Friday, September 21, 2018

A Celebration of Women in the Outdoors - Where the Wild Things Play

Outdoor Research -- the clothing manufacturer -- has done a great job with inclusion in their recent promotions. It started with their awesome takedown of GQ and its sexist photo shoot that only showed women watching. In ORs response it turned the sexism on its head by showing the men watching the women. And the result is both poignant and funny.

Now, they have produced a great film entitled Where the Wild Things Play, about women in adventure sports playing in the outdoors. Check it out below:



--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Film Review: Devil's Pass

Sigh... Most movies that have climbing and mountaineering in them are bad. Some are mediocre and a very small percentage of them are good.

Devil's Pass, one of those easily found Netflix films, is also one of those mediocre films. You don't feel like you wasted your time unless you had something better to do. If you have something better to do, then you should probably do it. But if not, then maybe Devil's Pass might be a good way to burn ninety-minutes.

What's up with these kinds of posters? I get it that Hollywood 
believes that sex sells. But a woman freezing in the snow
isn't what most people would think of as sexy...

Devil's Pass tells the story of a group of American college students who set out to investigate the Dyatlov Pass incident. If you're not familiar with the incident, here's a short paragraph about it from Wikipedia:

The incident involved a group of ten from Ural Polytechnical Institute who had set up camp for the night on the slopes of Kholat Syakhl. Investigators later determined that the skiers had torn their tents from the inside out. They fled the campsite, some of them barefoot, under heavy snowfall. Although the bodies showed no signs of struggle, such as contusions, two victims had fractured skulls and broken ribs. Soviet authorities determined that an "unknown compelling force" had caused the deaths; access to the region was consequently blocked for hikers and adventurers for three years after the incident. Due to the lack of survivors, the chronology of events remains uncertain, although several explanations have been put forward, including a possible avalanche, a military accident, or a hostile encounter with a yeti or other unknown creature.

This true life incident is one of those Twilight Zone/X-Files type things that occasionally appears in mountaineering literature. It's a great premise for a science fiction/horror film. But then they decided to hire Renny Harlin to direct the film.

Harlin is one of those directors that tends to work on half-assed genre films. He's responsible for such luminary works as Die Hard 2: Die Harder and the Andrew Dice Clay vehicle, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane. But most climbers will remember his signature outdoor film accomplishment: Cliffhanger.

So without going any further, you pretty much know that there are going to be problems with the film.

The story is primarily done as a found footage piece, with Holly King (Holly Goss), a young student leader who wishes to make a documentary on the Dyatlov Pass incident. And of course, to do so, she needs to put together a team to make a trip to the pass. The team includes a filmmaker (Matt Stokoe), a sound woman (Gemma Atkinson) and two guides (Ryan Hawley and Luke Albright).



The problems start early in the story. For example, when you choose a guide, he probably shouldn't be under 25 and tell everyone that "I've pretty much climbed every mountain that matters in the US and want to go other places." Sure, he might be experienced. But he's not Fred Beckey. That arrogance alone means that you're liklihood of survival is going to be low. Add monsters, and there's no way you're going to make it back.

Shortly after that, we find out that the "guide" also hooks up with one of his clients on every trip. He calls them "trail hookups" and videotapes them.

There's also a sequence where we find out that the Russian military doesn't want them there, even after issuing them a permit. And decides that the best way to get rid of them is not to tell them to leave, but to set-off an avalanche with explosives. If the "guides" knew anything, then that military tactic would not have worked out because the team wouldn't have been in an avalanche path...

For some reason they build campfires at every camp, even though their way up in the alpine with no trees or wood anywhere nearby. I wonder if the guides made the rest of the expedition carry logs up there? But they keep going...

The guides compasses and GPS units go crazy and they keep going...

Did I mention that they find a human tongue? Yeah... They do. And for some reason they keep on going.

The guides are really really bad. And the motivations for all of them to stay on the mountain are really really bad. It doesn't make much sense.

But it was a Renny Harlin movie. They don't tend to make much sense. The best he'll ever do is...medicore...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 17, 2018

Leave No Trace: Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces

The second principle of Leave No Trace is, "travel and camp on durable surfaces."


At the conceptual level, the idea is that travel over a weak surface does damage. And indeed, camping on a weak surface, or clearing an area for a camp, may create lasting damage...



To most seasoned backcountry travelers this principle seems obvious. They've seen the impacts and they understand. Walk on the trails. Don't cut switchbacks. And don't make new campsites when there are pre-impacted areas available. But this isn't always as obvious as it might seem.

For example, the desert can be fragile. Cryptobiotic soil -- a biological soil crust -- can take up top fifty-years to repair itself. Alpine heather is also fragile, but takes far less time to regenerate. So, while the two surfaces are fragile and appear similar, the strategy for traveling across them is different.

It makes sense to travel in a single file line in the desert so as to reduce impact on biologic soils. Spreading out might have more impact. While on alpine heather, it makes more sense to spread out. It will have less impact. One person stepping on heather won't damage it, while several people stepping on it in a line might kill it...

There are some specific things to think about on this topic when it comes to rock climbing:
  • It should be obvious, but you should never climb on petroglyphs or on other archeological artifacts.
  • Avoid the destruction of plants at the base of boulder problems by crushing them with your crash pad.
  • Don't deface the rock with graffiti.
  • Think about the impacts of approach trails before developing new routes.
  • Flake ropes and sort gear on durable surfaces.
  • Use existing anchors when possible
  • In the alpine, try to urinate on rocks. This will keep goats from tearing up the ground for the salt in your urine.
Following is a short quiz/tutorial from the Center for Outdoor Ethics and Leave No Trace on what constitutes a durable surface.



As outdoors people it's easy for us to take this material for granted. But we shouldn't. Leave No Trace is a philosophy that we need to live by in order to keep our public lands both public and wild...

--Jason D. Martin


Friday, September 14, 2018

Snake Bites: First Aid and Prevention

As most of the programs we run in the Southwest are in the desert, we are often asked about venomous snakes. Are there snakes in Red Rock? Are there snakes in Joshua Tree? Are they dangerous?

The answer to all three questions is yes...and no. There are rattlesnakes in both Red Rock and Joshua Tree, but they are uncommon in both venues. Large populations of predatory birds help keep the snake populations low. It is unlikely that you will encounter a snake in either location. And even if you do, the likelihood of a problem with a snake is very low.

Many rattlesnakes blend in with their surroundings.

Statistically the mostly likely group of individuals to be bitten by a snake are between the ages of 15 and 25 years-old and are male. Most of these bites take place on the hands or forearms. I couldn't find any statistics about the involvement of alcohol in snake bites.

Based on my last sentence, what do you suppose such statistics suggest?

Yep, you guessed it. They're messing with them.

Millions of people live, work and play in the same places where snakes live, work and play. In the continental United States less than 8,000 people are bitten by snakes every year and as stated above, a large percentage of them are literally asking for it.

In the unlikely event that somebody in your party does receive a snakebite, don't panic and try to keep the victim calm. Many snakebites happen because the snake is defending itself. When a snake bites out of defense it is less likely to envenomate. So there is the possibility that there is no venom in the bite. So there may be nothing to panic about.

If there is venom in the bite, panicking will only raise one's heart-rate and allow the venom to move more quickly through the system. It is incredibly important to keep the victim calm. Remove any jewelry or rings from any extremity that has been bitten. If there is venom in the bite, there will be significant swelling -- so much that a ring could become stuck, cutting off blood flow and ultimately causing the loss of a finger.

In the old movies, John Wayne loved to cut open a snakebite to suck out the venom. John Wayne was apparently unaware of hepatitis, HIV, cytomegalovirus or any of a number of other blood-borne dangers. Doctors and nurses don't wear latex gloves for nothing. Sucking venom out of a wound flies in the face of a basic tenant of first aid, body substance isolation.

Obviously if someone is bitten by a snake, call for emergency assistance immediately. Responding quickly is crucial. While waiting for emergency assistance:
  • Wash the bite with soap and water.
  • Immobilize the bitten area and keep it lower than the heart.
  • Cover the area with a clean, cool compress or a moist dressing to minimize swelling and discomfort.
  • Monitor vital signs.
If a victim is unable to reach medical care within 30 minutes, the American Red Cross recommends:
  • Apply a bandage, wrapped two to four inches above the bite, to help slow the venom. This should not cut off the flow of blood from a vein or artery - the band should be loose enough to slip a finger under it.
  • It is possible to place a suction deviceover the bite to help draw venom out of the wound without making cuts. These devices are often included in commercial snake bite kits. However, the value of these devices is debatable.
Physicians often use antivenin -- an antidote to snake venom -- to treat serious snake bites. Antivenin is derived from antibodies created in a sheep's blood serum when the animal is injected with snake venom. Because antivenin is obtained from horses, snake bite victims sensitive to horse products must be carefully managed.

The best way to avoid a snakebite is to avoid a snake. If you see one, don't mess with it. Both you and the snake will be much happier in the long-run.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/13/18

Northwest:

--KATU 2 is reporting that, "The Gresham woman who was missing for nearly two weeks was likely killed by a cougar, officials said Tuesday, marking the first time in Oregon history that a human was attacked by one of the animals in the wild. The Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office confirmed earlier in the day that Diana Bober, 55, was the woman found deceased Monday along the Hunchback Trail in the Mt. Hood National Forest." To read more, click here.

--They began to move mountain goats from the Olympics to the Cascades this week. The goats are not native to the Olympic mountains and have caused some environmental degradation. To read more, click here.



--The Lift Blog and many others are reporting on the sale of a Washington ski resort: "Washington State’s largest ski resort will soon join the Alterra Mountain Company family of resorts.  The big news comes just a year and a half after John Kircher bought out the mountain from his family’s company, Boyne Resorts, which has owned Crystal since 1997.  The resort operates one of the most modern lift fleets in the country in the shadow of Mt. Rainier, less than two hours from Seattle.  Upon closing, Crystal Mountain Resort will join the Ikon Pass, giving Evergreen State passholders access to the two largest ski resorts in the region.  Boyne’s Summit at Snoqualmie signed on just last week offering 5-7 days and access at Crystal will be unlimited with no blackout dates on both the full Ikon and Ikon Base passes." To read more, click here.

--A whole rack of gear was stolen in Bellingham this week. To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--There was apparently a large rockfall event on the approach to the Snake Dike route in Yosemite. It is possible that this is still an active rockfall area. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--It appears that there was a fatality at Tahquitz last week. To read more, click here.

--A 12-year-old boy was seriously injured climbing near Flagstaff. It appears that this injury was caused by the use of carabiners that were not rated for climbing. To read more, click here.

--The campground in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation is about to start taking reservations on recreation.gov. To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--The Boulder Patch is reporting that, "A 34-year-old man was helped to safety off a cliff Tuesday shortly after noon by two nearby climbers. First responders, who had been en route, then walked him to the trailhead. He did not sustain any injuries, according to a report from the Boulder County Sheriff's Office." To read more, click here.

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "A climber suffered serious injuries to his face Wednesday afternoon after falling off the Second Flatiron outside Boulder." To read more, click here.

--In Carbondale, climbers are helping biologists study bats. White-nose syndrome has killed millions of bats. The Narrows climbing area offers easy access to this population. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Teton Gravity Research is reporting that, "Andrew McLean, most known for his backcountry skill and expertise as documented in The Chuting Gallery – A Guide To Steep Skiing In The Wasatch, has been charged with a felony for illegally removing two deer stands with his wife, Polly, from the Wasatch Mountains in Utah." To read more, click here.

--The Bangor Daily News is reporting that, "The professional adventure sportswoman struck by a boulder in Acadia National Park on Labor Day was recovering in Boston on Monday after 14 hours of surgery on her badly damaged left leg. Surgeons at Eastern Maine Medical Center of Bangor inserted a titanium rod into the leg of Serenity Coyne, 53, of Boston on Wednesday and a pin in her ankle on Friday, according to her husband, Michael Coyne. She was due for surgery Monday at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, he said." To read more, click here.


--Outside magazine has an interesting article about how the outdoor industry responded to Walmart trying to sell premium outdoor gear through Moosejaw Mountaineering; and why they responded the way they did... To read the article, click here.

--So ski.com might be hiring for the best job in the world. You'll get to travel all over the world to ski for free, and get decked out in some sick gear. Check it out!

--Reveal is reporting that, "Park officials scrubbed all mentions of climate change from a key planning document for a New England national park after they were warned to avoid 'sensitive language that may raise eyebrows' with the Trump administration." To read more, click here.

--The Banff Mountain Book Competition has announced its finalists. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

The Mountain Rescue Association

There is tremendous value in the volunteer rescue units throughout the United States and Canada. Most of the units that operate in the mountains are accredited Mountain Rescue Association units. These are SAR groups that have been vetted by a national organization.

The following video describes the Mountain Rescue Association, who they are and what they do...


--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 10, 2018

Backing Up an Anchor for Crevasse Rescue

The American Mountain Guides Association and Outdoor Research have teamed up to put together some really high quality videos. In this video, AMGA Instructor Team Member and former AAI Guide Larry Goldie demonstrates how to back up a snow picket in a crevasse rescue.



It is uncommon for me to feel like a single picket is good enough for a crevasse rescue. It's pretty dangerous to put all of your eggs in that one basket.

The block and tackle is the best way to get something close to equalization. But it is also possible to measure out the distance of the wire on the second picket to the master carabiner on the first picket. This "estimation-style" isn't as good, but will work in a pinch.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 7, 2018

Leave No Trace - Doing Your Dishes in the Backcountry

There are a tremendous number of skills to learn for the backcountry traveler, but washing dishes? This is something that a lot of people don't think about adequately until they are in the backcountry. How do I manage my food scraps and dish soap without polluting my water source? These are important questions, and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics has the answers:



In review:

1) Dishes should be done 200-feet or at least seventy steps away from your water source.

2) You will need your dirty dishes, a scraper, soap, a towel, a sponge, a backcountry wash basin, and a trash bag.

3) Filter water before starting dishes. You may also heat the water to boiling and then let it cool. But you will need hot water anyway.

4) Scrape your dishes into the garbage bag.

5) Use minimal soap on the sponge to scrub your dishes clean.

6) Rinse your dishes in warm water and dry to eliminate any soapy residue.

7) Dispose of waste water (gray water) 200-feet from camp. Be sure to strain out food scraps.

8) The gray water may be splashed over a large area or disposed of in a cat hole.

9) The soap, scraper and sponge and anything else that smells should be kept in your food storage system.

Animals are attracted to the areas where you eat and wash. By eliminating a lot of food byproducts, you can decrease your interaction with rodents, raccoons and bears.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/6/8

Northwest:

--A climber was injured on Concord Tower last week. AAI guides were nearby and assisted in the rescue. The linked article gets several things wrong, but it's still worth a read. To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--Legal News Line is reporting that, "A Saugus, California, woman whose leg was amputated in an accident while snowboarding at Mammoth Mountain Ski Area in Mammoth Lakes is appealing the loss of her lawsuit. Kathleen Willhide-Michiulis recently filed a motion with the Supreme Court of California to reverse summary judgment granted by the trial court in favor of Mammoth Mountain Ski Area, seeking to reinstate her lawsuit and put it back on schedule for trial." To read more, click here.

--California now has an office for Outdoor Recreation. To read more, click here.

--The Delaware North Company stole several names from Yosemite when they lost their concession. And now they're being invited into the inner circle of government advisory groups. This is yet another insane dynamic within our current Department of the Interior. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The campground in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area has reopened. To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "The skier accused of trying to jump the crowd at Copper Mountain’s Annual Slopesoakers pond-skimming event earlier this year pleaded guilty to reckless endangerment and no contest to a misdemeanor assault charge earlier this month. Hayden Patrick Wright, 27, was descending on a run in the early afternoon of April 14 when he flew off the pond-skim course and into the crowd, breaking a woman’s collarbone and injuring several others." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The Adventure Blog is reporting on some oxygen masks that failed on Mt. Everest. That's pretty scary! Read about it, here.

--The Himalyan Times is reporting that, "the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation has decided to take stern action against a Kathmandu-based trekking agency and its representatives for their involvement in forging government seal and signature to prepare a fake climbing permit for Mt Everest expedition last spring season." To read more, click here.

--And in yet more Everest news, Nepal's guides are making a bunch of money on insurance scams. Many of them have built a system of kickbacks from rescue insurance claims. To read more, click here.

--A boy was seriously injured in an auto-belay accident in Ontario last week. To read more, click here.

--Outside Online is reporting that, "on Friday, the Trump Administration announced its plan to nominate Raymond David Vela, the current chief of Grand Teton National Park, to lead the National Park Service. If Congress signs off, David Vela would become the first Latino superintendent of the NPS, with a resume that's extraordinarily encouraging for champions of public land." To read more, click here.

--In very strange Alex Honnold news, a New Jersey mayor got drunk and invited the famous free soloist to ascend a local building. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, September 4, 2018

Blister Prevention and Treatment

Blisters are a common problem in the backcountry. And it can be a big enough problem that in some cases it can be debilitating.

I always assume that I'm going to get a blister. As such, I start every trip with blister prevention.

Blister Prevention Tip #1: Double Sock

Wearing a lightweight silk liner sock that has a slippery surface can decrease the likelihood of blisters. The idea is that the light sock will be able to move a little bit between the heavier sock and the boot. The friction that causes blisters is takes place between the two socks, and not between the sock and the foot.

This can certainly work. But one should experiment with it before doing a long trip.

Blister Prevention Tip #2: Gorilla Tape

Duct tape doesn't work that well. Sweat causes it to fall off easily. Gorilla Tape, on the other hand, stays on...sometimes for days.

The idea here is that if you know a certain pair of boots gives you blisters, then you should tape up before you leave the trailhead. I do this regularly, even with boots that are broken in. If there's even a slight chance of a blister, this is how I start my day, by taping my heel or any toe that might be affected.

Blister Prevention Tip #3: Change Socks

Wet socks tend to lead to more blistering. Be sure to change socks every day to ensure that you start with dry socks.

Wet socks may be hung in the sun or brought into your sleeping bag to dry out. You can even wear damp socks in your sleeping bag to help them dry. I often rotate between two pairs of socks for several days.

Blister Prevention Tip #4: Break-in Your Boots

When breaking in boots, don't walk around in the city and hope that walking on the sidewalk is doing something. You are, but it is a limited something. Walking on steep and uneven terrain will do a lot more for breaking in a boot.

Blister Prevention Tip #5: Deal with Hot Spots

You absolutely must deal with hot spots the minute they become a threat. It's far better to stop five minutes up the trail and work on your feet for ten minutes, than it is to get to your first camp with hamburger feet.

I generally have Gorilla Tape around my trekking pole that I can easily access to treat a hotspot. It's also possible to treat hotspots with Second Skin or Moleskin.

Following is a short video from REI on blister prevention and treatment:



The first line of defense after a blister is formed should be to try to cover it. You may need to cut out a doughnut hole in the moleskin before covering it. This depends on the size of the blister. The idea is that the blister is surrounded and covered, so that it can't get any worse.

It is possible that you will have to drain the blister. The next video deals specifically with that process.



Blisters are a fact of life in the backcountry. If you do what you can to avoid them in the first place, and then deal with hotspots as they arise, you should be able to avoid serious blister issues...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 3, 2018

Film Review: The Horn

Mountain rescue is a tough job.

People are lost. People are injured. People are dead. And the rescuers have to go out and try to deal with the situation in every condition imaginable. It is an incredibly difficult job. And in the United States most of the people involved in mountain rescue are volunteers.


In the Alps of Europe, things are different. People still get lost, people still get injured, and people still die, but those involved in mountain rescue are professionals. They have state of the art training, high-end helicopters and advanced rescue equipment. They are truly some of the best mountain rescuers in the world. And they have to be, because at the height of their season, a rescue team might see 20 calls in a day. It's no different than being a paramedic at a fire station in a small city!

This is where The Horn -- an awesome documentary series on Netflix -- starts, at a the home base of Air Zermatt, a high-end helicopter equipped mountain rescue unit.

Air Zermatt is composed of pilots, doctors, mountain rescue specialists, paramedics, helicopter technicians and mountain guides. They are based at the foot of the Matterhorn in the mountain village of Zermatt, a place where thousands of people every year, climb, ski, base jump and get hurt in the mountains.

The team fluctuates between high-end, high-risk mountain rescues and ski accidents. But regardless of how a person got hurt, or the terrain their in, the team operates like a Swiss clock, perfectly in tandem with one another. It is incredibly cool to see a mountain rescue operation like this.



The Horn is produced by Red Bull TV, an online television platform. The movement of this series from Red Bull's high octane streaming website to Netflix is another demonstration of how outdoor adventure sports are slowly making their way into our national consciousness. It also brings forward the issues of risk that surround adventure sports. These issues can lead to some hard questions from the outside of the adventure sport world.

Whenever there is an accident in the mountains, people ask, "who's paying for this?" They ask, "who's paying for the rescues?" Their concern is that taxpayers are footing the bill for adventure sports. The downside to a series like this is that it does show flashy helicopters run by a private company that provides rescue services in the Alps. I can imagine the uninformed believing that this series is also reflective of how things operate in the United States.

It's not.

The Alps and rescue services there are completely different. As noted above, in the United States, rescues are primarily facilitated by volunteers. There are professional rescuers in the Untied States, and depending on the organization, some tax dollars may go to them. But even then, the bulk of the hours spent in rescues are still done by volunteers.

Regardless of the politics around rescue, one thing is clear. The Horn is a beautifully produced television series. The views of the mountains around Zermatt are incredible. The stories of the rescuers are incredibly engaging. And the tension around some of the things that the Air Zermatt team has to deal with is palpable. This is an incredible show, and well worth the time!

--Jason D. Martin


Friday, August 31, 2018

Book Review: The Cruel Peak

One of the great controversies in mountaineering history began in 1959, when Cesare Maestri claimed to have reached the summit of Patagonia's Cerro Torre with Toni Egger. While descending the mountain, Egger was swept off the mountain by an avalanche and killed. According to Maestri, the climber was carrying a camera with definitive proof of their summit success. But that was gone, along with Egger.

After many attempts, Ermanno Salvaterra, Rolando Garibotti and Alessandro Beltrami were successful on the line that Maestre claimed to have climbed, forty-six years after the purported first ascent. The problem was that there was no evidence of the previous party and the route was dramatically different from what Maestri described.

Most people in the climbing community felt that Maestri lied about his success. This nearly destroyed the man, so he went back to the mountain and completed a different line, and placed 400 bolts no more than a body-length apart for nearly 1,100 feet.

The mountaineer was severely criticized for his techniques, but never backed down. To this day he still claims to have summited his original route and argues that his Compressor Route (the bolted line) also provided a legitimate way to the mountain's summit.


Gil Hogg's intelligently written novel, The Cruel Peak, was clearly inspired by the reality of Cesare Maestri. In his book, the patriarch of a wealthy New Zealand family rose to fame and fortune after claiming that he reached the summit of Mt. Vogel, an incredibly dangerous fictional peak in the Southern Alps. Ernest Ashton won international fame after he wrote Fateful Snows, a book about his supposed success on the mountain and the loss of his climbing partner, Bill Stavely.

Many years after the climb, Ashton's son, Stuart became a celebrated mountaineer in his own right. While Stavely's son, Tom moved away to escape the dark shadow cast by the Ashton family, his ex-wife who is an Ashton, and his own family's historically subordinate status with the aristocratic family.

When Tom returns to New Zealand to celebrate the wedding of his estranged daughter, a rumor arises, a rumor about a notebook that appears to dispute Ernest Ashton's claim to the summit of Vogel. Together, Stuart and Tom make their way back to the mountain to learn the truth.

Unfortunately, the book doesn't spend a great deal of time in the mountains. Instead, the novel is a front-country story, with the ghosts of a long-ago backcountry drama haunting the present. The result is that most of the action takes place in a small New Zealand town, instead of on the cliffs and snows of Mt. Vogel.

With a somewhat slow beginning and a lot of different members of the Ashton family to follow, The Cruel Peak starts out as a bit of a cruel read. The first third of the book sets up the second two thirds slowly -- almost painfully slowly -- which can be challenging for the reader. However, the second two thirds of the book provide an excellent payoff for the patient and it is both explosive and exciting.

Gil Hogg has a slightly stilted writing style. You often feel as if he lets exposition get in the way of character and plot.  But this doesn't mean that Hogg can't write those things. Indeed, he's very good at them. And when he lets go of character history and launches into the way that the characters relate to one another in the present, the book takes off.

At the heart of the novel is a question about a climber who lies about his ascent. This is something that doesn't really matter to those who are on the outside of our sport. But in here, in the world of the climber, lying about a mountain achievement is a form of blasphemy.  It's common to hear climbers badmouth those whom they see as overstating their accomplishments. It's almost passe to talk down those who "spray" about how good they are. But that's nothing more than good natured ribbing compared to what happens when someone blatantly lies about an ascent. When it becomes clear that an individual has lied about an ascent, that's when the knives come out. The explosive rage that in online forums and in climbing magazines can be both astounding and a little bit scary.

The Cruel Peak has some weaknesses, but that doesn't mean it's not worth the climber's read. The idea of lying about an ascent strikes some as so unethical that Ernest Ashton lie turns him into an incredibly fascinating and vile character. It's likely that Hogg knew that we might have a reaction like this to the climber. It's also likely that our fascination with such a character is one of the reasons that we still talk about Cesare Maestri and his routes on Cerro Torre.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 8/30/18

--Friday was a sad day. Alpinist reports, "August 24, was a fateful day for the climbing world, as two of America's greatest climbing legends and icons passed away—Tom Frost and Jeff Lowe. Frost died of cancer at a hospice center in Oakdale, California, and Lowe died several hours later in Colorado after suffering from a prolonged illness that has been described as an "unknown neurodegenerative process" similar to MS and ALS. Frost was 81 and Lowe was 67.

Northwest:

--Freesoloing is incredibly dangerous. "A Lewis & Clark College sophomore survived a 150-foot fall during a "free solo" climb Sunday at Smith Rock State Park, according to authorities and the man's family. Benjamin Schulman, 21, was using no safety ropes or equipment as he scaled a rock face not typically known as a climbing route in the southern section of the park, the Deschutes County Sheriff's Office told The Oregonian/OregonLive."According to the report, this individual was an indoor climbing instructor at his college. To read more, click here.

--KATU News is reporting that, "A Portland Police Officer, former KATU News photographer, and volunteer with Mountain Wave Search & Rescue died on Friday while on Mount Hood." To read more, click here.

Sierra:


El Capitan in Yosemite
Photo by Krista Eytchison

--The headline from this Ouside online article, says it all: "Yosemite Finally Reckons with Its Discriminatory Past: Pioneers, the government, even John Muir helped kick out Native Americans from their homes on national parks. But in Yosemite, the Miwuk Tribe is getting its village back." This is an engaging look at the dark side of our National Parks. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Spectrum is reporting that, "Rescue crews had to fly out a group of hikers by helicopter on Tuesday after a rockfall forced Zion National Park to close its popular Hidden Canyon trail. It was the third time in a little more than a month that the park has had to close the trail, which winds between towering red rock cliff sides just a few miles up from the park's main roadway. In some areas, the hike requires visitors to grasp chains as they scale the canyon walls." To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--The Stanley Hotel is famous for being the hotel where Stephen King's "The Shining" was shot. All the interiors were done at the Stanley, the exteriors were done at Timberline Lodge in Oregon. Last week the Stanley had a visitor that was not a ghost or a kid with ESP... See the video below, or read more, here.




--The Aspen Skiing Company can't hire enough people. As such, they are raising their starting wage to $13.50, up from $12 last season. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Outside online is reporting that, "For decades, women in the Forest Service and U.S. Department of Agriculture have been trying to bring justice to those who have discriminated against them. A new investigation reveals that the inaction is due to a much larger problem: a system set up to make their complaints go away." To read more, click here.

--Jackson Hole News and Guide is reporting that, "a teenager has permanent injuries from an accident he was in during a pond skim event at Wyoming's Snow King Mountain, according to a complaint filed by his parents." Pond skimming is usually a late season thing that skiers do. They try to water ski across small pools, some of which are made by ski resorts. It appears that one skier skimmed on the water over the other skier's legs, slicing deeply into them, causing tendon and nerve damage. To read more, click here.

--In the French Alps, glaciers are melting so fast from anthropogenic climate change, that they're losing up to 130-feet of ice per year. To read more, click here.

--Outside magazine is asking if climbing Mt. Everest changes your genetic code? Twin studies have the answer. To read the story, click here.

--A pair of hikers who threw rocks down a popular climbing route in Canmore, have apologized. The pair posted a widely viewed video that generated hundreds of comments. To read more, click here.

--So Walmart is opening an outdoor gear store to sell high end gear... Here's the story.

--And in related news, Black Diamond is not happy. Outside is reporting that, "ne day after Walmart announced the launch of a new Premium Outdoor Store, Black Diamond has issued a cease and desist order, demanding that the big-box retailer remove all Black Diamond trademarks, logos, and copyrighted product photos from its website. The climbing- and ski-gear maker says Walmart’s use of brand logos and product images were “likely to confuse consumers into believing that Walmart is an authorized dealer of Black Diamond or that the new outdoor Walmart.com site is otherwise associated with or sponsored by Black Diamond.” In fact, Black Diamond says it has never sold through Walmart, never signed a dealer agreement with Walmart, and has no plans to sell through Walmart in the future." To read more, click here.

--The American Alpine Club has launched their #SafeOutside initiative. This is a response to sexual harassment and sexual assault in the climbing world. To read more, click here.

--There were 563 summits of Mt. Everest this year. To read more, click here.

--Metro is reporting that, The frozen body of a mountaineer has been discovered on Europe’s highest peak – 31 years after she vanished. Elena Basykina’s ‘wax doll-looking’ remains were brought down from Mount Elbrus in the Caucasus this week. Her body was encased in ice when she was discovered by a group of tourists 18,510 feet up the mountain." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Coiling a Rope

Coiling a rope is both a skill and an art. First, it's a skill because no matter how you coil the rope, you should be proficient and it should be easy to uncoil the rope for use. Second, it's an art, because each of us have our own little tricks that we throw into coiling that make a given coil our own.

Mike Barter, the prolific climbing instructional video-maker, has a handful of different rope coiling techniques posted on his youtube channel. The one thing that he neglects to say though, is that before you start in any rope coiling endeavor, you should flake the rope. This first video of an individual doing a butterfly coil in his hand is a great example of someone who skipped the flaking part of the process.



Butterfly coils -- or lap coils, if that's what you prefer -- can be bulky and difficult to deal with when they are in your hand, particularly if you have small hands. In the next video, we will have the opportunity to see the same type of system done over the neck.

Mike calls coiling over the neck the Brit Style, or something like that. I might refer to this instead as simply a butterfly coil over the neck... And I have to say that this is also the way that most American guides coil their ropes. It's very fast and it's very easy once you've put in a bit of practice. The biggest downside is when you have a heavy and wet rope from glacier travel. When that happens it's never fun to coil over your neck...



In each of the preceding videos, it would be easy to convert the ropes, the way that the climbers coiled them, into backpacks. You must simply wrap the two ends of the rope over your shoulders, wrap them around your waist -- capturing the rope behind you -- and then tie them together in front of you. Generally a square knot tends to be the easiest and quickest knot to tie in that position that won't come undone.

Some climbers elect to butterfly a rope as a single strand. This style, sometimes referred to as a French coil, is nice for quick use of the rope. Many will do this when they are sport climbing because if you're good, the rope doesn't necessarily need to be flaked.

In the third video, Mike demonstrates the mountaineers coil. This particular style can be very nice for traveling with a rope. But where it is not nice is in uncoiling it. If you coil or store your rope in this particular fashion, it's very important to remember to uncoil the rope one strand at a time, otherwise things will get very messy.



Unless you always put your rope into a rope bag, coiling is a very important part of climbing. As I say on this blog a lot, practice makes perfect!

--Jason D. Martin

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Route Profile: Northwest Rib, Mt. Shuksan (5.7, III)

Mt. Shuksan is one of the most photographed mountains in the world. The peak is draped in hanging glaciers and beautiful rock buttresses. But most people stick to one of three routes, the Sulphide Glacier, the Fisher Chimneys or the North Face. But the reality is that there are several more interesting lines and variations on the peak. The Northwest Rib is one such feature.

Fisher Chimneys and Sulphide Routes on Mt. Shuksan.
(Click to Enlarge)

Fred Beckey doesn't give much information about this route. He notes the following:

This is the narrow rock spur that separates the White Salmon and Hanging Glaciers; the route crosses the 1939 ascent line. First ascent by Pat Cruver and Dave Davis in July, 1974. Use the White Salmon approach (see the Fisher Chimneys route). The original party kept mostly on the rib's crest, but many variations are possible. The climb joined the Northwest Face route at the summit pyramid and was completed by the 1939 finish. Grade III; class 5.7 (one pitch); the climb is mostly class-4, easy class 5 on firm rock.

It should be noted that the concept of "firm rock" is a bit in the eye of the beholder. There are definitely sections of this line that are very loose. That said, if you are interested in some adventure climbing and can handle some areas of looseness, the rest of the route is well-worth the time.

 The NW Rib from the bottom of White Salmon Glacier.
(Click to Enlarge)

The NW Rib essentially links the White Salmon Glacier with the Upper Curtis. The line climbs up just to the right of the Hanging Glacier. Indeed, it also provides access to the upper Hanging Glacier above the seracs, if that is a line that you're interested in.

The NW Rib from the top of the Fisher Chimneys.
(Click to Enlarge)

The route can be broken into several sections.

Section 1: Approach

The standard approach is via the Fisher Chimneys. At the top of the Chimneys and below Winnie's Slide there are a few areas to bivy. Above Winnie's Slide there are a few more. After the beginning of July, there is often running water near camp where you access the upper Curtis Glacier. Sometimes this is available earlier.

The route could be done from Lake Ann and back in a day, but that would be a very big day and would likely not include a summit. Indeed, the best way to do this line and include a summit would be to climb the Fisher Chimneys on Day 1. Climb the route and the summit on Day 2, and then descend the Fisher Chimneys and go out on Day 3. If you elect to do this as a two day adventure, it's unlikely you'll have time to summit and go out on the same day...but it is possible to complete the route, and then descend the Fisher Chimneys on a two day itinerary as the top of the route is only thirty or forty minutes away from the bivys between the Curtis Glacier and Fisher Chimneys.

Most parties require anywhere from five to eight hours to get from the car to the top of the Chimneys. It takes four to six hours to get back to the car from the top of the Chimneys.

Approximate line of ascent.
(Click to Enlarge)

Section 2: Descend the White Salmon Glacier

Drop down skier's left on the White Salmon Glacier to avoid crevasses. Traverse to the base of the route at approximately 5500-feet (this is lower than the maps seem to indicate and could have been due to a faulty altimeter.). The route starts at a prominent loose gully with a large chalkstone in it. (Approximately 1 hour to the base of the route from the bivys.)

Section 3: Transition and Ascend the Choss Gully and Heather

Transition out of glacier travel mode and into climbing mode and then make your way up. We climbed up left of the chalkstone on loose rock to heather climbing, left of a steep heather chimney.

Chimney Start - This looks somewhat intimidating from the glacier, but it is 
not as steep as it looks. It is one of the crux loose sections of the route though.
(Click to Enlarge)

Go out left, avoiding the heather chimney and then work back right to better climbing. This will be two to four pitches or simul-climbing, depending on what you do. Things will stepen at the end of the heather for the next section.

Section 4: Climbing!

Continue up a slightly loose mid-fifth class section toward a beautiful handcrack that cuts through a roof. Once below the handcrack, you have three options:
  1. Go straight up through the handcrack to the top of a tower. (5.7-5.8, appx. 100 feet from base.)
  2. Climb out left to a -- hidden around the left corner -- more consistent handcrack. (5.7, appx 100 feet from base.)
  3. Or continue up the gully to the right on third, fourth and low fifth class terrain. If you choose to do this, aim for the crest when you can to get out of the loose.
Regardless of which way you go, continue on the ridge or just left it. There will be a few hundred feet of climbing with many variations, until you are forced to traverse to the left above the bottom of the Hanging Glacier.

Section 5: Better Climbing!

You will make your traverse below a series of cool slabs. Work up these fourth and low-fifth class slabs, avoiding loose rock. You may want to place pro to keep the rope away from looseness. Your goal is to work up toward the obvious notch.

As you get closer to the notch, the climbing gets better. The notch brings you back onto the ridge. Some easy climbing will eventually get you to the base of a nice handcrack. Climb the 5.6 crack. Above the handcrack pitch, there's another nice crack, but it can be avoided on the right with easier climbing.

Section 6: The Choss Apron

As you work through good climbing, a finger will appear above you on the ridge. Aim for that. Eventually you will get out of the good climbing and find yourself on the "Choss Apron." This is really the last challenge. Work up and right on the apron. Eventually you'll find a giant cave behind a tower. Go right at that wall and work up through easy terrain to the top of the route.

Top of the Route:

You made it. Now you're looking at the Upper Curtis Glacier! Negotiate the moat and then decide if you're going to climb the rest of the mountain via the upper Fisher Chimneys Route, or via the NE Ridge of the Summit Pyramid (5.7).

Final Thoughts:

How many pitches is this? Who knows. It depends on how you do it. The route is approximately 1300-feet long. There are definitely sections where you could simul-climb. There are also definitely sections where pro is scarce and simul-climbing could be very dangerous. Additionally, there are loose area throughout the route, so maybe silmuling isn't such a good idea. You have to decide for yourself.

There are variations everywhere on this route. As such, I gave some big brushstrokes in this description. It's okay to take them for a grain of salt. 

All that said, it took my party five hours from the base to the top of the route. It took eleven hours to descend to the climb, climb the route, descend to camp and then descend back down to the car. We did not go to the summit, but we had a grand adventure on an obscure Shuksan route...

--Jason D. Martin


Friday, August 24, 2018

Marking Your Gear

The Facebook post was incredibly embarrassing. "It looked like a crime scene," my wife wrote. "An entire bottle of blood red nail polish spilled from the kitchen counter top, all down the cabinet door, and ending in a 3-foot spray across the tile floor. Who could have created such a mess? My 4-year old? My 5-year old?"

I could imagine her smile as she typed the next line for all of her friends to see. "No...it was my husband! And it was HIS nail polish."

Yes, I admit it.

It was MY nail polish. And yes, I did spill it everywhere. But in my defense, I was using it to mark my climbing gear...which is exactly what I wrote in response to her post. But that didn't stop the good-natured ribbing.

When the accident took place, I was trying to update all of my gear with the latest in gear marking technology, nail polish. Most of my climbing friends and nearly all of the guides at the American Alpine Institute long ago moved away from multi-colored tape on hardware and toward the use of nail polish.


Both of the carabiners in this photo have been marked for about the same amount of time.
The carabiner on the left has nail polish painted in strategic location. Whereas the carabiner
on the right has electrical tape on the spine. Clearly the tape did not hold up as well as the polish.

In the past, each of my carabiners had two strips of electrical tape around the spine. One strip was black and one was red. The dual colors helped to keep them from getting mixed up with other people's gear. The problem with the tape though is that it wears off. It starts to fall off in a sticky mess, creating micro-trash in the mountains.

To keep the nail polish from rubbing off, I try to paint it on near the hinge at the base of the gate and next to the nose. Because these areas are mildly inset, ropes and rocks don't tend to rub as much and the paint markings stays on for a long time.

It is also possible to mark cams and stoppers with nail polish dots in strategic locations. Look for a spot where your dots will not be easily scraped off, but where you can see them without too much trouble.

I put two dots on each of my cams. My colors are red and black. It's always
good to mark your gear with more than one color.

It is important to note that I still have multi-colored electrical tape on my slings, over the stitching. You definitely would NOT want to put nail polish onto a soft good like a sling. While I don't know exactly what's inside nail polish, I can only assume that the chemicals would have a negative and perhaps even dangerous impact on the material.

Those who swap partners a lot should really play it safe. Protect yourself. Mark it carefully and you'll lose less of it. Mark it poorly and your gear will slowly migrate away to your partners racks...

Jason D. Martin

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 8/23/18

Northwest:

--The Seattle Times is reporting that, "A climber died this week while rappelling off a peak in Mount Rainier National Park, officials said. Stephen Kornbluth, 35, of Seattle, summited 6,710-foot Dewey Peak with two friends Tuesday after climbing the mountain’s west face. To read more, click here.

--Tim Auger, a prolific Squamish climber, recently died at the age of 72. To read more, click here.

--GoSkagit is reporting that, "Federal agencies will begin moving mountain goats from the Olympic Mountains to the North Cascades in September." To read more, click here.

--Can technology decrease the number of people on a given trail? One group is trying to make that happen through social media data mining. To read more, click here.

--A new big wall with a lot of potential has been discovered in British Columbia. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Supposedly Ryan Zinke had no idea that his agency was going to sell off a chunk of The Grand Staircase. He says that when he found out, he cancelled the deal. To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--The Gazette is reporting that, "A climber was hospitalized Thursday after falling 40 to 50 feet from the Three Graces rock formation in Garden of the Gods, said Colorado Springs Fire Capt. Brian Vaughan." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--KUTV is reporting that, "The Utah Department of Public Safety helicopter made a middle-of-the-night rescue on Mt. Olympus in Salt Lake County as a search and rescue team worked to reach an injured hiker." To read more and see a video, click here.

--Reveal is reporting that, the Trump administration wants to slash federal funding for wildfire science, at a time when forest and brush fires are getting bigger, happening year-round and becoming increasingly erratic. Federally funded scientists have been seeking new methods and technologies to predict, prepare and respond – critical for safeguarding people and property. They have discovered ways to reduce risks before fires and restore land and waterways afterward. And they explore how fuels, flames, terrain, smoke and weather interact. Defunding those efforts will endanger lives, researchers told Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting." To read more, click here.

--An African-American woman tells her story -- a story of racism, sexism and sexual assault -- in the Forest Service in an article for the Mountain Journal. To read the piece, click here.

--The New York Times has an opinion piece out this week about "the coming Green Wave." This is a reference to those who support public lands and how they're likely to vote in the coming years. To read more, click here.

--Local officials are trying to restrict inexperienced climbers and thrill seekers from climbing Mont Blanc. To read more, click here.

--So apparently the carabiner is a fashion item. Check out this article in Fashonista!

A climber pulls through a steep boulder problem
at Origin Climbing Gym in Nevada.

--Rock and Ice will be distributing a new magazine, Gym Climber, to rock gyms around the country. To read more, click here.

--Alpinist is reporting that a new route was put up in Alaska. "Gus Barber, Lang Van Dommelen and Chris Williams recently established a 2,500-foot first ascent of a Grade IV+ 5.11 on the east face of Caliban (ca. 6,400') in the Arrigetch Peaks in Gates of the Arctic National Park." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Route Profile: Tunnel Vision 5.7+

Tunnel Vision
Location: Angel Food Wall, Red Rock Canyon, NV
Difficulty: 5.7+
Elevation gain: 750'

Here at AAI our programs are starting to ramp up for the fall, winter and spring and many guides are beginning to make plans to head south after the summer weather comes to an end in the Northwest. Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area's pleasant winter weather and proximity to Las Vegas make it a popular destination for climbers. But while smaller climbing areas would be overrun by climbers, Red Rock has so many routes that the crowds can thin out - and climbers are often left with the feeling of being in a desert wilderness only 30 minutes from Vegas!

A climber exits the tunnel pitch of Tunnel Vision. Jason Martin.
One of these routes is Tunnel Vision, a fun route on Angel Food Wall, which graces the northeast face of White Rock Springs Peak. While the main attraction on Tunnel Vision is the namesake tunnel pitch - in which climbers actually climb through a hole in the mountain! - the route as a whole includes six pitches of varied moderate terrain, including lots of chimneys and cracks. A couple of variations on this route can make it harder or easier as well.

Tunnel Vision has 6 pitches of fun moderate climbing. Jason Martin.

Check out this video made from stills shot by a climber's husband from the parking lot. Jason Martin is the guide.


A climber on Eigerwand, one route over from Tunnel Vision on Angel Food Wall. You can really get a sense of scale! Jason Martin.  
Mount Wilson, a prominant peak south of White Rock Springs Peak. The scenic beauty of the area draws many non-climbers as well. Dana Hickenbottom.
If you want to check out Tunnel Vision or some of the hundreds of other climbs in Red Rock this year, email us at info@alpineinstitute.com or give us a call at (360) 671-1505.

-Hillary Schwirtlich, American Southwest and International Programs Coordinator

Monday, August 20, 2018

Equalizing Three Pieces with Two Slings

In cooperation with Outdoor Research, the American Mountain Guides Association has made several videos for beginning level climbers.

In this video, AMGA Instructor Team Member  and former AAI Guide Angela Hawse demonstrates how to equalize two slings off three pieces.



The technique that she uses in the video is often referred to as an "anchor in-series." The reason for this is because she has essentially just built an anchor on top of an anchor.

It's important to note that one piece in this configuration is receiving half the weight of the system, while the other two are only receiving a quarter each. This may not matter...but then again, it might...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, August 17, 2018

Rappel Technique: Throwing Ropes

In cooperation with Outdoor Research, the American Mountain Guides Association has made several videos for beginning level climbers.

In this video, AMGA Instructor Team Member, Jeff Ward, demonstrates several techniques for throwing ropes down a pitch for a rappel.



Torpedo

In his first demonstration, Jeff shows a technique wherein you stack the rope carefully and then wrap up an end. You throw this end down and it pulls the rest of the pile down with it.

Stages

Mark Twight referred to the second technique as "staging" in his book Extreme Alpinism. In other words you throw the rope down in separate stages. In the video, Jeff throws the rope down in two stages, starting from the middle. This often allows the rope to get down further and to get hung up on less items.

Saddlebags

And finally Jeff demonstrated the Saddlebag technique. This is the technique where you lap coil the rope and then hang it off of slings on either side of your body. The rope then feeds out from the slings. This allows you to rappel into the wind or to avoid dropping a rope on top of someone.

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Route Profile: NE Buttress, Johannesburg Mountain (V, 5.8, AI 2)

Johannesberg Mountain is massive. It is one big mountain and it literally towers above the popular Cascade Pass trailhead.

The Northeast Buttress is the longest line on the mountain on one of the biggest walls in the range. There is a long history of people suffering epics on this route, and it is not uncommon for people to return one to two days late from an ascent of the mountain.

This reputation has always scared me a bit. I've spent a lot of time looking at the mountain from Boston Basin and I've always thought, I should try that. But then figured it was a dumb idea, that the wall was too big, too bushy and too demanding.

But with the help of the internet, some of my fears dissipated. Steph Abegg has an awesome website devoted to climbing in the Cascades and everywhere else. Her excellent description gave us just enough to commit.

So in July of 2015, we climbed the line. And this is what we found...

Johannesberg Mountain Route Topo
Click to Enlarge

Johannesberg Mountain
Profile by Steph Abegg
Click to Enlarge


The route can be split into several sections:

Chossy Start

Climb up to the base of the slabs on steep snow. Climb up onto the slabs and work your way up to a place where you can cross the waterfalls.

These slabs look benign from below and they aren't really any harder than 5.5, but they are loose and there is very little protection. Knife-blade pitons can provide some extra security.


A typical lead low on the mountain.

Vertical Bushwacking

After the slabs, the goal is essentially to climb up and right toward the ridge. This sounds reasonable at first, but then you realize that to do this, you will have to make your way through a literal wall of brush. Climb up vertical and semi-vertical brush and trend right. You'll be doing a lot of tree climbing on this trip.

If you brought an ice axe or a picket or anything else, be sure to put them inside your pack. The trees will try to take them away. Rest assured, anything and everything on the outside of your pack will get caught on branches.

Steep Heather

Eventually you will break out of the trees on the buttress proper. The character of the route changes here. Now you will be working your way up steep heather slopes on the ridge. If you elect to simul-climb there will be marginal protection every 200-feet or so.

You may wish to use your ice axe and crampons in the heather to increase your security.

AAI Guide Will Gordon on the Buttress in the Heather

Moderate Rock

Eventually the heather begins to fade into rock. You'll reach a sharp ridge followed by a headwall.

Some parties elect to rappel down into the gully climber's right of the ridge. Apparently there is a piton rap station somewhere. From there they climb forty-degree snow. We elected to traverse to the left to a short chimney that was mostly 5.5, with a couple of 5.8 moves right off the deck.

Following the chimney follow moderate rock up to a bivy site at 7,100-feet, at the base of the glacier.

Bivy

For most parties it will take 8-12 hours from the base of the buttress to the bivy site. If summer, there will likely be running water at the site.


AAI Guide Will Gordon at the Bivy
with the Torment-Forbidden Traverse in the background.

Snow Arete

Following the bivy, climb up onto the glacier. Follow the steep snow arete up onto the broader glacier. The arete drops off steeply on both sides. Be prepared to take appropriate precautions here.

The snow arete.


Looking back down at the snow arete from above.

Glacier Travel and Ice Climbing

Continue up the glacier, trending toward the final steep headwall. There are reports online that the final headwall can be quite steep and icy. In July of 2015 we found it to be a single 200-foot ice pitch. Three ice screws were adequate to protect it and we didn't feel the need for a second tool.

Trending toward the ice pitch. The ice pitch can be seen up in the left-hand corner of the picture.

It should be noted that there are many low-angle and flat spots on the glacier that could be carved out for a higher bivy than the one found on the rocks below the glacier. However, due to sun cupping in the summer, you may have to do some work to create a platform.

Summit

Once on top of the ice pitch, there will be two notches in front of you. Climb up to the notch on the right and drop over to the west side. Scramble to a small notch and then up to the summit.

AAI Guide Will Gordon climbing up and through the right-hand notch
near the summit.

You may leave your packs at the snow if you want to move quickly. The summit is only a few minutes away.

It should take between 1 and 3 hours for most parties to get to the summit.

East Ridge Descent

Many of the descriptions on the internet do not give credit to the sketchiness of this descent. They often say things like, you can rappel or descend a loose third and fourth class gully. This is all true, but there is significant traversing along the southwest side (right) side of the ridge before you reach the gully and rappels.

From the summit go back to the snow and climb through the left-hand notch. You will now be on the right-hand side of the ridge. Descend along this side of the ridge, staying below the ridge crest until the final two small ridge summits come into view. There may be a few carins along the ridge to help you along your way. When you see the final two mini-ridge summits, climb back up onto the ridge onto better rock.

At this point you will be looking down a sketchy gully. Note that on the left-hand side of the gully, approximately 200-feet down there will be a little tower. In 2015 there was a carin on this tower next to the first rap anchors.

Scramble down to the rap anchors and make one rope stretcher rap or two shorter rappels to a big block. Make two or three more rappels down until you are in the heather once more. Climb down through heather to another slightly hidden rap station and then make two more rappels down to the CJ Col. This could require up to seven rappels.

Many of the rappels are around large blocks. Be sure to bring lots of cord to backup sketchy anchors. And double check the boulders that are wrapped, some of them are suspect.

In theory, one could descend the loose gully instead of rappelling, but that looks sketchy.

It will take 3-5 hours for most parties to negotiate the ridge descent.

Doug's Direct

There are three ways that you could get back to the Cascade Pass parking lot. The first is to descend the CJ Col, which would be super sketchy. The second is to traverse below the Cascade Peak, the Triplets and Mixup Peak to join the Ptarmigan Traverse Trail and to drop over Cache Col. And the third, and perhaps quickest way is to use Doug's Direct.

To use the Doug's Direct Route, traverse under the south faces of Cascade Peak and the Triplets and then ascend up the North Ridge of Mixup Peak. The crossover is not obvious, and it's not a bad idea to have a waypoint or the awesome picture that Steph Abegg took below.


Doug's Direct
Overlay by Steph Abegg
Click to Enlarge

The other side of Mixup is composed of slightly better 3rd and 4th class rock, that steps down. Drop down on the steps and contour right into steep heather and 3rd class terrain. Be careful here as a fall would be deadly.

Eventually you will find a heather filled gully that will drop you down onto the Cache Glacier.

Personally, I found the steep heather to be a bit much when dehydrated on day two of the climb and would probably opt for the Cache Col option if I were to do the route again.

It will take most parties 4-6 hours to complete the Doug's Direct descent and make their way back to the parking lot.

Note

People go a lot of different ways on this mountain. Amazingly, trip reports vary from people finding literally vertical ice at the top, to people finding a way to avoid roping up for most of the ascent. If these notes don't make sense to you, follow your nose... You'll get there.

Gear

--Small single rack up to a #2 Camelot
--3 ice screws
--1-2 snow pickets
--2-3 knife blade pitons (optional)
--Ice Axe (with a hammer if you have pitons)
--Crampons
--60-meter rope

Times

It took AAI Guide Will Gordon and I, the following to get to each area:

--Base to Bivy - 9 hours, 15 minutes - we took one 15 minute break, but spent a lot of time in the brush. Upon later reflection it's likely that we weren't on the best line. It took Steph Abbeg about 8 hours. It was also 90-degrees on the day we climbed and we ran out of water. This slowed us down a bit.

--Bivy to Summit - 2 hours, 30 minutes - Others report two hours, some report more. We had one ice pitch and a little poking around to find the actual summit. If you have to climb an overhung bergshrund, this could be a lot longer.

--Summit to Base of East Ridge - 5 hours - Another complex area. This would be a lot faster with better beta. Hopefully, I've given that to you above.

--Base of Ridge to Car via Doug's Direct - 6 hours - This was at least two hours longer than it needed to be. We were definitely slow due to dehydration again and it was ninety degrees out again. But we spent some time trying to figure out where Doug's Direct was...

In the summit register it shows a well known sponsored climber's name who has since passed away as being 11-hours, car to summit. Our total time was 11:45 car-to-summit. So this seemed good. However, AAI guide and super-athlete Chad Cochran and AAI Guide Mike Pond, did the route car-to-car in 11-hours...!

--Jason D. Martin