Thursday, August 31, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 8/25/17


--The Adventure Journal is reporting that, "After 10 years of planning, permitting, and fundraising, the Spearhead huts project is finally under way. BC Parks gave its final approval to begin construction of a system of three backcountry huts along the popular Spearhead Traverse in British Columbia’s Garibaldi Provincial Park, and The Alpine Club of Canada and the Spearhead Huts Society officially broke ground last week on the Kees and Claire Hut at Russet Lake." To read more, click here.

The White Pass to Chinook Pass section of the
PCT is extremely popular with beginning level backpackers.

--Due to a fire, the Pacific Crest Trail is closed from White Pass north to Chinook Pass. To read more, click here.


--It appears that there was a fatality on Cathedral Peak this week. To read more, click here.

--Outside Online has a great report on the never-ending battle to keep the air clean from car pollution in Yosemite Valley. To read the article, click here.

--And speaking of Yosemite, there are several fires in and around the park and many roads are closed. To read more, click here.

--There is a large fire near Camp Nelson on Highway 190. This may be an issue for people trying to access the Needles. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A canyoneering guide was injured this week in a fall near St. George, Utah. The St. George news is reporting, "A man was flown to the hospital Saturday morning after falling approximately 100 feet while rappelling in Birch Hollow. The man fell the day before, but by the time crews reached him, it was too late to get him out that day. When the incident was first reported Friday afternoon, Kane County Search and Rescue crews were shuttled to the man’s location via Classic Air Medical out of Kanab, Kane County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Alan Alldredge said." To read more, click here.

--The LA Times is reporting that, "a 10,000 reward has been offered for information leading to the safe return of a couple reported missing in July in Joshua Tree National Park." To read more, click here.


--The Adventure Journal is reporting that, "It’s been a deadly summer on Capitol Peak, Colorado. In six weeks, five climbers have died on the technical fourteener. On Saturday, a 21-year-old climber fell to his death in the Knife Edge Ridge portion of the climb, apparently after attempting a shortcut descent that led to a 600-foot cliff. Pitkin County Sheriff’s Sergeant Jesse Steindler said the climber fell in the same area as an Aspen couple who died on the peak last week. All three bodies were found in a similar location, beneath the steep north face near Capitol Lake. Local authorities have yet to release the recently deceased climber’s identity." To read more, click here.

--An all women's adventure film festival will take place in Carbondale between September 14 and 17. To read more, click here. To see a trailer for the No Man's Land Film Festival, click below:

--Climbing magazine is looking for interns. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over: is reporting that, "National Park Service rangers have rescued two injured climbers in separate incidents in Grand Teton National Park in northwest Wyoming over a three-day period." To read more, click here.

--Somebody shot at rock climbers in Utah's Little Cottonwood Canyon recently. To read more, click here.

--There is limited information, but it appears that a climber took a very serious fall in Kentucky. To read the limited information available, click here.

--Gripped magazine is reporting that Search and Rescue numbers are up this year in Canada. To read about it, click here.

--The Outdoor Alliance is reporting that, " Last Thursday, Secretary Zinke delivered his final recommendation on the future of 27 National Monuments to President Trump and released to the public only a short, 2-page “summary” of this report that provided scant details on his recommendations. Bizarrely, Sec. Zinke claims that that providing an “adequate public process” was part of the impetus for the review, yet the review process has closed out the public at every turn. The report summary summarily dismisses more than 99% of the 2.5 million public comments gathered during the review as part of a “well- orchestrated national campaign.” Interior has not shared any of the (seemingly arbitrary) criteria it has used to determine which monuments will be affected, and Secretary Zinke has still refused to release his full recommendations to the public." To read more, click here.

--The Denver Post is reporting that, The National Park Service has several big problems with NRA-backed legislation that would restrict the agency from regulating hunting and fishing within park boundaries. But according to a leaked memo obtained by McClatchy, the Trump administration has so far prevented the parks from voicing such concerns. National Park Service Acting Director Michael Reynolds prepared a June 30 memo detailing his agency’s objections to the draft legislation, the 'Sportsmen’s Heritage and Recreational Enhancement Act.' Under the bill, the National Park Service would be prevented from regulating the hunting of bears and wolves in Alaska wildlife preserves, including the practice of killing bear cubs in their dens. It also would be prevented from regulating commercial and recreational fishing within park boundaries and from commenting on development projects outside park boundaries that could affect the parks." To read more, click here.

--The American Alpine Club recently purchased the Rattlesnake Campground in Rumney, NH...! To read more, click here.

--A production team currently has a kickstarter campaign running for a film about women climbing all over the world. The film, Pretty Strong, is about five elite female climbers and their travels. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

A Guide to Backcountry Coffee

At home, I love nothing more than the sound of my coffeemaker in the morning. I can hear the steam building up and then the slow drip drip drip down through the filter and into the pot. It's always music to my ears and a wonderful way to start the day.

Coffee drinkers can find a number of ways to recreate this important comfort of home out in the mountains. If you can't imagine your day without a cup of java, there's no reason why you have to go to the backcountry without it. Here are some common methods for camp coffee-brewing to get you started:

Pourover Coffee

DISC_7416 by yoppy. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Access the original photo here.

I personally think the pourover method is one of the best-tasting ways to make coffee--in town, in the mountains, anywhere. Positives of this method is that the cone is relatively easy to clean--you just take the filter out and give it a rinse--and the coffee you make tastes pretty darn good. The biggest con (and this is an important one!) is you have grounds leftover that you have to pack out.

Supplies needed:
-A plastic coffee dripper
-Paper filters
-Ground coffee
-Hot water

French Press

Campground coffee by Citrix. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Access the original photo here.

There are a number of French press options that are lightweight and easy to carry on backcountry trips. GSI makes coffee presses in a variety of sizes and both the JetBoil and the MSR Reactor have French Press adaptors available.

You don't have to carry coffee filters for this method, which is a plus, but the press makes the whole setup a bit of a pain to clean. But if what you love at home is a French press, you can totally make it work to bring one with you in the backcountry.

Supplies needed:
-French press
-Ground coffee
-Hot water

Cowboy Coffee

DISC 0094 by Dick Clark. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Access the original photo here.

This is the simplest of the methods out there--but also the hardest to get right. Here's how you do it:
1. Fill up your saucepan with water for the amount of coffee you want to make.
2. Bring it to a boil
3. Remove the pot from heat and allow it cool a little from its boiling temperature.
4. Add coffee to the pot--about 2 tablespoons of finely ground coffee per 8oz of water.
5. Stir and let sit for two minutes.
6. Stir again and let it sit for another two minutes.
7. Serve it up!

This is another method where you still have to pack grounds out, but the plus is you can do this with minimal equipment--all you need is coffee grounds and your usual cooking stuff.

Supplies needed:
-Ground coffee
-Hot water

Instant Coffee

Starbucks Via by jamieanne. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Access the original photo here.

Instant coffee options for camping are getting better and better. Starbucks Via is probably the best tasting-option out there, though you could always do Folgers instant or another brand if you prefer. The Vias come in individual packs and in a variety of different roasts--though they can taste kind of acidic, so if you have a sensitive stomach be careful. These don't taste THAT different from brewed coffee and don't leave any grounds you have to pack out. These have become the go-to choice for AAI's Denali trips and other programs for their simplicity.

Supplies needed:
-Instant coffee (in bulk or individual packages)
-Hot water

--Shelby Carpenter, AAI Instructor and Guide

Monday, August 28, 2017

Outhouse Etiquette

We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about different techniques for climbing. We talk about mountain ethics, land management advocacy and Leave No Trace. Indeed, we have several leave no trace articles in the blog, including one about how to deal with human waste in the backcountry...

But what about the front-country?

What about the outhouse?

Many of us car camp at front-country campgrounds. Some of us spend a significant amount of time these campgrounds. In most cases, the campground hosts work very hard to keep the outhouses clean, but they are public toilets and with public toilets come people who have toilet issues...

There is nothing worse than walking into an outhouse to find that someone who had to "go number two" missed. How in God's name do you miss the toilet and splatter everything around it...?

My assumption is that these individuals who miss are afraid of sitting down on a public toilet. But the irony of that is that these individuals -- those who miss -- are the reason someone might not want to sit on a public toilet.

So if you need to go to the bathroom and you're afraid to sit down on a public outhouse seat, get over it. If you can't get over it, then have the decency of putting the seat up before squatting.

There are a few more rules about outhouses:
  1. Don't throw garbage, diapers or feminine hygiene products into the outhouse toilet. They must be removed during service and as you can imagine, that is a very dirty and unpleasant job.
  2. Put the seat down when you are done, it will help keep the critters out and the smell down.
  3. Close the door when you're finished. This will also help to keep the animals out.
  4. Don't steal the toilet paper...
  5. And lastly, if you do miss your target, please please please, wipe the seat down...
--Jason D. Martin

Friday, August 25, 2017

Route Profile: Ecuador's Cayambe

Found forty-miles northeast of Quito, Cayambe stands at 18,997 feet and is Ecuador's third highest peak. The views from the mountain are stunning as it looks out over Reventador ("The Exploder", one of South America's most consistently active volcanoes) and over the Amazon Basin. Cayambe's glaciers are large, complex and among the most active of all equatorial ice flows, and the varied glacial terrain provides an excellent training ground and a rewarding summit climb. At 15,387 ft on the mountain's south slope is the highest point in the world crossed by the Equator and the only point on the Equator with snow cover.

And while our Ecuador programs make their way up the slopes of Cayambe before any other mountain, I personally find it to be the most fun climb of the trip. The mountain is mostly gentle, but toward the top you do have to navigate through some seracs and crevasses. The climb finishes by making its way up a fifty-degree pitch to the summit.

Cayambe is only a few hours drive from Quito.

Cayambe from one of the many surrounding valleys.

The Cayambe Hut above a serac field. We train for the climb on the field down below the hut.

An AAI Team checks out the mountain shortly after arriving at the hut.

The view the night before a summit ascent.

The final pitch to the summit.

The author on the summit of Cayambe.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 8/24/17


--The Bellingham Herald is reporting that, "A climber was killed and his companion was seriously hurt Saturday afternoon when they fell into a glacial crevasse near Mount Baker, officials said. Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said the man who died was an active-duty member of the U.S. armed forces." To read more, click here. The identity of the victim and the cause of death was released, here.

Read more here:

--The Seattle Times is reporting that, "The body of a 61-year-old Bellingham woman and mountaineer has been recovered from a glacier in North Cascades National Park. North Cascades National Park Service spokeswoman Denise Shultz says search-and-rescue personnel from North Cascades and Mount Rainier national parks recovered Susan Bennett’s body Saturday." To read more, click here.

--The Bellingham Herald is reporting that, "The body of a 30-year-old skier who went missing from Mount Rainier last month after he fell through a snowbridge was found at the bottom of a waterfall, the park said." To read more, click here.

--An individual canyoneering near Wallace Falls near Gold Bar was seriously injured after making a rappelling mistake this week. To read more, click here.

Read more here:
--A group of Boy Scouts put out a wildfire before it became a problem...

--The Diamond Creek Fire in the Pasayten Wilderness has definitely stopped more than one climbing or backpacking trip this season. has been keeping track of it, here.

--The Access Fund is reporting that, "Last month, Washington Climbers Coalition (WCC) and Access Fund launched the multi-year Washington Climbing Conservation Initiative to improve sustainability of popular climbing areas like the Gold Bar Boulders, Index, Tieton, and Exit 38’s Far Side." To read more, click here.


--Here is a recent SAR report from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park. There were four recent incidents.

--The Sierra Wave is reporting that, "The Reds Meadow Road has been selected for a California Federal Lands Access Program (CA FLAP) Project, preliminarily funded in 2022, based on availability of funding." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting that, "Clark County District Court Judge Jerry Wiese declined to rule from the bench Thursday on motions to dismiss a lawsuit challenging plans to build more than 5,000 homes atop a hill bordering the Red Rock National Conservation Area. Wiese told attorneys representing Clark County, mining company Gypsum Resources and environmental nonprofit Save Red Rock that he will make a ruling within one month." To read more, click here.

--Red Rock Canyon is increasing amenity fees. To keep up to date on this, join the Southern Nevada Climbers Coalition Facebook Group. Check out the new proposed rates below:

(click to enlarge)


--A climber who suffered a broken leg near Fish Creek Road was plucked up by a Blackhawk Helicopter this week. To read more, click here.

--Mountaineer David Cook has been missing in the Maroon Bells area since September. A recent search for remains has come up empty. To read more, click here.

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "Colorado’s 61 all-volunteer, nonprofit search-and-rescue teams are the first line of defense protecting the state’s surging population of outdoor enthusiasts. And those volunteers have never been busier. Across the state’s high country, rescue teams are seeing more calls for help as a surge of adventurers find that the mountains — especially along the Front Range — can be unforgiving even if they’re easy to get to. 'Our total calls have been steadily increasing,' said Jeff Sparhawk of Boulder’s Rocky Mountain Rescue Group, the state’s busiest search team." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The Billings Gazette is reporting that, "A Utah climber who was seriously injured in a fall after summiting the Grand Teton on Friday was evacuated by Grand Teton National Park rangers via helicopter." To read more, click here.

--A stuck soloist was lucky that a local guide showed up in the Adirondacks. Apparently the soloist got stuck at the crux of Shipton's Voyage (5.4, 100'). Eventually a local guide showed up and was able to tie the soloist in with a bowline and get him off the route. To read more, click here.

--Climbing magazine is reporting that, "On Friday, August 18, Andrew “Bob/Ducky” Harris became the first person with Down Syndrome to summit the Grand Teton." To read more, click here.

--The Aspen Times is reporting that, "the new ski conglomerate affiliated with Aspen Skiing Co. made another move Monday by reaching an agreement to acquire Deer Valley Resort in Utah. The new ski company, which is still unnamed, said the purchase is anticipated to be completed prior to the 2017-18 ski season. Deer Valley, regarded as one of the more luxurious resorts in the ski industry, is the 13th resort to get folded into the company." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Pain and the Pleasure of Crampons on Approach Shoes

Whoa! Crampons on approach shoes? That's crazy talk. Crampons belong on boots!

Most of us couldn't agree more with this sentiment. But most of us also don't want to walk across a short section of ice wearing boots for an alpine rock climb and then carry said boots in our backpacks when we put on our rock shoes.

Sometimes it makes a lot of sense to wear crampons on approach shoes. It's not comfortable and it's not fun. Indeed, half the time that you're doing this, it feels like your foot is going to come right out of the shoe. On every step the crampons stick in the ice and have a nearly imperceptible hold your foot. It feels a little bit like you're walking in sticky mud.

Approach shoes were not designed for such a use. They bend easily and it is difficult to walk up steeper terrain while wearing them. The strap-connectors on many crampons are hard plastic and these commonly dig into your ankles.

There are some crampon styles that work more effectively with approach shoes. Aluminum crampons are not really designed for standard mountaineering where you are going to wear your crampons all day. Instead, such crampons are light, have a low profile and often fit well on approach shoes. Aluminum crampons like the Black Diamond Neve Strap Aluminum Crampons and the Stubai Ultralight Universal Crampons are perfect for this type of use.

The pain of crampons on approach shoes is at least somewhat worth it. As with so many other things in climbing, the pleasure comes after the pain. And in this case, the pleasure is no heavy boots in your pack while working your way up a massive alpine rock climb.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, August 21, 2017

Women's Baker Skills and Climb: A Photo Essay

You never conquer a mountain. You stand on the summit a few brief minutes and then the wind blows away your footprints
-Arlene Blum

The attitude that Arlene Blum maintains in this quote is one that many mountaineers share, in some cases the summit is not attained, in others it is, in some cases you are battling the mountain to try to conquer it, in other cases you are working in sync and harmony with the mountain, letting it tell you whether today is your day. Good planning, a solid foundation of skills, and realistic expectations help with making a decision like this in the mountains. And, having an incredible group of Women venture into the wilderness together, to learn, laugh, and support one another, rain or shine, is what made this weekend on Mount Baker a memorable and meaningful trip.

Day 1: Approach to Low Camp

On Friday, June 16 we met at AAI Headquarters in Bellingham, WA. Conducted an intensive gear check to ensure everyone was set up for success with their clothing, technical gear, and camping and cooking gear. We then set off for the North Side of Mount Baker and started our approach from the Heliotrope Ridge Trailhead (3600) to our base camp (6000).

Erin-Leigh's skillfully packs her food into portions for 2 breakfasts, 2 dinners, and 3 lunches
photo by Erin-Leigh Hardy

The team of ladies are ready! But first we must take an obligatory Trailhead photo.
Photo by Pete Riewald

Christie and Sara cross a Snow bridge covering a small stream (branch of the Kulshan Creek) crossing
Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo

Sangeeta and Jeanna extend their trekking poles in preparation for the Kulshan Creek Crossing
Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo
Sara balances her way across the log at the Kulshan Creek Crossing
Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo 

The team taking a snack break before working their way up the Hogsback ridge.
Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo

Working our way up the Hogsback Ridge, nearly to camp
Photo by Sara Jung

Sara shares her stoke for our awesome view of Mount Baker while we set up camp

Photo by Erin-Leigh Hardy

The sun begins to set after a long first day up to Hogsback Camp 

Photo by Sangeeta Sakaria

Day 2: Skills on the terminus of the Coleman Glacier 

On Saturday, we woke up at base camp, cooked breakfast while discussing topics such as glaciology, and tour planning for our objective the following day. We then set off for a tour around the terminus of the Coleman glacier, up the Hogsback Headwall while covering Snow School, roped glacier travel, and finished our day with demonstrations on Self Arrest and a two-person rope team scenario for Crevasse Rescue. We then went to sleep early for our Alpine start the following morning

AAI Guide Alejandra explains tour planning and discusses the many ways to plan and "backwards plan" for the following day.
Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo 

Panorama of Hogsback camp 
Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo

AAI Guide Alejandra demonstrates different cramponing techniques for walking on snow
Photo by Sara Jung

The team works their way up the Hogsback Headwall to practice Roped Glacier Travel

Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo
AAI Guide Alejandra and team members, Jeanna and Erin-Leigh pose for a picture while discussing snow protection in the context of pickets, and ice axes
Photo by Christie Summers

Day 3: Summit attempt of the Coleman-Deming Route on Mount Baker

The rope team takes their first break above the Hogsback headwall, having spent the last hour in hail, rain and low visibility Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo
The whiteout conditions continue.. and the team maintains good morale

Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo

... and psych for the objective :)
Photo by Christie Summers

After a discussion about the conditions and our planned timeline for our trip, the team collectively decided to turn back, but not before having a glacial dance party

Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo

There's nothing quite like Reggeaton in a whiteout at 8,500 feet
video by Alejandra Garcés Pozo

A hasty descent down the Hogsback ridge from our summit attempt after tearing down camp
Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo 

At the Kulshan Creek Crossing we met Karen, who was taking her friend hiking for her first time and helping her across the precarious log crossing

Photo by Alejandra Garcés Pozo

Our Team near the trail head after an incredible weekend on Mount Baker
Photo by Karen

Upon arriving to the trail head, we quickly loaded the van, changed into a fresh set of clothes and began our drive to Bellingham. The 3 days of bonding and learning opened us up to eachother more than we realized. Sara suggested we all share three things we were most thankful for. This could extend to the trip, the day, or anything in life at that moment. The participation of everyone on the team made for a beautiful moment of positive energy, personal achievements, empowerment, self assessment,  growth and stronger bonds within the group. Watching this team of strong women push themselves, encourage each other and grow individually as mountaineers was truly an incredible thing to be a part of.

--Alejandra Garcés Pozo, AAI Instructor and Guide

Friday, August 18, 2017

Angle and Force in an Anchor

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

What does this actually mean?

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

The American Death Triangle = Death

And second it means that...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Jason D. Martin


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

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

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

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


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Falling on Lead and "Cratering"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Patient Getting Ready to be Short-Hauled

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

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

A Search and Rescue Office being hauled back to the Helicopter

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

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

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

Rope behind the Leg:

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

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

Over the Head Clipping:

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

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

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

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

Weight Differences

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

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

Slack in the Belay

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

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

Accident Avoidance

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

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

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, August 14, 2017

Forearm Exercises to Make You Strong

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

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

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

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

Static Hangs

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

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

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

Endurance Static Hangs

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

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

Forearm Curls

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

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

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

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

Indoor Gym Exercise

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

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

Forearm Exerciser

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

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

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, August 11, 2017

Search and Rescue Costs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Snow Seats and Dynamic Belays

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

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

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

Photo by Jason Martin

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

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

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

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

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, August 7, 2017

Leave No Trace: Dispose of Waste Properly

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

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

Gray Water

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

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

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

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


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

Human Waste

So what about human waste disposal?

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Waste Bags

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

You poop in the bag...

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

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

Other Techniques and Thoughts

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, August 3, 2017

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


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

Read more here:

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

Washington Wildfire Risk is High!
(click to enlarge)

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


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

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

Desert Southwest:

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


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

Notes from All Over:

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

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

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

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

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