Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Training: Deadhangs

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

This particular video focuses on deadhangs. A deadhang is essentially just hanging from a hold. The longer you can do a deadhang, the stronger you likely are.

In review:

  1. Select 5 hold types. And make sure that you can hang from them for 2 to 12 seconds.
  2. You will do one deadhang on each hold (each hand).
  3. There should be a 90-second rest between deadhangs.
  4. Failure should take place in 12 seconds or less. If you can hold on for longer than 12-seconds, then you should choose different holds.
  5. Keep track of your time and identify holds that are harder for you. Work on those and establish goals and benchmarks to measure your ability.
And as always, be sure to warm up before using a hangboard. Those things can be dangerous to your tendons!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 24, 2017

Route Profile: Dream of Wild Turkeys, 5.10a III

Dream of Wild Turkeys is an exceptional climb located on the Black Velvet Wall very near to the classic long Red Rock climb Epinephrine. I made it to Red Rock a week ago and after a couple days of sport climbing and bouldering I had the chance to get on this route with fellow AAI Guide Britt Ruegger. Britt is preparing for the AMGA Rock Instructor Course and we thought this route with 8 pitches of 5.9 or harder would be a good training ground for the course.

The beauty of this route is the sustained nature of the climbing combined with a comfortable amount of protection. Where the climbing follows cracks traditional protection is easily attainable, and when the cracks peter out bolts pop up to protect the face climbing. This casual mixed protection makes me feel warm and fuzzy and is a credit to the first ascentionists George and Joanne Urioste's dedication to putting up routes you want to repeat!

AAI Guide Britt Ruegger pulling past the first 5.10a crux on Pitch 3. 
The highlights of the route include pitch 2, a long right angling crack that eats up gear and is sustained at the 5.9 grade. Pitch 3 brings the crux and you go straight up a thin crack with small crimps on the face at 5.10a until you reach a bolted traverse to the right. This sets you up for the long fist to hand crack of pitch 4 that ends with a few tricky 5.10a bolt protected face moves to the anchors.

Britt demonstrating the delicate footwork necessary on this technical face climb.

The rest of the route continues on with endless face climbing mainly at the 5.9 grade. Ten pitches of fun sustained climbing make this a must do route!

The leader of another party climbs pitch 7.
Every belay is also a bolted rappel station, so you can go down at any point. This makes the route a great objective for folks just starting to climb longer routes that are not confident in their speed and efficiency.

Things to take into account on this route:

-Two ropes are required to rappel this route. We climbed with twin ropes but a single rope and tag line would work just fine as well. You end up going straight down with the rappels and utilize a couple anchors that are on variations to this route.

-This is a very popular route and you should get an early start if you want to be first! However, there are many great back-up routes close by if the route is taken.

-The road into the Black Velvet Canyon parking area is rough dirt and rock and requires a vehicle with a reasonable amount of clearance. Not impossible in a passenger car, just much quicker and enjoyable with a truck.

-There are many hanging belays on this route which leads some folks to nickname the route Dream of Belay Ledges! Its not that bad but worth noting in comparison to the more common comfortable Red Rock belays.

The Red Rock season is in full swing here in Vegas and I'm excited to be working with some folks next week on a Learn To Lead Course. If you're after some great desert sandstone climbing or want to improve your skills in traditional and multi-pitch terrain come visit us in Red Rock!

--Jeremy Devine, AAI Instructor and Guide

Friday, April 21, 2017

Natural Anchors

Okay, kids. The question for today is easy. What is a natural anchor?

The most straightforward definition is that a natural anchor is any simple anchor point that nature provides.

The class know-it-all in the front row raises her hand and asks, "but Mr. Martin, isn't a crack a natural anchor?"

A crack is a crack. We actually have to put something inside the crack before we have a piece. It is a natural spot to place an anchor, but it is not a natural anchor point. No, instead a natural anchor is anything that is already there. The most common examples of natural anchors are trees, bushes, boulders, pinches and thread-throughs.

This tree, found on the iconic Northwest route, Outer Space (III, 5.9), 
has little more than a few roots in the crack system keeping it in place.

Before you elect to use a tree as an anchor point, you should make sure that it is "Five-and-Alive." In other words, that it is at least five inches in diameter, five feet tall, has a good root-base and is alive. You should be wary of trees that could have a root-base in dirt or sand and on top of the rock. An anchor with this kind of structure could easily fail.

This photo shows a tensionless wrap with a static rope on a very large tree.

Bushes and Shrubs

In the mountains and in the desert, it is not uncommon to use bushes and shrubs that clearly don't meet the Five-and-Alive standard. These are primarily used as rappels to get down obscure gullies or to get off the backside of a peak, so the tendency is to try to avoid leaving too much gear. The tendency is to want to only leave webbing or cordage.

When you elect to use these less-than-stellar natural anchors, consider equalizing a number of them together. If you're tying your cord around a desert bush that is comprised of a number of finger-sized sticks, you'll probably want to equalize this with similar bushes. Depending on the size and density, I would want at least two of these, if not more.

And lastly, when it comes to bushes and shrubs as anchors, use common sense. Don't put your weight on something that might blow out. You could always back up the first person (usually the heavier person) on rappel with a loose gear anchor. If all goes well, the second person could tear down that anchor and then descend. If the equalized bush anchor didn't come apart during the first rappel with the heavier climber, it's reasonable to believe that it wouldn't come out with the second climber either.


Boulders can be absolutely fantastic natural anchors. But there are a few things to look at before committing to a boulder. First, make sure that it is in good contact with the ground. Boulders on sandy or sloping surfaces should be considered suspect. Second, make sure that it won't wobble or roll toward the edge. Every boulder should be checked by pushing and pulling on it to confirm it's position. And lastly, if there is any possibility of movement, don't use it. The last thing you need is a boulder falling down on top of you.

Pinches and Thread-Throughs

Pinches are places where two large boulders come together so tightly that you can wrap cordage or webbing around them. Thread-throughs are places where there is a hole in the rock that you can something through to tie-off.

It is not uncommon for people to simply miss these opportunities while trying to build an anchor. They simply aren't as intuitive for most people as the other natural anchors out there. If you can keep the fact that these exist in mind and you look for them, you'll find them.

Like boulders and trees and bushes, it's important to make sure that pinches and thread-throughs are sturdy enough to handle the stress of being an anchor. This is particularly important in sandstone or in other soft and friable rock-types.

Natural Chockstones

In the following video, the Canadian Mountain Guide, Mike Barter demonstrates a quick and dirty improvised anchor.

Ultimately, the great value to natural anchors is that they don't require much gear. And since they don't require much, you'll have plenty to use on your next lead.

Class dismissed. Now go build some natural anchors!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 4/20/17


--We post a lot of SAR and mountain rescue stories on our blog...especially here on the weekly news blog. It's important to remember that most people who are involved in wilderness search and rescue in the United States are unpaid volunteers. A recent video about King County Search and Rescue provides a taste of what Search and Rescue and Mountain Rescue units do, everywhere:

--Crystal Mountain Ski Resort has been sold.

Desert Southwest:

--The Las Vegas Sun is reporting that, "The fate of a planned housing development near Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area won’t be decided by the Nevada Legislature after a proposed bill that would have killed it was gutted and rewritten. But officials believe the revised bill still sets a foundation for responsible development of lands located near the state’s national conservation areas." To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund is reporting that, "The US Forest Service (USFS) is back on track to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) this fall that will evaluate the feasibility of re-opening Williamson Rock to climbing in a way that protects the endangered Mountain Yellow Legged Frog and its surrounding habitat. Williamson Rock was Southern California’s premier summer sport climbing destination until it was closed in 2005 to protect the endangered Mountain Yellow-Legged Frog (MYLF). The Angeles National Forest restricted access to Williamson as a result of successful lawsuits brought by the Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation organizations." To read more, click here.

--Pay attention for threatened desert tortoises in the desert. At least three died in Joshua Tree recently due to visitor impact. To read more, click here.

--The Las Vegas Review Journal is reporting on opposition to new oil and gas leases near Zion National Park. "At an auction in September, the Bureau of Land Management is planning to offer “fluid mineral leases” on three parcels totaling just over 4,700 acres near the iconic national park in Utah, 160 miles northeast of Las Vegas." To read more, click here.

--The Saint George News is reporting that, "Public comment is now open on a plan to reconfigure the south entrance to Zion National Park to help ease traffic congestion and make other improvements." To read more, click here.


--Aspen Times is reporting that, "A district court judge is leaving it to a jury to decide whether Vail Resorts properly closed an in-bounds expert ski run before an avalanche killed a local teenager in 2012. District Court Judge Fred Gannett also ruled that it will be up to a jury to rule if the resort company’s signs on Prima Cornice were sufficient. 'If a jury finds that Vail intended to close Prima Cornice or a portion thereof, and that Vail’s signage was insufficient or improper under the Skier Safety Act, a verdict in favor of plaintiffs may be possible,' Gannett wrote in a ruling issued Friday." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Climbing is reporting that, "Trango has elected to voluntarily recall all Trango Vergo belay devices in batch numbers 16159 and 16195 that were sold after 1 October 2016. Please IMMEDIATELY cease use of all such Vergos and return them to Trango for replacement as described below." To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund has a great article out entitled "5 Things You Can do to Fight for Public Lands." To read the article, click here.

Click to Enlarge

--Treehugger is reporting on an artist's interesting take. Drawing upon the WPA’s classic National Parks posters, Hannah Rothstein’s new series envisions our natural treasures ravaged by climate change.With a wry and poignant twist, artist Hannah Rothstein has reimagined the great WPA posters once used to lure visitors to the splendors of U.S. National Parks. Where the original might have promised Yellowstone’s campfire programs and nature talks, the new version offers dying trout and starving grizzlies. Welcome to the National Parks of the year 2050 if climate change is allowed to stake its claim." To read more, click here.

--Alpinist is reporting that, "The Piolets d'Or jury is giving awards to two climbing teams this week, along with two honorable mentions, at the annual international ceremony that acknowledges exemplary alpine ascents from the previous year." To read about the winners, click here.

--Outside Magazine has an interesting article on all the people who have gone missing on public lands never to be found. Check it out, here.

--The votes are in. Black Diamond had one of the funniest April Fools day products. Check out the Honn Solo...

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Bigfoot Sightings

With many programs based in the Pacific Northwest, we occasionally get questions about the elusive Sasquatch, or Bigfoot. The first and most common question is, "do you believe in bigfoot?"

The near universal answer amongst the guide staff is, no. Most of us don't believe that there is a big hairy apeman in the woods of the Pacific Northwest.

The second question is often, "have you ever seen Bigfoot?"

Most guides would say no to this question. But that answer would be a lie. In the Pacific Northwest Bigfoot is everywhere. And contrary to popular belief, he -- or she -- isn't that hard to photograph. Bigfoot is a part of our culture here. The beast is everywhere. You just have to open your eyes...

A Native American female Sasquatch mask.
This Native American mask is often used in ceremonies.

This image of Bigfoot is in a mural in Larabee State Park, just outside of Bellingham. 

We all knew that Bigfoot was a snowboarder. 
This piece of chainsaw art is near Index at a coffee shop on the way up to Stevens Pass Ski Area.

Bigfoot lives in a lot of small towns throughout the Pacific Northwest.
This photo was taken in Marblemount, WA.

 Bigfoot is very popular at Seatac Airport. 
I think that this blurry image is of the mythical monster at a cafe.

It also seems important that Bigfoot goes shopping.

 More Bigfoot junk at the airport.

And they even have Bigfoot t-shirts there. 

Yep. In the Pacific Northwest, we see Bigfoot all the time!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 17, 2017

Basic Rock Climbing Technique

The Mountaineers Club has put together a very nice little video that provides some tips and techniques for the beginning level climber. The following video does a pretty good job with its description of:
  • Face Climbing
  • Edging and Smearing
  • Downclimbing
  • Steep Terrain
  • The Mantle Technique
  • The Bear Hug Technique
  • Opposing Forces
  • Stemming
  • The Lieback Technique
  • Use of a Backstep
  • The Undercling Technique
  • The Heelhook
  • Friction Climbing
  • Hand Traverse
In seven and a half minutes, the video quickly demonstrates each of the techniques. And while they don't go into depth on any one technique, the do present a nice overview for those who are just starting out.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, April 14, 2017


Backclipping is one of the most common mistakes that beginning level leaders make. This is the process of misclipping a quickdraw so that the rope does not run smoothly out of the top of the carabiner, but instead runs behind the gate. If a leader falls with the rope clipped in such an orientation, it is possible that the rope could become unclipped.

This diagram from Spadout.com shows an incorrectly clipped rope
and how it may become unclipped in the event of a fall. Click on the photo for a larger image.

This image from Greatoutdoors.com shows the proper way that a rope should be clipped.
Note that the rope runs out of the top of the carabiner and over the spine.

It is quite common for those that are learning -- and even some of those that have been climbing for a long time -- not to recognize a backclipped carabiner. It is important for both leaders and belayers alike to be able to easily recognize an incorrectly clipped draw. It is also important to quickly correct this once it is recognized.

One of the best ways to avoid backclipping is to practice the art of clipping a rope into a draw. Climbers should be able to do this with both hands, regardless of the direction of the gate. This is a great technique to practice while vegging in front of the television. If you can wire it at home, then your muscles will remember how to do it and will do it right.

Click here to see a video that provides a quick lesson on clipping a rope to a draw. Be sure to obtain real instruction from a live person before doing this in an environment that has consequences...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 4/13/17


--Five climbers were killed over the weekend in British Columbia when a cornice collapsed. A sixth climber survived. The group fell over 1500-feet down the side of Mount Harvey. To read more, click here.

--A 36-year old skier was killed in an avalanche at Red Mountain near Snoqualmie Pass this week. Morgan Miller was a guide and avalanche educator. He To read more, click here.

Mary Anderson and her husband Lloyd

--The Washington Post, as well as a number of other new sources, is reporting that, "Mary Anderson, a climbing enthusiast who helped start the outdoor retailer REI that has become the nation’s largest consumer-owned retail cooperative, died March 27. She was 107. Her death was confirmed by REI and reported by the Seattle Times. No other details were immediately available. Mrs. Anderson and her husband, Lloyd, along with 21 mountaineering friends, started the consumer cooperative in 1938 out of a desire to find high-quality, affordable climbing gear in the United States. By forming a co-op, they were able to buy outdoor gear in bulk from Europe and other places." To read more, click here.

--This weekend there are two access fund events with the American alpine Institute:

Saturday, April 15 - Dallas Kloke Memorial Work Day at Mt Erie: Join in on trail work, trash clean-up and invasive species removal at one of the state's most scenic crags. Big thanks to Anacortes Park and Recreation, the Mt. Erie Climbing Committee, Solid Rock Climbers for Christ and American Alpine Institute or teaming up year after year! Click HERE for more info.

Sunday, April 16 - Larrabee Climber Gathering & Clean-up: Meet at the Larrabee State Park Boat Launch at 9:00am for a fun day of trach pick-up, graffiti removal, and tour some of park's sandstone blocks. WCC, American Alpine Institute and American Alpine Club will have tents and info set up in the morning with small crews going out to pick-up trash and remove graffiti along the Boat Launch Road and beach boulders. More details can be found HERE.

Click to Enlarge

--As with other National Parks, the North Cascades has seen tremendous growth. The Seattle Times reports that, "There were 979,578 visitors to the North Cascades National Park Service Complex during the National Park Service’s 100th year." To read more, click here.

--The American Alpine Institute will be working with the Liz Rocks campaign to provide a scholarship for our Leaders of Tomorrow program for youth who come from a diverse background or who face significant hardship. TheLeaders of Tomorrow program is the American Alpine Institute's premiere program for young people who wish to become climbers and mountaineers between the ages of 14 and 17. To learn more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Alpinist is reporting on the future of public lands. "April is likely to be a pivotal month for looming questions about the future of Bears Ears National Monument. The monument includes world-class climbing areas such as Indian Creek, and its fate will be indicative of how national parks and monuments might fare in the future. For those who are in favor of the new monument, there is good news and bad news. Bears Ears, Grand Staircase-Escalante and other national monuments appear to be secure for the time being in spite of Utah lawmakers' efforts to have President Donald Trump rescind or reduce them—which is not to say rescission can't happen; only that the law currently protects these designations. An outpouring of letters and phone calls to government representatives appears to be making a difference as well, according to the Access Fund." To read more, click here.

The irony is that this person scratched, "respect the Earth, 
know it's worth" into the rock.

--Las Vegas 3 News is reporting on the ever-present battle against graffiti in Red Rock Canyon. To read more, click here.


--News Channel 13 is reporting that, "A 31-year-old died while climbing Mt. Princeton on Monday. Matthew Wayne Lackey, 31, from Boulder, Colo. died from his injuries after falling around 40 feet and then tumbling an additional 100 feet down the side of Mt. Princeton." To read more, click here.

--Westworld is reporting that, "Logan Goodwin, a twelve-year-old from Hermosa Beach, California, died from injuries sustained while skiing at Breckenridge resort on Saturday, April 8. He is the fifth skier to die at Breckenridge during the 2016-2017 ski season and the thirteenth person to perish at a Colorado ski resort during that span. The tragedy makes this season the deadliest in five years." To read more, click here.

--The Associated Press is reporting that, "Federal authorities are looking at Vail Mountain's proposal to add 42 acres of skiable terrain for a training and competition area. The Vail Daily reports that the U.S. Forest Service held a public meeting on the proposal last week. About 60 people attended, most of them in favor of the proposal." To read more, click here.

--And in other ski news, the Denver Post is reporting on the consequences of a new 1.5 billion dollar acquisition in the resort industry. "And suddenly Colorado is ground-zero for what will become the most hawkish rivalry in the U.S. ski resort industry, with Aspen Skiing – KSL vying against the world’s largest resort operator Vail Resorts in an escalating battle of consolidation. In the past year Vail Resorts has spent$1.1 billion for three-quarters of Canada’s Whistler Blackcomb ski area and $50 million for Vermont’s Stowe in an aggressive expansion plan anchored in a strategy to sell more of its wildly popular Epic Passes." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--There has been a recall on several Wild Country Friends. To read more, click here.

--The Billings Gazette is reporting that, "Federal investigators say there is credible evidence of unwelcome conduct toward female workers in Yellowstone National Park. Alcohol, inappropriate contact and remarks that female employees said made them feel “uncomfortable and degraded” were revealed during a seven-month investigation into Yellowstone’s maintenance division. The report was issued Wednesday by Interior’s inspector general, who concluded that harassing workplace behavior by male employees had gone on for years because of actions or inactions of men in charge of the maintenance division." To read more, click here.

--An 85-year-old man is vying to become the oldest man to ever climb Mt. Everest. To read more, click here.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Technical Rescue: Webbing Storage

Technical rescuers use a lot of webbing. And there are a lot of ways to stow that webbing. Tom Evans of SAR3 has put together a nice video on two techniques that are commonly used to stow webbing...

Coincidentally, the second style that Tom demonstrates is used by guides in a completely different application. Guides commonly use something similar to the Lobster Tail in short rappels. They wrap the rope around a tree or object and then macrame the line together. They then rappel on one end. Once down, they pull back and forth on the rope to get it to drop down as a loop. The hitch used -- which is quite similar -- is referred to as the equivocation hitch...

The short description above provides nowhere near enough information to merit the use of an equivocation hitch. That is certainly a technique that if done wrong, could result in injury or fatality. I bring it up here, merely as a note to those out there that already use the equivocation hitch to help them understand the Lobster Tail.

In addition to the Daisy Chain and the Lobster Tail, there is a third technique that you may use. It is also possible to simply roll the webbing up into a spool.

This technique is good if you have a nice way to store it. If you're just throwing it in a box, it's likely to come unrolled. But if you're putting it into a bag with little zipper pockets and storage areas, it will likely stay as is...

There are a lot of ways to stow webbing. The best thing for you to do on your rescue team is to experiment with each of the styles.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, April 7, 2017

Climbing Scenes in Non-Climbing Movies

High budget narrative climbing movies are a genre in and of themselves. There are not very many of them out there and those that do exist tend to be filled with plot holes and ludicrous situations. But what about non-climbing movies that include elements of climbing?

Mountaineering, rock climbing and ice climbing are generally seen as extreme or eccentric things by filmmakers. The result of this is that they only use climbing for three things.

First and foremost, they use climbing to emphasize a character's bravery or uniqueness. You can see this in the following two clips.

In Mission Impossible II, Tom Cruise does things on desert towers that are completely impossible. This is a perfect example of climbing used for character development to show how "extreme" someone might be. There's a moment in this clip that is supposed to result in a laugh. They make a comment about Tom Cruise being on holiday. The joke of course is the question, who would ever go rock climbing for a vacation?

In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, Captain James T. Kirk free solos the Nose on El Cap, badly. By the time this film came out we didn't need a lot of character development for Captain Kirk. Instead, this is -- perhaps unintentionally -- designed to reinforce the character's cocky arrogance.

Bob Gaines, AAI Guide Jason Martin's co-author for Rock Climbing: The AMGA Single Pitch Manual, was Captain Kirk's double for the climbing scenes.

Recently Bollywood has gotten in on the action. The following sequence from a film called Shivaay is one of my personal favorites. It's pretty hard to beat in how ludicrous and funny it is:

The second use of climbing by filmmakers is simply to show something that is "different." They'll use it more for its novelty than for any other reason. Movies that do this include Axe, The Descent, and Wrong Turn. It's weird that most films that come up on a quick search are horror films...

The third use is when a character is forced to climb. This is an incredibly common thing in film. Movies that have scenes like this include North by Northwest, The Princess Bride, The Good Son, and Deliverance. Recently we saw this in Game of Thrones.

Though they're not all available, there are tons of movies with climbing scenes in them. Check out the female mountain guide hero of Alien vs. Predator or Keanu Reeves as a Himalayan climber in The Day the Earth Stood Still. I'm sure there are dozens and dozens more out there that I haven't thought of. I'd be curious to know what they are.

What other non-climbing movies with climbing scenes can you think of?

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Breaking barriers: The female mountain guide battling machismo

We wanted to draw your attention to a great article from BBC that highlights a special woman. Last Friday, Ecuadorian Juliana Garcia became the first female mountain guide in Latin America to become fully IFMGA Certified.

Juliana below the cerracs on Antisana. Roberto Espinosa F.
In the article, Juliana talks about some of the additional challenges that she encountered being a female in a predominantly male field, both from her peers and from the climbers that she was guiding. Click here to read the full article.

Congratulations to Juliana and best of luck to you!

Friction Hitches

The American Mountain Guides Association and Outdoor Research have teamed up to develop a handful of instructional videos. In this particular video, AMGA instructor team member, Patrick Ormond, demonstrates three major friction hitches: the autoblock, the prussik, and the kleimheist.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 3, 2017

Placing Protection: Wires

Passive protection is protection with no moving parts. The most common type of passive pro -- and the cheapest -- are wires (often referred to as nuts). These most popular wires are Wild Country Rocks and Black Diamond Stoppers.

Those new to traditional climbing often start their careers working with wires. On easier rock climbs where there are a lot of stances, it's reasonable to take your time and place these well.

In the following video Jullie Ellison from Climbing magazine discusses how to place wires.

In the video Julie uses the mnemonic Running Dogs Chase Squirrels. Following is a breakdown of that saying:

Running - Rock Quality - Is the rock good? What kind of rock is it? Will it break? Are you placing your protection in a crack in the rock or a crack in the earth? If it's a crack in the rock, is it acceptable?

Dogs - Direction of Pull - Is the direction of pull appropriate for the piece. If the climber falls is the piece oriented appropriately to catch it? If the piece is part of an anchor, is the piece oriented properly for that?

As a sidenote, it's not uncommon for a draw to pull a wire out of its placement. It's often better to use a sling or an alpine draw on this type of protection.

Chase - Constriction - Is there a good constriction for the piece? Have you put it in the perfect spot to ensure that when it's pulled on, it will be pulled into a tighter position?

Squirrels - Surface Contact - Does each side of the wire have good contact? Or is it only marginally in the crack?

Cleaning the Wire:

Julie also mentioned ways to clean a wire. She started with pulling upward on it, and then jumped to using a nut tool. There is a mid-level technique as well. If you place your fingers right below the head of the wire and push up on it, this will often allow you to clean it.

If you elect to use a nut tool, it's always a good idea to keep the draw clipped to the rope and then clip the nut tool to the piece. This way, when the piece pops out, you won't lose your piece or your nut tool.

There is a tendency amongst those who have the money to buy a full rack early in their climbing careers and to neglect nutcraft. I would argue strongly that, even if you have a thousand dollars to lay out on cams, you shouldn't do that. Instead, you should spend some real time learning to climb with wires. This will radically increase your long term skills as a traditional climber. Cams are great, but they should be the second stage of your learning...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, March 31, 2017

Film Review: The Thing (2011)

A lot of AAI guides have spent time working in Antarctica over the years. These include Tom Kirby, Alasdair Turner, Dylan Taylor, Tim Connelly, and Danny Uhlmann, among others. Some guides have worked on Mt. Vinson, but most have spent time working at Antarctic bases.

One of the most popular films in all of Antarctica is the 1982 John Carpenter film, The Thing. People who work in Antarctica literally love that movie. They often watch it when they arrive on site. And those who winter down there always watch it right before the last plane leaves for the season.

The Thing has had a lot of lives on the big screen. First, there was the 1951 film, The Thing from Another World. Then there was the 1982 remake, where they dropped "from Another World," from the title. And then lastly, in 2011, they made a prequel to the Carpenter film, also entitled, The Thing.

If you're not familiar with the mythology behind The Thing, it goes like this. A crew of Norwegian scientists find ta massive spacecraft buried in the ice. They retrieve the body of something and bring it back to their base. The 1982 film starts with a crew of Americans finding the burned out remains of that base and also finding the thing that caused the death and destruction there.

The 2011 prequel tells the story of the Norwegian scientists who find the spacecraft and retrieve the body of an alien frozen in the ice. They bring it back home and realize -- much too late -- that it is not dead. And indeed, that not only is it not dead, but that it is a murderous thing that has the ability to mimic people. The scientists secluded in the Antarctic are picked off one by one by the monster, while never knowing whether their friends are still their friends, or whether they are monsters disguised as people.

The 2011 film is a fun B-movie style ride. It is not as tightly written as the super-popular 1982 film. And indeed, sometimes it feels a little bit too similar to that film. The storyline is quite similar: scientists, Antarctica, monsters, ice, impostors, everybody dies... And maybe that's what makes it fun.

The biggest difference between the 1982 film and the 2011 film is the protagonist. Mary Elizabeth Winstead plays paleontologist, Kate Loyd. The character is smart and logical, which is exactly the opposite of what we tend to see of characters in most horror films. She doesn't panic. She doesn't explore weird dark rooms where she just heard a strange noise. She acts like we hope that we would act were we in such a situation...

Throughout the film we are treated to some great shots of high glaciers and peaks. It's not clear where these shots are from. It seems unlikely that it was filmed in Antarctica and a quick google search doesn't provide information beyond studio locations...

One of the most terrifying moments in the film for our readers is an early moment where a a large truck drops through a snow-bridge into a crevasse and gets wedged between the two walls. Unfortunately, the filmmakers decided to skip over the rescue of the truck's passengers, which is too bad, because regardless of the monsters running around, getting wedged into a crevasse is not a good thing and would have created more drama in the story.

These films are attractive to climbers because they take place in an environment that we are familiar with. While most of us haven't spent significant time in Antarctica, most of us have spent a lot of time secluded in the snowy mountains, somewhat cutoff from the rest of the world. As a result, of our experiences in these places, some of us might find them more spooky than our non-outdoorsy friends.

If you're not a The Thing fan, then this movie really isn't for you. But if you love the 1982 film, then you'll probably like the 2011 film...

I thought it might be fun to look at the trailers for all three versions of The Thing. First, we have the 1951 version. Second, we have the 1982 version. And then lastly, we have the prequel:


--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

How Those Bolts Got There...

The Canadian guide, Mike Barter, put up the following video on bolt placement. This is a rather rudimentary look at bolting. He gives the basics so that you know how that bolt actually got there, but there is a great deal more to placing bolts.

The best way to learn how to place a bolt properly is to work with an experienced bolter on replacing old bolts. This process will allow you to see where others have made mistakes. Understanding the most basic bolting mistakes is a great way to avoid making such mistakes.

The unfortunate reality is that most bolts are placed improperly. The fortunate reality is that most of these bolts that were placed improperly only have minor mistakes in their placement that make them unlikely to pull out most of the time. It's incredibly lucky that more people aren't injured or killed every year from poorly placed bolts.

If you decide to start bolting, it's important to do it right. Don't go out there and "just-figure-it-out." Seek out advice and guidance first...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, March 27, 2017

Training for the West Buttress of Denali

Sunrise over Denali (A. Stephen)
The West Buttress of Denali is definitely one of the most classic mountaineering routes up one of the most iconic mountains in the world.  From the beautiful position deep in the rugged Alaska Range to the chance to tag the tallest mountain in North America, an expedition to Denali is in no way easy, but the rewards vastly outweigh the effort.  I’ve guided the route three times, and I know from experience that nothing can fully prepare you for the West Buttress, but getting in good shape, and exercising your “suffering threshold” can help get you ready.  Here are some pages out of my training regimen for the Great One.

(A. Stephen)
Cold Weather

I think most experienced Alaska Range climbers would agree that you never really know what you are going to get.  As far as conditions and weather are concerned, the best thing you can do is try to have no expectations.  You can learn about trends in the weather, and conditions on the glacier via word of mouth or the internet, but considering that the average guided West Buttress trip takes 18-21 days, there is much that can happen once you’re fully committed.  An adage I find myself using a lot is that it is either “freeze or fry” out there- there is no middle ground.  While being too hot can be an issue, for most people being too cold is much more formidable.  You can train yourself to function in the cold pretty easily, however.  If you live in a cold-weather winter climate, go camping!  

Functioning in the cold isn’t ever too pleasant, but by gaining some experience with it you can gain the mental fortitude to make it work.  See one of my previous POSTS for some winter camping advice.  

If you don’t have access to a cold winter climate, one exercise that will help increase your cold threshold is to put your hands in ice water until you can’t stand it anymore, then try doing various activities such as tying knots, knitting, cooking dinner, etc.  This exercise is pretty limited however; the best thing you can do is either head to a cold climate for a winter camping excursion (at least one!).

Fellow Institute guide Nate Furman checking out the view on the upper
 mountain (A. Stephen)
Physical Training

As far as physical exertion goes, you should expect to carry packs weighing up to 70 lbs, while hauling a sled loaded with up to 80 lbs of gear.  Fortunately most programs will work off of a double carry system wherein the majority of days up to 16,000ft will only require carrying a fraction of that weight (an average of 50 lbs).  While the lower half of the route is at a fairly moderate pitch, the upper half can be quite steep, requiring precise footwork and a steady pace at altitude in order to stay warm.  No day's gain is more than around 3000ft in elevation, but climbers should be prepared to be moving 2 or 3 days in a row in between rest days.  I have tried to ask most of the guests I’ve had on the West Buttress what training program they used to get in shape.  I’ve heard everything from pulling tires around the cul-de-sac to a steady diet of mountaineering and backpacking to “nothing in particular.”   What we generally tell people at the Institute is that any regular physical activity focusing on cardio is decent, but there are some specific activities that are better than others.

Climbers using french cramponing technique to ascend a steep hill
with loaded sleds (A. Stephen)
One of the best things you can do to train is hiking with a weighted pack.  If you can find a hike in your area that steadily gains 3000ft in 3 or 4 miles, this is an ideal place to train.  Start by hiking the trail with very little weight or none at all.  I try to carry most of my weight in water, that way I can dump it out at the top and save my knees on the descent.  Every week, add a little bit at a time (no more than a 5% increase per week) until you have reached up to 70 lbs.  The rigors of pulling a sled involve muscles that even experienced climbers aren’t used to using, but if you can hike for 5 or 6 miles gaining 3000 ft of elevation or more in 4 hours without getting totally worked, this will be sufficient to develop the extra strong back and leg muscles needed to contend with an weighted and unruly sled.  The other benefit to hiking with a heavy pack as training is that it helps you prepare your mental muscles for carrying a heavy pack day after day.  Try to do the hike 3 times a week, with adequate rest days in between.  As with any training program, make sure you listen to your body and only attempt the hike when you are feeling fully rested.  You can get more details on creating a successful training program from a great book by former Institute employee and prolific climber Steve House, entitled “Training For The New Alpinism.” 

"Training for the New Alpinism", by Steve House and Scott Johnson is by far the best training manual I've come across.  Unlike others in its genre, it isn't too heavy on technical jargon, and written in a way that laymen can understand.  While it is written with the cutting edge, high-altitude athlete in mind, the book is very helpful for the basic level alpinist as well, and the training plans and exercises outlined are easily transferred for easier objectives (such as the West Buttress) than Steve House and company attempt.  Picking up a copy of this book should definitely be the first step for the prospective Denali climber.

The West Buttress also requires a decent amount of upper body and core strength.  I recommend doing a separate routine for each, twice a week.  Again, start slow (1 set per session, and add reps per week)!  You aren’t going for max strength here, instead building endurance for the long haul (up the section of fixed lines that is!).  The routines I use can be found in “Training For The New Alpinism,”  or many variations can be found online- but try to find a mountaineering-specific one.

Psyched climbers on the summit of Denali (A. Stephen)


One of the benefits of spending the extended time required for a double-carry strategy on the West Buttress is that it allows most people a chance to acclimatize as much as possible before we head to the upper mountain.  By doing “double-carries” (ferrying loads higher on the mountain while returning to a lower camp to sleep), you can maximize your acclimatization time.  So, theoretically, you can just show up in Talkeetna without getting any acclimatization experience.  

In fact, unless you are consistently living at 10,000ft, there really isn’t much you can do that will gain you the high altitude experience needed, since any acclimatization built through periods at altitude quickly disappears upon returning to sea-level.  The best thing you can do to be ready for high altitude is to make sure you are in good cardiovascular shape.  Supplementing your weighted pack training with an activity such as swimming, running, or biking is a great way to increase your cardio and lung capacity.  I find mountaineering-specific benefit in trail running, as you are not only building cardio fitness, but also training your leg muscles to handle stress.  I repeat: start slow and don’t overdo it!  Listen to your body first and foremost; it is always better to skip training days if you still feel tired than overdo it and risk injury.

Heading up the iconic ridgeline between 14k and 17k camps in less than
splitter conditions (A. Stephen)
Mountaineering Experience

An expedition to the Alaska Range, whether guided or not, should never be attempted without at least a basic level of mountaineering knowledge or experience.  The Range is home to some huge glaciers and unforgiving terrain.  Walking and climbing in crampons, ice-axe arrest, roped travel, and crevasse-rescue techniques should all be very familiar to the prospective West Buttress climber.  There is no substitute for actual glaciated travel here in my opinion.  Basic mountaineering routes on any of the Cascade volcanoes are great pre-requisites, and my favorite has to be Mt Baker, where you can get a wide variety of easily-accessible training and climbing in.  By far the best way to gain specific experience for the West Buttress is to take the Denali Prep Course offered by the Institute, which will provide broad mountaineering instruction, as well as winter camping and backcountry travel skills.

Fruits of the labor: A climber enjoying the view from 17k (A. Stephen) 
Peak season is fast approaching for climbing the West Buttress, so if you are planning on heading north, now is the time to make sure you are in the best shape possible. I highly recommend picking up a copy of “Training for the New Alpinism” and entering into the training program the book outlines. If you have any specific questions, or would like help designing a program that tailors to your specific goals and time constraints, feel free to contact usat the Institute.

-Andy Stephen, AAI Instructor and Guide

Friday, March 24, 2017

Lowering from a Loaded Belay Plate

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

In this video, AMGA Instructor Team Member Jeff Ward, demonstrates two techniques to lower a climber from a loaded autoblocking device (belay plate).

Following is a quick breakdown of the points made.

Technique 1 - Rocking the carabiner
--Good for lowering short distances
--Need an active break hand

Technique 2- Redirect the plate with a thin sling
--Better for slightly longer distance lowering
--Need hands free backup for break strand

There is actually a third technique that he didn't show. One can put a nut tool or the nose of a carabiner into the small hole on many of these devices and crank it backwards. This will allow the device to open. But like the first technique, it will be important to have an active break hand.

--Jason D.  Martin

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 3/23/17

Desert Southwest:

--The Las Vegas Review Journal is reporting that, "Save Red Rock, in an effort to halt progress on a proposed development near the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, has accused the Clark County Commission of violating open meeting laws. Save Red Rock attorney Justin Jones made the allegation in a counterclaim filed in Clark County District Court on Monday. It’s the latest development in an ongoing lawsuit between the environmental nonprofit, the County and mining company Gypsum Resources, which wants to build 5,025 homes on Blue Diamond Hill." To read more, click here.

--Red Rock Rendezvous is a world-class climbing event. There will be climbing instruction, competitions, slideshows, games and parties. This is one event that just gets better every year. AAI guides will be there to support the event and will be available for guided climbs or instructional programs both before and after the Red Rock Rendezvous. To learn more, click here.


--The Associated Press is reporting that, "The body of a climber missing on Longs Peak has been found. Rocky Mountain National Park spokeswoman Kyle Patterson says the body of the 39-year-old man from Thornton was discovered by searchers on Sunday and flown down by helicopter." To read more, click here.

--The Gazette is reporting that "a 48-year-old Colorado Springs woman who fell while skiing on Pikes Peak died Sunday, the Teller County Sheriff's Office said, the latest death on a mountain whose steep chutes, ice and avalanches can make it extremely dangerous even for experts. Rachel A. Dewey, a middle school social studies teacher with Banning Lewis Ranch Academy and adjunct professor at Pikes Peak Community College, was skiing in an area known as Little Italy Couloir near Glen Cove with her husband and three teenage sons Sunday morning when she lost control and fell about 1,000 feet, the Sheriff's Office said." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Finger Board Excercises

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

In this particular video, the fingerboard is shown. The workout they describe is really good, but leaves one thing out. You should always, always warm up before using a fingerboard. I have definitely hurt myself on those things...

This is a power and endurance workout. The idea is simple. Create a thirty move sequence with clipping as one move.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, March 20, 2017

Climbing Class and Grade

One of the most confusing elements for a new climber is how the climbing class and grade systems work in the United States. Many individuals go to the rock gym and feel like they understand what a 5.7 feels like, but seldom understand where that grade came from. Many wonder why it's not simply a 2 or a 3 instead of a 5.7.

In North America we use the Yosemite Decimal System to define the class of a climb. This system provides a class number and then a specific grade. Following is a breakdown of the classes:

Class 1 - Hiking on a maintained trail.
Class 2 - Easy scrambling. Some may occasionally need their hands.Class 3 - Moderate scrambling. Hands may be employed more often.
Class 4 - Easy climbing. Hands are used all the time. Many will climb at this level without a rope.
Class 5 - Where real rock climbing begins. Technical equipment is employed at this level.

At Class 5 we add a decimal and a number to the system. Periodically a plus or a minus will be used in conjunction with the class identification (i.e. 5.6+ or 5.8-). Once the system hits 5.10, a letter grade is added. There are four letter grades before the number grade changes. (i.e. 5.10a, 5.10b, 5.10c, 5.10d, 5.11a, 511b...). Following is a breakdown of this system;

5.0-5.6 - Beginner level climber
5.7-5.9 - Intermediate level climber
5.10a-5.11c - Advanced level climber
5.11d-5.13d - Professional climber
5.14a-5.15b - World class climber

Currently 5.15b is the hardest grade climbed in the world. However, the system is open-ended and one day somebody will climb something that is 5.15c.

Though climbers strive for consistency in grades, this breakdown is often quite subjective. In other words, a 5.10a in Red Rock Canyon might be the equivalent of a 5.8 in Joshua Tree National Park. It's important for climbers to get a feel for how the grades work in every new area they visit before pushing themselves too hard.

Many long rock and alpine climbs also employ a Roman Numeral commitment grade. This grade gives the "average climber" an overview of how long the route will take, how many pitches are technical, how difficult the routefinding on the route might be, and in some cases it will also take into account the remoteness of the climb. The commitment grades are as follows:

Grade I - A very short route requiring one to two hours.
Grade II - A route that takes two to four hours.
Grade III - A route that takes the better part of a day. For slower parties a Grade III will be an all day endeavor.
Grade IV - A route that takes all day. Generally a day that requires in excess of 12 hours. The technical difficulties are more pronounced.
Grade V - Generally takes more that a day. There are clear technical difficulties to be overcome.
Grade VI - A multi-day climb that requires solid technical skills and often requires both aid and free climbing techniques.

As with the Yosemite Decimal System, the commitment grade system is not without problems. It is incredibly subjective. The Nose on El Capitan in Yosemite is a Grade VI. When it was first climbed in 1958, it took 45 days. The speed record is currently under three hours and many parties complete the route in a day. So the question must then be asked, what is an "average" climber? How should these grades be set? Most guidebook authors will look for some kind of consensus. The real average party on the Nose still takes about four days. As such, the Grade VI will remain for the time being.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, March 17, 2017

To Wag or Not to Wag...

In many climbing areas and mountaineering destinations around the country, Wag Bags are required.

What's a Wag Bag?

A Wag Bag is a simple system for human waste disposal in the backcountry. These are essentially sanitary bags for human waste removal. They're not complex and there's no mystery. They're plastic bags that you poop in.

Wag Bags are a brand name. These are actually waste bags. And there are several brands on the market, including Biffy Bags and Restop.

Access to places like Mount Rainier, Mount Whitney and the desert are threatened by an overabundance of human waste. In some of these locations you are required to use a Wag Bag or the equivalent. Of course, part of the pack-it-in pack-it-out philosophy is not just using such a bag, but also bringing it back out with you. These areas are also threatened by an overabundance of used and discarded Wag Bags.

Timmy O'Neil is often considered the "funniest man in climbing." A few years ago, Timmy put together the following video about wag bags in the Utah desert.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, March 16, 2017

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


--Hood River News is reporting that, "The search for a missing skier, Steve Leavitt from The Dalles, has been dialed back and termed a recovery effort. Leavitt, 57, has been missing at Mt. Hood Meadows since last Tuesday." To read more, click here.

--The Everett Herald posted an editorial on the return of grizzly bears to the North Cascades. To read it, click here.

--The American Alpine Institute will be working with the Liz Rocks campaign to provide a scholarship for our Leaders of Tomorrow program for youth who come from a diverse background or who face significant hardship. The Leaders of Tomorrow program is the American Alpine Institute's premiere program for young people who wish to become climbers and mountaineers between the ages of 14 and 17. To learn more, click here.

--Leif Whittaker is a mountain climber, photographer, and writer whose work has appeared in various media worldwide, including Powder, Backcountry and The Ski Journal. His first book, My Old Man and the Mountain, was published by Mountaineers Books in October, 2016. In this presentation on March 30th in Bellingham, Whittaker, son of the first American to summit Mount Everest, will shed light on growing up in the shadow of a famous father, and how that journey helped shape a unique view of his own relationship with a mountain and a dad. Whittaker will be available after the presentation to sign books. Coffee and cookies will be served. Registration for this event closes on March 27, 2017. To learn more, click here.


AAI's Director Dunham Gooding and Royal Robbins
at the 2009 Outdoor Retailer

--On Wednesday night, Climbing magazine posted an obituary for one of the greatest rock climbers of all time. "On Tuesday, March 14, California rock-climbing and big-wall pioneer Royal Robbins passed away at age 82. Born February 3, 1935, Robbins ushered in the development of many modern free- and aid-climbing techniques and standards. In 1952, Robbins made the first free ascent of the Open Book in Tahquitz, California, pushing free climbing standards to 5.9. Five years later, he, Jerry Galwas, and Mike Sherrick completed the first ascent of the Northwest Face of Half Dome over five days." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--It appears that there was a fatal climbing accident in Arches National Park on March 5th. There is limited information about what happened. To read more, click here.

--This could be good news in the ongoing fight to stop development near Red Rock Canyon. The Nevada Independent is reporting that, "In the wake of controversy surrounding a proposed development within eyesight of the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area, Nevada lawmakers have reintroduced a bill that would essentially freeze any private development within a five-mile radius of a national conservation area. Democratic Assemblyman Steve Yeager introduced AB277 on Friday, with a large number of Democrats and two Republicans — Sen. Becky Harris and Assemblyman James Oscarson — signed on as sponsors." To read more, click here.

--Red Rock Rendezvous is a world-class climbing event. There will be climbing instruction, competitions, slideshows, games and parties. This is one event that just gets better every year. AAI guides will be there to support the event and will be available for guided climbs or instructional programs both before and after the Red Rock Rendezvous. To learn more, click here.

--In preparation for the Red Rock Rendezvous, Climbing magazine posted this article about belay extensions by Jason Martin, AAI's director of operations...


--The Denver Post is reporting that, "Colorado’s Rocky Mountain National Park finished off 2016 as the nation’s fourth most popular national park with more than 4.5 million visitors.": To read more, click here.

--A death due to a ski lift malfunction has heightened awareness of ski area infrastructure needs in Colorado. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--CBC News is reporting that, "A 34-year-old man who died Sunday while skiing at Canada's Lake Louise was wearing a helmet when he crashed into a tree, RCMP said Monday." To read more, click here.

--Fox 13 Salt Lake City is reporting that, " Search and rescue crews responded to Little Cottonwood Canyon after a rock climber fell about 50 feet while rappelling Saturday." To read more, click here.

--Boston.com is reporting that, "Authorities are investigating the death of a skier who was found unresponsive near an intermediate trail at the Mount Sunapee Resort in New Hampshire." To read more, click here.

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "The Access Fund has announced its 2016 Menocal Lifetime Achievement Award, Bebie Leadership Award and Sharp End Awards. These annual awards recognize individuals, organizations, and businesses that "go above and beyond to volunteer their time and efforts to protecting America's climbing." To read more, click here.

--A moose in Alaska had to be shot because it charged a ski area lift line! To read more, click here.

--If you haven't seen this awesome clip from Bollywood, you should drop everything and watch it right now.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Film Review: The Summit

K2 is often considered to be the most dangerous mountain in the world. One out of every four people who climb to the summit of the mountain perishes on the descent. So it is no surprise that one of the most terrible mountaineering incidents of all time happened on the mountain.

In 2008, the news trickled out of Pakistan 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.

We have previously written about this incident in our review of the excellent book, Buried in the Sky. But now a new film which combines, interviews, footage from the expeditions in 2008, and actors portraying real people has come to video and streaming. The Summit is a powerful film that will keep you from ever considering an ascent of K2.

Nick Ryan's stunning film tells the story of a series of climbing teams who came together on K2 on August 1st of 2008 to make an attempt at the summit. The problem was that there were twenty-five people from several countries with several different types of climbing styles trying to get up the mountain that day.

The film is built much like Touching the Void. Ryan uses actors when necessary, emotional interviews and real video to weave together a complex web in order to tell a complicated story.

In most tragic mountaineering stories, there is one incident that acts as a catalyst for everything else that goes wrong. While that exists in The Summit, there are so many complicating factors to the story that it is hard to finger one thing. Instead, the film feels like a real-life horror movie. People make mistakes and die. People trip and die. People are hit by icefall and die. People try to save others and die...

You get the picture.

The film is hard to watch. It's a true story with real footage of people on a mountain. And many of those you're watching are gone, their bodies still up on the mountain.

Perhaps the greatest flaw in the film is that the story of what happened that day on K2 is complex. It's so complex that you leave the film without a complete understanding of what happened in the tragedy. None of the people who lived it tell the same story. As such, there is no unified version where armchair mountaineers can sit back and say, "that's where it all went wrong."

The Summit is a beautiful movie about a horrible day in the mountains. And while it is often hard to watch, it is a gripping story that I personally have not been able to stop thinking about...

--Jason D. Martin