Friday, September 28, 2018

Anchor Technique: The Quad

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

In the following video, AMGA Instructor Team Member Jeff Ward, demonstrates how to construct a Quad and then talks about the anchor's benefits.



The benefits listed at the end of the video include:

1) Self-Equalizing
2) Separate clip in points
3) No need to break it down
4) Limited extension if there is bolt failure
5) Limits belayer and second from pulling on one another

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Mug Dilemma

Well, it's not really that much of a dilemma. A few years ago, somebody suggested to me that one could save space and go lighter if he ditched his mug for hot drinks. The idea was that you're already carrying water-bottles...why not use those instead?

So I did. I ditched the mug and started to drink all of my hot fluids out of my Nalgene bottles. This worked for awhile, until I found out about polycarbonate and Bisphenol A.

If you've had you haven't heard some rumblings about this, you've probably been in the backcountry too much. This controversy set the outdoor blogs and forums on fire a few years ago.

Essentially, many water bottles are made out of polycarbonate. The problem with this is that the bottles may leech Bisphenol A into the contents. This is exacerbated in hot liquids, older bottles, or in bottles that you store fluid in for a long period of time.

The problem with Bisphenol A is that this estrogen-like chemical has been linked to breast cancer and the onset of early puberty. Studies have also raised concerns about the effect of such feminizing hormones on men, such as breast enlargement or dropping semen counts.

So after finding out about this, I wasn't that psyched on my water-bottles any more. I know that many companies have taken steps to keep this chemical out of their bottles, but I didn't want to chance it. As a result, I invested in a little metal water bottle, which mostly worked well.

It was always a bit difficult to hold the plastic bottles after filling them with boiling tea. This was much worse when I used the metal bottle. Indeed, I actually made a little cosy in order to comfortably hold the bottle.

And so all was well for a time... But then it happened.

Inexplicably, I put a plastic water-bottle into my pack instead of a metal bottle. I don't know why I did this. And the bottle I put in the bag wasn't from one of the well-known bottle manufactures. No, it was from a gear rep and it had a company name on it...

I didn't think this would matter. It looked just as heavy as any Nalgene bottle I'd carried in the past. But it turns out that it wasn't. When I put my hot water into the bottle, it changed shape and became something all together different.

A bottle melted out of form by boiling water.

This had never happened to me before, so I was a bit shocked. I didn't expect the bottle to melt.

The moral of the story isn't that I've gone back to carrying a mug, but instead to say, check your bottles with hot water in them before you take them into the backcountry, If there's something weird about them, it's better to know ahead of time than during a trip...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 24, 2018

Finger Injuries in Climbing

The hangboard.

It sits above the doorway in the office, taunting me. It sits above the doorway, daring me to train. It sits above the doorway, and stares me down. It sits above the doorway...

I can't help it. I'm a climber. It's in my genes. I have to hang on it. I have to do pull-ups on it. I have to climb.

But the reality is that hanging on a hangboard is not climbing. Hangboards are supposed to be for training. In truth hangboards are one of the best ways climbers have devised to obtain sports injuries.

I know only too well. One day I succumbed to the devious taunts of the board and began to train on it. I succumbed and pulled something in my ring finger.


A climber on the Boy Scout Wall in Red Rock Canyon
Photo by Jason Martin

After doing a little research I discovered that I probably injured one of the pulleys in my finger. A great website called climbinginjuries.comprovided me with everything that I needed to know in order to get better. They indicated that I had a pulley injury in my finger and they identified three levels of pulley injury.

  • Grade III: A grade three injury usually involves a complete rupture of the pulley creating bowstringing of the tendon. Symptoms of this severe soft tissue injury includes local pain in the pulley, swelling or even bruising, pain when squeezing, pain when extending the finger, and most disturbingly those who get this injury often hear a pop inside their finger.
  • Grade II: A grade two injury is identified by a partial rupture of the pulley tendon. This injury is characterized by local pain at the pulley, pain when squeezing and occasionally pain when extending a finger.
  • Grade I: A grade one injury is characterized by local pain at the pulley, pain when squeezing and a sprain of the finger ligaments (collateral ligaments).

Treatment:


These injuries can be quite serious. Some people may require months to recover from a Grade III pulley rupture. Climbinginjuries.com has a prescribed method for treatment:



Go buy some TheraPutty! All orthopedic doctors and physical therapists will recommend putty as a tool for successful recovery.(2) The fingers generally receive poor blood flow so getting blood to the injured area is important. Contrast baths have had mixed results in the literature, but it wouldn't hurt to try. To do a contrast bath, get a bowl of warm water, and cold water. Put injured finger in cold water for a few minutes, then place it immediately in the warm water for a few minutes. Repeat 3-5 times. Finish with the cold water. This could be done after squeezing the putty ball to "flush out" the injured joint. Massaging the effected area can be effective as well. Start out lightly and gradually increase the pressure.

Pulleys
  • Grade III: - Immediately- Stop climbing Apply ice or cold immediately, no more than 15 minutes at a time (1-2 days) Take ibuprofen for 1- 2 day Keep the hand elevated Week 1-2 Don't climb! Don't immobilize the finger. Unless there is a lot of pain, open and close your hand often VERY light massage at the site of the injury. Concentrate on other aspects of your life. Week 4-8 Warm the hands by use of a bath or an electric blanket, then squeeze the yellow (softest) putty. Don't push it, if there's pain…stop. Repeat a few times per day. Go to Grade II Treatment.
  • Grade II: (Week 1-2) No climbing Warm the hands by use of a bath or an electric blanket, then squeeze the red putty. Don't push it, if there's pain…stop. Repeat a few times per day. Lubricate and lightly massage at the site of the injury. (Week 3-6) Tape the injured finger, stretch your forearms (this relieves the stress on the finger tendons) and climb thebiggest holds you can find. Start easy, this will be the quickest way to recovery. If you climb too hard, too fast, then return to the start of Grade 2 and do not collect $200. Always stretch your forearms after warming up and prior to climbing. Start squeezing the medium to firm putty. Lubricate and massage the finger at the site of the injury a couple of times/day. Start lightly and gradually increase the intensity using very short strokes on the injured site. Go to Grade I Treatment
  • Grade I (Week 1) Tape the injured finger and continue to climb at a level well below your normal level. Gradually increase the stresses on the fingers. Stretch your forearms after warming up and prior to climbing. This relieves the stress on the finger tendons. Squeeze the medium to firm putty a few times per day. Lubricate and massage the finger at the site of the injury. Start light and gradually increase intensity. Very short strokes on the injured site. Expected outcome Take advice from a practitioner who specializes in climbing. However, if treated early and effectively, with an appropriately graded return to activity, recovery will usually take 3-8 weeks. However, if the injury is pushed beyond its stage of recovery, re-injury will occur and may result in a chronic injury that will require a much more protracted rehabilitation period.

The best way to recover from a finger injury is to avoid getting hurt in the first place. Here are a few rules to live by:

  • Always warm up on easy climbs. Don't jump straight onto the hardest thing you can get up. 
  • Stretch your fingers. 
  • Don't overtrain. If you are climbing hard then you should probably avoid climbing every day. Strong sport climbers will often climb every other day. 
  • Stretch your fingers again. 
  • Massage your forearms between burns. 
  • Stretch your fingers more.

Sooner or later my finger will heal up and when it does I'll train more consciously. The hangboard definitely requires a bit more care. The last thing I need is another finger injury to crimp my crimping style!

--Jason D. Martin

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