Friday, August 18, 2017

Angle and Force in an Anchor

You've heard before, and I'll say it again. The lower the angle between the pieces in an anchor, the better equalized the anchor will be.

What does this actually mean?

Well, first it means that the American Death Triangle is really bad...

The American Death Triangle = Death

And second it means that...

If an anchor is composed of two pieces, and one piece is directly above the other piece, and you are using a pre-equalized knot on a cordellete clipped to the pieces, then you are likely to be close to completely equalized at your master-point. The photo below shows a three piece anchor with low angles between the pieces. The low angles make this a very good anchor. However, due to the fact that the pieces are not completely in line with one another, the anchor cannot be truly equalized.

A Very Good Pre-Equalized Anchor  on bolts that is Not Truly Equalized
Guides believe that this is an acceptable anchor.

Note: The rope running through the shelf is a means to decrease the 
likelihood of a factor 2 fall on the anchor.

Some may find minor concerns with the different lengths of cord in the preceding picture. Most guides are not concerned about this.

When the angle on a two-point anchor increases, so too does the load on each piece. The theory is that when there is no or a very low angle -- under 20 degrees -- the pieces are close to equalized. When the angle increases to 40 degrees, then 54% of the load is on each piece. As the angle increases to 80 degrees, then 70% of the load is on each piece. And when the angle increases to 120 degrees, then 100% of the load is on each piece.

The following chart from the Technical Manual for Mountain Guides from the AMGA, demonstrates this with proposed weight of 1000 pounds.


The video savvy Canadian guide, Mike Barter, put together a great video on this subject for youtube.com. He uses a number of visual demonstrations throughout the video to show how weight affects an anchor as the angle increases. Check out the video below:


--Jason D. Martin

NOTE:

This is the second time we've posted this blog. And after I posted it the first time a couple of years ago an extremely valid comment was made. I thought that it would be prudent to post the comment as well as my response:

Anonymous said...
I hate to flame people trying to put good information out for the public, but I thought his demonstration was pretty silly. First off(although it really wasn't important for the demonstration) he had the knot of the cordelette directly on the carabiner of one of his "anchors". You think that an IFMGA guide wouldn't do this even in a demonstration. His demonstration really didn't show the increase in force on the anchor, but the change in the direction of pull. I think he could of easily done this by attaching a simple fish scale to each anchor.

Jason Martin said...
I also thought about the knot on the carabiner when I found this video. The knot on the carabiner does weaken the cordellete mildly. But not really enough for it to matter.

In addition to this, lets remember what this blog is about. It's about how angle impacts individual pieces...and I think that the video does a great job of demonstrating this...

Jason

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Falling on Lead and "Cratering"

It was a beautiful spring day in Red Rock Canyon. I was overseeing the second day of an American Mountain Guides Association Single Pitch Instructor exam and all of the guide candidates were doing a great job. It was a great day to be in the mountains.

It was a great day until we saw a "runner."

People who are running to get help for an injured climber are often referred to as runners. In this particular instance it was a young woman running down the canyon. She yelled for help and told us she was trying to get a better cell signal...she kept losing 911.

Two SPI Candidates, Kevin and Brenden, and I grabbed our first aid kits and made our way up canyon. Kevin was a firefighter and Brenden was a nursing student. They were excellent people to have with me on a rescue.

When we finally discovered the injured climber, we found a man in his late fifties. His head was seriously lacerated and he had been knocked unconscious for two to three minutes before coming back. There was blood in his helmet and it appeared that the the tab on the back had perpetrated the laceration. The rear of helmet was also cracked. It looked like it had been pushed up under his scalp and then pulled back out as the helmet contracted around his skull.

The man's two college-aged daughters were both there as well. All of them, the man and his grown children, seemed to be rank beginners. A tote bag that was used to carry their gear sat next to the rocks.

We immediately held the man's head to keep him from moving it, providing C-spine. Clearly the fall could have caused a spinal injury and we didn't want to take any chances whatsoever. Kevin cleverly created a spinal collar out of coiled up rope and wrote the time of the accident on a piece of medical tape holding the rope in place.

The Patient Getting Ready to be Short-Hauled

Not long after we finished with the C-collar, a helicopter arrived. The Las Vegas Search and Rescue team is one of the best in the world. They packaged the man on a litter and were quickly able to extract him in the tight canyon. We assume that he safely made it to the hospital and is now back to his normal every day life...

Rescues can be extremely interesting to watch. There are helicopters, medical people, cool hauling systems, and often some blood. But they aren't that cool if you're the one that is getting rescued...so why did this individual need to be rescued...?

A Search and Rescue Office being hauled back to the Helicopter

Obviously we weren't there, but there were clues. The group was climbing at the Cut Your Teeth Crag in Calico Basin. This is a beginner crag, but it is also a very young crag. It was developed in 2006 by Mike McGlynn and Todd Lane. The route that the party was on is a bolted 5.7 called Introproximal Stripper. The importance of knowing the age of the crag is that on sandstone, holds can sometimes crumble or even break on newer routes...

The lead rope ran through draws on the first two bolts. The girls claimed that their dad was trying to clip the third bolt when he fell. The dad was tall, at least six-feet four inches tall, and probably weighed around 200 lbs. The girls were both small and probably didn't weigh more than 120 lbs each.

So looking at the situation, there are a lot of possible factors. Following are some speculations based on the story that the girls told.

Rope behind the Leg:

It's unfortunately quite common for climbers to lead with a rope running behind their leg.  If this is not something that you are constantly paying attention to, it is an element that could easily cause you to fall, catch your leg and flip upside down.

Both of the man's daughters claimed that he flipped upside down in the fall.  This could have been from the rope running behind his leg and it could have been from his feet hitting something and flipping him.  However, since he had no obvious injuries to his feet, heels or ankles, it seems more likely that he was flipped by the rope.

Over the Head Clipping:

It's very dangerous to clip over your head. This is because when you pull slack to clip the rope, you are also putting a lot of extra slack into the system. If you are close to the ground and take a fall at this time, it is likely that you will "crater."

Some people put the slack rope in their mouth when they are getting ready to clip. It is not uncommon for those who take leader falls in such a situation to have teeth pulled out by the rope. While this didn't happen in this case, it is definitely something to be worried about.

The safest way to clip a rope is to wait. Wait until the draw is at your waist to clip it. That way, you will take the smallest possible fall. Unfortunately, this can feel very unstable. It's always more satisfactory to have the rope clipped than not to. And indeed, many routes are designed to clip the rope above the head...but we should be very aware of the dangers implicit in the action.

It is quite possible that the individual in this accident was trying to clip over his head when he fell.

Weight Differences

When weight differences are small, sometimes its nice to have a situation where a person can be pulled off the ground a little bit. This provides a soft catch. But when weight differences are large, it's important to make sure that the belayer is tied to the ground. This will limit the distance that the person falls.

The Cut Your Teeth Crag is a short crag and the weight differences between the two individuals was large. It's likely that the young woman who was belaying was pulled significantly off the ground as her dad landed. I did not confirm this at the time, but I did ask if she was tied down.

Slack in the Belay


Lastly, it's possible that the lead belay had additional slack. Sometimes belayers allow the lead line to sit on the ground in front of them. The line going from the device to the wall should have a mild smile to it. It should not hang down on the ground.

As we were not there, we don't know what the belay looked like and this may not have been an issue. But clearly one or more of the factors described contributed to the accident.

Accident Avoidance

The best way to avoid an accident is to avoid climbing all together. But for most of us, that isn't a possibility. So instead of avoiding the sport we love, we have to constantly study how accidents take place and learn from them.

Every year the American Alpine Club produces a book of accident analysis entitled, Accidents in North American Mountaineering. It is a grim read, but it also provides us with many many opportunities to see what not to do.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, August 14, 2017

Forearm Exercises to Make You Strong

There's no question about it. When your forearms are fried, the dishes are done. You're going to fall off your route.

Technique is important for climbing and it can save your strength. Indeed, on routes with a rating below 5.8, strength may not even be an issue if your technique is adequate. But as you start to push up through the grades, you'll find that forearm strength becomes more and more important.

The more you train your forearms, the stronger you'll be. And the more you train your forearms, the more likely it is that you will be able to rest them quickly and adequately by shaking out or finding a stance on which to take a break.

There are a handful of exercises that work to build forearm strength and endurance. Following is a quick breakdown of some of these exercises:

Static Hangs


You probably remember from your days of lifting weights in the high school weight room that muscle is most effectively built when you workout until muscle failure. Commonly, an athlete will work a specific muscle group by lifting a weight a number of times (referred to as reps) until the muscle fails. Most will know that with a given weight, the muscle will begin to fail after a given number of reps.

A static hang works the muscle in much the same way. For this to work effectively, you have to hang until your muscles fail. This doesn't mean that you have to hang until it hurts or even until it hurts a lot. You have to go beyond those thresholds to the point of complete muscle failure.

After failure, allow the muscles to rest for five minutes or so and then try again. Ideally, you will do this exercise three or four times in order to get the most out of it.

Endurance Static Hangs

Hang on a bar or a hangboard with both hands. Drop one hand and shake it out while still hanging on the other. Hang for at lease five seconds on one arm before switching.

This particular exercise is great for climbers because of the way it imitates real life!

Forearm Curls

There are two effective ways to do forearm curls. One may use a regular barbell or a dumbell.

To use a barbell, you will need to lay your forearms across a weight bench holding the barbell. Your hands should hang over the edge, palms up. All the bar to roll toward your fingers and then flex, bringing it up into your palm.

With a dumbell, the system is almost the same. Allow the dumbell to roll out toward your fingers and then flex, allowing int to roll back into your palm.

With both of these exercises, it tends to be more effective to work toward a combination of strength and endurance by working on time as opposed to reps. Try to do as many curls as possible in a minute and then work up from there. Remember most sport routes take five to ten minutes to climb, so that should be a goal in the exercise.

Indoor Gym Exercise

One of the best ways to build forearm strength and endurance is to traverse around the climbing gym on easy holds. Try to stay on the wall for at least twenty minutes. Another version of this same exercise is to try to down-climb the routes after you reach the top.

As with other excercises, a series of these twenty minute sessions will be more effective than a one time run at them.

Forearm Exerciser

There are a number of different commercial forearm exercising devices out there. Perhaps the most popular is the blue latex rubber doughnut. The value of these devices is that they work out both fingers and forearms. This should be used like any weight device. Do a series of reps until failure, rest and then repeat two more times.

Additional ResourcesYou can find more on forearm workouts here. For information about why forearms pump out and about lactic acid buildup in forearms, click here.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, August 11, 2017

Search and Rescue Costs

Should climbers and other outdoor enthusiasts have to pay for rescue...?

Many non-climbers feel that climbing related rescues should be paid for by those that are rescued. However, many of these same individuals do not feel that hiking related, hunting related, or boating related rescues should be paid for by the individuals that are rescued. Of course, every year there are a lot more yachters and wayward Boy Scouts that are rescued than climbers.

Mountain rescue in the United States is generally managed by the Sheriff's department or the Park Service, depending on the location. The actual rescue though is usually done by mountain rescue volunteers or the military.

Las Vegas Metro Police Department Search and Rescue Practice in Red Rock Canyon
Photo from LVMPD S&R Website

Some cities maintain full-time Search and Rescue police officers. Places like Las Vegas and Los Angeles County send out their Search and Rescue officers nearly every day to deal with everything from boaters to ATV riders to people who took a wrong turn during a flood. Climbers make up a very small percentage of their rescue costs... But tax dollars certainly do support these operations.

Mountain rescue volunteers work for the satisfaction of providing assistance to those in need. They do not cost the government or the tax payers anything. The military operations that are used in rescues often employ individuals who are rescue specialists and would be training to do rescues anyway. As a result, the funds that go into these rescues are not as exhorbinant as many people might believe.

A law in New Hampshire forces those who are rescued to pay for their rescues. WMUR Channel 9 New Hampshire reported that:

A New Hampshire law aims to make people think twice before heading into the woods unprepared or under the influence.

The state Department of Fish and Game currently fines lost hikers who recklessly venture into the woods to pay for the cost of the rescue, but now the department will have the power to revoke the driver's licenses of those who don't pay. Hikers can also lose licenses with the state Health and Human Services Department, and hunting and fishing licenses.

The law also gives the state more power over who they decide to fine. Previously, the state had to prove someone acted recklessly before charging a hiker for repayment for a rescue. This meant the state had to show the hiker or hikers were aware going into the woods posed a substantial risk but they did it anyway. Now the state only has to prove the person was negligent.

While many rescues are of those who were negligent, there are a lot of rescues that take place where an individual made an honest mistake. The downside to laws such as this is that mountain activities have the look and feel of danger, even when they aren't terribly dangerous. Other wilderness users -- whether they do something that is negligent or not -- may not look like they are putting themselves in peril. The result is that climbers will likely bear the brunt of such laws.

Two Climbers Practice Rescue Techniques in a Single Pitch Instructor Course
Photo by Jason Martin

Indeed, who will decide if a given action is negligent or not? An experienced climber might try a hard route in a light-and-fast manner. Somewhere high on the route a hold breaks and he shatters his ankle. Were this brought to court after a rescue, that climber...even though he did everything right...might be charged for negligence. Why? It's a hard route and he didn't have a lot of equipment.

If a climber that is carrying seventy pounds of food and fuel up a glaciated peak decides to glissade with his crampons on and breaks an ankle, he might be seen as playing it safe and the idea of negligence might never come up. This is despite the fact that he was using an innapropriate technique at an innappropriate time.

Rescues take place in the mountains every day and climbers make up a very small percentage of those that are rescued. This issue always comes to a head when something bad happens to a climber, but it never comes up when something bad happens to another wilderness user. We are unfairly targetted by those that have little knowledge of what happens in the wilderness.

Creating laws that require negligent people to pay for rescues is a step in the wrong direction. It is far too difficult for the courts to delve into the idea of what is negligent in this field and what is not. Our main concern is that any type of climbing activity -- regardless of the experience level and training of the participant -- may be seen as negligent.

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Snow Seats and Dynamic Belays

Standard snow anchors are comprised of pickets, flukes, bollards and deadmen. As stated in previous blogs, sometimes people overlook items that might be used as deadmen such as packs, crampons, ice axes, skis, trekking poles, and stuff sacks filled with snow.

Quick snow anchors can be devised from just about anything...including your body.

Most of you are probably familiar with Simon Yates and his infamous snow seat in Touching the Void. To say the least, that was an unusual situation.

Photo by Jason Martin

To create a quick snow seat you must simply sit down in the snow, arc your legs, and stomp your heels into the snow. After you've achieved this position, you will be able to put a climber on belay. However, if the climber takes a fall with slack in the rope, it is possible that you may be pulled out of the snow seat. There are two ways to keep this from happening.

The first way to deal with a potential shock-load in a snow seat is to add a snow anchor to back it up. This could be anything, but many climbers will simply use their ice axe. The belayer must then clip the climbing rope (which is tied to the climbers harness) to the snow anchor. Most will just make a clove-hitch with the rope and then slide the shaft of the ice axe down through the hitch. If the belayer has elected to use a hip belay, the tie-in must come off the same side of the climber's body as rope running to the climber, otherwise the load will twist the belayer uncomfortably.
The second way to deal with this is by using a dynamic belay. In other words, when the climber falls, allow the rope to run through the belay device for a short period of time, slowly breaking it and bringing it to a stop. This allows the snow seat -- and you -- a much smaller shock. There are clearly some problems with this technique and it cannot be used in every situation. The dynamic belay is only truly useful on steep snow climbs where there is little danger of a falling climber hitting something.

If we learned one thing from the Simon Yates in Touching the Void, it's that snow seats are an excellent option in terrain where you do not anticipate a need to escape the belay. If there is anything suspect going on, it's important to build a bombproof SERENE/ERNEST anchor.

When used properly, snow seats and dynamic belays can save a great deal of time...and as we all know, speed in the mountains is safety...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, August 7, 2017

Leave No Trace: Dispose of Waste Properly

The third principal of Leave No Trace is to Dispose of Waste Properly. When discussing LNT, most people immediately jump to human waste disposal when talking about this. But that's not the only consideration when it comes to disposing of waste properly.

First, it's important to make a plan to pack out all trash and waste. Occasionally there is waste that is difficult to pack out, think gray water or toothpaste, but there are ways to deal with that...

Gray Water

This is what is generated when you wash your dishes in the backcountry. There is almost universally bits of food waste left in your pots and pans. As such, there are a couple of ways to deal with this.

Drink It - The most extreme practitioners of LNT will drink their gray water. If you can do this without throwing up, you're a better person than I am.

Strain It - The more common technique is to strain your water to get all the food fragments out of it. You can easily pack these out after cleaning your dishes.

Scatter It - While straining or drinking the water is preferred, there are some areas where it is recommended that you scatter your dishwater in the gravel on the roadway. These are most commonly front-country campgrounds.

Toothpaste

Most people don't like to swallow their toothpaste, though that is one option when it comes to this kind of waste. The other option is to "raspberry" it. In other words, spit with your mouth shut, allowing the toothpaste to scatter and speckle the ground.

Human Waste

So what about human waste disposal?

As we all know, human waste comes in two main forms: urine and fecal matter. However, occasionally it comes in other forms too. This may include sanitary napkins, condoms and vomit.

In a wooded area, urine can usually be left anywhere. However, in the alpine one should try to urinate on rocks away from fragile heather. Mountain goats like the salt in human urine and will tear up the ground to get at it.

Climbers should avoid peeing in cracks on multi-pitch climbs. It's better to pee out on the face of the rock so that the urine breaks down. When one pees in a crack, it often doesn't break down and makes everything stink.

There are several ways to deal with solid human waste. The two most commonly accepted techniques are to dig a cathole or to pack it all out.

Catholes

Catholes are the most commonly used method of human waste disposal in the backcountry. The idea is simple, you dig a hole and bury your poop. Once completed you pack out your toilet paper in a ziplock bag.



Following is a short description of catholes from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics:

Catholes are the most widely accepted method of waste disposal. Locate catholes at least 200 feet (about 70 adult steps) from water, trails and camp. Select an inconspicuous site where other people will be unlikely to walk or camp. With a small garden trowel, dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter. The cathole should be covered and disguised with natural materials when finished. If camping in the area for more than one night, or if camping with a large group, cathole sites should be widely dispersed.

Waste Bags

These are commercial bags that are used to haul out human waste. Commonly used brands include the WAG Bag, Rest Stop and the Biffy Bag. The idea is simple.

You poop in the bag...

Most waste bags come with toilet paper, a wet wipe and a double bagging system.



In heavily used areas where it's hard to dig, waste bags are the best option for human waste disposal. These bags are also commonly used in alpine and winter environments. And finally, these can also be used to dispose of other human waste products like tampons and condoms. These types of items should always be packed out, no matter how far back you are...

Other Techniques and Thoughts

There is no question that catholes and waste bags are the most commonly used and likely the best option for the disposal of fecal matter. But there are a few other techniques that may be used in areas that are not popular where there are very few people.

When I think about these techniques, I think of extremely obscure mountains or big traverses that are uncommon and take too long (over four days) to carry all of the waste out. If any of these techniques were used in popular areas, they would have an immediate effect on visitor experiences and water quality; and would likely make it an unpleasant place to visit.

Smear Technique - With this technique, fecal matter is smeared thinly on a rock in the sun. The idea is that the waste will dry out and blow away. But for this to work, the waste has to be spread so thinly that it is no more thick than the width of the side of a coin.

The smear technique is overused. It is commonly employed in areas with too large a user group for the fecal matter to break down before others encounter it. And sometimes people use this technique in shady areas where the waste never breaks down.

Crevassing - In this technique, waste is thrown into a crevasse. Obviously, this eventually makes its way into the watershed below the glacier. On obscure glaciers, this isn't that big a deal. But if you see others on the glacier or you're following a bootpack, it's likely not a remote enough glacier to use this technique.

The Poop Bird - This one's pretty simple. You poop on a rock and throw it off a cliff or moraine, the idea being that it will splatter and spread everywhere so that it will break down quickly. It goes without saying that this is for extremely remote places.

Burning Toilet Paper - Some people like to burn their toilet paper and bury it in a cathole or allow the ashes to scatter. This is not a recommended technique as the toilet paper never really completely burns down, and it also creates a forest fire hazard. That said, if you are completely adverse to carrying out your toilet paper, this is likely a better option than leaving it lying around. If you choose to employ this technique, please please please make sure that the toilet paper has completely gone out and that there are no cinders or glowing bits left over.

And finally, I did mention vomit. In the event of a an incident where vomit is generated, it should be immediately buried. Vomit attracts all kinds of animals.

There is no doubt that the best way to keep the places where we recreate clean and beautiful, it is imperative that we Dispose of Waste Properly.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, August 4, 2017

A Celebration of Women in the Outdoors - Where the Wild Things Play

Outdoor Research -- the clothing manufacturer -- has done a great job with inclusion in their recent promotions. It started with their awesome takedown of GQ and its sexist photo shoot that only showed women watching. In ORs response it turned the sexism on its head by showing the men watching the women. And the result is both poignant and funny.

Now, they have produced a great film entitled Where the Wild Things Play, about women in adventure sports playing in the outdoors. Check it out below:



--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 8/3/17

Northwest:

--The Bellingham Herald is reporting that, "A Bellingham woman’s body will remain on a North Cascades glacier indefinitely, as a recovery team decided Monday that a mission to the site is too dangerous. Well-known mountaineer Susan Bennett, 61, died July 22 in a fall while descending Forbidden Peak, one of the region’s most treacherous rock faces. A helicopter rescue crew located her body in a 30-foot crevasse on Forbidden Glacier, but could not reach her. Two other attempts were aborted." To read more, click here.


Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/local/article164832627.html#storylink=cpy

--The Seattle Times is reporting that, "Olympic National Park officials are weighing several options to remove mountain goats from the park, including a plan to capture and relocate as many of the animals as possible and shooting others." To read more, click here.

Washington Wildfire Risk is High!
(click to enlarge)

--The risk of wildfire in Washington State is high. Campfire restrictions are in effect. To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--The Grant Fire in the June Lake Loop is now up to 400-acres and is only 15% contained. To read more, click here.

--A second fire is burning in the John Muir Wilderness. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Two hikers have been missing in Joshua Tree National Park for a week in extreme temperatures. To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--Vail is trying to become the first fully sustainable tourist destination. To read about this, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Last year we reported on Ryan Titchener and his accident in the Bugaboos. Ryan, a mountain guide, was hit by a falling rock and suffered a broken spine and several broken ribs. He is slowly recovering and can walk once again. To read about Ryan, his accident and his recovery, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "Russian ice climber Pavel Batushev is not allowed to compete for four years. He has been banned by the International Climbing and Mountaineering Federation (UIAA) after testing positive for meldonium." To read more, click here.

--Vanessa O'Brien just became the first American woman to summit K2. To read more, click here.

--The following video has been making its way around the internet. It's weird and fun and...well, weird...



--And finally, here's a breakdown of which states spend the most on outdoor recreation. The results might surprise you.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Book Review: My Old Man and the Mountain by Leif Whittaker

Leif Whitaker grew up in two shadows. He grew up in the shadow of a mountain, Mt. Everest. And he grew up in the shadow of a man, his father... Jim Whittaker. Jim was the first American to summit Mt. Everest. And almost fifty-years later, his son also climbed Mt. Everest...twice.

Leif's book, My Old Man and the Mountain is a beautiful piece writing, funny and sad, insightful and engaging. It chronicles both his father's experiences on Mt. Everest as well as his own.


Mountaineering literature is full of very serious stories about very serious men. And when Leif talks about his father's ascent, it feels that way. Climbing Mt. Everest in 1963 is serious business. The tone is completely different when he writes about himself. Jim Whittaker is a superhero. Leif Whittaker...well, let's just say he sees himself as a bit of a goofball, trying to figure out how he could be a superhero too... Or at least trying to figure out how to make his father proud.

Leif admits that his writing style was influenced by a combination of Ernest Hemingway, Tom Robbins, and David Sedaris. But as a voracious reader of mountaineering literature myself and former drama teacher, I see something else. His work feels similar to mountaineering writers like John Long and Andy Kirkpatrick, with a little bit of sitcom writing sprinkled on top. This combination makes My Old Man and the Mountain an incredibly fun read.

Following is a short passage recounting a moment when Leif climbed out of his tent at night to use the bathroom in a whiteout.

Where is the tent? I thought it was right behind me but, oh f*ck, it's gone. In fact, Camp 4's gone entirely, engulfed in the blizzard. A rush of fear and adrenaline runs through me like I used to get, when I was a kid and terrified of the dark, stepping outside our house at night. I could die here, just a few steps from the tent, and nobody'd be the wiser. FAMOUS CLIMBER'S SON DISAPPEARS WHILE URINATING or JIM WHITTAKER'S SON FEARED DEAD ON WORLD'S HIGHEST PEAK. The news stories will identify me as the son of Jim Whittaker, but they'll fail to mention my name. No more than a paragraph will be devoted to explaining the circumstances of my death, but the story will go on for another five pages with quotes from Dad and a description of his legendary ascent.

This is the flavor of the book. Leif is self-effacing, comic and philosophical all at the same time. He admits that he has "daddy issues." Indeed, in an interview I conducted with him for the Chuckanut Radio Hour, Leif mentioned that the story is essentially archetypal. We all have daddy issues. We all want to make our parents proud. And perhaps that's why this story -- a story of a young man trying to live up to his father's expectations -- rings so true.

Leif Whittaker

Daddy issues or not, Leif is a solid mountaineer. He proved this not only with two summits of Mt. Everest, but with a wide breadth of mountaineering experience, including work as a climbing ranger on Mt. Baker in Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest. In both the book, and in his life, he demonstrates strength in the mountains that his father -- and perhaps any climber anywhere -- would be proud of.

My Old Man and the Mountain is an excellent book. It's full of comedy and insight, as well as mountain action and tragedy. It is definitely a volume worth adding to your mountaineering library...

--Jason D. Martin


Monday, July 31, 2017

Funny Climbing Quotes

Climbing is a sport rife with literary characters who have said some very funny things. With the help of this website, I was able to come up with a nice list of quotes. Here are some great one liners:

"A climber's day always starts at the crux: getting out of bed." -- Unknown

"I don't want to write about climbing; I don't want talk about it; I don't want to photograph it; I don't want to think about it; all I want to do is do it." -- Chuck Pratt
"One method of getting loved ones to look more fondly on your climbing is to tell them that since you've started climbing you hardly do drugs anymore." -- David Harris

"There is no difference between religion and politics. Both involve lies and fanatical beliefs that generaly defy logic... Just like rock climbing." -- David Schuller

"To qualify for mountain rescue work, you have to pass our test. The doctor holds a flashlight to your ear. If he can see light coming out the other one, you qualify." -- Willi Pfisterer

--It's pretty common for people on the internet to talk about how they're great climbers. We often refer to this as spray. Dawn Alguard had a great response to such an individual on the rec.climbing google website:

"Here's the thing. You'd like to talk about yourself and what swell stuff you've climbed lately. Well, who wouldn't ? As it turns out, we have a format in which that sort of spray is acceptable. It's called a TR. In a TR, every other word can be 'I' and the words in between can be numbers representing how rad you are, though it's a time-honored tradition to throw in a few sentences about how afraid you were that you *weren't* going to [insert heroic deed here] before getting to the part about how you do.

Your trouble is that you're trying to disguise your spray as RFIs or attempts at actual human conversation and no one is fooled. It is quite possible to say 'Now that I climb outside so often I find that I absolutely suck at gym climbing and since I'm having a miserable time there, what with everyone snickering at me and falling off of things I think I should be able to do, I'm asking myself why I spend the money on a gym membership when I can go to rec.climbing and get snickered at for free' without mentioning a single number."

--A student working on a research paper once asked Mike Garrison how glaciers move. The student asked, "can you please tell me what you know about the movement of glaciers?" Mike's response follows:

Glaciers feel best when they have one movement per day. Some glaciers do just fine with fewer movements, but when they don't have movements for a long time the result can be quite bad. Glaciers which move much more frequently tend to have loose and soft terminal moraines (also called rock piles).

Glacial movement is almost always associated with the release of water. But sometimes glaciers release water without experiencing a movement.

 AAI Guide Ben Traxler, dressed appropriately for toproping.

--One time Greg Hamilton was asked what he suggested as a high altitude training regimen. He responded with the following comment:

I suggest going out to the nearest pub and getting completely, and utterly, wasted. Make sure you smoke at least 1 pack of unfiltered Camel's. Get the full ashtray, pour a drink in it and then pour the mixture into a water bottle.

When you get home (ideally around 3:30am) stick the vile mixture into your freezer. Put on your best goretex and thermal layer. Climb in. At 5:30am, get out, drink (chew?) the mixture and go run the biggest flight of stairs you can find. Run until your heart threatens to explode.

The dehydration caused by the alcohol should adequately simulate what you may experience at higher altitudes. Your lung capacity should be sufficiently impaired by the smokes to simulate a oxygen poor environment. The freezer episode should adequately replicate a bivy. Drinking the booze/butt mixture should simulate your lack of appetite.....

Oh — once your finished your workout, go to work (to replicate the long walk out).

These are all great and the website that I found these on has a great deal more. What climbing quotes have you heard? We would love it if you would post them on our comments page!

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, July 28, 2017

Guides Choice Awards 2017



The American Alpine Institute is pleased to announce the 2017 Guides Choice Award Winners! The Guides Choice has been a highly valued award for over 20 years and long coveted by manufacturers and industry insiders. A core group of AAI guides thoroughly test products in a variety of demanding conditions across 6 states and 16 countries. Recently revealed at the industry's largest trade show, Outdoor Retailer, here are this years four winners.

Beal Opera 8.5 Unicore Rope


The Beal Opera is an 8.5 millimeter triple rated rope incorporating Beal’s Unicore and Dry Cover technologies. The incredibly versatile Opera is capable of being used as a single, half or twin rope and was used by our guides in alpine rock and ice venues throughout the North Cascades of Washington state and the Bugaboos of British Columbia. At only 48 grams per meter, the Opera is in the very top echelon of lightweight single ropes and even lighter than many ropes in the half or twin category. The inclusion of the bonded core/sheath unicore technology adds a higher level of security, which becomes particularly evident when combined with a smaller diameter rope. The bonded core significantly reduces sheath shrinkage and slippage as well as allowing the user to complete rappels even on ropes with a completely severed sheath. 

Petzl Leopard and Irvis Hybrid Crampons




Aluminum crampons have been done before, but no company has taken the ultralight design as far or as successfully as Petzl. Both 10 point crampons, the Leopard is a full aluminum model while the Irvis Hybrid pairs a steel front section with an aluminum heel, weighing in at around 340 grams and 500 grams depending on the boot attachment system that is chosen. While the Irvis Hybrid is more appropriate for heavy use and situations involving mixed terrain, because of it's superb balance of strength and weight, both pairs are ideal for snow approaches as well as ski mountaineering. A key component of these crampons is the absence of a traditional linking bar. Instead, it is replaced by the Cord-Tec dyneema cord linking system. A length of dyneema cord is threaded through two holes in the front section and can then be adjusted through a series of notches in the heel piece to the appropriate fit, without the need for tools. A replacement Cord-Tec can also be purchased to accommodate bulkier boots and large sizes as well repair damaged cord. The cord allows the crampons to be folded in half making the Petzl Leopold and Irvis Hybrid exceptionally lightweight and compact.

CAMP Alp Mountain Harness


The Alp Mountain Harness is a lightweight mountaineering harness with a creative buckle system, great comfort, and the capability to rack all of your gear comfortably. The glove-friendly and durable steel buckles were an especially big hit on Denali. The main “Sicura” attachment consists of two steel plates, one with a diagonal groove that allows the other to pass through before lying flat against a plastic guard, offering extra security. The leg loop attachments are identical except for the lack of the plastic guard in this less crucial area. All three buckles carry a strip of nylon that assists when dexterity is impaired by bulky gloves. Guides also appreciated the unusual racking capacity for a harness of this class. Three gear loops, two with plastic protectors, and the ability to add 6 ice screw racking clips. Add in the comfort provided by CAMP’s 3mm load webbing as well as it’s low weight and small pack size and you have one excellent mountaineering harness.

Arc’teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boot




The North Cascades are notoriously wet. Double boots are often preferred by our guides, even when a much lighter and less bulky single boot would be used in similar temperatures. The Acrux AR boot is one of the lowest profile and lightest weight double boots available. A full-shank boot suitable for mountaineering and ice climbing, it takes dry a step further with dual layers of Gore-Tex. The outer boot is laminated, watertight and possesses an attached gaiter. The removable bootie incorporates another Gore-Tex layer while still remaining surprisingly breathable. In addition, the quick dry inner boot has been fashioned with minimal seams for comfort and a rubberized sole to double its function as a camp bootie. This bomber boot is one of the driest around, even performing well during Denali testing, yet still climbs exceptionally well and offers the user dexterity and durability.



Thursday, July 27, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 7/27/17

Northwest:

--A Susan Bennett, a well-known climber from Bellingham, died in a rappelling accident on Forbidden Peak over the weekend. It appears that the accident was predicated by a pendulum that knocked the climber unconscious (or possibly killed her). Following the pendulum, she slid down the ropes and off the ends. As with every fatality this was a great tragedy. But being a Bellingham local, Sue was friends with many AAI guides and staff members and will be missed. To read more, click here. For a remembrance, click here.

--News Channel 21 is reporting that, "A Smith Rock hiker who lost consciousness and fell more than 100 feet from the Misery Ridge trail Monday afternoon was rescued and taken to the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said. Deschutes County 911 dispatchers got a call around 1:10 p.m. reporting Eric Reynolds, 18, of Aumsville, Oregon, had fallen after losing consciousness, said Lt. Bryan Husband, sheriff's special services coordinator." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting that, "Las Vegas Fire Department crewson Tuesday airlifted a hiker who fell in “difficult terrain” at Red Rock Canyon National Recreation Area to University Medical Center." To read more, click here.

--It shouldn't be any surprise to people who visit Red Rock regularly, but the Red Springs Board Walk has been closed for safety reasons. To read more, click here.

--The Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting that, "A once-popular trail destroyed by mudslides in 2010 at Zion National Park will be restored and reopened, thanks to a $1 million donation from a charitable foundation. The Middle Emerald Pools Trail has been closed since December 2010, when it was heavily damaged by rains that washed large rocks and dirt across the path." To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--The Colorado Outdoor Industry Office is reporting that, "The Colorado Office of Economic Development and International Trade (OEDIT) today announced that Janette Heung will serve as the new deputy director for the Colorado Outdoor Recreation Industry Office (OREC), effective Aug. 10, 2017. 'Janette is joining us at an exciting time with record growth for our outdoor recreation industry, and she’s just the person to help take us to the next level,” said Luis Benitez, OREC director. “We are thrilled to have her experience and knowledge on our team.' In her new role as the deputy director, Heung will support economic development within the industry, work to build a dynamic workforce, advance conservation and stewardship, and encourage the intersection with public health and wellness in the sector. She will also develop new initiatives to further Colorado’s outdoor recreation growth. The position manages day-to-day operations of the office and serves as a liaison in the community." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The CBC is reporting that, "A group of climbers spent Saturday night on a mountain ledge and were rescued by helicopter Sunday morning, after one of them was injured while rappelling the Grassi Route on the Little Sister peak near Canmore, Alta. A Facebook post by Kananaskis Country Public Safety Section says the group reached the summit late in the day. When it started getting dark, they decided to go back down the way they came, rather than the usual descent to the Little-Middle Sister Col." To read more, click here.

--New research appears to indicate that rock climbing can help people recover from traumatic brain injury. To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that there is a new 17-pitch 5.9 line on Heart Mountain in the Canadian Rockies. To read more, click here.

--Many of our Alaska climbers have been amused by the fact that the mayor of Talkeetna -- the town used to access the Alaska Range -- is a cat named Stubbs. Unfortunately, Stubbs has died at the age of 20. He will be missed. To read more, click here.

--Keep your eye out for this stolen gear...

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Viewing the Solar Eclipse

The American Alpine Institute just received the following information from the National Park Service:

The NPS recently received the following warning information from the National Air and Space Administration (NASA) regarding the sale of solar eclipse viewing glasses which may not meet safety standards. 

Some vendors, are selling solar viewing glasses that are UNSAFE. Some are specifically being marketed to children. NASA is concerned that NPS operators may have purchased some of these for use at event sites.

How to know if your glasses are safe:

1. Made in USA by one of the following: Rainbow Symphony, Thousand Oaks, TSE or American Paper Optics

2. You'll find "ISO 12312-2" or "ISO 12312-2:2015" printed on all these filters. In addition to making sure your eclipse shades or handheld viewers meet the ISO safety standard, make sure they are in good condition:

If the filters are torn, scratched, or punctured, discard them. If the filters are coming loose from their cardboard or plastic frames, discard them.

The Pre-Climb Checklist

There is no doubt that the vast majority of accidents that take place in the mountains happen due to human error. Indeed, many climbers read accident reports looking for the human error, just so that they can say to themselves, "at least I won't make that mistake."

This is a very dangerous thing to think. Any of us can make a human error mistake anytime. As a result, we should do everything in our power to keep such a mistake from happening. Things to consider include, tying knots at the end of the rope before belaying or rappelling, using an autoblock for a rappel, wearing a helmet, etc. In this blog post, we will go through the steps required for a safe and fun climb.

A Climber in Joshua Tree
Photo by Ian McEleney

1) Anchor -- Is the anchor you built for the climb adequate? If you're top-roping, are there two opposite and opposed locking carabiners at the top? Are the pieces good? If you're using bolts, are the bolts good?

Does the belayer need to be tied into a bottom anchor? The default answer is, "yes." If the belayer is not tied into a bottom anchor, you should be able to articulate why.

2) Belayer -- Is the belayer's harness on correctly? Is it doubled-back? Is the belay device threaded properly? Are you using a locking carabiner on the belay device? Is the carabiner locked? Usually a visual check is not good enough to prove that a locker is locked. It's always good to give it a quick squeeze check. Is his helmet on properly? Does he have a nut tool to remove gear if he's going to follow?

3) Climber -- Is the climber's harness on correctly? Is it doubled-back? Is the belay device threaded properly? Is he tied-in properly? Is his figure-eight dressed and neat? If he is leading, does he have the rack? Is his helmet on properly?

4) System -- Is the system closed? In other words, have you made sure that the end of the rope is either tied directly into the belayer or that there is a knot at the end? Open systems are responsible for a large percentage of climbing injuries and fatalities.

5) Commands -- Are you both on the same page as far as commands are concerned? Many people use different variations of commands and it's not a good thing to get them mixed up. Do you have a communication plan for places where it's difficult to hear?

6) Multi-Pitch -- Do you have the climbing topo? Do you have food, water and clothes for the day? What is the weather forecast? Do you have a second rope in case you need to descend in an emergency? Do you have extra cordage and sling material to leave behind? Do you have a strategy?

Climbing is a game with few rules. One of those few is to make sure that you are completely prepared for the situation at hand. Go through the check-list every time. It could save somebody's life...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, July 24, 2017

Snow Climbing Techniques: The Stomper Belay

You pull up over the final crest and you're off the steep terrain. Time to build a belay. But what to do? What would be the fastest and effective?

One very quick technique is the stomper belay, also known as the carabiner/ice-axe belay. This technique takes mere moments to employ and is very effective in places where it is easy and safe to stand.

To set-up this belay, stomp your ice axe into the snow. Clip a carabiner to the head of the axe and then clip the rope to the carabiner. Step on top of the axe to hold it in and then belay off your body using a hip belay, a shoulder belay or a device off your harness.

In the following photo, IFMGA guide and AAI lead guide trainer, Mike Powers, demonstrates a stomper belay on low-angle snow for a guide training. Note that he is using a hip belay, with the rope to the climber redirected off the top of the ice axe.



In this second photo, Mike demonstrates a stomper belay with a shoulder belay. Shoulder belays are almost never as effective as hip belays and indeed, it is a bit painful to hold a fall on a shoulder belay with a stomper belay, whereas one barely feels it when set-up on a hip belay.



The stomper belay is very effective when it comes to belaying high-angle snow from a low-angle position. In other words if you're on rolly terrain or at the top of the technical climbing, this technique is appropriate. It is not appropriate to do a stomper belay in the middle of a high angle section. This is primarily because the leader would not have a lot of security while standing in such terrain. A hip belay from a snow seat, or a sitting axe belay would be more appropriate.

One note of caution, the rope should always be clipped cleanly through a carabiner on the head of the axe. The rope should NEVER be set-up on the carabiner as a munter-hitch. There was a major accident in Canada when this was done inappropriately, and the rope ran from the climber to a munter-hitch on the head of the axe and then up to the hip-belay. And unfortunately, there were fatalities as a result of this mistake.

As with any new technique, it's good to practice in terrain where there are no consequences. Try the stomper belay with a partner on low angle terrain. Have your partner take mock falls and see how it feels. Try each of the different belay styles, off the hip, off the shoulder and off the harness and see what works best for you.

The stomper belay is a very nice little technique to have in your toolbox. When used correctly it is fast, efficient and very effective...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, July 21, 2017

Book Review: Buried in the Sky

There are a lot of great stories from a lot of horrible tragedies in the Himalaya. This is one of the great ironies of mountaineering literature. The most horrific stories are the ones that lead to the most interest amongst those of us that follow this type of literature. But there is more to these stories than just tragedy. As in tales of war or natural disaster, there tend to be people who show great compassion and courage, even when their lives are on the line. And for many readers this is the true value of mountain literature.

Most books that deal in Himalayan expeditions are about the Western climbers who make their way to the mountains. They tell the stories of Americans, Brits, Europeans, Aussies, and New Zealanders. They tell stories of Western privilege, Western mountain success, and the tragedy of Western death in the mountains. Most books don't tell the stories of the indigenous climbers, their struggles and their tragedies...

At least most books hadn't told that story... Until now.

Buried in the Sky: The Extraordinary Story of the Sherpa Climbers on K2's Deadliest Day, written by Peter Zuckerman and Amanda Padoan is one of the very few pieces of writing that explores Sherpa culture and those factors that bring Sherpa climbers into the Death Zone. It is an extraordinary piece of investigative writing that provides a glimpse of the economic and cultural factors that lead Sherpas to work for foreign expeditions while examining the worst disaster in K2's climbing history.


In 2008, the news trickled out of Nepal slowly. There had been yet another tragedy in the Himalaya that made headlines around the world; and when the dust settled 11 people were dead. The main culprit? A combination of things, but perhaps of most importance, ignoring turn-around times at altitude and the destruction of the fixed lines by serac-fall in a feature known as the Bottleneck.

The events that took place between July 31st and August 3rd, 2008 provide the perfect lens for Zuckerman and Padoan to focus our attention not on the expeditions from a variety of different countries on the mountain, but instead on the Nepali and Pakistani climbers who assisted the international expeditions. And indeed, not just on their culture, but also on their hopes, dreams and nightmares. For many of these people Himalayan expeditions provide good jobs with decent pay in an economically depressed area. They are happy to accept the risk inherent in climbing mountains because it puts food on the table and allows their children to go to school. For many, there is little choice.

Some high-altitude workers have been incredibly successful. They have completed numerous climbs of mountains like Everest and Cho Oyu. Success on a peak as difficult and dangerous as K2 provides them with a major status boost and can provide them with more work opportunities at a higher rate of pay.

Buried in the Sky is the first piece -- that I've read, anyway -- that explores the cultural and religious significance of the mountains to the Sherpa people.  It explores the legends and the history as the Sherpas understand it and delves into the political and ethnic divisions that define their lives.

With this cultural history underlining the narrative, the book follows the stories of a number of Sherpa and Shimshali (Pakistani) climbers.  But two of them stand out, their narratives a step beyond the rest. Pasang Lama and Chhiring Dorje were both involved in the tragedy and were also both involved in an amazing rescue.

While descending and still high on the mountain, Pasang was forced to use his ice axe to secure a fixed line into place. The anchor was weak and the axe was needed to keep it secure. There were people below on the ropes and he couldn't stomach the thought of an anchor blowing out. He thought he could rappel and follow the fixed lines down to camp, without the need of an axe. At the time he was completely unaware of the fact that the line below him had been destroyed by icefall. And so, when he reached the end of the rope, he had no means to continue down...

When the ropes through the Bottleneck disappeared, Pasang had figured it was his time to die. Stranded, he was unable to climb up or down without help. Why would anyone try to save him? A climber who attached himself to Pasang would surely fall, too. Using an ice axe to catch the weight of one mountaineer skidding down the Bottleneck is nearly impossible. Stopping two bodies presents twice the difficulty, twice the risk. A rescue would be suicidal, Pasang thought. Mountaineers are supposed to be self-sufficient. Any pragmatic person would leave him to die.

Chhiring found the axeless Sherpa and decided not to be pragmatic. Instead, he attached a line to the man and began to short-rope him through the exposed space. It didn't take long for the two climbers greatest fears to come true, the pair slipped and were not able to arrest their fall.

The pair fell hundreds of feet, but eventually came to rest. Ironically, neither of the men were seriously injured and were able to make it back to camp.

The authors indicate that had this been a "Western rescue" where one person surrendered his ice axe for the safety of many and where another helped the first to safety, such a selfless rescue story would have made it into the mountaineering history books. But because it was a pair of Sherpas, the story was barely reported.

In the aftermath of the tragedy there were a number of accusations made about the way that teams worked together and the differences between the Nepali and Pakistani climbers. As with many mountaineering triumphs and tragedies, arguments over specifics can easily degenerate into "he-said, she-said" style arguments. The truth can be difficult to come by.

The writing team for this book studied the incidents around the 2008 tragedy for two years. They made seven trips to Nepal and three trips to Pakistan, trekking to regions that are almost never visited by foreigners and obtaining unprecedented access to military and government sources. It is likely that their accounting of the tragedy is the most objective put on paper to date.  But it would be understandable if it offends some readers. It doesn't always paint the foreign climbers in the best light.

Buried in the Sky is a beautifully crafted piece and it stands out in the world of mountain literature. Many armchair mountaineers are infatuated with Mount Everest and the stories that revolve around the tallest mountain in the world.  But Mount Everest isn't the Savage Mountain. No, that name is reserved for K2, a mountain inhabited by the last of a group of bloodthirsty goddesses hunted by an ancient warrior.

The final sister -- Takar Dolsangma, the youngest, with a green face -- was a hard case. She mounted a turquoise dragon and fled northward to the land of three boarders. In modern Rolwaling folklore, this is Pakistan. Guru Rinpoche (the ancient warrior) chased after her and eventually cornered her on a glacier called the Chogo Lungma. Takar Dolsangma appeared remorseful and, spurring her dragon, ascended K2, accepting a new position as the goddess of security. Although Guru Rinpoche never doubted her sincerity, maybe he should have: Takar Dolsangma, it seems, still enjoys the taste of human flesh...

--Jason D. Martin




Thursday, July 20, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 7/20/17

Northwest:

--A skier was killed in a crevasse fall on Mount Rainier on Sunday. It appears that the team skied to the summit and Michael Naiman, 42, accidently skied into a crevasse on the way down. To read more, click here.

--The American Alpine Club Cragging Classic is happening in Smith Rock this September. To learn more, click here.

There are stewardship events at the Goldbar Boulders 
this weekend and next.

--There are still several stewardship events available in the Pacific Northwest for climbers who would like to give back to their community. To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--California News 4 is reporting that, "A rock climber was rescued on Thursday after falling in the Twin Crags area near Tahoe City, according to the California Highway Patrol. Authorities say at around 11:10 a.m. Thursday, July 13, a CHP Helicopter 20 (H-20) was contacted by Cal-Fire Grass Valley Dispatch requesting a hoist for a fallen rock climber in the Twin Crags area near Tahoe City. H-20 was in the Truckee area and responded from Stampede Reservoir." To read more, click here.

--Alex Honnold held his own on Jimmy Kimmel Live this week. Check it out below:


Desert Southwest:

--The Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting that, "The National Park Service is considering a year-round online reservation system for access to Zion’s most popular trails and attractions in response to a massive surge in visitation at the park 160 miles northeast of Las Vegas." To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--The Aspen Times is reporting that, "A 25-year-old man was attempting to make his way over the top of a large boulder on the way up Capitol Peak on Saturday when it came loose and he fell to his death, an official said Monday." To read more, click here.

--A Colorado-based Instagram account is naming and shaming people who post inappropriate photos of themselves breaking rules in the backcountry. Check out this article about the account!

Notes from All Over:

--KUTV.com is reporting that, "Tragedy struck at a popular climbing spot in Utah's Big Cottonwood Canyon, Thursday as a climber fell to his death in front of his girlfriend and friends. Matt Hearn, who happens to be a member of the KUTV family, was climbing when he fell 100. According to investigators his gear somehow failed him." To read more, click here.

--The Register-Herald is reporting that, "a climber was airlifted from Burnsville Ranger Station to Charleston Area Medical Center Saturday after falling 40 feet while climbing cliffs at the Endless Wall Trail in West Virginia's New River Gorge Saturday evening, Fayette County officials reported Monday." To read more, click here.

--There have been several SAR incidents in New York State over the last week. At least one included a rock climber. To read more, click here.

--IFLScience and many others are reporting that, A pair of bodies discovered in a shrinking glacier in Switzerland are believed to be a couple who went missing 75 years ago, according to a report in Swiss newspaper Le Matin. Marcelin and Francine Dumoulin disappeared in the area in August 1942 while tending to their cows." To read more, click here.

--And finally, if you're 62 or over, the lifetime NPS Parks Pass is about to jump from $10 to $80. Get it before this happens! To read more, click here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Technique: Oppositional Forces

The Beta Angel series provides a series of excellent coaching tips for beginner to advanced level climbers. In this video, the Beta Angel coach demonstrates several techniques for oppositional climbing.



--Jason D. Martin

Monday, July 17, 2017

Women's Concerns on Day Trips

All climbers in the backcountry need to find the best way to interact with the environment and also take care of their health while they are out-of-doors. Women sometimes have different needs in the backcountry than men do. If you’re a woman signed up for a daylong course with AAI, here are a few tips and tricks to help you have fun and be successful:

1    Peeing outside.

For most AAI courses, you will not have consistent access to a flush toilet or latrine throughout the day. This means that you will need to pee outside at the location your instructor designates (feel free to ask if they don’t mention early in the day where you should go). You will want to bring some toilet paper and a Ziploc bag or bandana to use to wipe after going to the bathroom.

To go to the bathroom, go to the designated spot and squat to pee. Then wipe and pack out any toilet paper in a Ziploc bag. If you use a bandana instead of TP, you can tie it on your pack to dry out afterward. A small container of hand sanitizer is nice to have to clean your hands after going to the bathroom.

2    If you have your period…

Be sure to pack out any used tampons or pads in a Ziploc bag. You can wrap the outside of the Ziploc with duct tape ahead of time to keep it discrete if you want.  

Menstrual cups such as the DIVA Cup are also great for the backcountry, though you shouldn’t feel the need to invest in one just for a short course if you don’t already use one. DIVA Cups can often be worn all day without needing to empty them.

3    Stay hydrated.

Be sure to drink plenty of water while you are out on your course—at least two liters throughout the day, and possibly more if you are in the desert and the temperatures are high. Some women let themselves get dehydrated so they can avoid going to the bathroom outside, then crash and burn on their course. Don’t let that happen to you!


We hope to see you out there on one of our courses soon. We get a ton of women on different AAI trips and courses, so if you haven’t climbed before don’t be intimidated. Just sign up and get after it!

--Shelby Carpenter, AAI Instructor and Guide