Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Rock Rescue: The Munter Mule

In the following clip, a climber demonstrates two things. First, he shows us how to tie a munter hitch on a carabiner clipped to a harness. And second, he shows us how to mule off a munter hitch that is clipped to a locker on a pre-equalized anchor.

The munter-mule is one of the most useful combination's that one can employ in any rock rescue scenario. It provides the basis for load transfers and for a number of other rescue techniques.

In the video, the climber refers to the mule knot as a slip knot...which it is, but the official name for what he is doing is the "mule."

It is important to watch how the climber releases the mule. He never takes his hand off the break strand. I believe that the most common mistake that people make in this particular setting is that they completely let go of the break strand as they jump their break hand up the strand and closer to the hitch. When you practice, be aware of this and be careful to avoid letting go of the break strand.



--Jason D. Martin

Monday, January 30, 2017

Guide's Pack: Multi-pitch Ice

Everything I might need while climbing a multi-pitch ice climb.
I need to bring some essentials up with me on any mutli-pitch ice climb. If the hike in to the ice is significant, I'll normally bring a larger pack with extra layers, a thermos of hot tea, and anything else I want but don't need on route. I then leave that large pack at the base of the climb and take up my smaller guide's pack with important things for the route. Here is a list of what comes up on most routes with me and its purpose.

Pack Black Diamond Hollowpoint: My well loved Hollowpoint has 22 liters of storage and is just the right size to carry everything I could possibly need up a route. Key features include the way the pack is designed to keep weight close to my back and arms free for full range of motion. I'm also a big fan of the small webbing hip belt to keep the pack very secure.

Belay Puffy - Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody: To trap in all the body heat I earned after climbing a pitch, and therefore keep from freezing at the belay. The thickness of this piece can depend upon the conditions, but the Micro Puff I use is quite thick for long cold belays. But it is really too thick to climb in on most days due to overheating. Something like the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody is a better call for wearing while climbing fast or on warmer days so you don't overheat.

Waterproof Shell JacketArc'teryx Alpha SL Hybrid Jacket: Most days its cold and any precipitation is quite frozen so I'm using a soft-shell top and bottom. But if the route starts to drip or it begins to rain I'll want at least a waterproof top to fend off the wetness until I get back to the car. I had been using the Arc'teryx Alpha SL but upgraded to the Hybrid model this past summer. This model uses a more durable fabric on the shoulders and elbows while remaining an ultralight 12.9 ounces.

Belay Gloves - Black Diamond Enforcer Glove: The actual glove I use most days is a really old BD punisher glove that's still holding up well, before they changed that style dramatically. The new Enforcer is the closest comparison in a warm belay glove. I swap out my lead gloves for this warmer glove that has been stashed in my jacket staying warm. This protects my lead gloves from getting torn up by the ropes while belaying, and gives them a chance to dry out a little in my jacket utilizing my body heat.

Bivy Sack - Black Diamond Twilight Bivy: A 10oz emergency shelter that works well to keep someone warm and dry if injured and awaiting an evacuation, or if I have to spend the night in a remote location.

First Aid - Bandages, SAM Splint, tape, hot-hands warmers, emergency blanket, lighter: All you need for basic stabilization of an injured climber, or to attack frostbite on some cold fingers.

SPOT Device: This is something I've started to bring with me on every trip, more so for the OKAY feature than for the emergency response activation. If we get benighted out in the mountains or are running late, I want a way of telling my emergency contact that we're okay and not to activate an emergency rescue. I don't want to be the guy that unnecessarily gets all my volunteer mountain rescue friends up in the middle of the night!

Repair Kit - Crampon tools, ice axe tool, spare ice pick, headlamp, spare batteries, cord, safety pins, zip ties, ski strap, file: Not all of these things come up with me on a multi-pitch route near the road, but for anything more alpine in nature I'll want most of this to keep my gear functioning if it starts to break down. The ski strap has many unforeseen uses like adding a pinky rest to an ice tool, or holding a SAM splint on a fractured limb.

V-thread kit - 20 feet or so of 6mm cord, v-threading tool, knife, 22cm Black Diamond Express Ice Screw: Once you've finished the route (or decided to bail) you'll need to get down, which often involves rappelling the same route utilizing abalakov or "v-thread" anchors. A threading tool can be manufactured at home from a clothes-hanger like mine, or there are commercial model's available. I really like my Buck "Whittaker" edition knife I got as a kid when I was just dreaming of being a climber. I still use it because of the nifty carabiner clip and locking mechanism.

Miscellaneous - Sunglasses in hard case, Dermatone tin, water bottle: My Julbo Dust Sunglasses stay on my face most of the day due to their photocromic Zebra lenses adjusting to light conditions, but if I need to stow them away I'm going to put them in a hard case. They're just too nice to throw in the pack naked. Some sun and wind protection from Dermatone for the face and lips is always at hand in my pocket where it won't freeze.

Not pictured - Camera, food, water bottle parka, thermos: If its cold enough I'll need to keep my fluids from freezing with a water bottle parka. Or I'll need hot tea in a thermos to keep the psyche up.


There will always be the compromise between fast and light vs. slow and prepared. For any given objective this list gets parred down or beefed up based on route conditions, weather, and my psyche level. You have to decide what makes sense for you to bring on any given objective. Happy climbing!

Leading out from the 2nd pitch cave belay in early season,
wet conditions on the Standard Route WI 3, Frankenstein Cliffs, NH.
Glad I packed the waterproof shell.

-Jeremy Devine, AAI Instructor and Guide

Friday, January 27, 2017

How to Build a V-Thread

You've just completed a spectacular ice climb. Everything went smoothly the entire way. But now you're three pitches off the deck and you don't want to leave anything behind on your descent. There is a way to do this and it is surprisingly simple.

The V-thread -- also known as the Abalakov anchor -- is a simple technique wherein one simply links two holes bored in the ice together and then threads a cord through, the cord is then tied-off and used as an anchor.

Following is a short video on how to do this with a single ice screw:



It's not a bad idea to back-up an ice anchor before rappelling. This article provides some tips as to how one might back-up a V-thread.

It's a good idea to practice this on the ground before employing it in a descent. Though this is conceptually simple, it can be difficult to line up the bore holes. This is definitely not something that you want to use for the first time in a raging snowstorm as it's starting to get dark.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 1/26/17

Northwest:

--ADN.com is reporting that, "An Anchorage resident died Saturday morning when she was caught in an avalanche in British Columbia, according to Canadian police. Amy Downing, 32, was the woman who died in the Saturday avalanche, said her brother Jared Downing. Royal Canadian Mounted Police officials in Nelson, B.C., hadn't formally released Downing's name Monday, but described the victim as a 32-year-old woman." To read more, click here.

--The Revelstoke Review has an interesting report on an avalanche that took place in Revelstoke to a dog-walker. The victim -- who survived mostly uninjured -- has a lot of mountain experience, but the avalanche came from a place she didn't consider to be avalanche terrain... To read more, click here.

--KSL.com has a report on a group of Utah skiers that survived an avalanche the Selkirks of British Columbia. To read the story, click here.

--The North Cascades National Park is planning several open houses about the possible grizzly bear reintroduction. To read more about this, click here.

--The Seattle Times has published a nice profile on DOT avalanche forecasters for the I-90 corridor. To read the piece, click here.

Sierra:

--Powder Magazine is reporting that, "Squaw Valley Alpine Meadows released a statement early Tuesday that 'a fatal incident occurred at Squaw Valley involving a ski patroller at 8:35 a.m. this morning during avalanche control activities.'" It appears that Joe Zuiches was killed by an explosive while doing avalanche control work. He is survived by a wife and young son. Read more, here. Find a Go Fund Me site for Joe's wife and infant son, here.

--Our guides are reporting a large rockfall over the Whitney Portal road. The road is currently closed and they are hiking/skiing/snowshoeing in and out. Hopefully, when it opens, the Forest Service will clear it right away...

--The Sacramento Bee is reporting that, "Two men posted a picture online of themselves trapped under the snow after an avalanche early Monday morning engulfed their car on Highway 89. The avalanche between Alpine Meadows and Tahoe City caught the car in its path, the California Highway Patrol noted on its traffic incident website." To read more, click here.


Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/news/weather/article128176064.html#storylink=cpy
Desert Southwest:


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

Click to Enlarge

--A massive rock slide came down over the road just north of the Zion Lodge in Zion National Park on Friday. To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--Anonymous sources told Reuters News Service that the Steamboat Ski Area is up for sale. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Yahoo News is reporting that, "The number of bodies recovered from the ruins of an Italian hotel buried by an avalanche rose to 24 on Wednesday, local authorities said. Another five people were still unaccounted for, presumed dead, as a result of the January 18 disaster, which saw the Hotel Rigopiano ripped from its foundations by the force of a wall of tree and mud-packed snow hurtling down the hillside into which it was built." To read more, click here.

--Legendary snowboarder Jeremy Jones was in an accident in Utah's backcountry last week. The accident resulted in multiple broken bones and a Life Flight for emergency surgery. This was an extremely expensive flight and there is Go Fund Me site set-up to help Jeremy pay for his flight. To read more and to donate, click here.

--The CEO of Burton Snowboards, Donna Carpenter, funded employee trips to Washington DC last week for the Women's March on Washington. ESPN is reporting that, "Carpenter is taking her commitment to the protest a step further. On Jan. 5, she sent an email to all of Burton's female employees, offering to fund and lodge anyone interested in joining her in D.C. She closed the email by saying, "Thanks for being the most inspiring women in the world to me." To read more, click here.

--On a related note, the Trump Administration shut down all NPS Twitter feeds following a tweet of a photo of two crowds, one at the Obama Inauguration and one at the Trump Inauguration. Twitter was restored a few hours later. To read more, click here.

--And in yet more NPS Twitter news, the Badlands National Park Twitter feed went rogue on Tuesday, before deleting all tweets. The White House has scrubbed all information pertaining to climate change from its website. Somebody from Badlands wasn't having it and began to tweet our climate change facts from the NPS account. Many believe that this was an act of civil disobedience in light of the new objectives of the Trump Administration. To read more, click here.

--The response from NPS employees to what they see is censorship has resulted in the creation of a new off-hours NPS twitter feed: @AltNatParkSer

--In one final piece about how the new administration is affecting the management of public lands, it has been noted that many are concerned about how wildfires will be fought in light of an executive order that has frozen hiring in federal agencies. The Missoulian reports that, "in 2015, the Forest Service hired about 11,000 seasonal workers. At least 6,200 of those were firefighters or had  firefighting-related duties. But many were for positions such as logging sale analysts, trail maintenance workers, and forest rangers." To read more, click here.

--Here's a report on the fatal avalanche that took place in Glacier National Park on January 5th.
From the Petzl Waterfall Ice Study

--Petzl has posted an excellent piece on why ice climbs collapse and what conditions are best to avoid this kind of activity. To read the article, click here.

--SNews has an excellent profile on the mastermind behind last year's OR/GQ spoof. "Last September, Outdoor Research lit up the industry’s collective social media feeds with a spot-on parody of a recent GQ fashion spread. Instead of the original’s images of men climbing at Joshua Tree in $800 sweaters while their female friends looked on, Outdoor Research’s shot-for-shot version showcased three female climbers and their half-naked male cheering squad. Christian Folk, who has been with Outdoor Research for nearly 10 years, was one of the masterminds behind that spoof—which he estimates got “somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 million impressions”—as well as several other grassroots marketing campaigns." To read more, click here.

--So there is a climbing gym in Great Britain with x-rated climbing holds. To read about it, click here...but beware, while some images are blocked out, it's still not really a safe for work post.

--Malia Obama made a secret trekking trip to Bolivia and Peru recently. The New York Times is reporting that, "the Bolivian guides were convinced it was the blonde. It had to be the blonde. American Embassy officials in November had told three brothers who led guided hikes across Bolivia’s majestic Cordillera Real mountain range that they would soon be hosting an important American dignitary. When a group of teenagers and a small band of American bodyguards showed up on Nov. 24, it wasn’t apparent to the guides that it was the president’s elder daughter, Malia Obama, and not a blond companion, who warranted the extraordinary security measures." To read more, click here.

--The Alpine Mountain Ski Area in Pennsylvania is for sale. To read more, click here.

--And finally, there was a conversation on Reddit the other day about drones at the crag. Somebody brought up the idea that a drone could potentially cut a rope. So a guy who likes to film climbing with a drone did a test. He found that it appeared unlikely that it would be an issue. He was able to damage a rope, but it really required him to hold the drone up against it for a long time. See the video below:



Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Another Year of Record Visitation in Rocky Mountain National Park

The American Alpine Institute just received the following notification from Rocky Mountain National Park:

Rocky Mountain National Park received its highest annual visitation in 2016. The park received a total of 4,526,335 visitors for 2016, which was an 8.68 percent increase over record visitation in 2015. All months in 2016 set visitation records except for December. This visitation represents a 32 percent increase since 2014, and a 40 percent increase since 2012.

Determining visitation is a difficult and imprecise effort. Visitation statistics are reliably accurate estimates and help park managers see overall trends. Fall visitation, particularly on weekends, continues to increase at Rocky Mountain National Park. Winter weekend visitation also continues to increase. The top ten busiest days in 2016 in order from first to tenth were: September 24, July 3, September 4,September 17, July 24, July 10, July 17, September 5, July 23 and July 30.

Many other national parks in the Rocky Mountain West also had increases in visitation last year. The National Park Service celebrated its Centennial in 2016. Additional factors of the rise in visitation at Rocky include an increased population along the Front Range of Colorado.

Park managers will continue to address what effect this level of visitation will have on visitor and staff safety, resource protection, visitor experiences and operational capacity. This past summer and early fall, park staff restricted vehicle access in two specific areas, the Bear Lake Road corridor and the Wild Basin area, when parking areas filled and heavy congestion warranted. This occurred most weekends from late June through September of 2016. We will continue to implement and assess these short term efforts in 2017. Addressing day use for the long term will require a thoughtful and stakeholder-engaged planning process.

For more information about Rocky Mountain National Park please visit www.nps.gov/romo or call the park’s Information Office at (970) 586-1206.

Route Profile: Cat in the Hat, 5.6+, II+

When I first moved to Las Vegas in 1999, there was one route that everyone told me I had to do.  I had just started grad school and it was still August in Vegas. If that doesn't mean anything to you, then you've never been in desert southwest in August.  The average daily temperature was 103 degrees.

Cat in the Hat (5.6+, II+) was going to be one of my very first routes in the Canyon that would soon become my home. But it was an inauspicious start. Somehow in our transition from hiking to climbing, the water didn't make it back into our packs. So under the burning sun, we had to bail after the second pitch.

I was back a week later to finish the route, once again in the sun. But since that time, I have literally frozen on the route. I've been snowed on. I've been nearly blown off by wind. I've rappelled off in a rain storm. And I've sweated under the hot sun.

I know. It doesn't sound that great.

But I've also had some of my best days of moderate climbing and guiding on the route in near perfect conditions... Cat in the Hat is like an old friend. A route that will always be there to make me feel at home.

The route is important to the history of Red Rock Canyon as well. The most iconic first ascentionists in Red Rock are George and Joanne Uriosite. The couple moved to Las Vegas in the mid-seventies, but didn't climb much. They were turned off by the amount of sharp brush and the poor rock they encountered on their first forays out. But then in 1976, the pair plus friends Bruce Eisner and John Shirley, began to explore the Mescalito, the prominent feature that that showcases Cat in the Hat on its south face. They quickly discovered the route and made the first ascent after two separate exploratory trips.

The quality of the route changed the perspective of the Uriosties. They no longer saw Red Rock as as a chossy heap of scrub filled rocks, but instead as a playground. The pair went on to be part of the small team of desert explorers that made Red Rock what it is today.

On the approach to the Mescalito, the majority of the route is hidden
 in the south fork of Pine Creek. The red line shows the top of the route.
(Click on Photo to Enlarge)

Cat in the Hat is a six pitch pleasure cruise. The route has lots of nice ledges and that makes it all the more amazing when you reach the final pitch. It's amazing, because suddenly there is significant exposure. The climbing's never hard, but you definitely feel the air beneath you.

 A climber follows the final pitch of the route.

There's something else about the final pitch that makes first time leaders squirm a little bit. The final thirty feet of the route is not too run-out, but it is run-out just enough to make many climbers squirm. That mild run-out is also one of the most memorable of any climb in the area.

There are some rules for Cat. First, avoid the route in December and January. The sun is too low and the bottom of the route can be frigid. Second, avoid the route when it's really hot out; there is no shade. And if it's hot, be sure to bring lots of water. And finally, the route's quality also can lead to crowds. My strategy is to start very early, or to start very late. You either want to be there before the crowds, or after.

A climber pulls through the final moves of Cat in the Hat.

I've probably climbed Cat in the Hat thirty times. And every time, whether in the rain or cold, or in sun on a beautiful day, I've had a great time. A route like this one was made for climbers. And most climbers were made for a route like this...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, January 23, 2017

Red Rock Rendezvous - March 24-March 27, 2017

The American Alpine Institute will be a primary sponsor of the 14th Annual Red Rock Rendezvous in Red Rock Canyon just outside of Las Vegas. This will be the twelfth time that our guides will be involved, teaching clinics and partying alongside everyone else at the event.


This year our guides will be running multi-pitch climbing trips throughout the event and beginner to advanced climbing programs on March 24th. They will also be teaching a variety of programs on the March 25th and 26th; and will be running all day multi-pitch climbing programs on the 27th.

If you have never attended Red Rock Rendezvous before, you are missing out. This is considered by many to be the best climbing event of the year. Everybody meets in the desert for three-days of climbing instruction, clinics, food, and fun. It's a great place to rub elbows with the biggest names in climbing. But it is also a great place to just sit back and soak up climbing culture. Following is a video that was made at the event:



Every year the event just gets better and I have to say that last year's was the most fun so far. Here is a blog with a number of photos and videos from the 2015 Red Rock Rendezvous.

Major climbing athletes make their way out to the Mojave Desert for the Rendezvous every year. Big names at the event include the likes of Beth Rodden, Peter Croft, Katie Brown, and Andreas Marin. But some of our best guides will also be on hand. These include people like Mike Powers, Richard Riquelme, Alasdair Turner, Ian McEleney, Paul Rosser, Ben Traxler, Mike Pond, Andrew Yasso, Chad Cochran, Dustin Byrne, Ben Gardner, Tad McCrea, Doug Foust, Quino Gonzalez, Britt Ruegger, Jeremy Devine, Jared Drapala, Will Gordon, Justin Moynihan, Jenny Merian, Zach Lovell, Jim Mediatore, and Dave Richards.

AAI Guides at Red Rock Rendezvous

Before and after the event, AAI has a number of courses running. Check them out below:

March 17-March 19 - AMGA Single Pitch Instructor
March 18-March 21 - Big Wall and Aid Climbing
March 18-March 21 - Learn to Lead: An Intro to Trad Climbing
March 20-March 23 - Outdoor Rock Climbing - Intensive Introduction (Women's Only)
March 24-March 27 - Red Rock Rendezvous
March 28-March 31 - Learn to Lead: An Intro to Trad Climbing
March 28-March 31 - Outdoor Rock Climbing - Intensive Introduction

In addition to all of the courses going on around Red Rock Rendezvous, don't forget that AAI will have all of our best guides available for private guiding and instruction in Red Rock Canyon. To learn more, send us an email at info@alpineinstitute.com or give us a call at 360-671-1505.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, January 20, 2017

Avalanche Awareness: Strategic Shovelling

Avalanches are terrifying.

I’ve never been caught in an avalanche, but I’ve had a few close calls. Most winter backcountry travelers have logged one or two these. But there are some that have encountered something worse than a close call. They’ve been caught in an avalanche. Or they’ve had to rescue a partner from an avalanche.

The modern winter backcountry traveler has an arsenal of tools that can be used to locate a buried avalanche victim. First, she has a transceiver. This should get her into the vicinity of the victim. Second, she has a probe. This should allow her to poke around until she pinpoints the location of the victim. And then finally she has a shovel. This should allow her to dig the victim free.

The only way than an individual will ever be able to rescue a companion is with practice. A strong rescuer that has extensively practiced will be able to locate her companion quickly with a transceiver and probe. The digging part though, is another story. It’s not uncommon for rescuers in practice scenarios to take up to 30-minutes to free a mock victim. This is way too slow.

The statistics tell us that most recreational avalanche victims are buried between 1 and 1.3 meters deep. To the uninitiated, this doesn’t sound that deep, but the reality is quite different. An average burial of this depth requires the rescuer to remove up to one-and-a-half tons of snow!

If you have to remove so much snow, then you better do it as strategically as possible. Following is a video on this topic.



Review and a Few Additional Thoughts:

Choosing the right spot for your excavation is essential. If you select the wrong spot you have to move significantly more snow, while simultaneously leaving the victim buried for a longer period of time. In order to effectively save one’s partner, a rescuer has to have a plan, and a rescuer has to shovel her partner out strategically.

Once the probe strikes the victim, many rescuers are inclined to start digging straight down. There are three problems with this. First, if you’re standing right on top of the victim, you might collapse any air pockets that he was able to create during the avalanche. Second, digging straight down requires one to remove a great deal more snow than other strategies. And third, it’s very difficult to do first aid in a vertical hole in the ground.

Once you’ve found the victim, leave the probe in. This will help you to estimate where you need to dig.

In a shallow burial (less than 1 meter), the rescuer should dig just downhill of the probe-strike. Think of it as digging toward the victim, instead of down to the victim.

If the victim is deeper than 1 meter, then the rescuer should begin digging a terraced hole toward the victim 1.5 times the burial depth downhill of the probe-strike. The depth should be apparent to the rescuer from the probe-strike.

Start with a small hole, approximately as wide as your extended arms. If there is more than one rescuer, then the starter hole can be as wide as a body-length.

Begin the excavation by digging on your knees and throwing snow off to the side. If you throw snow behind you it will create a mound that may have to move again. You never want to move snow twice! However, if it’s a deeper burial, it’s possible that you will eventually have to terrace the hole and throw snow behind you. This usually happens once you get down approximately waist deep.

Keep the avalanche probe in sight. Don’t bury it or move it. The last thing you want to do is to dig in the wrong spot or dig below the victim.

Once you’ve found the victim, focus on clearing snow from the head. And once you can reach the victim’s face check the mouth and airway for compacted snow that may obstruct breathing.

Rescuing someone from an avalanche is hard work. Be sure that once you know where the victim is, that you have a solid digging strategy. The less dialed your strategy is, the more likely it is that your partner will die…

Avalanches are terrifying…

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 1/19/17

Northwest:

--Former AAI Guides Kurt Hicks and Mark Allen made the first ascent of Crater Creek Falls (WI4+, III) on Mt. Si. This is possibly the closest ice climbing to the Seattle metropolitan area. However, it's seldom cold low enough, long enough for something like this to form. To read more and to see a route description, click here.

--Some Squamish climbers sent a variation to the Ultimate Everything (5.10b, IV) last week all on ice... To read about it, click here.

--Speaking of Squamish, access at the popular climbing area may be under threat due to a lack of parking. To read more, click here.

--Unofficial Networks reported last week that, "Mount Shasta, California, home of the world record for a single dump (189 inches in February 1959) is getting pounded by a storm of biblical proportions. NOAA is predicting as much as 18 feet of snow could fall on Mt. Shasta over 4 days and as much as 22 feet in a 7 day timeframe. Here is a day-by-day breakdown from the National Weather Service." To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting on Fred Becky's 94th birthday. "Fred Beckey is one of the world’s most accomplished climbers and turned 94 on Jan. 14, 2017. Born on Jan. 14, 1923, Friedrich Wolfgang Beckey has established new routes all around the world, authored a number of best sellers and continues to get out into the mountains." To read more, click here.

--It appears that the Forest Service is considering some kind of system to limit backcountry use in Oregon's Three Sisters Wilderness. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Arizona's 3 TV News is reporting that, "a difficult rescue ended Sunday when crews managed to reach an injured mountain climber stranded in steep, rugged terrain west of Sedona. It took more than three hours to reach the man who was incapacitated in the area of the Capitol Butte and Thunder Mountain trails in the Coconino National Forest." To read more, click here.

--The Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting that, "A local environmental nonprofit is invoking Nevada’s anti-SLAPP law in an attempt to dismissal lawsuit filed last month by Clark County, according to a court motion filed Monday. Save Red Rock attorney Justin Jones said the lawsuit, filed in Clark County District Court, could bar the nonprofit from testifying at County Commission meetings against a plan to build about 5,000 homes atop Blue Diamond Hill, located near the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area." To read more, click here.

Mt. Wilson in Red Rock Canyon

--Climbing magazine has published an article that explains all the ins and outs of the housing development issue. To read the article, click here.

--It's amazing how fast a climber squabble can blow up online. A pro boulderer (Courtney Sanders)  posted a photo of her climbing after a rainstorm on sandstone in Red Rock Canyon on Instagram. This is a questionable activity given the fragility of sandstone and the local ethics. She was called out on her activity and then her husband -- also a pro boulderer named Daniel Woods -- got involved, and things went downhill from there. There was a full-on flame war and even threats of violence. Much of the material online was deleted, but the original poster eventually apologized. Daniel Woods also made an attempt to apologize, but did it in an extremely passive aggressive way. His "Sorry, Not Sorry" apology is still burning up Red Rock locals Facebook pages. To read an article about this skirmish, click here. There's also a conversation about this incident, here.

Colorado:

--A skier in Breckenridge died of a skull fracture after skiing into a tree. To read more, click here.

--A backcountry skier was swept down a slope and over a 25-foot cliff near Silverton this week. The skier was buried under four-feet of snow. Thankfully, an avalanche educator happened upon the scene and rescued the skier. To read more, click here.

--A Mountain Rescue team member was swept away in an avalanche last week and seriously injured. To read more, click here.

--The Denver Post is reporting on the statistics behind US in-bounds skier fatalities. "The average person who died on the slopes of U.S. ski resorts during the 2015/2016 season was a 30-something experienced male skier wearing a helmet who hit a tree going too fast on an intermediate run, according to the National Ski Area Association’s annual report on safety." To read more, click here.

--The Denver 7 Channel's Crime Stoppers Unit is offering a reward for information concerning a snowboarder who hit a woman and shattered her leg and then left. It is completely inappropriate to be blasting down a run, barely in control, while ripping past other skiers and boarders. To see more about this, click on the video below:



Notes from All Over:
--The Vail Daily is reporting that, "Two snowboarders were rescued late Wednesday night after becoming buried and seriously injured in an avalanche on a backcountry slope near the Smith and Morehouse Reservoir in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest." To read more, click here.

--Twin Cities Pioneer Press is reporting that, " Minnesota climber and adventurer Lonnie Dupre narrowly escaped disaster during his attempt this past week to solo-climb Alaska’s Mount Hunter. Dupre, 55, of Grand Marais broke through a crevasse on his retreat from the 14,573-foot mountain and hung by a single ice axe for several minutes with his feet dangling beneath him, he said." To read more, click here.

--The HuffingtonPost is reporting that, "Patagonia last year spent $1 million on a get-out-the-vote campaign, completely shut down its operations on Election Day and donated all $10 million it earned on Black Friday to environmental causes. Now, the high-end outdoor apparel retailer is gearing up to battle Utah officials’ plan to roll back President Barack Obama’s designation of a new national monument in the state. The company this week threatened to pull out of Salt Lake City’s biannual Outdoor Retailer Show, a trade show that brings in 45,000 visitors spending more than $40 million each year." To read more, click here.

--Yvon Chouinard has written an editorial at the Patagoinia blog, The Cleanest Line about Patagonia, the outdoor industry and Utah. " The outdoor industry creates three times the amount of jobs than the fossil fuels industry, yet the Governor has spent most of his time in office trying to rip taxpayer-owned lands out from under us and hand them over to drilling and mining companies. And just a few days ago, the state announced plans to sue the federal government to reverse the recent protection of Bears Ears, a site containing thousands of years of Native American archeological treasures and craggy red rocks beloved by climbers from all over the world. Politicians in the state don’t seem to get that the outdoor industry—and their own state economy—depend on access to public lands for recreation." To read the complete editorial, click here.

--The Access Fund is reporting that, "The Red River Gorge Climbers’ Coalition (RRGCC) and Access Fund, with assistance from Trango Climbing Gear, are thrilled to announce the purchase of the Bald Rock Recreational Preserve in the Red River Gorge of Kentucky. This acquisition secures access to a popular set of world-renowned climbing areas—including the Motherlode, the Chocolate Factory, the Bear’s Den, and the Unlode. The 102-acre acquisition secures access to these areas for climbing and land conservation." To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund is also reporting that, "Rumney Climber’s Association (RCA) and Access Fund are excited to announce that we have completed the second phase of protecting Rumney’s Northwest Crags (aka the Final Frontier). In just under a year, the climbing community rallied to raise over $100,000, and RCA now owns the 85-acre property. Access Fund provided RCA with two loans to cover the gap in the purchase price, which RCA will pay back after they transfer the property to White Mountain National Forest." To read more, click here.

--We usually don't post bouldering videos, but how often do you get to see Khal Drogo climbing with Chris Sharma. Khal Drogo (or at least Jason Momoa, the actor who plays him) seems to have been reborn after his death in Game of Thrones to be a pretty good climber...



--Senator Lisa Murkowski (R - Alaska) mentioned climbing access in her opening statement in the Ryan Zinke confirmation hearing in Washington DC. Zinke is being considered for the position of Secretary of the Interior. To see the clip, click here.

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Avalanche Airbags and You

It was February of 2012, and three skiers were dead just outside of the Stevens Pass Ski Area in the Tunnel Creek drainage. Five people were initially caught in the backcountry avalanche. One of the survivors became wedged between two trees while snow rushed over him. The other survivor – Elyse Saugstad – deployed an avalanche airbag, which kept her near the surface of the snow and allowed rescuers to find her quickly.

Saugstad’s survival created a great deal of interest in avalanche airbags. Our shop at the American Alpine Institute began to receive almost daily inquiries about these potentially lifesaving tools. And now today, these devices are standard for ski patrollers and backcountry ski guides.

The BCA Float 42 is a single balloon pack
with 42-liters of space.

But what are they?

In essence an avalanche airbag is a regular backpack with one or more large balloons stowed in the top and the side. The idea is that if there is an avalanche, the skier can pull a ripcord and deploy the rapid inflation balloons almost immediately. And then in theory, these balloons will keep your body near the surface of a moving avalanche, allowing for an easier rescue.

There are many aspects that must be taken into account prior to the purchase of one of these systems. First, of course, there's affordability. Second, there's the difficulty of refilling the cartridge. Third, there's the question of how easy it is to stow and retrieve the trigger. And lastly, one's perception of a given brand and indeed, even one's loyalty to it.

Before making any purchasing decisions, you must look at the advantages and disadvantages of three main aspects of this system.

  1. What type of gas is being used to inflate the balloon chamber?
  2. How many balloons are being inflated?
  3. What type of mechanism is being used to trigger the deployment of the balloon(s)?
To decide what kind of gas (compressed air or nitrogen) is the most appropriate for you, first and foremost, you must think about where you are going to use your pack. Air temperatures and altitude may have an effect on cartridge performance and in effect, the speed by which the gas moves from the cartridge to the balloon(s). It appears that the compressed air works a little better at lower altitudes – like those found in the PNW – while nitrogen works a little bit better up high, like those found in Colorado.

One additional concern that should be mentioned is the difficulty that some have had taking these backpacks abroad. For some reason the TSA doesn't like weird cartridges of gas stashed inside backpacks on their planes...

North Face Avalanche Airbag Pack
Note that this is a two balloon system.

The terrain that you're skiing is another factor to take into account. If you’re skiing in a place where there are lots of sharp trees and branches, or in a place where there are a lot of sharp rocks, there is the possibility that you are going to puncture a balloon. Some systems employ a two balloon pack with two valves for two reasons -- first, in case one of the valves malfunctions; and second, in case one of the balloons is punctured after deployment. Some brands have worked hard to develop a configuration that provides more "floatability" by playing with the volume and spatial adjustability of the balloons...

If you are going to be using the pack as a recreationalist you may have different needs than a ski patroller or a guide. Why? Because each group has different needs. The recreationalist needs affordability and functionality with a simple pull. Professionals often use packs with mini-explosives that (according to the respective marketing departments) will guarantee deployment above and beyond the minimum standards. And lastly, a guide may want a remote control triggering mechanism in case one of his or her participants is in a slide, but fails to trigger the system.

Now the real trick of these packs is not that they might "save" you from an avalanche. Instead, it's that they might trick you into a false sense of security. The pack will give you a better chance if you're in a slide (about 16% overall or about a bit more than half of those who would have otherwise died in an avalanche), but it won't save you from drop-offs or trees or boulders or any number of other terrible things that could happen to you if you're involved in a slide. The best tool that you have to avoid an avalanche is your own brain and your own ability to use it. If you haven't taken an avalanche course, then you're missing the key ingredient.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, January 16, 2017

How to Place an Ice Screw

In the following video, AMGA Instructor Team Member Patrick Ormond, describes how to place an ice screw.


--Jason D. Martin

Friday, January 13, 2017

Avalanche Rescue: Patient Care

BCA has put together a nice series of instructional videos about avalanche safety and companion rescue.

In this video, avalanche instructor Sarah Carpenter talks about what to do after you have unburied your partner...



Once you've dug the patient out, do the following:
  1. Check the mouth and airway. Clear any snow plugs.
  2. Check the chest and lungs. Make sure that patient is breathing. If they're not breathing, stop and fix that! Provide CPR.
  3. Check for a pulse. If there's no pulse, commence with CPR.
  4. Check for bleeds. If there are any massive bleeds, stop and fix that.
  5. Check for spinal injury and check for that. Stabilize if needed.
  6. Can we stay and work on this problem? Or do we need a rapid evacuation.
  7. As soon as someone is dug up, they are exposed to the cold. Get the patient off the snow and bundled up. Treat for hypothermia.
  8. Do a complete patient assessment from head-to-toe to determine if there are other injuries.
  9. Carry and emergency kit that allows you to build a shelter, make a fire and make water.
--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Grizzly Bear Restoration in the North Cascades

The American Alpine Institute just received the following notice from North Cascades National Park:

Public Invited to Open Houses on Proposed Alternatives for
Grizzly Bear Restoration in North Cascades Ecosystem

Public comment period open through March 14, 2017

SEDRO WOOLLEY, Wash. – The National Park Service (NPS) and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) invite the public to participate in a series of informational open houses regarding the proposed alternatives for the restoration of grizzly bears to the North Cascades Ecosystem. The alternatives are described in the draft Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan/Environmental Impact Statement (draft EIS), released today by the two agencies. The meetings are one part of the public’s opportunity to comment on the draft EIS.

The purpose of the EIS is to determine what actions, if any, should be taken to restore the grizzly bear to the North Cascades Ecosystem. Although there are six populations of grizzly bears in North America, the last-known siting of grizzlies in the United States portion of the North Cascades Ecosystem is 1996. The goal of the public comment period is to gather comments regarding the draft EIS; public comments received on the draft EIS will be evaluated and considered in the identification of the preferred alternative, which will be published in the Final EIS. The full draft EIS is available at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/grizzlydeis.

The alternatives analyzed in this draft EIS include a “no-action” alternative, plus three action alternatives that would seek to restore a reproducing population of approximately 200 bears through the capture and release of grizzly bears into the North Cascades Ecosystem. The alternatives were developed by a planning team with input from the public, local, state and federal agencies, and the scientific community.

In addition to the open houses, the public also is invited to submit written comments at http://parkplanning.nps.gov/grizzlydeis. Comments may also be submitted through March 14, 2017 via regular mail or hand delivery at: Superintendent’s Office, North Cascades National Park Service Complex, 810 State Route 20, Sedro Woolley, WA 98284

In order to maximize opportunities for public input, webinars are scheduled for Tuesday, February 14 from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. Pacific Time and Sunday, February 26 from 5 p.m.-7 p.m. Pacific Time. For more information about the open houses and to register for the webinars, visit: http://parkplanning.nps.gov/grizzlydeis and click on the “Meetings” link.

The public open houses will be held from 6-8 p.m. at the following locations:

Cle Elum – February 13 at the Putnam Centennial Center
Cashmere – February 14 at the Riverside Center
Winthrop – February 15 at the Red Barn
Omak – February 16 at the Annex Facility at Okanogan County Fairgrounds
Bellingham – February 21 at the Bellingham Technical College
Darrington – February 22 at the Darrington Community Center
Sultan – February 23 at the Sultan High School
Renton – February 24 at the Renton Community Center

The grizzly bear was listed as a threatened species in the contiguous United States in 1975. The species was listed as endangered by the state of Washington in 1980.

The North Cascades Ecosystem encompasses 9,800 square miles in the United States and another 3,800 square miles in British Columbia, Canada. The United States portion of the ecosystem includes North Cascades National Park, Ross Lake National Recreation Area, Lake Chelan National Recreation Area, Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, and Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest.

The U.S. Forest Service and the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife are cooperating agencies on the EIS. Funding for the EIS is provided by the NPS. The U.S. Forest Service, FWS and other cooperating agencies and partners will provide technical support throughout.

For more information on grizzly bear recovery, visit http://bit.ly/NCEgrizzly or www.nps.gov/noca/grizzly.htm.

More than 20,000 National Park Service employees care for America's 412 national parks and work with communities across the nation to help preserve local history and create close-to-home recreational opportunities. Visit us at www.nps.gov, on Facebook www.facebook.com/nationalparkservice, Twitter www.twitter.com/natlparkservice, and YouTube www.youtube.com/nationalparkservice.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service works with others to conserve, protect, and enhance fish, wildlife, plants, and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. For more information, visit www.fws.gov/pacific/, or connect with us through any of these channels: www.facebook.com/USFWSPacific,www.tumblr.com/blog/usfwspacific, www.flickr.com/photos/usfwspacific/, or https://twitter.com/USFWSPacific/.

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 1/12/17

Northwest:

--A 64-year old woman was killed in an avalanche last Thursday while skiing out-of-bounds near Crystal Mountain Ski Area. It appears that Elizabeth Hampson was traveling

--Spokane-based skier, Danny Miller, has skied every month for 23-years. To read more, click here.

--USA Today is reporting that, "A massive winter storm forced officials to temporarily close Crater Lake National Park on Tuesday. Oregon's only national park was pounded with heavy snow and high winds during the past few days, resulting in the uncommon closure on Tuesday of what's often called one of the "snowiest inhabited places in North America." To read more, click here.

--It appears that a mining project that would have impacted Mazama climbing will not happen. Read more, here.

Sierra:

--The Los Angeles Times is reporting that, "Two backcountry skiers escaped uninjured Thursday after being caught in an avalanche that closed the state highway between Reno and Lake Tahoe in a part of the Sierra Nevada where as much as 6 feet of snow has fallen over the past four days." To read more, click here.

--The Los Angeles Times is also reporting that, "ski resort operators are looking for crowds of near record size — with price increases to match. Storms have dumped up to 7 feet of snow on some peaks in as little as 48 hours." To read more, click here.

The High Sierra got hammered by snow last week. As one of our teams
descended from the Whitney region they encountered chest deep snow!
Photo by Ian McEleney

--On Friday, all non-essential employees were evacuated from Yosemite Valley amid flooding fears. To read more, click here.

--A controlled avalanche hit several houses in Alpine Meadows this week. To read more, click here.

--And in Mammoth, they're using a howitzer cannon to manage the avalanche hazard...

Desert Southwest:

--Fox News Travel is reporting that, "Although the U.S. marked its national parks centennial in 2016, the end of celebratory free passes hasn't kept visitors from flooding into Utah's Zion National Park, some 160 miles from Salt Lake City. Park officials report that while winter is usually the slow season at Zion, the 2016-2017 winter is seeing so many travelers coming to the park that there have been traffic backups on the road leading into the site. The Associated Press reports that Zion is set to hit four million visitors in 2016 (final numbers are being tallied now), and that some cars have been exempted from the $30-per-vehicle park fee in order to speed up the queue and keep it from spilling over into the nearby town of Springdale." To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--ABC News is reporting that, "Authorities say one of two missing backcountry skiers who were found in the central Colorado mountains died while he was being treated for hypothermia. The Lake County Office of Emergency Management posted on its Facebook page that Brett Beasley and a boy he was skiing with were found near Turquoise Lake west of Leadville on Thursday afternoon. The boy, whose name and age have not been released, was uninjured and was taken from the area on a snowmobile to be reunited with his family. Beasley was treated for hypothermia but did not survive." To read more, click here.


Mickey Wilson slacklining on a lift cable to save an unconscious man.
It's not clear if Mickey was wearing ski boots when he did this. 

--So a guy got his backpack straps caught in a chairlift in Arapahoe Basin and got dragged back up by the neck. He went unconscious after the lift stopped. A rescue team tried to make a human pyramid to rescue him, but kept slipping. That's when Mickey Wilson sprung into action, climbed up a tower and SLACKLINED (you read that right!) across the cable to cut the victim down, saving his life. To read more, click here. To see a video of the victim being cut down, click below.



--In more Arapahoe Basin news, the resort shut down on Tuesday amid avalanche concerns at Loveland Pass. To read more, click here.

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "Chris Snobeck, of Colorado, has made the third ascent of Saphira in Vail's Fang Amphitheater—a climb considered to be the hardest mixed route and only M15- in the United States. With his ascent, Snobeck became the second American to climb M15-. Moreover, he climbed the route twice." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The Flathead Beacon is reporting that, "A 36-year-old Kalispell man was killed Thursday in an avalanche while backcountry skiing on Stanton Mountain in Glacier National Park, officials confirmed. Authorities have not released the name of the victim pending notification of next of kin." To read more, click here.

--WCVB in Vermont is reporting that, "A longtime Killington Resort mechanic died from injuries after police say he fell over 10 feet inside a gondola terminal." To read more, click here.

--The GOP House has recently changed the rules concerning the way that federal lands are transferred, making it much easier to sell off public lands to private entities. This is a very disturbing move that could have a far reaching impact on outdoor recreationalists of all stripes. To read more, click here.

--On a related note, Peter Metcalf, the CEO of Black Diamond, wrote an editorial for the Salt Lake Tribune where he argues that it's time for the Outdoor Retailer show -- a show that brings 50 million dollars in direct spending -- to leave Utah. "Over the past several months Utah's political leadership has unleashed an all-out assault against Utah's protected public lands and Utah's newest monument. It's time for Outdoor Retailer to leave the state in disgust." To read more, click here.

--We often forget how important ski patrollers are in keeping us safe when we ski in-bounds. They manage avalanche hazard, patrol for dangerous skiers and boarders, set boundaries to keep people out of dangerous areas and provide first aid. In Montana last week, Big Sky Patrollers were responsible for bringing a snowboarder back from the dead, before a life flight crew took over... To read about it, click here.

--Polar explorer Lonnie Dupre is back in Alaska, hoping to make the first solo winter ascent of Mt. Hunter. Dupre made the first successful solo winter ascent of Denali in 2015. To read more, click here.

--Climbing magazine has posted a list of their top ten most read climbing stories from 2016. To check out the list, click here.

--And finally, some yahoo free soloed a route in North Carolina completely naked. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Film Review: Reel Rock 11

The 2015 Academy Awards was roundly attacked for not rewarding the powerful work of minority artists in the film industry. The #OscarsSoWhite hashtag was everywhere and it had an impact. It's my prediction that the 2017 Academy Awards will showcase something different. Criticism does that some times...

Reel Rock 10 had a similar problem. There were almost no women in the entire line-up and those that were there were -- at best -- not much more than props. And -- at worst -- were portrayed in a stereotypical or negative way... One could even take this further and argue that at least one of the films had a light streak of misogyny running through it.


And while I don't have any first hand evidence that there was widespread criticism of Reel Rock 10, there was certainly some. And, like #OscarsSoWhite, it had an impact. Once again, criticism pushed a group of filmmakers to do better. And I'm very happy to say that Reel Rock 11 is better. It is a substantially better offering and it fits well into the cannon of previous Reel Rock films as one of the stronger collections.

It's engaging. It's fun. And it's well worth watching...



Following is a quick breakdown of the films. Each section is headed by the synopsis provided on the Reel Rock website. Following that are a few thoughts.

Young Guns

Meet the new faces of climbing: 15-year-old Ashima Shiraishi and 16-year-old Kai Lightner are the leaders of the next generation, already taking the sport to the next level. A trip to Norway puts their skills to the test, and Ashima attempts to make history on a V15 boulder in Japan.

Ashima Shiraishi and Kai Lightner are two of brightest lights in rock climbing today. Each of them started climbing at a very young age in an urban setting and then advanced their arts by competing and operating in an outdoor setting.

Young Guns chronicles a trip to Norway with the pair and touches on several other places where they climb and how they've grown. These two young people are amazing athletes and will likely lead the charge for the American climbing team in the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.

Ashima Shiraishi and Kai Lightner

The film classically finishes with Ashima working a problem that took her a great deal of time to master. We see the normal struggle to get it done and a sense of euphoria when she finishes it. This is what we come to these movies for; not just to see our heros, but to watch them fight for their ascents and their glory. It's too bad, we didn't see Kai battle to finish something as well...

There's something extremely important about this film that has been touched upon in books like The Adventure Gap by James Edward Jones and Last Child in the Woods by Richard Louv. Very few minorities participate in outdoor adventure sports... There is tremendous growth in our minority populations, but there's not necessarily growth in minorities participating in outdoor adventure sports. This is problematic because we need the growing minority population in the United States to value our outdoor spaces and become part of stewardship efforts...

Ashima and Kai are not white kids from the suburbs. Instead, Ashima is Japanese-American and Kai is African-American. One of the great values these two at the forefront of hard climbing, is that young minorities -- individuals who might think that climbing is just for white people -- can see a pair like this and say, "they look like me. And if they look like me, then maybe I can do this too...!"

So much for #OscarsSoWhite. Good job, Reel Rock!

Boys in the Bugs

Will Stanhope and Matt Segal are elite-level crack climbers and world-class goofballs. Laugh along as they go for broke on an epic four-year battle to climb a forbidding 5.14 finger crack high in the Canadian alpine wilderness of the Bugaboos.

Will Stanhope and Matt Segal are both throwbacks to a different age. They live the lives of dirtbag climbers and truly get after it. And unlike some of the other world-class climbers in this day and age, they don't have coaches or training plans, they just get out there and do it. And they do it with dirtbag style...!

We meet the pair in Canada's Bugaboo Provincial Park, where they are doing battle with the Tom Egan Memorial Route, an A3 crack climb on the Snowpatch Spire. Like last year's celebrated ascent of the Dawn Wall in Yosemite, this particular route requires a great deal of repetitive work. The pair becomes intimately acquainted with every hold on the route as they work it day-in and day-out over four summer seasons.

I have personally worked with both Matt and Will at the Red Rock Rendezvous over the years and have found them to be extremely laid back individuals. Indeed, in the film they feel just as laid back as they sit on a portaledge and slowly down an entire bottle of whiskey (we assume over a period of days, but that's not clear). This image that they portray is clearly a lie. These men are incredibly driven climbers that are capable of holding onto a singular focus over a period of years. Their story and the story of their ongoing battle with the route is inspiring.

Brette

Follow rising talent Brette Harrington on a global journey from her hometown granite in Squamish to the big wall proving ground of Yosemite’s El Capitan and onto a landmark free solo in Patagonia.

The focal point of Brette is Brette Herrington, a Squamish-based climber that is starting to make a name for herself. The film chronicles a year of Brette's life as she travels around and plays in the mountains.

Unfortunately, nearly every film festival has one of those films in it. There's nothing wrong with the film. Brette Harrington is certainly a worthy subject, but the lack of a central theme in the film or a specific ascent that she's vying for make the film enjoyable in the moment, but forgettable compared to the other films in this lineup.

The best adventure films have a central arc. Sometimes the arc is a personal arc as the adventurer learns something about his or herself. And sometimes the arc has to do with an objective. We watch them struggle to attain that objective, and then they either get there or they don't. Brette appears to achieve everything that she tries and the story doesn't really build tension around her attempts to achieve these things...

There are a couple of moments in the film that could have been teased out a little bit more. There's a moment when Brette takes a huge fall and is seriously rattled. There's another moment when she free solos a Patagonian peak, which is a major feat. But these things slip by quickly and the film feels a little bit generic...

Rad Dad

Lone wolf Mike Libecki travels to the most remote corners of the globe to find unclimbed walls and establish first ascents. When Mike becomes a father, he has a new challenge: to reconcile his life of adventure with the demands of parenthood, but he may also gain a new partner for his expeditions.

Mike Libecki is one of the most well-known expedition climbers anywhere. He is constantly on the move, exploring the most remote places possible on all seven of the continents. So how does someone like this raise a child? Is it possible to do multiple expeditions a year and to be a dad?

Mike Libecki likes wearing masks that correspond with the Chinese year for his summit shots.

The film Rad Dad resoundingly says, yes. It is possible to have a passion for the mountains and for far off places, while still performing the duties of a father...

This film provides an intimate look at how Mike manages the two greatest passions of his life, his daughter and expeditions. Indeed, the film culminates in a communion between the two passions when he talks his daughter on a ski trip to Antarctica.

Those of us who have children likely will have a special affinity for this film. The issues that Mike deals with are issues that we've dealt with. This profile of his and his daughter's lives show us at least one model for how to make a life like this work. And certainly, Mike's model won't work for everybody...or even most, but it still gives us an idea of what can be accomplished by someone who is dedicated to both a family and an adventure ideal. That alone, makes this film an important and enjoyable piece.

Dodo's Delight

Pack your penny whistle and batten down the hatches for a madcap sailing adventure in the Arctic Circle aboard the good ship Dodo’s Delight. Join Sean Villanueva O'Driscoll, Ben Ditto, and brothers Nico and Olivier Favresse for a rollicking musical journey across open seas and up unclimbed big walls.

Reel Rock films have a style and substance that feels...well it feels like Reel Rock. Dodo's Delight doesn't fit that format. Indeed the film felt a bit like an outlier. Stylistically, the film was different. The cast of characters were different. And the very expedition that was chronicled in the film felt different. Dodo's Delight was a standard adventure film, the kind that you might see at the 5Point Film Festival or at the Banff Film Festival, not at Reel Rock.

But that's okay! There's nothing wrong with that at all. If Dodo's Delight were viewed at one of those festivals it would be a very strong piece. And it's certainly a strong piece here too.

These guys really like acting crazy and singing.
It's a lot of fun watching them on their adventure.

The film chronicles the adventures of five men as they sing -- there's a lot of singing and music in this film -- as they travel and live together in a small sailboat, and as they climb a series of big walls on Baffin Island.

Reel Rock's promo uses the word "rolicking" to describe this film. Rolicking is absolutely right. Watching people have fun on amazing adventures is one of the reasons that we watch these kinds of movies. We get to know a little cast of characters as they have their ups (and it's mostly ups in this film) and their downs. And we have a lot of fun in the process.

At the end of Dodo's delight, the team on the sailboat sings a song. Subtitles with a bouncing ball appear at the bottom of the screen that show us the words. I quickly found myself singing along...and planning adventures to far off places...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, January 9, 2017

Sharpening Ice Tools, Crampons and Ice Screws

The American Mountain Guides Association has teamed up with Outdoor Research and Petzl to create a series of instructional videos. In the following video, AMGA Instructor Team Member Patrick Ormond demonstrates how to sharpen ice tools, crampons and ice screws...


--Jason D. Martin

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Super-Eight

The Super-Eight, also known as the Figure-Eight-with-Bunny-Ears and the Double Loop Eight, is a very useful knot. It is commonly used to equalize two points with a rope. In other words, sometimes there are two pieces and you don't have a sling or a cord to equalize them, but you do have a rope. this particular knot will accomplish equalization.

Following is a short video on how to tie the knot.


Once the knot is tied, it is easily manipulated by adjusting the interior of the knot. This will allow one of the ears to move, changing the size. Ultimately, you will be able to adjust the ears to the desired length.

The primary application of this knot is in institutional anchors for toprope site management. It is common for institutional anchors to be built with a static rope oriented like a giant v. Each end of the static rope is tied off to an object or to an anchor. It's common for one end to be tied off using a super-eight because it is a quick and easy knot that eliminates the use of a sling or cord.

A secondary application of this knot is in multi-pitch climbing. Occasionally an individual will build a two-piece anchor and use this type of knot to tie into it. But of course, this forces the team to swap leads and fixes a climber at one end of the system.  As such, it should be carefully considered before being used in such a setting...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 1/5/17

Northwest:

--Longtime Mt. Baker Ski Area employee, Randy Hook, 67, died of a heart attack at the ski area on Sunday. To read more, click here.

--North Shore News is reporting that, "North Shore Rescue's first mission of 2017 came just days after the last search of 2016 ended in tragedy. After more than five days of scouring the gullies and drainages around Cypress Mountain for two lost snowshoers, the team's leadership and West Vancouver police made the decision to call off the search for Roy Tin Hou Lee and Chun Sek Lam on Friday." To read more, click here.

--The Revelstoke Review is reporting that, "a forecaster for Avalanche Canada is advising people to be very careful when putting more than one person on a slope after a snowmobiler died in an avalanche near Valemount on Friday. RCMP say the avalanche took place in the Clemina area in the Monashee Mountains 20 kilometres southeast of Valemount on Dec. 30." To read more, click here.

--Living Snoqualmie is reporting that SAR crews were very busy on Christmas day in the I-90 Corridor. "While many of us were home enjoying Christmas Day, more than 50 King County Search and Rescue (KCSAR) volunteers spent much of the trudging through snow and water to help hikers in popular Snoqualmie Valley hiking spots." To read more, click here.

--Here's a story about a guy who got caught out while snowshoeing overnight. This individual got lost in a snowstorm. These things happen. However, they can be avoided. In the story, the author keeps saying that the Ten Essentials work and that carrying them is important. Part of the Ten Essential kit is a map and compass. And in 2017, I would argue that you should also include a GPS and an altimeter. To avoid spending an unintended night out, it's important that you understand how to effectively use all four of these tools...

Desert Southwest:

--Gripped is reporting that, "two weeks ago, Ethan Pringle went to Red Rock Canyon with some friends and discovered the crux sloper on Meadowlark Lemon V14 had been chipped." To read more, click here.

--The designation of the Bears Ears National Monument last week was a major victory for Native Americans and outdoor recreationalists. But could the new administration reverse this decision. The unfortunate answer is, possibly. To read an article about this in OutsideOnline, click here.

The left-hand corner had a triangular BLM logo. This was destroyed
by people taking pictures who were wearing climbing gear a couple 
of weeks ago. Photo by Doug Foust.

--Two weeks ago we reported on the damage done to the Red Rock Canyon sign. Now the BLM is offering a reward for anyone who can track down those behind the damage. To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--Fox 31 Denver is reporting that, "The Summit County Sheriff's Office is asking for the public's help in finding a snowboarder who allegedly crashed into a skier at Keystone Resort. The skier, Jenny Elma, underwent surgery Tuesday night. Doctors said Elma's leg was broken in several places and one of her joints exploded. Doctors put 13 screws in her leg during a five-hour surgery." To read more, click here.

--A lynx randomly showed up and wandered around Purgatory Ski Resort last week. This is a very rare animal and several people took videos and photos of it. To read more, click here.

--9 News is reporting that Copper Ridge has a new system to deal with avalanches. The avalanche roller breaks down hidden slabs before avalanches can do it. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A 24-year old man was killed when he struck a tree at Utah's Snowbasin Resort last week. To read more, click here.

--CBC News is reporting that, "An ice climber has been flown by STARS air ambulance to hospital from Kananaskis country after suffering injuries to her head, neck and shoulders from falling ice." To read more, click here.

--WHEC is reporting that, "For the second time in two weeks, a skier captured video of a child dangling from a chairlift at Utah's Sundance Mountain Resort. On Monday afternoon, a young boy skiing with friends was snagged by the moving chairlift. By all accounts, the roughly 10-year-old child, who was not injured, remained calm through the ordeal." To read more, click here.

--The New York Times recently ran an article about the human factor in avalanches. To read the article, click here.

--CNN has an article online about Danny Levitt, a high altitude expert, and her research on the Sherpa people and how they deal with altitude. "Presenting her findings at the World Extreme Medicine Expo in London, last month, Levett identified differences in the parts of human cells that respire to generate energy -- known as mitochondria. The Sherpas' mitochondria were much more efficient at using oxygen. 'They're like a fuel-efficient car,' said Levett. 'You get more energy for less oxygen.' In addition, the team studied blood vessels under the tongue and other locations in the body, to monitor blood circulation within the organs -- known as the microcirculation. This form of blood circulation occurs in the smallest blood vessels and determines how well oxygen reaches muscles, tissues and organs -- so how well your body actually functions. At high altitude, the blood flow within these small blood vessels was found to slow down in the non-Sherpa volunteers, but remained normal in Sherpas." To read more, click here.

--Molly Absolon has an excellent piece on the underreporting of avalanches in the Jackson Hole News and Guide. Her article was predicated by the possibility that a skier triggered an avalanche that hit a car last week. Nobody has come forward to take responsibility, which isn't surprising because it appeared that the villagers were grabbing their pitchforks and looking for blood... Molly notes that we can learn from non-fatal avalanches and that they should be reported more often. To read the article, click here.

Protected areas like State Parks, National Parks and National Monuments
drive economic growth.

--The Mercury News argues that National Monuments drive economic growth. As entrepreneurs and venture capitalists, we welcome the permanent protection of these monuments, not only because it will help ensure the longevity of irreplaceable American natural and cultural treasures, but also because of the economic opportunities the monuments will help to inspire among entrepreneurial companies throughout the country." To read more, click here.

--The Casper Star Tribune is reporting that, "Wyoming ski areas would receive new protection from lawsuits under a proposed bill coming to the Legislature in January. The Ski Safety Act would protect ski areas from liability where a skier is injured as a result of 'the inherent risks in skiing.' Inherent risks listed in the legislation include weather and snow conditions, crashing into ski area infrastructure, wildlife, trees or rocks, collisions with a ski area snowmobile and injuries from skiing on terrain created by ski areas including jumps." To read more, click here.