Thursday, October 31, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/31/19


--Several parcels of land near Murrin Park in Squamish are to be returned to the First Nations. Some of these parcels have a significant amount of climbing on them. To read more, click here.

--The bridge to the Big Four Ice Caves has been removed. To read more, click here.


--There was a fatality on Mt. Sill on October 22nd. From the Inyo County Sheriff's office:

MT. SILL (PALISADES), CA. October 22, 2019 – On October 20 (late afternoon), two hikers/mountaineers were descending the L-shaped snowfield below Mt. Sill when one slipped and tumbled approximately 300-400 feet sustaining unknown but serious injuries. His partner notified the Inyo County Sheriff’s Office through the use of a satellite communication device.

Due to the location and seriousness of the reported injuries, aerial support was requested. Sadly, the patient succumbed to his injuries prior to the arrival of the helicopter. CHP Inland Division Air Operations made an attempt to hoist the fall victim that night but was unable to land due to the high elevation (~13,200'), and gusty north winds. 

On October 21, at noon, six Inyo Search and Rescue team members were inserted about 100 feet below the location via Chinook. Team members hoisted the deceased from his location around 2:30pm, and returned to the Bishop Airport where custody was transferred to the Inyo County Coroner.

--The Los Angeles Times is reporting that, "Two hikers discovered human remains near Mt. Williamson in Inyo County this month, and according to the Sheriff’s Office, the bones may have been there for decades. Tyler Hofer and his climbing partner spotted the remains Oct. 7 beneath a boulder on the far side of the Williamson Bowl. Hofer, a dedicated climber for eight years, said he noticed something white popping out from the gray rocks. He assumed it was a bone, possibly belonging to some sort of animal. But when the two hikers moved the rocks aside, the entirety of a human skeleton, including a skull, appeared buried beneath." To read more, click here.

--The San Francisco Chronicle is reporting that, "A coalition of outdoor recreation stakeholder groups has sued the U.S. Forest Service in an effort to bar e-bikes from non-motorized trails in Tahoe National Forest." To read more, click here.

--Oh yeah, and a 9-year-old just climbed El Cap!

Desert Southwest:

--It appears that someone is spray-painting dots along trails in Red Rock Canyon.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Summit Daily is reporting that, "Arapahoe Basin Ski Area will charge $30 this season for uphill access skiing and snowboarding. Season passholders will not have to pay the fee." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Rock and Ice has an In Memorium up for Steve Wunsch, who passed away Friday, October 25, at the age of 72. Steve was one of the top climbers of his era in the sixties and seventies. To read more, click here.

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "Nirmal “Nims” Purja has set a new mark for the shortest amount of time to climb the 14 peaks in the world over 8,000 meters, accomplishing the task in a just 6 months 6 days. The 36-year-old Nepalese climber—a former Gurkha in the British military—obliterated the former record, held by Korean climber Kim Chang-Ho.  When Chang-Ho climbed his last 8,000er in May 2013, he set the record for all 14 8,000ers at 7 years 10 months 6 days. Purja managed to do it 7 years and 4 months quicker." To read more, click here.

--Snews is reporting that, "Brady Robinson will take the helm from outgoing executive director, John Sterling, to lead The Conservation Alliance. Robinson was most recently the director of strategy and development for Tompkins Conservation, creating terrestrial and marine national parks in Chile and Argentina. Before that, he led the Access Fund for 11 years." To read more, click here.

--The first reports of skier triggered avalanches are coming in from Montana. To read more, click here.

--The Trump administration would like to privatize National Park Service campgrounds. To read more, click here.

--RMO Today in Canmore is reporting that, "a hiker with an off-leash dog was injured in a defensive attack by a mamma grizzly bear last week, forcing a massive closure on the north side of the Bow Valley to protect people and wildlife." To read more, click here.

--A climber who lost his partner in Nepal has also been banned from the country for engaging in an illegal expedition. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Learning from Mistakes of Others: Causes of Climbing Accidents in Boulder, Colorado

The Rocky Mountain Rescue Group is the premier rescue organization in Boulder County. They do dozens of rescues in Eldorado Canyon, Boulder Canyon, and in the Flatirons every year.

In 2012, the team wrote a research paper on the types of accidents that they respond to. Additionally, they put together a presentation for the general public on they types of rescues they participate in. The presentation -- run by Rocky Mountain Rescue Members Dan Lack and Alison Sheets -- is incredibly informative and should be a required watch for every climber. It addresses all the things that you should and should not do to avoid an accident.

Check out the presentation below:

One of the most shocking parts of the team's presentation is that sixty-percent of the rescues they respond to every year could have been prevented. Following is a breakdown of some of the common accidents that the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group has dealt with over the years that could have been avoided:

The preceding items seem like common sense, but the reality is that these are the things that lead to the most rescues and recoveries. Saying that things are common sense is different than actually using common sense. Nobody wants to be the one who had to call for a rescue because they did something stupid...

Another point that is made during this presentation is that they don't charge for rescue. This is true in most places throughout the United States. If you think you need a rescue, call for a rescue. It's better to call and change your mind, than not to call and then need it. Mountain rescue units take a long time to deploy. And so, if you wait to call, the response time will be longer.

Finally, remember that your local SAR or mountain rescue unit likely operates on a combination of donations and volunteers. You may not ever need them, but it's really good that they're there. Consider making a donation to your local unit, or even better, consider volunteering. Money is a good way to give back, but time is even better.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, October 28, 2019

Adaptive Climbing Techniques

Oregon State University put together a good primer on how to manage adaptive climbers. They include three different systems in the following video:
  1. 5:1 System (for people who have limited strength)
  2. Pull-Up Bar Ascender (for people who don't have use of their legs)
  3. Wheelchair Transfer to a Rappel (for people who don't have use of their legs)
There's some specialized equipment used in this video, but most of it is reasonably priced.

Some side notes:
  1. An MMO is a munter-mule overhand.
  2. The 5:1 is set-up upside down, it's a 4:1. It should also be noted that with a 5:1 you have to belay 5-feet of rope for every foot the climber moves. That's why she's working so hard
  3. An Aztek Kit is a rope rescue tool that is exactly the same as the 5:1 she created earlier in the video. If it's set-up upside down, it's a 4:1.
This video isn't perfect. There are some things that could be done a little better here or there, but it is an excellent introduction to adaptive climbing and the way a few systems work in that world.

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Film Review: Everest

I had significant concerns about the film, Everest. In the trailer, it looks suspiciously like the same type of garbage that we saw in films like Cliffhanger and Vertical Limit. I was also very concerned that Hollywood was going to create something out of the 1996 Everest Tragedy that was disrespectful to both those that died and those that lived...

Arguably, the 1996 Everest Tragedy is one of the most well known incidents in the history of mountaineering. The film binds together several books, including Jon Krakauer's best selling Into Thin Air, Anatoli Boukreev's The Climb, and Beck Weathers' Left for Dead. But these books are by no means the only narratives out there. Several other books were written about the incident as well, including, After the Wind, by Lou Kasischke, Everest: Mountain without Mercy, by Broughton Coburn, Climbing High: A Woman's Account of Surviving the Everest Tragedy, by Lene Gammelgaard, and A Day to Die For, by Graham Ratcliffe.

Many of the books paint different individuals as heroes or villains. But they don't all paint the same people as heroes or villains. Indeed, they tend to contradict one another, and it has always been difficult to work one's way through the conflicting narratives to find the "true" story.

That said, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the film did little to paint anyone as a hero or a villain. Instead, it does it's best to find a few central threads in a large cast of characters to tell the story of two tragic days in May of 1996. And it does find those threads, primarily in the story of Rob Hall (Jason Clarke), the New Zealand mountain guide who died high on the mountain and in Beck Weathers (Josh Brolin), a pathologist from Texas who survived a brutal night on the mountain.

The film's primary weakness is also it's strength. We are interested in Rob and Beck, but there are so many others on the mountain that it's hard to follow them all. Those of us who have read extensively about the incident are capable of keeping a large number of them straight, but it becomes significantly harder when the characters don down suits and oxygen masks. I was reminded of Black Hawk Down in this way. It's similar to that film in that everyone is dressed the same, there are a lot of characters and it's hard to keep everyone straight.

There are a few real people who were not covered in the film as well as they were in the different books. These include Scott Fisher (Jake Gyllenhaal), the famous American mountain guide; Sandy Hill-Pitman (Vannessa Kirby), the New York socialite; Anatoli Boukreev (Ingvar Eggert SigurĂ°sson) the Russian high altitude guide; and John Krakauer (Michael Kelly), the now best selling author. Each of these individuals appear in the film, but they regularly fade into the background.

The preceding list includes several of the most controversial people on the mountain. Each of these individuals has been both lionized and condemned in the different accounts. Indeed, both Jon Krakauer and Sandy Hill-Pittman (now going by Sandy Hill) have come out to defend their actions on the mountain. Krakauer has even stated the the film is "total bull."

Certainly Everest doesn't make either of the two look good. Neither of them come out smelling like roses, but it doesn't condemn them either. Honestly, neither of them are in the film enough to truly paint them as much more than one dimensional figures (I'm a reporter!/I'm a socialite!).

And while Krakauer and Pittman have commented on the film, Fisher and Boukreev are no longer here to do so. Fisher died in the tragedy, and Boukreev died a few years later. Neither of the men are portrayed negatively -- Boukreev rightfully looks like a hero -- and Fisher seems like a laid back hippie who believes it will all work out. Boukreev was criticized for guiding without bottled oxygen, and Fisher was criticized for that same laid back style, a style that previously had provided a lot of success.

There is one major problem with the overall Everest narrative. Something didn't feel right about the film. It wasn't until I read, What Disaster Films Miss about Death by James Douglas that I understood. It is really really really hard for a filmmaker to honestly and effectively portray a character who slowly loses the will to live. Hollywood films are all about fighting. Characters fight foes both internal and external. So it's incredibly hard for someone who comes from that background to effectively portray a very realistic non-dramatic death in the mountains...

The most unfortunate thing about this is that Everest is about the best that we can expect from Hollywood. They spent a tremendous amount of money on the film. But without real Himalayan climbers behind both the development of the script and the film shoot, there will never be a completely narrative film the comes out of Hollywood, that "gets it right."

That said Everest is visually stunning. Much of the film was shot in Nepal and feels authentic. And they clearly tried really hard to make the who film feel real. This level of attempted verisimilitude is damaged by two scenes. In the first, Beck Weathers nearly falls off a ladder crossing a crevasse. But of course, there's ice fall and heavy breathing and scary music and it's just dumb. Also the fixed line he's attached to has an unlocked carabiner.

In the second, Doug Hansen (John Hawkes), falls off a fixed line somehow and goes ripping down the Lhotse Face...that is until Rob Hall tackles him and self arrests, presumably stopping both of them from sliding off the mountain. After the incident, no one questions why Hansen apparently wasn't on the fixed rope that everyone else was on. It's another dumb moment in a mostly well done film.

And though there is a little bit of Vertical Limit in the aforementioned scenes, and the script could have been better in a few areas, and maybe they needed a little bit more guidance from real Himalayan climbers here and there, the bulk of the film is pretty good and is worth watching...especially for those who have some knowledge of the tragedy.

Everest is certainly not the last word on the 1996 Tragedy. That particular incident will continue to be discussed and debated for decades to come. But for now it presents a perspective on what happened, and it does so in a way that is about as engaging and thoughtful as possible for such a sprawling event...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, October 21, 2019

Let's Do the Trucker's Hitch!!!

So the odd little band Ylvis, the same band that's responsible for "What's the Fox Say?" has a song out about nothing other than the Trucker's Hitch. And yeah, it's pretty funny.

Check it out, below:

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/17/19

Climate Crisis:

--Here's a great piece on how influencers are using their power to fight climate change in the halls of Congress...


--AAI Guide and Executive Director, Jason Martin, was recently interviewed on the Building Champions podcast. He talks about leadership, in both the mountains and in business. To hear the podcast, click here.

--The Statesman Journal is reporting that, "Hiking and camping in three of Oregon's most popular wilderness areas will cost a bit more beginning in 2020. Any overnight trip and some day-hikes would cost at least $4 to $11 for a permit to enter the Three Sisters, Mount Jefferson and Mount Washington wilderness areas, under a proposal from the U.S. Forest Service issued Tuesday. But longer backpacking trips, especially with a family, could get a lot more expensive." To read more, click here.

--The Northwest Weather and Avalanche Center put it succinctly. "If there's enough snow to ride, then there's enough snow to slide." Read their early season fall statement for your region.

--The American Alpine Institute will be hosting Conrad Anker on November 14th at the Mt. Baker Theatre. Proceeds from his talk will go to Protect Our Winters and to the Whatcom Family YMCA. To read more, or to purchase tickets, click here.

--Mt. Baker Highway to Artist Point is closed for the winter.


--Here is a great story and some photos from the 2019 Yosemite Facelift.

Desert Southwest:

--The Access Fund is reporting that, "Oak Flat outside of Phoenix, Arizona is home to hundreds of sport climbing routes and thousands of bouldering problems, and it is also considered sacred to several Native American tribes. This exceptional area is squarely in the crosshairs of Resolution Copper, a foreign mining company who is set to take ownership of this public land through a shady land exchange deal." To read more, click here.

--The Las Vegas Sun is reporting that, "Fifteen environmental organizations have identified five principles they would like to see reflected in an anticipated Clark County public lands bill that, as drafted, would modify protected areas and open more than 56,000 acres of Bureau of Land Management land to development. Public lands legislation in Nevada should balance conservation, recreation and development needs and should result in 'a substantial net conservation gain,' the local, regional and national organizations state in a letter sent last week to officials in Clark County and to the Nevada congressional delegation." To read more, click here.

--The Hill has posted an opinion about the priorities of the new BLM director. "Acting BLM Director William Perry Pendley told the Society of Environmental Journalists in Colorado on Friday that wild horses were the biggest problem facing federal public lands in the West. The silliness of this statement becomes obvious when one considers that wild horses don’t exist on more than 85 percent of BLM lands, and where they do occur, they have to share the range with domestic livestock which typically have an even bigger impact on the land." To read more, click here.

--Netflix has a film coming out about a little girl and a rattlesnake bite...but the first aid for it seems a little weird. If you like spooky movies that have an "outdoor" element, check out this trailer:

Colorado and Utah:

--Arapahoe Basin opened for a couple of hours last Friday, making it the first ski area to open in the United States. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--This is an amazing rescue. A small plane got stuck in the cables for a ski lift in the Italian Alps. Rescuers were able to get both the pilot and the passenger to the ground without injury.

--Well, it was bound to happen. After President Trump said his wall couldn't be climbed, and that climbers confirmed that, several climbers scaled a replica in seconds to disprove such a preposterous claim. One even did it while juggling. To read more and see videos, click here.

Photo: Katmai National Park

--Fat bear week came and went. Click here to see Holly, the bear that won. She never stopped eating all summer and got quite rotund...

--There is a new three-pitch WI 4 in Alberta's Ghost River Valley. To read about it, click here.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

The Alpine Quickdraw

There are two ways to stow a shoulder-length runner. The first way is to simply sling it over your shoulder; and the second is to "triple-it" or turn it into a an alpine quickdraw.

If you prefer to keep runners slung over your shoulder, you should keep them oriented the same direction so that they don't get tangled. You should also consider leaving one carabiner on each runner. If they are pre-rigged with carabiners, then it is easy to simply clip the other end directly into a cam. Cams should also all be racked with their own carabiners to make this a quick and simple operation.

I usually carry some of my slings over my shoulder and others on my harness. Those on my harness are set-up as alpine quickdraws so that I can easily extend them.

Michael Silitch worked as an AAI guide for many years in the Cascades and Alaska Range and now guides for the Institute part time in the French and Swiss Alps. He has put together a nice, short video on how to make an alpine quickdraw. Check it out below:


Some climbing skills -- such as rope tricks and knots -- are best practiced on the ground. I like to refer to these skills as "TV watching skills." In other words, these are things you should practice while zoning out in front of the boob tube so that you have them completely dialed. The alpine quickdraw is just such a skill. Get it wired when it's not critical and it will be easy to make or open up when you are in cruxy situation on the sharp end of the rope...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, October 14, 2019

The Piton

We don't really use pitons very much anymore. Some climbers will use them on mixed mountain routes and other will use them for high end aid climbing, but even in these venues pins are certainly less used than in the past.


There are two reasons. First, modern clean climbing equipment like nuts and cams have replaced the widespread need for pins. And second, modern pitons tend to damage the rock. Every pin placement subtly changes things until you have very well-defined pin scars.

The Canadian guide Mike Barter has put together a very nice video on pitons and piton placement. Check it out below:

There are two notes that I'd like to make about Mike's cleaning method.

First, some climbers will use a "cleaner carabiner" that they clip to the pin while pounding on it. This is then attached to the climber. This is so that the pin is not dropped while taking it out. The cleaner carabiner is commonly a very old and very beat-up carabiner. It's important that it is not a carabiner that you will be climbing on, as it will likely be struck by the hammer when the pin is being cleaned.

And second, Mike clips two quick draws together to pull the pin out. While this is fine for an occasional pin, climbers on big walls that require a lot of hammering will use a funkness device to pull out pitons. This is essentially a metal cable that has been designed specifically for this purpose. To see a funkness device, please click here.

Practicing with pitons is a tricky thing. The fact that they damage the rock makes them heavily frowned upon. I would strongly suggest that ground-school with this kind of hardware should take place primarily in areas where there is little to no climbing, otherwise someone may get very upset at you...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, October 11, 2019

Route Profile: East Face Standard, Third Flatiron

The Third Flatiron, perched about Boulder, CO, is a fantastic outing at a very moderate level. Many would argue this is one of the finest introductory multi-pitch climbs on the continent, with 800-1,000 feet of climbing at low to mid 5th class. As always, the route information below is no substitute for good judgement/experience/instruction and should not be relied on in any capacity. Keep in mind that there are many different variations to this route (most any pitch, variations are quite climbable 20+ feet to either side of the standard line, though leader protection may be more variable/difficult to find).

The third flatiron, can you see the large CU on the east face's upper reaches?
The approach can be done a few different ways, but allow for ~45 minutes at an average, casual pace. Pitch one begins at the top of the approach trail, with a gentle traverse. Anchoring the belayer at the tree immediately where the pitch starts is highly recommended given the anticipated load (in the event that the leader fell) would naturally pull the belayer off their stance, sideways. Pitch one ends in a variety of different places, but it is common to belay after crossing the "gully".

A climber near one of the belay options on the first pitch. In the center left part of the photo climbers are about to start the first pitch.
Pitches 2-4 can be pitched out in a variety of ways, but regardless, the general line is directly straight up. Aiming for the large eye bolts can be helpful but they can be quite difficult to find and aren't necessary to climb the route.

The beige line of rock going across the photo is the bottom of the "C" and is a common belay spot.
Years ago, Boulder's most famous vandalism occurred on this route with large 50 foot letters getting painted onto the rock's face, spelling out CU (Colorado University- where it's main campus is located in Boulder). The CU is a useful landmark for route-finding by looking for the lightly colored rock.

A gentle upward traverse across the C makes up pitch 4/5 depending on how parties pitched out the climbing below. The gully at the top right side of the CU is quite moderate and has an eye bolt marking the route, with a very short downclimb before crossing to the upper face. Crossing this gully in several places other than what was just described would involve hard down climbing or a rappel.

From the eye bolt at the top right of the C, two pitches are typically done, with airy exposure and fun friction climbing. These generally are directly trending straight up above the belay, with the final pitch trending right at the very end.

A climber on the final few feet of friction climbing before reaching the summit.
The rappels are done in a variety of ways, but a common way to do them: one long rappel (with a 60 meter rope) skipping a set of chains right next to a large block and heading down to the final anchors (there are two different anchors, a single eye bolt and a more modern two-bolt w/chains rap station). Pulling the rope from further right may assist the drag and chances of a stuck rope. For the last rappel, VERY IMPORTANT, there are signs attached to the anchors describing the rappel lengths depending on which side you rap off the ledge. One side requires two ropes, the other side is a 70 foot rappel and is easily done with one 60 meter rope. Take your time, leave knots in the ends of your rope and be deliberate about which side of the anchor ledge you are rappelling off of.

A climber almost done with the last rappel.
The East Face of the Third Flatiron is a must-do for every climber (who has the requisite experience). The exposure, the scenery, and the "type one fun" nature of this route will leave most any climber grinning from ear to ear as they finish the last rappel. Hiking back to the car, many may even try to climb a moderate boulder problem or two as they make the ~40 minute jaunt back, topping off this quintessential  Boulder outing.


Thursday, October 10, 2019

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


--The American Alpine Institute will be hosting Conrad Anker on November 14th at the Mt. Baker Theatre. Proceeds from his talk will go to Protect Our Winters and to the Whatcom Family YMCA. To read more, or to purchase tickets, click here.

--Seattle Mountain Rescue is hosting an event on October 24th at the Seattle REI on the most common types of backcountry rescues and how to avoid them. Check out their Facebook event page, here.

--Last week, the Squamish Access Society presented their 2019 Golden Scrub Brush Awards. These bi-annual awards are given to route developers who put in time and effort to create new lines in Squamish. To read more, click here.


--The Sierra Sun is reporting that, "It may be early fall, but Boreal Mountain Resort has already fired up its snowmaking equipment in preparation for the 2019-20 winter season. The resort began making snow on Monday, testing gear, priming lines, and aiming guns where they need to be for a prompt opening once conditions are ripe." To read more, click here.

--The Taboose Fire is 75% contained, but there are still some closures and smoky conditions on Highway 395. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--If you're climbing in Las Vegas, keep an eye out for this guy's gear. His truck and all his gear was stolen...

A climber on Caustic (5.11b) in Red Rock Canyon.
Photo by Caden Martin

--In related news, it appears that there is a rise in theft in Red Rock, primarily on vehicles that have unlocked doors. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Aspen Daily News is reporting that, "Emergency personnel rescued a sick climber near Capitol Lake on Saturday and airlifted him to Aspen Valley Hospital, according to a news release from the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office." To read more, click here.

--The Hill is reporting that, "A federal judge on Monday ruled that legal action can proceed against the Trump administration's move to reduce the size of Utah's Bears Ears National Monument and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument." To read more, click here.

--Outside has an interesting take on the National Park Service's decision to allow ATVs in Utah's National Parks. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--So after the president said that he had 20 mountain climbers try to climb his border wall, and nobody in the climbing community knew what he was talking about, a guy in Kentucky built a replica of the wall. This weekend there's going to be a climbers competition to see, not if anyone could climb it, but how fast. To read more, click here.

--The annual Night of Lies will take place in Canmore on October 11th. Famously, this is a night where several select climbers tell mildly embellished stories about their exploits. It has become an important piece of Canadian climbing culture. To read more, click here.

--It's exciting for the SAR and mountain rescue communities to see drones used effectively in searches. Check out this article on a successful search with a drone.

--The ice season is already here in the Canadian Rockies. According to Gripped, "Niall Hamill and Patrick Maguire made the first ascent of Tourist Trap, a 500-metre 5.8 WI3 on Mount Babel near Moraine Lake above the town of Lake Louise." To read more, click here.

--Patagonia is trying to reduce its environmental footprint at the Outdoor Retailer Show. To read about it, click here.

--And finally, a deer jumped through the window of a Long Island hair salon. Check out the security video of the chaos below:

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

The Professional Lowdown on Mountain Weather Sources: Benefits/Limitations and Application of Each

As a guide, I spend nearly every day of the year analyzing mountain weather. Throughout my experience, I learned about many different weather products that each have their place; but, like systems used in the mountains, require very specific application to be relevant. My guests often ask me about the pros/cons of each weather source I use; so, to answer to this demand, as well as your own, here’s a discussion of my favorite weather products. This post will focus on products specifically to planning your alpine climbing adventures. Enjoy!

Product Name: SpotWx (

SpotWx Forecast Options for Mt. Baker.
• Utilizes GPS point location for your forecast anywhere on Earth. Hence, forecast spatial scale and accuracy are quite good.
• One product offers many options for weather models depending on 1) how small of a spatial scale (i.e. area you want your forecast for) and 2) how long your temporal scale you want (i.e. how far in the future do you want your forecast for)
• Weather data presented in a meteogram format that is generally pretty easy to understand
• Pieces of data I’ve found most accurate: -cloud cover, -winds, -pressure

• Requires some expert-knowledge to know which weather model is good for what
• Doesn’t offer percent chance of precip like many other forecasts do (only offers precip. amount)
• Utilizes weather models rather than recorded data from a weather station
• Pieces of data I’ve found least accurate: -precip likelihood.


Generally this is my most used source when I’m alpine guiding in summer months on Mt. Baker, North Cascades, WA Pass, etc. It’s particularly powerful in these applications because of the spatial accuracy of the GPS point forecast, which can give me a specific forecast for a remote, mountainous region; but also because it offers both small-scale, short term forecasts and large-scale long- term forecasts. Hence using one website, I can fetch information on both exactly what is planning to happen tomorrow (with very good accuracy) and what is happening next week.

Product Name: Mountain Forecast (

Screenshot of a Mountain Forecast Weather Forecast for Mt. Baker.
• Specific to a certain mountain
• One of the few forecasts that has FLs and weather at multiple elevation bands
• Generally a long-enough temporal scale to be useful (forecast goes out 6 days)

• Notoriously inaccurate at forecasting cloud cover
• Because it’s just a presentation of data, it’s unknown as to where the data is coming from
• Not all mountains you want to climb are represented in the database


Okay so this one’s probably not that new to people, but I’d like to highlight what pieces of data are best in an alpine-climbing context. I use this in tandem with SpotWx because SpotWx doesn’t give me data for multiple elevation bands on a single mountain. This one does, and this is its greatest asset. I use this for FLs and temperatures. I’ve found the cloud cover to be WAYY off on this product; but hey, that’s why I use it in tandem with SpotWx.

Product Name: Meteocentre (

Example of a snapshot of the precipitation loop on Meteocentre.
• Great overall depiction of storms, major fronts, etc
• One website has data on forecasts, surface analyses, satellite imagery, radar, etc
• Utilizes multiple weather models and weather products, so once you gain experience with a specific model, can be quite dependable

• Whole website is in French, so need a browser with a translation function
• Requires some meteorology knowledge to interpret diagrams
• Depicts the overall weather situation, rather than specific data


Last but not least, I use this source to get a general idea of what kind of major weather system is happening in my area. Where Mountain Forecast and SpotWx lack is in the department of only showing weather model data, rather than the model itself. This is where Meteocentre shines. After selecting a model loop of your choice, you can view animations of the overall weather set-up for a large area (i.e. all of N. America, Europe, etc). This is useful to know if, or when a major storm is about to arrive, and whether you’ve got mostly H pressure (send it!) or L pressure (it’s about to get stormy).

That’s all for now! If you have any questions with any of these products’ uses, feel free to contact me at

Monday, October 7, 2019

Sport Climbing: The Art of Clipping

Neil Gresham's Climbing Masterclass on youtube is pretty darn good. In the following video, Neil works through the essentials of clipping on sport climbs. He looks at several bad ways to attain your clips and then works through the good ways.

Clipping is such a basic thing in sport climbing, or any type of bolted climbing, that it seems intuitive. But it's not. And knowing how to do it well, will lead to a lot more success...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, October 4, 2019

Tips to Prepare for The Casual Route on the Diamond

The Diamond of Longs Peak is one of the most recognized alpine walls in the World. While relatively not the highest or the longest wall- it's close proximity to major cities and high quality route-offerings makes the Diamond an undisputed classic. The Casual Route will be many people's first route, here are some tips for preparation. Disclaimer: As always, these are tips and does not replace requisite experience and/or guidance.

A climber on the final traverse pitch of the Casual Route

1) Rock Climb!
First and foremost, the Diamond is a rock climb (as long as you choose to climb it in the summer season) so getting comfortable as a 5.10 trad leader is paramount. Route link-ups like Handcracker Direct to Yellow Spur, in Eldorado Canyon, make great preparation climbs. For both the leader and follower it is recommended to be able to climb 5.10 consistently without hanging on the rope (sport climbing doesn't hurt, but trad climbs are where the mileage should be spent).

A climber on a 5.10 route in Eldorado Canyon

2) Mileage in RMNP 
Rocky Mountain National Park is the veritable climber's playground in the US. Climbing a "classics" progression will not only prepare one for the Diamond, it'll be super fun! One example of many progression potentials might be: South Face, Petit Grepon (III, 5.8) to Culp-Bossier (III, 5.8+) to Flying Buttress, Flying Buttress (III, 5.9+/5.10) to The Barb (III, 5.10). Regardless of the specific routes in RMNP used for preparation, aim for a minimum of three grade III climbs on alpine rock (preferably in RMNP) with atleast one of them reaching 5.10 in difficulty.

Two climbers on the North face of Hallett Peak
3) Train Specifically
Train specifically for the objective you're teeing up for. Uphill Athlete has some fantastic options to train for rock alpinism- these will likely be helpful for anyone aspiring to climb the Casual Route.

4) Do Your Homework
There are dozens of resources for Casual Route descriptions, gather multiple descriptions and learn the route well beforehand (this includes the North Chimney approach to the Diamond-if that is the chosen approach of the party). Staying on-route is critical both for efficiency and safety, and for the North Chimney getting off-route could mean putting other parties below you at risk (due to rock fall).

A climber ascends the North Chimney- a common place to get off-route
5) Acclimatize
The classic tip! The crux of the Casual Route is at the very top (at 14,000 feet) so spending some time at upper elevations in the Rockies before your climb will dramatically improve how you feel on the Diamond.

A climber on the crux pitch of the Casual Route

6) Learn and Practice Self Rescue
Large alpine climbs are committing, and you and your partner both should be competent with key concepts to perform a self-rescue, mountain rescue in the US can be hours to days away depending on where and when you are.

The Diamond in the early-season rock conditions of June 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/3/19

Climate Crisis:

--The headline at the Daily Beast is, "Italy and France Prepare for Imminent Collapse of Mont Blanc Glacier." Several areas are being evacuated. "Italian civil protection authorities took the extreme measure of closing down the Italian side of Mont Blanc due to the imminent threat of around 9 million cubic feet of ice breaking away from the Planpincieux glacier on the Grandes Jorasses mountain on the Mont Blanc massif. To get an idea of how big that is, that much ice would make 67.3 million gallons of water if it melted." To read more, click here.

--Protect Our Winters is reporting that, "The International Ski Federation has signed onto a U.N. climate change initiative in a move some view as a welcome about-face from its president, whose comments about environmentalists alarmed leaders in the ski and snowboard community. FIS announced Wednesday that it had joined the U.N. Sports for Climate Action Framework and made it part of its sustainability policy." To read more, click here.


--There's another opportunity out there to comment on the grizzly reintroduction plan to the Cascades. To read more, click here.

--Climbing is reporting on the potential end of #VanLife in Squamish. "Earlier this year, Squamish County proposed Bylaw No. 2679, containing regulations that would prohibit all overnight camping, whether in a tent or a vehicle, in public spaces. It allows for two exempt areas more than seven miles outside town, down 4x4 roads; anyone caught camping outside these zones could be fined up to $10,000. While the bylaw, which needs to go through three readings (it has been through one already) is still under review, it has faced community opposition throughout. A lot is at stake: The outcome could create a template for not only Squamish but other outdoor towns across North America." To read more, click here.

--It's started to snow. Maybe winter will be early...?

--The American Alpine Institute will be joining the Northwest Avalanche Center as they host the thirteenth annual Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop (NSAW) on Sunday, October 20th at Seattle Town Hall. NSAW is the region’s largest gathering of snow and avalanche professionals and backcountry recreationists who work and travel in avalanche terrain. Event details and tickets can be found, here.

--The Seattle Times is reporting that, "Two former Hood Canal-area residents have been indicted on eight federal felony counts stemming from an effort to burn a bees nest that was interfering with their attempts to illegally harvest a valuable maple tree in the Olympic National Forest. Their attempt to burn the beehive resulted in a forest fire that consumed 3,300 acres and cost $4.5 million to fight, according to an indictment unsealed Monday." To read more, click here.


--The Tahoe Daily Tribune is reporting that, "The Tahoe community is rallying behind Robb Gaffney, an influential skier and activist for the Keep Squaw True movement, after he was diagnosed with a rare form of bone marrow cancer over the summer." To read more, click here. To donate to Robb's GoFundMe page, click here.

--They're having a party in Lone Pine on October 5th to celebrate the establishment of the Alabama Hills National Scenic Area in March. To read about the party and the Scenic Area, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Redlands Daily Facts is reporting that, "Joshua Tree National Park visitors will have a chance to weigh in on the increasingly popular park’s future. Park staff will host community meetings in Joshua Tree, Los Angeles and the Coachella area in October to get feedback on ways to improve the park’s management, from protecting natural and cultural resources to handling capacity issues." To read more, and to see dates and locations of feedback sessions, click here.

--Former Outside editor Axie Navis has just been hired to work as the director for New Mexico's new Office of Outdoor Recreation. To read more, click here.

--Alex Honnold, famous free-soloist and Las Vegas resident, gave Outside a list of his favorite places to climb in Southern Nevada. To read about it, click here.

--Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area has changed the hours for the Scenic Drive. The drive will be open from 6am to 7pm. If you need to obtain a Late Exit permit because you are climbing a long multi-pitch, call 702-515-5050.

Colorado and Utah:

--SGB Media is reporting that, "Vail Resorts Inc. officially expanded its empire Tuesday when the Broomfield, CO-based ski area owner and operator closed on its previously announced $264 million acquisition of Peak Resorts Inc. Peak’s shareholders a few days earlier voted to approve the deal for a purchase price of $11 a share, formally paving the way for Vail 17 to add new ski areas to its already massive portfolio, which now stands at 37 resorts worldwide." To read more, click here.

--DPS Cinematic, the award-winning film division of DPS Skis, is proud to debut 'Stone’s Throw,' a short film featuring Koala (team athlete) Dash Longe. The world premiere, which will also serve as a fundraiser for Healthy Environment Alliance of Utah (HEAL Utah), takes place at The Commonwealth Room in Salt Lake City on Oct. 3, 2019 – $8 tickets and further information can be found at: In cooperation with presenting partner Teton Gravity Research, 'Stone’s Throw' will launch online Oct. 8, 2019 on Check out the trailer below:

--The Flatirons Climbing Council posted the following on MountainProject: "We are looking for Volunteers to help out with trail stewardship work at Overhang Rock and Third Flatiron on Sunday, October 20 as part of the REEL ROCK 14 world premiere taking place on October 17,18 in Boulder.  The trail projects are being sponsored by OSMP in collaboration with Flatirons Climbing Council and The Front Range Climbing Stewards." To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that there will be a talk at the Banff Mountain Film Festival about climbers in avalanches. "Over the last 22 years, 43 per cent of all the avalanche fatalities in Banff, Yoho and Kootenay National Parks have been climbers and mountaineers Climbers and avalanches are a dangerous mix in Canada’s mountains. On November 3rd there will be a panel discussion on the topic at the Banff Mountain Film Festival." One of the speakers will be former AAI Guide Chantel Astorga. To read more, click here.

--We say it and say it again. Stay away from wild animals. Leave them alone. They're not pets. A couple of people were attacked in Estes Park last week. Check out a video below:

--Rock and Ice got suckered by an internet troll. And so did we. The story went that a team in the Flat Irons had a rack stolen mid-pitch. The person who posted the story on MountainProject stuck to his guns when he was called. We reposted the story on our Facebook page. But alas, the MountainProject poster confessed that it was all a big joke. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Climbing magazine and many other outlets are reporting that Phil Powers, the CEO of the American Alpine Club, will be stepping down from that position. To read about it, click here.

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "in September 2019, Dani Arnold sets a new record time at the Cima Grande. He climbs the 550-meter (1800') north face over the Comici-Dimai route in 46 minutes 30 seconds." The Comici-Dami route is a 19-pitch 5.10c on Cima Grande in the Sexten Dolomites of northeastern Italy. To read more, click here. To see a video of the ascent, click below.

--The Hill is reporting that, "William Pendley, the acting director of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), has released a 17-page recusal list highlighting a number of people, companies and advocacy groups he must avoid while working at the agency. The disclosure shows Pendley’s ties to a number of industries that BLM regulates as it works to balance energy, grazing and recreational interests along with conservation." To read more, click here.

--And here's a lot more on the developing problems with the BLM from Outside.

--Outside is reporting on an amazing woman. "In May, Kirby Morrill was nearly murdered during a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Four months later, she climbed Maine's highest peak, the route's terminus." To read more, click here.

--The Billings Gazette is reporting that, "Sarah Davis has been named the first female chief ranger in Yellowstone National Park's history and the 18th chief ranger in the more than 100-year history of park management by the National Park Service." To read more, click here.

--Speaking of Yellowstone...a guy got drunk and went for a walk, into Old Faithful. From CNN: "A 48-year-old man suffered severe burns after falling into a hot spring at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming late Sunday night, the National Park Service announced. Cade Edmond Siemers told park rangers that he took a walk off the boardwalk without a flashlight and tripped into the thermal water near the cone of Old Faithful Geyser, the NPS said in a statement. The park warns on its website that visitors are to always walk on the boardwalks." To read more, click here.

--There are going to be some changes coming for the Pacific Crest Trail long distance permit. To learn more, click here.

--Robert Jasper completed a rope solo first ascent on the infamous North Face of the Eiger. To read about it and to watch a video, click here.

Tuesday, October 1, 2019

Which Desert Tower Should Be My First?

Desert towers are among the most unique formations climbers can lay their hands on. These beautiful and surreal gems can be intimidating, but tower climbing comes in all shapes and sizes. Many experienced climbers will recommend easing into desert climbing so here are a few classics that are more amicable for tower initiates. Disclaimer: None of these towers should be considered "safe" and should not be attempted without requisite experience and/or seek qualified instruction/guidance.

Climbers enjoy the summit of South Sixshooter

West Crack, The Owl (1 pitch, 5.8)
Arches National Park is a beautiful place to visit, and even moreso a beautiful place to climb. The Owl is about as friendly as desert tower climbing gets (which is indeed all relative) with a 2 minute approach and 1 pitch of 5.8 crack climbing with a beautiful tower summit. Chances are you'll also get a fair share of hikers and tourists taking photos of your climb from the road.

South Face, South Sixshooter (3 pitches, 5.7-.8)
South Sixshooter is a classic climb with a much longer approach than The Owl, but far more serene. This tower is located in the crack climbing mecca of Indian Creek and gifts three pitches of climbing to another beautiful summit. The last pitch has a poorly protected mantle before clipping a bolt and enjoying a few airy face moves before the summit. The rating of this tower is a bit debatable depending on who you talk to, confident 5.8 trad leaders will feel more comfortable with the last pitch. Again, if in doubt- find an alternative tower route.

Climbers approach the South Face of South Sixshooter (3 pitches, 5.7/8)
Stolen Chimney, Ancient Art (4 pitches, 5.8 A0 or 5.10+)
This is one of the most photographed summits in the desert (and in American rock climbing for that matter). Expect crowds on this classic route and consider an early or a late start. The rock in this area (Fisher Towers) is questionable at best but this route offers relatively better rock for the area and better gear. Two short bolt ladders can easily be aided (just draw-pulling) or freed at 5.10+. The short final pitch is truly unique!

North Chimney, Castleton (4 pitches, 5.9)
Many will choose the famed Kor-Ingalls as their first tower route but it involves "old school" wider climbing that may feel sandbagged and bakes in the sun (I haven't heard many moderate climbers that were "pleased" with their first climb being on Kor-Ingalls). On the opposite side of Castleton, The North Chimney is still stout but many find it to be more amicable. For any route, Castleton is a serious tower and should be treated as such!

From Left to Right: The Rectory, The Nuns/Priest, and Castleton