Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Let's Do the Trucker's Hitch!!!

So the odd little band Ylvis, the same band that's responsible for "What's the Fox Say?" has a song out about nothing other than the Trucker's Hitch. And yeah, it's pretty funny.

Check it out, below:



--Jason D. Martin

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Kaweah Traverse

Recently Kevin Burkhart and I climbed the Kaweah Traverse in Sequoia National Park. Ours was the third or maybe fourth ascent of the traverse and the first time (that I know of) that it's been guided.

Yours truly on the approach with most of the traverse in the background. Photo by Kevin Burkhart.
In a big mountain range full of fantastic alpine ridges, the Kaweahs are a bit of an anomaly. This group of 13,000 foot peaks are not, for the most part, made up of the granite for which the range is famous. Instead they are of a rock that is significantly lower in quality. The original Kaweah Traverse was accomplished by Andy Selters, Claude Fiddler, and Danny Whitmore in July of 1997. This trio traversed about two miles of ridge line, from Black Kaweah to Second Kaweah, taking on 6 other named 13'ers and a bunch of unnamed bumps and towers in between. Climbing California's High Sierra rates the traverse IV 5.9. There is minimal information available about the route.

I think Kevin first mentioned the Kaweahs to me when he, his wife Heather, and I did the Palisade Traverse (Thunderbolt to Sill) several years ago. As someone who is fond of Sierra ridges it was on my radar, and the fact that he brought it up piqued my interest. Here was somebody as interested in this obscure route as I was!

A year passed and Kevin returned to the Eastern Sierra last summer to climb the Sun Ribbon Arete on Temple Crag. Again the Kaweahs were spoken of. Then we had one of snowiest winters ever. I knew that we would need to bivy on the ridge to succeed, and that meant we would need snow to melt for water. As soon as it became clear to me that there would be no lack of snow, I reached out to Kevin and the planning began.

Kevin somewhere on the East Ridge of Black Kaweah.
I was up front with Kevin right from the start that not only had I not done the traverse, I had never even been in that part of the range before. Some climbers want their guide to be intimately familiar with the route and peak(s), but Kevin was fine with the fact that it would be an onsight for me. On a route of this nature that could mean backtracking or doing more or harder climbing. We had, I think, built some trust on our previous two trips, and I think he was looking forward to something with a few more unknowns than usual. Without the unknown, after all, there is no adventure.

A climb of this nature also required that I put some serious trust in Kevin. Though I brought guide skills, climbing experience (and alpine ridge experience in particular) to the table, this climb would need to be a real partnership to manage the risks posed by loose rock and unknown terrain. Kevin is an experienced trad climber, and has done a ton of 4th and low-5th class around the country. This somewhat rare pairing of skills was combined with some serious interest in this route. Kevin's research meant that not only did he get local beta for an approach that cut our hiking distance almost in half, but he also went in with eyes wide open about the loose rock, something that I think is necessary for success on the Kaweah Traverse. Though there were a number of surprises along the way, low quality rock was never one of them.

Looking north from Red Kaweah with Black Kaweah, Pyramidal Pinnacle, and Koontz Pinnacle in view.
We left Mineral King Trailhead a little after 9am. Kevin's route to the Big Arroyo, our basecamp, wound over Glacier and Hands and Knees Passes and through the Little Five Lakes Basin following trails, abandoned trails, and our noses. Towards the end of the day we shed our shoes for several creek crossings, some of them more than knee deep, fast, and cold. Near the old Big Arroyo ranger cabin we ran into a backcountry ranger who warned us that the Kaweahs had a lot of loose rock and that it could be snowy up there. We spent the night comfortably under my tarp.

The next morning there was no alarm. I thought we'd be working hard each day on the route and wanted to leave our basecamp well rested from the hike in. After a leisurely breakfast we started hiking northeast uphill through open woods and granite slabs. eventually we reached the treeline. That ranger was right, there was a lot of snow, and we were happy for it. The last mile or so of our approach to Black Kaweah would have been endless talus was it not covered in supportive snow.

We took the Southwest Face route to the summit. It was fairly straightforward and soon we were on top snacking and snapping photos of the peaks laid out ahead of us. From the summit we descended directly east on technical terrain and got onto the east ridge via a convenient ledge. The east ridge was exposed, loose, 4th to low 5th class...and surprisingly fun. Soon we were hiking up the northwest slopes of Pyramidal Pinnacle looking for a place to spend the night. There were a number of snow patches and many semi-flat sites, but for some reason I wanted to keep hiking. Before too long I saw it, a cave! With a shout I ran over to it, expecting the floor to be filled with sharp rocks or guano or both. Instead it was almost-completely-level sand and small gravel, a comfortable size for two grown men. A few moments of work from Kevin, the high-end custom carpenter, and it was perfect. Just a few steps away was a snowfield melting into liquid in the late afternoon sun. Excellent views back up the east ridge of Black Kaweah were the icing on the cake that is my new favorite bivy spot.

Soaking up the view from my new favorite bivy spot.
The following day we left the magnificent cave a little after 7am. We scrambled up to the summit of Pyramidal Pinnacle with ease, and soon found ourselves downclimbing exposed 4th and low 5th class. We could have gone back down the way we came and wrapped around to the other side of the Pinnacle on easier terrain, but we wanted to keep our traverse as true as we could, riding the skyline. A short rappel completed our descent to the notch with Koontz Pinnacle.

Some unnecessary but fun 5th class climbing brought us to the top of Koontz Pinnacle, which has a classic Sierra summit block. In his guidebook Peaks, Passes, and Trails RJ Secor mentions that Koontz Pinnacle is not shown on the USGS Triple Divide Peak 7.5 minute map. It seemed to us, after sitting up there with the gps on my phone, that in fact its Pyramidal Pinnacle that's not shown on the quad.

Me on top of Koontz Pinnacle. Photo by Kevin Burkhart.
Traveling along the ridge from Koontz was fun but became involved, eventually necessitating a long rappel. This was followed by a hike up Red Kaweah, one of the easier peaks on the traverse. There was some kind of butterfly migration happening and hundreds of orange and black butterflies led us along the ridge and up to the summit.

Climbing up the north side of Michael's Pinnacle was forgettable, but the summit register was not. Placed by Jim Koontz himself in 1953, it had a transcription from Charles Michael's original register and had been signed by a who's who of Kaweah climbers, including the only other parties we knew of who did the traverse. It's a piece of Sierra history. I'm not normally particularly excited to sign summit registers, but I was honored to sign this one. That is, until we discovered the pen didn't work. Kicking ourselves for not bringing a pen, we continued south in the dwindling daylight, eventually dropping off the crest a bit to a bivy overlooking Kaweah Basin.

The Michael's Pinnacle summit register. It could use a new pen and container.
Looking east towards Williamson and Whitney from our second bivy. Photo by Kevin Burkhart.
In the morning the towers seemed to go on and on, but eventually we found ourselves in front of Squaretop. We traversed onto the west side over at least one rib to get to the Northwest Face route which brought us quickly to the summit. 

A time consuming gully took us down to the col before Bilko Pinnacle. Here fun 4th class on a rib over to the west side of the col brought us to the summit and our first good views of Grey (aka Second, aka False) Kaweah.

Kevin sailing the seas of choss somewhere on the ridge.
Tales of a spat between the first ascensionists and 5.9 climbing had us wondering if one of the towers before us would contain the crux. Instead we found enjoyable 5.7 climbing on some of the best rock on the ridge. Before long we were fist bumping on top. I think both of us felt like we were getting away with something. 

We still had a lot of daylight left, and we thought it would make a lot of sense to include Mount Kaweah, the tallest of the Kaweah peaks. It was only a matter of some class 2 hiking, so we signed that summit register too. Our big winter had left snow still parked on the west face of the peak, and a 1500 foot standing glissade sped our descent and put smiles on our faces.

While Kevin and I both enjoyed this traverse neither of us feel a need to do it again. Climbers who are dying to send this one would be well-advised to do some of the other big (and higher quality) traverses first. Though this one isn't as long as the full Palisade or Evolution Traverses, the decision making and risk management is probably harder. Couple this with the low level but continuous loose rock and the Kaweah Traverse is likely as difficult as those longer ones. As Kevin put it, “this one is for the Sierra ridge 'choss-isseur'”.

Somewhere in the Kaweahs. Photo by Kevin Burkhart.

--Ian McEleney, AAI Instructor and Guide

Friday, October 13, 2017

So You Want to Climb in Alaska: Advanced Tips for Stepping Up to Bigger, More Remote Objectives

Tell me if this sounds familiar. You've been climbing for awhile and are solid leading both rock and ice. You have been to a lot of the destination climbing areas in the continental US and done a lot of the classic routes. You're excited about the mountains and want to take your climbing to the next level but you don't know where to start...  

You're not alone.

While many climbers dream of trips to the Ruth Gorge, Peru or the Himalaya – few actually go. It's too expensive, they say. I'm not ready. The logistics are too complicated. While it's true that a trip to Alaska or abroad has many risk factors (like the possibility of not climbing due to weather, for one) the rewards can be proportionally immense. What's more, you don't need to be Colin Haley speed-soloing the Infinite Spur to enjoy them! The following is a step by step guide for the rest of us. The skills you need (and misconceptions you don't) in order to take your passion to Alaska and beyond.

The Ruth Gorge at twilight.  From L to R: Mt. Church, Wake, and Johnson.  Photo Credit: Max Neale
Step 1: Get the Right Attitude

This might sound cliché but it's true. The first step towards becoming comfortable on bigger terrain is belief. My brother is a college professor and he once told me about a nearly universal phenomenon he encounters that he calls imposter syndrome. This is when first year graduate students in rigorous academic settings suffer from the delusion that they don't belong. They feel that the work is too hard, that everyone else is smarter than them, and that they must have gotten in to the program by mistake. The same can be true of climbers attempting a big peak for the first time. While there is wisdom in restraint, you will never push your level if you don't actively try things that are uncomfortable. Once you get there, Alaska is just like everywhere else. The judgement and skill you have honed in other ranges will still apply. What's more, your comfort zone will begin to expand as you put yourself in increasingly more challenging and complex situations. We all started somewhere. A simple willingness to give it a shot can ease a lot of the stigma associated with planning a big trip.

The author taking some ski laps on a rest day in the Ruth Gorge.  Photo Credit: Max Neale
Step 2: Get Comfortable on Glaciers

Most American climbers today tend to focus on technically challenging rock, ice and mixed objectives. Why would you hike a big pack uphill for two days to the summit of Mount Rainier when you could be sending WI5? That other thing sounds easy and boring! For many, this is unfortunately true. I say unfortunately because modern technical gear and the evolution of fast and light alpine style ascents has lead to some significant skill deficits among many technically gifted climbers.

This can become a problem when heading to Alaska. On a big expedition, for every hour you'll spend climbing that sick mixed pitch you'll probably spend ten hours slogging through ice falls, climbing steep snow slopes, and camping. If these skills aren't ones that you practice regularly then intentionally honing them before your trip will greatly increase your margin of safety.  So if you're one of those who thinks the hip belay hasn't been used since the 1950's and probably has no place in modern climbing anyway, I suggest you think again and get to work. Take a course, learn about crevasse rescue and haul systems; learn about roping up, body belays, how to place snow protection and get slogging (and no - starting and not finishing the snow climbing chapter in Freedom of the Hills for the umpteenth time doesn't count). When figuring out how to route-find on glaciers there is no substitute for experience. You'll thank me later.

The author on the east ridge of Mount Logan, YT, Canada.  Photo Credit: Dan Sandberg
Step 3: Get Planning

For many, this step is the most daunting. Where to begin? While it is much more complex overall, the beginning planning stages of a big expedition are the same as a trip to the local crag. Pick a route and get beta. For your first trip, it makes sense to pick an objective that is well below your technical skill level. That way, the additional stress of being in a large remote environment will seem more manageable. The Ruth Gorge is a great venue because there are several peaks within a few miles of each other that have great routes of relatively low technical difficulty (the west face of Mount Dickey or the Japanese Couloir on Mt. Barrill are two examples). It is also recommended to pick a few alternative objectives so you can adapt to changing conditions. If you plan to climb an ice and snow route, it's probably smart to have a rock or mixed climb in your back pocket in case your main objective is out of shape.

Once you have your route(s) picked out it's time to get scientific. Do lots of research and make lists. Google Docs is a great tool for this. You can start a multi-tab spread sheet that you and your partner can manage simultaneously from different locations. Make a gear list. Make a projected itinerary. Make a meal plan according to your projected caloric needs. List your expenses. The important thing is to focus on the details and write it all down. On multi-day climbing trips in the continental US it can be easy to wing it. Not this time.

Additionally, it's important to organize a communication and emergency plan. Is there someone who can send you weather reports? Will you bring a Sat phone or an In-reach? What will you do in case of emergency? Make sure you have the contact information for the park service and the flight service stored in your device and independently of it (i.e. in a notebook somewhere). It can also be useful to have a friend or family member serve as an emergency contact. Plan to check in with them on a regular basis. It is best if this person has some backcountry experience and intimate knowledge of your itinerary. That way, if you go missing or need to coordinate a rescue, someone will know sooner rather than later.

There is lots of information out there to help you. Both in guidebooks and on the internet. While the planning phase will probably seem like an obstacle at first (and it is undeniably a lot of work) it can actually be quite fun once you get into it.  Just think, you get to spend your days planning a dream trip to one of the Earth's great ranges and then actually do it! Amazing!

The author preparing for Alaska during a one day
winter ascent of the Gerber-Sink route on Dragontail Peak.
Photo Credit: Chris Simrell
Step 4: Get Training

I won't write much here since there are whole books on the subject (I'm sure all of you probably have an unread copy of Training for the New Alpinism sitting on your coffee table right now as a matter of fact...). Suffice it to say that physical and mental training is important. There can be a lot of deep snow up in Alaska and fitness is often the difference between victory and defeat. Speed is safety and whatever you get on, you want to try to get off of as soon as humanly possible to minimize your exposure to risk. Similarly, depending on your route, there are times when you might have to go for it, even if the protection and conditions aren't great. You should also expect to be extra stressed by the size and remoteness of your objective. As a result it pays to get your head in order before you go. That said, if the mental game is something you worry about, chose an easier route. There is no need to climb any ice or rock at all to enjoy the Alaska range! See previous route recommendations.

The author climbs typical mixed ground on the SW ridge of Peak 11,300.
Photo Credit: Will Dean
Step 5: Get Saving

So finally we come to it. The dreaded question. How much will this damn thing cost? I know you probably spent your last dime on a sick sprinter van but it's also not as expensive as you might think. If you're judicious and plan ahead, $1500 - $2000 is plenty to get you a two-week trip to the range. This might sound steep as that amount of money could buy you six months of van dwelling. It'll be up to each individual to set their own priorities. I know what mine are. The point is that you can probably do it if you want to. Maybe you have to adjust your lifestyle from climbing all the time to working and training most of the time and trying one or two serious objectives a year? Everybody's situation is different. As long as we're clear that you don't have to be a sponsored crusher or a climbing guide to enjoy the Alaskan backcountry.

The west ridge of the Moose's Tooth.  Photo Credit: Max Neale
So gear up, save up and get after it.  As the weather begins to turn cooler and fall sets in, it's the perfect time to plan a big adventure.  And in the spring, when the days lengthen, and new light sparkles on Alaskan granite; reflecting uncountable flows of untouched ice, I'll be there.  Will you?

--Eric Shaw, AAI Instructor and Guide

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/12/17

Northwest:

--The Bellingham Herald is reporting that a man died on Black Peak last week. They note that he was "hiking," but some photos that have made their way onto the internet appear to show a location that only climbers would go to. To read more, click here.

--The Times Colonist is reporting that, "A 24-year-old Nanaimo woman is recovering from a climbing accident, after volunteers hoisted her up a rock face in a high-angle rope rescue. B.C. Ambulance requested evacuation support from Nanaimo Search and Rescue at about 4:45 p.m. on Sunday, after the woman’s climbing partner called 9-1-1. 'She had been belaying her climbing partner. He took a fall and she was shot forward into the rocks and injured her knee quite badly,' Nanaimo SAR president Carly Trobridge said. The pair was climbing near the Nanaimo River in the “lower deck” section of the Sunnyside climbing area." To read more, click here.

--Komo News is reporting that, "a hiker who was stranded on the Pacific Crest Trail by high winds and snow was rescued from a knife-edge ridge by a Blackhawk helicopter. The Yakima County Sheriff's office received a call for help at about 6 a.m. Saturday from a hiker who was in the Goat Rocks Mountain range." To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--Rocky Mountain National Park climbing ranger, Quinn Brett was involved in a serious fall in Yosemite National Park on the Nose. It appears that she is alive and stable, but that she may have suffered some very serious injuries. To read more, click here.

--After the Yosemite rockfall incident, we have to ask...will climate change make rockfall events worse? They ask this terrifying question at The Atlantic. Check it out.

Desert Southwest:

--Supertopo is the type of place where people get riled up. It appears that there might be a bolt war brewing at Suicide Rock near Idyllwild. To read more, click here.


Colorado:

--A seventy-year old climber was injured last week in a fall off the Third Flatiron. It appears that this was a rappelling incident. To read more, click here.

--The Aspen Times is reporting that, "A Summit County man hiking one of the state's 14,000-foot mountains in Chaffee County was reported missing early Sunday morning when he failed to make it home the day before." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Many outlets are reporting on the tragic deaths of Hayden Kennedy and Inge Perkins. Following is an intro to a piece from Outside: "On Saturday, October 7, 27-year-old alpinist Hayden Kennedy was skiing with his girlfriend, Inge Perkins, 23, on Imp Peak south of Bozeman, Montana. The pair triggered a slide that buried and killed Perkins. Kennedy survived the slide, but returned home and took his own life." To read more from Outside, click here. Climbing has obituaries for each of the pair, here. Rock and Ice posted a remembrance here. Gear Junkie posted here. The Adventure Journal posted, here. And finally, Black Diamond, one of Kennedy's sponsors, posted an obituary and remembrance, here.

--CTV News is reporting that, "a Toronto man who fell from a rock face at a Clearview Township provincial park remains in hospital with serious injuries." To read more, click here.

--Caroline Gleich is a world-class skier who has been dealing with unrelenting harassment since the start of her career. People have made incredibly misogynistic attacks against Caroline. Why? Jealousy? Most likely. Outside has posted an excellent article about online harassment and about how Caroline and others have dealt with it. To read the article, click here.

-Jesse Huey and Maury Birdwell recently free-climbed Original Sin (V 5.12+, 1,800') on Wyoming's Mt. Hooker. To read about it, click here.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Why Do I Need Trekking Poles...?

It's extremely uncommon to find a guide who doesn't use trekking poles when carrying a large pack on long approaches. A heavy pack and the lack of balance that comes with carrying a heavy pack creates instability and even danger. Falling is more likely, especially if a pack isn't packed well. And indeed, injury is more likely as well.

There are five main reasons people use trekking poles:
  1. Trekking poles help you stay up right when carrying a heavy pack.
  2. They increase stability on uneven ground.
  3. They make it easier to walk in deep snow.
  4. The increase stability on creek crossings.
  5. And most importantly, they reduce strain on the knees.
I've been guiding professionally since the year 2000 and climbing since 1992. I'm happy to say that today I still have strong knees. I absolutely credit this to the use of trekking poles.

Trekking poles can help stabilize an individual 
walking across a sketchy section with a big pack.

In 2016, I was walking down a steep trail in the Cascades when I stepped on a loose rock. I stumbled forward and tried to catch my balance on a second rock. That rock moved too. My trekking poles were the only thing that saved me from a bone breaking injury. I was able to use my pole to shift over onto my back, where I landed directly on my pack.

I definitely credit my trekking poles for saving me from serious injury on that trail...

There are a handful of criticisms concerning the use of trekking poles. The are as follows:


  1. The use of trekking poles can lead to tennis elbow. This can be exacerbated by a trekking pole leash over the wrist.
  2. If you have your hand through the leash with it wrapped over the thumb, a fall can lead to a thumb dislocation.
  3. If one hunches over the trekking poles, it can make it difficult for one to catch their breath.
  4. It's extra stuff to carry.
The tennis elbow issue may happen with or without the leash. But some people tend to be more prone to tennis elbow with a leash.

This particular use of a ski pole can lead to
thumb dislocation.

If you avoid the use of the leash, the thumb issue is not an issue. If you prefer to use the leash, then you should not put your thumb over the strap as shown in the photo above.

At altitude a trekking pole in one hand can be extremely helpful to keep you standing upright. One should never hunch over when it's hard to breath, that does close the lungs. The poles should be used to stand upright.

As noted above, most guides use trekking poles with heavy packs. They don't necessarily make sense with a light pack or a cragging pack, but I believe that they are a must on big trips...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Common Folk's Guide to Bears

Rustled Jimmies is a comic facebook page run by Sam Pratt. Recently he posted a comic that has been making the rounds on the internet about bears. Sam gave us permission to reprint that comic here:

(click to enlarge)

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, October 6, 2017

Adaptive Climbing Techniques

Oregon State University put together a good primer on how to manage adaptive climbers. They include three different systems in the following video:
  1. 5:1 System (for people who have limited strength)
  2. Pull-Up Bar Ascender (for people who don't have use of their legs)
  3. Wheelchair Transfer to a Rappel (for people who don't have use of their legs)
There's some specialized equipment used in this video, but most of it is reasonably priced.



Some side notes:
  1. An MMO is a munter-mule overhand.
  2. The 5:1 is set-up upside down, it's a 4:1. It should also be noted that with a 5:1 you have to belay 5-feet of rope for every foot the climber moves. That's why she's working so hard
  3. An Aztek Kit is a rope rescue tool that is exactly the same as the 5:1 she created earlier in the video. If it's set-up upside down, it's a 4:1.
This video isn't perfect. There are some things that could be done a little better here or there, but it is an excellent introduction to adaptive climbing and the way a few systems work in that world.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/5/17

Northwest:

--A climber was killed last week on a route on Crown Mountain just outside Vancouver last week. To read more, click here.

--Go Skagit is reporting that, "For more than 40 years, Madrene “Tootsie” Clark was a staple of the annual opening of the North Cascades Highway. Every year since 1972, Clark was the first person in line when state Department of Transportation crews opened the highway in the spring. And every year, she would come bearing gifts — coffee and the whiskey sauce-glazed cinnamon rolls with which she’d become synonymous. “They’re to die for,” Tootsie Clark’s son Don Clark said. “They’re unique and wonderful.” On Sunday, Tootsie Clark, lovingly referred to by many as the “Cinnamon Roll Lady,” died. She was 95." To read more, click here. And here is a very nice blog written by the Washington Department of Transportation about Tootsie...

--Renowned helicopter pilot Tony Reece has also passed away at the age of 81. Tony was heavily involved in rescue and recovery operations throughout his career as a pilot. To read his obituary, click here.

--Seattle Patch is reporting that, "The lives of mountain goats living in the Olympic National Park are now literally in hands of humans. The National Park Service this week extended its comment period for options to remove the sometimes dangerous non-native mountain goats from the park. The four options include: transporting some goats to the North Cascades National Park and then killing others; relocating all of them; killing all of them; or leaving them be. The public now has until Oct. 10 to comment on the options." To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--There's been a lot of news coming out about the rockfall incidents last week in Yosemite. Here is a first person account of the first rockfall incident from below the mountain. Here's a piece about the climber who was killed saving his wife. And here's a piece on the science of rockfall.

Desert Southwest:

--Here's an interesting story about a family that found a stuck desert tortoise in Joshua Tree National Park.

Colorado:

--US News is reporting that, "Officials say a climber has died after falling 50 feet (15 meters) in Rocky Mountain National Park. Park officials say 66-year-old Henry Gholz of Fort Collins was killed Saturday when he fell while climbing Batman Pinnacle in the Lumpy Ridge area." To read more, click here.

--A climber was rescued last week from the Lime Creek area near Durango with an injured ankle. To read more, click here.

--To celebrate Aspen's 50th Anniversary, the resort will sell lift tickets for $6.50 on December 15th. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The New York Times is reporting that, "Norman G. Dyhrenfurth, an explorer and filmmaker who in 1963 led the first expedition of Americans to reach the summit of Mount Everest, a feat that inspired generations of mountaineers, died on Sunday in Salzburg, Austria. He was 99." To read more, click here.

--During the month of October, donations to the American Safe Climbing Association will be matched by the Planet Granite climbing gym. To read more, click here.

--ABC News is reporting that, "Members of a Facebook hiking group are now calling into question the story of paralyzed hiker Stacey Kozel, who said recently that she'd completed the Pacific Crest Trail from Mexico to Canada by herself. Kozel, 41, of Medina, Ohio, spoke with ABC News on Monday about the incredible feat, which was made all the more amazing because she is paralyzed from the waist down and because she says she hiked the trail with the help of braces." To read more, click here.

--Speaking of rockfall, some scientists rolled massiven red concrete blocks down a mountainside to study how rocks move down mountainsides. To see a video, click below. To read more, click here.



--Want to rent out an entire ski mountain? Here's what it would cost.

--The Banff Mountain Book Festival has announced it's finalists. To read about them, click here.

--And finally, an 87-year-old man has climbed Devil's Tower. To read about it, click here.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Climbing Technique: Heel Hooks and Toe Hooks

As the terrain gets steeper, it becomes harder and harder for a climber to hold on...and that's where heel hooks and toe hooks come into play. In the following video, professional climber Joe Kinder discusses how to effectively employ toe hooks and heel hooks in vertical and overhung terrain.


--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 29, 2017

The Daisy Chain Conundrum

To daisy or not to daisy, that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mountains to suffer
The lightning and the wind tied in with a clove
Or to take arms against a sea of anchors
With a Daisy or a PAS...Alas a broken daisy,
To die, to sleep -- the undiscovered mountain --
From which no climber has ever returned...

Okay, I admit it, I'm not Shakespeare and even the most serious of free soloists is nowhere near as depressed as the Prince of Denmark. But I have spent a fair bit of time thinking about both Hamlet and daisy chains. I know some of you are wondering how they are connected. They're not...except in my very bad Shakespearean verse.

Daisy chains are a very tricky tool. When used correctly than can be tremendously valuable to a climber. When used incorrectly, they can be incredibly dangerous.

Daisy Chain

A daisy chain is a length of webbing that is easily identified by the sewn loops the run the length of the chain. One end of the daisy is usually girth-hitched through the tie-in point on the climber's harness. The loops on the length of webbing may then be clipped with a carabiner and attached to an anchor, providing a safety attachment for the climber.

The main advantage to the use of a daisy chain is that most people leave them permanently affixed to their harnesses. As such, when they get to an anchor they can quickly and easily clip in. The use of daisy chains is especially valuable when one is trying to set-up a top-rope and needs to clip into something near the lip to remain safe or when one needs a safety attachment for a series of rappels.

It is possible for a daisy chain to fail. If you clip the end of the chain and then clip a loop, the internal loops can come apart as well, causing a catastrophic failure. There are two ways to avoid this. First, you can put a twist in the end of the daisy so that it cannot fail. Or second, it is possible to use two carabiners.

There is another alternative to the daisy chain. The PAS (Personal Anchor System) is a series of independent loops that are sewn together in a chain. Climbers who use the PAS will use it in much the same way as a daisy chain, but do not have to worry about catastrophic failure.
Personal Anchor System (PAS)

Some climbers elect to girth-hitch the daisy directly to the belay loop. If you attach it directly to the belay loop, this very important part of the harness may see damage. Once something is girth-hitched to the belay loop, the loop is no longer allowed to shift at the tie-in point. This causes the loop to get rubbed in the same spot repeatedly. In addition to this, the loop is crushed by the girth-hitch, which may also accelerate the damage to the loop.

The preferred attachment to the harness should be via the tie-in point. A girth-hitch through the tie-in will do significantly less damage to the harness and will ultimately be safer.

Most guides do not use daisy chains or the PAS. Instead, they will use their rope to tie directly into the anchor with a clove-hitch. The advantage to a clove-hitch is that it is adjustable once you are off belay. There are styles of daisy chains which allow this, but the amount of adjustment provided is minimal. With a rope, one has the ability to make major adjustments. For example, it's nice to tie into the anchor with a clove, then give yourself enough slack to go back over to the edge of the cliff, so that you can hear and be heard.

Guides often use slings in lieu of a daisy chain. The is because there is little need of a daisy in most multi-pitch environments.

Daisy chains are most useful in either a single pitch or an aid climbing environment. If you're climbing primarily in these environments, then you should definitely consider using a daisy. If you only occasionally play in these types of environments, then a couple of slings are much lighter and can be used in more applications.

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Urban Dictionary Definition - MountainSexual

Yep, the urban dictionary has defined us...

MountainSexual

Similar to metrosexual, but one who lives in the mountains or otherwise pursues the outdoors adventure lifestyle. Kind of a cleaned-up granola, a woodsy GQ kinda' guy with a splash of bohemian. Knows that he doesn't have to look or smell like a dirtbag to enjoy climbing, hiking, cycling, skiing, (all forms), snowshoeing, etc. Probably reads Men's Journal, Outside, and Alpinist. Brands: Patagonia, Keen, Kuhl, The North Face, Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, Mountain Khakis. Stong environmental ethic. Drives a well-maintained truck, performance SUV, or cross-over when absolutely necessary but walks or rides a bicycle whenever possible. Works out at the gym, but primarily to be in shape for outdoor pursuits. Shuns chain stores and shops.

"For such an outdoorsy guy, that dude sure has great style."

"Yeah, he's a veritable MountainSexual!"

It's funny because it's true...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 25, 2017

Gourmet Backcountry Food for Backpacking

AAI Backpacking guide Jeff Ries has a great advantage over our mountaineering guides. If you take out your rope and your harness and your pickets and your cams, suddenly your pack is a lot lighter. Some might argue that perhaps that weight shouldn't go completely away. Perhaps it should be replaced with food. Really good food.

Jeff has been cooking gourmet food on his backpacking trips over the last few years and has put together the following blog about how to eat really well in the mountains. Yeah, it might be a little bit on the heavy side...and if you're looking to lighten up then this won't be for you. But if you're okay with carrying a little extra and want to eat well, then check it out...
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Before leaving the trailhead, I like to have everyone enjoy the option of a treat from a nice bakery and offer everyone a scone or something similar. On the hike in on the first day I offer grapes and bing cherries at the first rest stop. They are a bit heavy to carry further but the water and sugar content are both well appreciated.

A good first lunch is some fruit and pastries, rather than a larger meal that could slow strenuous activity. I prefer eating a little around 11am and a little more around 2pm, so I offer snacks like fruit, gorp and energy bars. Gourmet crackers with flavored cream cheese, like Laughing Cow products work well.

It doesn't take as much effort to carry a little more weight to the first camp, I splurge a bit with beef stroganoff on the first evening. I grill some fillet mignon medium rare a couple days before the trip; it will cook the rest of the way just before it is served. Then I cut it up into 1 inch cubes and freeze it. It will keep other foods cold on the hike in. I cook a stroganoff noodle mix and then add fresh sour cream, a little white wine and then the fillet mignon. The rest of the wine is served with or before the meal. If it is cold and rainy, I also serve soup. If it is hot and the climb has been tough, it is a good time for Frito's or baby carrots dipped in french onion dip (made with the rest of the sour cream). Variations I have used for the first evening include grilled salmon instead of fillet mignon and apple slices dipped in carmel dip as the appetizer.

For the next morning, eggs and hash browns work well, especially with some tomatoes. I always have some flavored oatmeal for people who don't like to eat eggs. A little ham and/or cheese is nice to put in the eggs. I boil some water for tea, coffee or hot chocolate before the main course.

The second lunch is a good time for fresh fruit; apples or oranges. I also like to provide some quality dinner rolls or flavored bread (last trip the bakery had spinach feta) with some flavored cheese spread.

Dinner on the second night is a good time for ham as it keeps well for 2 days and a night (as long as temperatures are not too hot). I serve soup if it as cold and cold beer if it is hot. If I have a campfire, I wrap some potatoes in foil and put them in or by the fire while cooking fresh broccoli. If there is no campfire, I slice the potatoes and boil them. Chocolate covered blueberries make a great dessert.

The rest of the trip breakfasts offer a choice of precooked Mountain House scrambled eggs with bacon (sometimes with potatoes - the skillet selection), flavored oatmeal, granola and of course coffee/tea/hot chocolate.

Lunch on the third day includes flavored wheat thins with extra sharp cheese and salami. If there is any fresh fruit left over, we finish it up today.

The third night's dinner is time for something that keeps well for a few days. I prefer precooked flavored chicken breasts in a foil pouch, available at some grocery stores. I serve them with instant flavored potatoes and baby carrots. Chocolate covered espresso beans are a hit with the coffee drinkers.

Beef steak nuggets, Bakers breakfast cookies and dried fruit (different types) make great lunches an later days of a trip. Bagels and cream cheese also keeps well. Soup is always nice when it is cold and stopping for a long lunch, I sometimes build a campfire to warm bodies and dry clothing.

For dinner on the fourth and subsequent nights, I offer a variety of Mountain House brand freeze dried dinners. I want the backpackers to try different entrees so I bring several 2 serving choices. If anyone is still hungry after emptying the foil pouch in which it cooks, I add an envelope of instant potatoes and the appropriate amount of boiling water to make sure everyone has had enough. This keeps dish cleaning to a minimum as there are no dishes to clean these nights.

--Jeff Ries, AAI Backpacking Guide

Friday, September 22, 2017

Film Review: High Lane

There are a lot of horror-style movies out there that involve climbing in some way. Most of them are not just bad, but are really bad. It's actually somewhat uncommon to come across one that is...mediocre.

The reality of most film of all genres is that it's mediocre. You're often not totally bored. You find some engagement with the characters and then when the movie is over, you quickly forget it. Surprisingly, really bad films tend to stay with you a bit longer.


High Lane (2009) is one of those mediocre films that will likely drop out of my brain shortly after I write this blog. But that doesn't mean that I wasn't engaged by it. For a "horror-thriller" style film, set in the mountains, it was much better than most of its competitors, but that's not really saying much.

Five friends decide to go on a trip to Croatia where they will take a via ferrata route up into the mountains. For those who are uninitiated, via ferrata is a form of climbing where one wears a harness rigged with lobster claws. The via ferrata routes follow cables and ladders -- many of which were set during World War II -- through the mountains. If you fall, the lobster claws attached to your harness will catch you.

In any case the friends are composed of two women and three men. One of the women, Chloé (Fanny Valette), previously dated one of the men, Loïc (Johan Libéreau) and is currently dating one of the other men, Guillaume, (Raphaël Lenglet). This provides a bit of tension throughout the story, and indeed, is one of the subplots that raises this film above many of its competitors.

The group is lead by Fred (Nicolas Giraud), an accomplished climber who is sure that he can bring the group up into the mountains on a via ferreta route that is rusty and falling apart. Needless to say, he doesn't do a good job and the team gets caught in the mountains. And of course, the fact that they're caught is compounded by the fact that there is a delusional psychopath in the mountains that has set traps all over the place and might be a cannibal...or something. All of this leads to where most horror movies lead to, a combination of blood and guts and edge-of-your-seat tension.

There is one scene that is particularly interesting for climbers. The via ferrata completely falls apart and the climbers are stuck with two injured people in the forest above the cliffs. They have a rope, but pretty much nothing else: no gear, no extra clothes, nothing.

One of the great values of a film like this is that we tend to put ourselves in the characters shoes...and I have to admit that this was one time where I wasn't sure what I would do. The situation was incredibly difficult. Especially with the lack of equipment to rig anything. It's scenes like this that make this type of film worth watching. What would you do...?



High Lane is a French film that has been dubbed. This is a bit disconcerting at the start. I generally prefer films that have subtitles. But the dubbing is doubly disconcerting because there are sections in English where the characters lips line up, but then they start speaking in French again. This is annoying. However, the plot is just interesting enough to allow you to forget about the dubbing.

A second larger problem with this film is the way that the director (Abel Ferry) elected to cut together footage that was designed to raise tension.

Here's an example: A character is running. Another character is loading a crossbow. A character is running. Another character is still loading the crossbow. The first character is still running and the music is intense so he must be in danger, but the other character is still loading the crossbow.

Most directors would make three cuts where Ferry elected to make six or seven. The intent to create tension goes on for so long that there is no tension anymore...

Early in this review I noted that there is tension between two male characters over a female character. Though the characters actions are sometimes stupid (like fighting with one another while being hunted by a madman), this little subplot provides a small amount of depth to otherwise flat characters. It also provides a few plot twists that allow for a more interesting story.

The via ferreta sequences are mostly true to the way they would actually be...minus cables randomly breaking. That's a given in this kind of film, and I'm willing to suspend my disbelief. Indeed though, if nothing else, this film gets viewers psyched for cool via ferrata routes

High Lane is an engaging ride that explores some places that other similar mountain thrill-horror movies do not. But that doesn't mean it's a good movie...but if you've got nothing else to do, it might be worth an hour and a half of your time...

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Fixed Lines for Cragging

There are many types of fixed lines. Some climbers use fixed lines in aid climbing to get back to their high point. Some climbers use them in expeditionary climbing to protect exhaustingly long slopes. And others use them more simply just to move up and down from the top of a smaller crag.

Each style of fixed rope has its uses, but surprisingly, the style used the most is the third style. Short sections of fixed rope are common at cragging areas throughout the country. Most of these ropes are used to facilitate classes for beginners.

Fixed lines are designed to protect an individual who is moving over exposed second, third or even fourth class terrain. In this application (with beginners) they shouldn't be used for more difficult terrain. Instead, such terrain should probably be belayed.

Fixed lines are relatively simple to install. Build a 12-point SERENE anchor at the top and then work your way down the exposed area, placing gear along the way. At each piece of gear, the fixed line should be clipped in with an overhand eight knot. It should not run through the carabiners freely as this would defeat the purpose of the pieces. Each stretch of rope should be isolated.

There are three ways that an individual might use a fixed line. First, they might simply use it as a handline. This is the simplest way as there is little for climbers to do but hold the line. Such a use indicates that the likelyhood of a fall is low and that an individual or a group simply needs a little bit of additional security.

Climbers moving down a hand-line.

Second, they might use the lobster claw technique. This is where an individual girth-hitches two slings to their tie-in point. A locking carabiner is then clipped to the end of each sling. A climber can then clip both slings to the fixed line as he or she moves up the line. As the climber gets to set pieces, he or she can clip past the piece without coming completely off the rope.


A static line protecting a brushy ledge. Note the pieces along the rope.


Another view of a static line protecting an exposed area along a trail.

The third technique is to place a prussik on the fixed line. A prussik offers the most security as it won't allow a person to fall anywhere if they slip. If you have one section that requires such tactics, it's not a bad idea to pre-rig the prussiks so that the beginner doesn't have to rig it in an exposed area.

No matter which style of line you employ, a good rule of thumb is that only one person should be attached to a given part of the line. You should never have two people in the same part of the system.

Fixed lines are great, but they should not take the place of a real belay. Before exposing your beginner friends to a fixed line, be sure that it makes sense. Be sure that it is the best solution to your problem. And be sure that everybody knows what they're supposed to do when they move up or down the line...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 18, 2017

Definitions for Beginners: Top-Rope vs. Lead vs. Bouldering vs. Free Solo

There is a legitimate concern that some have put forward concerning this blog. Occasionally, I get a little bit too techy and forget that climbers with a multitude of skill levels read these articles. It's good to step back a little bit sometimes and make sure that everyone is on board with some of the basics.

There are four terms that we use quite often on this blog.  First, the term top-rope.  Second, the term lead, as in lead-climber. Third, the term bouldering.  And fourth, the term free-soloing.  Following is a breakdown of these terms and their definitions.

Top-Rope Climber

A top-rope climber is a person who has a rope running from his or her harness, up to an anchor at the top of a cliff and then back down to a belayer at the base.  This is a standard technique, and it is the technique regularly used for beginning level climbers and at rock gyms.


A Climber Belays another Climber on Top-Rope in Joshua Tree National Park
Photo by Jason Martin

The value of a top-rope is that it is highly unlikely that a climber will fall very far.  The rope can be somewhat tight if the climber is a beginner or somewhat loose if he or she is comfortable.

Lead Climber

In essence, the lead climber is the guy that "gets the rope up there." A belayer pays out rope to a person as he climbs up.  The leader places rock protection as he goes and clips his rope to it.  He then continues climbing above the protection.  Should the leader fall ten feet above his last piece of protection, he will fall past his gear, and the belayer will catch him after he has fallen twenty feet.  The rope stretches so that the impact is not as great on the leader.


A Leader Working His Way Up a Climb


The act of falling on lead can be very safe, or quite dangerous.  It all depends on whether the fall is "clean" or not.  A clean fall means that there is nothing for the leader to hit.  A fall above a ledge or a protrusion could lead to serious injury.

Leading can be done in a very responsible way that limits one's exposure to danger.  But it does take a lot of training and practice to bring one's abilities to such a level where he or she has a good understanding of what kind of gear placements will hold a fall and what kind will not.


Bouldering

Bouldering is one of the fastest growing types of climbing.  In this, a climber does not use a rope, but also does not climb more than a few feet off the ground.  A boulderer is focused on making a handful of hard moves and will often work on those moves for a long period of time before completing a sequence.

Most boulderers use a pad or commercial bouldering mattress to protect themselves from ground-falls.  Every climber who falls bouldering hits a mat or the ground, as such there is some danger involved in the sport. 

Free Soloing

Often confused with free climbing, (which is simply climbing without the use of direct aid, but with a rope) free soloing is the art of climbing a route without a rope.

Obviously free soloing is the most dangerous type of climbing that there is.  If an individual falls in this situation, survival is highly unlikely.

Climbing is a varied sport with many different aspects to it.  Not every aspect is for every person.  Ultimately, the amount of risk that you choose to engage in within the sport is completely up to you. Indeed, the level of accomplishment you feel engaging in any kind of climbing is also completely personal.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Birth and Death of a Carabiner

A few weeks ago we put up a post on rope construction. Black Diamond has produced a little video entitled, "The Birth of a Carabiner." The video doesn't dwell on narration or anything else, it's just a quick peak inside a shop where carabiners are made.



Of course, once carabiners are made, a couple are tested from every batch. In other words, this is the death part of this blog.

The following video from Omega Pacific shows a force test on a carabiner. This is an awesome video. It's pretty intense to watch as the tester puts more and more and more pressure on it...



--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/14/17

Northwest:

--In this era of hurricanes and wildfires, it's good for all of us to think about our carbon footprints and what we can do in our lives to fight climate change. With that in mind, Powder magazine has a nice article on skiing the volcanoes with a smaller carbon footprint. To read the article, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--There are almost 60,000 cigarette butts on trails in Grand Canyon National Park. Gross. To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--The Durango Herald is reporting that, "A 40-year-old rock climber from Durango who fell 100 feet while climbing in an area northeast of Durango on Saturday is expected to recover from his injuries, friends of the man said Sunday." To read more, click here.

--Here's a cool story about the climber mural on the side of a building in Denver.

Notes from All Over:

--Totem has issued a voluntary recall of cams. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Tree Ratings in kN

At one of the American Mountain Guides Association Single Pitch Instructor Provider continuing education programs, we discussed the strength of trees. One SPI provider noted that he had pull tested a tree to failure with a load cell and found that the tree had a 17kN value.

17kN is a decently high value. A kilonewton (kN) is worth approximately 225lbs. And most carabiners and slings are rated at 21-24kN. 17kN isn't quite high enough for a stand-alone anchor, but it is plenty high enough for a rappel or for an anchor component.

Just how good is that tree in the crack?

As soon as the provider finished speaking, several people challenged him. "That rating was only good for that tree at that spot," one person said. "It's all about the root system," another said. "You can't tell anything with one test," a third said.

All three of the people who challenged the provider were right. One test on one tree in one area doesn't really provide you with any real data. You need something more...

A few weeks later I attended the International Technical Rescue Symposium. The symposium brings together some of he best minds in rope rescue. Many participants do research and present papers at the event. At this particular symposium John Morton, a rescue technician from Everett Mountain Rescue and the Snohomish Helicopter Rescue Team, presented a paper on the kN value of trees.

Morton started working on determing the values of trees some years earlier with Mark Miller, a mountain guide and rescue instructor who was tragically killed in an accident early in 2015. After Mark's death, Morton continued to work on this project.

Essentially, he came at this problem in a new way. He looked at trees as anchors that have already been tested...by the wind.

When there is a windstorm, trees are seriously stressed. Indeed, they are tested just like any other piece of rescue or climbing equipment. They act almost like a sail and capture a tremendous amount of wind. If they don't fall over, then they've been tested to a certain level of kN.

Morton took this and developed a formula based on a combination of tree species profile and how windstorms impact those trees. In the process he further refined his formula to accommodate for trees on the lee side of hills. And when he was done... He had a means to actively give every tree everywhere a kN rating.

Click to Enlarge

The preceding shows the circumference of several trees in the Pacific Northwest and their kN rating based on Morton's formula.

For a rappel anchor, we probably want something that has a minimum value of at least 8kN. Leader falls are often given a value of approximately 7.5kN, so while a rappel shouldn't provide that kind of impact, we should be prepared for it.

For a climbing anchor, we want something with a minimum of 20kN. And for a rescue anchor, we should probably have at least 30kN.

By these figures, every tree in the PNW that is at least 22-inches in circumference is adequate for a climbing anchor. And every tree that is at least 25-inches in circumference is adequate for a rescue anchor.

For SAR personnel, Morton recommends carrying a field guide so that you might be able to look specifically at a given tree species and determine how small you can go.

This is really cool work. To see Morton's complete paper, please log onto http://itrsonline.org/papers/ and search for John Morton, "What if Trees had Ratings in kN? Tree Anchor Ratings Based on Wind Loading."

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 11, 2017

Film Review: Meru

Conrad Anker and Jimmy Chin have been major names in the climbing world for a long time. Both of the athletes have built themselves into climbing superstars.  Conrad is world famous for his ascents and even made waves in the non-climbing world by finding the body of George Mallory on Mt. Everest. Jimmy is well known for his climbing photography and cinematography.

In 2004, I was living in Las Vegas and guiding in Red Rock Canyon every day. Many of my friends at the time were living the "dirt bag" lifestyle, living out of their cars and getting after it whenever they could. It was then that I met a young climber who had just linked up three huge classic lines in Red Rock. Renan Ozturk linked Epinephrine (5.9, IV), Cloud Tower (5.12a, IV) and Levitation 29 (5.11c, IV) in a single day. I was absolutely amazed. Each of those lines are not only big, but are nowhere near each other...


It didn't surprise me when I started to hear stories about Renan climbing with Conrad and Jimmy. There's no doubt that he had the chops to play in the same world class arena as the other two.

There have been several articles and films that featured each one of these climbers over the last several years. But none of them come close to the aesthetic quality and the human tension that exists in the film, Meru.

Meru tells the story of the three climbers and one mountain: Meru. Or to be more specific, the Shark's Fin of Meru, which is a massive granite peak that combines mountaineering, ice climbing, mixed climbing and A4 big wall climbing skills to ascend. Dozens of parties have tried the route, but no one had succeeded.

Conrad attempted the route in 2003 with Doug Chabot and Bruce Miller, but failed. They simply didn't expect it to be as challenging as it was. The film chronicles his return to the mountain with Renan and Jimmy in 2008 and 2011.



In the course of the film, we discover that all three of the men have dealt with close calls and loss. Conrad's mentor died first, and then his best friend. Renan becomes seriously injured in an avalanche. And Jimmy barely escapes from another avalanche with his life.

The three men all have different reasons for climbing Meru. It was a dream passed down to Conrad from Mugs Stump, his alpine mentor. It was a passion for Jimmy as he slowly brought himself back into the climbing and skiing world from his brush with death. And it was an absolute necessity for Renan to prove to himself that he still is who he was before his accident.

Meru is a beautiful film. The scenery mixed with the expert cinematography is breathtaking. But the real story is the story of the three men, mountain partners who work together to achieve a goal while sealing the bonds of friendship...

There is no doubt that it was a tremendously difficult task to make such a film in such conditions. There were times when I was amazed by the fact that the camera elevates as if by a boom (where did they get a boom in the mountains?) to provide a better shot. There were other times that I was shocked that they kept the camera rolling when someone was clearly in pain or at the edge. And there were times that I was amazed by the fact that they probably had to climb something twice or even three times in order to get a shot. And indeed, I was amazed by the fact that it all came together so seamlessly. Meru is a testament to documentary filmmaking. It is a testament to what can be done...

I had an unusual experience in this film. It was the first documentary-style climbing film that I had ever seen with a non-climber audience. Most of the films that I see like this are at Reel Rock Film Festival, at Banff Film Festival or at 5 Point Film Festival. The people watching films at these types of festivals tend to be like-minded individuals, who don't hyperventilate at the heights depicted or question the motives of the climbers.

It was valuable to have this experience watching the film with non-climbers, in part because hearing the reactions and the gasps of the audience reminded me what a beautiful place the mountains are, and how the images of what we do inspire others. But we need inspiration too. And that's where the value of a movie like this comes into play. Those of us who are not world class climbers need people like Conrad, Jimmy and Renan to inspire us. And a film like Meru does exactly that. It reminds us what is possible...

Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 8, 2017

Bad Belay Video

When we saw this we were literally falling over laughing. These images are funny because they're -- unfortunately -- sometimes true.



--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Climbing News from Here and Abroad - 9/7/17

Northwest:

--News Channel 21 is reporting that, "A Portland woman climbing at Smith Rock State Park on Sunday fell about 20 feet and was injured, prompting a rescue operation, Deschutes County sheriff's deputies said." To read more, click here.

--The Guardian is reporting that, "A fire burning over 30,000 acres in the Columbia river gorge just outside Portland was started by a teenager setting off fireworks on a forest trail last Saturday, police say. Oregon state police spokesman Bill Fugate said that the suspect under investigation by police was a 15-year old-male from Vancouver, Washington. Fugate said: 'In this case we’re pretty confident that the fire was started by a firework.'" To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--Here is an awesome piece from Outside on Yosemite Search and Rescue...

--The New York Times published an opinion piece on the name change taking place with the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite. The author equates the name changes to the recent spate of Confederate monuments that have been removed. To read the article, click here.

--There are several women who are actively incarcerated in California that have chosen to work on firefighting teams combating wildfires for as little as $2 a day. Check out this great article from the New York Times Magazine on this subject.

Desert Southwest:

--Here's an update on wildfires in the Sierra.

Colorado:

--Fox 31 is reporting that, "Custer County Search and Rescue confirmed a climber fell to death on Sunday while climbing 14,081-foot Challenger Point." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The Gear Junkie is reporting that, "Joe ‘Stringbean’ McConaughy, a well-known speed hiker, set a new record on the Appalachian Trail today. He hiked the 2,190-mile route in an unofficial fastest known time (FKT) of 45 days, 12 hours, 15 minutes." To read more, click here.

--Quartz is reporting that political tensions in the Himalaya are making it hard for yaks to mate. Who knew? To read more, click here.

--Adam Ondra may have just climbed the hardest graded route in the world. To read about it, click here.

--Glacier National Park is being crushed by wildfires. To read more, click here.