Thursday, November 30, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/30/17

Desert Southwest:

--The Washington Post and many others are reporting that, "President Trump will travel to Utah on Monday to lay out his plans to cut the size of Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, according to individuals briefed on the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because it had not been formally announced." To read more, click here.

--Red Rock Rendezvous will take place between March 16 and 19, 2018. This is a great chance to rub elbows with guides and athletes and to learn all kinds of new skills. For more information, click here.  Please also consider climbing with an AAI guide before or after the event!

Notes from All Over:

--A skier died in an avalanche near Alaska's Hatcher Pass last week. There is still limited information about this event. To read more, click here.

--The Associated Press is reporting that, "Mexican authorities said Sunday that they had rescued nine climbers from Mexico’s tallest mountain in recent days, and one mountaineer from the United States had died." To read more, click here.

--Outside recently published an incredibly interesting article about a conman named Jeff Caldwell, who posed as a thru-hiker. He would commonly become friends with a sympathetic person, sometimes appear to be a good potential suitor, and then he would scam them. Brendon Borrell writes, "as I learned about Caldwell’s exploits, I wondered if there was something about the outdoor community and our sympathy for such wanderers that may make us especially easy marks. When we see a man with a trail-worn Gore-Tex jacket and a decade-old Dana Designs backpack, we instinctively trust him. We can’t help but envy his authenticity, his freedom. He’s not just a weekend warrior—he’s living the life we want." To read this incredibly interesting article, click here.

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "much of Utah is seeing balmy weather, and unseasonably warm temperatures have prompted the Snowbird ski resort to suspend skiing and related winter activities just days after opening the season." To read more, click here.

A recent photo of the Yeti from the Himalaya.

--The Yeti is a Himalayan legend similar to the legend of Bigfoot in the United States and Canada. However, unlike the Bigfoot, there are a lot of Yeti relics that people in the region have. This includes hair and bone fragments. IFLScience is reporting on a team that took these Yeti samples to a lab to have them analyzed. "The DNA, however, suggests that this is unlikely the case. One of the samples was from a humble canine, while the other eight all came from one of three species of living bear still found meandering the high mountain passes and plateaus: the Asian black bear, the Himalayan brown bear, and the Tibetan brown bear. No ape, polar bear, or yeti to speak of." To read more, click here.

--Nice job, Outside. We agree...!

Equipment Recalls:

--Omega Pacific is recalling some carabiners. "This recall involves six models of Omega Pacific G-FIRST series aluminum carabiners. They are typically used to allow ropes and harnesses to be linked together. “Omega-17 UL Classified USA” is printed on the front and 'Meets NFPA 1983 17ED MBS kN 40 G' statement is located on the back side. The 2-digit lot code 'OD' is embedded on the bottom side of the carabiner spine. They were sold individually in silver, black and red colors." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Route Profile: Bloodline (5.11a, II+)

The splitter crux pitch on Bloodline.  Mega Classic!
(A. Stephen)
In the quest to find awesome forgotten routes in Red Rocks, sometimes you have to travel off the beaten path. Other times, that classic line is less than half an hour from the parking lot.  Bloodline is a classic 4-pitch 5.11a at the top of "the cone"on the northwestern side of Mescalito.  The first two pitches ascend the left side of this cone and up to the base of the cavernous chimney that is a route known as Deep Space.

Looking down at the top of the stellar first pitch (A. Stephen)
The really fun climbing begins on the left side of the chimney, with a long(150 ft.) bolted face climb which both my partner and I thought was fun, engaging, and sustained enough to deserve a 5.10c rating.  The rock on this pitch was excellent and varied, providing some unusual and extremely fun movement.  Rad!

So Good!!!! (V.Portillo)
The next and final pitch of Bloodline is the crux finger crack.  The crack is very thin- only big enough for me to get the first knuckle of my fingers in. Most of the climbing felt like 5.10, with some difficult moves to good rests. The crux is a short 5.11a section where the feet disappear and the crack is really all you have to work with. A couple hard moves with great gear puts you underneath a hand-crack bulge which guards the anchor. There was a tiny bit of loose rock on this bulge, so be careful with your protection and make sure your belayer is alert, since they are anchored in the potential line of fire.  
Vanessa getting her first 11a TR on-site! (A. Stephen)
We continued on to try for the summit of Mescalito after this pitch, and after some scary, loose climbing, found ourselves below the Red Chimney, which guards the summit of Mescalito from Cat in the Hat buttress.  I definitely would recommend rapping the route from the top of the crux pitch! 

Bloodline is an amazing climb, and very approachable for the grade.  It is in the shade all day so if you are looking for something to climb when it is hot, give this one a try!

Can you feel the stoke!?  (A. Stephen)
-Andy Stephen, Instructor and Guide

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/23/17

--This is a tough weekend for camping in the desert. Make plans accordingly.

--Over at Semi-Rad they have the perfect chart comparing skiing to the holidays. You can check that out, here!


--AAI was featured in an article this week about ice climbing. Check it out!

--The Seattle Times is reporting that, "A forgotten easement could have severed the Pacific Crest Trail, which extends from Mexico to Canada along the crests of several mountain ranges, including the Cascades in Washington. Most of the trail weaves through public lands, but about 10 percent of it is owned privately." To read more, click here.


--It appears that Niels Tietze died in a rappelling accident on FiFi Buttress in Yosemite on Friday. Niels was a well-known Yosemite climber. Here is a short film in which he and his partner complete a big link-up in Yosemite. To read more, click here.

--SF Gate is reporting that, "A San Diego man is recovering after being seriously injured in a fall while climbing Yosemite's Half Dome earlier this month. Alex Doria told ABC 10 KGTV that his foot slipped, sending him tumbling 50 feet down a sheer granite face on the iconic crag. The fall broke his back, foot, wrist and ribs." To read more, click here.

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "According to the Sierra Avalanche Center, 3 backcountry skiers triggered and were caught in an avalanche in Hourglass Bowl on Tamarack Peak in the Mt. Rose area of Lake Tahoe, NV yesterday. It’s being reported that the skiers caught in the avalanche were slammed against rocks and trees and that one of the skiers may have broke his ankle." To read more, click here.

--A herd of nearly deer appears to have fallen near Bishop Pass. They appear to have slipped on ice while making their way to their winter grounds. Most of the animals were seriously injured or killed. It's not clear why this happened. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

(click to enlarge)

--The Friends of Indian Creek are looking for the people who placed this graffiti...

--The Scenic Drive and the Red Springs Parking areas will close at 12:00pm on Thanksgiving in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Those already inside the Scenic Drive may stay until the Conservation Area closes at 5pm.


--Here's a piece on all that's new in the Colorado ski industry, from new lifts to new programs, to better transportation options.

Notes from All Over:

--There is a bill in Congress to gut the Antiquities Act. This is the act that allows for the creation of National Monuments. To take action against this congressional action, click here.

--Access to a popular climbing area in Austin is under threat. To read more, click here.

--The Battleboro Reformer is reporting that, "a Connecticut woman is suing Mount Snow after her husband died during a snowboarding trip there early last year. Arthur David Deacon III was 56 when he fell and hit a tree while snowboarding at Mount Snow on Jan. 24, 2016, according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court for the District of Vermont. That morning, the Simsbury, Conn., resident took a chairlift at the resort to access Ripcord, the "steepest and most difficult trail on Mount Snow," the complaint states. He had snowboarded down the trail several times before, according to the complaint." To read more, click here.

--The UIAA has recently published an article entitled, "What You Need to Know about the UIAA Ice Climbing European Cups." This is a breakdown of the upcoming events. To read the article, click here.

--Here's a cool story on the Mt. Everest Biogas Project...essentially a project that allows solar toilets to change human waste into fertilizer.

--There are now six states with Official Outdoor Recreation Industry State Offices...!

--And finally, here's your link to the perfect Thanksgiving meal at the campfire...

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Most Dangerous GoPro Footage Ever Shot!!!!!

It's pretty common for us to post videos of extreme ski lines. But I have to say that this is the most extreme ski line anyone has ever seen anywhere.

Put on your seatbelts, because things are about to get very very real...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/16/17


--Two snowboarders went missing on Sunday just outside the Mt. Baker Ski area. Bellingham Mountain Rescue worked with the Sheriff's department to search for the two men, identified as Jake Amancio and Drew Lenz. Storm conditions have made searching difficult. To read more, click here.

--In honor of AAI guide and splitboard athlete Liz Daley, AAI worked with the Liz Rocks foundation to provide a scholarship to a young woman over the summer on one of our Leaders of Tomorrow programs. On Friday, November 17th, there will be a fundraiser to help get more disadvanted youth out into the mountains and to help make them future outdoor leaders. To learn more about the fundraiser, click here. To see a video of last year's recipient, click below.

--Lowell Skoog is well-known for his climbing and skiing exploits. But he is perhaps even better known as a mountain historian. The Seattle Times wrote an excellent profile of Lowell, touching on not-just his adventures, but the tragedy he's lived through... To read the article, click here.

--The Mountaineers are reporting that, "Last month, we invited you to join us in contributing funds to save a section of the Lake Serene Trail from logging. This month we’re happy to report we met our goal! Together we raised $275,000 to purchase the land from the timber company, ensuring that the area is conserved and recreational access is never again restricted." To read more, click here.


--Mammoth has been selected as a town that will receive additional assistance in the management of wildfires in the 2018 fire season. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A lead climber took a fall on Eagle Dance (5.10c, IV) in Red Rock Canyon last week and suffered a broken ankle. High winds kept him from an immediate helicopter evacuation, though he was eventually plucked off the route. To read more, click here.

--The New York Times has an opinion about Bears Ears. "President Trump, ever intent on expunging the legacy of Barack Obama, is on the verge of undermining the priceless conservation vision of Theodore Roosevelt as well. After ordering a review of 27 national monuments last spring, Mr. Trump is reported to have decided to greatly shrink two monuments covering millions of acres in Utah, weakening strict federal protections and reopening vast areas to possible commercial use." To read more, click here.

AAI Guide and Lead Guide Trainer Michael Powers
Teaches Self-Rescue at Red Rock Rendezvous

--AAI will once again have a large presence at the biggest and best climbing festival in America. Check out the Red Rock Rendezvous, running from March 16-19, 2018. Learn from our world-class climbing instructors and from the athletes you watch in the climbing movies and read about in the magazines...! To register, click here.


--One-handed rock climber Maureen Beck is beginning to make a name for herself. She was featured in a Reel Rock film entitled, Stumped and was -- this week -- featured in an ESPN article. Maureen has successfully climbed 5.12 and her Reel Rock film tells the story of her struggles to work up to that grade.

--Arapahoe Basin is opening a new area this winter. The 371 acre expansion will reportedly challenge steep skiers. To read about it, click here.

--The Know Outdoors is reporting that, "Marise Cipriani, the 22-year owner of Granby Ranch, is listing her 5,000-acre Grand County–ski and golf resort community for sale." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--AAI Guide Lindsey Fixmer made a successful trip to India's Zanskar Range on an all women's expedition. To read more, click here.

--There is a bill in Congress to gut the Antiquities Act. This is the act that allows for the creation of National Monuments. To take action against this congressional action, click here.

--Stacy Bare, a major advocate for veterans in the outdoors, wrote an interesting editorial about the outdoor industry and veterans. Stacy argues that many in the outdoor industry have made a lot of money by selling clothing and equipment to the military. Then he argues that outdoor brands owe veterans. To read his editorial, click here.

--Mara Johnson-Groh at Rock and Ice took a look at what's in store for climbers as the climate changes. Check out her excellent article, here.

--Chris Sharma is getting some flak for doing a commercial for a Ralph Lauren cologne. John Burgman at Climbing looks at the complex relationship that climbers have with their history and "selling out," here. Personally, I think this is a pretty good commercial and have wouldn't have even known what they were selling if someone didn't tell me. Check it out below:

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Book Review: The Alchemy of Action by Doug Robinson

In 2001, I attended my first American Mountain Guides Association Annual Meeting in Yosemite Valley. I was standing at the campfire, looking for someone to talk to. I didn't really know anyone as I hadn't been guiding very long.

Suddenly, a small-statured man with white hair and muscular forearms offered me a beer. I accepted and was quickly stunned to find out that the man was a living legend:

Doug Robinson

Doug welcomed me to the meeting and I spent the evening talking to him. I was still a young guide and had a lot to learn. The wise old guide had a lot to say and I found it to be a very enjoyable night...

Doug is an incredibly well-known and respected climber and guide. He was at the forefront of the "clean climbing" movement in the early 1970s. He pushed back against the use of rock-altering pitons in favor of equipment that didn't damage the rock. In his essay, “The Whole Natural Art of Protection,” he argued for the use of "chalks" or what we refer to now as wired nuts in lieu of pins.

Doug did more than lecture his contemporaries. He practiced what he preached. In 1973, he made the first clean ascent of Half Dome. This and the subsequent article in National Geographic magazine cemented his place in climbing history.

Doug Robinson

In addition to leading the clean climbing revolution, Doug has been responsible for dozens of first ascents in the Sierra. Most notably, he made the first ascent of Dark Star on Temple Crag, made the first ice ascent of V-Notch Couloir, made numerous first ice ascents in Lee Vining Canyon, made the first ascent of Ice Nine, and finally he made the second ascent of Ama Dablam (22,495') in Nepal.

As a mountain guide, there may be no one more prolific. He was the first president of the American Mountain Guides Association and has been working as a rock and alpine guide for over fifty-years...

In addition to being a climber and a guide, Doug is a writer. And his most recent offering is a book that explores climbing in a very different way than anybody has previously. The question as to why people climb is as old as the sport; and people answer it in lots of different ways. Doug takes on the question and answers it in a completely new way. In his book, The Alchemy of Action, Doug argues that people climb because the activity releases a series of complex brain chemicals, which provide a feeling of euphoria. Indeed, the cover of his book reads:

Why do people climb mountains?
Because it gets us high.
But adrenaline junkies we are not,
and beta-endorphin isn't behind the runner's high either.
The surprising answer reveals natural psychedelic transformations
at work deep in the brains of adventure athletes.

The book is an exploration of brain chemistry through the lens of adventure sports. Doug looks at skiers and runners and climbers and delves into the complex cocktail of brain drugs that induce feelings of euphoria when climbing or the "runner's high."

There are five hormones that are released into the brain to create the feelings that we strive for in the mountains. They are noradrenaline, anandamine, serotonin, DMT, and dopamine.  Each of these are released for different reasons.

Note that adrenaline was not one of the hormones on the list. Adrenaline is a "fight-or-flight" chemical. It generally comes in a rush when something very dangerous almost happens. It is not really what people strive for in their mountain sports, the idea that climbers are "adrenaline junkies" is completely false.

Doug's book delves deeply into each of the chemicals and then discusses how they interact with an athlete and make him feel. He explores these through a mix of chapters on brain chemistry and active adventure stories, bringing us on a complex journey to understand why we actually climb mountains...

The Alchemy of Action is a little dense at times. There is a lot of science packed into the book. But there is also a lot of adventure in there. And while there are a few sections that take a lot of focus for someone who isn't "science-brained" to get through, it's well worth it. Doug's anecdotes and his take on what makes us do what we do is well worth the time...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, November 10, 2017

Ascending Systems

There are a million ascending systems out there. On this blog we have previously discussed jugging with mechanical ascenders, the prusik hitch and climbing the rope with an autoblocking device. These are all excellent techniques for climbing up a rope...but it doesn't mean that they're the only techniques.

Climbers are ultimately artists and part of the art of climbing is picking the right tool at the right time to get up or down something. As a result, the more things that you know, the more tools that you have in your toolbox. And the more things that you know, the more improvisational you can be in any type of climbing situation.

This blog will provide you with another option for climbing up a rope. To set-up this system, you will need a mechanical ascender, a GriGri and a double-shoulder length sling. The following photo shows how each of these components will be used.

Following are the steps that you will need to complete in order to make this system work:

Clip the mechanical ascender to the rope.
Clip a double-shoulder length sling to the base of the ascender. This will become your be for your foot.
Clip a carabiner to the top of the ascender, trapping the rope inside the ascender.
Run the rope through your GriGri below the ascender.
Redirect the rope from the break-hand of the GriGri up through the clip that is trapping the ascender on the rope.Once this is set-up you're ready to jug. Put your foot into the foot-sling and then stand up. Once you are standing, pull the backside of the rope through the GriGri. Sit back on the GriGri, kick you knee up to your chest and push the jug up the rope. Repeat until you're at the top.

One important thing to always remember is that you will need to tie back-up "catastrophe knots" in the rope as you climb. This should happen every ten feet or so. One should never forget to do this, as occasionally GriGris slip.

Obviously, the only way to really dial in this system is to practice it. The best way to work through this system is to print this blog out, bring it out into the field and then make it happen!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/9/17


--The Forest Service has a number of entry level jobs available in Washington and Oregon. To read more, click here.

--In other jobs news, the Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center is hiring avalanche forecasters. To read more, click here.


--The legendary High Sierra guidebook author, R.J. Secor has passed away. There is limited information right now, but it appears to be from natural causes. To read some remembrances, click here.

--Rock and Ice is reporting that Yosemite, "now has a plan to expand Camp 4 by nearly double its size. Funded by the Recreational Fee Program, the expansion will include 25 new campsites, more parking spaces and a comfort station with showers, according to a Yosemite National Park press release." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A hiker took a 40-foot fall in Red Rock Canyon last week. To read more, click here.

--The Wilderness Society is reporting that the Trump Administration is recommending the opening of oil and gas mining around Grand Canyon National Park. "The report calls for lifting the ban on uranium mining on national forest lands around Grand Canyon National Park, which would destroy crucial wildlife habitat, devastate the tourism-based economy and put drinking water for regional tribes and wildlife at grave risk. The Grand Canyon watershed contributes drinking water for 25 million people. The recommendation is one of 15 others that affect national forests across America." To read more, click here.


--The Coloradoan is reporting on a rescue in Rocky Mountain National Park that took place on Sunday. "Megan Kies, 31, was climbing the Martha's Couloir route on Mount Lady Washington about 11 a.m. when she was struck by a rock dislodged from above, according to an RMNP press release." To read more, click here.

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "A reservation and permit-fee system for the popular backcountry destination Conundrum Hot Springs is the Forest Service’s first concrete step toward managing record crowds in the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A party in the Brooks Range of Alaska had a close call with an avalanche last week. To read more, click here.

--The Antiquities Act -- the act used to protect public lands -- is under attack. Please take a few minutes using the Access Fund Action Alert page to write to your congressman about this situation. To read more, click here.

--We've spent a lot of time wringing our hands at the American Alpine Institute, worrying about a dramatic increase in NPS entrance fees. James Edward Mills at Outside points out that that's not the only thing to worry about in the new National Park Service dynamic. "hat’s most striking about the leaked 2018–2022 strategic plan for the U.S. Department of the Interior isn’t what this 50-page document has to say—it’s what it leaves out. While much of the conservation community decried the proposed increase in admission price at the busiest national parks, few took notice that the new administration has deleted the entire diversity, equity, and inclusion mandate from its plan." To read more, click here.

--US Ski Team racers are learning avalanche awareness in Vermont. This is certainly a good thing. To read more, click here.

--A new WI 5 has gone up in the Canadian Rockies already. To read more, click here.

--Outside is reporting that, "After hiking for more than seven months, 82-year-old Dale Sanders completed the Appalachian Trail on Thursday, October 26, officially becoming the oldest person to finish the 2,190-mile trek. Sanders, known on the trail as “Greybeard,” broke a record previously held by Lee Barry, who set the mark in 2004 at age 81." To read more, click here.

--And Outside is also reporting that an 87-year-old just climbed Devil's Tower. To read more, click here.

--And finally, this dude is hiking from Patagonia to Alaska...

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/2/17


Fred Beckey

--The legendary climber and writer, Fred Beckey, passed away this week at the age of 94. Fred has more first ascents than anyone, anywhere, ever. And his three-volume Cascade Alpine Guide has long provided climbers in the Pacific Northwest with thousands of peaks to climb. To read a piece from Rock and Ice, click here. The New York Times also has a great obituary, here.

--Whatcom Talk is reporting that, "the North Cascades National Park celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2018 and a new book from Washington State University Press, Crown Jewel Wilderness: Creating North Cascades National Park, offers the first comprehensive account of its creation—a narrative that involves more than a decade of grassroots activism and political maneuvering. Widely considered the first wilderness national park in the United States, its most scenic and undisturbed areas were preserved without roads or other accommodations, adding to its crown jewel image. The story includes the unprecedented turn of events that left the National Park Service and United States Forest Service—agencies that often had adversarial viewpoints and objectives—working side by side." To read more, click here.

--A doctoral student at the University of Washington has devised a way to measure glacial recession from anthropogenic climate change by using satellites. To read more, click here.


--Climbing magazine is reporting that, "Yosemite National Park is working to implement several roadway and campground improvements within Yosemite Valley. Extensive work is being conducted on Northside Drive, the road leading from Yosemite Village to Yosemite Falls and toward the park exits. Significant work is also being conducted at Camp 4, a popular campground in Yosemite Valley. The current work is expected to be completed by this winter, and compliments the work that was completed earlier this summer." To read more, click here.

--Rock and Ice has an update on Quinn Brett, the climber who took a massive fall on El Capitan a couple of weeks ago. To read the report, click here.

--Inyo National Forest has released a "State of the Forest." To read the document, click here.

Desert Southwest:

A climber place a bolt on a steep line.

--Is there a new bolt war brewing in Joshua Tree National Park...? There might be.

--And with everything else going on in the world, it makes me happy to see a rattlesnake riding on a tortoise. It will make you happy too...


--The Denver Post is reporting that, "Slippery conditions caused by rain and snow likely were a reason a climber fell to his death from the Flatirons last week, the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office said. Erik Kleiber, 31, of Boulder died Thursday after he fell while attempting to climb the First Flatiron." To read more, click here.

--CBS Denver is running a story about Melissa Strong, a climber who was electrocuted six months ago, seriously injuring her hands. It appears surgeons were able to repair her hands with an uncommon surgery and she will climb again. To read the story and see a video on it, click here.

--The Aspen Ski Company intends to make some improvements at the Aspen Highlands. The Vail Daily is reporting that, "Skico has submitted an application to the U.S. Forest Service for a handful of ski area improvement projects at Aspen Highlands for next spring and summer. Among them is the selective removal of trees in expert terrain in an area known as Eden. That terrain is to skier's left of the No Name trail in Olympic Bowl." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--National Parks Fees may go up dramatically this year. Please please please go to the NPS and make a comment on this major change. To read more and to comment, click here. To read about what's happening and why this is happening, click here.
--It is incredibly disturbing to learn that wildland firefighters are committing suicide at an alarming rate. The Atlantic reports that, "Over the past decade, there’s been a quiet acknowledgement within America’s firefighting community that suicide is widespread, and that there are still probably many cases that haven’t been reported. As the numbers grow, so too does the concern that the tough, pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps wildland firefighters—the men and women who fight fires in vegetation instead of buildings—are at risk. That’s why St. Clair, a manager for the Bureau of Land Management wildland-fire department’s Critical Incident Stress-Management Program, is keeping track. She believes that quantifying the problem can help people talk about its causes." To read more, click here.

--The Alaska Dispatch is reporting that, "President Donald Trump is unlikely to reverse a 2015 Obama administration decision to formally change the name of Mount McKinley to Denali, as it is now known, according to Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan. Sen. Dan Sullivan offered up the previously unknown bit information about a March meeting between him, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Trump in a speech at the Alaska Federation of Natives' annual conference Saturday." To read more, click here.