Tuesday, December 24, 2019

First Light - A Holiday Climbing Film

Sooo... This is the funniest Christmas climbing film that we've come across so far. Here's the promo material:

"It's visionary. It's truly on the edge of what we could call climbing," says Arc'Teryx athlete Jesse Huey. "You can train for the Karakoram, for Alaska, but nothing can prepare you for this." This winter, Huey and his team of elite alpine climbers will journey to the roof of the world. When darkness falls, there will be light.

Check it out below:

Have a Great Holiday!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/19/19

Climate Crisis:

--Gizmodo is reporting on some really good news: "Money talks, and that’s why environmental activists—and, more specifically, indigenous peoples—have been pressuring banks for years to stop throwing their money toward fossil fuel extraction projects. Finally, major banks are starting to listen. Goldman Sachs announced Sunday that it’s finally listening and won’t fund new coal projects globally or any extraction projects in the Arctic, including in the pristine Arctic National Wildlife Refuge." To read more, click here.


--So a drug smuggling pilot near the border with Canada was pursued by Border Patrol. During the pilot's attempted escape, pursuing agents watched as he threw several bags out of the plane and into the North Cascade wilderness. It is presumed that these bags were filled with some kind of drugs. The pilot was arrested when he landed. To read more, click here.

--Four people have been killed in the Big Four Ice Caves that exist in base of the avalanche cone at the bottom of Big Four's North Face. The Everett Herald is reporting that, "Baylor University professors Kelli McMahan and Chris Wynveen visited the caves in the summer of 2017 to observe how visitors behaved and interviewed those who got too close. Along with Texas A&M staff, they recommended some changes to the trail. The researchers spent four days watching visitors. They approached those who got too close to the caves and asked the red-handed hikers what it might take to keep them from climbing on or going in the ice structures." To read more, click here.


El Capitan
Photo by Krista Eytchison

--The Yosemite Facelift continues to grow in popularity. Over sixteen-thousand pounds of trash was picked up, and over eighty percent of that trash was recycled. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--CNN and others are reporting that, "A snowboarder was killed after unintentionally triggering an avalanche near a Utah ski resort on Sunday morning. The snowboarder, identified by the Summit County Sheriff's Office as 45-year-old Raymond M. Tauszik of Salt Lake City, was 'caught, carried and killed' by the avalanche when he was skiing down a slope, according to the Utah Avalanche Center." To read more, click here.

--CBS 4 Denver is reporting that, "A 21-year-old man was buried in an avalanche at the Steamboat Ski Resort on Sunday afternoon, but was quickly dug out." To read more, click here.

--A 65-year old skier passed away at the Keystone Ski Resort this week. The skier was found unresponsive with no signs of trauma. To read more, click here.

--KCBW, an NPR affiliate in Utah, is reporting that, "Local law enforcement officers were dispatched out to Conehead on the Park City Ridgeline again after a man triggered an avalanche in the same area that killed a 45-year-old Salt Lake City man on Sunday. Summit County Sheriff’s Lt. Andrew Wright reports Tuesday’s avalanche was triggered by a parachute skier." To read more, click hereHere is more info about the earlier avalanche that resulted in a fatality.

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "Vail Resorts, Inc. yesterday announced a series of major capital improvements across its resorts that are designed to make getting on and around its mountains faster and easier through terrain expansions, new lifts, and expanded restaurant experiences. The new projects are part of the company’s calendar year 2020 capital plan of approximately $210 million to $215 million to enhance the guest experience and scale the company’s growing business. This investment builds on the approximately $190 million to $195 million that Vail Resorts is planning to spend on capital improvement projects in the calendar year 2019." To read more, click here.

--The Colorado Sun is reporting that, "the Brazilian owner of Granby Ranch is walking away from the 5,000-acre ski and golf community after 24 years, handing a lender the title to the Grand County property where she once planned a $600 million mega-resort." To read more, click here.

--The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that, "No one will ever see “no trespassing” signs in Zion Narrows, thanks to a complicated land deal tapping money from myriad federal, state and private sources that will keep a historic property in a farming family’s hands, while preserving public access to one of the nation’s finest hiking destinations." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

Tim Staples, a school teacher and rescue volunteer, died in a 
fall while searching for a missing hiker on on Mt. Baldy on Saturday.

--KTLA 5 and many others are reporting that, "A search and rescue team member volunteer and schoolteacher was found dead Saturday amid the search for a 52-year-old hiker from Irvine who went missing near Mount Baldy nearly a week ago, authorities said." To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "Ken Wallator was a leading climber in the Canadian Rockies during the 1980s and 90s, having made a number of bold first ascents and hard repeats. He was recently in the Bow Valley climbing with his good friend Will Gadd, who Wallator knew growing up. On Dec. 14, Wallator posted an alarming message on Facebook that implied that it could be his last post. Wallator’s message came after a hard few years and similar posts from the previous weeks, but none so dire." Wallator is currently missing, and is presumed to be somewhere in the Canadian Rockies. There is a photo of his truck in this report, and anyone who sees it is encouraged to report it. To read more, click here.

--Politico has published a piece entitled, "the Stealth Plan to Erode Public Control of Public Lands." The piece talks about the recent decision to move BLM headquarters, and how this is undermining the dedicated employees. "Our view is that the plan is a poorly disguised attempt to destroy the agency from the inside. BLM state directors and field managers in the West already have the authority to make land-use, leasing and permitting decisions and facilitate coordination with state, tribal and local governments. The 3 percent in Washington focuses on policy, oversight and coordination at the national level with other federal agencies, Congress and national public interest groups. This is work that must be done in Washington to be effective." To read more, click here.

--Here are the top ten advocacy victories by the Access Fund in 2019!

--Looks like there's another Vertical Limit or Cliffhanger getting ready to be made out there. Deadline is reporting that, "In a last fevered auction before the holidays, Netflix prevailed and paid high six figures for First Ascent, a genre script by Colin Bannon with a female lead set in the world of mountain climbing. The project injects a genre element to a dangerous sport and was likened to The Shining meets Free Solo. Jake Scott is attached to direct a script that will be featured on The Black List, the annual tally of best screenplays that will be revealed later today." To read more, click here.

--Backpacker has put a video game online about surviving in a blizzard. Check it out.

--Uber is developing a service that will take you to a ski resort. To read more, click here.

--Here's a video of someone doing a flip off a gondola, something we don't recommend:

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Failed Ski Lift Rescue

One of the many jobs that ski patrollers are responsible for is ski lift evacuation. In other words, when the ski lift stalls, they lower people off the lift to the ground. This is generally a relatively simple task that any climber with baseline skills would be able to accomplish. Unfortunately for a snowboarder at (ski area name redacted), the ski patrol there aren't very dialed into basic climbing skills.

Before launching into this...full disclosure. I have never been a ski patroller. I am coming at this from the perspective of a guide with self-rescue skills, and as a instructor for team-based technical rescue. This blog isn't meant to be a discussion of ski patrol specific skills, but more of a what-can-we-learn-from-this-as-climbers discussion.

So there are a handful of takeaways from this, not-the-least-of-which is to avoid being rescued by a ski patroller in (state name redacted). Why would you be skiing in (state name redacted) anyway? Did you see what kind of snow they have in the video...?

Anyway, here are some thoughts:

1) Use an Anchor or get beneath the Victim!

In the video, the ski patroller on the left is at a wide angle. Occasionally we are forced in a climbing setting to place a belayer far from the base of the crag. This happens in any top-roped climbing when situation where it is not possible to be close to the base of the crag. When there is a wide angle like the one in the video, the belayer is always pulled in.

There are two ways to mitigate this problem. The first way is to anchor yourself down and the second way is to eliminate the angle.

At the end of the video, the guy on the ground says to his hanging buddy, "you know next time...Ima' gonna have to get up there and hold ya'." Holding the other ski patroller wouldn't work. He could clip himself to the patroller to increase the weight, essentially creating a "meat anchor," but the best thing of all would simply be to tie the belayer down.

However, if the belayer was wearing a normal harness and wasn't using a "what-the-!%&@-is-he-doing strap," he might have been able to get directly beneath the snowboarder and probably wouldn't have needed an anchor at all.

2) Use a Climbing Harness or a Rescue Harness for Rescue Work

Ahhh...this one seems a little obvious. If the strap had slipped off the ski patroller's legs, the victim would have fallen to the ground.

3) Counterbalance Situation

This is more in response to something that shouldn't have happened in the first place, but once both the ski patroller and the snowboarder are both hanging, they are essentially counterbalancing each other. If the ski patroller rappels, the snowboarder will remain where he is. Once the ski patroller is on the ground and continues to lower the snowboarder will come down.

Had this situation been a bit different, the ski patroller might have had to counterbalance rappel with the snowboarder. In other words, the only way for the two of them to move together is for the ski patroller to clip something to the snowboarder and then rappel. As the patroller lowers, he would pull the snowbarder to the ground.  Due to the lack of harness' and competence in this arena, this would not have been realistic for this team.

Rescue Strategy

These guys made some mistakes and they learned from them. Certainly, they won't do this this way in the future.

The reality is that a rescue is always the victim's emergency. The last thing you want to do is to make something worse. If you're in a rescue scenario, don't rush. Think about consequences of any systems you build and mitigate the dangers...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, December 12, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/12/19

Climate Crisis:

--The teenage climate advocate Greta Thunberg is Time's person of the year. The 16-year-old is a leader in the youth climate movement. To read more, click here.


--North Cascades Highway is officially closed.

--Capitol Press is reporting that, "The U.S. Department of Interior probably will decide in the first quarter of 2020 whether to import grizzly bears into Washington’s North Cascades, U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash, says." To read more, click here.

--Here is an awesome video that promotes Portland Mountain Rescue. These folks are dialed!


--A snowboarder was injured in an avalanche on the north side of Castle Peak this week. To read more, click here.

--The Sierra Wave is reporting that, "The Bishop Area Climbers Coalition, Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association (ESIA), and Friends of the Inyo in partnership with the Bureau of Land Management Bishop Field Office, and the Inyo National Forest have hired two climbing rangers to patrol the increasingly popular climbing and bouldering areas in the Bishop area. The Bishop Area Chamber of Commerce, Geraldine C. and Emory M. Ford Foundation, Touchstone Climbing Inc., along with individual organization fundraising events have contributed funds to help support the two climbing ranger positions." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

Mt. Wilson in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

--Red Rock Canyon in Las Vegas is changing the late exit procedures for the Scenic Drive. "Starting January 1, 2020, late exit climbing and high-country backpacking permit requests at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area will move to Recreation.gov. At that time, permits will not be available by calling the phone line that was used previously (702-515-5050). When the move happens on the first of the year, people can request a permit by clicking the “Buy a Pass” button on the website. Late exit permits are free, but a 50-cent processing fee will be charged." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Coloradoan is reporting on the first avalanche fatality of the season. "The 29-year-old backcountry skier who died in an avalanche near Cameron Pass on Sunday has been identified as Michelle Lindsay of Fort Collins." To read more, click here.

Are some areas about to hit "peak" rock gym?

--The question that some are starting to wonder about is, how many rock gyms are too many? Some cities in Colorado may find out. To read about it, click here.

--The Gazette is reporting that, "Avalanches hit backcountry regions across the state over the weekend after a series of storms dumped snow on Colorado late last week. About 50 avalanches were reported Saturday and Sunday after the holiday snowfall, according to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center." To read more, click here.

--Snews is reporting that, "The Big Gear Show, a concept by longtime retailers Sutton Bacon and Darren Bush, the team behind Paddlesports Retailer, is slated for July 22 to 25, 2020, in Salt Lake City. The hardgoods-only buying show will focus on camping, climbing, paddling, and biking, with a consumer day and pre-show outfitting and excursion." To read more, click here.

--The Know Outdoors is reporting that, "On Monday, Dec. 9, Vail Resorts announced $210 million to $215 million in capital investment projects for the 2020-21 season. For Colorado, this means a new chairlift on Breckenridge Ski Resort’s Peak 7 and a replacement of Keystone Resort’s Peru Express Lift. Beaver Creek Ski Resort also is getting an additional 250 skiable acres." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Former AAI Guide, Chantel Astorga, has received some love from Rock and Ice online. Last night, they posted her profile with a Q and A. To read it, click here.

--There are some new rules for those climbing Canada's tallest mountain, Mt. Logan. Teams have to be composed of at least two people, and expeditions have to have insurance. To read more, click here.

--Outside has published an interesting piece on social media shaming: "When the founder of the Instagram account Public Lands Hate You first began calling out influencers for their bad habits online, he did not anticipate how many friends—and adversaries—he’d make along the way. Frustrated by the things he saw on some hikes with his friends, the 31-year-old engineer, who goes under the alias of Steve, created the Instagram account to show how people will trample flowers on public lands, wander off designated trails, and use drones where they’re not allowed—sometimes simply out of a lack of outdoors knowledge but often to also promote products or take photos that would be popular with an influencer’s audience." To read more, click here.

--State outdoor recreation offices are popping up everywhere!

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

North Cascades Highway Closing for the Winter!

The American Alpine Institute just received the following from the Washington State Department of Transportation:

SR 20 North Cascades Highway, between Diablo and Mazama, closing to vehicles until 2020 Crews will work to reopen the highway to bicycles, vehicles next spring

DIABLO – A snowy forecast means State Route 20 North Cascades Highway will close for the season at 6 a.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 11. This is the latest road closure date in more than a decade.

Washington State Department of Transportation crews close this stretch of SR 20 every year once snow fills the avalanche chutes that line the highway, which poses a safety risk to travelers and road crews.

Road closure points 

The closure points are at milepost 134/Ross Dam Trailhead and at milepost 177/Silver Star Gate. When significant snow begins to fall, WSDOT crews will move the western closure point back to milepost 130/Colonial Creek Campground and the eastern closure point to milepost 168/Early Winters Campground. These weather-dependent changes usually happen in January. Signs along SR 20 are posted in advance of the closure point and updates on the WSDOT website will reflect where the road is closed.

Winter recreation on SR 20

Hikers, skiers, snowmobilers and other recreationalists can access the closed portion of highway during the winter season. Users should park in designated parking areas to allow plow drivers the space they need to clear snow around the closed stretch’s access gates.

WSDOT closes this stretch of highway due to avalanche risk, so anyone using this area should check forecasts and be aware of quickly changing conditions in the mountains. Travelers can also check conditions with North Cascades National Park before trips to this area.

Spring reopening

In late winter/spring 2020, WSDOT avalanche and maintenance crews, including Mazama the Avalanche Rescue Goat, will assess conditions and begin clearing work to reopen this cross-state route through the Cascade Mountains.

Monday, December 9, 2019

Moderate Snow Climbs in the Alaska Range: Ruth Gorge

Perusing Alpinist Magazine or the American Alpine Journal, one might be intimidated by the Alaska Range and its incredible volume of difficult routes, but there are indeed options for the more moderate climber. As with any climbing expedition in Alaska, none of these options below should be considered "safe" and involve significant objective hazard including rock, ice, and snowfall. Careful conditions evaluation (including snowpack) is paramount for a successful trip.

Basecamp in the Ruth Gorge, AK

Mount Dickey, West Face (II, 40 degrees- 4,500 ft)

This climb is done in one to three days and is among the most spectacular moderates in the AK range with minimal technical difficulties and memorable views. Start from the Ruth Gorge and ascend moderate snow ramps to 747 Pass, this is a beautiful place to camp if climbing the route in multiple days. Depending on where your base camp is, this involves ~3 miles and 2,000 feet of elevation gain.

From 747 pass, moderate snow slopes continue and several options exist depending on your desired level of adventure. The West Face and the West Ridge are relatively similar (and are even commonly skied) and rarely exceed 30-40 degrees. The "Direct" west ridge is a fun way (though contrived at times) to turn up the climbing difficulty and exposure quite dramatically (though this is much more serious than the standard options). Simply staying on the "true" west ridge involves steeper snow and moderate mixed climbing on rock (~60 degrees with short steps of easy mixed). The direct option of these three will require a different set of gear, experiences, and skills.

A climber on the Direct West Ridge, Mt. Dickey

Mount Barrille, Japanese Couloir (III, 55-70 degrees- 3,000 feet of elevation gain)

This climb lacks any great camping locations and thus is commonly done in one day. While it is shorter and less elevation gain than Mount Dickey, it offers much more technical climbing relatively speaking. Depending on the basecamp location, the approach can be as little as 30 minutes but the crevasse route-finding getting to the base can be involved.

A climber reversing the summit ridge of Mt. Barrille
The couloir itself makes up the majority of the climb's elevation gain (~2,000 feet) with an ever steepening couloir that varies greatly in steepness depending on time of year. At the top of the couloir, a heroic traverse on snow leads to the upper summit slopes. The position is incredible throughout the upper stretch of the climb and is an absolute gift to the moderate climber- being able to experience the grandeur of the Alaska Range without climbing on a cutting edge route.    


Friday, December 6, 2019

Ski and Snowboard Stoke: We Heard You Need Gloves

Here is an awesome little film about some hardcore ladies getting it on in the Mt. Baker backcountry. If this doesn't get you stoked for the upcoming season, I don't know what will:

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, December 5, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/5/19


--The Seattle Times is reporting on a lawsuit against The Mountaineers: The former Mountaineers Foundation is suing the original Mountaineers over who gets to use the name “The Mountaineers” in a court case that could be hard to follow for anyone not familiar with the legacy of The Mountaineers. mThe lawsuit outlines a rift between the two outdoors education and conservation-oriented organizations and marks the end of a long partnership. Seattle-based The Mountaineers was founded in 1906 by 151 outdoors enthusiasts who wanted to explore the Pacific Northwest’s wild places." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Craig Press is reporting that, "Steamboat Springs resident Tom Steinberg was skiing on the northeast slope of Walton Peak on Rabbit Ears Pass when an avalanche, triggered remotely from his ski track, collapsed a layer of snow. No one was injured, but Steinberg reported the incident to the Avalanche Information Center." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Jon Waterman wrote an excellent piece on our struggling National Parks for the New York Times: "I also discovered was an operation in deep trouble, with some parks degraded by ruinous overcrowding; invasions of nonnative plants and animals that are upending delicate ecological balances; and a warming climate that is melting glaciers and withering away the rare yuccas that give their name to Joshua Tree National Park. Adding to these woes, the system is badly underfunded and suffering from neglect. This is not a new problem, but it is getting worse, with deferred maintenance that mostly predates the Trump administration now topping $11 billion. But President Trump isn’t helping. He wants to cut the National Park Service’s budget by $481 million next year and is reportedly considering privatizing campgrounds and commercializing the parks in ways that contradict the agency’s goal of harmonizing with nature." To read more, click here.

--The French Guide school is world renowned. Outside has produced an excellent article on the tests used to assess those who wish to attend the school. To read about it, click here.

--China is building ski resorts at a record pace...!

--Many ski resorts and ski towns go out-of-their-way to be welcoming to LGBTQ+ folks. Outside has published a list of resorts, passes and events. To read about it, click here.

--Netflix has put out an open casting call for someone to play Tenzing Norgay, the Sherpa who first made the summit of Mt. Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary. To read more, click here.

--Two more Americans have qualified for the Olympic Climbing Team. Nathanial Coleman and Kyra Condie have been offered Olympic berths. The American women's quota is now full, which means that popular well-known climbers like Ashima Shiraishi and Margo Hayes are unlikely to make the Olympics. To read more, click here.

--Climbing is reporting that, "Western Massachusetts Climbers Coalition (WMCC), Ragged Mountain Foundation (RMF), and Access Fund are pleased to announce the acquisition of Hanging Mountain, a new climbing area in Sandisfield, Massachusetts. Situated on 14 acres, Hanging Mountain may be the biggest find in Northeastern climbing in decades. Once fully established, this hidden gem will provide climbers with approximately 150 - 200 traditional and sport routes, some up to two pitches." To read more, click here.

--Backcountry.com is trying to make amends...

Tuesday, December 3, 2019

The Black Art of Headpointing

Headpointing is the process of toproping a route into submission prior to leading. This can be an excellent technique for a beginning level leader that is worried about taking a fall. However, it is far more often used by high end climbers that wish to ascend something that is incredibly run-out.

In Great Britain, there is an entire culture of climbing on gritstone, a compact stone with few cracks and an ethic that doesn't allow for bolting. This is where headpointing was first developed as a technique to "safely" climb hard and exposed lines. But, just because you rehearsed the route over and over again, that doesn't mean that you won't fall and hit the deck. As Neil Gresham says, "unless the will to do the route surpasses all, you shouldn't be there..." Headpointing is just one tool, but if it doesn't work out, the consequences could be severe.

In this video, Neil talks about "the black art of headpointing" while demonstrating his use of it on a dangerous 5.12+ gritstone climb. This is definitely one of those climbing videos where your hands are going to sweat...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 28, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/28/19

Happy Turkey Day!


--The glaciers of Mt. Rainier are under serious threat. The REI blog has published a piece on this: "'From 1913 to 1994, for example, Rainier lost 25 percent of all its ice. And since 2003, they’ve lost an additional about 20 percent. So it’s accelerated.' This is part of a larger trend across the globe, with glaciers shrinking faster than before—and faster than previously thought—from the peaks of the Himalaya to ice sheets that terminate in the ocean, like in Alaska’s tidewater glaciers." To read more, click here. Another story about this topic appeared in the Seattle Times.

--Here's another take on the handover of a popular climbing area to the Squamish Nation...


--Elite climber Emily Harrington took a big fall on El Cap this week. She was simul-climbing with Alex Honnold when the incident took place on Freeblast (5.11, 10 pitches). See the Instagram post below, and read a comprehensive account, here.

--Bicycle Retailer is reporting that, "A group of trail and forest advocates filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Forest Service for allowing Class 1 e-bikes on non-motorized trails in the Tahoe National Forest without first conducting a public study." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Here's an update on the helicopter that crashed in Red Rock Canyon on October 23rd. The crash resulted in two fatalities.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Hill is reporting that, "A new internal Bureau of Land Management (BLM) website designed to answer employees’ questions about the agency’s upcoming relocation out West says staffers should expect a drop in their overall pay. The information was included in an internal page available to staff seen by The Hill that contained questions and answers about the controversial plan to move most D.C.-based BLM employees and establish a new headquarters in Grand Junction, Colorado." It is believed that this process of moving the BLM headquarters is an attempt to gut the agency. To read more, click here.

--Apparently Eldora Ski Area was a zoo this week.

--Alta is now closed to uphill traffic.

Notes from All Over:

--In late breaking news last night, Rock and Ice and many other publications are reporting that, "Brad Gobright, one of the most accomplished free solo climbers in the world, died today, Wednesday, November 27, in an accident in El Potrero Chico, Mexico. He was 31, and raised in Orange County, CA." This appears to be a rappelling accident. To read more, click here.

--Outside magazine and many other outlets are reporting that, Jake Burton Carpenter, the founder of Burton Snowboards and one of the pioneers of the sport of snowboarding, died Wednesday night. Carpenter had announced early in the month that he was battling cancer for a second time. He was 65 and leaves behind his wife Donna and three sons, Timi, George, and Taylor." To read more, click here.

--A 21-year-old college student was killed in a rappelling accident in Louisiana this week. To read more, click here.

--The Hill is reporting that, "A key Senate panel has voted to fully and permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), a move that conservation groups see as a significant victory." To read more, click here.

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "Western Massachusetts Climbers Coalition (WMCC), Ragged Mountain Foundation (RMF), and Access Fund are pleased to announce the acquisition of Hanging Mountain, a new climbing area in Sandisfield, Massachusetts. Situated on 14 acres, Hanging Mountain may be the biggest find in Northeastern climbing in decades. Once fully established, this hidden gem will provide climbers with approximately 150 – 200 traditional and sport routes, some up to two pitches." To read more, click here.

--USA Today is reporting that, "The Trump administration has ordered rangers from national parks around the country to travel to the U.S.-Mexico border to fight illegal immigration and drug traffickers. It's an effort that comes as the Democratic-controlled House of Representatives has refused to fund President Donald Trump's border security plan, which calls for more barriers and beefed-up law enforcement along the border." To read more, click here.

--Jackson Hole has put together an awesome video on the life of their women ski patrollers. Check it out:

--The new Call of the Wild movie is a little heavy on CGI, but also looks like a great outdoor adventure movie. Check out the trailer, below:

--Speaking of CGI heavy films, there's also this thing from China that I posted a trailer from below. The Climbers is a film about climbers on a super CGI-looking mountain that appear to have some Vertical Limit-style problems :

--It sounds like there have been some serious problems with the Olympic qualification process. Many of  these problems appear to stem from the fact that Japan, as the country sponsoring the games, is responsible for a large part of the qualification process. It appears that Japan is reluctant to make final decisions for fear of choosing their own athletes poorly. This is a bit of an oversimplification of the problem, to really understand it, click here.

--One-hundred-and-ninety people were stranded on a Vermont Ski Resort for several hours on opening weekend. The skiers needed to be rescued. To read more, click here.

--So Big Sky Ski Resort is going to start showing triple black runs, to denote high consequence terrain. To read more, click here.

--Speaking of ski resorts, here is a list of the most visited resorts in the country.

--The Register-Herald is reporting that, "West Virginia Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., introduced legislation in September to change the federal designation of the New River Gorge National River into a New River Gorge National Park and Preserve." To read more, click here.

--And finally, is it time for a backpack tax? Hunters and fishermen pay a tax on their licensees to support public lands, but the number of hunters and fishermen is diminishing. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Tips and Techniques for Organizing your Climbing Rack

This video collaboration between the American Mountain Guides Association and Outdoor Research provides yet another excellent entry into their joint video catalog. In this particular video, AMGA Instructor Team Members Dale Remsberg and Olivia Race talk about some of the techniques they use to ensure that their racks are organized.

Generally, I too will rack from big to small, back to front. One difference is that I often place the Stoppers and extremely large cams on the back loops of my harness.

I started my career using a shoulder sling for all of my gear. I put all my draws on my harness. The theory was that my draws were going to be the same, no matter the route (sport or trad).

It took awhile. It seemed like everyone else changed over to racking on their harness before me. But I eventually switched too. And I find it much easier. A sling gets in the way a lot. Indeed, when you're on low angle terrain, there's always gear hanging right where you want to find hand or foot-holds...

Regardless of which way you rack, the most important thing is consistency. Everything should have a place, and it should always go back to that same place when you're done with it. This will increase your efficiency in gear placement...which is important, especially when you're run out and a bit scared...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/20/19


--It appears that there was a robbery by knife-point on the Cable Line Trail on Issaquah's Tiger Mountain. To read more, click here.

--The Snoqualmie Summit ski area may begin to offer lift-served mountain biking operations. To read more, click here. As climate change continues to impact ski areas and resorts, this type of summer operation is becoming more common.


--Unofficial Networks is reporting that, "With ski resorts open from Colorado to Vermont, the 2019/20 ski season is underway. But Tahoe has been stuck in an Indian Summer that just won’t break. The snowpack in Tahoe is currently sitting at just 5% of the average for this time of year." To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "The Xue Way is a new 5.11+ A0 up the south face of Half Dome, one of the world’s most iconic mountains. The first ascent of Half Dome was by George Anderson in 1875. Chris Koppl, Brian Pence and Vitaliy Musiyenko worked on the new mostly free route, with the exception of 10 A0 moves, for the past few years." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--This is cool. There's a new physical therapist in Las Vegas that focuses on climber related sports injuries. To read more, click here.

A climber rappels in Joshua Tree National Park.

--Don't forget that next week is Thanksgiving, and one of the busiest times in places like Red Rock and Joshua Tree. If you're planning on camping and don't have a reservation, you should look into that immediately. It's also not a bad idea to have a backup plan.

Colorado and Utah:

--Fox 13 is reporting that, "Grand County Search and Rescue responded twice in 24 hours to the same place to rescue fallen rock climbers on Thursday and Friday. Two climbers fell while climbing routes on “Sister Superior,” a sandstone summit near Moab. Both were taken by medical helicopter from a narrow ridge at the base of a vertical sandstone wall. One was able to walk to a waiting helicopter, and the other had to be lowered to an area accessible to the helicopter." To read more, click here.

--Snews is reporting that, "Backcountry CEO Jonathan Nielsen said he received an online threat from someone last week after he released a public letter of apology regarding the company's trademark-enforcement strategy." To read more, click here.

--The Outdoor Industry Association is reporting that, "The outdoor industry has been hit hard by a tax “avalanche” as new tariff data from Outdoor Industry Association (OIA) indicates that American outdoor businesses have paid an additional $2.6 billion in punitive tariffs over last year, as the trade war with China rages on with no definitive end in sight. Additionally, total tariffs paid by American outdoor businesses in a single month on imports from China exceeded $1 billion for the first time ever in September." To read more, click here.

--Brighton Ski Resort is open...

Notes from All Over:

--A climber was injured in Arkansas when he suffered a 25-foot fall atYellow Rock Bluff in Devil's Den State Park. To read more, click here.

--There are apparently several reports of sexual assault in Mexico's El Portrero Chico. There is a thread on mountainproject that discusses this at some length, and it's worth reading if you plan to visit. To read more, click here.

--Reckless behavior in the mountains can have catastrophic consequences. Twelve-years-ago, Pete Absolon was killed when a hiker threw a rock off a cliff. Pete was climbing below. A pair of teenagers recently threw a log off a waterfall. A photographer was killed below. And skiers near Teton Pass have triggered several avalanches that rained down on the highway. Molly Absolon, Pete's widow, has some great thoughts about this in an editorial you can read, here.

--Ski resorts are struggling to find employees...

--SGB Media is reporting that, "Alterra Mountain Co. announced that it has entered into an agreement to purchase Sugarbush Resort in Vermont, which will bring the company’s total to 15 year-round mountain destinations throughout North America, including the world’s largest heli-skiing operation. Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed." To read more, click here.

--The Burlington Free Press is reporting that, "Sugarbush Resort in the Mad River Valley has been sold to Denver-based Alterra Mountain Company, which also owns Stratton Mountain Resort. 'Sugarbush Resort is a premier East Coast mountain destination and we are excited to expand the Alterra Mountain Company family in the Northeast, with Sugarbush joining Stratton in Vermont,' said Rusty Gregory, CEO of Alterra, in a statement." To read more, click here.

--A group of Kuwaiti climbers unfurled a giant flag from their home country on Ama Dablam. The flag was big enough that it could be seen for miles. Controversy followed. To read about it, click here.

--Could National Parks be the best place to recycle your propane canisters? Maybe.

Monday, November 18, 2019

Fall: From Glory to Grace

The well-regarded Canadian climber and athlete, Will Gadd, has one of the most informative climbing and training blogs on the net. Through Gravsports, Gadd brings us an array of tips, techniques, and commentary on the world of climbing.

It was through his blog that we that we became aware of the video, Fall: From Glory to Grace. In this film, we watch a man take a very serious ice climbing fall and then we watch him walk away from it. The video production is well-done, but the team's assessment of the fall and what lead to it and how to avoid such a situation in the future is poorly thought out.

On Gadd's blog, he analyzes each of the elements that lead to the accident. We have done a round-up of these points below the video.

Here is a breakdown of the mistakes made:

  • First and foremost, ice climbing is a sport where falling is NOT acceptable. Sure, it's okay to fall on top-rope, but it is definitely not okay to fall on lead. In some rock climbing situations, it's okay to fall on lead, but even there one can get hurt. With twenty-four sharp points on your feet, and five sharp points in your hands, there is a lot that can puncture you or catch on the ice, forcing a limb to bend in a way that it wasn't meant to bend. 
  • The placement of gear in ice climbing is meant to keep you from taking a ground fall. It is not meant to keep you safe in a small fall. 
  • Leaders should be comfortable on the terrain that they are leading prior to climbing a given pitch. There is nothing wrong with top-roping at the grade until you're comfortable. Leading adds a lot of extra stressors. One has to place screws, think about where the route's going, etc. 
  • Top-roping will also help with technique. Gadd points out that many of the climber's tool placements are subpar and that his footwork is terrible. 
  • One should practice clipping into the tool. There are many ways to do this. At one point in the video, we can see one of the climbers that assisted the injured showing them how to deal with such a situation. If you can clip into the tool, then you will have the ability to place a screw. In Gadd's response the video, he writes, "stop before you get super pumped, put in a good screw, reset, maybe back off if you can't climb the pitch without getting super pumped. Or, climb it in five-foot sections putting in a screw and hanging; I have FAR more respect for someone who does that than gets pumped and falls off. If you're super pumped stop, reset. No "free" pitch is worth getting injured for." 
  • The belayer talks about putting slack in his anchor system so that he can easily move out of the way if there's icefall. He should have built his belay in a place where there was no icefall to begin with. In a single pitch setting, this is very easy to do. 
  • The belayer is also belaying the leader with a GiGi. This device is not designed to belay leaders. 
  • The climber is wearing a Black Diamond Bod Harness. It appears that the harness is not double-backed. He is very lucky that he didn't simply slide right out of his harness after the fall. 

People make mistakes in the mountains. I've made them and you've made them, too. We all have. But if you're reading this right now, you got away with your mistake. This guy was also able to walk away from his. And indeed, it is likely that this video's existence on the internet will help him to grow as a climber.

I hope that re-posting this will help everyone in their growth and in their self assessment. I think that it is important to look at every day of climbing as a learning experience. There is no doubt that this is a dangerous sport. And it could be argued that the only way to keep playing the game is to constantly self assess and to constantly learn from every mistake, big and small...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 14, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/14/19


--The Cosley-Houston Route on Colfax Peak is in shape. But beware, it's always thinner and harder in the fall than in the spring...


--Gripped is reporting that, "Jennifer Shedden, 34, of Mammoth Lakes, and Michelle Xue, 22, of Los Angeles, were killed in a rockfall accident while climbing the North Couloir on Red Slate Mountain earlier (last week). Friends reported the two women were overdue and Mono County Search and Rescue sent a team along with a helicopter from the the California Highway Patrol. The women were found midway up a steep couloir at 3,700 metres on Monday. 'Based on observations from both teams, their positioning and lack of response they were presumed deceased.'" To read more, click here. Here's a piece from Rock and Ice about this accident.

--It looks like Tommy Caldwell, Alex Honnold, Kevin Jorgeson and Austin Siadak just completed a new free line El Cap. Check it out.

--Gripped is reporting that, "Belgian climber Seb Berthe has freed The Nose on El Cap after an eight-day push. Climbing with partner Loic Debry." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

A climber rappels down the Panty Wall.

--It appears that there was an accident on the Panty Wall in Red Rock Canyon over the weekend. It's likely that the climber rappelled off the end of his rope. The Panty Wall has been the site of several rappelling accidents over the years, including two separate accidents that involved guides rappelling off the ends of their ropes. To read more, click here.

--The Desert Sun is reporting that, "as attendance soars at Joshua Tree National Park, plans to ease wait times and add visitor centers on the table." To read more, click here.

--Taking pictures near an edge is extremely dangerous. My rule of thumb is that you should never turn your back to the edge unless you're clipped in, if you're less than a body-length from the edge. Check out this close call at the Grand Canyon.

Colorado and Utah:

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "A climber took a fall in Clear Creek Canyon over the weekend, on November 9, closing down US 6 while technical rescue crews preformed an extraction between US 40 and Colorado 119. While the condition of the fallen climber was not initially known, the climber was reported to be alert and mobile while on the trip to the hospital. The road reopened following the rescue." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Backcountry.com is in trouble. Big Trouble. They tried to sue several companies that used the word "backcountry" in their names, and the outdoor community went nuts... SNEWS probably has the best breakdown of what's happened with the Backcountry.com mess. The most recent update from SNEWS is that, "Circulating a letter of apology was the first step. Now, Backcountry CEO Jonathan Nielsen says he is making personal calls and visits to repair relationships with companies hurt in the online retailer's trademark litigation over use of the word 'backcountry.'" To read more, click here.

--Here is another perspective on the Backcountry.com debacle. This one looks at it from a "business" perspective.

--NPR is reporting that, "The number of people using goats to pack gear, game and food into the backcountry is rising rapidly, and national forests in at least 10 western states have proposed partial pack goat bans to prevent the spread of pathogens that could prove deadly to the west's iconic populations of bighorn sheep." To read more, click here.

--Elevation Outdoors is running a piece on the Roadless Rule, which is under attack. "Public lands management is almost always a contentious subject, but there are values that Americans overwhelmingly agree upon, at least at their broadest level: We care about conservation, and we care, as well, about opportunities to enjoy the places we all own in common. Despite these shared values, there are actually relatively few tools for land managers to protect these values in tandem. One of the most important–and least known–is the Forest Service’s 2001 Roadless Rule." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Film Review: The Way Back

In our culture -- the climbing and outdoor culture that is -- there is an amazing appetite for epic adventure stories.  People love films like Seven Years in Tibet, Alive, Lawrence of Arabia, or even less realistic films like Raiders of the Lost Ark or Three Kings.

What do all of these films have in common?

In each of them there is a an epic adventure that is uniquely connected to the environment. There is often cultural conflict and usually there is extended travel by difficult means.  These types of films tend strike a cord among outdoor adventurers.  They affect us because we intentionally seek out struggle and strife in far off places.

The Way Back is an absolutely stellar adventure movie.  It is exactly the type of film that engages the outdoor adventurist the most.  The story -- inspired by a true story -- deals with an epic journey, minor cultural conflict and significant wilderness travel.

Janusz, a young Polish officer played by Jim Sturgess, is held for interrogation by the Soviet Secret Police.  When he will not admit to working as a foreign spy, they torture his wife into revealing him as such and send him to a POW camp in Siberia.  Conditions in the camp are absolutely atrocious and Janusz isn't sure that he will survive one year, much less the twenty years of his sentence.

Before long, Janusz creates alliances with a number of other prisoners including the hardened criminal Valka (Colin Farrell), Polish artist Tomasz (Alexandru Potocean), a Latvian priest Voss (Gustaf SkarsgĂ„rd), a Pole suffering from night blindness Kazik (Sebastian Urzendowsky), and an accountant from Yugoslavia Zoran (Dragos Bucur). Together the ragtag crew of misfit prisoners escape the prison and lead by Janusz, they begin to travel on foot overland to freedom.  The problem and the central storyline of the movie is that true freedom is nowhere nearby.  The team must travel across Siberia, Mongolia, and Tibet to find freedom in India.  In other words, they must walk 4000 miles through the wilderness including a traverse of both the Gobi Desert and the Himalaya before they can say they truly escaped.

Director Peter Weir hasn't been heavily involved in filmmaking since his 2003 epic, Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World, but he clearly has a love for the adventure genre.  He is also responsible for films like The Mosquito Coast, Witness, and Gallipoli.  Additionally he has been the directoral mind behind dramas such as Dead Poet's Society and the Truman Show.

In The Way Back, one can see a director late in his career with a long filmography as a complete master of his craft. The film is never an edge of your seat thriller, but it is still hard to look away. Weir has created a beautiful adventure that inspires tension from the opening shot to the closing sequence.  This masterful storytelling combined with beautiful natural images keeps the audience thoroughly engaged with the characters throughout every second of the film.

The Way Back is a grand movie on a grand campus about grand people. It is exactly the type of film that you should put on your movies to see list right way...

Following is a trailer for The Way Back:

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, November 11, 2019

Tag Lines for Rappels - Reepschnur Hitch

It is not uncommon for climbers to have to carry two ropes for rappel. Unless you're on a team of three, having an extra line can be heavy. As such, many people elect to use a tag line with a "reepschnur hitch."

The following video from Outdoor Research and the AMGA show how to do this technique...

In review, the process is:

1) Tie a blocker knot and clip it to the single rated climbing rope with a locker.
2) Tie the tag line to the backside of the blocker knot.
3) Thread both ropes through your belay device. You're rappelling on the "main line," but by threading both, you can decrease the amount the tag line gets hung up.
4) At the bottom, Dale clipped the line through his carabiner to help him remember to take out the blocker knot at the bottom of the system.

It should be noted that super skinny tag lines can easily become a tangled mess. It is strongly recommended that you practice this on smaller climbs, before employing it on a large wall where a tangle might get you stuck out in the dark...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, November 8, 2019

Setting Up an Toprope on a Two-Bolt Anchor

This video, produced by the AMGA and Outdoor Research, covers several techniques that one might use to set-up a toprope.

The techniques included are:

  • Two Draws
  • One Draw, One Locker Draw
  • Pre-Equalized Anchor (Mono-Directional Anchor)
  • Quad
  • Mussey Hooks
  • Pre-Threaded No-Impact Anchor
Check it out:

At the end of the video, it notes that people should not lower off of fixed hardware when toproping. And that if they do wish to lower, then they should lower once. While I generally agree with this, there are certainly some areas where the local ethic allows for toproping off fixed gear. That said, it's important to know if something like that is acceptable before committing to it...

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Route Profile: Johnny Vegas, 5.7, II+

Johnny Vegas is an extremely popular, extremely cool little route that can be found on the lower tier of the Solar Slab Wall in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. This phenomenal 5.6 or 5.7 route (depending on who you talk to) climbs up through three enjoyable pitches, all of which are in a spectacular position.

A father and daughter team low on Johnny Vegas.
Photo by Jason Martin

This is a slightly older route. It was put up in 1994, but didn't make it into a guidebook until 2000. The result is that this super classic line was overlooked for six full years.

In 1999, I was climbing Beulah's Book, a classic 5.9 found just to the left, when I saw a rock jock leading a 5.10 variation to Johnny Vegas. I looked down to see an older man with a very small frame encouraging his much younger partner on. The belayer was none-other than the iconic Red Rock climber, George Uriosite.

A happy climber on the second pitch.
Photo by Jason Martin

George and his ex-wife Joanne were Red Rock pioneers. They were responsible for dozens and dozens of classic lines throughout the park. It was very cool to meet such an important person in the history of Red Rock. And everytime I've run into him since has been just as great.

It was also cool to see those guys on a route that I knew nothing about. So I thought it was important as a Vegas local to get on that thing as soon as possible. The very next day my partner and I returned to the Solar Slab area to make an ascent of Johnny Vegas. And we were incredibly happy that we did.

A climber nearing the top of the route.
Photo by Jason Martin

Since that first time on the route, I've climbed the line dozens and dozens of times. There are a few little things that people should know before sending Johnny Vegas:

  1. Purists will say that the route is four pitches, not three. Indeed, super purists might even call it five pitches. It is three real pitches. Sometimes people make a tiny pitch to attain the base of the route. And there is a long stretch of 5.0 climbing at the top of the route.
  2. Some guidebooks say to rappel this route. It is a rope eating nightmare. It is far better to rappel the nearby Solar Slab Gully.
  3. There are two starts to the bottom of the route. If a party is going very slow on the right hand start, some may elect to pass them on the left.
  4. The bottom of the route goes into the shade in the winter from approximately 10am to noon. When it's cold in the shade, this can make the route very very chilly.

This has become a super popular route. Make sure to get up early!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, November 4, 2019

Route Profile: Kiener's Route

Longs Peak is an incredibly popular peak to climb, and for good reason. Kiener's Route is the easiest option up Longs' east face, weaving together weaknesses to make it as amicable as possible and keeping the grade at 5.4 and 50 degree snow. Having said that, this is an entry level route into intermediate alpine climbing and should not be taken lightly. Disclaimer: This information should not be relied upon and is not a substitute for requisite knowledge, experience, and more detailed information.

Looking at the East Face of Longs Peak. The Purple line marks the Causal Route on the Diamond, Orange Line: Lamb's Slide, Red Line: Broadway Traverse, Blue Line: Upper Kiener's.

Whether done in one or two days, one will start at the Longs Peak TH and hike past Chasm Lake to the base of Lamb's slide with 4.5 miles of distance and 3,200 feet of elevation gain. Lamb's slide is the most common way to climb Kiener's though there are alternative rock climbing options (atleast in the summer) to accessing the rest of the route. For bivies, it is recommended to stay at the Hilton or Cave bivies.

Approaching the East Face of Longs.

Lamb's Slide
Depending on time of year, Lamb's slide is a snow or ice climb up to 50 degrees. In early to mid-summer (which is many climber's preferred timeframe) it will likely be snow, and later season it'll shift to ice. Some years Lamb's slide can melt-out to the point that the objective hazard of falling rock isn't worth an attempt. Regardless of conditions, this stretch of climbing is approximately 1,000 feet of elevation gain.

Looking up Lamb's Slide, in snowy but firm conditions.

Broadway Ledge
The 1,000 foot traverse of Broadway Ledge is many people's favorite part of this climb, with incredible exposure and unique positions. Difficulties never exceed 4th class but conditions vary greatly from steep snow to ledge walking depending on time of year. If climbers are new to exposure this section can be quite daunting, but with rock/snow protection and a few fixed pitons the protection is relatively reasonable.

A climber on Broadway in early-summer conditions.
Upper Kiener's
The final section of the climb is what is formally considered Kiener's. A few initial pitches of ~5.4/5.5 lead to long stretches of 3rd and 4th class climbing. This ramp flanks the Diamond, but typically one wouldn't flirt with the absolute edge of the wall given it's more difficult nature. the final few hundred feet ease to 2nd/3rd class to the summit.

A climber leads on Upper Kiener's 

Descent: North Face
The preferred method of descent is the North Face (Cables Route) and involves 3rd/4th class downclimbing and ~3 rappels. Once off the rappels its 6 miles approximately back to Longs Peak Trailhead. One could descent the Keyhole but this is both slower and longer. If one is bivying, after the rappels it is recommended to cut over to the Camel Gully to descend back to Chasm Lake to grab the overnight gear before exiting. (if taking the Boulderfields back to the trail, it will involve a considerable amount of backtracking to get to the bivies). 

Looking at the North Face of Longs Peak from the start of the Boulder Fields.

A very *approximate* map of Kiener's. The red line marks the up approach from Chasm and the route. Green line: North Face Descent. Blue line: Camel Gully descent after the N face raps.