Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Book Review: Alone on the Wall by Alex Honnold and David Roberts

On June 3, 2017, something happened that changed the climbing world. Alex Honnold free soloed Freerider (5.12d, VI, 3000') on Yosemite's El Capitan. This ascent was beyond awe inspiring. Some have said that it was the most impressive thing to happen in any sport...ever.

Many writers have compared Alex's free solo to breaking the four-minute mile, a barrier that was thought impossible to break, until it was soundly broken. The big difference between the four-minute mile and Alex's ascent is that if someone doesn't quite break the four-minute mile, they're still alive. Had Alex not been successful on his ascent, he would have died...


Alex predicted that he would attempt something on El Cap in his inciteful book, Alone on the Wall, which he wrote with the prolific outdoor writer, David Roberts. Indeed, he noted that Freerider would be the obvious choice.

Alone on the Wall chronicles Alex's journey from high school nerdom to internationally renowned rock climber. It looks carefully at how he began free soloing, his mentors, his sponsorship, his films and his most inspirational ascents. It also delves into his psychology and why he climbs without a rope.

It's with some irony that he noted the reason he started free soloing was because he was too shy to try to hook-up with strangers in climbing area parking lots. In other words, the greatest free soloist in history, a person who can climb 5.12+ thousands of feet off the deck with no rope, became who he is...because he was afraid...

In Alone on the Wall, we learn that Alex slowly developed his skill over a period of years, going bigger and bigger. When he free soloed Moonlight Buttress (5.12d, V, 1200') in Zion, the climbing world took notice. It didn't take long for him to become a member of the North Face team, traveling the world.

It was during his travels that climbing became something more than just a physical pursuit. In the country of Chad, Alex began to think about climate change and sustainability in relation to some of the poorest people on the planet. Shortly after that trip he launched the Honnold Foundation, an organization dedicated to bringing sustainable improvements to developing countries including solar panels and other clean energy innovations.

Alex Honnold is not without his detractors though. Indeed, when we posted about Alex's achievements on our Facebook page we received a number of comments about how irresponsible this type of climbing is. There is a belief that people will attempt free soloing that shouldn't because of Alex. In Alone on the Wall, he responds to this criticism:

Every once in awhile, I hear that somebody thinks I'm a bad role model for kids. The argument goes something like this: Some kid sees a film like Alone on the Wall and decides he wants to try free soloing. Doesn't have the judgement yet to know how to stay safe. In the worst case scenario, the kid gets on some route right at his limit, loses his cool, and falls off.

Well, I challenge those critics to cite a single case in which a climbing accident has been caused by some youngster trying to emulate me. It just doesn't work that way. If you've never free soloed before, you're likely to get twelve feet off the ground, freak out, and back off.

It's easy to see where these concerns come into play. Alex is cool and his ascents are cool. His book is inspirational. But there are very few free solo deaths in the United States or abroad. Alex's ascents are extremely high profile, but there's no evidence that there are any more free soloists today than there were twenty years ago. That said, free soloing is also in the eye of the beholder. Is climbing a third class ridge line without a rope free soloing? What about a fourth-class ridge with one fifth class move...? Where does it switch from scrambling to free soloing? When does a high-ball boulder problem transition from bouldering the free soloing...? There's no doubt that what Alex is doing is free solo climbing. But I believe some detractors haven't thought about where their own climbing switches from scrambling to free soloing, and sometimes it can feel like those who criticise Alex are throwing stones in a glass house...

Alex on the Thank God Ledge on the Regular NW Face (5.12b, VI)  of Half Dome.
This is the famous photo from Alex's seminal film, Alone on the Wall.

So what about that ascent on El Cap. Alex thought about it for a long time. In his book he even names Freerider as a potential objective for the first free solo of El Cap. But he also notes the pressure.

For a while, the media flirted with the idea that Dean Potter and I were rivals to pull off the first free solo of El Cap. I just shrugged off that talk, but it sort of pissed Dean off. "Let's talk about it after it's happened," he told Outside in 2010. "The magazines want a race. But this would be beyond athletic achievement. For me, this would be at the highest level of spirituality."

Though Alex wasn't the one who said that it would be the "highest level of spirituality," it's certainly a memorable moment in his book. It's clear that he feels that an ascent like the one he made on Freerider was indeed, the highest level of spirituality...

The question that everyone's asking then is, what's next? How can he go bigger than El Cap? It's no mystery. Alex told us in his book:

For that matter, even El Cap wouldn't be the ultimate free solo. On Nameless Tower, a huge granite spire in the Trango Towers group of the Karakoram Range in Pakistan, there's a route called Eternal Flame. It's as big as El Cap, and it starts at 17,000 feet above sea level. The route was put up in 1989 by a very strong German foursome, including Wolfgang Gullich and Kurt Albert. After lots of other climbers tried and failed, the Huber brothers, Alex and Thomas, succeeded in climbing it all free in 2009. They rated it at 5.13a. Claiming they were lucky to have good weather and find almost no ice in the cracks, the Hubers called Eternal Flame "the best and most beautiful free climb on the globe." If there's a challenge for the proverbial "next generation," it would be free soloing Eternal Flame.

If the first free solo ascent on El Cap was a moon landing, then an ascent of Eternal Flame is a Mars landing. And all that we mere mortals can do is to wish Alex, good luck...!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, July 30, 2018

Update on Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Firefighter Fatality

AAI just received the following from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park:

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks News Release

For Immediate Release                             
Media Contact: (559) 565-3704
E-mail: seki_fire_info@nps.gov
  Reference Number: 8550-1843

Update on Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Firefighter Fatality

SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS, Calif. July 29, 2018 – The firefighter who lost his life in an accident on the fireline this morning has been identified as Brian Hughes, Captain of the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots. He was 33.

The fatal incident occurred earlier this morning. At the time, Hughes and his crew were engaged in a tactical firing operation on the east side of the Ferguson Fire. They were operating in an area with a large amount of tree mortality. Hughes was struck by a tree. He was treated on scene, but passed away before he could be transported to a hospital.

Hughes was originally from Hilo, Hawai`i, and has been with the Arrowhead Interagency Hotshots for four years. The parks ask that public and media respect the other crew members’ privacy during this tragic time.

A photo of Brian Hughes accompanies this news release. Additional updates will be issued as information becomes available.

Captain Brian Hughes of the Arrowhead Hotshots. Photo from Brad Torchia.

 - NPS -

About Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

These two parks, which lie side by side in the southern Sierra Nevada in Central California, preserve prime examples of nature’s size, beauty, and diversity. Over 2 million visitors from across the U.S. and the world visit these parks to see the world’s largest trees (by volume), grand mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons, vast caverns, the highest point in the lower 48 states, and more. Learn more at http://www.nps.gov/seki or 559-565-3341.

Firefighter from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Killed on Ferguson Fire

This is absolutely horrible. AAI just received this email from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks:

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks News Release

For Immediate Release                             
Media Contact: (559) 565-3704
E-mail: seki_fire_info@nps.gov
Reference Number: 8550-1842

Firefighter from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks Killed on Ferguson Fire

SEQUOIA AND KINGS CANYON NATIONAL PARKS, Calif. July 29, 2018 – This morning, park officials were informed that a firefighter from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks was killed in the line of duty on the Ferguson Fire in Mariposa County. The firefighter’s identity is being withheld until appropriate family notifications have been made.

The fatal incident occurred earlier this morning. At the time, the firefighter and his crew were engaged in a tactical firing operation on the east side of the Ferguson Fire. They were operating in an area with a large amount of tree mortality. The firefighter was struck by a tree. He was treated on scene, but passed away before he could be transported to a hospital.

“The team at Sequoia and Kings National Parks is devastated by this terrible news,” says parks superintendent Woody Smeck. “Our deepest condolences go out to the firefighter’s family and loved ones. We grieve this loss with you.”

Further public information will be made available once the firefighter’s family has been notified. No photos or video related to this incident are currently available.

 - NPS -

About Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks

These two parks, which lie side by side in the southern Sierra Nevada in Central California, preserve prime examples of nature’s size, beauty, and diversity. Over 2 million visitors from across the U.S. and the world visit these parks to see the world’s largest trees (by volume), grand mountains, rugged foothills, deep canyons, vast caverns, the highest point in the lower 48 states, and more. Learn more at http://www.nps.gov/seki or 559-565-3341.

Route Profile: Denali - West Rib

Denali - 20,320 ft (6194 m)

Route: Complete West Rib

Our approach is to climb this line "alpine style." In other words, we climb the normal West Buttress route up to Camp III at 14,200 feet to acclimatize. Leaving a cache of food and fuel at Camp III, we descend back down to Camp I at 7,800 feet with light packs. This approach will allow us to efficiently climb the West Rib in a single push without the use of fixed ropes.
Climbing the entrance couloir to the West Rib.
Climbing the entrance couloir to the West Rib. AAI Collection
The following day we will travel up the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna and establish a Camp at 9,400 feet. From the base of our route at 11,100 feet, we face a rather spectacular beginning: a 2000-foot couloir of 45 to 55-degree snow and ice. Pitching out this steep section is important because it is very strenuous and there are no options for shelter before reaching West Rib Camp III at 12,800 feet.
Once comfortably established on the crest of the Rib, we are confronted with another ice dome that requires additional pitching and climbing on hard alpine ice up to 60 degrees. Above the ice dome the climbing eases some, with a mixture of 45-degree snow and rock climbing as we work our way to Camp IV at 14,700 feet and Camp V at 16,400 feet. On summit day we climb snow and ice couloirs and then easy mixed rock, which leads us to the summit plateau at 19,400 feet. From that point we turn east and climb gradually to the final summit ridge.
Besides offering high quality climbing, this entire line of ascent is aesthetically attractive and provides great views of surrounding peaks and routes. As soon as we reach the rib crest we have the impressive outline of the Cassin Ridge off to our east; as we climb higher we see the West Buttress route and then look down onto its 14,000-foot plateau camp; and finally as we ascend the high snow and ice couloirs, we are able to look out to all the major peaks of the Alaska Range. With a descent via the lower half of the West Buttress route, we enjoy varied and remarkably beautiful terrain from beginning to end of this expedition.
Advantages to Climbing the Complete West Rib
1. This is a highly aesthetic line on one of America's most beautiful mountains. Were it not for the extreme popularity of the West Buttress to the left of the route, and of the notoriety of the world-class Cassin Ridge to the right of the route, this line would be one of the most recognized and sought after on the mountain.
2. An ascent of the Upper West Rib misses nearly 5000 feet of interesting and engaging climbing on the crest of the Rib proper adjacent to the beautiful Cassin Ridge.
3. An ascent of the entire West Rib is significantly more committing than an ascent of the Upper West Rib. Many see mountain commitment as an attractive element and seek out trips with such an aesthetic.
4. Many find the exposed and complex terrain of the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier to be both exhilarating and frightening. An ascent of the complete West Rib requires late night/early morning travel through this well-known zone. 

Route: West Rib Cutoff

Many individuals are interested in climbing Denali via a route other than the West Buttress, but don't want to commit to something as serious as the complete West Rib.
The Upper West Rib provides for a fantastic adventure on a classic line while still providing you with many of the aesthetics found on the West Buttress. On this climb, out team will ascent the standard West Buttress route up to Camp III at 14,200 feet. From there, we will climb up the West Rib Cut-Off to join the upper Rib.
High camp on the West Rib
High camp on the West Rib.
Joe Stock
After arriving at Camp III, most teams will make an acclimatization climb up to the 17,200-foot West Buttress camp. There they will leave a cache set-up for their descent a few days later.
After waiting for an appropriate weather window at Camp III, the team will work its way up the Cut-Off to join the ridge crest at 15,700 feet. Once the crest is reached, the climbing is absolutely fantastic. The team will climb a steep and sustained couloir to a protected camp at 16,400 feet.
On summit day, we will climb a six-hundred foot steep and windy couloir with sections of sixty-degree terrain to a flat spot at the base of the last crux. From here the team has two options, a traverse across the top of the infamous Orient Express couloir or an ascent up another steep couloir to the east. Both options top out on the "Football Field," a flatish spot below the final summit ridge. From here, the route once again joins the West Buttress to the mountain's summit at 20,320 feet.
Our descent will take us back down the West Buttress route to the camp that we prepped on our acclimatization ascent at 17,200 feet. From there, we will make our way down the West Buttress and back to Base Camp.
Advantages of Climbing the Upper West Rib
1. Climbing the Upper West Rib allows for a lighter ascent. If you climb the complete route, you must carry multiple days worth of food and fuel on your back. If you only climb the Upper Rib, the ascent to 14,200 feet will be sled assisted.
2. After climbing all the way up to Camp III at 14,200 feet, it can be demoralizing to descend all the way back down to the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier to start your "real" ascent.
3. Though this is an incredibly physical climb, it is ultimately an easier ascent than the Complete West Rib.
4. An ascent of the Upper West Rib avoids the complexity and the objective danger that complete Rib climbers face in the Northeast Fork of the Kahiltna Glacier.
Climbers approaching the summit after a successful climb of the West Rib.
Climbers descending after a successful climb of the West Rib.
AAI Collection
Feel free to call or email for more information about the West Rib route!

--
Dylan Cembalski
Alaska Programs and 7 Summits Coordinator
AAI Guide

Friday, July 27, 2018

Sierra - Horse Creek Fire - July 27, 2018

The following email just arrived from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park:

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks News Release

For Immediate Release
Fire Information Updates: (559) 565-3704
E-mail: seki_fire_info@nps.gov
Reference Number: 8550-1841
Media Contact: 559-565-3129

Horse Creek Fire Update 07-27-18

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, Calif. July 27, 2018 – Park fire management officials resumed control of the Horse Creek Fire in the John Krebs Wilderness of Sequoia National Park this morning. The fire is currently 34 acres and 90% contained. Fire activity has reduced dramatically, with fire mostly smoldering and creeping with a few interior pockets of active flame.

The fire is staffed on the ground by a single crew engaged in patrol, mop-up, and reinforcing fire containment lines where necessary. Smoke from the area may be visible from the Mineral King Road for several days or weeks as interior pockets of fuel are consumed.

Effective today, overnight wilderness users will be able to begin trips from Mineral King-area trailheads, and walk-up permits are being issued for those trails again according to usual policy. The Atwell-Hockett Trail and the Tar Gap Trail have been reopened for regular use.

“We are very thankful to the South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Team for all their hard work,” says Sequoia Duty Officer Kelly Singer. “This fire had the potential to grow quickly and affect a lot of people. Thanks to the team, and to all the other ground and air resources, it’s in a very manageable place now.”

Firefighters will remain on the ground at the fire until a determination is made by fire management staff to withdraw them, at which point the fire will be patrolled by air.

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are experiencing variable smoke impacts due to other fires in the state, including the Ferguson Fire in Mariposa County. For daily updates on park air quality, visit go.nps.gov/sekiair.

This will be the last daily update for the Horse Creek Fire unless conditions significantly change.

For more information on the Horse Creek Fire, visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5984/.

 - NPS -

About Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks' Fire Management Program

For fifty years, our mission has been to use the full range of options and strategies available to manage fire in the parks. This includes protecting park resources, employees, and the public from unwanted fire; building and maintaining fire resilient ecosystems; reducing the threat to local communities from wildfires emanating from the parks or adjacent lands; and recruiting, training, and retaining a professional fire management workforce.

Why Would a Climber Need a Knife?

It's not always super easy to find things to write about in this blog. So I often lurk on different websites looking for topics to write about. This particular post on rockclimbing.com caught my attention:

I am a new climber-and I've seen many climbers carry knives. Many of them are really attached to them-and consider them their favorite tool. I've met climbers that have stories about their knives and talk about them like a companion. I was thinking I should invest in one-but would love to hear about your experiences or knife stories.

I'm hoping that it will help me with this decision.

This individual must have a strange local ethic. I've never heard a climber talk about his knife like it was a companion. No, instead I've heard climbers complain that their "harness knives" aren't sharp enough or to debate whether or not carrying such an item is even appropriate.

So there are two parts to this question. First, what might a climber need a knife for. And second, why is there even an argument about whether such a tool is appropriate.



Many of you have read the book or seen the movie, Touching the Void. In that particular incident, two climbers found themselves caught in a tremendously dangerous situation. One hung over a cornice, while the other held him on a rope in a precarious stance. As the stance deteriorated and it appeared that both would die, the climber holding the rope decided to cut it...

Lucky he had a knife!

But this was an incredibly unusual situation. In over two hundred years of climbing history, this has happened exactly one time. So this isn't exactly why you need a knife with you.

No, instead you need a knife with you to deal with this:



In the picture above, there are seven or eight slings wrapped around the rappel horn. Most of them are quite bad. Some are crusty. Some have been eaten by mice. And so the best thing to do is to add one more cord, right?

Wrong.

The best thing to do is to add a cord (which you may need a knife to fashion) and then to cut the other tat away (which will also require a knife), so that there is one nice and clean redundant anchor on the horn. Clearing away the garbage at rappel stations provides great stewardship and it shows that you care about the crags where you climb.

Cutting cords and sling material is a common occurrence on long multi-pitch routes that don't see a lot of traffic. It is not at all uncommon to have to do some work to beef up anchors or to clean up old materials left years before. Additionally, a knife could be used to cut away damaged sections of rope, be used in a first aid situation, or even be used to trim materials for a makeshift shelter. There are a million uses for a knife, especially on long routes...

I alluded to the possibility that there was some controversy about carrying a knife. That is not at all the case. Every guide carries a knife. No, instead the controversy lies in what kind of knife you should carry and how you should carry it.

This photo was submitted to the AAI Facebook Page. It shows a knife that 
came off a harness, opened and got behind a rope. This is an incredibly unusual occurrence. 
It took several stages for this to take place. But it does prove that bad things can happen 
with knives on harnesses and that you have to be careful...

It is not uncommon for people to carry cheap "gas station" knives on cords hanging off their harnesses. Indeed, some people even carry more expensive knives the same way. The concern is that a knife might open and become dangerous, both from the possibility of getting cut as well as the possibility of it damaging gear. As such, there are some guide trainers that don't allow guides to carry knives on their harnesses. They prefer if they were in a pack.


There are a couple of popular harness knives available on the market that theoretically will not open on your harness. The Trango Piranah Climbing Knife (pictured above) is a very small knife that takes up very little space on your harness.


The Trango Sharktool (pictured above) is a nice hybrid between a nut-tool and a knife. It is a nice way to eliminate some of the extra baggage of the other knives described here. In other words, you will only need to have one carabiner for both the knife and your nut-tool.


The Petzl Spatha (pictured above) is a tried and true classic. I would say that I've seen this particular knife on more peoples harnesses than any of the others listed.

Certainly many climbers carry a multi-tool. This is especially useful if you are on an expedition or on a big alpine climb. Some will elect to carry their multi-tool on a harness, but most will stow it in a pack.

So to answer the original question, there are many uses for a knife. But if you start to see your knife as a companion or a close friend, then you should seriously consider therapy...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Sierra - Horse Creek Fire Update - July 26, 2018

AAI just received the following from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park:

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks News Release

For Immediate Release
Fire Information Updates: (559) 565-3704
E-mail: seki_fire_info@nps.gov

Horse Creek Fire Update (July 26, 2018)

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, Calif. July 26, 2018. – The Horse Creek Fire in the John Krebs Wilderness Area of Sequoia National Park is currently mapped at 34 acres in size and is 62% contained.

Firefighters again stayed on the line overnight to monitor fire activity. They will work a shift today, then be replaced by a local park crew who will remain on the fire for several days. This crew will continue mop up and ensure that no burning material escapes from the containment lines.

Residents and visitors can expect to see smoke from inside the containment lines for the next few days.

Effective today, Thursday, July 26, 2018: the Mineral King area is no longer under a Fire Advisory.

Effective Friday, July 27, 2018: the Park will begin issuing wilderness permits for Mineral King trails, and the Tar Gap and Atwell-Hockett Trails are expected to re-open.

Wilderness permits can be picked up as early as 1:00 p.m. the day before entry. A limited number of walk-up permits will be available.

For questions about wilderness permits, please call (559) 565-3766 or e-mail seki_wilderness_office@nps.gov.

Tulare County offers a free automated alert service that issues notices of unsafe conditions and warnings to residents on the platform of their choice (e.g., SMS, email, landline). To sign up, visit https://alerttc.com/

For more information on the Horse Creek Fire, visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5984/.

 - NPS -

About Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks' Fire Management Program

For fifty years, our mission has been to use the full range of options and strategies available to manage fire in the parks. This includes protecting park resources, employees, and the public from unwanted fire; building and maintaining fire resilient ecosystems; reducing the threat to local communities from wildfires emanating from the parks or adjacent lands; and recruiting, training, and retaining a professional fire management workforce.

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 7/26/18

Northwest:

--Gripped Magazine is reporting that a Canadian climbing guide passed away earlier this month. "Geoffrey Bernard Creighton died suddenly and unexpectedly on July 7, at his home in North Vancouver." To read more, click here.

--A helicopter rescued an injured 64-year old climber off Oregon's Mt. Jefferson this week. To read more, click here.

--Here's an inspirational article about adaptive climbers in Squamish!

--Brittany Goris recently redpointed City Park (5.13d) in Index. This is perhaps the most famous single pitch or rock climbing in Washington State because of its history and stature. To learn about it and Brittany, click here.

Sierra:

--A new via ferrata in the Sierra is raising some hackles. To read more, click here.

--It's never appropriate to drop a haul bag. In 2016, it appears that a climber dropped a haul bag which subsequently hit another climber and injured him severely. This thread discusses the incident.

--There are temporary closures in Yosemite due to wildfire. To read more, click here and here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Washington Post is reporting that, "In a quest to shrink national monuments last year, senior Interior Department officials dismissed evidence these public lands boosted tourism and spurred archaeological discoveries, according to documents the department released this month and retracted a day later. The thousands of pages of email correspondence chart how Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and his aides instead tailored their survey of protected sites to emphasize the value of logging, ranching and energy development that would be unlocked if they were not designated as national monuments." To read more, click here.

Colorado:

--The Aspen Times is reporting that, "Mountain Rescue Aspen simultaneously responded to two different incidents Tuesday in the Maroon Bells Wilderness Area." In one case a climber fell and broke his wrist. In the other a grandfather and grandson were overdue. The overdue pair were found in good health while the team was helping the injured climber out. To read more, click here.

--The Daily Camera is reporting that, "A 58-year-old man was severely injured Sunday afternoon after falling about 400 feet while climbing in the area of Isabelle Glacier Lake in the Brainard Lake recreational area, according to the Boulder County Sheriff's Office." To read more, click here.


--AAI announced its prestigious Guides Choice Award at the Outdoor Retailer show this week! To see the winners, click here.

--This week is the Outdoor Retail show in Denver. Gear Junkie has an interesting piece on the event. "The outdoors industry is a historically male-dominated sector. But women have taken the reigns of one of the largest business-to-business U.S. trade shows in this space. It signals a shift in demographics and leadership that could affect the future of retail and gear in North America." To read more, click here.

--In other Outdoor Retailer News, the climbing industry is taking on sexual harassment. A group discussed the issues at the event and the results of a large scale survey of climbers on the subject. To read more, click here.

--All of your other questions about the Outdoor Retailer are answered, here.

--The Aspen Times is reporting that, "A local ski instructor sued a Denver-area man earlier this week who allegedly skied into him in February and caused neck and back injuries." To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund is reporting that, "After 23 years of ownership, Access Fund is pleased to announce the transfer of Society Turn in western Colorado to San Miguel County for long-term climbing friendly management. The 6-acre property outside Telluride features a sandstone cliff line with a couple dozen boulder problems and top rope routes. The area has been enjoyed by climbiners since the 1970s as an ideal spot to climb after work or on sunny winter days." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Jackson Hole News and Guide is reporting that, "Authorities have identified the climber who fatally fell 300 feet Sunday on a popular route up Storm Point in the Cascade Canyon area. Marco Korstiaan Dees, 33, was climbing Guide’s Wall on Sunday when the accident occurred. His girlfriend and climbing partner, Grace Mooney, was rescued the next morning by Jenny Lake climbing rangers. They learned of the accident from a hiker who phoned authorities after seeing a flashing light and hearing calls for help Sunday night." To read more, click here.

--CBC News is reporting that, "A 65-year-old man from B.C. died Saturday when he fell while climbing in Kananaskis Country, southwest of Calgary. STARS Air Ambulance spokeswoman Deb Tetley said crews were dispatched at about 5 p.m. to Mount Lipsett, just south of Highwood Pass, in K-Country, but were later stood down." To read more, click here.




--SnowBrains is reporting that, "Polish mountaineer and mountain runner Andrzej Bargiel, 30 has become the first person to ski down K2 (28,251-feet), the second tallest mountain in the world. He summited K2 on Sunday morning at 11:30 am and returned to Base Camp at around 7:30 pm local time." To read more, click here.

--Outside Magazine is reporting that "Patagonia, REI, the North Face, and a handful of others are attempting to change that by rethinking their business models and hiring practices. Given the degree to which people of color and members of the LGBTQ community are underrepresented in outdoor-industry jobs, it’s a formidable task. And while assessing progress is difficult at this stage, experts say there’s a long way to go." To read more, click here.

--Endurance Sportswear is reporting that, "Global outdoors leader Mammut today announced the acquisition of digital outdoors platform, Mountain Hub, for an undisclosed amount, in a push to bolster the brand’s digital community, connection to consumers, and integration of technologies across platforms." To read more, click here.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Sierra - Horse Creek Fire Update - July 25, 2018

The following is from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park:

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks News Release

For Immediate Release
Fire Information Updates: (559) 565-3704
E-mail: seki_fire_info@nps.gov

 Horse Creek Fire Update (July 25, 2018)

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, Calif. July 25, 2018, 8:30 a.m. – The Horse Creek Fire in the John Krebs Wilderness Area of Sequoia National Park remains at 30 acres in size and is 50% contained. Containment lines have been completed around the perimeter of the fire. Crews will continue to strengthen and secure the line to increase containment throughout the day while also mopping up hot spots. Residents and visitors on Mineral King Road can expect to see isolated smokes inside the containment lines for at least the next few days.

Helicopters will continue to be used today to shuttle crews and supplies to the remote fire location, as well as to provide water drops to assist with extinguishing hot spots. While the threat of thunderstorms still exists, a predicted stable air mass over the area will continue to decrease this threat over the fire area.

The Mineral King Valley remains under a Fire Advisory. Due to the increased amount of fire personnel traffic on the Mineral King Road:

  • Effective Friday, July 27, the park will begin issuing wilderness permits for Mineral King trails that remain open. Permits can be picked up as early as 1:00 p.m. the day before entry. A limited number of walk-up permits will be available.
  • The Atwell-Hockett Trail and the Tar Gap Trail remain closed.
  • Mineral King Campgrounds remain open but could close with little notice based on changes in fire behavior, smoke, and air quality.

For questions about wilderness permits, please call (559) 565-3766 or e-mail seki_wilderness_office@nps.gov.

At this time neither the road nor any structures are directly threatened by the fire, and the road remains open. However, visitors are strongly encouraged to consider recreation options other than Mineral King in order to minimize traffic on the road.

Tulare County offers a free automated alert service that issues notices of unsafe conditions and warnings to residents on the platform of their choice (e.g., SMS, email, landline). To sign up, visit https://alerttc.com/

For more information on the Horse Creek Fire, visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5984/.

 - NPS -

About Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks' Fire Management Program

For fifty years, our mission has been to use the full range of options and strategies available to manage fire in the parks. This includes protecting park resources, employees, and the public from unwanted fire; building and maintaining fire resilient ecosystems; reducing the threat to local communities from wildfires emanating from the parks or adjacent lands; and recruiting, training, and retaining a professional fire management workforce.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Sierra - Horse Creek Fire Update - July 24, 2018

AAI just received the following email from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks:

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks News Release

For Immediate Release
Fire Information Updates: (559) 565-3704
E-mail: seki_fire_info@nps.gov

Horse Creek Fire Update (July 24, 2018)

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (7/24/18, 9 a.m.) - Firefighters continue to strengthen containment and build upon successful operations on the Horse Creek Fire.

The Horse Creek fire continued to hold at 30 acres in size overnight due to the successful work of fire crews during the day. The fire is currently 17% contained and firefighters expect to increase containment today with the addition of more Hotshot and hand crews.

Due to the remote location of this fire, which is burning in the John Krebs Wilderness Area of Sequoia National Park, helicopters continue to be used extensively not only for fire attack, but also to shuttle and resupply ground crews. Firefighters will continue full suppression actions today with both ground and air resources. Five helicopters are currently being utilized for aerial water drops while ground crews work to strengthen containment lines.

Firefighters continue to be challenged by steep terrain and high temperatures. However, a predicted stable air mass moving into the region will likely decrease the threat of thunderstorms. Fire behavior has remained moderate, with the fire creeping and smoldering along the ground. The South Central Sierra Interagency Incident Management Team remains in command of the fire and is working under a delegation of authority from Sequoia National Park.

The Mineral King Valley is now under a Fire Advisory. The Mineral King area may experience smoke impacts of varying intensity. Due to this and the increased amount of fire personnel traffic on the Mineral King Road:

  • Effective Monday, July 23, wilderness permit holders will not be able to start any trips from Mineral King trailheads until further notice. Walk-up permits will not be issued. Visitors currently on wilderness trips will be allowed to exit as planned.
  • The Atwell-Hockett Trail and the Tar Gap Trail remain closed.
  • Mineral King Campgrounds remain open but could close with little notice based on change in fire behavior, smoke, and air quality.
  • Only day-hiking is permitted on open trails.

For questions about wilderness permits, please call (559) 565-3766 or e-mail seki_wilderness_office@nps.gov.

At this time neither the road nor any structures are directly threatened by the fire, and the road remains open. However, visitors are strongly encouraged to consider recreation options other than Mineral King in order to minimize traffic on the road.

Tulare County offers a free automated alert service that issues notices of unsafe conditions and warnings to residents on the platform of their choice (e.g., SMS, email, landline). To sign up, visit https://alerttc.com/

For more information on the Horse Creek Fire, visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5984/.

 - NPS -

About Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks' Fire Management Program

For fifty years, our mission has been to use the full range of options and strategies available to manage fire in the parks. This includes protecting park resources, employees, and the public from unwanted fire; building and maintaining fire resilient ecosystems; reducing the threat to local communities from wildfires emanating from the parks or adjacent lands; and recruiting, training, and retaining a professional fire management workforce.

American Alpine Institute Guides Choice - 2018

The American Alpine Institute is pleased to announce the 2018 Guides Choice Award Winners! The Guides Choice has been a highly valued award for over 20 years and is long coveted by manufacturers and industry insiders. A core group of AAI guides thoroughly test products in a variety of demanding conditions across 6 states and 16 countries.

The Guides Choice Award winners were revealed at the Outdoor Retailer show this week in Denver.


Patagonia Sun Hoodys:

“Our guides love this piece. It was designed for fly fisherman, but works great for climbers. And even thought the hood wasn't designed to fit over a helmet, it fits great.” Christian Schraegle, AAI Retail Manager.

Patagonia Tropic Comfort II


This comfortable, quick drying hoody wicks moisture and provides UPF sun protection and permanent odor control for hot weather.

Features

  • Super comfortable, ultra light 4.6-oz 94% polyester/6% spandex jersey fabric with Polygiene® permanent odor control and 50+ UPF sun protection 
  • Classic, relaxed tee silhouette with generous hood designed to fit over a baseball cap.
  • Thumb holes for added sun protection for the backs of the hands.
  • Fair Trade Certified™ sewing 
  • Fabric is certified as bluesign® approved 
  • 235 g (8.3 oz) 
Patagonia Sunshade


Quick-drying, super breathable technical hoody for warm weather with UPF sun protection.

Features
  • 3.5-oz Lightweight, quick-drying 100% polyester double knit with 50+ UPF sun protection 
  • Straight cuffs with thumb holes for additional sun protection for the backs of the hands 
  • Hidden zip closure on lower front pocket 
  • Artists by color code: Andy Earl (ITBI, ITDP), Patagonia Original Art (LALB, LABE) 
  • 173 g (6.1 oz) 
Lacking fur, feathers or scales, we humans have to think up clever ways to protect ourselves from the sun. Products with the UPF designation provide built-in sun protection that won’t wear off.

To achieve sun protection, Patagonia takes a varied approach, depending on the degree of protection desired and the fabric used. Elements of the strategy range from yarn selection to fabric construction to the use of special finishes (especially for light colors which generally provide less protection).

Fabric is certified as bluesign® approved

Soto Outdoors Windmaster Stove


“I really appreciate the mastery of the engineering design on any Soto products, especially in the stove department. I started using a WindMaster in 2014, and now it's the only stove I use on my trips.” Richard Riquelme, AAI Guide.

Soto says… “Boil 2 cups of water in under 2-1/2 minutes in strong winds and gusty weather. This stove is well-made and able to stand up to harsh conditions.”… We have tested the WindMaster stove on trips to Mount Baker in the North Cascades,  on trips to Denali in Alaska up to 18,000-feet, on the summit of Aconcagua summit at 22,841-feet, and in Bolivia up to 21,000-feet. The stove always operated perfectly. It never failed to fire up and worked well regardless of the wind or temperatures.

The Soto WindMaster OD-1RXC is designed so that the pot sits close to the flame, which makes it more efficient in windy weather. and results in increased efficiency and boil time. The concave design of the burner head creates the effect of a built-in windscreen. The interchangeable pot supports make this stove efficient for whatever size pot your adventure requires.

WindMaster Stove Specifications:
  • Energy Heat Output: 2,800 kcal/h, 3,260w, 11,000 BTU
  • Duration: Burns approx.1.5 hours with 8 oz. (250g) canister
  • Weight: 0.475 lbs 
  • 2.0 oz. (60g) without the TriFlex/4Flex pot supports 
  • 2.3 oz. (67g) with the TriFlex pot support
  • 3.0.oz. (87g) with the 4Flex pot support 
  • Dimensions: 7 x 4 x 2.5 in 
  • TriFlex only (Stowed) 3.7 x 0.4 x 1.0 inch (94 x 10 x 33 mm)
  • 4Flex only (Stowed) 1.9 x 3.0 x 1.7 inch (47 x 77 x 44 mm) 

Zojirushi SM-LA60 Vacuum Insulated Bottle


“These things really keep water hot longer than any other bottles on the market. We tested it on Aconcagua on summit day. A climber got too cold and we thought we were going to have to turn him around. We had a hot drink that we prepared a number of hours earlier in one of these bottles. The climber drank the fluid, recovered and was able to finish the summit that day...!" Richard Riquelme AAI guide.

The stainless mug features an ultra-lightweight, small diameter body that makes it comfortable to hold and carry. The vacuum insulation provides excellent heat and cold retention. Available in 12, 16 and 20 oz. capacities.
  • Stainless steel vacuum insulation keeps beverages hot or cold for hours 
  • Compact lid design has fewer parts for easy cleaning 
  • New 2-step method for disassembly and reassembly of lid ensures no accidental leaks, and helps prevent the loss of parts 
  • 1-1/2" (4cm) wide mouth opening accommodates full-size ice cubes, and is easy to fill 
  • Made of BPA-free plastic and stainless steel 
Model Tested No.:
  • SM-LA60 
  • Capacity - 20 oz. / 0.60 liter 
  • Dimensions (W x D x H) - 2-3/4 x 2-3/4 x 9-3/4 inches 
  • Weight (lbs. oz.) - 0.09 
  • Heat Retention* - 190°F @ 1 hr. / 165°F @ 6 hrs. 
  • Cold Retention** - 46°F @ 6 hrs. 

*Rating is based on water at a starting temperature of 203°F (95°C) at a room temperature of 68°F (20°C)

**Rating is based on water at a starting temperature of 40°F (4°C) at a room temperature of 68°F (20°C)

Petzl Sirocco Helmet


“When you wear a Sirocco helmet, you forget that you're wearing a helmet at all. It is incredibly ligth and comfortable. Calvin Morris, AAI Guide.

Ultra-lightweight climbing and mountaineering helmet with reinforced protection.,

The SIROCCO is designed to respond to the needs of climbers and mountaineers for reduced weight and for protection. Its head-covering shape, lower in the rear, offers reinforced protection over the entire head. Optimized volume on the head, along with excellent ventilation, provides maximum comfort.

Ultra-light design: 
  • only 170 g 
  • hybrid construction with a shell in EPP (expanded polypropylene) foam and rigid crown injected with EPS (expanded polystyrene) foam 
  • Head-covering design for optimal protection against lateral, front and rear impact: 
  • carries Petzl's TOP AND SIDE PROTECTION product label 
  • head-covering shape, lower in the rear, for reinforced protection 

Maximum comfort in action: 
  • wide holes, for excellent ventilation
  • completely adjustable, thanks to the adjustable headband and chinstrap 
  • magnetic buckle facilitates fastening the chinstrap (Petzl patent) 
  • two hooks and rear elastic for attaching a headlamp
  • compatible with the VIZION eye shield 

Specifications
  • Material(s): expanded polypropylene (EPP) foam shell, polycarbonate crown, expanded polystyrene (EPS) liner, polyester webbing 
  • Certification(s): CE EN 12492, UIAA 
  • Product comes with protective storage bag and spare foam.

Petzl R.A.D. System


This is an ultra-light and compact crevasse rescue kit works extremely well for skiers who wish to operate in glaciated terrain.

The RAD SYSTEM (Rescue And Descent) kit allows skiers in mountain terrain to always have the equipment necessary for crevasse rescue, rappelling, or roping up to move through a crevasse zone. This kit contains a storage bag, 30 meters of RAD LINE 6 mm specific cordage, carabiners, ascenders and a sling. 
 
Complete, ultra-light and compact kit:
  • 30 m of RAD LINE 6 mm cordage, developed specifically for crevasse rescue, rappelling and roping up on a glacier during ski mountaineering
  • 3 ATTACHE carabiners 
  • 1 TIBLOC ascender 
  • 1 MICRO TRAXION pulley-ascender 
  • 1 FIN’ANNEAU 120 cm sling
  • equipment is contained in a storage bag 
Kit designed for action:
  • ideal bottom-of-the-pack solution for back-country skiers
  • cord is folded for immediate use without risk of knots or twists
  • two loops on the bag for attaching it to a harness or inside the backpack
  • sewn webbing loops on the top of the bag for attachment of all components of the kit
  • ice screw holder on the outside of the bag 
Ultra-light cord:
  • only 660 g for 30 m
  • sheath has rough texture for better control when rappelling and better braking when arresting a fall in a crevasse
  • stretch of the hyper-static cord is less than 2 %, to facilitate rescue maneuvers and eliminate the yo-yo effect during rappels or fall arrest in a crevasse 
Specifications
  • Material(s): polypropylene, aluminum, Dyneema®, stainless steel, nylon (bag), aramid
  • Certification(s): CE EN 564 (RAD LINE 6 mm cordage) 
  • Weight: 1,045 g


Monday, July 23, 2018

Sierra - Horse Creek Fire Update - July 23, 2018

The American Alpine Institute just received the following press release from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks:

Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks News Release

For Immediate Release
Fire Information Updates: (559) 565-3704
E-mail: seki_fire_info@nps.gov

Horse Creek Fire Update (July 23, 2018)


SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, Calif. (7/23/18) - Crews made good progress constructing direct lines around the Horse Creek Fire’s north and west flank.

The Horse Creek Fire continued to grow slowly yesterday on the south flank in inaccessible wilderness within Sequoia National Park. The fire is highly visible for several miles on the south side of Mineral King Road. The fire is now 30 acres in size and 0% contained. Moderate fire behavior was observed during the day shift, with some isolated single tree torching, roll out, and short uphill runs. The fire was less active through the night. Fire crews have made good progress on the North and West flanks and are working to complete containment lines around the East and South flanks of the fire.

At 7:00 a.m. this morning, the South Central Sierra Interagency Type Two Incident Management Team assumed command of the fire and is working under a delegation of authority from Sequoia National Park. Firefighters are taking full suppression action on this fire and will continue to utilize both air and ground resources to contain the fire. An additional Hot Shot crew will be flown in to assist with fire suppression today. Due to the extremely steep terrain, dense forest and brush, large amount of tree mortality, and lack of trail access, this lightning-caused fire poses challenges for ground operations.

The Mineral King Valley is now under a Fire Advisory. The Mineral King Valley is seeing an increased amount of smoke, especially overnight. Due to this and the increased amount of fire personnel traffic on the Mineral King Road:

  • Effective Monday, July 23, wilderness permit holders will not be able to start any trips from Mineral King trailheads until further notice. Walk-up permits will not be issued. Visitors currently on wilderness trips will be allowed to exit as planned. 
  • The Atwell-Hockett Trail and the Tar Gap Trail remain closed. 
  • Mineral King Campgrounds remain open but could close with little notice based on changes in fire behavior, smoke, and air quality. 
  • Only day-hiking is permitted on open trails. 

For questions about wilderness permits, please call (559) 565-3766 or e-mailseki_wilderness_office@nps.gov.

At this time neither the road nor any structures are directly threatened by the fire, and the road remains open. However, visitors are strongly encouraged to consider recreation options other than Mineral King in order to minimize traffic on the road.

Tulare County offers a free automated alert service that issues notices of unsafe conditions and warnings to residents on the platform of their choice (e.g., SMS, email, landline). To sign up, visithttps://alerttc.com/

For more information on the Horse Creek Fire, visit https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5984/.

- NPS -

About Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks' Fire Management Program

For fifty years, our mission has been to use the full range of options and strategies available to manage fire in the parks. This includes protecting park resources, employees, and the public from unwanted fire; building and maintaining fire resilient ecosystems; reducing the threat to local communities from wildfires emanating from the parks or adjacent lands; and recruiting, training, and retaining a professional fire management workforce.

Extending the Anchor

"Belay off!"

"What?"

"Belay off!!!"

"Are you at the anchor...?"

"I said, BELAY OFF!!!"

Sound familiar? Many parties establish an anchor and then have communication problems.  Some feel that the best way to deal with this is to employ the use of radio, whereas others use rope tugging tricks to communicate.

I'm not a fan of the use of radios, in part because people become used to them almost too quickly. When people depend on radios, they lose touch with even the most basic command sets. And when something goes wrong with the communication, it becomes incredibly hard to reestablish effective communication.

Rope tugs are fine, but they should be used sparingly.

It's common for climbers to miss one major factor in communication. That factor is the position of the belayer.  Many climbers climb up to a large belay ledge, walk across the ledge, build an anchor and then clip into it.  The fact that they are away from the edge and cannot see their partner compounds all of the communication issues. The best thing that one could do in order to decrease these issues is to extend their anchor to the edge.

There are three systems that you might employ to extend the anchor. They are as follows:

Estimated Extension

In this first option, you belay directly off the anchor with an autoblocking device, but  extend your tether so that you can look over the edge. This is a quick and dirty technique wherein you simply estimate how much rope you'll need to look over the edge and then tie yourself off into the anchor with clove-hitch.

There are two issues with this system. First, it's easy to estimate incorrectly, which means that you have to walk back up to the anchor and readjust your clove-hitch. And second, your autoblocking device is out of reach, which makes it hard to provide slack or lower a climber.

The advantage to this system is that it is really really quick.

Pinpoint Extension

In this second system, you will clip a locking carabiner into the anchor, run the rope through it, walk back to the edge of the cliff, and then clip another locking carabiner into your harness. From there, you will clip the rope running up through the anchor to your belay loop with a clove-hitch. This allows you to set yourself exactly where you need to be.

The same problems exist for this system as for the previous system. You are unable to reach the belay device in order to provide slack or lower the climber.

Extended Powerpoint

This last system is really smooth. When you reach the anchor, clip into it with a munter hitch, then belay yourself back to your desired position. Once you are in position tie a BHK. This will lock you into place, but will also give you a powerpoint to work with. You can then belay off that powerpoint and when your partner gets up to you, you'll be able to use the munter hitch in the anchor to belay both you and your climber up to the anchor.

Smooth and elegant.

 In this photo, a climber clipped into an "anchor" to lower himself to the edge.  And before all of you jump down my throat, yes, it is a single cam.  I was trying to teach this quickly when I took these photos. So let's pretend it's a SRENE 12 point anchor.

 The climber makes his way to his stance and ties a BHK, thus securing himself and creating a powerpoint.

 He places his autoblocking device on the new powerpoint and belays.

 Once his climber gets to him, he can tie a catastrophe knot behind his autoblocking device.

 Now he's ready to transition.

 He belays both himself and his climber up to the anchor.

Once at the anchor, both climber and belayer can tie-in.

--Jason D. Martin



Friday, July 20, 2018

First Piece in a Multi-Pitch Setting

We recently received a request to write about this subject:

Hi AAI,

I follow your climbing blog and really appreciate the humor and knowledge.

I was wondering if you could do a post on clipping the anchor on multi pitch climbs. I have heard a lot of back and forth on the merits of clipping the anchor or just climbing up a few moves and placing a gear. Here is a link to a video where some comments are concerned about the video persons not clipping the anchor. Here is another link to a post from Will Gadd who talks about some pros and cons. I am wonder where guides stand on this issue? Do they never, always or just depends on clipping the anchor?

Ironically, I found a couple of pictures that I took some time ago, thinking that I would eventually do an article on this subject. So, here we go!

To begin with, the concept the questioner eludes to has to do with the idea that clipping the anchor will decrease the likelihood of a factor two fall. In review, a factor two fall is the highest fall factor possible. It essentially means that the climber climbed up above the belayer without placing any gear, and then fell. He falls twice the distance of the rope out before the fall is arrested. In other words, it means that he fell past the belayer and placed tremendous force on the system.

If the concept of fall factors is new to you, check out this article from Petzl.

To decrease the likelihood of a factor two fall, many climbers clip one piece in the anchor, or clip the shelf.

 In this photo, the climber clipped a locking carabiner on the right leg of the anchor.
If one clips a carabiner in this application, it must be a locker. Please note that in
this photo the climber clipped the bolt on the right and then climbed up left. He 
probably should have clipped the bolt on the right.

The argument for clipping a piece to the anchor is twofold. First, the belayer will be pulled up instead of down. And second, a piece in the system will help dissipate some of the force. 

The main problem with clipping a single piece of the anchor is that a fall will double the force on the piece. In other words, you need a counter force equal to the force of the falling climber to arrest him. That counter force doubles the load. If the piece is not adequately placed or the rock is poor, the piece could blow out. 

The fact that a single piece could blow out doesn't mean that this technique is universally inappropriate. Instead, it's possible to clip a single piece if it's absolutely bomb-proof. If there's any possibility that the piece is poor or that the rock is poor, you should avoid clipping the single piece in the anchor.

Some climbers clip the anchor's shelf to put force on more than one piece.
The problem with this is that it puts the arresting piece closer to the belayer.
The anatomy of an anchor may be found, here.

Another -- and perhaps more crucial issue -- has to do with the force a fall puts on the belayer. The belayer could easily be pulled up into the first piece and potentially let go. Additionally, on a lower-angle climb, the belayer could get pulled into the wall and -- in an attempt to protect himself from getting slammed -- let go of the rope and put up his hands.

It should also be noted that clipping into the anchor doesn't completely mitigate the fall factor forces that you're trying to avoid. A fall onto a piece in the shelf or in the anchor will still put massive forces into the system.

So, what to do?

First and foremost, there is no reason to clip the anchor if you are not below it. In other words, if your anchor is at your feet and you clip it, it's not going to do anything. Similarly, there's no reason to clip a piece into the anchor if the climber will just fall onto a ledge anyway.

If the terrain is easy enough to avoid clipping the anchor, most guides will avoid it. However, if there are hard moves directly off the belay station, most guides will clip a carabiner or draw into the anchor. If a guide does clip into the anchor, he usually asks his belayer to unclip the anchor piece once the guide has placed adequate protection higher up on the route. This mitigates the problem of the belayer getting pulled up into the system as the guide gets higher. Though he certainly could get pulled up early in the lead...

Occasionally the terrain above an anchor is run-out or doesn't provide decent protection. If this is the case, it may be appropriate to use the anchor as a much more dynamic first piece. But if it's going to be a dynamic first piece there needs to be more rope in the system, so that there is more stretch in the event of a fall. The only way to do this is to place the belayer significantly (10+ feet) below the anchor. The idea is that if the belayer is significantly below the anchor, the anchor will act more like a normal bomb-proof piece in the lead system and none of the disadvantages listed earlier will apply.

There are two ways to do this:

1) The belayer can clip the rope through the carabiner at the master-point. He can then lower himself down the wall a given distance and then clip the backside of the rope to his belay loop. The advantage to this style is that when the leader gets to the next belay station and he puts the belayer on belay, the belayer can unclip from the clove-hitch and the leader can quickly pull up the slack, decreasing the likelihood of a hard fall.

2) The belayer may also simply clip himself into the anchor long. The problem with this is that his clove-hitch will be high above him and the belayer will have to solo up to it before unclipping it when it's his turn to climb.

While using an anchor as the first piece in a multi-pitch lead is common, one should think through the advantages and disadvantages on every single pitch. This is not a system that should be universally applied to this type of climbing...

--Jason D. Martin