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

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

Thursday, September 13, 2018

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


--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.


--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.


--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

Thursday, September 6, 2018

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


--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.


--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.


--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