Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Guide Like Liz Scholarship Winner: Rebecca Ross

Rebecca Ross is one of our 2019 Guide Like Liz Scholarship winners. She is a determined, kind and strong woman. Those qualities just skim the surface. After completing her master’s degree in public health and epidemiology from Oregon Health and Science University in December 2016, Rebecca realized she needed a break. She needed to get out of the books and off the computer.

“I just didn’t feel healthy. I worked hard in grad school but I was ready to do something else,” Rebecca said.

In 2017, she signed up for the Basic Climbing Education Program (BCEP) through the Mazamas based in Portland, OR. It was a two-month-long course.

“I didn’t really know what I wanted to get out of it when I signed up. Before the course, I was absolutely terrified of heights and told myself this would be a great way to conquer that fear and I should just do it. I was also thinking this could be my nature therapy after all that school work.”

Sitting on the summit of South Sister with views of the Cascades. Rebecca Ross collection.
She got more than just nature therapy. And her fear of heights was diminished or at least she learned to control that fear in a healthy way. She found a new passion. Rebecca was hooked on mountaineering.

She was hooked on the simpler life she found in the outdoors. The people and the community she met along the way were captivating. She discovered mental and physical strengths within herself she didn’t know she had.

“I wanted to know more about it all. I wanted to have more confidence. I gain confidence by practicing and doing, so I sought out other courses to help compliment my new skills. I became AIARE 1 certified, completed an intermediate Alpinism 2 course with AAI, and climbed a number of PNW peaks.”

All smiles for leading her first multi-pitch trad route at Smith Rock. Rebecca Ross collection.
As her alpinism skills and mountaineering confidence increased, Rebecca started focusing on other peaks outside of the Cascades, well...outside of the country. For a year, she worked on writing a grant to fund her climb of North America’s third highest mountain, Pico de Orizaba in Mexico. She received the grant and led a team up the volcano in December 2018.

“Pico de Orizaba was my most memorable climb. It was my first international climb I’ve ever led; we also had an amazing weather window, a wonderful team, a successful summit bid, and an incredible cultural experience.” (For Rebecca’s account on the climb, check out her article Leading the Way Up Pico de Orizaba.)

Now Rebecca is looking to combine her passion for mountaineering and her background in public health. With the Guide Like Liz scholarship, she is going to take our Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership Part 2 (AMTL 2) course. She is excited about adding to her skill set and having the opportunity to step into a leadership role.

Sunrise during the summit bid on Mt. Hood via Sunshine Route. Rebecca Ross collection.
“I led Pico de Orizaba, which was a great experience, but I find myself either second guessing my abilities or experiencing imposter syndrome--either way it has caused me to shy away from considering myself capable of leading. I look forward to learning to trust my training and to find my ability to take charge.”

Camping on the south side of Mt. Hood prior to the summit push via Sunshine Route. Rebecca Ross collection.
I asked Rebecca if she could give another woman or young aspiring female climber/mountaineer a piece of advice either that you were given or you wish you were given, what would it be?

“It would be to just be patient with yourself. It’s so easy to see extreme athletes doing amazing things and to then beat ourselves up over the fact that we are not to their level or should be doing more or exploring more. Just go at your own pace and if you are not initially good at something just work on it, you’ll get there--enjoy the journey.”

What about a motto or quote you live by?

“Yes, I have two. The first I live by is to just “breathe”. Whether I’m climbing the crux, traversing an exposed area, or traveling over crevasses, I remind myself to just breathe. It’s absolutely insane at how much of a difference it makes and has really gotten me through difficult times when all I wanted to do was freeze up.

My second phrase is to “pay attention to red flags”. I’m not sure who told me this, but ever since I heard it, it has stuck with me. I remember climbing this mountain and I just didn’t feel great about it, there were so many small incidences that kept stacking up. I started to really pay attention to them and decided to stay back. My team continued on, but eventually turned back, nothing happened or at least we didn’t continue far enough to find out. I really live by that saying because it helps me to see things objectively and to remove self-doubt and tunnel vision if I just pay attention to my surroundings.”

We are excited to support your goals and aspirations, Rebecca! Congratulations on being an American Alpine Institute Guide Like Liz Scholarship winner and we look forward to having you on one of the Alpine Mountaineering and Technical Leadership Part 2 courses!

Rebecca is also a wonderful writer and her article Mountaineering Changed My Perspective on Beauty is definitely worth a read.

Standing on the summit of Glacier Peak. Rebecca Ross collection.
--Sara Umstead, AAI School Certifying Officer

Monday, June 24, 2019

Guide Like Liz Scholarship Winner: Ellie Price

Ellie Price started climbing about 4 years ago after her cousin persistently invited her to climb at Vertical World in Seattle.

“I was so intimidated. It’s funny to think back about it now. Taking the belay test was so scary to me,” Ellie laughed as she remembered how she was introduced to climbing.

“My cousin was (and is) into mountaineering. During the winter, she would go to the climbing gym all the time. She would invite me, but I wasn’t really interested. For Christmas, she gave me a day of climbing at Vertical World. So I had to go.

"I took the belay test, climbed and was hooked! I bought a membership that day and have been climbing since. Climbing has changed my life so much. It’s crazy to think about actually.”

North Early Winter Spire in Washington Pass. "I just really love to bring nut butter up in tubes and its a staple of mine while climbing." Ellie Price Collection

In the past four years that climbing has been in Ellie’s life, she has climbed throughout the southwest at Red Rock, Joshua Tree, Yosemite, Cochise Stronghold, The Needles, Eastern Sierras, Zion, Indian Creek, Lovers Leap, and San Rafael Swell. She has also climbed in the Pacific Northwest at Smith Rock, Squamish and she has been alpine climbing in the North Cascades.
She’s definitely covered a lot of ground in the past four years and there’s no slowing her down...

NE Ridge of Black Peak. "This was my first real alpine climb and I LOVED the experience. My husband and I did climb over three days and had lots of sunny time lounging around the lake until we started up the route and the clouds rolled in giving us a super cool perspective up there." Ellie Price Collection
Ellie has a Bachelors of Science undergraduate degree from the University of Washington in
Aquatic and Fisheries Sciences and a Master’s of Science graduate degree from Oregon State University in Informal Science Education. She also just completed a ten-month long AmeriCorps service coordinating an environmental education program for underserved high school students.

With her environmental science background, her educational experience and her passion for climbing, Ellie has aspirations for a career as a guide.

“[After my Master’s], my ultimate desire was to bring students from underserved communities outside and introduce them to science. Now I want to take that one step further and enable people from communities not typically represented in the outdoors (women, people of color, people from the LGBTQ+ community) to get outside and climb mountains! I want everyone to experience the personal growth I have experienced in the backcountry.”

That personal growth has come from experiences like Ellie’s first time above 10,000 feet on Mount Adams.

“The altitude really got to me about a thousand feet below the summit, but I remember finding my grit and pushing through in a way I had not yet experienced in the outdoors. I felt that I had pushed myself in a new and different way and was proud of how I had handled it. I find that I continue to have those moments of self-growth over and over in the mountains and that is a big part of the reason why I continue to return to them.”

Mount Adams. "I am recovering after coming down from the summit and laying on top of the false summit. Some may have said I was being dramatic :)." Ellie Price Collection
And as Ellie continues to return to the mountains and continues to grow not only in her own mental and physical strength, she also continues to add to her skill set. She started backcountry skiing last fall and she loves it! 

With her Guide Like Liz Scholarship, Ellie plans to take the AIARE Avalanche Level 1 to gain the tools, knowledge, and decision-making skills needed to minimize her exposure to risk in avalanche terrain.
“Summitting mountains on skis has become my favorite way to climb them and I am so excited to continue to improve at both skinning and skiing. I feel that I am ready to take the avalanche training courses after spending some time learning from my friends and partner and getting to know the techniques and terrain a bit. I take safety in the outdoors very seriously and want to make decisions based off of my own experience and knowledge and not just on what I am told by others. I want to take control of my backcountry skiing experiences and be more involved in the planning and execution parts of ski trips. I know that this course will help empower me and keep me safe when skiing.”

Ellie’s excitement about learning safety in the outdoors as well as educating and getting underserved communities outside and climbing mountains is contagious and we are thrilled to be a part of this journey.

El Dorado. "Our camp below El Dorado on a 5-day ski mountaineering trip last spring." Ellie Price Collection
When I asked if she could give another woman or young aspiring female climber/mountaineer a piece of advice either that she was given or she wishes she was given, what would it be, she responded: 

“Don’t be afraid to cry! I cry on many, if not most, mountains that I climb and I think that is just ok. It does not mean I am giving up, it is just a way for me to process and move forward and no one should feel shame for that.”

And what about a motto or quote you live by?

“I have a very silly, but also serious, to me, motto: I’m Dutch and I’m tough. My nana, whom I am very close to, is Dutch and would always say this to my sister and me when we were having difficulties. I find that over and over in the outdoors I reach for this phrase and am often chanting it to myself when I am scared, overwhelmed, or just tired out.”

Ellie’s last remark in her Guide Like Liz Scholarship application was just too good not to share:

"I will use this scholarship to educate myself and encourage others to also pursue their dreams and passions in the outdoors. I want to be a change-maker in this sport and our society." 

Vantage Point. "This was my second time ever climbing outside and the trip I definitely caught the 'bug'. Incidentally, it was the day I met my now-husband and he is the one belying me." Ellie Price Collection
Congratulations, Ellie! Thank you for choosing the American Alpine Institute to continue your education in the mountains. We look forward to having you on one of your AIARE Avalanche Level 1 courses this coming winter.

Ellie currently lives in Bellingham, WA and actively volunteers with the Vamos Outdoors Project.

--Sara Umstead, AAI School Certifying Officer

Friday, June 21, 2019

Controlling Your Climbing Pump through Breathing

Mani the Monkey is a climber and youtube climbing coach. His youtube channel is filled with awesome ideas and techniques to help you build your rock climbing skills.

In the following video, Mani narrates an ascent of a 5.13 route that he recently completed. His narration is specifically oriented to the way he is breathing and the way he is managing his pump. To illustrate this, he made a "pumpometer" on the left-hand side of the page. This shows how pumped his forearms are and how he uses rests and breathing to decrease the pump.

Check it out!

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Leave No Trace: Respect Wildlife

In the spring of 2017, a video started to make the rounds. A little girl was sitting on the edge of a dock in Vancouver, British Columbia, "playing" with a sea lion. It appears that the girl and the family of the girl had been feeding the animal prior to what happened next:

The girl was pulled into the water by the animal. Thankfully, she was quickly rescued.

So why did the animal attack the girl...?

The answer is easy. The family had been feeding the sea lion. The sea lion wanted more and grabbed the girl to get more.

This is not a new story. Bears in many US states and in Canada have become habituated to humans and human food. The result is twofold. 1) There are more bear maulings where bears are habituated to human food and 2) more bears need to be put down because of this desire for human food.

It's no different with other animals. Squirrels fed in the Grand Canyon have to be killed or removed because they tend to bite people. Burros in Red Rock Canyon approach the road looking for food only to bite and kick people...while occasionally also causing serious car accidents. Gray Jay's -- also known as camp robber birds -- will land on people in the hopes of getting food, and thus unlearn how to find food themselves.

And the mice... Dear God, the mice. How many campgrounds and camp areas are overrun by mice because people have left food out or have been careless with their crumbs...?

The desert tortoise is incredibly fragile. Touching a tortoise can have a major 
impact on the animal. It may get scared and pee itself, which is a very big problem
for an animal with limited access to water.

Wild animals simply shouldn't be fed, whether on purpose or by accident. A animal that's been fed is a problem for people who might be around the animal...it might bite or harass them. And it's a problem for the animal. The animal might no longer be able to find food itself.

Food is only one problem with wild animals. Another is the idea that people can pet them or take pictures with them or touch them. None of these things are good ideas. There are many stories of people trying to treat a wild animal like a pet, and then being hurt or killed as a result.

The sixth principle of Leave No Trace is to Respect Wildlife. Following is a write-up from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics page on this subject.

Learn about wildlife through quiet observation. Do not disturb wildlife or plants just for a "better look". Observe wildlife from a distance so they are not scared or forced to flee. Large groups often cause more damage to the environment and can disturb wildlife so keep your group small. If you have a larger group, divide into smaller groups if possible to minimize your impacts.

Quick movements and loud noises are stressful to animals. Travel quietly and do not pursue, feed or force animals to flee. (One exception is in bear country where it is good to make a little noise so as not to startle the bears) In hot or cold weather, disturbance can affect an animals ability to withstand the rigorous environment. Do not touch, get close to, feed or pick up wild animals. It is stressful to the animal, and it is possible that the animal may harbor rabies or other diseases. Sick or wounded animals can bite, peck or scratch and send you to the hospital. Young animals removed or touched by well-meaning people may cause the animals parents to abandon them. If you find sick animals or animal in trouble, notify a game warden.

Considerate campers observe wildlife from afar, give animals a wide berth, store food securely, and keep garbage and food scraps away from animals. Remember that you are a visitor to their home.

Allow animals free access to water sources by giving them the buffer space they need to feel secure. Ideally, camps should be located 200 feet or more from existing water sources. This will minimize disturbance to wildlife and ensure that animals have access to their precious drinking water. By avoiding water holes at night, you will be less likely to frighten animals because desert dwellers are usually most active after dark. With limited water in arid lands, desert travelers must strive to reduce their impact on the animals struggling for survival.

Washing and human waste disposal must be done carefully so the environment is not polluted, and animals and aquatic life are not injured. Swimming in lakes or streams is OK in most instances but in desert areas, leave scarce water holes undisturbed and unpolluted so animals may drink from them.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, June 17, 2019

American Alpine Institute Guides Choice - 2019

The American Alpine Institute is pleased to announce the Guides Choice award winners for 2019! The Guides Choice has been a highly valued award for over 20 years, and represents the pinnacle of industry leading outdoor gear. A core group of AAI guides tests products from dozens of companies in over 16 countries and multiple continents. 

The following products were recognized as Guides Choice award winners this week during the Outdoor Retailer show in Denver, Colorado.

“This pack is a game changer. Take it on an expedition or compress it up and use it as a summit pack. This pack does it all and keeps on ticking.” – Charlie Lane, Retail Shop Manager

Weighing a mere 40 ounces (2.5 lbs), you wouldn’t think the pack could hold 70L of gear comfortably, but it’s pliable aluminum stays mold to your back making it the best carrying, ultralight pack out there. But that’s just the beginning. Updated from its first design, the Porter 4400 now boasts taped seams and Dyneema Composite Fabric (formally Cuben Fiber), which are stronger and more weatherproof than ever - which is essential in the Pacific Northwest where we guide a majority of our trips.

This pack can tackle any objective thanks to well-placed daisy chains and compression straps that make customizing it a breeze. All you need to carry an ice axe is an accessory cord loop and a Voile strap. While other packs have more bells and whistles, the Porter 4400 strikes the perfect balance between accessibility and minimalism. This is truly a Guide’s Choice award winner, and a piece of gear that no outdoors person should be without.

It’s worth noting that this pack also comes in three other sizes: 5400 (85L), 3400 (55L), and 2400 (40L).

Garmin has come out with one of the lightest and most compact satellite communication devices to date. You have all the benefits of global satellite coverage, two-way messaging via email or text to a phone or another inReach device, interactive SOS and weather updates in about half the weight and half the bulk of the Explorer+. The Mini comes in 4oz lighter than the Explorer+, but also 2.6” shorter and .66” narrower. For comparison sake, the Spot X device comes in at 6.8oz (vs 3.5oz for the Mini). The SOS is monitored worldwide and 24/7. While it does not display maps on the device, it does integrate beautifully with the Earthmate app on your cell phone for easy navigation. 

This has become the preferred choice of our Guides who live and preach the fast and light lifestyle. In tracking mode, the Mini delivers a solid 90 hours at 10 minute intervals and up to 24 days at 30 minute intervals! On top of connecting your phone to your inReach Mini, you can also connect compatible wrist watches. This allows you to receive and send messages, as well as initiate an SOS from your watch - which can can be crucial if your device is not accessible.

There’s no excuse NOT to have one.

The Safety Academy was originally born in 2008 as an initiative by Ortovox, in conjunction with a number of renown international mountaineering schools. The goal was to educate practical orientated knowledge [regarding safety] in the fields of ski touring, freeriding, high alpine, and rock climbing. The Snow Lab portion of the Safety Academy accounts for the largest avalanche training initiative worldwide. Working with its mountain school partners, The Safety Academy sees well over 2,500 participants every year. The Snow Lab is a multimedia training initiative that uses videos and interactive content to teach valuable snow safety content at no cost to the user. The Safety Academy also created the SAM (Safety Academy Mountain 3D) which is an excellent tool for teaching avalanche courses and is used extensively by our guide service. In 2018, Ortovox launched The Safety Academy Lab Rock in cooperation with the German Mountain and Ski Guide Association (VDBS), numerous professional mountain guides, athletes, as well as experts from Petzl - Expanding their high-quality educational platform to the world of rock climbing. The Safety Academy offers over 40 video tutorials, comprehensive educational modules and four chapters for more safety in alpine climbing. Ortovox has even expanded into Alpine First Aid, which simply punctuates their immense collection of alpine training.

The Safety Academy is a Guide’s Choice award winner because it is a unique educational tool that has elevated the way we teach our avalanche courses. This level of accessible outdoor education by Ortovox strives to make everyone safer in the mountains, and that deserves to be recognized.

Tendon: 6mm Accessory Cord

Accessory cord can seem like an afterthought - something you just pickup last minute or grab a cheap roll of to tie low risk knots and hitches. It can also feel stiff and limiting to use  on friction hitches with specific diameter ratios. So when Tendon came out with a 6mm accessory cord that was both supple AND strong, we took notice. As a guide service, The American Alpine Institute runs more than 300 courses a year, a majority of which require prusiks made from accessory cord. The 6mm size has long been the sweet spot for prusik use on our mountaineering/climbing ropes, due to the fact that it both slides well and grips (keep features of all friction hitches). What Tendon did however, was make an accessory cord that is 12-28% stronger than it's competitors, while eliminating the stiffness that make racking/tying the cord difficult. These industry leading innovations result in a cord that is more versatile, so that you can shed weight and increase confidence. There are many cordalettes on the market today, but we believe the 6mm accessory cord by Tendon is the best.


Diameter (mm): 6
Weight (g/m): 23.2
Min. Strength (kN): 10
CE 1019 and EN 564 certified

Again, congratulations to all of this years winners for truly elevating what is possible in the outdoor industry! As a Guide Service, we are constantly on the lookout for products and innovations that change the way we look at mountains. Thank you to all the companies who have submitted products to our testing program. Have a great summer!