Monday, September 30, 2019

Using Your Rope in Climbing Anchors

It's not uncommon for us to get up to an anchor point only to find that we've left our cordellete on our partner's harness or to find that it is impossible to hear.  Most people will just deal with these problems without thinking outside-the-box.  One outside the box thought though is to use your rope for these things.



This first photo was taken in Red Rock Canyon at the start of the "Tunnel Pitch" on Tunnel Vision (III, 5.7).  If you're not familiar with this route, it is an absolutely stellar ascent.  On the fourth pitch, one has the opportunity to actually climb through the mountain in a tunnel. In other words, the route requires a bit of vertical spelunking.

The top of the third pitch, at the start of the tunnel, it is difficult to see or hear the second.  The route follows a corner and chimney system up the wall.  In order to see my climber, I built an anchor and then, using the rope, extended the anchor to the edge where it was far less difficult to see and hear.

Some might argue that this system lacks redundancy.  I'm not too worried about that as I can see the whole anchor to ensure that there is no rubbing and we never have redundancy in the rope while we're climbing with a single line...

This second picture was taken in Leavenworth, Washington on one of our AMGA Single Pitch Instructor courses.  The assignment was for the student to create a fixed line across a catwalk on the slab shown.  This particular student didn't have the webbing or the cordellete to create a perfect SRENE anchor.  Instead, he built a pre-equalized anchor with his rope. In this application, this worked really well.


In this picture, another Single Pitch Instructor candidate built a top-rope anchor, wrapping a rope around a boulder and tying it off with a double-bowline.  In order to create some flexibility in the anchor he tied an figure-eight on a bite and clove-hitched it to the line going to the edge of his top-rope anchor.


This last picture shows a close-up of the figure-eight and the clove-hitch mentioned above.





One last thing to be aware of is that dynamic climbing ropes stretch 8-12%. Usually there isn't much rope in the anchor so there's not going to be that much stretch, but this should be taken into account before the system is loaded.

Flexibility and thinking outside the box are two major tenants of climbing efficiency.  One way to be efficient and to be flexible and to be outside-the-box is to use your rope for anchoring instead of other materials.  Your rope is always on you and as such, it definitely provides an option that really shouldn't feel like it's that far out-of-the-box...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 27, 2019

UIAA Gear Testing Videos

A couple of weeks ago, we posted a video of a carabiner strength test. The video was very popular. We got to see a press destroy a carabiner. Videos of gear breaking are always engaging. As a result, today we have posted a few more climbing gear testing videos from the UIAA. These are both terrifying and a lot of fun all at the same time!







--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 26, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/26/19

Climate Crisis:

--The title from this Daily Chronicle article says it all: "Shorter Ski Seasons, Worsening Wildfires: How Climate Change Will Hit Outdoor Recreation in the Pacific Northwest." To read the piece, click here.

Northwest:

--Komo News is reporting that, "Local seismologists are calling for change saying most volcanoes in the Pacific Northwest are severely under-monitored. This comes after a recent report from the New York Times that said that the U.S. is doing a poor job of tracking the country’s most dangerous volcanoes." To read more, click here.

The North Ridge of Mt. Stuart from the headwaters of Mountaineers Creek.

--Parking on the Mountaineers Creek Road near Leavenworth is going to get cruxy. The Forest Service no longer allows people to park along the side of the road. You have to park in the parking lot. This is a major access point for the Enchantments, as well as for Mt. Stuart. To read a forum thread on this, click here.

Sierra:

--Yosemite's Facelift is coming soon. In the lead-up to it, we often see articles like the one published by the San Francisco Chronicle: "In the days leading to a massive annual cleanup event in Yosemite Valley, climbing ranger Jesse McGahey was already thinking about one place he would probe for hidden deposits of trash: the top of El Capitan. That’s where rangers recently retrieved hundreds of pounds of junk left by rock climbers, a cohort of seemingly unlikely culprits. Most of it was old gear — dirty nylon ropes, haul bags, climbing shoes — and lots of plastic water bottles. But in July, McGahey also found something he never had to clean up before: a used poop tube, the cylindrical waste-disposal apparatus that accompanies climbers who wrestle with big walls for days at a time." To read more, click here.

--The Sierra Wave is reporting that, "the Eastern Sierra Council of Governments is sitting on a $618,750 grant for the specific purpose of developing potential projects focused on sustainable recreation on this side of the Sierra Nevada. Locals will get a chance to get in on the action at the first in a series workshops Thursday evening at the Tri-County Fairgrounds." Thursday evening means tonight! To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Trump said that climbers couldn't get over his wall. He stated that they had mountain climbers there trying. The problem? It didn't happen. We and many others were surveyed by the Daily Beast to see if we knew of anyone who had tried it. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Epic Pass, Ikon Pass? Which is right for you? Outside has you covered.

Notes from All Over:

--Davo Karnicar, the Slovenian who made the first complete ski descent of Mt. Everest, recently died at the age of 56. Karnicar was killed in a tree cutting accident on September 16th. To read more about his amazing life, click here.

--Last week at the 2019 Piolets d' Or ceremony in Lądek-Zdrój, Poland, alpinist John Roskelley recreated the final hours of his son's life. American Jess Roskelley, and Austrian climbers David Lama and Hansjörg Auer, were killed on Canada's Howse Peak on April 16th. Through the use of recovered videos and photos, John took the audience through the story of the climb. And though he and others have a strong understanding of the climb and the first part of the descent, there are still some questions about the accident. To read the article and see photos, click here.

--In related news, Rock and Ice interviewed the winners of the Piolets d' Or. To read about it, click here.

--Climb the Hill took place late last week. Rock and Ice reports that, "This year Climb the Hill, an annual advocacy gathering in Washington, D.C., focused on issues such as pushing back on the Trump administration’s “energy dominance” agenda, supporting the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act, funding the Land & Water Conservation Fund, and advocating for action on climate change. Concurrent with these efforts, a new initiative sought to utilize mentors like Bethany Lebewitz, the founder of Brown Girls Climb, returning from last year, to ensure equity and inclusion in policy discussions." To read more, click here.

--Snews is reporting that, "once again, the government considered the outdoor recreation economy a significant part of the U.S. Gross Domestic Product, this time breaking out statistics in each by state. The Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) put outdoor recreation at 2.2 percent, or $427.2 billion in 2017, outweighing mining, utilities, farming and ranching, and chemical products manufacturing. The report reaffirms the industry as an economic driver, following the first government report last year that counted it as 2.2 percent ($412 billion) of the 2016 GDP." To read more, click here.

--The Jackson Hole News and Guide has a great article out about the results of a skier survey surrounding the use of Teton Pass. To read the article, click here.


--And finally, Gripped is reporting that, "It’s been announced that the term Free Solo has found its way into the Merriam-Webster dictionary." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Definitions for Beginners: Top-Rope vs. Lead vs. Bouldering vs. Free Solo

There is a legitimate concern that some have put forward concerning this blog. Occasionally, I get a little bit too techy and forget that climbers with a multitude of skill levels read these articles. It's good to step back a little bit sometimes and make sure that everyone is on board with some of the basics.

There are four terms that we use quite often on this blog.  First, the term top-rope.  Second, the term lead, as in lead-climber. Third, the term bouldering.  And fourth, the term free-soloing.  Following is a breakdown of these terms and their definitions.

Top-Rope Climber

A top-rope climber is a person who has a rope running from his or her harness, up to an anchor at the top of a cliff and then back down to a belayer at the base.  This is a standard technique, and it is the technique regularly used for beginning level climbers and at rock gyms.


A Climber Belays another Climber on Top-Rope in Joshua Tree National Park
Photo by Jason Martin

The value of a top-rope is that it is highly unlikely that a climber will fall very far.  The rope can be somewhat tight if the climber is a beginner or somewhat loose if he or she is comfortable.

Lead Climber

In essence, the lead climber is the guy that "gets the rope up there." A belayer pays out rope to a person as he climbs up.  The leader places rock protection as he goes and clips his rope to it.  He then continues climbing above the protection.  Should the leader fall ten feet above his last piece of protection, he will fall past his gear, and the belayer will catch him after he has fallen twenty feet.  The rope stretches so that the impact is not as great on the leader.


A Leader Working His Way Up a Climb


The act of falling on lead can be very safe, or quite dangerous.  It all depends on whether the fall is "clean" or not.  A clean fall means that there is nothing for the leader to hit.  A fall above a ledge or a protrusion could lead to serious injury.

Leading can be done in a very responsible way that limits one's exposure to danger.  But it does take a lot of training and practice to bring one's abilities to such a level where he or she has a good understanding of what kind of gear placements will hold a fall and what kind will not.


Bouldering

Bouldering is one of the fastest growing types of climbing.  In this, a climber does not use a rope, but also does not climb more than a few feet off the ground.  A boulderer is focused on making a handful of hard moves and will often work on those moves for a long period of time before completing a sequence.

Most boulderers use a pad or commercial bouldering mattress to protect themselves from ground-falls.  Every climber who falls bouldering hits a mat or the ground, as such there is some danger involved in the sport. 

Free Soloing

Often confused with free climbing, (which is simply climbing without the use of direct aid, but with a rope) free soloing is the art of climbing a route without a rope.

Obviously free soloing is the most dangerous type of climbing that there is.  If an individual falls in this situation, survival is highly unlikely.

Climbing is a varied sport with many different aspects to it.  Not every aspect is for every person.  Ultimately, the amount of risk that you choose to engage in within the sport is completely up to you. Indeed, the level of accomplishment you feel engaging in any kind of climbing is also completely personal.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 23, 2019

Leave No Trace: Dispose of Waste Properly

The third principal of Leave No Trace is to Dispose of Waste Properly. When discussing LNT, most people immediately jump to human waste disposal when talking about this. But that's not the only consideration when it comes to disposing of waste properly.

First, it's important to make a plan to pack out all trash and waste. Occasionally there is waste that is difficult to pack out, think gray water or toothpaste, but there are ways to deal with that...

Gray Water

This is what is generated when you wash your dishes in the backcountry. There is almost universally bits of food waste left in your pots and pans. As such, there are a couple of ways to deal with this.

Drink It - The most extreme practitioners of LNT will drink their gray water. If you can do this without throwing up, you're a better person than I am.

Strain It - The more common technique is to strain your water to get all the food fragments out of it. You can easily pack these out after cleaning your dishes.

Scatter It - While straining or drinking the water is preferred, there are some areas where it is recommended that you scatter your dishwater in the gravel on the roadway. These are most commonly front-country campgrounds.

Toothpaste

Most people don't like to swallow their toothpaste, though that is one option when it comes to this kind of waste. The other option is to "raspberry" it. In other words, spit with your mouth shut, allowing the toothpaste to scatter and speckle the ground.

Human Waste

So what about human waste disposal?

As we all know, human waste comes in two main forms: urine and fecal matter. However, occasionally it comes in other forms too. This may include sanitary napkins, condoms and vomit.

In a wooded area, urine can usually be left anywhere. However, in the alpine one should try to urinate on rocks away from fragile heather. Mountain goats like the salt in human urine and will tear up the ground to get at it.

Climbers should avoid peeing in cracks on multi-pitch climbs. It's better to pee out on the face of the rock so that the urine breaks down. When one pees in a crack, it often doesn't break down and makes everything stink.

There are several ways to deal with solid human waste. The two most commonly accepted techniques are to dig a cathole or to pack it all out.

Catholes

Catholes are the most commonly used method of human waste disposal in the backcountry. The idea is simple, you dig a hole and bury your poop. Once completed you pack out your toilet paper in a ziplock bag.



Following is a short description of catholes from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics:

Catholes are the most widely accepted method of waste disposal. Locate catholes at least 200 feet (about 70 adult steps) from water, trails and camp. Select an inconspicuous site where other people will be unlikely to walk or camp. With a small garden trowel, dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter. The cathole should be covered and disguised with natural materials when finished. If camping in the area for more than one night, or if camping with a large group, cathole sites should be widely dispersed.

Waste Bags

These are commercial bags that are used to haul out human waste. Commonly used brands include the WAG Bag, Rest Stop and the Biffy Bag. The idea is simple.

You poop in the bag...

Most waste bags come with toilet paper, a wet wipe and a double bagging system.



In heavily used areas where it's hard to dig, waste bags are the best option for human waste disposal. These bags are also commonly used in alpine and winter environments. And finally, these can also be used to dispose of other human waste products like tampons and condoms. These types of items should always be packed out, no matter how far back you are...

Other Techniques and Thoughts

There is no question that catholes and waste bags are the most commonly used and likely the best option for the disposal of fecal matter. But there are a few other techniques that may be used in areas that are not popular where there are very few people.

When I think about these techniques, I think of extremely obscure mountains or big traverses that are uncommon and take too long (over four days) to carry all of the waste out. If any of these techniques were used in popular areas, they would have an immediate effect on visitor experiences and water quality; and would likely make it an unpleasant place to visit.

Smear Technique - With this technique, fecal matter is smeared thinly on a rock in the sun. The idea is that the waste will dry out and blow away. But for this to work, the waste has to be spread so thinly that it is no more thick than the width of the side of a coin.

The smear technique is overused. It is commonly employed in areas with too large a user group for the fecal matter to break down before others encounter it. And sometimes people use this technique in shady areas where the waste never breaks down.

Crevassing - In this technique, waste is thrown into a crevasse. Obviously, this eventually makes its way into the watershed below the glacier. On obscure glaciers, this isn't that big a deal. But if you see others on the glacier or you're following a bootpack, it's likely not a remote enough glacier to use this technique.

The Poop Bird - This one's pretty simple. You poop on a rock and throw it off a cliff or moraine, the idea being that it will splatter and spread everywhere so that it will break down quickly. It goes without saying that this is for extremely remote places.

Burning Toilet Paper - Some people like to burn their toilet paper and bury it in a cathole or allow the ashes to scatter. This is not a recommended technique as the toilet paper never really completely burns down, and it also creates a forest fire hazard. That said, if you are completely adverse to carrying out your toilet paper, this is likely a better option than leaving it lying around. If you choose to employ this technique, please please please make sure that the toilet paper has completely gone out and that there are no cinders or glowing bits left over.

And finally, I did mention vomit. In the event of a an incident where vomit is generated, it should be immediately buried. Vomit attracts all kinds of animals.

There is no doubt that the best way to keep the places where we recreate clean and beautiful, it is imperative that we Dispose of Waste Properly.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 20, 2019

Tree Ratings in kN

At one of the American Mountain Guides Association Single Pitch Instructor Provider continuing education programs, we discussed the strength of trees. One SPI provider noted that he had pull tested a tree to failure with a load cell and found that the tree had a 17kN value.

17kN is a decently high value. A kilonewton (kN) is worth approximately 225lbs. And most carabiners and slings are rated at 21-24kN. 17kN isn't quite high enough for a stand-alone anchor, but it is plenty high enough for a rappel or for an anchor component.

Just how good is that tree in the crack?

As soon as the provider finished speaking, several people challenged him. "That rating was only good for that tree at that spot," one person said. "It's all about the root system," another said. "You can't tell anything with one test," a third said.

All three of the people who challenged the provider were right. One test on one tree in one area doesn't really provide you with any real data. You need something more...

A few weeks later I attended the International Technical Rescue Symposium. The symposium brings together some of he best minds in rope rescue. Many participants do research and present papers at the event. At this particular symposium John Morton, a rescue technician from Everett Mountain Rescue and the Snohomish Helicopter Rescue Team, presented a paper on the kN value of trees.

Morton started working on determing the values of trees some years earlier with Mark Miller, a mountain guide and rescue instructor who was tragically killed in an accident early in 2015. After Mark's death, Morton continued to work on this project.

Essentially, he came at this problem in a new way. He looked at trees as anchors that have already been tested...by the wind.

When there is a windstorm, trees are seriously stressed. Indeed, they are tested just like any other piece of rescue or climbing equipment. They act almost like a sail and capture a tremendous amount of wind. If they don't fall over, then they've been tested to a certain level of kN.

Morton took this and developed a formula based on a combination of tree species profile and how windstorms impact those trees. In the process he further refined his formula to accommodate for trees on the lee side of hills. And when he was done... He had a means to actively give every tree everywhere a kN rating.

Click to Enlarge

The preceding shows the circumference of several trees in the Pacific Northwest and their kN rating based on Morton's formula.

For a rappel anchor, we probably want something that has a minimum value of at least 8kN. Leader falls are often given a value of approximately 7.5kN, so while a rappel shouldn't provide that kind of impact, we should be prepared for it.

For a climbing anchor, we want something with a minimum of 20kN. And for a rescue anchor, we should probably have at least 30kN.

By these figures, every tree in the PNW that is at least 22-inches in circumference is adequate for a climbing anchor. And every tree that is at least 25-inches in circumference is adequate for a rescue anchor.

For SAR personnel, Morton recommends carrying a field guide so that you might be able to look specifically at a given tree species and determine how small you can go.

This is really cool work. To see Morton's complete paper, please log onto http://itrsonline.org/papers/ and search for John Morton, "What if Trees had Ratings in kN? Tree Anchor Ratings Based on Wind Loading."

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 19, 2019

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

Climate Crisis:

--Athletes from Protect Our Winters went to Washington DC last week to talk about how climate change is impacting snow and ice around the world. To watch a video about the trip, click below. To watch testimony by POW founder Jeremy Jones, and athletes Tommy Caldwell and Caroline Gleich, click here.



--CNN is reporting that, "Sweden's tallest mountain has lost its title, and climate change is to blame, as the glacier covering its summit continues to shrink due to rising temperatures, scientists have confirmed. The glacier-covered southern peak of Kebnekaise mountain, located in the far north of the country, now stands at 2,095.6 meters, which is the lowest height ever measured and 1.2 meters below the mountain's ice-free, rocky northern peak at 2096.8 meters." To read more, click here.

--Rock and Ice is going to start covering climate and it's impacts on our community. To read more, click here.

Northwest:

--The American Alpine Institute was heavily featured in an article about women in the guiding industry. Several of our current and former guides were featured. To read the article, click here.

--The National Parks Traveler is reporting that, "a public meeting has been scheduled for early October to discuss a draft plan that aims to help grizzly bears return to the North Cascades of Washington state. The meeting Oct. 7 on the Draft North Cascades Ecosystem Grizzly Bear Restoration Plan/Environmental Impact Statement is being hosted by the National Park Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Meeting participants will have an opportunity, through a lottery system, to provide up to two minutes of oral comment on the record." To read more, click here.


--If you are worried about development in the Shannon Basin near Squamish, this is your chance to have a say. Fill out a survey, here.

Desert Southwest:

--The New York Times is reporting that, "The construction of President Trump’s wall along the southwestern border will significantly damage or completely destroy more than 20 archaeological sites in a natural park in the heart of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert, according to a study conducted by the National Park Service." To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--Winds have made the Taboose Fire difficult to deal with. To read updates, check out the Sierra Wave.

--There is some snow in the Sierra.

--KPIX 5 is reporting that, "A Sonora family had a close encounter with a big cat over the weekend when a mountain lion made itself comfortable inside their bathroom after getting trapped in the house Sunday. It happened at a home in Tuolumne County near Yosemite." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "A man in his early 50’s with a prosthetic leg took a serious fall while climbing the 2nd Flatiron in Boulder’s Chautauqua Park Friday, September 13." To read more, click here.


--The Adventure Journal is reporting on the BLM move. "As Grand Junction, Colorado, gets ready to welcome the headquarters of the Bureau of Land Management, dozens of former BLM top officials are speaking out against the move, saying it will deeply wound the agency’s effectiveness." To read more, click here.

--The first snow of the season has hit the high country.

--Conflict between hikers and bikers is brewing on trails near Golden, Colorado. There's a passive aggressive war going on between the user groups. Each side is posting signs to the other side. It's weird. And if history is any guide, it's probably going to result in regulation or closure. To read about it, click here.

--The Wall Street Journal is reporting that, "Six years ago, Utah tourism officials launched a “Mighty 5” marketing campaign to entice more visitors to the state’s spectacular national parks. State officials got more than they bargained for. Frustrated locals are now dealing with the consequences of the explosive growth that followed. The five parks—Zion, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef, Canyonlands and Arches—have soared to 10.6 million visitors in 2018 from 6.3 million in 2013, a 68% increase that state officials say was due in large part to the advertising. Other factors, they say, included the national economic recovery and social media." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--LEX 18 is reporting that, "An investigation is underway after a climber reportedly died Monday in fall at Red River Gorge in Wolfe County. Officials with the Wolfe County Search and Rescue team said the group received a call about 4:15 p.m. reporting a climber had fallen in Muir Valley near the Rogers community." Our sources indicate that this was due to an unfinished tie-in knot. To read more, click here.

--The New Hampshire Union Leader is reporting that, "Rescuers called in a National Guard helicopter to reach a 20-year-old man who fell 50 feet while climbing on Cannon Cliffs Sunday. Fish and Game officers received an emergency signal about 11:30 a.m. from the cliffs, where the man, who officials did not identify, had fallen, was unconscious and was stuck halfway up the cliff, a news release said." To read more, click here.

--CNN is reporting on a family that survived being stuck on top of a waterfall after they sent a help message in a bottle down the river. "Curtis Whitson has two strangers to thank for his family being alive today. Two brave hikers plucked a lime green bottle from a river and alerted authorities about the SOS message they found inside." To read more, click here.

--Gear Junkie is reporting that, "Two-and-a-half years after his first step on the Pacific Crest Trail, Will ‘Akuna’ Robinson reached the northern terminus of the Continental Divide Trail. And in doing so, he became the first black man to thru-hike the big three. Completing one of hiking’s crown jewels — the Appalachian Trail (AT), Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), or Continental Divide Trail (CDT) — stands as a bucket list dream for many outdoor enthusiasts. Finishing all three? Most never even attempt it. But while the Triple Crown of hiking welcomes only the hardiest thru-hikers to its ranks each year, none has been a man of color. Until now." To read more, click here.

--Outside online is reporting on the aftermath of a murder in the Malibu State Park campground last year. "When a father of two was shot through his tent in the Southern California park last year, the murder revealed a mysterious trail of previously unpublicized incidents that had happened nearby—and sparked a $90 million lawsuit." To read more, click here.

--REI is reporting that, "A Department of the Interior plan for keeping U.S. national parks open during the record-long 35-day partial government shutdown earlier this year may have broken the law, furthering disagreements over how to manage access to public lands when the executive and legislative branches fail to approve budgets by their deadlines. A Sept. 5 opinion from the nonpartisan federal watchdog Government Accountability Office (GAO) says Trump administration officials broke the law by diverting funds previously approved by Congress for other uses under the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act (FLREA). The law allows parks to collect entrance fees for a dedicated fund to add and enhance the park’s amenities, but per the GAO, the Trump administration stretched its interpretation beyond the limits of the law." To read more, click here.

--SGB Media is reporting that, "America’s outdoor recreation businesses have paid $1.8 billion more in tariffs over the last 11 months (September 2018 to July 2019) compared to the previous period a year ago on affected outdoor products, according to the latest figures from Outdoor Industry Association." To read more, click here.

Camber Outdoors is looking for women in mid-level positions that would like mentors
in the Outdoor Industry.

--SNEWS is reporting that, "Camber Outdoors, the hub for advancing workplace equity in the active-outdoor industries through career opportunities, leadership and entrepreneurship, announces that applications for The Ann Krcik Professional Mentoring Program are now open. Mentees are encouraged to apply before the deadline of October 8, 2019." To read more, click here.

--Dirtbagging is getting harder and harder...

--NBC News is reporting that, "two tourists face criminal charges for taking a dangerously close look at Old Faithful geyser in Yellowstone National Park, officials said. The men were photographed last week at the edge of Old Faithful, peering down into the natural wonder — apparently unaware that they could have been seriously burned, or worse, if the boiling hot water had erupted, as it does every hour." To read more, click here.

--The Sierra Club is reporting that, "the Sierra Club’s Clean Transportation for All campaign works to improve options for public transit powered by clean energy that everyone benefits from, as well as changing land use for more transit-friendly communities. Our Outdoors for All campaign works to ensure everyone has access to the healing power of the outdoors, because access to nature is a human right. Together, we’re working to ensure that everyone, not just a privileged few, can access the great outdoors via affordable, accessible transit. That’s why we’re proud to support the bipartisan Transit to Trails Act, introduced in both the Senate and House this week (H.R. 4273 and S. 2467). The Transit to Trails Act would provide block grants for transportation for low-income communities to visit public lands. With this crucial investment, we can expand access to the outdoors for people across the nation and lessen the burden of polluting car trips on our delicate, sacred public lands." To read more, click here.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Film Review: High Lane

There are a lot of horror-style movies out there that involve climbing in some way. Most of them are not just bad, but are really bad. It's actually somewhat uncommon to come across one that is...mediocre.

The reality of most film of all genres is that it's mediocre. You're often not totally bored. You find some engagement with the characters and then when the movie is over, you quickly forget it. Surprisingly, really bad films tend to stay with you a bit longer.


High Lane (2009) is one of those mediocre films that will likely drop out of my brain shortly after I write this blog. But that doesn't mean that I wasn't engaged by it. For a "horror-thriller" style film, set in the mountains, it was much better than most of its competitors, but that's not really saying much.

Five friends decide to go on a trip to Croatia where they will take a via ferrata route up into the mountains. For those who are uninitiated, via ferrata is a form of climbing where one wears a harness rigged with lobster claws. The via ferrata routes follow cables and ladders -- many of which were set during World War II -- through the mountains. If you fall, the lobster claws attached to your harness will catch you.

In any case the friends are composed of two women and three men. One of the women, Chloé (Fanny Valette), previously dated one of the men, Loïc (Johan Libéreau) and is currently dating one of the other men, Guillaume, (Raphaël Lenglet). This provides a bit of tension throughout the story, and indeed, is one of the subplots that raises this film above many of its competitors.

The group is lead by Fred (Nicolas Giraud), an accomplished climber who is sure that he can bring the group up into the mountains on a via ferreta route that is rusty and falling apart. Needless to say, he doesn't do a good job and the team gets caught in the mountains. And of course, the fact that they're caught is compounded by the fact that there is a delusional psychopath in the mountains that has set traps all over the place and might be a cannibal...or something. All of this leads to where most horror movies lead to, a combination of blood and guts and edge-of-your-seat tension.

There is one scene that is particularly interesting for climbers. The via ferrata completely falls apart and the climbers are stuck with two injured people in the forest above the cliffs. They have a rope, but pretty much nothing else: no gear, no extra clothes, nothing.

One of the great values of a film like this is that we tend to put ourselves in the characters shoes...and I have to admit that this was one time where I wasn't sure what I would do. The situation was incredibly difficult. Especially with the lack of equipment to rig anything. It's scenes like this that make this type of film worth watching. What would you do...?



High Lane is a French film that has been dubbed. This is a bit disconcerting at the start. I generally prefer films that have subtitles. But the dubbing is doubly disconcerting because there are sections in English where the characters lips line up, but then they start speaking in French again. This is annoying. However, the plot is just interesting enough to allow you to forget about the dubbing.

A second larger problem with this film is the way that the director (Abel Ferry) elected to cut together footage that was designed to raise tension.

Here's an example: A character is running. Another character is loading a crossbow. A character is running. Another character is still loading the crossbow. The first character is still running and the music is intense so he must be in danger, but the other character is still loading the crossbow.

Most directors would make three cuts where Ferry elected to make six or seven. The intent to create tension goes on for so long that there is no tension anymore...

Early in this review I noted that there is tension between two male characters over a female character. Though the characters actions are sometimes stupid (like fighting with one another while being hunted by a madman), this little subplot provides a small amount of depth to otherwise flat characters. It also provides a few plot twists that allow for a more interesting story.

The via ferreta sequences are mostly true to the way they would actually be...minus cables randomly breaking. That's a given in this kind of film, and I'm willing to suspend my disbelief. Indeed though, if nothing else, this film gets viewers psyched for cool via ferrata routes

High Lane is an engaging ride that explores some places that other similar mountain thrill-horror movies do not. But that doesn't mean it's a good movie...but if you've got nothing else to do, it might be worth an hour and a half of your time...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 13, 2019

The Birth and Death of a Carabiner

A few weeks ago we put up a post on rope construction. Black Diamond has produced a little video entitled, "The Birth of a Carabiner." The video doesn't dwell on narration or anything else, it's just a quick peak inside a shop where carabiners are made.



Of course, once carabiners are made, a couple are tested from every batch. In other words, this is the death part of this blog.

The following video from Omega Pacific shows a force test on a carabiner. This is an awesome video. It's pretty intense to watch as the tester puts more and more and more pressure on it...



--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 12, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/12/19

Northwest:

--News 10 is reporting that, "A climber died after being seriously injured during a fall on Mount Shasta this weekend. On Saturday, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) received a call from a female stating her climbing partner fell while climbing on Mount Shasta and was unconscious at or near the 11,000 feet level of the mountain. He reportedly fell on Casaval Ridge in the area of Red Banks. The man’s companion and reporting party talked to SCSO’s Search and Rescue (SAR) Coordinator, Deputy Mike Burns via cellular phone and advised him she had to hike to Lake Helen to get a cell signal sufficient to report the incident." To read more, click here.

--A climber was severely injured, suffering a potential pelvic fracture, after taking a fall in Washington Pass. To read more, click here.

Hiking near Hurricane Ridge in Olympic National Park.

--The Peninsula Daily News is reporting that, "Multiple search and rescues in Olympic National Park — including Monday’s rescue of a 15-year-old boy who fell in the Sol Duc River — kept rescue crews busy over the Labor Day weekend. At about 12:12 p.m. Monday Olympic National Park dispatch received a report that the 15-year-old fell into the Sol Duc River and went over Sol Duc Falls, falling up to 50 feet. This incident was one of 71 search and rescue incidents so far this year." To read more, click here.

--The Vancouver Sun is reporting that, "A historic rail trail that was donated to the province by the Trans Canada Trail society could be opened to logging trucks if a government proposal to cancel its trail designation gets the green light, say trail advocates. The Ministry of Forests is seeking to transfer management of a 67-kilometre portion of the Columbia and Western Rail Trail to unspecified agencies to reflect local interests and support 'access for industrial activity,' according to a letter sent to stakeholders soliciting feedback on the plan." To read more, click here.

--Thousands of people worked together to raise money to save a beautiful area from logging in British Columbia. The New York Times is reporting that, "In an unusual crowdsourcing campaign, more than 1,000 students, philanthropists, sailors, businesspeople and others raised 3 million Canadian dollars, or $2.3 million in American currency, that the British Columbia Parks Foundation needed to buy nearly 2,000 acres in Princess Louisa Inlet. Known as the 'Yosemite of the North,' the stunning glacier-carved gorge had been eyed by developers this year." To read more, click here.

--The Statesman Journal is reporting that, "Sudden fame and poor behavior have marred another famous outdoor spot in Oregon. Broken Top Lake, often referred to as No Name Lake, has been closed to camping following a dramatic spike in people visiting and excess amounts of poop at the high alpine destination." To read more, click here.

--Here's a comprehensive report on the state of Forest and Public Lands in Washington State.

Sierra:

--The Los Angeles Times is reporting that, "A 29-year-old woman died in a fall from the cables used to climb Half Dome in Yosemite National Park, officials said Friday. Danielle Burnett, 29, of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., was killed Thursday when she “fell over 500 feet down steep, rocky terrain, and was deceased when park rangers arrived on the scene,” according to a statement from the National Park Service." To read more, click here.

--As of two days ago, the Taboose Fire was 36% contained. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Summit Daily is reporting that, "Nearly two years after a collision at Vail Mountain, Paulina Romero Labra received $750,000 in damages after the case was settled ahead of a scheduled jury trial, according to a news release. The lawsuit stemmed from an incident Dec. 8, 2017, when Labra, of Mexico, and Craig Michel, of Virginia, collided on Lower Lion’s Way trail. Labra’s left humerous was shattered in the crash, and she required surgery to place hardware in her shoulder followed by rehabilitation, according to the release." To read more, click here.

--The Spectrum is reporting that, "The official nonprofit partner of Zion National Park is looking for more than $3.7 billion in funding for projects this coming year — like a $2.5 million visitor center at Cedar Breaks National Monument, a revamp of the east entrance to Zion National Park and money to care for an endangered California condor chick." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Buckrail is reporting that, "Grand Teton National Park Rangers rescued a climber who was stranded on the Middle Teton last weekend. Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received an emergency call from the climber at approximately 7:45 p.m. Saturday, September 7." To read more, click here.

--The New Hampshire Union Leader is reporting that, "A climber was hurt on Cathedral Ledge Sunday morning. Sean Goodrich, 45 of Yarmouth, Maine was climbing with a partner when he slipped. Before a rope could stop his fall, Goodrich hit the cliff face." To read more, click here.

--The Anchorage Daily News is reporting that, a hunter was mauled by a sow brown bear Friday night in the Eureka area northeast of Anchorage, the Alaska State Troopers said. The injured person’s hunting partner ended the attack by shooting the bear dead." To read more, click here.


--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "The Protect Our Winters Action Fund and Climb the Hill 2019 will bring climbers—including Conrad Anker, Tommy Caldwell, Sasha DiGiulian, Quinn Brett and Alex Honnold—to the U.S. Capitol to speak on issues of climate change and land management." It should be noted that AAI Guide Lindsay Fixmer will also attend the Climb the Hill event. To read more, click here.

--Huffpost is reporting that, "if the Trump administration gets its way, approximately 28.3 million acres of federal land across Alaska could be transferred, sold or opened up to extractive development, according to a new Center for American Progress analysis of the federal government’s land management actions in the state." To read more, click here.

--This guy is trying to climb all fourteen 8000-meter peaks in under 1000-days...

--The Banff Mountain Book Festival "Long List" of books and articles in competition has been published. To read more, click here.

--And finally, speaking of Banff, there are five new bolted multi-pitch routes there. Check it out.

Equipment Recalls:

--Decathlon USA has recalled one of their locking carabiners. It appears that these were assembled incorrectly.

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

Film Review: Meru

Conrad Anker and Jimmy Chin have been major names in the climbing world for a long time. Both of the athletes have built themselves into climbing superstars.  Conrad is world famous for his ascents and even made waves in the non-climbing world by finding the body of George Mallory on Mt. Everest. Jimmy is well known for his climbing photography and cinematography.

In 2004, I was living in Las Vegas and guiding in Red Rock Canyon every day. Many of my friends at the time were living the "dirt bag" lifestyle, living out of their cars and getting after it whenever they could. It was then that I met a young climber who had just linked up three huge classic lines in Red Rock. Renan Ozturk linked Epinephrine (5.9, IV), Cloud Tower (5.12a, IV) and Levitation 29 (5.11c, IV) in a single day. I was absolutely amazed. Each of those lines are not only big, but are nowhere near each other...


It didn't surprise me when I started to hear stories about Renan climbing with Conrad and Jimmy. There's no doubt that he had the chops to play in the same world class arena as the other two.

There have been several articles and films that featured each one of these climbers over the last several years. But none of them come close to the aesthetic quality and the human tension that exists in the film, Meru.

Meru tells the story of the three climbers and one mountain: Meru. Or to be more specific, the Shark's Fin of Meru, which is a massive granite peak that combines mountaineering, ice climbing, mixed climbing and A4 big wall climbing skills to ascend. Dozens of parties have tried the route, but no one had succeeded.

Conrad attempted the route in 2003 with Doug Chabot and Bruce Miller, but failed. They simply didn't expect it to be as challenging as it was. The film chronicles his return to the mountain with Renan and Jimmy in 2008 and 2011.



In the course of the film, we discover that all three of the men have dealt with close calls and loss. Conrad's mentor died first, and then his best friend. Renan becomes seriously injured in an avalanche. And Jimmy barely escapes from another avalanche with his life.

The three men all have different reasons for climbing Meru. It was a dream passed down to Conrad from Mugs Stump, his alpine mentor. It was a passion for Jimmy as he slowly brought himself back into the climbing and skiing world from his brush with death. And it was an absolute necessity for Renan to prove to himself that he still is who he was before his accident.

Meru is a beautiful film. The scenery mixed with the expert cinematography is breathtaking. But the real story is the story of the three men, mountain partners who work together to achieve a goal while sealing the bonds of friendship...

There is no doubt that it was a tremendously difficult task to make such a film in such conditions. There were times when I was amazed by the fact that the camera elevates as if by a boom (where did they get a boom in the mountains?) to provide a better shot. There were other times that I was shocked that they kept the camera rolling when someone was clearly in pain or at the edge. And there were times that I was amazed by the fact that they probably had to climb something twice or even three times in order to get a shot. And indeed, I was amazed by the fact that it all came together so seamlessly. Meru is a testament to documentary filmmaking. It is a testament to what can be done...

I had an unusual experience in this film. It was the first documentary-style climbing film that I had ever seen with a non-climber audience. Most of the films that I see like this are at Reel Rock Film Festival, at Banff Film Festival or at 5 Point Film Festival. The people watching films at these types of festivals tend to be like-minded individuals, who don't hyperventilate at the heights depicted or question the motives of the climbers.

It was valuable to have this experience watching the film with non-climbers, in part because hearing the reactions and the gasps of the audience reminded me what a beautiful place the mountains are, and how the images of what we do inspire others. But we need inspiration too. And that's where the value of a movie like this comes into play. Those of us who are not world class climbers need people like Conrad, Jimmy and Renan to inspire us. And a film like Meru does exactly that. It reminds us what is possible...

Jason D. Martin

Climbing Technique: Footwork

Neil Gresham's Climbing Masterclass on youtube is pretty darn good. In the following video, Neil works through the essentials of good footwork. He hits upon all most important types of movement -- edges, smears, pockets, and polished footholds -- and then talks about how to create precision with your feet in all these mediums. It's well worth the watch...


--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 9, 2019

Purcell Prusik Personal Anchor System

The Purcell Prusik is an adjustable personal anchor system. It is designed with an internal prusik-hitch that allows for an adjustable loop.

Many climbers use "Purcells" in a climbing application. This fine, but there are often easier and lighter options. At AAI, we primarily use these in rope rescue applications for personal anchors. We do this for two reasons. First, Purcells are very adjustable, even after they've been clipped to an anchor. And second, the internal prusik can operate as a shock absorber if you fall and shock-load the anchor.

Check out the following video for one way to tie Purcells...


--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 6, 2019

Climbing as a Party of Three on Technical Glaciated Climbs

Climbing as a party of two is common but there are several advantages to climbing as a party of three. One more person to lead, more assistance in the event of an accident, dispersing group gear weight, better sourcing of belay comedy, etc. One key disadvantage is that systems can get more complicated with one more person, and in turn slow down the speed of the party's climbing. Let's look at a few basics for making a party of three successful on glaciated alpine climbs that are more technical- like the North Ridge of Baker. None of these techniques should be tried for the first time on a climb, practice beforehand, and if in doubt seek qualified instruction/guidance- this blogpost should not be your sole source of information on these techniques and should be treated as a "tech tip" rather than an exhaustive how-to.

Glacier Travel
One great plus: three people traveling on a crevassed glacier is better than two! Some will opt to set up the rope so that each end person has extra rope to effect crevasse rescue depending on the situation and techniques practiced.

Climbers travel on the Easton Glacier, Mt. Baker

Caterpillar
For smaller, isolated sections of technical climbing it can be efficient to caterpillar: one person leads, the first follower attaches in the middle of the rope-climbs to the anchor, the second follower ties into the end of the rope and follows after the first follower has completed the pitch. This can potentially save the need for bringing a second rope if the technical sections of a climb are short (<30 meters).

Climbing in caterpillar style on the icy crux step of the North Ridge, Mt. Baker. The leftmost climber is still attached to the previous anchor and will not climb until they are on belay (after the middle climber is done with the pitch).

End-Roping
For moderate snow climbing that is too steep to self-arrest on, and isn't quite steep enough to merit caterpillar or parallel, consider end-roping. This is a common technique used for guiding but can be applicable in recreational climbing as well. The leader climbs- potentially placing gear depending on terrain and comfort, and builds a belay (utilizing their body and/or snow/rock/ice protection), and belays the two climbers on the far end of the rope. For the two climbers on the end: one ties into the end of the rope, the second climber is on a bight knot (an overhand with a cow's tail is common) 6+ feet from the end. It is important that both climbers on the end of the rope work together with their pacing so that slack isn't developed and the distance between them is adjusted as needed (don't want to kick somebody with crampons!).


Tow followers in end-rope formation. On homogenous "smooth" snow/neve terrain, letting the extra rope simply slip downhill is fine and can speed up systems.


 

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad -- 9/5/19

Northwest:

--KRCR7 is reporting that, "KTVL reports that a climber has died after being seriously injured during a fall on Mount Shasta this weekend. On Saturday, the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office received a call from a female stating her climbing partner fell while climbing on Mount Shasta and was unconscious at or near the 11,000 feet level of the mountain." To read more, click here.

--KOMO News is reporting that, "a hiker from Germany died after he was hit by a falling tree on the Pacific Crest Trail. The Skamania County Sheriff's office said Thursday it received a cell phone call at about 4 p.m. Tuesday from a group of hikers on the PCT, northwest of Trout Lake, Washington." To read more, click here.

--The Seattle Times is reporting that, "State officials have canceled a series of public meetings about possible changes to the state’s wolf-management policy, citing fear of violence. The Washington state Department of Fish and Wildlife had planned 14 public meetings from Spokane to Montesano to kick off  a yearslong process of creating a new wolf-management policy, once wolves are no longer protected under the state and federal endangered species acts." To read more, click here.

--KGW8 is reporting that, "Two years after a fire consumed trails and forests in the scenic Columbia River Gorge, the popular Eagle Creek Trail is in the final phases of reopening to the public." To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--From the Bishop Area Climbers Coalition: "Attention Owens River Gorge Gorge aficionados! The Gorge will be CLOSED TO THE PUBLIC from September 9-17. LADWP will be releasing substantially higher-than-normal flows down the Gorge for maintenance during this time. Please respect this closure in order to keep yourself safe and to help us ensure the future of climber access in the Gorge. (Also, it's too hot there anyway :P ) We will soon update our website's dedicated ORG page (https://bishopclimbers.org/owensrivergorge) with this info, including the official LADWP press release and links to monitor the flood levels."

Colorado and Utah:

--Summit Daily is reporting that, "A Boulder man was airlifted from Rocky Mountain National Park after sustaining serious injuries in a fall while climbing Hallett Peak on Friday. Park rangers responded in the early morning on Aug. 30 to a 63-year-old man who had taken a 15 to 20 foot roped fall from the Englishman’s Route. The man was approximately four pitches up when he fell and sustained serious injuries." To read more, click here.

Forest bathing is not about bathing in a creek, but bathing in nature...

--Forest bathing...? The Daily Beast says, "it'ss a Japanese practice that has become popular around the world, and the Rocky Mountains in particular are experiencing a surge in interest." It's not swimming or skinny dipping, "'taking in the forest atmosphere,' emphasizes the importance of slowing down to connect with nature. It was developed in Japan during the 1980s and has become a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in modern Japanese medicine." To read more, click here.

--So Castleton Tower in Moab, hums...

Notes from All Over:

--WKYT is reporting that in Kentucky, "The Wolf County Search and Rescue Team completed three rescues Saturday during the busy holiday weekend." Some of these rescues were hikers and others were climbers. To read more, click here.

--Outdoor Sportswire is reporting that, "a new, multi-resort ski pass, called the Indy Pass, is now on sale for the 2019-2020 season that will provide two lift tickets – 68 total days – at each of 34 independently owned resorts for just $199. Indy Pass resorts provide an uncrowded and welcoming experience for individuals and families seeking great snow and varied terrain. In addition, vacation getaways at these quaint ski areas cost a small fraction of what major resorts charge for comparable stays." To read more, click here.

--In related news, Teton Gravity Research is reporting that, "the Ikon Pass has just announced a partnership with Zermatt Matterhorn Ski Resort, its first European destination. Full Ikon passholders will get seven days at the resort with no blackout dates, and Ikon Base passholders will get five, also with no blackouts. This addition brings Ikon's total resort count up to 41, spread over five continents." To read more, click here.

--Politico is reporting that, "Dominion Energy wants to run a massive pipeline across America’s treasured Appalachian National Scenic Trail and some of the least developed wildlands remaining in the East. This isn’t just a bad idea, it’s an unprecedented one. Dominion, the Virginia-based power giant that serves customers in 18 states, wants to do something that has never been done in the half century since the iconic hiking path was enshrined in law: force a pipeline across the Appalachian Trail on federal land managed by the Forest Service." To read more, click here.

--GearJunkie and many others are reporting that, “'E-bikes are allowed where traditional bicycles are allowed.'” In a policy memo released today, the National Park Service (NPS) succinctly formalizes an increasingly popular stance across many U.S. states governing the use of e-bikes on public lands." To read more, click here.

--Montana Public Radio is reporting that, "Yellowstone National Park staff are working to reroute backpackers southeast of Yellowstone Lake after the Brimstone Fire grew to an estimated 80 acres Wednesday evening." To read more, click here.

--This is random. A ex-Royal Marine left a rowing machine near the summit of Mont Blanc. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

An Alternative Classics Tour of Boulder, CO

Boulder and the surrounding areas are home to literally thousands of rock routes. From Dream Canyon's China Doll (II, 5.14-) to the Direct East Face of the First Flatiron (II, 5.6) there is an incredible spectrum of offerings...where does one even start? In this article we'll recommend climbs at each grade from 5.6 to 5.12 that you may not have heard of. Recommendations are made on the basis of quality, and not to be taken as routes that are necessarily the best protected climbs.

A climber follows March of Dimes in Eldorado Canyon

5.6
West Chimney to Icarus, Eldorado Canyon (4-5 pitches, 5.6R)

Two shorter "approach pitches" of 5.6 via the West Chimney (and yes, it is an actual chimney) takes climbers to a scrambling pitch to the base of Icarus. The three pitches of Icarus are fun, airy, and the final pitch is the same as the Yellow Spur- an incredible arete high above the Canyon floor. Climbers should be confident climbing 5.6 with poor protection (the final pitch is where the "R" rating comes from).

A climber enjoys the final arete pitch on Icarus
5.7
North Face Center, Boulder Canyon (2-3 pitches, 5.7+)

This shady climb is perfect for those hot summer days as it faces North. Take a fun tyrolean traverse across Boulder Creek to clean granite crack climbing for 2-3 pitches depending on how one pitches it out. The descent is a short and amicable walk-off.

5.8
Gambit, Eldorado Canyon (4 pitches, 5.8)

Gambit offers a variety of different climbing styles for 4 pitches up Shirttail peak- the highest point in Eldorado Canyon. It is indeed a further walk than other Eldorado canyon routes but 45 minutes is well worth this high quality climb.

A climber on the final moves of Gambit, Eldorado Canyon

5.9
Green Spur, Eldorado Canyon (4-5 pitches, 5.9)

The Yellow Spur gets a ton of attention, and rightfully so, but the Green Spur is also a high quality classic and rarely has the same crowds.

5.10
Outer Space, Eldorado Canyon (4 pitches, 5.10)

This undisputed classic protects (relatively) quite well with modern trad gear and should not be missed for competent 5.10 trad leaders. Start on the Bastille Crack for two pitches before busting right on a wild traverse to two pitches of extremely exposed climbing.

A party on Outerspace, Eldorado Canyon.

5.11
Vertigo, Eldorado Canyon (4 pitches, 5.11b)

This well-protected climb offers truly classic climbing in Eldorado Canyon with a beautiful dihedral and an imposing roof that offers unparalleled exposure.

5.12
Thunderdome, Boulder Canyon (1 pitch, 5.12-)
This one pitch classic offers quality granite crack climbing on trad gear and is a must for the grade.

One final recommendation!
Hands of Destiny, Boulder Canyon (2 pitches, 5.12+)

This gem was first climbed on trad gear and later retro-bolted, making it quite popular present day for those climbing at the grade.

This list is the tip of the tip of the iceberg- there are too many routes to climb in a single lifetime!

A climber enjoys the moderate second pitch of Wind Ridge, Eldorado Canyon. 



Monday, September 2, 2019

What Else is There Besides Denali in Alaska?


“Were you on Mount McKinley, or is it Denali?” Is a common question asked when returning to the village of Talkeetna after an expedition in the Alaska Range. Given that Denali is the highest peak in North America, it’s no surprise that the thousands of other peaks (both named and unnamed) in the range aren’t on many people’s radar amongst the general public. The reality: the Alaska Range has several lifetime’s worth of skiing and climbing expeditions on peaks…that aren’t "the big three" (Denali, Foraker, and Hunter). For those of you who have never thought about what else such a mountain range can hold, read on…peaks other than Denali have been in the spotlight for decades. All of the below destinations are also incredible options for guided trips, given the prerequisite experience has been met.

Base Camp on the Ruth Glacier in the Ruth Gorge

Ruth Gorge 


Home to peaks like Moose’s Tooth and Mount Dickey, The Ruth Gorge is among the most classic alpine playgrounds in the World. While the majority of the routes in this area are extremely difficult, moderate routes such as “Ham and Eggs” (V, 5.9 AI4) on the Moose’s Tooth or the West Face (II, 40 degrees) on Mount Dickey keeps an expedition in the Ruth “doable” for a variety of ability levels. March-May is typically the ice, snow, and mixed climbing season with June-August being the alpine rock season.
A climber approaches Japanese Couloir (III, 50-70 degrees) on Mt. Barrille

Little Switzerland

The Pika glacier is home to the area affectionately referred to as “Little Switzerland” and is an incredible destination for skiing and rock climbing. For many, this will be among the most amicable options given the relatively smaller nature of objectives here. March-Early May is generally the ski season, with the alpine rock season kicking off from June through July. Some of the class rock routes include “South Face” (III, 5.8) on Middle Troll or “Lost Marsupial” (III, 5.8) on the Throne.

A skier practices crevasse rescue on the Pika Glacier

Mt. Huntington

Mt. Huntington is a breath-taking peak that offers classic ice and mixed climbing on a big peak. The two most commonly climbed routes are “West Face Couloir” (V, 85 degrees) and Harvard Route (V, 5.9, A2, 70 degrees). Both of these routes are not necessarily great introductory routes for Alaskan climbing (depending on your previous experience) but are well worth working towards.

Cathedral Spires of the Kichatnas

Commonly named the “Kichatna Spires”, this area is one of the most unique zones in the Alaska Range. Dozens of golden granite spires erupt from the various glaciers that spiral together to form a beautiful vertical jungle. It is likely that you will be the only other people you see while you’re in here, providing one of the most serene destinations on this list. The most common type of climbing that is done here is big wall climbing, but high quality ice/mixed climbing also exists.

A climber negotiates a ridge straddling the Cool Sac and the Tatina Glacier.
This list is extremely far from being exhaustive, don’t forget that the Alaska Range is over 600 miles long…there is much exploration left to be done.