Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Avalanche Awareness: Beacon Search

Seventy-five percent of all avalanche deaths are due to asphyxiation. After fifteen minutes of being buried in an avalanche, your chances of survival drop sixty-percent. Knowing how to use an avalanche beacon well is an essential skill for the backcountry traveller.

In the following video, the concept of an avalanche beacon search is described in detail:



Understanding the process of searching for a victim is essential. Practice with your beacon and take an AIARE Avalanche Level I course!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, February 27, 2017

Body Position and Finger Strength Training

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

The following video is specifically oriented toward training for body position and strength. Essentially, you will put yourself into some difficult climbing postures and hold yourself there to build up strength.



Following is a breakdown of the workout from the video:

--12 Climbing Postures
--3 Times Each
--30-45 Minutes
  1. Set a variety of climbing positions using 3 points of contact.
  2. Choose 3 holds (2 arms, 1 foot)
  3. "Freeze" and balance your weight with the points of contact.
  4. Time each posture.
  5. For strength training, muscle failure should occur before 10-12 seconds.
  6. Recreate postures that you encounter in your climbing projects.
  7. Work with higher footholds and harder handholds.
  8. Increase the intensity and pressure as you progress.
  9. The key is to maintain a static contraction without momentum or movement.
  10. Repeat each posture 3 times.
--Jason D. Martin

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Burrito: Hypothermia Wrap

Perhaps one of the most common and most dangerous ailments to affect the outdoor traveler is hypothermia.  And though many factors may lead to hypothermia, it is most commonly the result of wet clothing, a cold environment or improper clothing.

Most climbers encounter the onset of mild hypothermia at one point or another during their careers. Many of us have certainly hung at a belay station, shivering, and wondering why we didn't bring that extra jacket. But for most of us, things never get any worse than that.

The Mayo Clinic has an excellent description online of hypothermia and its treatment. As most of us will never encounter hypothermia in a context where a patient could be warmed in a hospital, some of the information on the site does not pertain to us. However the following description of what to look for is incredibly pertinent to the backcountry traveler.

Hypothermia usually occurs gradually. Often, people aren't aware that they need help, much less medical attention.

Common signs to look for are shivering, which is your body's attempt to generate heat through muscle activity, and the "-umbles":

* Stumbles
* Mumbles
* Fumbles
* Grumbles

These behaviors may be a result of changes in consciousness and motor coordination caused by hypothermia. Other hypothermia symptoms may include:

* Slurred speech
* Abnormally slow rate of breathing
* Cold, pale skin
* Fatigue, lethargy or apathy

The severity of hypothermia can vary, depending on how low your core body temperature goes. Severe hypothermia eventually leads to cardiac and respiratory failure, then death.

Severe hypothermia in the field requires immediate attention. Wilderness medicine providers have devised a simple treatment which relies on a variety of materials that most backcountry travelers normally carry. They use these pieces of equipment to create a "themal burrito" or a "hypo-wrap."

Thermal Burrito or Hypo-Wrap
  1. Lay out a tarp on the ground.
  2. Place 1 or 2 pads down on top of the tarp. Two pads are always better than one.
  3. Stack three sleeping bags on top of the pads.
  4. Place the victim inside the sleeping bag in the middle.
  5. Wrap the victim in the tarp.
  6. Provide the victim with hot water bottles. These should be placed under the arms and at the crotch. Additional bottles may be held or placed at the victim's feet.
A Themal Burrito
From the Wilderness Medicine Institute 

This technique is featured in WMI Wilderness First Responder Courses.

Hypothermia is a dangerous and often hidden predator in the backcountry. There is no question that the best way to deal with it is to completely avoid it. The best way to completely avoid it is to pay attention to yourself as well as to those around you. Wear appropriate clothing for your environment and try to keep things dry.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/23/17

Northwest:

--A local northwest mountaineer was recently involved in a serious ski accident. Greg Smith hit a hidden tree beneath the powder at Crystal Mountain and suffered a seriously broken leg. A Go-Fund-Me site has been set-up to help him deal with his economic hardship following the accident. To learn more, click here.

--The Recreation Northwest Expo Event will be this on Saturday at the Ferry Terminal in Bellingham. Seventy outdoor exhibitors will be on site and there will be several demos. Check it out, here.

Leif Whittaker

--AAI guide and company manager Jason Martin will be interviewing Leif Whitaker about his new book, My Old Man and the Mountain on Chuckanut Radio Hour. Leif is the son of Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Mt. Everest. Leif's book chronicles a climb of Mt. Everest, following his father's footsteps. To read more, click here.

--The Tacoma News Tribune ran an article about Leif Whittaker, his new book and his experience "growing up Whittaker." To read the article, click here.

--The American Alpine Club Annual Benefit Dinner will take place in Seattle this weekend. Conrad Anker will be the keynote speaker. To learn more, click here.

Bigfoot Holding a Snowboard on Washington State Route 2

--Apparently there are those in the Washington State Senate that would like to name Bigfoot, Washington State's official cryptid... To read about it, click here.

Sierra:

--The Tahoe Daily Tribune is reporting that, "It's been seven weeks since flames ripped through the Homewood Mountain Resort's South Lodge, and about one month since a small fire occurred at the Henrikson building in Tahoe City, but fire officials still haven't released information on the cause of either one." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--13 Action News is reporting that; "while no evacuations have been issued, there are new risks for avalanche at Mount Charleston. Trails up canyon, remote backcountry and the Rainbow and Echo subdivisions of Kyle Canyon are asked to be aware of the increased risks." To read more, click here.

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

Colorado:

--CBS Denver is reporting that, "a 17-year-old girl is the latest person to die at a Colorado ski resort. The teenager hit her head on a tree on Wednesday afternoon at Winter Park resort." To read more, click here.

--The following video from the Crested Butte Avalanche Center talks about a skier triggered avalanche that took place on Tuesday:


--This one is a bit unusual. The Denver Post is reporting on not just an avalanche, but a moose attack. "Three snowboarders were caught in an avalanche in Maroon Bowl on Monday then two of them had to fight off multiple attacks from a moose after self-rescuing from the slide." To read more, click here.

AAI Guide Zach Lovell on the summit of Hallett Peak in 
Rocky Mountain National Park
Photo by Chris Brinlee Jr.

--Outside Magazine has featured American Alpine Institute programs and AAI Guide Zach Lovell in one of their recent articles. To read the article, click here.

--After numerous problems and many reports that the store would close, the iconic Neptune Mountaineering shop in Boulder will remain open under new ownership. To read more, click here.

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "as citizens, government officials and business owners grapple with the value of public lands, one things holds true: Federal designation of an area as a national park or monument can help the local economy. The two newest national monuments in Colorado are buoying the communities that surround them." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--There was a fatality this week on Maine's Mt. Katahdin. Bangor Daily News is reporting that, "A 68-year-old Holden man died Saturday after falling more than 1,000 feet down the icy surface of the Abol Slide in the park, according to a press release issued Monday." To read more, click here.

--It appears that an ice climber was injured at Lake Michigan this week. To read more, click here

--It's official. Utah's Governor Herbert has put oil, gas and mining on public lands above recreation. The result is that the Outdoor Retailer show will be searching for a new venue as soon as possible. This will cost Utah over $45 million dollars. To read more, click here.

--The Salt Lake Tribune responded to the loss of the Outdoor Retailer with an excellent editorial, "In the same week Utah announced that it had topped $8.17 billion in annual economic benefit from tourism, the $40 million Outdoor Retailer show announced it was leaving. Surely we can take a half-percent hit, right? No. The exit of Outdoor Retailer is so much more than just losing the state's largest convention. There will be hospitality jobs lost, and hotel rooms from Sandy to Ogden vacant for those two weeks a year. We're now building a 900-room downtown convention hotel — with public bonding authority — largely on spec. There is now no convention currently on Salt Lake City's docket that demands it." To read more, click here.

The Daily Camera has a great article about public lands and Congress' attempt to steal it from us: "'Public lands are under attack in a way they haven't been before,' Alex Honnold said to me last weekend. 'There's a realistic threat against 60 percent of our climbing areas. It's time to start paying attention.' Honnold, famous for his free-solo climbing, is an outspoken defender of public land. The 60 percent he refers to is the amount of American climbing — crags and mountains — that's on public land. To be clear, public land is federal land. It's your land." To read more, click here.

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "It’s been a short-lived season for U.S. ice climbing. Only last week Ouray Ice Park announced its closure following unseasonably warm weather, and now the Valdez Ice Climbing Festival in Alaska, which runs every year over Presidents' Day Weekend, has had to follow suit after days of rains and abnormally warm weather resulted in the decline of conditions that would threaten the safety of climbers." To read more, click here.

--Alpinist is reporting that, "the UK-based Grit and Rock Foundation has announced four teams that will receive grant money for climbing expeditions. The award was created last September to 'encourage female participation in pioneering alpine ascents and to further the understanding and exploration of the unclimbed peaks. The award is open to individuals and climbing teams of any nationality with a majority female participation.'" To read more, click here.

--The National Parks Traveler is reporting that, The $11.9 billion maintenance backlog cited by the National Park Service inflates the true cost of high-priority infrastructure needs and elevates the risk for privatization and corporate giveaways in America’s parks, according to a report by an independent, nonpartisan policy institute." To read more, click here.

--Gripped Magazine is reporting that, "the Calgary Climbing Centre (CCC) hosted a groundbreaking ceremony on Wednesday for their new Olympic-calibre climbing gym near the Calgary Olympic Park. The new facility will be a 25,000-square-foot cutting edge place for Canadian climbers to train. The new gym will have World Cup event Lead, Speed and Bouldering walls." To read more, click here.

--Forbes is reporting that Walmart has purchased a mountaineering retailer: "Walmart has purchased Moosejaw for $51 million, a move aimed squarely at besting Amazon in the apparel and sporting goods categories as the battle heats up. Walmart will now have a presence in a category reeling from consolidation and disruption. Moosejaw is largely an online seller of outdoor gear and activewear, with 10 brick-and-mortar locations." To read more, click here.

Uinita Brewing is celebrating the National Parks with a new line of Golden Ale.

--The Men's Journal is reporting that, "Uinta Brewing announced this week that they will be releasing a new Golden Ale dedicated to the National Park system in the U.S. The Salt Lake City–based brewery, which identifies itself as “a brand powered by adventure,” plans to release several iterations of the Golden Ale, each containing packaging honoring one of the nation’s National Parks." To read more, click here.

--The Wyoming Tribune Eagle is reporting that, "the Wyoming Senate advanced a bill Tuesday that supporters say would protect ski resorts from frivolous lawsuits. But opponents say House Bill 32, the Ski Safety Act, will make it harder for skiers and snowboarders to seek legal recourse if they are seriously injured on the slopes." To read more, click here.

--The Burlington Free Press is reporting that, "the news that Vail Resorts plans to buy Stowe Mountain Resort for $50 million was welcomed by Vermont’s ski industry. Insiders saw the move, announced Tuesday, as validation for the state’s ski business by the nation’s biggest and highest profile resort owner and operator...." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

How To Wrap a Cordellete

A few years ago I was guiding a multi-pitch line in Red Rock Canyon. Before we launched off the ground, I showed the climbers that I was working with how to wrap up a cordellete.

Their response?

"Oh, it's a Codyball."

"A what?" I responded.

"A Codyball," one of the climbers said. "When we were in the Gunks, we had a guide named Cody who showed us this technique. We didn't know what to call it, so we started to call it a Codyball."

So Cody, wherever you are...thank-you. For I too have started to call this technique of wrapping up a cordellete a Codyball.

Before launching into how to tie a Codyball, I'd like to point out that there are many ways to stow a cordellete. The two most popular ways are 1) to simply triple up the cordellete and then tie an eight into it and 2) to tie a Codyball.

It is easier, albeit sloppier to simply tie the cordellete into an eight. In addition to this, it is quite long. A long cordellete -- or anything long hanging off your harness -- can be dangerous when you are mountaineering or ice climbing. Things can get stuck in your crampons when you are not paying attention.

A cordellete tied as an eight.

A Codyball is a little bit harder to make. It requires you to spend a bit of time wrapping up the cord and it can also hang down too far if you are not careful. If you're wearing crampons, always be very careful about how far down things hang.

To make a Codyball:

1) Start with the end of the cordellete in your hand.


2) Wrap the cord around your hand until there is only about two feet left.



3) Take your hand out of the wrap and squeeze that section of cord together.


4) Wrap the remaining cord around the squeezed section. Be sure to capture the strand coming out of the squeezed section so that it all doesn't come unraveled.


5) Once there is almost no additional cord left, take the remaining line and push it through the eye of the Codyball.

A finished Codyball.

6) When the Codyball is finished, you may clip it to your harness. If it hangs down too much, simply add a couple more twists with the cord around the ball until the tail is at the desired length.

Codyballs provide a great way to stow your cordellete, but like everything else in this blog, they take some practice. When you're sitting around watching movies on your laptop, keep a cordellete in your hand. It will probably only take one or two viewings of The Eiger Sanction before you'll have it completely dialed.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, February 20, 2017

Route Finding: Magnetic Declination

Your compass is pointing in the wrong direction. You know it's not north. Indeed, it's nowhere near north.

So what's up? Is it broken? Defective? What?

The problem is that it's not pointing at "true north." Instead, it's pointing at "magnetic north." Most people don't realize that there are two North Poles, the real one and the fake one, the true one and the magnetic one.

The Compass Dude puts it a bit more succinctly:

Why are there two different poles? Good question!

The magnetic north and south poles are the ends of the magnetic field around the earth. The magnetic field is created by magnetic elements in the earth's fluid outer core and this molten rock does not align perfectly with the axis around which the earth spins.

There are actually many different sources of magnetic activity around and in the world. All those influencing factors combine to create the north and south attractions at each spot on the globe. The actual strength and direction of 'north' is slightly different everywhere, but it is generally towards the 'top' of the planet.

The difference between true north and magnetic north is referred to as the declination. If you are not aware of the declination in a given area, then you may not be able to locate true north.
Example of magnetic declination showing a compass needle
with a "positive" (or "easterly") variation from geographic north.
From Wikipedia

Modern compasses are designed in such a way that the declination may be set. If you adjust the compass properly allowing the arrow to line up, then you will get a reading which shows both where true north is as well as magnetic north.

Most compasses require one to set the red compass point a given number of degrees off of true north. Usually there is a screw on the back of the compass that will allow you to set the declination. Two lines, often referred to as "the shed," will shift the appropriate distance off of true north. Once this is set, you will be able to shift the compass to the point where the needle is in the center of the shed. The printed "N" will then point toward true north.

Unfortunately, the declination is not always the same from one area to another. Every place on the planet has its own local irregularities and due to the fact that magnetic north isn't actually at the top of the globe, there are other variables that need to be taken into account before setting the declination. Following is a short explanation from Wikipedia on the variables:

Magnetic declination varies both from place to place, and with the passage of time. As a traveller cruises the east coast of the United States, for example, the declination varies from 20 degrees west (in Maine) to zero (in Florida), to 10 degrees east (in Texas), meaning a compass adjusted at the beginning of the journey would have a true north error of over 30 degrees if not adjusted for the changing declination.

In most areas, the spatial variation reflects the irregularities of the flows deep in the earth; in some areas, deposits of iron ore ormagnetite in the Earth's crust may contribute strongly to the declination. Similarly, secular changes to these flows result in slow changes to the field strength and direction at the same point on the Earth.

The magnetic declination in a given area will change slowly over time, possibly as much as 2-2.5 degrees every hundred years or so, depending upon how far from the magnetic poles it is. This may be insignificant to most travellers, but can be important if using magnetic bearings from old charts or metes (directions) in old deeds for locating places with any precision.

There are many ways to determine the declination. The first and most common way is to simply get it off of a USGS topo map. Unfortunately many maps are out-of-date and the declination may have changed. You may also get your declination from the web at the NOAA website, here.

Following is a short video which reviews many of the key points in this article:



To learn more about compasses and declination, the Compass Dude has a great site with a lot of valuable information.

Knowing how to use your compass well will help to keep you from getting lost... And staying found makes every trip a lot more fun!

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, February 17, 2017

Save Red Rock!


The American Alpine Institute just received the following email from Save Red Rock:
Dear Friends,

THIS IS URGENT: The time to take action is NOW!
Save Red Rock is fighting to keep Red Rock rural and the critical vote is upon us. Clark County Commissioners will have a public hearing onWednesday, February 22nd at 9:00am and we need you there to tell them to VOTE NO! If Commissioners change the developer’s rural zoned property to allow high density, he proposes to build a city of over 14,000 residents, businesses, and commercial institutions on the mountain just south of the Red Rock Canyon visitor's center.

KEEP RED ROCK RURAL! MAKE YOUR VOICE HEARD!

Clark County Commissioner Hearing
Wednesday, February 22, 2017, 9:00a.m.
500 S. Grand Central Parkway
Las Vegas, NV 89155

Show up and wear red or we will have Save Red Rock t-shirts available. Please take action now because we cannot win this without you.
FB EVENT
WHAT ELSE CAN I DO?

Join the Movement: 
Share the Email
Follow us on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram
Join the #12daysofredrock challenge
Tell 5 neighbors/friends to sign the petition to KEEP RED ROCK RURAL.

Call Commissioners:
702-455-3500


Email Commissioners:

ccdista@ClarkCountyNV.gov
ccdistb@ClarkCountyNV.gov
ccdistc@Clark CountyNV.gov
ccdistd@ClarkCountyNV.gov
ccdiste@ClarkCountyNV.gov
ccdistf@ClarkCountyNV.gov
ccdistg@ClarkCountyNV.gov

Tag Commissioners (Twitter):
Commissioner Chis Giunchigliani: @Giunchigliani 
Commissioner Steve Sisolak: @SteveSisolak 
Commissioner Susan Brager: @SusanBrager  
Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick: @MKNVspeaks 
Commissioner MaryBeth Scow: @MaryBethScow 
Commissioner Larry Brown: @larrybrown and @LB4NV
Commissioner Lawrence Weekly: @LawrenceWeekly
Thank You!
for everything you're doing for Red Rock and for putting up with the information overload in the last few days leading up to the meeting as we try to get the word out to all the people who love Red Rock Canyon.  The support has been overwhelming and encouraging. You're the best group of people EVER! Here we go! For the canyon. For our future.

Goofy Goes Rock Climbing

Every now and again, a cartoon character engages in some type of climbing. Here's a funny little piece about Goofy, about Wild Country Friends, quick draws, face climbing and all sorts of shenanigans.



--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/16/17

Northwest:

--ABC 6 is reporting that, "a Wyoming man has died after being buried by an eastern Idaho avalanche. According to the Bonneville County Sheriff’s Office, at about 11:40 a.m., Thursday, BCSO deputies along with Lincoln County Wyoming Search and Rescue, and a crew from Air Idaho Rescue responded to a report of an injured man caught in an avalanche while riding his snowmobile." To read more, click here.

Leif Whittaker

--AAI guide and company manager Jason Martin will be interviewing Leif Whitaker about his new book, My Old Man and the Mountain on Chuckanut Radio Hour. Leif is the son of Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Mt. Everest. Leif's book chronicles a climb of Mt. Everest, following his father's footsteps. To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--There has been a major rockfall event on the Whitney Portal Road. To read more, click here.

--Lake Tahoe News is reporting that, "Highway 50 in the Kyburz area will remain closed indefinitely due to multiple mudslides. This means the main route between the South Shore and Placerville is off limits at least as a thoroughfare. It is possible to access some points along the route from each direction. For example, Sierra-at-Tahoe is open. Crews are working on three significant slides in a 12-mile area along the American River Canyon, along with other minor slides." To read more, click here.

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.

Colorado:

--CBS News is reporting that, "Three backcountry skiers were caught in an avalanche in Colorado’s Garfield County on Tuesday afternoon, CBS Denver reports. One did not survive and one skier escaped and was able to get help. A search for a third skier continues." To read more, click here.

--The Aspen Times is reporting that, "Colorado experienced its fourth skier fatality of the 2016-17 season when 26-year-old Ricardo Cohen died at Breckenridge Ski Resort on Friday, Feb. 10." To read more, click here.

--News Channel 13 is reporting that, "A climber at Garden of the Gods who fell 15 feet had to be rescued on Sunday afternoon.Rescue crews told KRDO NewsChannel 13 that when they arrived, the climber was wedged in between a rock, which he had stopped his fall." To read more, click here.

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "As the outdoor industry leans on Utah, promising to yank the lucrative Outdoor Retailer trade shows out of Salt Lake City if the state’s leaders don’t abandon what industry captains call an “attack on the sanctity of public lands,” Denver is ramping up efforts to establish Colorado as the nation’s public-lands-loving epicenter for all things outdoors." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A 46-year old woman was killed after a collision with a snowboarder at Mohawk Mountain in Connecticut. To read about the fatality, click here.
--Matthew Horner, and ice guide on the East Coast, was seriously injured in a fall on February 8th. A Go Fund Me site has been set-up to help with his recovery. To read more and to donate, click here.

--The Times Union is reporting that, "A 58-year-old expert skier was killed after striking several trees on a double black diamond trail on Hunter Mountain Ski Center Wednesday morning, State Police at Catskill said." Hunter Mountain is in New York State. To read more, click here.

--Snow Brains is reporting that, "a 60-year-old German tourist died in a tree well incident in Alberta Canyon while heli-skiing near Revelstoke, B.C. on Friday. The incident happened on the last run of the day yesterday at 2:30pm. When the heli-skiing group got to the bottom of the run, one man was missing. Canadian police report that the guides were able to quickly locate the man who was found face down in a tree well." To read more, click here.

--A snowboarder was killed after ducking the ropes at Killington in Vermont. It appears that he collided with a tree. To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund is reporting that, "New Hampshire climbers and conservation groups are organizing to oppose the construction of a proposed 25,000 square foot hotel in the fragile alpine zone of Mount Washington in the White Mountains of New Hampshire." To read more, click here.

--The Men's Journal is reporting that, "Congress is racing to nullify an Obama-era order (the Bureau of Land Management's "Planning 2.0 rule") that gave hikers, bikers, hunters, fishers, and other outdoor recreation fans an equal voice with drillers, ranchers, loggers, and other industries in how the government manages over 250 million acres of federal lands. The House and Senate are getting rid of the rule under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which allows members of Congress to vote on "resolutions of disapproval" during the initial 60 days after an agency publishes the new rule. Striking it this way also allows Congress to do it without public input, and it forbids the agency from revisiting or improving the rule in the future. Since the beginning of the year, the GOP majority in Congress has used the CRA to eradicate Obama administration rules barring the dumping of coal waste into streams, sales of guns to people with mental health disorders, methane leaks and flaring by oil and gas drilling operations on public lands, and payments to either the U.S. or foreign governments for the rights to extract oil, natural gas, or minerals." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

A Film for Aging Skiers...

I was just lamenting the fact that I barely ever ski hard these days. I spend a lot of time skiing with my kids inbounds and not as much in the backcountry getting after it. It is with those thoughts that I offer you this very funny ski video...



--Jason D. Martin

Monday, February 13, 2017

Major Rockfall on Whitney Portal Road: Spring Reopening May be Delayed

The US Forest Service has issued a press release concerning access to Mt. Whitney in the Sierra-Nevada mountains:

Substantial snowfall from an atmospheric river event in mid-January has led to a major rock fall on Whitney Portal Road, causing significant damage to an approximately 100-foot stretch of road. This damage may delay the re-opening of the road this spring.

Initial assessments by Inyo County, Cal Trans, and Inyo National Forest indicate that there will be approximately two months of work that include blasting and clearing the rock, and stabilizing and re-building the road bed. Road construction will not begin until after the permitting process is complete.

The road is currently gated just above Hogback Road on Whitney Portal Road to prevent vehicle entrance; however, foot traffic past the gate is not recommended due to the hazardous and potentially unstable conditions surrounding the rock fall.

For now, the area remains under snow and there is no clear estimate of when the removal operations will begin. Continued winter storms as well as the concerns for the stability of the slide area during the spring freeze/thaw cycle make it difficult to predict when this work can safely begin.

The Whitney Portal Road often opens by May 1st, conditions permitting, and that is also the beginning of the Mt. Whitney Lottery for day and overnight hikes. Every effort will be made by all parties involved to have the road open by this date.

While the road is under construction, access to Mt. Whitney is via the Whitney Portal National Recreation Trail (NRT) or from other trailheads such as Kearsarge Pass or Cottonwood Pass. The NRT will close for public safety when blasting is underway.

This winter has brought substantial snow to the Sierra Nevada. Snow should be expected along the trail through early summer and hikers will be required to have technical skill and equipment to access Mt. Whitney in the early season.

Thank you for your patience.

Pro Tip: How to Eat Your Climbing Partner if You're Starving

Backpacker Magazine did a poll recently. They asked their readers if they would be willing to eat their partners in the event of an emergency. A large percentage of those who responded said, yes! Yes! Of course I would eat my partner!!!

So what did Backpacker magazine do about it? What any responsible outdoor magazine would do. They put together a somewhat perverse video on how to eat your partner.

And what did we do about that...? What any responsible guide service blog would do. We reposted the video below for your -- clearly -- perverse viewing pleasure...



I do think it is important to note that the meat in a mountain guide's body is much worse than any other meat...anywhere.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, February 10, 2017

Ice Climbing: Top Managed Anchors

The American Mountain Guides Association has been working together with Petzl and Outdoor Research to provide instructional videos. In this offering, AMGA Instructor Team Member Patrick Ormond demonstrates two systems that are widely used in top-managed ice climbing...


--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/9/17

Desert Southwest:

--Alpinist is tracking the situation with the new administration and Bear's Ears National Monument. Several things have happened in the last few weeks and they're keeping a running tally. To read the article, click here.


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

Notes from All Over:

--CNN is reporting that, "at least 132 people have died along the Afghan-Pakistani border after three days of heavy snowfall caused a series of deadly avalanches Sunday. The death toll is expected to rise as rescuers reach isolated regions where it's feared more people are trapped beneath the snow. Most of the casualties occurred in Afghanistan, where at least 119 have been killed and 67 are reported injured, said Omar Mohammadi, a spokesman for the National Disaster Management Authority." To read more, click here.

--The New Hampshire Union Leader is reporting that, "About two dozen people, including 14 good Samaritan climbers, helped rescue an Amherst climber who fell 50 to 60 feet on the Black Dike ice climbing route on Cannon Cliff on Saturday, authorities said Sunday." To read more, click here.

--NBC Montana is reporting that, "Two snowmobilers are OK after being caught and buried in an avalanche over the weekend in Flathead County, according to the Flathead Avalanche Center." To read more, click here.

--In other Montana avalanche news, trains were held up by avalanches that damaged the tracks. To read more, click here.

--Witnesses observed a moose as it got swept away by an avalanche in Alaska last week...

--Is the use of prescription drugs in high-altitude mountaineering cheating? The Gear Patrol has an interesting article about this topic. To read it, click here.

--And finally, we don't talk about volcanology that much in our blog unless a volcano is actively creating a problem for climbers or adventure travelers, but then I saw the following animated video which chronicles the destruction of Pompeii. The eight-minute video (I know it's long, but worth it!) operates like a camera hung in the city, watching as the the ancient destruction unfolds:

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Film Review: Avalanche Sharks

So. Yeah.

Avalanche Sharks...

I really really really hoped that this B-film would be one of those B-films that relish in their Beeness. You know, a hokey horror film that is self-aware, like Sharknado or Zombeavers or Eight Legged Freaks. These are movies that are total trash. But you know what? They know their total trash and they relish in it... And as a result, you can relish in it too. A guy slicing a giant flying shark in half with a chainsaw...? If it's done right, it can be awesome and funny and fun. But if it's done wrong, it's just dumb.


Avalanche Sharks is a film that doesn't know it's dumb. And boy o' boy is it dumb...

Here's the write-up on the film from Wikipedia:

After a snowboarder inadvertently starts a major avalanche, the moving snowfield uncovers and wakes prehistoric "snow sharks" which had been trapped beneath. The sharks develop an appetite for human flesh and the staff at the Mammoth Ski Resort begins to get reports of missing people and strange finned creatures moving under the snow. Fearing financial loss on what is their busiest event day of the year, the Bikini Snow Day, the resort's management tries to hide news of the missing skiers and sightings of strange creatures. Disaster strikes as the bikini-clad snow bunnies one-by-one become meals for the shark. The local sheriff allies with snowboarders to track down the monster.

Okay. Where to start...? I don't think I can begin with what a stupid idea this is. You guys already know that. You're probably aware that it would be really difficult for sharks to travel through the anemic snowpack that exists in the eastern Sierra where the film is supposed to take place. You probably know that -- even if the sharks could travel through snow -- it would need to be a light and fluffy snowpack, not the hard-packed ice found in a ski area that makes its own snow. And you're probably aware that sharks don't have a preference for bikini clad snow bunnies over stinky snowboarder dudes...

Here's the thing. This movie is so poorly paced, I could leave the room get something to eat and then come back and sit down before a character finishes explaining a strange occurrence that we just witnessed. The film is full of exposition that doesn't move (and I use this word lightly) plot forward.


Every female character is an over-sexualized prop. They're often giggling and drunk and half-naked, apparently waiting for a shark to come and bite them in half. Male characters are not much better. The over-sexualized relationships between the characters are so severe that they are forced to define their relationships to one another within one sentence. There are two options here, "I'm so glad I have you as a cousin...!" Or, "come on soldier boy, it's time for your duty. Get your military ass over here and take care of me!"

Somewhere, someone thought that second line was good. They thought, "hey, I can use this line to sexualize this character and I can provide exposition that the guy was in the military." Ironically, the same writer seemed to feel that we didn't get it from that line. So he preceded to have the military character tell us he was in the marines several dozen times in case we forgot.

The acting in this film is atrocious. Imagine the worst high school production of Music Man that you can imagine. None of the kids know their lines. They're coming on stage too soon and leaving too early. They're so nervous that they can't stop pacing and they're talking like robots. They all have the flu and keep throwing up... And maybe somebody trips over somebody else on stage and knocks down half the set. But the show must go on, so the kids keep talking like robots and forgetting lines and tripping over each other and throwing up on the audience...

Nobody in Avalanche Sharks is that good. Watching the full production of Music Man I just described would be like sitting on a beautiful beach with a margarita compared to watching any of the acting in Avalanche Sharks.

This is a terribly written and terribly directed film. According to the credits, Quaid Brinker adapted the screenplay from a story by Keith Shaw. Brinker also directed the film. Shaw can be found on IMDB, but Brinker is nowhere to be seen. I suspect that whomever directed the film -- and it's quite possible that it was Shaw -- knew it was so bad that he made up a director so it wouldn't hurt his career...

I have to admit. I turned it off. I couldn't get to the end. I got about an hour into it and realized I still had twenty minutes to go. That's when I realized that I could be doing anything other than watching that film. Anything...

My suggestion? Don't even turn it on to begin with...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, February 6, 2017

Institutional Anchors: The Backside System

Institutional anchors are designed with instruction in mind. These systems are commonly built to accomodate large groups of topropers and rappellers. They are seldom used by recreational parties, but are put to regular use by instructors and guides in both volunteer and professional settings.

One of the main ideas behind an institutional anchor is that it will be able to accomodate both a top-managed and a bottom-managed system from a single anchor. In other words, an instructor could facilitate belayed rappels and then transition easily to a toprope.

The following is an outline to the Backside System. This outline does not draw a complete picture of how it works, but will give you an idea. The components that I'm skipping in today's blog are those that help one facilitate a transition from top to bottom-managed or vice-versa. The best resource for a complete description of this system is in Rock Climbing: The AMGA Single Pitch Manual by Bob Gaines and Jason D. Martin (yeah, that's me!).

At its core, the Backside System is a classic "Joshua Tree" V system built with a static rope. Each leg of the rope goes to an anchor. These anchors can be different anchors or the same anchor depending on the anchor's quality. The system has two separate master points. There is a top-managed master point and a bottom-managed master point.

Though an imperfect set-up, this picture provides an idea of how
each master point should be situated at the top of a cliff. Ideally the
lower point will hang over the lip of the cliff.

In order to create a backside system, select two anchor points for each leg of the rope. Bring the center of the rope down into a V. As you build the V, you will need to estimate the rope length, so that there is enough for the bottom managed master point to hang over the edge.

Once you've completed the estimation, you will have to make a second estimate. Determine where  you'd like to stand. Once you've decided where you want to be, tie a BHK in the rope with the top-managed master point slightly above your stance.


Drape the rest of the rope down over the edge and then pull it back up. Tie a second BHK in the end of the rope. This second point will be used for a toprope set-up.

The BHK at the top of the system will be used to facilitate top-manged climbing and rappelling. The BHK at the bottom will be used to facilitate toproped climbing.

The preceding is a very simple sketch of a complex system. However, if you play with this a bit, you may find it to be a very useful system for facilitating large group climbing days...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, February 3, 2017

Knots for Rappelling

There are two key knots for rappelling. The first is the overhand flat bend and the second is the barrel knot (sometimes referred to as the strangle knot). In the following video Climbing magazine's Jullie Ellison demonstrates these two important knots...



The overhand flat bend (also known as the Euro Death Knot) is the go to knot for tying two ropes together for rappelling. The primary reason we use this over another knot is because of the way it rides over the terrain when you pull the rope. The knot exists on one side of tied ropes which makes it less likely to get caught when you pull the ropes...

As Julie notes, some people are concerned that the overhand flat bend will roll over on itself and roll off the end of the ropes. In the video, she shows to tie the knot pretty far from the ends of the rope. This length makes it impossible for the knot to roll. There are a couple of other things you can do to keep the knot from rolling as well...

 In this first photo, I tied an extra overhand around both strands. 
This would decrease the liklihood of rolling.

In this second photo, I tied two overhand flat bends and seated themselves together.
This is my preferred style and I tie my cordelletes into loops with this as well as my ropes.

Some people think that if they tie two ropes together with a flat figure-eight that it will be stronger. Ironically, this is incredibly weak and can roll with as little as 2kN of force (under 500lbs). There have been fatalities from using the flat figure-eight to tie two ropes together.

Julie goes on to talk about tying barrel knots in the end of the rope. She recommends triple barrel knots, but a double is fine, as long as it is pulled tight. A loosly tied double barrel knot can become untied.

A double barrel knot.

Historically climbers and guides didn't tie knots in the ends of their ropes. They were afraid that the ropes would get caught below. That is changing. There have been way too many accidents because there were no knots in the ropes. If you're worried that the ends will get caught below, simple tie an overhand or an eight in the end of the rope and clip it to your harness during the rappel...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, February 2, 2017

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

Northwest:

--It appears that a 55-year old skier died at Stevens Pass Ski Resort last week. It's not currently clear if it was due to trauma or a medical reason. To read more, click here.

--A very cool new alpine ice line went up on Mt. Hood this week. The Pencil is a thin WI 3 line at the on the Elliot Glacier. To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--There is a bit more information about the death of a Squaw Valley Ski Patroler death last week. It appears that an avalanche charge detonated prematurely. To read more, click here.

--Two people were injured by an avalanche on Mt. Baldy this week. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Desert Trail is reporting on an accident in Joshua Tree National Park. "A Burbank man was airlifted out of the park Sunday, Jan. 29, after taking a 30-foot fall. Colin Campbell, 26, was rock climbing in the Jumbo Rocks at about 11 a.m. area when he fellow about 30 feet to the ground. He was flown to Desert Regional Medical Center in Palm Springs for treatment." To read more, click here.


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

Colorado:

--Teluride Helitrax, a Colorado heli-ski operation, set off a charge on Ajax Peak above Telluride and... Well, there was an avalanche. A big one. Check it out below:


Notes from All Over:

--A snowmobile rider was killed in an avalanche near Cooper Landing, Alaska this weekend. To read more, click here.

--It appears that there was an accident on Katterskill Falls in New York State, but information is still scarce. To read more, click here.

--A massive avalanche washed over Polar Circus, a classic WI 5 near Banff. The avalanche washed over two climbers who survived the event. A photo of the avalanche narrowly missing the leader is currently on the Gripped website. To read about this event, click here.

--The Men's Journal is reporting that, "Widespread hiring freezes hit most federal agencies on Monday (excepting the military). The stated goal of the order is to "reduce the size of the Federal Government's workforce through attrition." In other words? It may be here to stay. For the Department of Interior, which oversees most public lands, this likely means there will be no new employees to aid in the $12.5 billion maintenance backlog that Ryan Zinke said he'd make a priority when he took control. And while National Parks have never been more popular (with some 300 million visitors in 2015), resources allocated for conservation and land management are at record lows — meaning the new hiring freeze could have the unintended consequences when it comes to camping and hiking, mountain-biking, and paddling on public lands. Even hunting and fishing may be affected." To read more, click here.

--In the ongoing kerfuffle over the crowd size at Donald Trump's inauguration, the Washington Post reported that, "On the morning after Donald Trump’s inauguration, acting National Park Service director Michael T. Reynolds received an extraordinary summons: The new president wanted to talk to him. In a Saturday phone call, Trump personally ordered Reynolds to produce additional photographs of the previous day’s crowds on the Mall, according to three individuals who have knowledge of the conversation. The president believed that the photos might prove that the media had lied in reporting that attendance had been no better than average. Trump also expressed anger over a retweet sent from the agency’s account, in which side-by-side photographs showed far fewer people at his swearing-in than had shown up to see Barack Obama’s inauguration in 2009." To read more, click here.

--After gag orders were placed on the NPS, Timothy Egan from the New York Times wrote, "Heroes in uniform? No, not by normal standards in normal times. Informing people is what park rangers do. Anyone who has ever listened to a narrative of what happened on the bloodiest single day in American history at Antietam National Battlefield, or heard an explanation for the geysers at Yellowstone, can appreciate the professional knowledge. But in the Trump era, snippets of useful information from dedicated public employees are more like the signals that a survivor’s beacon sends out after being buried by an avalanche. In this case, the beeps represent science, history, facts. Trump is delusional in his obsession with his numbers, with his size. He has to be the biggest, the greatest, the best — all facts to the contrary. Everything he touches is phenomenal, and his opponents are garbage. But does a pathological liar really want to pick a fight with the caretakers of America’s Best Idea?" To read the whole article, click here.

--In more political NPS news the House has moved to make it easier to drill for oil and gas in the National Parks. To read more, click here.

--And the hits just keep on coming. The Guardian is reporting on the Republican effort to sell off public land. "The new piece of legislation would direct the interior secretary to immediately sell off an area of public land the size of Connecticut. In a press release for House Bill 621, Chaffetz, a Tea Party Republican, claimed that the 3.3m acres of national land, maintained by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), served “no purpose for taxpayers”. But many in the 10 states that would lose federal land in the bill disagree, and public land rallies in opposition are bringing together environmentalists and sportsmen across the west."

--UPDATE: In late breaking news, the Wilderness Society is reporting that, "Rep. Jason Chaffetz announced in a post on Instagram that he is withdrawing the land selloff bill. The news follows many comments and calls to Congress from our supporters and other conservationists." To read more, click here.

--The Louisiana Record is reporting that, "A customer is suing operators of a rock climbing wall, alleging their negligence led to the plaintiff suffering injuries in a fall. Rachel Scherer filed a lawsuit Jan.18 against the New Orleans Boulder Lounge, LLC, Eli Klarman and K&K Insurance Company in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, alleging negligence. According to the complaint, on Sept. 26, 2016, Scherer fell 10 feet from the wall to the ground, resulting in a compound fracture of her left humerus. She was required to undergo multiple surgeries, the suit says." To read more, click here.

--Alpinist is reporting that, "The Indian Mountaineering Foundation recently announced that it is offering reduced permit fees for 81 select mountains in the Indian Himalaya. The "promotional scheme" is for this year only." To read more, click here.

An elusive photo of Bigfoot at SeaTac International Airport.

--Apparently the big debate about Bigfoot is whether to kill one or not. And apparently there's a TV show where they hilariously debate this. Check it out, here.