Friday, November 30, 2018

No Shortcuts - Ski Training Video

It takes a tremendous amount of dedication to become one of the top big mountain skiers in the world. Pro skier Dane Tudor is at the top of his game. The following video shows what it takes to get there...



I think that there's something to be said about the name "no shortcuts." The reality for every mountain athlete is that they have to work incredibly hard to get to where they are. There really are no shortcuts to being as good as you can be...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/29/18

Northwest:

--The North Cascades Highway (Highway 20) officially closed yesterday. It is closed between milepost 134 at Diablo Overlook, east of Newhalem and milepost 171 at Silver Star Creek west of Mazama. The highway typically reopens in early May. The highway usually closes once there is enough snow to warrant avalanche danger to the road around the Liberty Bell massif.

--King County is reporting that their pilot project which entailed providing transportation to trailheads was a success. "Hikers boarded Trailhead Direct for more than 10,000 round trips during the first full season of the transit-to-trails service, increasing the number of people who explored King County’s mountain forests without having to drive or park." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--There at it again. The developers continue to do whatever they can to try to develop Blue Diamond Hill across the street from Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Las Vegas. This world class climbing area has been under threat for nearly two decades now. A group of Clark County commissioners promised to protect the Conservation Area. It now looks like they may have reneged  on that promise. To learn more and to sign a petition to save Red Rock, click here.

 A climber on Johnny Vegas (5.7, II) in 
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

--Speaking of Red Rock, it was pretty busy there over the weekend. Black Friday was Red Rock Friday for many. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

-This is truly horrible. The Anchorage Daily News is reporting that, "A Whitehorse French immersion teacher and her infant are dead after a grizzly bear attack at their trapper’s cabin in a remote area of central Yukon, their bodies discovered by her partner as he returned home from a trapline." To read more, click here.

--This is spooky. A woman was ripping down the side of a Mexican volcano, sliding on her back, headfirst, when a dude tackled her to stop the fall. Had she slid into the rocks, she certainly would have been killed. To see dramatic video and to read more, click here.

--Here's a cool story about a legally blind climber from Oklahoma who has done extremely well in the world of competition climbing.

--A massive ice pillar called, The Real Big Drip, a direct ice variation to a classic line -- saw it's first ascent in Canada's Ghost River Valley recently. The 600-foot line clocks in at WI 7, M8. To read more, click here.

--Patagonia is donating the 10 million dollars they saved in President Trump's tax cuts to programs that are on the front line of fighting climate change! To read more, click here.

--Outside online is reporting on the changing image of the ski resort as large corporations buy them out. "Conglomerates aren’t killing off core skiers and riders. In fact, they’re throwing them a lifeline. Acquisitions come with downsides, of course, including overcrowding and excessive grooming. But by drastically reducing the cost of ski passes and offering some semblance of job security for locals, the corporations are giving the struggling industry a future." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Follow Through - Ski Mountaineer Caroline Gleich

Caroline Gleich is considered Utah's most controversial skier. This name is unfortunately a product of a misogynistic ski culture. She is a social media star and model that can be seen on billboards throughout Utah. This has caused "haters" to come out of the woodwork.

Caroline proved her prowess by being the first woman to complete every ski descent in the cult classic guidebook, The Chuting Gallery.

The following film is about Caroline and her quest to complete all the descents in The Chuting Gallery and to prove to both herself and the world, that she is not just a ski model, but that she is a world class ski mountaineer.

It should be noted that Caroline was mentored by AAI guide Liz Daley. Liz was tragically killed in an avalanche in Argentina in 2014. Liz makes an appearance in the video.



Outside magazine has looked closely at the culture of misogyny toward female adventure athletes. Indeed, they used some of the things that Caroline has dealt with as a jumping off point to try to understand online harassment. You can read the article about Caroline and cyberstalking, here.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, November 26, 2018

Book Review: Cold Wars by Andy Kirkpatrick

A few weeks ago we reviewed Andy Kirkpatrick's amazing book, Psychovertical. That piece humorously chronicles Kirkpatrick's obsession with climbing. That first piece was so well-written that I quickly picked up Kirkpatrick's second book, Cold Wars.

One might ask how an individual who is approximately forty-years old could write an autobiography and then follow it up with yet more autobiographical material. This would be a legitimate question if we were talking about a politician or a musician or an actor. Your every day person worships these types of  people because they appear to be doing something with their lives. Those who live for outdoor adventure are doing something with their lives every day...and it's almost always interesting. So Kirkpatrick's second book is just as engaging as his first. But he addresses this question nonetheless...

Psychovertical was a book about a man who is struggling: against the wall, against himself, but who wins through. The story is a hundred thousand word answer to the question: 'Why do you climb?'

Cold Wars asks a different question: 'What is the price?'

Kirkpatrick is married and has two children. The routes that he chooses are almost universally "high end" and are incredibly dangerous. He has a penchant for winter alpinism and for second ascents of serious lines. He aslo sometimes goes months without climbing. Cold Wars is a humorous and often tender book about the life of a climber and about what we give up to be in the mountains. Kirkpatrick regularly writes about the strange irony that many climbers feel. When they are at home, they can't wait to be away. But, when they are in the mountains, they wish they were home.


We've all felt this way at one point or another. In the following passage we see this tension as Kirkpatrick pines over his young daughter while sitting before one of those incredible views at one of those incredible moments that only climbers in the high mountains get to experience.

'I can't get Ella crying out of my head. Every time I do anything I keep thinking that I have to get home to her, that she means more to me than this.'

I switched on my phone, to see if I had any messages. It beeped.

'DAD HOPE UR ENJOYING CLIMBING THOSE MOUNTAINS LOVE ELLA'

I showed it to Ian.

'Maybe you're falling out of love with climbing,' said Ian, switching off his headtorch to save the battery as the sky towards Chamonix turned red, and the rising sun lit up the spires of the Aiguilles, one by one.

'I really hope so,' I said.

While this book appears to be more serious with a heavier question than the simplistic "why do you climb," it is still chalked full of Kirkpatrick's humorous climbing anecdotes. Indeed, as this book is structured more anecdotally than his first book, it could be argued that it is a funnier tome. Here is one great example of an experience the author had in the Alps shortly after losing a ski.

Now I was really in trouble, as the snow was too deep to walk in, and skiing on a single board was beyond me.

I took off my remaining ski and sat on it bum-shuffling down the slope, knowing full well that there had never been a more pathetic sight in the history of ski mountianeering. To make matters worse, a French guide swooshed down to me, looking like skiing's answer to Mikhail Baryshnikov, asking if I was alright.

'I'm British,' I said looking at the floor, trying hard not to burst into tears.

'I understand,' he said, no doubt embarrassed for me, and then skied off. 

Perhaps part of the reason I enjoy Kirkpatrick's writing so much is because I recognize myself in it.  He is absolutely obsessed with climbing, as am I. He loves writing, but hates doing it, as do I. He has a family that keeps him grounded, as do I. And he lives in two worlds, the first is a world where he has a wife and two kids and they all live normal lives and do normal things. The second is a world where he "hangs it out," on high end alpine climbs and extreme big walls. I don't generally push the bounds of safety too far, but a few times a year I definitely push the limits. As a forty-two year-old mountain guide with a family, I really understand and appreciate his work. And I think that anybody who spends a lot of time on the sharp end and feels like they have something to lose will understand his writing too.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, November 23, 2018

Book Review: Alone on the Ice

David Roberts is one of the best-known climbing writers working today. His books have included the likes of The Mountain of My Fear and Deborah: A Wilderness Narrative. And on this blog, we recently reviewed his book, The Sandstone Spine.


Roberts has always had an amazing knack for finding stories that resonate with climbers and outdoor adventurers. His books have taken us to the farthest corners of the Earth, to meet some of the most hearty men and women that ever lived.  With that in mind, Roberts has recently brought us his newest offering, Alone on the Ice: The Greatest Survival Story in the History of Exploration.

Alone on the Ice is the epic story of the Australasian Antarctic Expedition that took place from 1911-1914. This aggressive expedition was one of the only to forego the point that seemed to drive explorers in the early part of the twentieth century. The team's goal was not to reach the South Pole, but instead to  explore the glaciers and mountains just inland from the Antarctic coast.

Unlike many of the heavily supported expeditions of the day, the Australasian Antarctic Expedition fielded a handful of small three man teams that would explore the continent from two separate coastal bases. One perched precariously near the ocean on an ice cliff, and the other at Cape Denison in Commonwealth Bay, a place that by all accounts may be the windiest place on the planet. While one basecamp fretted about glacier movements, the other worried about the wind, a wind that in May of 1912 never dropped below 60 miles per hour for thirty-one straight days.

Douglas Mawson, a hearty geologist from Australia, was the expedition's leader. After establishing a base in the fall, from which to attack the interior in the spring, the team was required to "winter over." Mawson writes:

We dwelt on the fringe of an unspanned continent, where the chill breath of a vast, polar wilderness, quickening to the rushing might of eternal blizzards, surged to the northern seas. We had discovered an accursed country. We had found the Home of the Blizzard.

Roberts description of the men and their winter accommodations was certainly interesting, but the heart of the story lies in the expeditions that set-out from the bases. Each of them were designed to map the terrain and to collect samples, and each of them were wild adventures in and of themselves.  But the team that Mawson commanded was the team that suffered the most on the Southern continent.

Imagine first that you are literally alone on the ice with nothing more than your two companions, hundreds of miles from help, with absolutely no way to contact anyone. Now imagine losing one of your partners to a crevasse fall, and along with him all the food and equipment he carried. Now imagine losing your second partner, this time to sickness and starvation.  And now, you really are alone, with no food, no real shelter and you are weeks away from any help...

That is the situation that Mawson faced in 1913 during his foray onto the ice. And Edmund Hillary later said of Mawson, that his was the "greatest survival story in the history of exploration."

Roberts expertly weaves together the journals, diaries and writings of the different members of the expedition in order to paint a portrait of the lives the men lead in Antarctica, the adventures they faced, and the tragedies they suffered. We truly feel the angst and the heartache as members of the team struggle for food, shelter and dignity. We laugh with them when they play pranks on one another and we worry about their sanity when it's not clear whether they will ever get home.

Alone on the Ice is a fantastic survival story in a in an unforgiving land. The true story account provides every reader with a terrifying glimpse into the Antarctica which is the Home of the Blizzard, the Antarctica that crushed ships and swallowed men, an Antarctica that with all the modern convienences, barely exists anymore...

--Jason D. Martin


Thursday, November 22, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad -

Happy Turkey Day!!!



--As you well know, this is considered one of the most crowded weekends of the year at crags in dry climates. Smith Rock, Red Rock, Joshua Tree and Indian Creek tend to be the places most impacted over Thanksgiving Weekend. If you are already at the crag, good-on-you. If not, it is suggested that you have backup camping plans...

Northwest:

--Here's what's new with ski resorts around Mt. Hood this winter...

--Winter access off of Highway 20 will be reduced by four miles this year. In an article on the WSDOT blog, they try to make it sound good, stating that now there's more "room to roam;" but it will cut off easy access to some areas for backcountry skiers. To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--Fifteen-year-old Conner Herson became the youngest person to ever free the Nose (5.14a) on El Capitan in Yosemite this week. And while thousands of people have aided the route, Conner is only the sixth person to have freed it. To read more, click here.

--The New York Times went behind the scenes on the production of Free Solo. They made a short piece on the filmmakers and the morality of filming such an ascent. What if Alex were to fall? What if he were to fall because the filmmakers were there...? To see what the New York Times came up with check out the video below. It is well worth the watch.




Desert Southwest:

--Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area will have limited hours on Thanksgiving Day. Congestion should be expected throughout the weekend. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Patch is reporting that, "A climber who fell 50 feet from the Second Flatiron on Friday night was rescued by Boulder County personnel, according to a release from the county sheriff's office. The man had reportedly been climbing without a rope or safety equipment at the time of his fall." To read more, click here.

--The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that, "A group of 21 mayors and council members from around Utah have signed onto briefs with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in support of lawsuits filed against President Donald Trump’s shrinking of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. The amicus friend-of-the-court briefs — filed Monday and drafted by the Harvard Law School’s Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic and the Salt Lake City Attorney’s Office — contend that the process was flawed, with little input from local voices, and that the boundary reduction will have detrimental economic and environmental effects in the state." To read more, click here.

--Fees in Colorado State Parks are going up...!

Notes from All Over:


--Rock and Ice is reporting on a cool ascent of Mt. MacDonald in the Selkirks. Chris Wright and Graham Zimmerman "made the first ascent of a long, difficult mixed route on the North Face of Mount MacDonald at Roger’s Pass" They called their route The Indirect American ​(WI4+ M7, 1,000 meters). To read more, click here.

--The outdoor industry is trying hard to be inclusive, but things can be complex. Nothing is more indicative of this than the recent change within the Boy Scouts to include girls. What happens to the Girl Scouts -- a stand alone organization -- if the Boy Scouts change? And indeed, how does this impact the branding of the Girl Scouts. To read about this and a recent lawsuit, click here.



--Well this is depressing. The woman in charge of climate change adaptation for the National Parks has resigned because she has received no support from the current administration. To read more, click here.

--The Associated Press is reporting that Vicki Christiansen, the new chief of the Forest Service, is on a mission. She is spearheading a cultural change within the organization to root out sexual harassment and bullying. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Graffiti at the Crags

I've been climbing since 1992. That's just long enough to really feel like I've been able to watch trends change in both climbing and in outdoor recreation. The biggest change is a growing lack of respect for the land...

I know. I know. It's just another old guy complaining about the kids...get off my lawn and all that...

But it's true. There are more people recreating today than there were a few years ago. Indeed, a report in the Outdoor Foundation estimates that 1.6 percent of the American population participates in climbing either indoors or out. That's a whopping five million people!

Every year there are new climbers moving from the gym to the crag. As such, there have been a number of efforts to educate climbers making this transition. The American Alpine Club and the Access Fund have even built a curriculum around this transition called, Gym to Crag...

But even with these education efforts there are several problems. One of which, is graffiti at the crags. Obviously, a large percentage of those who participate in placing graffiti on crags are not climbers, but there are certainly a fair number who are...

Here is an example of a non-climber disrespecting Mother
Earth by scratching his ironic message onto the rocks in 
Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

This second example is also from Red Rock Canyon. AAI Guide Andrew
Yasso took this picture on the third pitch of Purblind Pillar on the Angel Food Wall.
This image predicated a long thread on MountainProject.com.

It should be obvious that there is no difference between the first and the second examples. Both are inspriational messages that defaced the natural rock. Now every time someone looks at either spot, they have to deal with some random person's philisophical notions. The appropriate place for this kind of writing is in a summit register, not on the rock. If there's no summit register, then you should keep your philisophical thoughts to yourself...

Shortly after Andrew photographed the graffiti on Purblind Pillar, we posted about it on our facebook page. The following shows a couple of responses. I covered the names with green and red blocks to hide details about these posters:


The green poster understands the problems with graffiti, but points out that there's some hypocrisy when it comes to modern vs. historic graffiti. This isn't a terribly uncommon perspective. The thinking is that if ancient peoples did it, then why can't I...?

The protection of Native artificats is clearly definied in the 1906 Antiquities Act. This law was designed specifically to protect ancient Native American ruins. There was significant fear that people were destroying ancient artifacts by both taking them and by changing them -- often by making marks on them. The Act was further defined by the 1979 Archaeological Resources Protection Act. These laws make it illegal to deface Native petroglyphs and pictographs. And further, they make it illegal to disturb or take Native artifacts off public lands.

These acts do not protect modern rock defacement. Indeed, recently an artist was found guilty of painting pictures on rocks in National Parks thoroughout the west. Casey Nocket of San Diego, traveled across the west painting pictures on rocks in protected areas. In June of 2016, Nocket pled guilty to seven misdemeanor counts for this defacement and was ordered to complete 200 hours of public service. It's not clear if she had to clean graffiti off rocks. 

There is no question about the modern laws as they apply to rock defacement. Nor is there any question about modern ethics in this area. Wilderness travelers are not permitted to deface rocks...

It's not terribly uncommon to find notes scratched into multi-pitch lines. I've found notes like, "No Bolts!" and "No!" scratched into terrain to notify a climber that there were missing bolts on a route or that they were going the wrong way. This type of message belongs on a local climbing forum, like mountainproject.com, supertopo.com or cascadeclimbers.com. It doesn't belong on the rock.

The trail to the 4 Stories Snowy Range Sport Climbing Area 
is marked by spray painted rocks. Such an obvious defacement on 
public lands can easily lead to climbing closures.
Photo Credit: MountainpProject.com

There are some sticky exceptions to the defacing of a rock face...

The world renowned mountain guide, Randall Grandstaff, died in a rappelling accident on the Great Red Book in Las Vegas on June 2, 2002. Shortly after his death, a dedication reading "Our Bro R.G." was scratched into the rock on the route. About two weeks after the dedication was scratched in, someone else tried to scratch it out.

Scratching a dedication into the rock was not really the right way to memorialize this individual. Indeed, it's been argued that Randall would not have liked this kind of memorial. However, Randall was an important person in the history of Red Rock Canyon and there are strong arguements both for the removal of the graffiti and against it. It's clear that something like this is different than the normal graffiti problem. And it's also clear that this type of conversation should take place at a local level and the removal should be weighted heavily by the area's climbers and the local ethic...

Though this last case is sticky now, it wasn't before it happened. It's never acceptable to deface rocks with graffiti. It's just not what real climbers do...

--Jason D. Martin


Monday, November 19, 2018

Red Rock Canyon and Sloan Canyon National Conservation Areas open limited hours on Thanksgiving

The American Alpine Institute just received the following from the BLM:

Southern Nevada District Office

FOR RELEASE:  November 19, 2018
CONTACT:  John Asselin (702) 515-5046; jasselin@blm.gov

Red Rock Canyon and Sloan Canyon National Conservation Areas open limited hours on Thanksgiving

LAS VEGAS – Red Rock Canyon and Sloan Canyon National Conservation Areas will have limited hours on Thanksgiving Day, November 22.

The Scenic Drive area at Red Rock Canyon will be open from 6 a.m. to noon, and the Visitor Center will be open 8 a.m. to noon. The fee gates will close at noon. The Visitor Contact Station at Sloan Canyon will be open from 8 a.m. to noon. Normal operating hours will resume November 23. More information and normal operating hours at Red Rock Canyon NCA is available at https://www.blm.gov/red-rock-canyon-nca. For more information and operating hours at Sloan Canyon NCA, please visit:

https://www.blm.gov/sloan-canyon-nca.

During the Thanksgiving weekend, visitation at Red Rock Canyon NCA increases, with the most congested time anticipated between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.

To ensure a high-quality visitor experience and to allow access for emergency vehicles (if needed), the 13-Mile Scenic Drive at Red Rock Canyon may be temporarily closed during periods of high visitation. Road signs will be posted along State Route 159 if/when the Scenic Drive is closed. Visitors may call (702) 515-5350 to check if the Scenic Drive is open.

-BLM-

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The agency’s mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. Diverse activities authorized on these lands generated $96 billion in sales of goods and services throughout the American economy in fiscal year 2017. These activities supported more than 468,000 jobs.

Cleaning Toprope Anchors

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

In this video, AMGA Instructor Team Member Margaret Wheeler demonstrates how to clean a toprope anchor.



Critical Points
--Always double check yourself
--Maintain good communication with your belayer
--Do not rush
--Keep baggy clothing out of the way
--Always double check yourself

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, November 16, 2018

Counter Ascending a Rope to Perform a Climber Pick-Off


Imagine you are taking two friends out to the crag who have never climbed before. You meet at the trailhead and quickly make the approach. On the way in you spot a beautiful looking slab, perfect for introducing some simple movement skills.

You tell your buddies to hang out at the base as you scramble around, build a bomber anchor, and drop a rope to set up a base-managed tope rope site. Back at the bottom you run them through all the basic knot/belaying skills and before you know it, you all are ready to climb.

You have one of them climb, while the other one belays and you are ready to give a back up belay if necessary. The climber does an awesome job, just cruising all the way to the top, tagging the carabiners at the master point. The belayer tells them to lean back and starts to lower them, but about halfway down the pitch, they just freeze and grab the wall.

You try to talk them down, but they are not having it. You can tell they are getting more and more scared the longer they are up there. You do not want this to ruin their experience, especially after they just absolutely crushed it a few minutes earlier... so what do you do?

Counter-ascending a Rope to Perform a Climber Pickoff

One of the most interesting skills covered by American Alpine Institute (AAI) as part of the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Single Pitch Instructor (SPI) curriculum is top-managed and based-managed assistance skills.

In the above situation, you have three climbers operating from a base-managed top rope site. In order for one of the people on the ground to assist the climber being lowered, they would need to counter-ascend the rope to perform a climber pickoff.

A "pickoff" is any situation where one member of a climbing party has to descend or ascend a rope in order to assist another member of the group who is experiencing difficulty on the pitch. Counter-ascending is a technique where the person ascending the rope uses the weight of the climber on the pitch as a counter-balance to help them maintain their progress as they move up the rope.

There are multiple scenarios you could encounter at the crag that would involve using variations of this skill. For the purposes of this post we are going to focus primarily on the situation above: Three climbers at a base-managed site with the belayer using either a tube style or assisted-braking style belay device and the most experience climber outside of the primary belay.


Building the Counter-Ascending System

Assuming you are playing the role of the experienced climber, the best way to think about building the counter-ascending system for this situation is in three steps:

Step 1.) Transition to the Primary Belay


Have the belayer pull and hold the climber tight. Now tie a backup knot in the brake strand of the rope about two arm’s lengths from the belayer’s brake hand. The backup knot can either be a figure-eight or overhand on a bight.


Pre-rig your assisted-braking belay device, a Grigri in this case, underneath the belayer’s belay device and clip it to your belay loop with a locking carabiner. If done correctly, the Grigri should be pre-rigged between the belayer’s brake hand and the backup knot you tied.



Reach over to the climber’s strand of the rope and use a friction hitch to attach a locking carabiner. An Autoblock was used in the picture above. Basket a double-length runner through the hard points on your harness and clip both ends to the locking carabiner on the climber’s strand of the rope.


Run through your carabiner and knot checks and then slide the Autoblock as high as you can along the rope. Now ask the belayer to slowly step forward as you slightly lean back. Up until this point all the climbers weight should have been on the belayer’s device. You should now start to feel the pull of the climber transition onto your harness as the Autoblock takes the weight.


If done correctly, there should be no weight on the belayer’s belay device and you can ask them to go off belay. As soon as they are out of the system, pull any slack through your Grigri and disengage the Autoblock. You should now be on belay just as if you were belaying from the beginning.

Step 2.) Counter-Ascend the Rope to the Climber


If there is an excessive amount of slack between the Grigri and the original backup knot, start by tying a new backup knot about one to two fist lengths away from the Grigri. Remove the double-length runner from your harness and just let it hang from the Autoblock.

To begin ascending, move as close to the wall as possible while pushing the Autoblock up. Make sure you keep the climber tight by taking in slack as you move forward.


Assuming your break hand is on the right side, put your left foot inside the runner and shift your weight above that foot. This will lock the Autoblock in place and allow you to stand up your left leg. As you thrust upward, use your left hand to pull down on the climber's side of the rope and your break hand to pull up on the break side of the rope.


Continue this motion until the Autoblock is about two fist lengths away from the Grigri, then sit back and weight the rope to re-engage the Grigri and capture your upward progress. At this point all your weight should be off your foot in the runner, which will allow you to move the Autoblock higher up the rope.

Repeat this process until you reach the climber and make sure to tie backup knots in the break strand every 8-10' as you ascend.

Step 3.) Transition Friction Hitch to Climbers Rope and Lower

Once you reach the climber, tie a final backup knot in the break strand and untie all of the backup knots below it. If the climber is distressed, this is your opportunity to assess the situation and provide whatever aid is necessary.


Once you decide to lower, remove the Autoblock from the strand above you and re-attach a locking carabiner to the strand above the climber with another friction hitch. I am using a Prusik in the picture above.


Again, basket a double-length runner through the hard points on your harness and clip both ends to the locking carabiner on the strand of the rope above the climber. Run through your carabiner and knot checks, then untie your back up knot and lower as you normally would on a Grigri.

This "tricks" the system and allows both the experienced climber who ascended and the distressed climber to lower simultaneously.

Some quick notes
- In situations like above, the best solution is usually the simplest and most efficient. Before getting into a complex belay transition with friction hitches and whatever, check if the climber can comfortably unweight the rope.

If they can... just tie your backup knot, pre-rig the Grigri, have the belayer remove themselves from the system, and go on belay like normal before they re-weight the rope—a much simpler solution. That said, for the purposes of this post we assumed the climber could not unweight the rope and we needed to use a hitch to transfer the load.

- For ascending, you can use an Autoblock, Prusik, or Klemheist, but I personally prefer to use an Autoblock. I like the Autoblock because in my experience, the Prusik and Klemheist proved to be very difficult to disengage and slide along the rope after putting my full bodyweight on the runner.

On the flipside, for lowering I tended to use a Prusik and Klemheist because I wanted a hitch that really "grabbed." This was important because I did not want to fumble around trying to get the hitch to stay in place, while dealing with the distressed climber.

- Depending on your preference, you can use a slipknot or tie an overhand/figure-eight in the bottom of the double-length runner to keep your foot from slipping out as you ascend. If you do end up tying a knot, lean toward a figure-eight because it is a little easier to untie after you get to the ground.

- When you get to the climber, it is a good idea to continue ascending until your feet are at about their hip to chest height. The reason you want to be above them if possible is because it is easier to offer assistance and avoids you both being right on top of each other as you lower. It also allows you to slide under their strand of rope and push them away from the wall if you need to maneuver around obstacles or roofs on the descent.

With regard to the story above, something similar actually happened to me a few weeks after I took the SPI while I was teaching a beginner class at the local climbing gym. Instead of yelling up at the stranded climber for ten minutes and making the situation worse, I quickly transitioned to the primary belay, counter-ascended and talked them through the whole lowering process, right next to them on the wall as we descend together.

I don't know if it made a difference in the climber's experience, but what I do know is that they came down with a smile on their face and got right back on the wall. To me, whether you are a climbing instructor, guide, or just a recreational climber taking friends out, that's what it is all about.

--Chris Casciola, Guest Blogger and Author of the Seeking Exposure Blog

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/15/18

Northwest:

Smith Rock State Park

--Adam Ondra just did the unthinkable. He onsighted Just Do It (5.14c) in Smith Rocks State Park in Oregon. Onsighting is when one completes a route on the first try. It's crazy that this guy is climbing so hard. To read more, click here.

--Somebody appears to be chipping and torching holds on Squamish boulders. To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--Somebody took it upon themselves to chop DOA (5.11c/d) at Lover's Leap. This route reportedly was put up on lead, ground up. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Arizona Daily Sun is reporting that, "Multiple agencies responded to a call about a 34-year-old climber who fell 40 feet at a popular climbing spot near Oak Creek Vista off of State Route 89A Saturday afternoon. The Phoenix woman sustained multiple serious injuries when she fell while rappelling, including a back injury." To read more, click here.

--The Las Vegas Review Journal is reporting that, "The Nevada State Historic Preservation Office will host a training session Saturday in Mesquite for volunteers interested in protecting the state’s archaeological treasures. State and federal land managers are looking for site stewards to serve as the 'eyes and ears' for dozens of historic and prehistoric cultural sites across the state." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Access Fund has some exciting news! "Access Fund, the national non-profit organization that keeps climbing areas open and protected, is thrilled to announce that Chris Winter will join the organization as Executive Director this January. He replaces Brady Robinson, who stepped down in June after leading the climbing advocacy organization for eleven years." To read more, click here.

--It looks like Colorado ski resorts are going to open early. Check it out!

--Avalanche mitigation is starting. Following is a recent video from Loveland Pass:



--The National Parks Traveler is reporting that, "The Trust for Public Land has finalized the donation to the National Park Service of a 35-acre inholding inside Zion National Park. The land, known as Firepit Knoll, will be incorporated into the park and protected from future development. The donation was made possible thanks to support from the National Park Foundation, the National Park Trust and the the George S. and Dolores DorĂ© Eccles Foundation of Salt Lake City." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--What do the election results mean for climbing? The Access Fund has the answer, here.

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "GRIT&ROCK announced a launch of an annual international First Ascent Expedition Prize to enable female first ascents. Now in its third annual installment, the award, the largest of its kind globally, funds projects of female-led expedition teams up to the amount of USD 10,000." It appears that the application period is open. To read more, click here.


--So that "cute" video of the bear cub trying to climb to it's mother...yeah, those bears were reacting to the drone chasing them. At one point, the bear cub slides all the way down the slope into the rocks. It's horrible. They're terrified... From Slate, " Many Twitter users found the video to be inspiring, in a way: Look, that baby bear never gave up! Many wildlife biologists, however, saw something rather different. They saw a disturbing example of how some irresponsible drone pilots are happy to harass wildlife to get a perfect picture, putting animals at risk and tarnishing the reputation of all users of the technology." To read more, click here.

--And finally, there is a cool little line on Mount McGillivray in the Canadian Rockies called Arterial Spurt. This three-pitch WI3 is seldom climbed due to avalanche danger. A couple of guys were able to sneak it in in mid-November before there was much snow. Check out their climb for some stoke, below!

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Update on Eden Fire in Sequoia National Park

The American Alpine Institute just received the following from Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park:

SEQUOIA NATIONAL PARK, Calif. November 14, 2018 - The Eden Fire continues to grow and is now 343 acres as mapped via the parks’ helicopter. Fire has slowed its progress in the Eden Creek drainage on the western edge of the fire. Fire however has established itself on the east side of the eastern branch of Eden Creek drainage. One spot fire was observed on the east flank approximately 200 feet off the main fire and burning actively. Fire does not appear to be moving up-slope (south) towards Homers Nose.

Continued positive fire behavior is occurring with consumption of brush and downed logs. Some standing dead trees, called snags, may have been the source of some spotting. Numerous snags are present in the area from tree mortality and the lack of modern fire history. The parks will continue to monitor the fire via helicopter while scouting for natural barriers along the rocky ridge (Homer's Nose) to the south. Additionally the parks will actively track any new growth downhill toward the Kaweah drainage.

Smoke is visible from the western side of Sequoia National Park. Most of it is coming from a trio of fires in Sequoia National Forest with some smoke contribution from the Eden Fire. Other smoke in the area is from the larger fires currently burning in California. For more information on non-NPS fires, visits www.inciweb.nwcg.gov or www.fire.ca.gov.

“The parks take air quality concerns very seriously,” said Sequoia National Park Fire Management Officer Kelly Singer. “However, as this fire burns in designated wilderness, taking valuable firefighting resources away from the larger more dangerous fires in California to suppress this ecologically beneficial fire would be a mistake.”

There is a low pressure trough that's forecasted to come in the middle of next week, possibly Wednesday or Thursday. It may or may not have precipitation but it will help in clearing out the air. If you are sensitive to smoke please refer to one of the following links for recommendations on reducing your exposure to fine particulates. http://www.valleyair.org/aqinfo/aqdataidx.htm or https://www.epa.gov/pm-pollution 

Another thing to keep in mind is that in addition to the smoke from wildland fires, daily activities in the valley (vehicles, agricultural activities, industry) are also contributing to these particulates that are trapped in this region. It's an unfortunate meteorological condition during some extreme fire events that we're experiencing.

All areas of Sequoia National Park remain open as previously scheduled. Additionally, there are no impacts to any of the normal operations in the Mineral King section of Sequoia National Park.

Pictures, videos, and maps of the Eden Fire, please visit the official website: https://inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6248/


The Eden Fire continues to move with moderate to low intensity restoring fire to the Eden Creek Grove of giant sequoias. - NPS Photo.

- NPS -

Monday, November 12, 2018

Climbing Commands

One of the most inconsistent things in the entire world of climbing are climbing commands. Climbers commonly hook up for a day of climbing with little knowledge of how to communicate with one another at the crag. It is always important to review your climbing commands with a new partner so that no mistakes are made.

The most common mistakes in a command series tend to come around the word "take." Climbers often use the word in two different ways. Some will say "take" in lieu of the command, "up-rope." Whereas others will say "take" to mean "take my weight." A much larger problem arises out of the nature of a word that only has one syllable. "Take" could also be mistaken for the words, "safe" or "slack." Either of these mistakes could have tragic consequences. The result is that at the American Alpine Institute, we try to teach people not to use the word.

A climber on Angel's Crest (5.10c, IV) in Squamish, BC.

The following sets of commands reflect what AAI guides are teaching in the field.

Toprope Commands:

Climber: On-belay?

Belayer: (After checking that everyone's double-backed, that knots are correct and that the belay device is threaded appropriately.) Belay-on.

Climber: Climbing.

Belayer: Climb-on.

Once the climber reaches the top, the following discourse should take place:

Climber: Tension.

Belayer: (After pulling the stretch out of the rope and locking it off.) Tension-on.

Climber: Ready to lower.

Belayer: Lowering.

It's important to close out the commands at the end. People often get lazy about the next set. Once the climber is back on the ground the following commands should take place.

Climber: Off-belay.

Belayer: Thank-you. (Then after removing the device from the rope:) Belay-off.

The "thank-you" exists in this series to get individuals ready for multi-pitch climbing where the words are used a great deal.

A climber on Myster Z (5.7, II+) in Red Rock Canyon.

Multi-Pitch Commands:

You'll notice that the words "thank-you" are used heavily throughout this command series. We use the words to acknowledge that an individual heard the last command. For those who don't normally use the words "thank-you" as part of your personal series, I would recommend trying it. A lot of stress melts away on multi-pitch climbs when you know that your partner heard you.

Following are the commands that we teach in a multi-pitch setting:

Climber: On-belay?

Belayer: (After checking that everyone's double-backed, that knots are correct and that the belay device is threaded appropriately.) Belay-on.

Climber: Climbing.

Belayer: Climb on.

Once the climber has reached the top, built an anchor and tied-in, the following commands should take place:

Climber: Off belay!

Belayer: Thank-you! (The belayer will then take the rope out of his device.) Belay-off!

Climber: Thank-you! (The climber will then pull up all the slack.)

Belayer: That's me!

Climber: Thank-you! (The climber will then put the belayer on belay.) Belay-on!

Belayer: Thank-you! (The belayer will break down the anchor and then yell just before he is about to climb.) Climbing!

Climber: Climb-on!

Ancillary Commands:


These are commands that are not necessarily said on every single climb. These are only said if there is a need. The commands are as follows:

Rock -- This should be yelled whenever anything falls. If you hear this, press your body against the wall and do not look up. Your helmet will provide some protection. Unfortunately, sometimes people yell "stick" or "camera." Such unusual commands often result in inappropriate reactions. In other words a person may not immediately attempt to get out of the way.

Watch me -- Climber will say this to a belayer if he is nervous and thinks he might fall.

Falling -- The appropriate command if you actually fall.

Up-rope -- When a climber says this, he is asking that slack be eliminated from the system.

Slack -- The climber needs slack.

Tension -- Anytime a climber wants to sit back on the rope and rest they should use this command.

Clipping -- Periodically a leader will need more rope to clip a piece of protection. When a leader says this he's actually asking for a few feet of slack.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, November 9, 2018

Staying Found

Here's a nice little video on some baseline trail and backcountry safety...



Please note that Satellite Messaging Systems like the InReach or the SPOT can be triggered on accident. It's not a bad idea to store these devices in a hard-sided box. If you accidentally trigger one of these devices, make sure to notify the authorities that it was a mistake.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/8/18

Northwest:

--The Access Fund and all Northwest Climbers want your help. "The Methow Headwaters is home to some of the most outstanding climbing and mountaineering in Washington state, including the sport climbs up the Chewack River, the massive multi-pitch climbing on the Goat Wall, alpine rock climbing and glacier mountaineering around the Silver Star Massif, cragging near Robinson Creek, and mountaineering and long alpine rock climbs along the Pacific Crest Trail. Several years ago, a mining company filed for permits to conduct exploratory drilling for copper on Goat Peak at the north end of the Methow Valley. This kind of exploratory drilling is the first step to developing a large-scale mine that would devastate the upper Methow region. Access Fund is working with a coalition of stakeholders on several advocacy efforts to protect this incredible region and its climbing resources.To read more and to take action, click here.

--Outside is reporting on one of the deadliest climbing disasters in US history. "About an hour before midnight on Mother’s Day in 1986, a group of teenagers assembled at an Episcopal high school in Portland, Oregon, to embark on an expedition. Their goal was to summit Mount Hood, completing an adventure program that was required for all sophomores. What followed was a story of tragedy and loss that is commemorated annually at the institution it changed forever." To read more, click here.

--So they're blindfolding goats in the Olympics to keep them from freaking out when they get helicoptered to the Cascades. To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--A climber in Yosemite sustained a 50-foot fall last week on Mt. Watkins. Following is dramatic helicopter footage of the rescue that ensued. To read more about the accident, click here.



Colorado and Utah:

--Sketchy Andy is at it again. In the following video, Andy Lewis BASE jumps off a cliff, lands on a tiny tower, repacks and jumps again. Crazy...!



Notes from All Over:

--Pique is reporting that, "Juneau Mountain Rescue and the Alaska State Troopers have suspended efforts to recover the remains of Squamish climber Marc-André Leclerc, 25, and fellow climber Ryan Johnson, 34. The two men were reported missing on March 7 after they were late returning from a climb in the Mendenhall Ice Field in Juneau." To read more, click here.

--A scientist in the Antarctic stabbed a co-worker because he kept telling him how the books he was reading were going to end. This is not okay. But you still shouldn't tell people how books end when you're on an expedition in a remote region. To read more, click here.

--The American Alpine Club is now accepting applications for their Cutting Edge Grant. To read more, click here.

--Here are some major takeaways from this week's elections and the outdoor industry.

--The Guardian is reporting that, "the Girl Scouts of the United States of America have filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the Boy Scouts of America after the Boy Scouts decided to drop “Boy” from its program and start welcoming older girls. According to the complaint filed on Tuesday, the Boy Scouts do not have a monopoly over such terms as “scouts” or “scouting”, and its decision to rebrand its program Scouts BSA will erode the Girl Scouts brand and “marginalize” their activities." To read more, click here.

--As of this writing, it appears that Democrat Katie Hill won the 25th Congressional District in California. We'd like to believe that the following ad certainly helped her candidacy...

Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Alex Honnold - TED Talk

When Alex Honnold climbed Freerider on El Capitan, it was an important moment in climbing history. But it didn't come easily to Honnold. It was the culmination of years of preparation.

Check out the video about this event below:


--Jason D. Martin

Monday, November 5, 2018

How to Belay with a Munter-Hitch

Outdoor Research and the American Mountain Guides have produced quite a few excellent videos. If you haven't checked them out yet, log onto youtube and go to the AMGA Tutorials page.

The following video -- featuring Elaina Arenz, AMGA Certified Rock Guide and occasional AAI Guide -- demonstrates several iterations of how one might use a munter-hitch to belay. The video covers belaying with a munter-hitch, tying off a munter-hitch and lowering with a munter-hitch.


--Jason D. Martin

Friday, November 2, 2018

How to Belay a Leader with an Assisted Braking Device

Over the last dozen years or so, the assisted braking device has become a major component of a climber's kit. There are several of these devices on the market now. And each of them has their advantages and disadvantages. That said, the two most popular tend to be the Petzl GriGri and the Trango Cinch.

It should be noted that as the technology improves, more and more designs for assisted braking devices are appearing. Many of these new designs don't have a "moving side plate" with a "rope channel" like the GriGri or the Cinch. As those designs are so different from these, this blog will focus specifically on the GriGri and the Cinch.



The primary belaying position for the GriGri is the PBUS position, with a guide hand above the device on the rope and a brake hand below. As the leader moves up the rock, the belayer slowly feeds rope through the device, gently pulling with guide hand, while pushing through with the brake hand. If the rope is fed at an appropriate speed, the cam in the GriGri will not engage.

In this principle belay position, the belayer's brake hand never leaves the rope. If there is a need to bring in slack, the belayer reverts to the PBUS toproping technique.

Because the cam automatically engages with a sudden acceleration of the rope, it can be difficult to pay out slack quickly. The simplest solution to this problem is to never allow the rope to suddenly accelerate. This may be accomplished by the leader placing gear at chest level or lower and extending the protection with runners. Doing so allows the leader to clip into the protection without having to give a quick tug on the rope.

The second way is to shift the brake hand, sliding it up the rope to the device, and brace the index finger against the lip of the moving sideplate. Press the thumb of the brake hand down on the cam where the handle is attached while continuing to hold the brake strand of the rope. Pull slack with the guide hand. Once finished, immediately return to the principle belay position.

Petzl recommends that you:

  1. Always keep the brake strand in the brake hand. There is never a valid reason to let go of the brake strand.
  2. Never grip the device with the entire hand.
  3. Anticipate the climber's movement, including when additional rope is needed to make a clip.


Many of the preceding principles also apply to the Trango Cinch. The biggest difference is that when one pays out slack, they should hold the hole in the device with two fingers, while keeping the rope in the other three. From there, they will pull slack out sideways.

Assisted braking devices are awesome, but only if they are used the right way. Be sure to read all technical notices on any equipment you choose to purchase.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/1/18

Northwest:

--ABC News is reporting that, "A phone call from a concerned woman likely saved the life of a hiker from Germany who was attempting to travel through the Cascade Mountains to the Canadian border without proper gear as snow and cold hit the region, authorities said." To read more, click here.

--Crosscut is reporting that, "climate change could spell double trouble for national parks: A new study, published last week in the journal Environmental Research Letters, says that these areas are heating up twice as fast than the U.S. as a whole. This includes high-mountain parks like those in the Pacific Northwest, where the loss of glaciers creates a ripple effect across ecosystems, which compounds warming and threats to wildlife and plant communities." To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--The Sierra Wave has printed a "State of the Inyo Forest" article. The article breaks down all the campgrounds that are now closed and road closures. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Starting today, November 1st, the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area Scenic Drive will be on it's winter schedule and will be open from 6am to 5pm. To read more, click here.

--The boardwalk area in Red Springs in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area is closed and will be rebuilt this fall. To read more, click here.

A climber rappelling off the Panty Wall in Red Rock Canyon.

--The Las Vegas Review Journal is reporting that, "An environmental nonprofit can proceed to trial with its lawsuit aimed at stopping the Clark County Commission from approving the development of thousands of homes overlooking the Red Rock Canyon, a judge has ruled." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--An early desert tower climber, Huntly Ingalls, has died at the age of 90. Ingalls was on the first ascents of classics like the Castleton Tower, the Titan, Standing Rock, and North Six Shooter. To read more, check out climbing.com.

--The St. George News is reporting that the Lava Point Road in Zion National Park will be closed for repairs. This will likely have an impact on other roads entering the Park. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Rocky Mountain Outlook is reporting on one of the first avalanches of the season. "Three backcountry skiers had a lucky escape after an avalanche carried them 100 metres down a gully on Mount Patterson in Banff National Park on Monday (Oct. 29). One of the skiers, Cam McLellan, sustained a head injury and was taken by ambulance to Banff’s Mineral Springs Hospital, while his two buddies Noah Bangle and Jeremy Laporte sustained minor injuries." To read more, click here.

--A climber was injured at the Linville Gorge area of North Carolina this week. To read more, click here.

--GearJunkie is reporting that, "The north face of Grandes Jorasses offers 3,937 feet of rock climbing. Dani Arnold broke the speed record this summer, completing the Cassin route in 2 hours 4 minutes without a rope." To read more, click here. To see a video about the ascent, click below:


--Gripped is reporting on a cool new four pitch 5.9 near Canmore. To read more, click here.