlfs served at Joshua Tree National Park for 26 years. To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--After a seven-year absence, Winter Park and Amtrak are reviving weekend ski train service between the Grand County ski area and Denver’s Union Station. The Winter Park Express marks the return of the venerable ski train that ferried countless skiers between Denver and Winter between 1940 and 2009. To read more, click here.

-- A Colorado man is celebrating a record-breaking adventure in mountain climbing -- ascending 57 of Colorado’s tallest peaks in 31 days. Personal trainer Joe Grant broke the record by biking from mountain to mountain and climbing each peak with no help. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Climbers are mobilizing in an effort to help the leading climbers Kyle Dempster and Scott Adamson, extremely experienced expeditioners from Utah who are missing on the Ogre 2 in Pakistan. To read more, click here. UPDATE: It appears that the financial goals have been met. Click here for more info.

  --A 21-year-old worker at the Yellowstone National Park plunged to her death early on Friday from the edge of a canyon while socializing with colleagues, park officials said. Estefania Liset Mosquera Alcivar, a concession employee, was with a small group of coworkers at the rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone shortly after 3:15 a.m. when she fell, according to accounts by her companions, the park’s public affairs office said in a statement. To read more, click here.

--President Obama designated a large swath of Maine’s North Woods as a new national monument last Wednesday, creating what is likely to be the last large new national park ever established on the East Coast. In a statement, the White House said the move aimed to honor the National Park Service’s centennial. The move occurred almost exactly 100 years after President Woodrow Wilson established Sieur de Monts National Monument, which eventually became Maine’s sole existing national park, Acadia. To read more, click here.


--If you weren't aware, some yahoo climbed Trump Tower with suction cups a couple of weeks ago. And now the community on MountainProject.com has gone crazy making topos and routes on the tower. Check it out. On a similar note, AAI guide and administrator, Tom Kirby, spoke to Newsweek about this ascent. To see the article, click here.

--Nepal has banned an Indian couple from mountain climbing in the country for 10 years after they tried to fake a successful ascent of Mount Everest with digitally altered photographs, officials said. To read more, click here.