Friday, January 18, 2019

Route Profile: Cat in the Hat, 5.6+, II+

When I first moved to Las Vegas in 1999, there was one route that everyone told me I had to do.  I had just started grad school and it was still August in Vegas. If that doesn't mean anything to you, then you've never been in desert southwest in August.  The average daily temperature was 103 degrees.

Cat in the Hat (5.6+, II+) was going to be one of my very first routes in the Canyon that would soon become my home. But it was an inauspicious start. Somehow in our transition from hiking to climbing, the water didn't make it back into our packs. So under the burning sun, we had to bail after the second pitch.

I was back a week later to finish the route, once again in the sun. But since that time, I have literally frozen on the route. I've been snowed on. I've been nearly blown off by wind. I've rappelled off in a rain storm. And I've sweated under the hot sun.

I know. It doesn't sound that great.

But I've also had some of my best days of moderate climbing and guiding on the route in near perfect conditions... Cat in the Hat is like an old friend. A route that will always be there to make me feel at home.

The route is important to the history of Red Rock Canyon as well. The most iconic first ascentionists in Red Rock are George and Joanne Uriosite. The couple moved to Las Vegas in the mid-seventies, but didn't climb much. They were turned off by the amount of sharp brush and the poor rock they encountered on their first forays out. But then in 1976, the pair plus friends Bruce Eisner and John Shirley, began to explore the Mescalito, the prominent feature that that showcases Cat in the Hat on its south face. They quickly discovered the route and made the first ascent after two separate exploratory trips.

The quality of the route changed the perspective of the Uriosties. They no longer saw Red Rock as as a chossy heap of scrub filled rocks, but instead as a playground. The pair went on to be part of the small team of desert explorers that made Red Rock what it is today.

On the approach to the Mescalito, the majority of the route is hidden
 in the south fork of Pine Creek. The red line shows the top of the route.
(Click on Photo to Enlarge)

Cat in the Hat is a six pitch pleasure cruise. The route has lots of nice ledges and that makes it all the more amazing when you reach the final pitch. It's amazing, because suddenly there is significant exposure. The climbing's never hard, but you definitely feel the air beneath you.

 A climber follows the final pitch of the route.

There's something else about the final pitch that makes first time leaders squirm a little bit. The final thirty feet of the route is not too run-out, but it is run-out just enough to make many climbers squirm. That mild run-out is also one of the most memorable of any climb in the area.

There are some rules for Cat. First, avoid the route in December and January. The sun is too low and the bottom of the route can be frigid. Second, avoid the route when it's really hot out; there is no shade. And if it's hot, be sure to bring lots of water. And finally, the route's quality also can lead to crowds. My strategy is to start very early, or to start very late. You either want to be there before the crowds, or after.

A climber pulls through the final moves of Cat in the Hat.

I've probably climbed Cat in the Hat thirty times. And every time, whether in the rain or cold, or in sun on a beautiful day, I've had a great time. A route like this one was made for climbers. And most climbers were made for a route like this...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 1/17/19

Government Shutdown:

--Outside Magazine is reporting that, "This is the first year parks have remained open during a government shutdown, thanks to a Department of the Interior contingency plan. There’s a lot of mystery surrounding this new protocol—few know who signed the order in the first place or why it was implemented—but it’s reasonable to assume that the Interior didn’t want to close the parks and risk a PR fiasco like the Obama administration faced in 2013. Now, nearly a month into the latest shutdown, the Trump administration is facing its own PR crisis, with reports of parks—minus most of their full-time staff—getting trashed by visitors and their poop." To read more, click here.

--National Geographic is reporting that the Government Shutdown will have a multi-year impact on the National Parks. To read more, click here.

--FN is reporting that, "The North Face waded deeper into political territory Saturday with a tweet seemingly designed to troll U.S. President Donald Trump. The outdoor brand said in the tweet that it planned to build free public climbing walls in Atlanta, Chicago, Denver and Brooklyn, N.Y., “as places to unite us.” The message was part of the marketing campaign it launched in 2017 called “Walls Are Meant For Climbing.” To read more, click here.


--There is limited information about a skier who suffered a six to seven-hundred foot fall on Mt. Hood over the weekend. It appears that he will make a full recovery and merely suffered a concussion. This information came via Pacific Northwest Mountaineers on Facebook.

--KOIN6 is reporting that, "a rescue team brought a climber who got lost on Mt. Hood back to safety after a five hour search and rescue effort. While search and rescue crews said this was an operation where everything went right, 68-year-old Ed Lipscomb still thought he might die on a mountain he'd climbed 182 times before." To read more, click here.

--The Jackson Hole News and Guide is reporting that, "A High Mountain Heli-Skiing client was buried in an avalanche Friday while skiing in Vacation Canyon just southeast of Upper Palisades Lake in Idaho. The skier was completely buried for six minutes while guides dug him out, but he walked away with only a few bruises." To read more, click here.

--Crystal Mountain Ski Resort is offering free lift tickets to federal employees during the Government Shutdown. Good job Crystal! To read more, click here.


--An 80-year-old dentist became lost overnight while snowshoeing last week on the Tahoe Rim Trail. Wendell (Raymond) Murdock states that the reason he became lost was a malfunctioning GPS within his phone. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Joshua Trees in Joshua Tree National Park have been cut down during the Government Shutdown. To read more, click here.

A climber rappelling in Joshua Tree National Park.

--The Access Fund is reporting that, "For the first time in nearly 20 years, Joshua Tree National Park is reviewing its climbing management plan (CMP). This world-class area has a long and colorful climbing history and is home to over 10,000 routes and boulder problems within a two to three hour drive of major cities like Los Angeles, San Diego, and Las Vegas—making the future of climbing management a critical issue for the climbing community." To read more, click here.

--Think Progress is reporting that, "Federal employees aren’t the only ones nervous about making ends meet during the government shutdown. Hotel and restaurant owners near Joshua Tree National Park say the shutdown has left them without their usual flow of customers and that employees are concerned about paying their bills and making rent." To read more, click here.

--The developer says that there will be a smaller footprint than the current Bonnie Springs outside Red Rock Canyon, but this kind of change in such a special place feels dangerous. To read more, click here.

--The Las Vegas Review Journal is reporting that, "Nevada’s third tallest peak is a step closer to shedding its Confederate name in favor of something far older and less controversial. The Nevada State Board on Geographic Names voted unanimously Tuesday to recommend a new name for Jeff Davis Peak at Great Basin National Park, 300 miles northeast of Las Vegas. If the U.S. naming board agrees, the second tallest point in White Pine County’s Snake Range will return to its traditional Shoshone moniker, Doso Doyabi, which means White Mountain." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--A 22-year-old skier tragically died on Summit County's Quandary Peak on Sunday. It appears that Peter Wing fell at the 13,400-foot level of the mountain and then succumbed to his injuries. To read more, click here.

--The Aspen Times is reporting that, "A skier and snowboarder had to be rescued from West Willow Creek basin near Snowmass Ski Area after getting lost off the backside of Snowmass Ski Area on Monday. The two men separated after getting lost to try to find their way back in-bounds but were forced to call 911 around 5 p.m. Because the two separated, Mountain Rescue Aspen had to create two search areas and find each man individually." To read more, click here.

--On Friday morning, two skiers near the Lindley Hut south of Aspen were washed into the trees in an avalanche. Neither skier was seriously injured. To read more, click here.

--Former AAI Guide Kelly Cordes wrote a piece in the New York Times about how gateway towns like Estes Park are doing during the Shutdown. To read the article, click here.

--I've often said that the outdoor industry was drowning in alcohol. But it's not just the industry, it's the participants within in. This is an excellent article that raises some very good questions about how we relate alcohol to outdoor pursuits and how it might impact our "healthy lifestyle."  The article focuses on the culture in Colorado, but it's my belief that this is a universal thing in the US and Canada outdoor adventure scene.

Notes from All Over:

--A father and son snowmobile team were tragically caught in an avalanche in Calgary this week. Both were killed in the slide near Mt. Brewer in the Purcell mountains. To read more, click here.

--So an Oklahoma woman bragged about bagging a deer to a game warden on a dating app. It turns out that it was poached...and and easy catch for the warden. To read more, click here.

--Gaia, the mapping software company, has several job openings of all sorts. It is an all remote company. To read more, click here.

--The Government Shutdown forced a German mountaineer to abandon his solo winter ascent of Denali. Check out a video about this below. To read more, click here.

--I've often said that the outdoor industry was drowning in alcohol. But it's not just the industry, it's the participants within in. This is an excellent article that raises some very good questions about how we relate alcohol to outdoor pursuits and how it might impact our "healthy lifestyle."

--Outdoor Sportswire is reporting that, "Snowsports Industries America (SIA) announced the launch of United By Winter, a climate advocacy platform for the winter sports industry. The campaign is intended to give SIA members the education and tools to address climate change and it’s impacts on the snow industry." To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund is reporting that, "we have strengthened protections for climbing access at two of Austin’s most popular climbing areas—Barton Creek Greenbelt and Bull Creek." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

How to Build a V-Thread

You've just completed a spectacular ice climb. Everything went smoothly the entire way. But now you're three pitches off the deck and you don't want to leave anything behind on your descent. There is a way to do this and it is surprisingly simple.

The V-thread -- also known as the Abalakov anchor -- is a simple technique wherein one simply links two holes bored in the ice together and then threads a cord through, the cord is then tied-off and used as an anchor.

Following is a short video on how to do this with a single ice screw:

It's not a bad idea to back-up an ice anchor before rappelling. This article provides some tips as to how one might back-up a V-thread.

It's a good idea to practice this on the ground before employing it in a descent. Though this is conceptually simple, it can be difficult to line up the bore holes. This is definitely not something that you want to use for the first time in a raging snowstorm as it's starting to get dark.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, January 14, 2019

Guide Like Liz Scholarship Winner: Grace Anderson

Grace Anderson is another one of the phenomenal women who won the Guide Like Liz Scholarship in 2018. She is unwavering in her pursuit of the outdoors and spreading her joy to others along the way. She grew up in Staunton, Virginia, and went to college at Winston Salem State in North Carolina. Before college, she didn’t really consider herself an “outdoorsy” person.

“The first peek I had into the outdoor world was through a college professor who recommended a program for people interested in science that also focused on conservation at the Bronx Zoo. So for two summers, I learned about teaching conservation to elementary school students at the Bronx Zoo.”

Before that, Grace wasn’t really interested in conservation. She was an elementary school major at the time, but this professor randomly recommended this program. “It was awesome,” she said wholeheartedly.

Grace descending Pingora in the Wind River Range, Wyoming.
After she came back from that second summer working in the Bronx, she saw that the Student Conservation Association (SCA) was offering alternative spring break trips. She applied for one in Joshua Tree and unexpectedly got a spot on the trip. “It was a week of camping, removing invasive species and climbing in Joshua Tree. It blew my mind away.”

From then on, Grace made environmental education her priority and worked in many states including North Dakota and New Hampshire. She started working with NOLS in 2013 in Lander, Wyoming.

“When I moved to Lander I had never really climbed, skied or experienced temperatures below 20 degrees; I wouldn’t have wanted to be introduced to snow sports or climbing any other way. Cross-country skiing was a lunch break activity in the winter and climbing year-round.”
Climbing in Wild Iris, Wyoming.

Throughout her outdoor and environmental education experiences and background, Grace has found her heart for connecting more people, especially those with limited access and/or marginalized access, to the outdoors. She intends on taking the AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Course and Exam with her scholarship.

“Completing an AMGA SPI course opens many doors for me to teach climbing with folks who might not otherwise see themselves reflected,” she wrote in her scholarship application. “I would like to increase more role models of color in the outdoors.”

She is involved with organizations like Brown Girls Climb and GirlVentures that have similar goals. “The best way to increase the diversity of the outdoors and who is leading in the mountains is to radically share skills. With opportunities like the Guide Like Liz scholarship, we have the ability to change the narrative of who is out front in the outdoors and to invite other people, previously excluded, in,” she wrote.

When we talked more about short and long-term goals she has for herself, she said, “I am at a place where I know a lot about climbing, but the biggest barrier is certifications and learning to lead students in certain ways. I have taken climbing seminars, but I want something more generally recognized.

I believe that climbing is one of the best teaching tools - for leadership, confidence and challenging and so much more. I look forward to using the skills gained from this opportunity to continue to use outdoor education as a teaching tool.”

"Hiding from the multitude of people in Black Corridor." Red Rock Canyon
Congratulations, Grace! Thank you for choosing us to be a part of your amazing journey! Keep crushing!

All photos provided by Grace Anderson.

--Sara Jung, AAI School Certifying Officer and Guide

Friday, January 11, 2019

Free Solo Parody: Expensive Membership

So, by now many of you have seen Alex Honnold's film, Free Solo. It's awesome and well worth viewing. And films that are awesome and well worth viewing are also well worth parodying. Welcome to Expensive Membership, a parody of Free Solo about gym climbing.


--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 1/10/19

Big Picture National Parks Shutdown News:

--The Washington Post is reporting that, "The National Park Service will take the unprecedented step of tapping entrance fees to pay for expanded operations at its most popular sites, officials said Sunday, as the partial federal government shutdown threatens to degrade some of the nation’s iconic landmarks. Under a memorandum signed Saturday by the Interior Department’s acting secretary, David Bernhardt, and obtained by The Washington Post, park managers will be permitted to bring on additional staff to clean restrooms, haul trash, patrol the parks and open areas that have been shut during the budget impasse that has lasted more than two weeks. In a statement Sunday, National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith acknowledged that the administration’s practice of keeping parks open but understaffed has become unsustainable at some of its most beloved sites." To read more, click here.

--There have been three fatalities in the National Parks since the Shutdown began:
  • December 24 - A 14-year-old girl fell to her death at Horseshoe Bend in the Glen Canyon Recreation Areain Arizona.
  • December 25 - A man died of a head injury after slipping at Silver Apron in Yosemite National Park. This went unreported by the NPS for a week.
  • December 27 - A woman was killed by a falling tree in the Great Smokey Mountains National Park in the Southeast (North Carolina and Tennessee).
  • There were at least four additional deaths by suicide in the National Parks since the Shutdown began.
There's no evidence that the shutdown is responsible for these deaths, but how they were handled due to the lack of resources is an open question. To read more, click here.


--Gripped is reporting that, "A skier died from their injuries after being caught in an avalanche at Pebble Creek near Pemberton on Thursday. The 42-year-old man from Squamish was skiing with a group who was equipped and prepared for backcountry situations. They were reportedly staying at a backcountry cabin, possibly the Pebble Creek Hut." To read more, click here.

--This is a cool piece on a couple that created a new long distance trail link-up in the Pacific Northwest.

--This is an excellent retrospective on an avalanche that took place on the Shuksan Arm near Mt. Baker Ski Area last spring.

--Sierra is reporting, "Rose Freeman and Anastasia Allison think nothing of waking up in the dead of night and hauling a violin and a piano up a snowy mountain. Once they find the right spot for a serenade, they each change into full-length recital gowns and break the solemn silence by beginning to play just as the sun appears. The two women call themselves the Musical Mountaineers, and they perform in remote wilderness settings for the sheer joy of it all." To see a video of the pair, click below. To read more, click here.


--Outside posted a piece from a longtime Yosemite resident about how the Government Shutdown is affecting people. Here's a quote from a ranger within the piece: "People are screaming about paying their taxes and having rights,” my friend wrote, quoting the ranger. “Keeping parks accessible is reasonable if people can fend for themselves and care for the park themselves, but the large majority can’t. … That is why they hire the National Park Service. To provide a service to the vast majority who don’t know how to be a true steward for their land or don’t care to be. I beg all of you to stay home and not visit your parks until everyone comes back to work. Your experience will be ten thousand times better.” To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Nevada Current is reporting some very serious news about Red Rock Canyon. "Documents filed with Clark County confirm rumors that the owners of Bonnie Springs Ranch are seeking to divide up the 63-acre property in order to build residential housing. On Dec. 13, land-use plans were submitted to the county. They show the 63-acre property being broken into 22 different parcels. The largest would be an 8.5-acre property directly off Bonnie Springs Road that would encompass a restaurant, motel and event barn. The other 21 are residential properties ranging from 1.84 to 3.39 acres each." to read more, click here.

--Joshua Tree National Park is closing today, due to maintenance issues that have festered during the Shutdown. To read more, click here. UPDATE: Joshua Tree avoided closure. UPDATE II: Our local guide states that the gate is closed.

--The Las Vegas Review Journal is worried about human waste in Red Rock Canyon during the Government Shutdown. "If you’re heading out to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area during the partial federal government shutdown, be sure to bring your own toilet paper." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "One skier died and four others were rescued Saturday night after the group got caught in an avalanche on Red Mountain Pass in the San Juan Mountains." To read more, click here.

--A new avalanche mitigation system is being implemented to protect the roadway near Berthound Pass. To read more, click here.

--ABC4 is reporting that, "Zion National Park is getting some help staying open through the government shutdown. The City of St. George, roughly 40 miles away, says it, Washington County and two other groups are each writing a check for thousands of dollars, to fund basic services at the park through Saturday." To read more, click here.

--In non-Shutdown news, the Star Tribune is reporting that, "A family that owns land along the northeastern boundary of Zion National Park has agreed to let hikers continue to wade through their section of the narrowest stretch of Zion Canyon." To read more, click here.

--The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that, "After a hard-won and historic victory that will shift the body from a long-standing white Republican majority to a Democratic and American Indian one, the new San Juan County Commission took the oath of office in a packed ceremony Monday. The occasion was met with celebration from many in southeastern Utah who hope the change will improve conditions for the county’s majority American Indian population." This is important because this group has had some sway over the decisions regarding Bears Ears. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A 35-year-old snowmobiler was killed in an avalanche near Wyoming's Teton Pass on Monday. It is believed that the snowmobile triggered the slide. To read more, click here.

--The San Gabriel Valley Tribune is reporting that, "The rifle-toting man with a history of gun crimes who was found hiding in Malibu Creek State Park last year was charged Monday in a series of mysterious shootings in the area, including one that killed an Orange County father of two as he slept at a campground." To read more, click here.

--Black Diamond isn't too happy with Walmart for using images of their products on the Walmart website. Black Diamond sent them a cease and desist letter. To read more, click here.

--There is some controversy about the unassisted crossing of Antarctica that just took place. The controversy is that it probably happened 30 years ago. To read more, click here.

--The Outdoor Alliance is reporting that, "last week, the new House majority abandoned a rule of the last Congress that made it easier to transfer or sell off public lands. The old rule, enacted by Republican leadership in 2017 at the start of the 115th Congress, established that that “certain conveyances of federal lands” would “not be considered as providing new budget authority,” basically meaning that the House could transfer or sell off of public lands and treat them as valueless for the purposes of budgetary accounting. In reality, public lands are a large source of government revenue, second only to taxes. And we know that our National Parks, Forests, and Wildlife Refuges are invaluable for the climbing, hiking, camping, paddling, mountain biking, and skiing opportunities they provide." To read more, click here.

--The Burlington Free Press in Vermont is reporting that, "Jay Peak Ski Resort, which was at the center of one of the biggest EB-5 frauds in history, moved a giant step closer to being sold Friday with the selection of an investment bank to represent it to potential buyers. Federal receiver Michael Goldberg said he would file a motion in federal court late Friday or early Monday to retain Los Angeles-based Houlihan Lokey to "assist us with the sale of Jay Peak Resort." He said the resort would be on the market "within a few weeks." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

Guide Like Liz Scholarship Winner: Vladka Behrova

Vladka Behrova is one of American Alpine Institute’s inspiring and motivated Guide Like Liz Scholarship winners for 2018. Her background, her future goals and what the outdoors mean to her are all extraordinary and it is my pleasure to share them with you!

Vladka grew up in Czechoslovakia and started climbing after “a magical date with this guy from the mountains”.

“This guy wanted me to see the night sky because I love the stars, but it was raining so he took me to this super tall building,” Vladka explained. “I was curious.” She followed him up a ladder into a dark room. He turned to her: “stay here”. He walked away and then suddenly the lights came on, but only the lights behind a climbing wall. “He had turned on the night sky,” Vladka said. The lights shone through the bolt holes and that night Vladka started climbing. “It was a really fun way to be introduced to climbing,” Vladka laughed.

Vladka practicing placing gear in Leavenworth. 

A month after that magical date, she went climbing outside and was instantly hooked. She climbed in the Czech Republic and used knots for protection. “I moved to bolts and draws later, but I had no idea what cams where back then,” she giggled.

A year later, Vladka was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer. “Doctors had no treatment for me in Slovakia so I decided to search for treatment on my own.” In the meantime, she kept climbing.

“You can’t really plan on when you are going to have a terminal illness...climbing took my thoughts away from thinking, ‘I am going to die tomorrow’. The only way I could keep fighting and face the truth was climbing.”

Vladka climbing Cunning Stunt at Index.

Vladka started to approach life like she did a climb, being more present and focusing on day to day like focusing on a hard route, bolt to bolt. She experienced excruciating pain, but she tried her best to be healthy, stay active and meditate.

“I found treatment in the US,” Vladka said thankfully. “It was very lucky how I ended up in the US too. While in college, I worked in a climbing shop and a good friend offered me a job in Alaska and long story short, here I am...I have to thank many people for this journey who lent me the money to come here. I was poor as a mouse.”

Since moving to Seattle in 2008 and getting treatment, Vladka has pursued many other outdoor endeavors and her pain has subsided for the most part. She still feels unpredictable pain doing activities at times, but she said, “I just override the pain with different methods and enjoy my time.” She has climbed all over Washington, in Squamish, Utah, and Oregon and has summitted Mt. Adams, Mt. Saint Helens and summitted Mt. Rainer then skied down. She is earning her bachelor degree in logistics now and loves skiing, surfing and playing with her dog, Roxi.

Climbing in Mazama. 
When we talked about her long-term goals and what her vision is for using the scholarship towards the Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership Part 1 course, Vladka explained, “the climbing and mountain culture back home was not very supportive to me as a woman. You had to be very man-like in the climbing community. I was looked down as a young woman because I hung out with the climbers. Even the girls were not friendly and were competitive and bossy to each other. They were territorial. 

Skiing Mount St. Helens in 2018.
“I do not know if the culture or community has changed back home. But I would love to show ladies in Slovakia and the Czech Republic what they can do. My dream is to help more women who are eager to go into the mountains. I think education is very important. I would love to help educate women through courses and teach them how to be confident in themselves. Being in the mountains can do that in a special way.”

Congratulations, Vladka! We are honored to be a part of your inspiring journey. Keep crushing!

Vladka and "her one and only", Roxi.
All photos provided by Vladka Behrova.

--Sara Jung, AAI Vocational School Certifying Officer and Guide

Monday, January 7, 2019

Mt. Everest - High Altitude Film Footage

There's nothing else to say... This short video of Mt. Everest and the mountains surrounding it is awesome. Check it out:

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, January 4, 2019

10 Essential Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Tips!

Backcountry skiing is a knowledge and gear intensive sport. Today's blog hits on a few equipment suggestions as well as some technique ideas for the active backcountry skiers and snowboarders...! Following are ten tips for backcountry travelers.

1) Carry a Repair Kit

This is a commonly forgotten item for backcountry skiers. Breaking a ski or a binding in the backcountry is a big deal. At least one person on every team should have some kind of repair kit. And it should be able to pretty much repair anything.

I broke my binding several years ago, miles from the car. Thankfully, we had the equipment to fix it...!

A backcountry ski repair kit.
(click to enlarge)

The repair kit should at the very least, include: a multi-tool, duct tape, ski straps, a pole splint, a skin tip, an extra pole basket, zip ties, bailing wire, hose repair clamp, lighter, scraper, cordellete and a binding buddy with extra screws.

2) Skins Inside Jacket

It's not uncommon for backcountry skiers to take short laps. This is sometimes referred to as yo-yoing. Short laps tend to mean quick transitions without much of a break. Instead of taking the time to take off your backpack, fold up your skins and put them inside your jacket...

3) Carry a Hydration Bladder

Skinning is hard work. It's not uncommon for you to want something to drink while making your way up a steep hill.

"But the tube on my hydration bladder will freeze," you say.

You're right. It will. Unless you take care of it.

To keep your tube from freezing: 1) Get a tube insulator. 2) Put the bite-valve down the neck of your jacket when not in use. 3) Blow the water back into the bladder after your finished drinking. 4) And finally, if it's super cold out, use a "backpack-style" bladder, and wear it under your jacket.

4) Wax the Tops of Your Skis or Snowboard

Obviously, everyone waxes the bottoms of their skis. But the tops?

Yep. This is a great way to keep snow from bunching up on top of your skis.

5) Put Your Downhill Ski on First

When standing on a slope, place your downhill ski first and step into it, and then your uphill ski. This will give you more stability as you get your skis on.

6) Don't be too Aggressive

People tend to ski somewhat aggressively in-bounds. There are a lot more things to be worried about when you're in the backcountry. As such, it's important to make sure that you take it slow and don't get overconfident.

7) Ride with a Partner

If there's an accident, you will need help. If there's an avalanche, you will need help. Backcountry skiing is dangerous and if you don't have a partner with you,

8) If Skiing Adjacent to a Resort, Know the Uphill Rules

Some resorts allow backcountry traffic to skin uphill inside their ropes. Other resorts don't allow this at all. It's important to know and follow the rules if you're near a resort. If you don't and you cause a problem for downhill traffic, it can have a negative impact not only on you, but on other backcountry skiers who might wish to use the area.

9) Beware of Tree Wells

After a big dump, tree-branches can create a hollow area beneath a tree. This area can be a trap for skiers or snowboarders, especially if they fall into it head first. The snow on the tree branches can come down and suffocate you. It is a very dangerous place.

It's important to become educated on tree wells. You should understand how to avoid them, and what to do if someone gets caught in one. To learn more about tree-wells and how to manage them, click here.

10) Take an Avalanche Course and Check Conditions!

An AAI Guide describes the snow layers on an Avalanche Course.

There is nothing more important than understanding avalanches and how to avoid them. To do this, your best bet is to take an avalanche course. Additionally, you should always check with your local avalanche forecaster to determine if it's worth it to go out on a given day...!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 1/3/18


We didn't post the news round-up last week as it was the holidays and things were a bit busy, so this report covers December 20th through January 2nd.

Government Shutdown / National Park News:

--There are a lot of problems in the National Parks right now. We're hearing reports of fights over campgrounds, off-road vehicle use on pristine lands, overflowing toilets, and now many campground closures due to bad behavior. A government shutdown is bad for outdoor recreationalists of all stripes. Check out this overview from Gripped about what's going on.


--This isn't really a northwest story, but the person featured is a north-westerner. Oregon Public Radio is reporting that, "Colin O’Brady is a professional endurance athlete, a motivational speaker, a world record holder and, now, the first person in history to cross the continent of Antarctica alone and without wind assistance. The 33-year-old Portland native set out on a brutal 921-mile journey across Antarctica in early November. He was alone and unassisted, dragging a sled weighing hundreds of pounds that contained everything he needed to stay alive in some of the harshest conditions on earth." To read more, click here.

--CBC News is reporting that, "One of Metro Vancouver's biggest search and rescue teams has broken its record for the highest number of callouts in a year. With the rescue of two lost, cold hikers Thursday night, North Shore Rescue (NSR) has now responded 141 times in 2018." To read more, click here.


--On June 2, 2018, Tim Klein and Jason Wells -- two extremely experienced Yosemite climbers -- were killed while traveling over easy terrain on El Cap. What happened? Why did it happen? Outside online looks at the tragedy and tries to understand... To read the article, click here.

--It's not clear what happened, but a skier died at Lake Tahoe Ski Resort last week. The story doesn't note whether the death was the result of an accident or a medical issue. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--News Channel 3 is reporting that, "A rock climber who fell 50 feet while traversing an area of Joshua Tree National Park was airlifted to a hospital for serious, but non-life threatening injuries sustained in the fall, San Bernardino County sheriff's deputies said today. Peter Muffoletto of Berkeley, 30, fell at 5:10 p.m. Wednesday somewhere within the park while rock climbing." To read more, click here. It appears that this might have been a bouldering accident that resulted in an open compound fracture. It's also possible that this second report is a separate incident. To read a thread on it, click here.

Joshua Tree National Park is suffering during the Government Shutdown.

--Things are not going well in Joshua Tree National Park during the Government Shutdown. The LA Times is reporting that, "The federal government’s partial shutdown has granted outdoorsy travelers free access to national parks that usually charge up to $30 per carload. And with that freedom, some locals say, has come a surge in scofflaw activity and a ticklish toilet situation, especially at Joshua Tree National Park. At Joshua Tree, Death Valley and Channel Islands national parks — all within 220 miles of Los Angeles — conditions vary as widely as the geography. All three parks are open, and their lodgings and campgrounds are open, as are other services generally run by park concessionaire companies. But all visitor centers and many restrooms are closed and many other services have been disrupted, including bathroom maintenance and trash collection. Those conditions pose a particular peril in Joshua Tree, locals say, because these are some of the busiest days of the year." To read more, click here. And here's a story on the same subject from Outside.

--It's a similar story in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. Historically, the gates have been closed during government shutdowns. However, this time the gates have remained open, which is good for climbers, but not so good for sightseers. There is a lot of traffic in the Conservation Area after 10am, and no one to shut the gate to decrease the load. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "an unidentified 66-year-old man died on Tuesday afternoon after losing consciousness on a ski run at Keystone Resort, according to the Summit County Sheriff’s Office. The man was unconscious when others discovered him at about 12:26 p.m. on Christmas Day. Emergency responders took him to St. Anthony Summit Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead." This appears to be a medical fatality. To read more, click here. It appears that there was a second medical issue that resulted in a death at Keystone as well. Click here for more on that.

--A hiker in Eldorado Canyon got pinned under a 1-ton boulder last week. Rescue crews had to remove this massive block of rock with all sorts of mountain rescue tricks. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Rock and Ice posted a "Climbers We Lost" article this week. The magazine posts an article like this once a year to celebrate the lives of those that were lost. To read the article, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "An ice climber was climbing alone on Cascade Falls (WI 3) when an accident occurred and he died from injuries on December 25th. An outdoor gear store in Canmore remained closed on boxing day due to an “unforeseen emergency” after the Christmas Day accident. There are no details about the cause of the accident or the climber who was soloing.' To read more, click here.

--The Times Union is reporting that, "The body of a rock climber, who fell to his death while climbing in New York's Shawangunk Mountains, was recovered Sunday afternoon. The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation said in a press release on their website that a man had been solo climbing at the privately owned Mohonk preserve, in Gardiner, Ulster County, when he fell to his death." To read more, click here.

--NECN is reporting on what appears to be yet another solo fall: "A Vermont man suffered serious injuries in a 60-foot fall while ice climbing Thursday. Vermont State Police said 39-year-old Steve Charest, of Jericho, was climbing in the Smugglers’ Notch area of Jeffersonville Thursday when he somehow fell. Rescue agencies said Charest first hit a bluff, then crashed through tree limbs before finally landing on the snow-covered ground." To read more, click here.

--The Post Register is reporting that, "A female skier triggered an avalanche in the Broken Branch area south of the Jackson Hole Mountain Resort on Wednesday and was carried down a chute and buried up to her helmet. She was the second skier caught in avalanches in the past three days in the backcountry area just outside the ski resort. The other skier was hurt on Monday in the Spacewalk Couloir." To read more, click here.

--Mass Live is reporting that, "A Tufts Medical Center doctor died Sunday after being struck by falling ice while hiking in the White Mountains in Hart’s Location. The Boston Globe identified the victim as Dr. Judith Pinsker, a 57-year-old Wellesley, Mass., woman who was hiking the trail with her husband, her sons and several friends. Pinsker and her party were hiking on the Frankenstein Cliff Trail around noon Sunday when falling ice struck her, causing a serious head injury, according to the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department." To read more, click here.

--The Idaho Statesman is reporting that, "a Montana man was out target shooting when he became a target himself — and it was because a man “mistook him for Bigfoot,” he told authorities. The 27-year-old from Helena told dispatchers on Monday that a day earlier he had been putting up targets on public lands outside the city when bullets started flying toward him, Lewis and Clark County Sheriff Leo Dutton said in a phone interview with McClatchy. The man said one bullet hit three feet to his left on Sunday and another whizzed past him on the right. He explained that he ran into the trees for cover as more gunfire came his way. Eventually he came out to confront the man in a black Ford F-150 who shot at him, he said." To read more, click here.

--So it appears that a snowmaking pipe broke on Stratton Mountain in Vermont and blasted a few gondolas violently with water. Check out the crazy video of this below. To read more, click here.

--The Flathead Beacon is reporting that, "A mechanical error on Whitefish Mountain Resort’s Chair 5 lift prompted the evacuation of approximately 140 passengers Saturday afternoon, with everyone lowered to safety and no injuries reported." To read more, click here.

--And finally, there are currently two teams that are trying to make the first winter ascent of K2. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Indirect, Redirect and Direct Belays

Most climbers know intrinsically that there are a few of different methods that a climber might use to belay from the top. These are indirect belays, redirected belays and direct belays. Following is a quick rundown of each:

Indirect Belay

An indirect belay is when one belays directly off of his body. In the old days a climber would finish a line, clip into the anchor and then put his follower on belay directly off his belay loop. This is referred to as an indirect belay because the belay doesn't directly transfer force into the anchor. The force must go through the belayer's body first.

Very few experienced climbers still use an indirect belay for standard rock climbing. However, in a setting where one cannot build a 12-point anchor, it makes a lot of sense to put your body between the force of the load and whatever anchor you have.

In the above photo, AAI Guide Tad McCrea is belaying directly off his harness on a steep slope. His is attached to a snow picket, but a snow picket isn't that strong. In a snow setting, an indirect belay allows one to absorb some of the force so that it's not directly transmuted to the anchor.

Certainly, if it is impossible to build a solid rock anchor, a stance with a single piece could be almost as good as a bombproof anchor.

The biggest downside to an indirect belay is escaping the system. It's reasonable to tie-off a system and transfer the load to the anchor using some rock rescue trickery. However, if you put your body between the anchor and the load to begin with, your anchor may not be good enough to take the load...which could be a problem.

Redirect Belay

In the 1990s it became quite popular to climb a pitch, clip into the anchor and then redirect your belay off the anchor point and back down to the climber, essentially making a mini-toprope. Often one would redirect off a single piece in order to make sure there was enough room to belay.

Climbers found this to be much more pleasant than your standard indirect belay. They liked the idea that they would be pulled up instead of down when a person fell.

There are a few problems with the system.  First, when a climber belays with a redirect, there is a pulley-effect, which doubles the force on the anchor. This isn't a very good idea if you're using this on a single piece or have a weak anchor. Second, if the climber is heavier than the belayer, the belayer can get pulled up into the redirect and potentially let go. And third, this is a hard system to escape in the event of an emergency.

Modern climbing technology has nearly eliminated the redirect belay from use. There are very few circumstances where this technique is applicable.

Direct Belay

The direct belay is a belay directly off the anchor. These are the most common belays in the climbing world today. Most climbers use an autoblocking device, like a ATC Guide or a Petzel Reverso, but one could also belay directly off the anchor with a munter-hitch.

The idea behind a direct belay is that, (1) you are not in the system; and (2) it's very easy to escape the belay. If you can build a 12-point anchor, there is almost no reason to use anything but a direct belay.

--Jason D. Martin