Friday, August 30, 2019

Forearm Exercises to Make You Strong

There's no question about it. When your forearms are fried, the dishes are done. You're going to fall off your route.

Technique is important for climbing and it can save your strength. Indeed, on routes with a rating below 5.8, strength may not even be an issue if your technique is adequate. But as you start to push up through the grades, you'll find that forearm strength becomes more and more important.

The more you train your forearms, the stronger you'll be. And the more you train your forearms, the more likely it is that you will be able to rest them quickly and adequately by shaking out or finding a stance on which to take a break.

There are a handful of exercises that work to build forearm strength and endurance. Following is a quick breakdown of some of these exercises:

Static Hangs

You probably remember from your days of lifting weights in the high school weight room that muscle is most effectively built when you workout until muscle failure. Commonly, an athlete will work a specific muscle group by lifting a weight a number of times (referred to as reps) until the muscle fails. Most will know that with a given weight, the muscle will begin to fail after a given number of reps.

A static hang works the muscle in much the same way. For this to work effectively, you have to hang until your muscles fail. This doesn't mean that you have to hang until it hurts or even until it hurts a lot. You have to go beyond those thresholds to the point of complete muscle failure.

After failure, allow the muscles to rest for five minutes or so and then try again. Ideally, you will do this exercise three or four times in order to get the most out of it.

Endurance Static Hangs

Hang on a bar or a hangboard with both hands. Drop one hand and shake it out while still hanging on the other. Hang for at lease five seconds on one arm before switching.

This particular exercise is great for climbers because of the way it imitates real life!

Forearm Curls

There are two effective ways to do forearm curls. One may use a regular barbell or a dumbell.

To use a barbell, you will need to lay your forearms across a weight bench holding the barbell. Your hands should hang over the edge, palms up. All the bar to roll toward your fingers and then flex, bringing it up into your palm.

With a dumbell, the system is almost the same. Allow the dumbell to roll out toward your fingers and then flex, allowing int to roll back into your palm.

With both of these exercises, it tends to be more effective to work toward a combination of strength and endurance by working on time as opposed to reps. Try to do as many curls as possible in a minute and then work up from there. Remember most sport routes take five to ten minutes to climb, so that should be a goal in the exercise.

Indoor Gym Exercise

One of the best ways to build forearm strength and endurance is to traverse around the climbing gym on easy holds. Try to stay on the wall for at least twenty minutes. Another version of this same exercise is to try to down-climb the routes after you reach the top.

As with other excercises, a series of these twenty minute sessions will be more effective than a one time run at them.

Forearm Exerciser

There are a number of different commercial forearm exercising devices out there. Perhaps the most popular is the blue latex rubber doughnut. The value of these devices is that they work out both fingers and forearms. This should be used like any weight device. Do a series of reps until failure, rest and then repeat two more times.

Additional ResourcesYou can find more on forearm workouts here. For information about why forearms pump out and about lactic acid buildup in forearms, click here.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Rocky Mountain National Park Proposes Changes in Camping Fees

From Rocky Mountain National Park:

Rocky Mountain National Park staff are proposing a change in current campground fees.  Campground fees are based on comparable fees for similar services in nearby campgrounds. Park staff are proposing an increase for summer camping from $26 to $30 and winter camping from $18 to $20, per site, per night.

Park staff are proposing a flat rate at group sites at Glacier Basin Campground.  Currently the fees are $4 per person, per night.  The proposed flat rates would be as follows: small group site (9-15 people) $40; medium group site (16-25 people) $50; and large group site (26-40 people) $60. 

Camping is very popular in Rocky Mountain National Park.  There are five campgrounds open during the summer, which includes 570 sites. The park’s three reservation campgrounds, Moraine Park, Glacier Basin and Aspenglen, normally fill up six months in advance.  The park’s two first-come, first-served campgrounds, Longs Peak and Timber Creek, fill up quickly.  Timber Creek Campground, located on the west side of the national park, normally fills up last. Moraine Park Campground remains open during the winter, with 77 sites available. 

The Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA) is the legislation under which the park currently collects entrance and amenity fees, including camping.  This law allows national parks to retain 80 percent of the fees collected for use on projects that directly benefit visitors.  The remaining 20 percent is distributed throughout the National Park System.  Since the beginning of FLREA and its predecessor the Recreational Fee Demonstration Program, the park has spent millions of dollars in repairs, renovations, improvements and resource restoration.       

People notice!  Ninety percent of surveyed park visitors have continually expressed support for this program.  Some of the projects funded through these fees at Rocky Mountain National Park include the park’s visitor shuttle system, which last year transported over 700,000 visitors throughout the Bear Lake Road corridor and to and from Estes Park; renovation of all restroom facilities throughout the park’s campgrounds; extensive hazard tree mitigation near facilities such as campgrounds, parking lots, road corridors, housing areas and visitor centers; and hiking trail enhancements including maintenance and reconstruction on much of Rocky’s 350 miles of trails.

“Camping is very popular in Rocky Mountain National Park.  We want to keep our campground fees affordable and provide visitors with the best possible experience,” said Darla Sidles, Park Superintendent.  “We feel that our proposed campground fee change is an incredible value. Plus, 80 percent of those funds stay right here in Rocky to benefit visitors.” 

Park staff are seeking feedback about the proposed fee schedule.  Please email comments to by September 27, 2019.  The current campground fees have been in effect for the past four years.  Feedback the park receives will help determine how and when a campground fee increase may be implemented. 


Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 8/26/19


Smith Rock State Park

--A climber tripped while descending a trail in Smith Rock State Park and fell 100-feet. The climber did not survive. To read more, click here.

--There are two missing hikers in the Downey Creek area. This is the south end of the Ptarmigan Traverse. King 5 News is reporting that, "The Snohomish County Sheriff's Office Search and Rescue team is looking for two hikers missing at the Downey Creek Trail. David James and Marshall "Buster" Cabe left on August 16 and were expected to return on August 23, the sheriff's office said, but family members said they had not heard from the pair. They called 911 Monday to report them missing." To read more, click here. UPDATE: These guys were found. To read about it, click here.

--Here's a nice piece on how Latino Outdoors is getting kids outside. This particular article specifically talks about kids on Mt. Rainier.

A boulder being moved on a highline for 
trail construction at Washington Pass.

--Several AAI guides contributed to trail construction efforts in Washington Pass last weekend. The American Mountain Guides Association and the Access Fund sponsored a work day for guides, so that they might contribute to the development of a trail that accesses all the towers in the Liberty Bell massif.

--There is another trail work opportunity with the Leavenworth Mountain Association on September 21st. They will be working on the trail up to Snow Creek Wall. To read more, click here.


--Bakersfield Now is reporting that, "Bad news for some hikers looking to getting away this weekend. The Bureau of Land Management posted a warning that portions of the Pacific Crest Trail have been blocked due to rockslides caused by recent seismic activity. Crews will start removing the debris starting in late September. The buried section is impassable to equestrians north of Walker Pass, where the PCT crosses State Route 178 near Lake Isabella." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--News Channel 3 is reporting that, "A hiker is recovering after falling nearly 30 feet while climbing "Lily Rock" in Humber Park near Idyllwild. This happened just after 3 o’clock Saturday afternoon." To read more, click here.

--There was a meeting this week and a public forum that concerned the expansion of the mobile network on Highway 159 outside Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. To read more, click here.

--KTLA 5 is reporting that, "an anonymous donor has given more than $30,000 to fund a reward for information that leads to whoever has killed more than 40 protected wild burros in the Southern California desert." To read more, click here.

--The campground in Red Rock Canyon will reopen tomorrow, Friday, August 30. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--HuffPost is reporting that, "A Colorado man survived a bear attack Monday thanks to his wife and her Louisville Slugger. Jon Johnson and George Ann Field were watching TV at their home in Pine when Johnson heard noises coming from upstairs. He walked into the kitchen and found himself face-to-face with a mother bear and one of her cubs eating a loaf of bread." To read more, click here.

--There was a massive rockfall event in Zion National Park this week, when a massive piece of rock broke loose from Cable Mountain. Three people were injured in the incident, and one was taken to the hospital. To read more, click here. To see a video of the event, click below.

--A climber is lucky to be alive after being struck by lightning. Rock and Ice is reporting that, "Around 3:00 p.m. on August 17, longtime climber Minko Nikolov, 31, was struck by lightning while hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park between Lower and Emerald Lake. His smoking body was discovered by hikers and he was quickly airlifted to a hospital in Loveland, Colorado." To read more, click here.

--Snews is reporting that, "Doug Stenclik, co-founder of Colorado retail shop Cripple Creek Backcountry, recently purchased WildSnow, the blog dedicated to the niche sport of ski touring and splitboarding." To read more, click here.

--Increased recreation may be having a detrimental impact on the elk population near Vail. From the Guardian: "Trail use near Vail, Colorado, has more than doubled since 2009. It’s had a devastating impact on a herd of elk. Increasing numbers of outdoor recreationists – everything from hikers, mountain bikers and backcountry skiers to Jeep, all-terrain vehicle and motorcycle riders, aren’t good for Elk populations. Biologists used to count over 1,000 head of elk from the air near Vail, Colorado. The majestic brown animals, a symbol of the American west, dotted hundreds of square miles of slopes and valleys." To read more, click here.

--The BLM may be trying to find a way to sell off public lands. To read more, click here.

--Rocky Mountain National Park is considering a change in camping fees. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The Jackson Hole News and Guide is reporting that, "A 20-year-old French Canadian man was climbing by himself in Grand Teton National Park on Sunday morning when he fell 50 feet. Although Maxime Blondel was injured, he was able to pull out his cell phone and call for help." To read more, click here.

--The issues in Wyoming's Ten Sleep Canyon have come to a head with the National Forest Service closing the area to all future development. The problem that lead to this was twofold. First, people chipped holds in the process of their route development. Second, a group of climbers stripped all these routes with manufactured holds of all their bolts. The combination of these things was too much for the Forest Service. To read more, check out this great piece on the controversy from Climbing.

--The Burlington Free Press is reporting on significant overuse issues in the Adirondacks. "Hikers packed the lots at popular trail heads up and down New York State Route 73 before sunrise on an early August weekend, partly thanks to a roadside parking ban enacted in the spring amid safety concerns. The scene was indicative of a growing problem in the Adirondacks. A sweeping management plan created by the state Department of Environmental Conservation two decades ago might have headed off parking woes, but locals say little of the plan was ever implemented, nor were other measures that could have helped mitigate overcrowding at one of the Northeast's most popular hiking destinations." To read more, click here.

--India has opened up several new peaks. From the Economic Times: "The ministry of home affairs (MHA) has opened up 137 peaks located in Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand and Sikkim to foreigners ''desirous'' of obtaining a mountaineering visa for climbing and trekking purposes. MHA said the proposal to open more mountain peaks for mountaineering and trekking in all the Himalayan states was under consideration of the government." To read more, click here.

Navigating the Khumbu Icefall on Mt. Everest
Photo: Guy Cotter

--Alan Arnette has published a deep dive into the new rules on Mt. Everest in Nepal. And he notes that some of them don't make any sense at all. To read the blog, click here

--And in other Everest News, Nepal will be banning single use plastics in the Everest region. To read more, click here.

--SnowBrains has compiled a list of the ten best small ski resorts in America. Check it out, here.

--Rock and Ice is conducting a survey on alcohol and drug use around climbing. To participate, click here.

Tuesday, August 27, 2019

Your Food Vs. Alpine Animals

Picture this. You are on the second day of your trip up into the mountains. It’s hot. You’re hungry. The bag of potato chips you have stashed in your tent is sounding mouth-wateringly good right about now. You’re just coming off the Deming Glacier, practically dragging your ice axe as you stumble, mind in a haze, towards the alluring potato chips ­– your post summit prize food. You unzip your tent, fingers trembling, and find to your horror a pile of confetti in the corner next to a scraggily looking hole, sunshine filtering through the tatters of your tent.

Do not, dear reader, become this sad climber.

Marmots, mice, and ravens are a real hazard when it comes to food in the backcountry and I wager, have had years more experience thieving than you have likely had in protecting your food from their greedy little mouths.  I myself woke up recently to not one, but two mice in my tent having a nice little feast on my food bars, which I had set aside for the summit the next day. One even had the audacity to run over my face. This was not fun. 

That being said, here are some things to do and some things not to do with your food in the alpine.

-       Do not hang your food from rocks in an attempt to mimic food protection from bears in lower country. This seems to be a common recommendation on the Internet at the moment. However, I personally see a few flaws in the system. Firstly, marmots can climb rocks and so a small boulder simply wouldn’t do. This means you would need to hang your food over a cliff and a) that sounds like a lot of effort/potentially sketchy and b) ravens, being birds, can in fact fly and they will get it even if the rodents don’t. So, nix the “marmot bag” option.

-       The best option I know of is to store your food inside your tent. You might be wondering why I would suggest such a thing when we have already learned about the confetti threat but there are ways to store it properly and ways to store it improperly. For starters don’t leave your food along the walls of your tent. You would be significantly increasing the risk of an animal chewing its way inside. What you can do though is put your food in your sleeping bag (which reduces smells) and place the sleeping bag as centrally in the tent as possible. So far, I have not had any issues while employing this technique and it is one that seems popular among the crowds that frequent the mountain slopes.

Note: at night you still should try to keep your food away from your tent walls and zip the door closed at the bottom.

-       You can also dig a cash in the snow and burry your food there if you are concerned with the possibility of animals chewing into your tent. This is a perfectly reasonable option when there is snow at the camp. However, if you employ this technique be sure that you dig down fairly deep. A foot simply doesn’t cut it. Three feet would be a minimum depth for proper storage, but even that might be too shallow. Four to six feet is best. Don’t forget to mark the location of your cash. Losing your food would be just about as bad as it being eaten.

Good luck with the food ventures! Remember, don’t be the sad climber with out his potato chips. 

Yellow Bellied Marmot
Photo Credit: Alasdair Turner AAI Instructor and Guide

--Jess Lewis, Instructor and Guide

Monday, August 26, 2019

Falling on Lead and "Cratering"

It was a beautiful spring day in Red Rock Canyon. I was overseeing the second day of an American Mountain Guides Association Single Pitch Instructor exam and all of the guide candidates were doing a great job. It was a great day to be in the mountains.

It was a great day until we saw a "runner."

People who are running to get help for an injured climber are often referred to as runners. In this particular instance it was a young woman running down the canyon. She yelled for help and told us she was trying to get a better cell signal...she kept losing 911.

Two SPI Candidates, Kevin and Brenden, and I grabbed our first aid kits and made our way up canyon. Kevin was a firefighter and Brenden was a nursing student. They were excellent people to have with me on a rescue.

When we finally discovered the injured climber, we found a man in his late fifties. His head was seriously lacerated and he had been knocked unconscious for two to three minutes before coming back. There was blood in his helmet and it appeared that the the tab on the back had perpetrated the laceration. The rear of helmet was also cracked. It looked like it had been pushed up under his scalp and then pulled back out as the helmet contracted around his skull.

The man's two college-aged daughters were both there as well. All of them, the man and his grown children, seemed to be rank beginners. A tote bag that was used to carry their gear sat next to the rocks.

We immediately held the man's head to keep him from moving it, providing C-spine. Clearly the fall could have caused a spinal injury and we didn't want to take any chances whatsoever. Kevin cleverly created a spinal collar out of coiled up rope and wrote the time of the accident on a piece of medical tape holding the rope in place.

The Patient Getting Ready to be Short-Hauled

Not long after we finished with the C-collar, a helicopter arrived. The Las Vegas Search and Rescue team is one of the best in the world. They packaged the man on a litter and were quickly able to extract him in the tight canyon. We assume that he safely made it to the hospital and is now back to his normal every day life...

Rescues can be extremely interesting to watch. There are helicopters, medical people, cool hauling systems, and often some blood. But they aren't that cool if you're the one that is getting why did this individual need to be rescued...?

A Search and Rescue Office being hauled back to the Helicopter

Obviously we weren't there, but there were clues. The group was climbing at the Cut Your Teeth Crag in Calico Basin. This is a beginner crag, but it is also a very young crag. It was developed in 2006 by Mike McGlynn and Todd Lane. The route that the party was on is a bolted 5.7 called Introproximal Stripper. The importance of knowing the age of the crag is that on sandstone, holds can sometimes crumble or even break on newer routes...

The lead rope ran through draws on the first two bolts. The girls claimed that their dad was trying to clip the third bolt when he fell. The dad was tall, at least six-feet four inches tall, and probably weighed around 200 lbs. The girls were both small and probably didn't weigh more than 120 lbs each.

So looking at the situation, there are a lot of possible factors. Following are some speculations based on the story that the girls told.

Rope behind the Leg:

It's unfortunately quite common for climbers to lead with a rope running behind their leg.  If this is not something that you are constantly paying attention to, it is an element that could easily cause you to fall, catch your leg and flip upside down.

Both of the man's daughters claimed that he flipped upside down in the fall.  This could have been from the rope running behind his leg and it could have been from his feet hitting something and flipping him.  However, since he had no obvious injuries to his feet, heels or ankles, it seems more likely that he was flipped by the rope.

Over the Head Clipping:

It's very dangerous to clip over your head. This is because when you pull slack to clip the rope, you are also putting a lot of extra slack into the system. If you are close to the ground and take a fall at this time, it is likely that you will "crater."

Some people put the slack rope in their mouth when they are getting ready to clip. It is not uncommon for those who take leader falls in such a situation to have teeth pulled out by the rope. While this didn't happen in this case, it is definitely something to be worried about.

The safest way to clip a rope is to wait. Wait until the draw is at your waist to clip it. That way, you will take the smallest possible fall. Unfortunately, this can feel very unstable. It's always more satisfactory to have the rope clipped than not to. And indeed, many routes are designed to clip the rope above the head...but we should be very aware of the dangers implicit in the action.

It is quite possible that the individual in this accident was trying to clip over his head when he fell.

Weight Differences

When weight differences are small, sometimes its nice to have a situation where a person can be pulled off the ground a little bit. This provides a soft catch. But when weight differences are large, it's important to make sure that the belayer is tied to the ground. This will limit the distance that the person falls.

The Cut Your Teeth Crag is a short crag and the weight differences between the two individuals was large. It's likely that the young woman who was belaying was pulled significantly off the ground as her dad landed. I did not confirm this at the time, but I did ask if she was tied down.

Slack in the Belay

Lastly, it's possible that the lead belay had additional slack. Sometimes belayers allow the lead line to sit on the ground in front of them. The line going from the device to the wall should have a mild smile to it. It should not hang down on the ground.

As we were not there, we don't know what the belay looked like and this may not have been an issue. But clearly one or more of the factors described contributed to the accident.

Accident Avoidance

The best way to avoid an accident is to avoid climbing all together. But for most of us, that isn't a possibility. So instead of avoiding the sport we love, we have to constantly study how accidents take place and learn from them.

Every year the American Alpine Club produces a book of accident analysis entitled, Accidents in North American Mountaineering. It is a grim read, but it also provides us with many many opportunities to see what not to do.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Pain and the Pleasure of Crampons on Approach Shoes

Whoa! Crampons on approach shoes? That's crazy talk. Crampons belong on boots!

Most of us couldn't agree more with this sentiment. But most of us also don't want to walk across a short section of ice wearing boots for an alpine rock climb and then carry said boots in our backpacks when we put on our rock shoes.

Sometimes it makes a lot of sense to wear crampons on approach shoes. It's not comfortable and it's not fun. Indeed, half the time that you're doing this, it feels like your foot is going to come right out of the shoe. On every step the crampons stick in the ice and have a nearly imperceptible hold your foot. It feels a little bit like you're walking in sticky mud.

Approach shoes were not designed for such a use. They bend easily and it is difficult to walk up steeper terrain while wearing them. The strap-connectors on many crampons are hard plastic and these commonly dig into your ankles.

There are some crampon styles that work more effectively with approach shoes. Aluminum crampons are not really designed for standard mountaineering where you are going to wear your crampons all day. Instead, such crampons are light, have a low profile and often fit well on approach shoes. Aluminum crampons like the Black Diamond Neve Strap Aluminum Crampons and the Stubai Ultralight Universal Crampons are perfect for this type of use.

The pain of crampons on approach shoes is at least somewhat worth it. As with so many other things in climbing, the pleasure comes after the pain. And in this case, the pleasure is no heavy boots in your pack while working your way up a massive alpine rock climb.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, August 22, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad -


--Gripped is reporting that, "Chilliwack Search and Rescue members rescued two climbers from Mount Slesse on Monday afternoon. The climbers were on or near the classic Northeast Buttress when one of the climbers took a fall." To read more, click here.

A helicopter preps for a short-haul in Squamish last week.

--There was an accident on Monday in Squamish. Here's a snippet from the Squamish Climber's Facebook Group:

The incident today was a group of three experienced climbers on milk road.
The leader took approximately a 3m fall and caught his foot on a ledge, injuring his ankle. All members of the party were highly trained in first aid and self rescue, so while activating SAR they were also able to assess and stabilize the injury and being to self rescue themselves.
SAR made contact with them via phone while they were in the process of lowering themselves to the ground; and was able to coordinate to meet them at the base of the Climb to assist with a stretcher carry back to the parking lot.
Approximately 20 member from SAR, BCAS, and Squamish fire worked together to carry the patient back to the ambulance.
Today was an excellent example of an experienced and skilled group having some bad luck and working to help themselves while at the same time reaching out for assistance.
Thank you to everyone involved.

--News Channel 21 is reporting that, "A California man who fell while climbing Friday afternoon at Smith Rock State Park, prompting a two-hour rescue effort, was discharged Saturday from St. Charles Bend after being admitted overnight, a house supervisor said." To read more, click here.

--This is a depressing article about how scientists are chronicling the disappearance of the Columbia Glacier near Monte Cristo. The Columbia is the lowest glacier in the Cascades and sits between 4,700 and 5,600-feet.

--Alpinist is reporting that, "The Scottish alpinist Simon Richardson and Canadian alpinist Ian Welsted recently made what is likely the first complete ascent of the West Ridge of Mt. Waddington in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia, and possibly the first traverse of the mountain (from Fury Gap to Rainy Knob) as well." To read more, click here.


--Here are a couple of fire updates for the Eastern Sierra.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "Possible skeletal remains found during a search for a 55-year-old man in Eagle County could be those of a missing Chinese tourist, authorities said. Search and rescue team members began efforts to locate 55-year-old Yunlong Chen who was reported missing March 7, according to the town of Vail. Chen was last seen Feb. 28 in the area of the Vail Transportation Center during a ski trip and was supposed to fly back to China but did not arrive." To read more, click here.

--The Daily Camera is reporting that, "A man in his 20s was rescued Wednesday after falling 20 feet in Eldorado Canyon State Park in Boulder County. At 3:25 p.m. the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office received a 911 call that a climber had fallen in the Yellow Spur route in an area called the Red Garden Wall. The climber suffered serious, but non-life threatening injuries as a result of the fall, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office." To read more, click here.

--The Aspen Times is reporting that, "With the popularity of the Ikon Pass that was launched last year, Aspen Skiing Co. will make adjustments to deal with the masses this upcoming season. In an annual update to Aspen City Council on Monday, Mike Kaplan, Skico’s president and CEO, spoke about specifics of last season’s surge of Ikon Pass holders at Aspen-Snowmass resorts." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The Jackson Hole News and Guide is reporting that, "The body of a man who died in a climbing accident in the Wind River Mountains has been recovered. Zijah Kurtovic, 63, of Evanston, Ill., died at about 12:30 p.m. Aug. 10 of 'massive blunt-force trauma from a fall from extreme height,' Fremont County Coroner Mark Stratmoen said Friday." To read more, click here.

--NBC News is reporting on a wolf attack in Banff. "A New Jersey woman said her family's camping trip in Canada turned into a scene "out of a horror movie" when a wolf ripped apart their tent as they slept and tried to drag her husband away — before a man at a nearby campsite heard their screams for help and came to their rescue." To read more, click here.

Mt. Everest
Photo by Guy Cotter

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "On August 14, Nepali officials proposed a new, stricter set of guidelines for mountaineers seeking permits to climb Mount Everest. The proposal comes in the wake of an unusually deadly season on the mountain. Media coverage has drawn public attention to overcrowding at the summit, as well as to the large amounts of trash that have gathered on the slope and to the continued presence of the bodies of deceased climbers." To read more, click here.

--There is a new fourteen-pitch bolted 5.7 (mostly 5.4-5.6) in Banff. To read about it, click here.

--NBC News is reporting that, "Brooke Raboutou, 18, became the first American to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics in sport climbing by reaching Tuesday’s combined final at the world championships in Hachioji, Japan, USA Climbing confirmed." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, August 20, 2019

Route Profile: Ecuador's Cayambe

Found forty-miles northeast of Quito, Cayambe stands at 18,997 feet and is Ecuador's third highest peak. The views from the mountain are stunning as it looks out over Reventador ("The Exploder", one of South America's most consistently active volcanoes) and over the Amazon Basin. Cayambe's glaciers are large, complex and among the most active of all equatorial ice flows, and the varied glacial terrain provides an excellent training ground and a rewarding summit climb. At 15,387 ft on the mountain's south slope is the highest point in the world crossed by the Equator and the only point on the Equator with snow cover.

And while our Ecuador programs make their way up the slopes of Cayambe before any other mountain, I personally find it to be the most fun climb of the trip. The mountain is mostly gentle, but toward the top you do have to navigate through some seracs and crevasses. The climb finishes by making its way up a fifty-degree pitch to the summit.

Cayambe is only a few hours drive from Quito.

Cayambe from one of the many surrounding valleys.

The Cayambe Hut above a serac field. We train for the climb on the field down below the hut.

An AAI Team checks out the mountain shortly after arriving at the hut.

The view the night before a summit ascent.

The final pitch to the summit.

The author on the summit of Cayambe.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, August 19, 2019

Outhouse Etiquette

We spend a lot of time on this blog talking about different techniques for climbing. We talk about mountain ethics, land management advocacy and Leave No Trace. Indeed, we have several leave no trace articles in the blog, including one about how to deal with human waste in the backcountry...

But what about the front-country?

What about the outhouse?

Many of us car camp at front-country campgrounds. Some of us spend a significant amount of time these campgrounds. In most cases, the campground hosts work very hard to keep the outhouses clean, but they are public toilets and with public toilets come people who have toilet issues...

There is nothing worse than walking into an outhouse to find that someone who had to "go number two" missed. How in God's name do you miss the toilet and splatter everything around it...?

My assumption is that these individuals who miss are afraid of sitting down on a public toilet. But the irony of that is that these individuals -- those who miss -- are the reason someone might not want to sit on a public toilet.

So if you need to go to the bathroom and you're afraid to sit down on a public outhouse seat, get over it. If you can't get over it, then have the decency of putting the seat up before squatting.

There are a few more rules about outhouses:
  1. Don't throw garbage, diapers or feminine hygiene products into the outhouse toilet. They must be removed during service and as you can imagine, that is a very dirty and unpleasant job.
  2. There's also no reason to throw garbage all over the floor.
  3. Put the seat down when you are done, it will help keep the critters out and the smell down.
  4. Close the door when you're finished. This will also help to keep the animals out.
  5. Don't steal the toilet paper...
  6. And lastly, if you do miss your target, please please please, wipe the seat down...
--Jason D. Martin

Friday, August 16, 2019

A Guide to Backcountry Coffee

At home, I love nothing more than the sound of my coffeemaker in the morning. I can hear the steam building up and then the slow drip drip drip down through the filter and into the pot. It's always music to my ears and a wonderful way to start the day.

Coffee drinkers can find a number of ways to recreate this important comfort of home out in the mountains. If you can't imagine your day without a cup of java, there's no reason why you have to go to the backcountry without it. Here are some common methods for camp coffee-brewing to get you started:

Pourover Coffee

DISC_7416 by yoppy. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Access the original photo here.

I personally think the pourover method is one of the best-tasting ways to make coffee--in town, in the mountains, anywhere. Positives of this method is that the cone is relatively easy to clean--you just take the filter out and give it a rinse--and the coffee you make tastes pretty darn good. The biggest con (and this is an important one!) is you have grounds leftover that you have to pack out.

Supplies needed:
-A plastic coffee dripper
-Paper filters
-Ground coffee
-Hot water

French Press

Campground coffee by Citrix. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Access the original photo here.

There are a number of French press options that are lightweight and easy to carry on backcountry trips. GSI makes coffee presses in a variety of sizes and both the JetBoil and the MSR Reactor have French Press adaptors available.

You don't have to carry coffee filters for this method, which is a plus, but the press makes the whole setup a bit of a pain to clean. But if what you love at home is a French press, you can totally make it work to bring one with you in the backcountry.

Supplies needed:
-French press
-Ground coffee
-Hot water

Cowboy Coffee

DISC 0094 by Dick Clark. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Access the original photo here.

This is the simplest of the methods out there--but also the hardest to get right. Here's how you do it:
1. Fill up your saucepan with water for the amount of coffee you want to make.
2. Bring it to a boil
3. Remove the pot from heat and allow it cool a little from its boiling temperature.
4. Add coffee to the pot--about 2 tablespoons of finely ground coffee per 8oz of water.
5. Stir and let sit for two minutes.
6. Stir again and let it sit for another two minutes.
7. Serve it up!

This is another method where you still have to pack grounds out, but the plus is you can do this with minimal equipment--all you need is coffee grounds and your usual cooking stuff.

Supplies needed:
-Ground coffee
-Hot water

Instant Coffee

Starbucks Via by jamieanne. Licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0. Access the original photo here.

Instant coffee options for camping are getting better and better. Starbucks Via is probably the best tasting-option out there, though you could always do Folgers instant or another brand if you prefer. The Vias come in individual packs and in a variety of different roasts--though they can taste kind of acidic, so if you have a sensitive stomach be careful. These don't taste THAT different from brewed coffee and don't leave any grounds you have to pack out. These have become the go-to choice for AAI's Denali trips and other programs for their simplicity.

Supplies needed:
-Instant coffee (in bulk or individual packages)
-Hot water

--Shelby Carpenter, AAI Instructor and Guide

Thursday, August 15, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad -


--The Sea to Sky gondola in Squamish collapsed at about 4am on Saturday. There is suspicion that it was a deliberate act of sabotage. To read more, click here.

--In other Squamish news, an individual was plucked off the ledges above the Apron by a helicopter with a suspected broken ankle.

--Last week, there was a massive glacial outburst on Mt. Rainier below the Tahoma Glacier. The climate crisis has increased the number of these incidents over the last few years. To read more, click here.

--It doesn't look like the Jumbo Glacier Ski Resort in British Columbia's Purcell mountains is going to happen. To read more, click here.

--SNEWS is reporting that, "Cascade Designs in early July cut 22 jobs from various teams and levels out of its staff of about 500 as part of the brand's reorganization, CEO James Cotter confirmed." To read more, click here.

--There is a huge new route on Vancouver Island. Bull Elk is a 25-pitch 5.10 on Elkhorn Peak. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A couple of hikers got struck by lightning in New Mexico last week. They both survived. To read more, click here.

--The Nevada Independent is reporting that, "A company that has long-sought to redevelop a gypsum mine and build homes near Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area filed for bankruptcy in July, according to court records. It is the latest development in an ongoing — and often politically heated — dispute over Gypsum Resources LLC’s plan to develop a master-planned community near the conservation area. The company, owned by developer Jim Rhodes, operates a gypsum mine on Blue Diamond Hill next to Red Rock. The land is currently zoned for rural housing, but Gypsum Resources has long pushed the county to increase the density so it could covert the mine and nearby land into a master-planned community for residential and commercial use. Climbers, hikers and environmental groups have pushed back on the proposal, turning it into a political issue during the 2018 gubernatorial race, as well as in a Clark County commission race." To read more, click here.

Utah and Colorado:

--The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that, "A Colorado teenager is recovering after he was bitten by a black bear while camping near Moab on Friday morning. The 13-year-old was asleep in a sleeping bag about 5:45 a.m. when the bear bit his right cheek and ear, said Darren DeBloois, of the Division of Wildlife Resources." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Jackson Hole

News and Guide is reporting that, "As midsummer draws hordes of backpackers to the Wind River Range, a string of four helicopter rescues made for an unusually busy week in Sublette County. Of the 15 operations Tip Top Search and Rescue has performed so far in 2019, nearly a third came in a sudden burst over the past week, straining the volunteer organization. Officials attribute the inundation to overall high visitor numbers, especially as a late-arriving summer may be funneling vacationers into the same short snow-free window of opportunity." To read more, click here.

--The New York Times has published an excellent piece on the Trump Administration's desire to undermine the National Environmental Protection Act to fast track logging in potentially protected areas. To read about this, click here.

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--So this young woman posted a photo on instagram of her going hiking. Then her sister called her out to show that she was actually in their backyard. This is really too bad. Why fake going hiking? Why not just go? It's a pretty low bar. When you see this stuff, you just have to admit, Instagram is just kinda dumb. To read about this, click here.

--Outside is reporting that, "there are 11 designated national scenic trails stretching across nearly 18,000 miles in the U.S. But there are more than 4,000 miles of privately owned “gaps” in the system that leave routes vulnerable to a change in ownership or a landowner’s whims. Typically, the government or nonprofit trail associations work to fill such gaps by purchasing land from willing sellers. But Jim Kern, founder of a new advocacy group called Hiking Trails for America, says the only way to protect every mile of those trails forever is through the use of eminent domain. " To read more, click here.

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

The Master Carabiner

The American Mountain Guides Association and Outdoor Research have teamed up to create several high quality climbing videos. In this video, AMGA Instructor Team Members Olivia Race and Dale Remsberg discuss the pros and cons of a master carabiner.

The concept is pretty simple. If two bolts are close enough together, you can use a large locking carabiner for a master point. Following are a few things to remember from the video:

1) Use when equalization has been created by the bolted anchor itself.
2) Quick to build and clean.
3) Avoid heavy off-axial loading directions.
4) Large pear-shaped auto-locking carabiners are ideal.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, August 12, 2019

Picket Placements

There are three options for placing a picket. The first is in a t-trench, the second is a vertical placement, and the third is the mid-clip picket.

The strength of a snow picket, no matter how the picket is placed, is directly correlated to to the quality of the snow. The strongest is always going to be a picket placed in a t-trench with snow backfilling it. That snow backfilling should be packed down and work-hardened. The second strongest is going to be a t-trench without backfill. The third will be a mid-clip picket. And finally, the weakest -- but fastest picket placement -- is the vertical picket.

In the following video, AMGA instructor team member Emile Drinkwater, demonstrates how to place pickets in three different orientations.

In addition to Emilie's demonstration, please check out this excellent video from SMC on their pro picket:

It should be noted that with the vertical picket demonstration, if one can easily place the picket, without stomping on it or pounding it in, the picket is likely not very good. It should require some effort to place a vertical picket.

Picket placement is a craft. And as with any other craft, it takes practice to do it well. Put in some time and effort with these devices before using them for real...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, August 8, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/8/19


--A 33-year-old Squamish resident was killed on the Angel's Crest route on the Stawamus Chief on Saturday. This is currently being reported as a fall. But there is some information on the Squamish Rock Climbers Facebook page that says that the fatality was attributed to rock fall. To read more, click here. Here is a piece from Gripped on the incident.

The iconic Backbone Ridge (5.9, IV) on Dragontail Peak. 

--An unroped climber was rescued off of Dragontail Peak this week. To read more, click here.

--It appears that there is a new parking closure on Mountaineers Creek Road. Following is a piece from the Leavenworth Climbing Community. Respond to them on Facebook with your thoughts.

(click to enlarge)

--So a woman hiking on Vancouver Island encountered a cougar, which was clearly stalking her. She yelled at it, but when that didn't work. She played Metallica on her phone. And the cougar left. Check out the story below:

--Alex Borsuk and Kaytlyn Gerbin just became the first all women's team and fifth team ever to complete Mt. Rainier's Infinity Loop. The Infinity Loop is a hyper-fitness challenge that requires a team to climb a route up Mt. Rainier, descend another route, then run back to the start on the Wonderland Trail. The team will then do this again, but run the opposite direction. It ends up being 130 miles with about 40,000-feet of elevation gain. To read more, click here.


--The Sierra Wave is reporting that, "Jennifer Crittenden will be giving a presentation titled, “Two Missing Climbers, Eighty Years Apart” on Saturday, August 10, 2019 from 1 to 3 o’clock at the Eastern California Museum in Independence, located at 155 N. Grant Street. This event is free and open to everyone. Crittenden’s presentation investigates parallels between the disappearance and subsequent searches for two mountain climbers who went missing eighty years apart." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--There was a rescue in Tahquitz this week, but there is limited information.

--The BLM collected up to 225 wild horses near Red Rock Canyon over the weekend. This is due to a water emergency. Administrators didn't think the horses would be able to find enough water to survive the heat. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Colorado Sun is reporting that, "After almost six months of courting by a suite of suitors after Arapahoe Basin’s divorce from Vail Resorts’ Epic Pass, resort boss Alan Henceroth has found a new home with Alterra Mountain Co.’s Ikon Pass." To read more, click here.

--The Vail Daily is reporting that, "Vail Mountain’s expansion up the slope on Golden Peak has taken shape, as timber removal is mostly complete on three new ski runs." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--13 ABC is reporting that, "the 'grandfather of snowboarding', a name dubbed to Sherman Robert Poppen for his invention of the Snurfer died on Wednesday, July 31. The Muskegon native invented the Snurfer more than 50 years ago, before the snowboard was invented.  A Snurfer is as wide as two snow skis combined with a string attached for the rider to hold on to. His idea for it sparked because he 'always wished [he] could surf,' according to his obituary, quoting an interview with him published in Snow Magazine in 2015." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

Where the Wild Things Keep Playing

In 2017, Outdoor Research produced a YouTube video entitled, Where the Wild Things Play. In the video, a couple of outdoorsy bros are sitting at the bar drinking beer. One of them asks where all the ladies are. From there, they cut to a series of awesome women getting after it in the outdoors, on bikes, skis, climbing, etc. It was a great video and was well received.

Recently, OR followed up with a second video. Where the Wild Things Keep Playing continues where the other video left off. But the big difference in this second video is that there are a lot more "normal" women. Yes, there are some base jumping and drytooling, but there are also some that are climbing in an indoor gym or running on a trail. Regardless, the whole thing is inspirational and well-worth a watch...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 8/1/19


--If you have an opinion about the reintroduction of grizzlies in North Cascades National Park, you should log on and make a comment during the public comment period. To read more, click here.

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

--"The District of Squamish has adopted a camping bylaw intended to direct camping within the municipal boundary to designated campsites, and enable recreation-driven camping in a way that mitigates social and environmental impacts. The bylaw provides the District of Squamish with a tool to enforce no camping restrictions within a Camping Bylaw Zone, identifying sensitive areas along the Mamquam Forest Service Road and Powerhouse Springs Road, and the Squamish Estuary and Spit." To read more, click here.


--This is by far the coolest El Cap imaging project that's ever been done. Every nook and cranny can be seen in the image...and you can see the climbers that were on the wall when they were taking the photos too.

--Powder is reporting that, "Big news from Tahoe camp, as the hotly-contested base-to-base gondola connecting Squaw Valley and Alpine Meadows was unanimously approved by the Placer County Board of Supervisors this week." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Los Angeles Times is reporting that, "The status of a U.S. Navy pilot whose F/A-18E Super Hornet jet crashed in Death Valley National Park on Wednesday morning remains unknown nearly a day later. The plane went down about 10 a.m. near an area often referred to as Star Wars Canyon, not far from the Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake. Seven visitors suffered minor injuries, but the pilot was missing." To read more, click here.

--Taos News in New Mexico is reporting that, "it was a skier who unintentionally triggered the avalanche in Taos Ski Valley in January that resulted in the deaths of two young men, according to a Forest Service report obtained by the Taos News Tuesday (July 16). The avalanche occurred at approximately 11:34am on January 17th in the K3 chute of Kachina Peak. Matthew Zonghetti, 26, of Massachusetts, and Corey Borg-Massanari, 22, of Colorado, were transported to hospitals and died from avalanche-related injuries." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Fox 31 is reporting that, "A man may have a broken ankle and a broken pelvis after falling while climbing in Clear Creek County Saturday. A 22-year-old was climbing in Clear Creek Canyon when he fell about 40 feet, according to a news release from the Clear Creek County Sheriff’s Office." To read more, click here.

--A climber was killed in a fall in Rock Canyon near Provo this week. To read more, click here.

--Logging, mining and off-road vehicle use are all written into Bear's Ears new management plan. But you can protest. To learn more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

A woman was killed last week while trying to cross the Teklanika River in Alaska. The 24-year old died trying to get to the "Magic Bus," the bus where Chris McCandless starved to death in 1992. McCandless' ordeal was chronicled by John Krakauer in the book Into the Wild, which was followed by a film made by Sean Penn of the same title. There have been several SAR incidents revolving around people attempting to reach the bus. To read more, click here.

--Last week a nine-year-old girl was gored by a bison in Yellowstone National Park. The animal literally threw her into the air. The following news report doesn't really do justice to the reality of this situation. There are several images of dozens of people mere feet from a thousand pound animal. And indeed, they even show a selfie from a woman who had been gored in a different incident with a bison in the background. If you can take a selfie with an can mess you up. That should be a core thought around any type of wildlife.

--A New York City bar live streams bears eating fish and doing other things...

--So a the chair on a ski left fell off the cable last week in Australia. The skier and the chair plummeted 30-feet into the powder below. Luckily, the rider sustained some bruises, but no other real injuries. To read more, click here.

--The Metrowest Daily News in Massachusetts is reporting that, "the family of a Hudson boy who was seriously injured at age 12 in an estimated 30-foot fall from a moving chairlift at Wachusett Mountain Ski Area in Princeton in 2015 has been awarded $3.3 million in a jury verdict against the ski area operators, a lawyer for the plaintiffs said." To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "the John Lauchlan Memorial Award is a cash award designed to assist expeditions of Canadian mountaineers and explorers, which is accepting applications for end of 2018 and 2019 expeditions." To read more, click here.

--So there was a guy in Kentucky shooting his gun at everything that moved because he thought he was tracking Bigfoot. This happened near a young couple camping. Sketchy. To read more, click here.