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


--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.


--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.


--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: 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

Friday, July 14, 2017

Leave No Trace: Leave What You Find

It's not especially intuitive...

You see a beautiful flower, a cool native arrowhead, a colorful rock, or something else that you just want to take home and keep...but you know what's going to happen to it. That flower will be destroyed in your pack. That arrowhead will just end up in a junk drawer. And who knows what you'll do with the rock?

In the fall of 2006, a friend and I were on our way out to climb Jackass Flats (II, 5.6) in Red Rock Canyon. The route is located in a part of the canyon that is not visited very often. Indeed, until a few years ago a heard of wild horses roamed freely in the desert there. Wild burros still make their way across the desert in this area with very little oversight by humans.

It was on this approach that we found it...the skeleton of a wild burro. The bones were a bit scattered, but they were all there. The most spectacular part of the skeleton was the skull, bleached white by the desert sun. It was an incredible find.

My friend indicated that he thought that he could sell the skull on Ebay for a fair bit of money. I didn't feel comfortable with this. Finding that skeleton made our day. Ultimately, we decided that it was best to leave the skull for the next visitor. We decided that the experience of finding something like that was one of the values of playing in the mountains.

A Burro Skull found in the shadow of Windy Peak in Red Rock Canyon
Photo by Jason Martin

When we left the skull, we were adhering to the fourth of the seven principals of Leave No Trace, Leave What you Find. The following text about this principal is from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics website:

Minimize Site Alterations

Leave areas as you found them. Do not dig trenches for tents or construct lean-tos, tables, chairs, or other rudimentary improvements. If you clear an area of surface rocks, twigs or pine cones, replace these items before leaving. On high impact sites, it is appropriate to clean up the site and dismantle inappropriate user-built facilities, such as multiple fire rings and constructed seats or tables. Consider the idea that good campsites are found and not made.

In many locations, properly located and legally constructed facilities, such as a single fire ring, should be left. Dismantling them will cause additional impact because they will be rebuilt with new rocks and thus impact a new area. Learn to evaluate all situations you find.

Avoid Damaging Live Trees and Plants

Avoid hammering nails into trees for hanging things, hacking at them with hatchets and saws, or tying tent guy lines to trunks, thus girdling the tree. Carving initials into trees is unacceptable. The cutting of boughs for use as sleeping pads creates minimal benefit and maximum impact. Sleeping pads are available at stores catering to campers.

Picking a few flowers does not seem like it would have any great impact and, if only a few flowers were picked, it wouldn't. But, if every visitor thought "I'll just take a few", a much more significant impact might result. Take a picture or sketch the flower instead of picking it. Experienced campers may enjoy an occasional edible plant, but they are careful not to deplete the surviving vegetation or disturb plants that are rare or are slow to reproduce.

Leave Natural Objects and Cultural Artifacts

Natural objects of beauty or interest such as antlers, petrified wood, or colored rocks add to the mood of the backcountry and should be left so others can experience a sense of discovery. In National Parks and some other areas it is illegal to remove natural objects.

The same ethic is applicable to cultural artifacts found on public land. Cultural artifacts are protected by the Archaeological Resources Protection Act. It is illegal to remove or disturb archeological sites, historic sites, or artifacts such as pot shards, arrowheads, structures, and even antique bottles found on public lands.

Ironically -- as stated above -- even trash that has been left for over fifty years could be considered a cultural artifact. Imagine the remains of a mining operation that are hundreds of years old or the vestiges of an old pioneer settlement...these items develop value by staying where they are. Indeed, in some National Parks it's actually illegal to pick up items that are over fifty years old.

Leave What You Find wasn't designed for outdoor educators to wag their fingers at people with, but instead was designed to give people an opportunity to relish in an outdoor environment that hasn't been impacted by modern people. Finding beautiful plants, beautiful trees, beautiful rocks, beautiful animals, beautiful artifacts and beautiful vistas are one of the main reasons that we visit the outdoors. If everybody takes a bit of that a way, there will be nothing left to look at...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 7/13/17


--The NPS is reporting that "searchers have been unable to locate a skier who is believed to have fallen through a snowbridge into Pebble Creek on July 3, 2017. While skiing from Camp Muir to Paradise, a 30-year old male from Washington State fell into a hole that spanned the rushing water of Pebble Creek. Using an avalanche probe, his partner searched for two hours before completing his descent to Paradise to report the incident." To read more, click here.

--The Vernon Morning Star is reporting that, "A climber who fell off a cliff in the Bear Cave Crags area north of the Myra Canyon Adventure Park southeast of Kelowna, was airlifted to hospital Sunday evening." Kelowna is in southwest British Columbia. To read more, click here.

--The Statesman Journal is reporting that, "The U.S. Forest Service is proposing sweeping new rules that would limit the number of people allowed into five of Oregon’s most popular wilderness areas. A sharp increase in crowds — and environmental damage that’s followed — has led the agency to propose major changes to the way people access Mount Jefferson, Mount Washington, Three Sisters, Waldo Lake and Diamond Peak wilderness areas." To read more, click here.

--As the Pacific Crest Trail gains in popularity, the Oregon Coast Trail is starting to see a lot more action. People who are trying to avoid the crowds are checking out this other scenic trail. To read more, click here.

--Some climbers in Seattle helped rescue a dog off a bluff! To read more, click here.


--The Sierra Wave is reporting that, "On Thursday July 6th, 2017 the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office was notified by a group of Pacific Crest Trail hikers that a body was discovered approximately 300 feet off the Bishop Pass trail in a talus slope. The morning of July 7th, a recovery operation was initiated with aerial support provided by Sequoia and Kings National Park. After transporting the remains to the Inyo County Coroner, the body was officially identified as Robert “Bob” Woodie, a 74-year old missing hiker from Manhattan Beach, CA." To read more, click here.
--Two Search and Rescue volunteers working to extract an injured hiker from the Pacific Crest Trail were robbed at gunpoint over the weekend. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--CNN is reporting that, "National outdoor retailer REI is urging its customers to challenge Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke over proposed plans to review what public lands will continue to receive monument classification and federal funding." In particular there is concern about the new Bear's Ears National Monument. To read more, click here.


--The Aspen Daily News is reporting that, "our members of Mountain Rescue Aspen, a sheriff’s deputy and a helicopter pilot resumed Thursday the search for missing climber David Cook.
He was reported as overdue on Sept. 19, having set out on a solo climbing and camping trip in the Maroon Bells wilderness. Large-scale ground and aerial searches over eight days were conducted, but failed to locate Cook." To read more, click here.

--Rock and Ice magazine is hiring.

Notes from All Over:

--GQ can't get a break and probably shouldn't be given one. Last year they did their infamous photo shoot of guys climbing while girls watched. This of course was crushed by our friends at Outdoor Research with their awesome response. And now they have Brad Pitt running around in National Parks wearing clothing worth many thousands of dollars while rolling in the sand and walking in swamps. Jeff Bartlett at Roots Rated Labs responded with,"Brad Pitt in America's National Parks" Is Part of a Larger Problem with How We Use Our Parks.

--Professional rock climber Sasha DiGullian wrote an awesome editorial about how some outdoor sportwear companies choose female models over female athletes. To read the article, click here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Nine Lessons from Rock Climbing

Recently this video has been making its rounds on the web. The piece is from a motivational speaking conference sponsored by TED -- a motivational speaker agency -- and features Matthew Childs, a former climbing guide.

Matthew Childs is a specialist in digital branding and interactive services. According to his biography, Childs seeks out new trends in competitive markets. As an advertising lead at Razorfish, he draws from extensive experience in the marketing world, having led Nike's global internal communications department. Before that, he was a writer and editor for Outside Magazine and Playboy.

In this video, the speaker relates nine lessons learned in rock climbing to the "real world." Though the video was created for non-climbers, Childs uses enough climbing lingo that it's likely that climbers will get the most out of his insights.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, July 10, 2017

Book Review: Alone on the Wall by Alex Honnold and David Roberts

On June 3, 2017, something happened that changed the climbing world. Alex Honnold free soloed Freerider (5.12d, VI, 3000') on Yosemite's El Capitan. This ascent was beyond awe inspiring. Some have said that it was the most impressive thing to happen in any sport...ever.

Many writers have compared Alex's free solo to breaking the four-minute mile, a barrier that was thought impossible to break, until it was soundly broken. The big difference between the four-minute mile and Alex's ascent is that if someone doesn't quite break the four-minute mile, they're still alive. Had Alex not been successful on his ascent, he would have died...

Alex predicted that he would attempt something on El Cap in his inciteful book, Alone on the Wall, which he wrote with the prolific outdoor writer, David Roberts. Indeed, he noted that Freerider would be the obvious choice.

Alone on the Wall chronicles Alex's journey from high school nerdom to internationally renowned rock climber. It looks carefully at how he began free soloing, his mentors, his sponsorship, his films and his most inspirational ascents. It also delves into his psychology and why he climbs without a rope.

It's with some irony that he noted the reason he started free soloing was because he was too shy to try to hook-up with strangers in climbing area parking lots. In other words, the greatest free soloist in history, a person who can climb 5.12+ thousands of feet off the deck with no rope, became who he is...because he was afraid...

In Alone on the Wall, we learn that Alex slowly developed his skill over a period of years, going bigger and bigger. When he free soloed Moonlight Buttress (5.12d, V, 1200') in Zion, the climbing world took notice. It didn't take long for him to become a member of the North Face team, traveling the world.

It was during his travels that climbing became something more than just a physical pursuit. In the country of Chad, Alex began to think about climate change and sustainability in relation to some of the poorest people on the planet. Shortly after that trip he launched the Honnold Foundation, an organization dedicated to bringing sustainable improvements to developing countries including solar panels and other clean energy innovations.

Alex Honnold is not without his detractors though. Indeed, when we posted about Alex's achievements on our Facebook page we received a number of comments about how irresponsible this type of climbing is. There is a belief that people will attempt free soloing that shouldn't because of Alex. In Alone on the Wall, he responds to this criticism:

Every once in awhile, I hear that somebody thinks I'm a bad role model for kids. The argument goes something like this: Some kid sees a film like Alone on the Wall and decides he wants to try free soloing. Doesn't have the judgement yet to know how to stay safe. In the worst case scenario, the kid gets on some route right at his limit, loses his cool, and falls off.

Well, I challenge those critics to cite a single case in which a climbing accident has been caused by some youngster trying to emulate me. It just doesn't work that way. If you've never free soloed before, you're likely to get twelve feet off the ground, freak out, and back off.

It's easy to see where these concerns come into play. Alex is cool and his ascents are cool. His book is inspirational. But there are very few free solo deaths in the United States or abroad. Alex's ascents are extremely high profile, but there's no evidence that there are any more free soloists today than there were twenty years ago. That said, free soloing is also in the eye of the beholder. Is climbing a third class ridge line without a rope free soloing? What about a fourth-class ridge with one fifth class move...? Where does it switch from scrambling to free soloing? When does a high-ball boulder problem transition from bouldering the free soloing...? There's no doubt that what Alex is doing is free solo climbing. But I believe some detractors haven't thought about where their own climbing switches from scrambling to free soloing, and sometimes it can feel like those who criticise Alex are throwing stones in a glass house...

Alex on the Thank God Ledge on the Regular NW Face (5.12b, VI)  of Half Dome.
This is the famous photo from Alex's seminal film, Alone on the Wall.

So what about that ascent on El Cap. Alex thought about it for a long time. In his book he even names Freerider as a potential objective for the first free solo of El Cap. But he also notes the pressure.

For a while, the media flirted with the idea that Dean Potter and I were rivals to pull off the first free solo of El Cap. I just shrugged off that talk, but it sort of pissed Dean off. "Let's talk about it after it's happened," he told Outside in 2010. "The magazines want a race. But this would be beyond athletic achievement. For me, this would be at the highest level of spirituality."

Though Alex wasn't the one who said that it would be the "highest level of spirituality," it's certainly a memorable moment in his book. It's clear that he feels that an ascent like the one he made on Freerider was indeed, the highest level of spirituality...

The question that everyone's asking then is, what's next? How can he go bigger than El Cap? It's no mystery. Alex told us in his book:

For that matter, even El Cap wouldn't be the ultimate free solo. On Nameless Tower, a huge granite spire in the Trango Towers group of the Karakoram Range in Pakistan, there's a route called Eternal Flame. It's as big as El Cap, and it starts at 17,000 feet above sea level. The route was put up in 1989 by a very strong German foursome, including Wolfgang Gullich and Kurt Albert. After lots of other climbers tried and failed, the Huber brothers, Alex and Thomas, succeeded in climbing it all free in 2009. They rated it at 5.13a. Claiming they were lucky to have good weather and find almost no ice in the cracks, the Hubers called Eternal Flame "the best and most beautiful free climb on the globe." If there's a challenge for the proverbial "next generation," it would be free soloing Eternal Flame.

If the first free solo ascent on El Cap was a moon landing, then an ascent of Eternal Flame is a Mars landing. And all that we mere mortals can do is to wish Alex, good luck...!

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, July 7, 2017

Route Profile: Angel's Crest (5.10b, IV)

The Angel's Crest is likely the most beautiful route of its grade in Squamish. The line takes you up a perfect ridge from low on the Stawamus Chief all the way up to its summit. The bulk of the climbing is moderate and most of the cruxes are short...but you have to be on your A game. The route is incredibly long and early morning crowds at the base are common!

Angel's Crest
Click to Enlarge

Approach: Park at the climber's parking area below the Apron in Squamish. Exit the parking lot and walk along the dirt road for about ten minutes. You will pass a couple of trails before you get to the right one. The trail that you will use to access the route is on the right side of the road and is near where many people park and pirate camp. There is a sign just up the trail that says, "Angel's Crest." Follow the trail up, passing a few trees with an "AC" on them. Eventually you will come to a boulder field with a drainage. You can climb the 5.10b variation at the foot of the buttress (bolts visible) or walk up the drainage to where a tree touches the rock. Most people climb the tree on the first pitch. The approach should take about 35 minutes.

Pitch One: Climb up the tree - which is suprisingly cruxy near the ground - to terrain where it's easy to access the rock. Traverse right along an easy ledge system. Scramble up to bolts at the end of the pitch. If you climb up anything that's mossy or weird, you climbed up too early. Stay on the ledge until you find a simple way up to the anchor. (5.7, 150')

The Tree Pitch

Pitch Two: Angle up the beautiful Angel Crack. The crack gets harder as you get higher, but the crux is short. Remember to protect your second at the crux as a fall could unravel the rope. (5.10b, 60')

Climbing out onto Angel's Crack

Pitch Three: Continue up a slab passing two bolts. Continue up a short crack and then traverse to a tree and slung boulder. (5.10b, 60')

Pitch Four: Lieback up a 5.7 corner to easy climbing and a belay. (5.7, 100')

Pitch Five: Continue up a right facing corner to easer climbing and a ledge. (5.10a, 100')

Pitch Six: Ramble up the easiest line to a bushy ledge. (5.7, 150') Once both you and your partner are up, move the belay to the base of the next steep groove.

NOTE: You can escape climber's left into the gully from this point with two rappels.

Pitch Seven: This is a harder-than-it-looks pitch. Work up the climb moving over a small bulge on the left. Continue up into a corner and belay in the trees above. (5.10a, 100')

Move the belay up through the trees to either the base of the offwidth crack or the bottom of another groove on the right. This ledge is called Sasquatch Ledge.

Pitch Eight: There are two options here. Climb the 7-inch wide offwidth (5.10b, 100') or climb the groove to the right. (5.9, 100'). Either way, you'll belay in the trees above.

Hike up through the trees to the next pitch. Take time to notice the Totem Pole on the ledge. This was made by local climbers to honor the memory of Ben DeMenech, a climber who died in a fall in 2001.

The totem in the woods for Ben DeMenech.

Pitch Nine: Climb up the easy terrain into the Acrophobe Towers. Work up and right to a bolted belay that hangs above the opposite side of the towers. This is an awesome pitch! (5.6, 175')

Hidden in the shade on the Acrophobe Towers.

Rappel: Make a thirty-foot rappel to a good stance directly below the tower.

Pitch 10: Climb through a notch out to the right and up to the another notch and a bolt with a rope hanging down the other side. (5.6, 60') Use the rope to climb down approximately 30-feet. At the time of this writing, the rope was damaged and was in need of replacement. It would be possible to downclimb the terrain below at 5.8. It would also be possible to leave a carabiner on the bolt to protect the leader and the follower. The carabiner could be left for the next party if needed.

Pitch 11: Climb up past a tree to easier terrain and a large boulder. Build an anchor. (5.6, 50').

Pitch 12: Climb a small tree and then work through steep terrain to easier climbing on the "Whaleback Arete." Continue past a tree and onto the right side of the feature. Build a trad belay anchor just down and left of the crack system with a piton in it. (5.8, 100')

At the top of the Whaleback Arete.

Pitch 13: Climb up and right passing a piton in the crack. As of this writing, the piton was cracked and shouldn't be thought of as acceptable protection. Note that there are good holds and another crack system up and left of the crack with the piton in it. Continue up the crack system into a wide offwidth section (crux). Squirm up the offwidth onto easier, but still steep 5.9 terrain above. Build an anchor on a nice ledge with two bolts. (5.10b, 100') This pitch is sustained and is likely the crux of the route.

Pitch 14: Worm your way under an overhang and behind a tree to an intimidating squeeze chimney. Slither up the chimney. The terrain gets easier as you get higher. Belay off trees on the summit! (5.8, 100')

Descent: Walk southwest across the summit. Follow your nose down trails that will become busier with more steps the lower you go. At the base of the chief, follow the trail to the right through the campground to a large parking lot. Continue right on another trail under the Apron to the Apron Parking Lot and your car. The descent will take between and hour and an hour-and-a-half, depending on how tired you are...!

Click to Enlarge

Topos for this route appear to be all over the place. But I tried my hand at it as well. Enjoy!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 7/6/17


--The Everett Daily Herald is reporting that, "A 22-year-old rock climber was rescued by helicopter Sunday after she fell down a ravine outside of Darrington. She tumbled at least 100 feet. The woman was climbing with a partner on Exfoliation Dome off the Mountain Loop Highway. Her partner called for help around 7:44 p.m." To read more, click here.

--The Leavenworth Climbing Rangers recently posted that, "Bridge Creek wall and the surrounding vicinity is still closed to accommodate a pair of Golden Eagles that have nested there for several decades now.This closure has been seasonally in place for only a couple years now; historically low use in the Bridge Creek area did not warrant a closure, but with climbing use increasing a closure has become necessary. Check out the posters below for more detailed information. Thanks for all your cooperation and we'll let everyone know as soon as this is lifted!"

(Click Photo to Enlarge)

--The Leavenworth Climbing Rangers had a second post on Facebook, "our new fledgling Peregrine Falcons on both Snow Creek Wall and Midnight Rock have successfully taken flight! We can officially open Midnight Rock to climbing at this point, and the north end of snow creek wall is safe to access at this point too. (Snow Creek Wall doesn't have an official closure most years due to the nesting location)."

--The Washington Trails Association has a new Executive Director. The Seattle Times has posted a profile of Jill Simmons, here.


--It appears that the Tioga Pass Resort has been seriously damaged by winter snows. To read more and to see photos, click here.

--Inyo National Forest has closed sections of the Rush Creek Trail. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--It appears that there was a rockslide in Zion National Park on Monday that injured one person. Rockfall originated above the Riverside Walk trail. To read more, click here.


--The Aspen Times is reporting that, "A climber near Snowmass Lake had to be airlifted out Saturday night and taken to Aspen Valley Hospital, according to a news release Sunday from Pitkin County. The man, who was transported via Flight for Life to the hospital, is believed to have suffered a broken leg and head injury, said Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputy Levi Borst. “We believe he fell down a slope and ran into a rock buttress,” he said, adding that it was “hard to know” whether the injuries came from the actual fall or his collision with the buttress." To read more, click here.

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "Colorado’s great outdoors is an economic powerhouse. Two reports out this week found that the outdoor-recreation and tourism industries, which often lend each other a hand, accounted for $28 billion and $19.7 billion, respectively, in consumer spending last year." To read more, click here.

--There is significant land for sale around Battle Mountain Ski Resort. This will likely be developed into a new resort. To read more, click here.

--It shouldn't surprise anyone that the Denver Post is saying that Denver has secured both the Outdoor Retailer's future summer and winter shows. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--KTUU Alaska is reporting that, "A woman was reportedly injured after she fell 20 feet into a crevasse on Spencer Glacier in Portage, according to Alaska State Troopers." To read more, click here. is reporting that, "A 20-year-old woman was hospitalized in critical condition Saturday after she fell while rock climbing in Big Cottonwood Canyon. The woman was not wearing a helmet when she fell about 50 feet near the Storm Mountain area about 5 p.m., said Unified Police Lt. Paul Barker." To read more, click here.

Bigfoot's at the Airport Mall

--Yeah, so Rob Lowe says he saw Bigfoot. Check it out.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Cleaning Anchors on a Single Pitch Climb

The American Alpine Club has put together an excellent video on cleaning single pitch anchors. Check out the video below:

The video identifies three governing principles to cleaning an anchor:

1) Minimize equipment so that essential items are less likely to be forgotten
2) Minimize communication with the belayer to avoid miscommunication
3) Eliminate or minimize transitions from one safety system to another.

Making an Action Plan

Before leaving the ground, make sure to come up with a plan. The belayer should understand exactly what is going to happen. Is the climber going to lower? Is the climber going to rappel? Ideally, this should be decided before leaving the ground.

Cleaning a Sport Anchor

Step 1 - Clip into the anchor with a quickdraw or with a personal tether. In the video, she clips into two draws that the rope is running through.
Step 2 - The climber pulls up slack and feeds a bight through the chains or rings.
Step 3 - Tie a figure-eight on a bight in the slack and clip it to your belay loops with a locking carabiner.
Step 4 - The climber can now call for tension.
Step 5 - Once there's tension the cleaner can check the system.
Step 6 - Clean the draw or personal anchor from the system.
Step 7 - Untie the figure-eight from the harness and pull the slack through the chains.
Step 8 - Clean the anchor and lower to the ground.

Cleaning an Anchor by Rappelling

Step 1 - call for tension and construct a personal anchor
Step 2 - Clip into the master point with a personal tether and a locking carabiner.
Step 3 - Call "off belay" and secure the rope.
Step 4 - Untie the original figure-eight follow-through and thread the rope through the anchor and tie a stopper knot.
Step 5 - Pull the rope through the anchor until both ends are on the ground. Get confirmation that the ends are on the ground from the belayer and use stopper knots.
Step 6 - Tie a friction hitch backup and attach it to the two strands of rope. This may be clipped to a leg-loop if rappelling off your belay-loop or to your belay loop if you're rappelling on an extension.
Step 7 - Rig for rappel.
Step 8 - Double check everything. Make sure ropes are on the ground and that everything is locked. Be sure both strands of the rope are through your device.
Step 9 - Detach your personal tether from the anchor. Clean the anchor and rappel.

You'll note that in the video, they had ten steps. I did eliminate one step to tighten up the whole system...

-- Jason D. Martin

Monday, July 3, 2017

Now You're Cooking with Fire!

I used to hate campfires…

They’re dirty. They make your clothes smell bad. They’re a lot of work. And they’re kind of dangerous.

But then I started camping with my children and I rediscovered the fun, the warmth and the social value of a campfire. And indeed, after my daughter became a Girl Scout and went to a seminar on campfire cuisine, I once again became acquainted with the joy of cooking over an open fire.

It can be daunting though. The first time you actually push it and try to cook something even mildly complex over a fire, you’re likely to end up with a meal that’s raw on one side and burned on the other. But like anything else, campfire cooking takes practice, and to get really good at it, you’re going to have some minor disasters. If you bring a little bit extra of everything, then the inevitable mistake will not result in someone going hungry, but with a better final product.

Foil pans can be used to trap heat.

It should be noted that when we talk about cooking over a fire, what we’re really talking about is cooking over coals. A bonfire might be fun, but it’s too hot and too uncontrolled to effectively cook anything. The skilled campfire cook will build a fire and then let it burn down to coals with limited flames. Coals can be more easily manipulated than flames, and it’s much easier to control the heat.

If you intend to cook on a stick or on a grill, it’s not a bad idea to bring your own. Outdoor stores sell metal skewers for cooking and you can find a grill grate almost anywhere, though there are some available specifically for campfire cooking. When looking for metal skewers, select a brand that is long enough to keep your hand far away from the fire. There are several on the market that are quite short, placing your hand uncomfortably close to the coals.

You should avoid cooking on the pre-made grates attached to campground fire pits for two reasons. First, the bars are too far apart to easily cook on and things can easily fall through. And second, some people think it’s fun to put out fires with urine. This inevitably results in pee on the grates, which will likely give your food a little bit of spice, but it might not be the kind that you’re looking for.

Campfire cooking is dirty. The bottoms and sides of pots and pans become coated in black carbon, something that doesn’t easily wash off, but seems to get on everything. Consider using cast iron skillets, heavy-duty pots and dutch ovens that you designate for camping. I have a specific plastic box that I keep these in for travel so that they don’t get carbon on camping equipment that doesn’t need black camouflage.

These cooking implements might seem heavy, but you shouldn’t have to worry about weight. Campfire cooking – and campfires for that matter – should be reserved for front-country campgrounds and designated fire pits. Camp stoves are far more appropriate for the backcountry.

Yummy - Cinnamon Rolls and other desserts.

It’s not uncommon to cook directly on the coals. A dutch oven can be placed directly in the coals, and so can root-based vegetables like potatoes and turnips (wrapped in foil). Dutch ovens are heavy enough that one can place coals on top of the oven as well as underneath it and on the sides.

There are three levels of skill to the art of campfire cooking. At the lowest level (beginner level), one cooks on sticks or maybe on a grill over the fire. We’ve all done this with hot dogs and marshmallows. Some of us have cooked hamburgers or steaks over an open fire. And a few of the more adventurous of us have experimented with shish kabobs and just about anything else that we can skewer or grill.

At the second level (intermediate), you discover tinfoil. Not for hats to keep the aliens out of your head, but for food to keep the heat and the. Here is where you start to cook potatoes or maybe processed food like hot pockets; perhaps you cook cinnamon rolls in foil containers. You might experiment with hamburgers or fish. Perhaps you might try corn on the cob, muffins or even some kind of stew. Tinfoil is your friend and a solid intermediate fire cook should be able to figure out a way to heat up just about anything in it.

At the third level (advanced) you’re actually cooking real food over a fire. You’re so dialed that people might not realize you didn’t have a full kitchen at your disposal during the food prep. What they may not realize as they watch you cook your gourmet camp dinner is that you did have a full kitchen to prep. The key to this highest level of campfire skill is pre-trip preparation. The more you do at home, the easier it will be in the field.

Advanced level cooks chop everything that needs to be chopped ahead of time. They pre-mix everything that needs to be mixed ahead of time. They marinade meats and pre-cook touchy elements of their meals ahead of time. Then they freeze everything that can be frozen ahead of time and put it in a cooler. In other words, they think ahead.

If cooking is an art, then cooking over fire is an ancient art. People have been cooking over fires since time immemorial. But they probably haven’t been cooking s’mores and marinated meats that long. And they probably weren’t drinking craft beer while they were doing it. This is where the ancient art of fire cooking becomes modern art. This is where we experiment with all the comfort foods we love from home and see what works and what doesn’t work. It’s where outdoor cooking becomes incredibly fun…

I can’t believe that I used to hate campfires…

Resources for Campfire Cooking Recipes: 

--Jason D. Martin