Tuesday, February 27, 2018

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

Monday, February 26, 2018

Backcountry Skiing: Skin Track Corners and Kick-Turns

Kick-turns can be difficult for first time backcountry skiers working their way up hill. There are a lot of variations to the turn, but the goal is always the same: change direction.

The American Mountain Guides Association and Outdoor Research teamed up to make a video on this subject. The following video not only talks about the basics of making a simple wishbone turn, but it also goes into some skills that an advanced skier might employ leading a beginner up the hill.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, February 23, 2018

Film Review: The Wildest Dream

In 1924, George Mallory and Sandy Irvine made the first ascent of Mount Everest...

Or maybe they didn't...

It's hard to tell whether they made it or not. The pair was last seen alive 800 feet below the summit. Seventy-five years later, Mallory's body was discovered by mountaineer Conrad Anker on an expedition designed to find out what actually happened on the mountain in 1924.

Since that fateful day, the day that took the lives of Mallory and Irvine, whether or not the pair reached the summit of the tallest mountain in the world before their demise is one of the most hotly debated subjects in mountaineering history. There are many details that make one believe that perhaps they did summit. For example, Mallory carried a picture of his beloved wife Ruth which he said he would leave on top of the mountain when he summited. The picture was not found on his body, which could mean that it was left on the summit. But there are also details that make one believe that they might not have summited. For example the Second Step, a named feature on the mountain which now has a ladder on it, would require difficult rock climbing at altitude, something that might not have been possible in the twenties.

The IMAX documentary film, The Wildest Dream, delves deeply into the mystery surrounding the loss of Mallory and Irvine by chronicling the lives of both men as well as the life of modern day mountaineer, Conrad Anker. Anker returns to the mountain with climbing prodigy Leo Houlding, to continue to develop his understanding of the 1924 expedition and to try to surmount the major difficulty that some historians believe may have turned the pair around, the rock climbing required on Second Step.

The Wildest Dream is a fantastic visual journey chocked full of dramatic mountain images and dramatic mountain men. Anker and Mallory are linked through time by a mountain, by a route, and by their commitment to their families. Indeed, the most pertinent moment of the film is when Anker compares his feelings to those that Mallory expressed in his letters. When Mallory was at home with his wife and his family, he was always dreaming of the mountains. When Mallory was in the mountains, he was always dreaming of his wife and family. This is something that most of us in the mountain community can relate to.

The use of IMAX for this film was wise. However, it can make it difficult for those who do not have IMAX screens nearby. Indeed, it may no longer be shown on IMAX and may only be available to most on DVD.  The movie's artistic exploration through imagery is far more decisive and more dramatic than the 1998 IMAX film, Everest about the 1996 Mount Everest tragedy. In part this is because the filmmakers really commit to the format. If they didn't have the footage of a given spot on the mountain, they used high-end computer models, which looked incredibly realistic.

The one downside of the film is that it takes a firm stand on why Mallory chose Irvine as his climbing partner, without presenting the fact that historians see this choice as controversial. In part this is because a fit, acclimitized and experienced climber named Noel Odell was close at hand high on the mountain. Some believe that Mallory may have chosen Irvine as his partner because he was sexually attracted to the younger man. Mallory went through a well-documented period where he flirted with homosexuality. Others believe that he may have done this because he was attracted to the younger man's youth and saw himself in the man. But in the film, they tell us that without question, Mallory chose Irvine to be his companion because of his knowledge of the oxygen apparatus that the men carried. It would have been nice if they had at least alluded to the fact that this choice was considered controversial in such a documentary.

Artistically the use of Mallory and Irvine contrasted with Anker and Houlding works extremely well. As such, The Wildest Dream becomes a film about expeditions in the twenties and expeditions now. It becomes a film about men in the early nineteen-hundreds and men now. It becomes a film about the women who fell in love with these men. And finally it becomes a film about a mountain that has obsessed climbers for nearly a hundred years.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/22/18


--There are a number of remembrances of Jim Bridwell in the climbing media right now. Here's one from Alpinist. Here's one from Climbing. And here's one from Rock and Ice.

--Here's a review of major rockfall incidents in Yosemite in 2017.

Desert Southwest:

--The Trump Administration's new oil and gas leasing rules are a set-back for climbers. The Access Fund has produced an article about what they and their industry partners are doing to fight the loss of public lands. To read more, click here.

--The annual Red Rock Rendezvous is slated to take place in Las Vegas from March 16-19, 2018. This is one of the biggest climbing festivals in the country...and one of the most fun. The American Alpine Institute works with Mountain Gear to put on the festival every year and many AAI guides will be on hand for both instruction, as well as for hanging out at the evening parties. You might also consider booking a guide before or after the program, or even participating in an additional climbing class. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A skier was killed in an avalanche in the Jackson Hole backcountry over the weekend. To read more, click here.

--A big new climb has been put up in Canada's Ghost River Valley. Ophidiophobia is a 4-pitch M7 WI 4+, and the line is beautiful. To read more, click here.

--The outdoor recreation economy is 2% of the GDP. That is huge. Check it out.

--The Fairbanks Daily-News Miner is reporting that, Denali National Park plans to toughen poop hauling requirements for climbers on the popular West Buttress route up North America’s tallest peak. The rules are based on research that indicates the Kahiltna Glacier is working more like a slow-moving poop conveyer belt and less like a natural toilet than previously believed." To read more, click here.

--Climate change is affecting jobs in mountain towns. To read more, click here.

--Outside magazine is reporting that, recently, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke employed a bait-and-switch defense of President Trump’s bait-and-switch budget proposal for the Department of the Interior. The bait? An $18 billion fund for fixing the National Park Service’s massive maintenance backlog. The switch? It’d be paid for by deregulating oil and gas extraction on public lands, firing NPS employees, and empowering Zinke to sell off any public lands he wishes. Make no mistake, this would be a disaster for America’s national parks, and it probably won’t even fix the damn potholes." To read more, click here.

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "Grit and Rock—a UK-based organization that promotes female-led climbing expeditions aimed at bagging first ascents—has announced its second-ever slate of recipients of the First Ascent Expedition Award. The award aims 'to encourage female participation in pioneering alpine ascents and to further the understanding and exploration of the unclimbed peaks.'" To read more, click here.

--And finally, here's a nice piece on what it's like to be a Search and Rescue volunteer...

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/15/18


--A climber on Mt. Hood suffered a 100-foot fall on Tuesday. Nearby parties performed CPR on the climber, but he was pronounced dead at a nearby hospital after being airlifted off the peak. To read more, click here.

--A new three-pitch WI 3 climb was completed in Squamish last week. Check it out!


--The iconic rock climber, Jim Bridwell, has passed away. There have been reports for weeks about "The Bird's" deteriorating condition. News of his death on Monday is just starting to trickle onto the internet. We will link profiles about his life to our news blog next week.

--Squaw Valley has installed batteries developed by Tesla to decrease it's greenhouse gas output. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Mercury News and many others are reporting that, "Three people died and four were rushed to a Nevada hospital with life-threatening injuries after a tour helicopter crashed into a section of the Grand Canyon on Saturday evening. The incident occurred around 5:20 p.m. on the land of the Hualapai Nation near Quartermaster Canyon, Hualapai Nation Police Chief Francis Bradley told the Associated Press." To read more, click here.

--The Desert Sun is reporting that, "The California desert is the latest target of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's campaign to promote resource extraction on public lands across the West. Zinke's Interior Department said this week it would allow mining on 1.3 million acres, or more than 2,000 square miles, across the California desert, reversing an Obama-era effort to protect those lands. Vast swaths of Utah's Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments were similarly opened to mining this month, following President Trump's decision to dramatically reduce the size of those monuments." To read more, click here.

--The annual Red Rock Rendezvous is slated to take place in Las Vegas from March 16-19, 2018. This is one of the biggest climbing festivals in the country...and one of the most fun. The American Alpine Institute works with Mountain Gear to put on the festival every year and many AAI guides will be on hand for both instruction, as well as for hanging out at the evening parties. You might also consider booking a guide before or after the program, or even participating in an additional climbing class. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Wisconsin's Journal Sentinel is reporting that, "Authorities have identified the 37-year-old Waukesha man who died as the result of a skiing accident on Saturday, Feb. 3, in Dane County. Jonathan Allen was skiing at the Tyrol Basin Ski and Snowboard Area north of Mt. Horeb when he struck a tree 'at a high rate of speed,' according to a Monday morning news release issued by the Dane County Sheriff's Department." To read more, click here.

--Outside magazine has some ideas about Leave No Trace. This series of ethics could use some updating to deal with a few 21st century LNT problems. To read more, click here.

--The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that, "President Donald Trump’s spending plan proposes an $18 billion fund to help rebuild national parks and wildlife refuges and boost the Native American education system but also would deliver a severe cut to the Interior Department’s overall budget and add new authority to sell off some public lands." To read more, click here.

--Ponzi schemes are not just a New York phenomenon. Ariel Quiros, the owner of Vermont's Jay Peak Ski Resort, built such a scheme by swindling money out of foreign investors through a program meant to provide them US residence for making investments in the United States. To read more, click here.

--And finally, the organizers of the Olympics won't let skiing robots enter the events...yet. So, a few engineers decided to run their own robot ski Olympics. Check it out, below:

Tuesday, February 13, 2018

The Magic of Plastic Bins

Among all the different ways you can organize your gear, there’s one important staple you should always keep in mind: the plastic bin. While it may seem like a small thing, it’s a mighty tool for mobilizing for adventures big or small, spontaneous or planned.

I like to keep bins organized by season and or activity. Right now, I have a general camping bin, a climbing bin and a skiing bin. This weekend, I’m going up to Tahoe and packing is as easy as throwing a duffel with some town clothes, the ski bin and my skis, boots and poles in the car.

My ski bin includes items for backcountry and resort like:
  • Skins
  • Avalanche beacon
  • Shovel
  • Probe
  • Helmet
  • Sunglasses
  • Ski goggles
  • Sunscreen
  • Bibs or snow pants
  • Insulated resort ski jacket
  • Softshell jacket
  • Hardshell
  • Medium gloves
  • Heavyweight gloves
  • Mittens
  • Small backpack and water bladder
For my climbing bin, I keep:
  • Padded climbing harness
  • Ultralight alpine harness
  • Climbing helmet
  • Black diamond camalots small to large
  • Nuts
  • Sport quickdraws
  • Alpine quickdraws
  • Cordelette
  • Grigri
  • ATC
  • Assortment of locking and non-locking carabiners
  • Assortment of slings
  • Rocket pack
My camping bin includes:
  • Whisperlite stove
  • Refillable fuel bottle and pump
  • MSR Reactor stove
  • Fuel canisters 
  • Lighters
  • Headlamp
  • Spork
  • Mug
  • Repair kit
  • Inflatable Thermarest mattress
  • First-aid kit
  • SPOT emergency locator beacon
  • GPS
  • SteriPEN

With this kind of system — be it seasonal or activity-based — makes it so much easier to get out in the mountains whatever your schedule is. If you’re a busy guide, you always know where your stuff is and it’s easy to find in the correct bin. If you’re a weekend warrior, you can load up the car on Friday with your bin and whatever else you need and head out. I recommend it as a simple and efficient way to organize your gear.

--Shelby Carpenter, AAI Instructor and Guide Alumna

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/8/18


--Jim Herrington will be in Bellingham on Friday (February 9, 7pm) at Village Books presenting on his new book, The ClimbersThe Climbers is a photo essay of some of the most well-known climbers in the world. But it is not about those who are trendsetters today, but instead about the aged mountaineers who made first ascents throughout the world in the last century. The Climbers won the Grand Prize at the Banff Mountain Book Awards. To read more, click here.

--The Seattle Times is reporting that, "The National Park Service has chosen Palmer “Chip” Jenkins, Jr., to be the next superintendent at Mount Rainier National Park. The park service says Jenkins will start in his new role in mid-March, replacing Randy King who retired in January." To read more, click here.

--It's not a good idea to ski in an area being controlled for avalanches. The Revelstoke Mountaineer in Canada writes that, "Skiers and snowboarders who head into the Rogers Pass backcountry without complying with the Winter Permit System aren’t just jeopardizing access to one of North America’s most iconic ski touring areas, but an avalanche control program that’s protecting the lives of thousands of people every day." To read more, click here.


--Gripped is reporting that, "Sender Films has announced that The Dawn Wall movie will premiere at the South by Southwest Festival this year. There will be a full theatrical release later in the season." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A climber was injured in Red Rock Canyon's Ice Box Canyon over the weekend. There is limited information about the situation. To read more, click here.

--Alex Honnold lives in Vegas...! And so do a ton of other high-end climbers. Check it out!

--The annual Red Rock Rendezvous is slated to take place in Las Vegas from March 16-19, 2018. This is one of the biggest climbing festivals in the country...and one of the most fun. The American Alpine Institute works with Mountain Gear to put on the festival every year and many AAI guides will be on hand for both instruction, as well as for hanging out at the evening parties. You might also consider booking a guide before or after the program, or even participating in an additional climbing class. To read more, click here.

--News Channel 3 is reporting that, "It has been years in the making, and finally, a new shuttle bus is in service at Joshua Tree National Park. Beginning Feb. 1, the RoadRunner shuttle will take visitors to several designated stops in and around the park. The shuttles will leave every two hours from the Joshua Tree and Oasis Visitor Centers." To read more, click here.


--Westworld is reporting that, "According to a just-released final report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC), 27-year-old Durango resident Abel Palmer did almost everything right on January 21, when he and a companion chose to partake in some backcountry skiing between Red Mountain Pass and the Town of Silverton, in an area known to locals as Sam's Trees. But one small mistake, during which he accidentally entered an area he hadn't planned to enter, led to him becoming the first person in Colorado to die in an avalanche during 2018." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Ted Johnson, the man behind the creation of Utah's Snowbird resort, died last week. Johnson was hit by a drunk driver while he was crossing the street in a crosswalk. To read more, click here.

--A 74-year-old ice climber was killed in a fall in Montana on Sunday. Little is known about the nature of the accident. To read more, click here.

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "The North Carolina climbing and conservation communities lost a giant when John Myers passed away February 3, due to ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease)." To read more, click here.

--Outside is reporting that the new leader of the national parks is bad news. "There’s a new acting director for the National Park Service, and he has an interesting past. Most notably, P. Daniel Smith made headlines for the time he helped the owner of the Washington Redskins cut down trees on federally owned, protected land to lend the billionaire a better view." To read more, click here.

Denali's name is contentious in Ohio. But who cares?
The mountain is not in Ohio...

--Though Native Americans, climbers and Alaskans all call Denali, Denali, and William McKinnley never even saw the mountain, there is still a push from some to change the official name back to Mt. McKinley. The Hill is reporting that, "GOP lawmakers from Ohio are pressing President Trump to uphold a promise to reverse former President Obama's decision and rename the Alaskan mountain Denali to its old name, Mt. McKinley. In a letter to Trump, the 11 lawmakers say it was "disrespectful" for Obama to change the name of the mountain, which had been named after William McKinley, a former president from Ohio. The mountain was named after the 25th president in 1896." To read more, click here.

--A production company is looking for a couple of female climbers to be stunt doubles for actresses. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Ski the World - Candide Thovex: Quattro 2

Candide Thovex has created a unique and awesome vision of a skier, skiing everywhere. I don't mean on all kinds of snow, I literally mean everywhere.

Check out this spectacular video of a skier, "skiing the world..."

"All conditions are perfect conditions." Words to live by...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, February 5, 2018

The Dangers of Collapse on an Ice Climb

In 1994, I had a very close call.

My friends and I were gearing up at the base of Shannon Falls (WI2+, II) in Squamish. The route wasn't really in. There was ice and it looked like there was a line, but that particular flow is high volume and it takes quite a lot for it to freeze. A tremendous amount of water was running behind the ice and the walls on either side of the climb were plastered in frozen spray.

But we were young and dumb and thought for sure that we could make it go...

We were gearing up at the base when something cracked up high. It sounded like a gunshot, and then like a tree falling through the forest. But it wasn't a tree, and it wasn't a bullet...it was something bigger, and perhaps more dangerous. A block of ice the size of a minivan ripped off the semi-frozen falls and dropped toward us like a bomb.

The four of us scattered, getting away from the base of the falls just in time. The falling ice exploded on the ground, shooting basketball-sized blocks in every direction, zipping past us like missiles.

At the end of the day, we had a couple of bumps and bruises, but no one was truly injured.

It took a week to recover. And it took a week for the climb to finish freezing. So just seven days later, we found ourselves once again at the base of Shannon Falls. This time though, we sent the line.

For a long time, I was quite proud of that climb. It was technically easy, but the experience a week prior had left an indelible mark on me. The entire time we were on the route, I was convinced it was going to collapse...and I simply didn't have the judgement or experience to adequately assess the strength of the climb. Getting to the top, uninjured and happy, seemed like a great accomplishment.

But that's not how a climb should go. The baseline of success shouldn't be staying alive. Instead, it should be having a good time with our friends, while pushing ourselves in a controlled manner. One is not in control when they get on an ice climb that appears to be coming apart.

Ice climbs can and do collapse. If there is water running behind a climb -- especially if there's a lot of water -- it's time to go home. If it's so cold that the entire climb is brittle, then it's time to go home. It it's really warm out, and has been warm for a few days, it's time to go home. And if you just don't feel it, it's time to go home.

That's what should have happened in the following video. Whiteman Falls is a classic 2-pitch climb found in Kananaskies Country near Calgary. In the video, the climbers work up the line as you can hear water running behind, and then a large part of the climb collapses.

The video shows the incident from two perspectives. First, it shows it from the perspective of the climber, and then second, of the belayer. It gives you a really good feel for what it would be like to be near a climb as it collapses.

There is one thing that I thought this party did well. The belayer is perched in a place where he is secure from falling ice. One could make a very strong argument that this is how a belayer should be placed in all ice climbing situations.

Ice climbing is super fun, but it can also be dangerous. Learning how to protect both a leader and a follower from falling ice is a skill that takes time and experience to develop...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, February 2, 2018

Rock Technique and Training for Beginners

Mani the Monkey is a climber and climbing coach that has put together a youtube channel filled with excellent training and technique information for climbing movement skills. We've featured several of Mani's videos on the blog over the last several months. Most of these are for more advanced climbers.

In this video, Mani talks about what beginning level climbers should focus on to build their climbing movement skills.

In review, here are Mani's suggestions for beginner climbers:

1) Diverse Climbing - Try lots of different things: boulder, alpine climb, climb cracks, climb faces, gym climb, join competitions...just do whatever you can to build a wide array of climbing skills.

2) Determine Your Climbing Level - Do a lot of flash attempts in the gym. Don't spend much time projecting routes. Don't try anything more than three times. It's better if you can get on a lot of diverse terrain instead of focusing on specific problems. Additionally, you'll build finger, tendon and hand strength, which will help you to avoid injury.

3) Diversity Allows You to Determine Focus - The more you have variety, the more you'll determine what's best for you and what discipline you really want to focus on. If you start with diversity, it will help you figure out what you should train for.

Mani notes that this focus on diversity is what allowed Adam Ondra to become one of the best climbers in the world.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/1/18


--Oregon Live is reporting that, "A Mount Hood ski patroller was seriously injured in an avalanche Wednesday afternoon while working in a closed area of the resort, authorities confirmed. The patroller, a member of Mt. Hood Meadows Pro Patrol, was one of three working in the area when the avalanche occurred, according to a resort spokesman. The unidentified patroller, who was partially buried, was taken to a hospital, the spokesman said." To read more, click here.

--A group of backcountry skiers were caught in an avalanche in British Columbia's Hollyburn Mountain on Saturday. They were able to self-rescue. To read more, click here.


--The NPS is reporting that, "today, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke announced that he has selected Michael T. (Mike) Reynolds to be the superintendent of Yosemite National Park in California. He also named Paul Daniel (Dan) Smith the National Park Service’s acting director, replacing Reynolds, who has exercised the authority of NPS director since January 3, 2017." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

Z 107.7 is reporting that, "After numerous citizen complaints and media pressure, the County said it is finally taking steps towards fulfilling its obligations on Section 6 in Joshua Tree. The 605-acre parcel, bisected by a dirt portion of Onaga Trail East of Quail Springs Road, has turned into an unregulated, wild-west ad hoc campground, climbing, off-road vehicle and open play area." To read more, click here.

--The annual Red Rock Rendezvous is slated to take place in Las Vegas from March 16-19, 2018. This is one of the biggest climbing festivals in the country...and one of the most fun. The American Alpine Institute works with Mountain Gear to put on the festival every year and many AAI guides will be on hand for both instruction, as well as for hanging out at the evening parties. You might also consider booking a guide before or after the program, or even participating in an additional climbing class. To read more, click here.

--Somebody poached a pregnant elk in Zion National Park last week. To read more, click here.


--The Denver Post is reporting that, "Skiers and snowboarders notched yet another victory Monday as Telluride ski area joined the Epic Pass for the 2018-19 season, the first limited-access partner to take up with Vail Resorts as it squares off with Alterra Mountain Co. in a season-pass brawl." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A dramatic rescue took place in the Himalaya this week. Rock and Ice is reporting that, "Adam Bielecki and Denis Urubko blasted up Nanga Parbat during a frigid night to rescue the stranded Elisabeth Revol. Her partner Tomek Mackiewicz could not be saved." To read more, click here.

--Alpinist magazine and many others are reporting that, "The legendary Himalayan historian Elizabeth Hawley died on January 26 at the age of 94 in Kathmandu, Nepal. Her remarkable life has had several distinctive chapters, but the mountaineering community will remember her most as the chronicler of Himalayan climbing." To read more, click here.

--A skier died after hitting a tree at Big Sky Ski Resort in Montana. To read more, click here.

--A 20-year-old skier died in Park City this week after hitting a tree. To read more, click here.

Liz Daley guiding in Washington Pass.

--Outside is reporting that, Jones Snowboards is giving away $1,500 in cash to women who want to explore backcountry frontiers. They're also kicking in a new Jones splitboard, skins, and backpack. The grant is offered in partnership with the American Alpine Club, and only women qualify. It honors Liz Daley, a snowboarder and mountain guide who died in a 2014 avalanche while descending 7,000-foot Cerro Vespignani, in Argentinian Patagonia. The Live Like Liz Award seeks to support women who share Daley’s passion for wilderness exploration." Liz was an AAI Guide. To read more, click here.