Tuesday, November 24, 2020

No Shortcuts - Ski Training Video

It takes a tremendous amount of dedication to become one of the top big mountain skiers in the world. Pro skier Dane Tudor is at the top of his game. The following video shows what it takes to get there...



I think that there's something to be said about the name "no shortcuts." The reality for every mountain athlete is that they have to work incredibly hard to get to where they are. There really are no shortcuts to being as good as you can be...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, November 20, 2020

Book Review: Cold Wars by Andy Kirkpatrick

A few weeks ago we reviewed Andy Kirkpatrick's amazing book, Psychovertical. That piece humorously chronicles Kirkpatrick's obsession with climbing. That first piece was so well-written that I quickly picked up Kirkpatrick's second book, Cold Wars.

One might ask how an individual who is approximately forty-years old could write an autobiography and then follow it up with yet more autobiographical material. This would be a legitimate question if we were talking about a politician or a musician or an actor. Your every day person worships these types of  people because they appear to be doing something with their lives. Those who live for outdoor adventure are doing something with their lives every day...and it's almost always interesting. So Kirkpatrick's second book is just as engaging as his first. But he addresses this question nonetheless...

Psychovertical was a book about a man who is struggling: against the wall, against himself, but who wins through. The story is a hundred thousand word answer to the question: 'Why do you climb?'

Cold Wars asks a different question: 'What is the price?'

Kirkpatrick is married and has two children. The routes that he chooses are almost universally "high end" and are incredibly dangerous. He has a penchant for winter alpinism and for second ascents of serious lines. He aslo sometimes goes months without climbing. Cold Wars is a humorous and often tender book about the life of a climber and about what we give up to be in the mountains. Kirkpatrick regularly writes about the strange irony that many climbers feel. When they are at home, they can't wait to be away. But, when they are in the mountains, they wish they were home.


We've all felt this way at one point or another. In the following passage we see this tension as Kirkpatrick pines over his young daughter while sitting before one of those incredible views at one of those incredible moments that only climbers in the high mountains get to experience.

'I can't get Ella crying out of my head. Every time I do anything I keep thinking that I have to get home to her, that she means more to me than this.'

I switched on my phone, to see if I had any messages. It beeped.

'DAD HOPE UR ENJOYING CLIMBING THOSE MOUNTAINS LOVE ELLA'

I showed it to Ian.

'Maybe you're falling out of love with climbing,' said Ian, switching off his headtorch to save the battery as the sky towards Chamonix turned red, and the rising sun lit up the spires of the Aiguilles, one by one.

'I really hope so,' I said.

While this book appears to be more serious with a heavier question than the simplistic "why do you climb," it is still chalked full of Kirkpatrick's humorous climbing anecdotes. Indeed, as this book is structured more anecdotally than his first book, it could be argued that it is a funnier tome. Here is one great example of an experience the author had in the Alps shortly after losing a ski.

Now I was really in trouble, as the snow was too deep to walk in, and skiing on a single board was beyond me.

I took off my remaining ski and sat on it bum-shuffling down the slope, knowing full well that there had never been a more pathetic sight in the history of ski mountianeering. To make matters worse, a French guide swooshed down to me, looking like skiing's answer to Mikhail Baryshnikov, asking if I was alright.

'I'm British,' I said looking at the floor, trying hard not to burst into tears.

'I understand,' he said, no doubt embarrassed for me, and then skied off. 

Perhaps part of the reason I enjoy Kirkpatrick's writing so much is because I recognize myself in it.  He is absolutely obsessed with climbing, as am I. He loves writing, but hates doing it, as do I. He has a family that keeps him grounded, as do I. And he lives in two worlds, the first is a world where he has a wife and two kids and they all live normal lives and do normal things. The second is a world where he "hangs it out," on high end alpine climbs and extreme big walls. I don't generally push the bounds of safety too far, but a few times a year I definitely push the limits. As a forty-two year-old mountain guide with a family, I really understand and appreciate his work. And I think that anybody who spends a lot of time on the sharp end and feels like they have something to lose will understand his writing too.

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Climbing Commands

One of the most inconsistent things in the entire world of climbing are climbing commands. Climbers commonly hook up for a day of climbing with little knowledge of how to communicate with one another at the crag. It is always important to review your climbing commands with a new partner so that no mistakes are made.

The most common mistakes in a command series tend to come around the word "take." Climbers often use the word in two different ways. Some will say "take" in lieu of the command, "up-rope." Whereas others will say "take" to mean "take my weight." A much larger problem arises out of the nature of a word that only has one syllable. "Take" could also be mistaken for the words, "safe" or "slack." Either of these mistakes could have tragic consequences. The result is that at the American Alpine Institute, we try to teach people not to use the word.

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

The following sets of commands reflect what AAI guides are teaching in the field.

Toprope Commands:

Climber: On-belay?

Belayer: (After checking that everyone's double-backed, that knots are correct and that the belay device is threaded appropriately.) Belay-on.

Climber: Climbing.

Belayer: Climb-on.

Once the climber reaches the top, the following discourse should take place:

Climber: Tension.

Belayer: (After pulling the stretch out of the rope and locking it off.) Tension-on.

Climber: Ready to lower.

Belayer: Lowering.

It's important to close out the commands at the end. People often get lazy about the next set. Once the climber is back on the ground the following commands should take place.

Climber: Off-belay.

Belayer: Thank-you. (Then after removing the device from the rope:) Belay-off.

The "thank-you" exists in this series to get individuals ready for multi-pitch climbing where the words are used a great deal.

A climber on Myster Z (5.7, II+) in Red Rock Canyon.

Multi-Pitch Commands:

You'll notice that the words "thank-you" are used heavily throughout this command series. We use the words to acknowledge that an individual heard the last command. For those who don't normally use the words "thank-you" as part of your personal series, I would recommend trying it. A lot of stress melts away on multi-pitch climbs when you know that your partner heard you.

Following are the commands that we teach in a multi-pitch setting:

Climber: On-belay?

Belayer: (After checking that everyone's double-backed, that knots are correct and that the belay device is threaded appropriately.) Belay-on.

Climber: Climbing.

Belayer: Climb on.

Once the climber has reached the top, built an anchor and tied-in, the following commands should take place:

Climber: Off belay!

Belayer: Thank-you! (The belayer will then take the rope out of his device.) Belay-off!

Climber: Thank-you! (The climber will then pull up all the slack.)

Belayer: That's me!

Climber: Thank-you! (The climber will then put the belayer on belay.) Belay-on!

Belayer: Thank-you! (The belayer will break down the anchor and then yell just before he is about to climb.) Climbing!

Climber: Climb-on!

Ancillary Commands:


These are commands that are not necessarily said on every single climb. These are only said if there is a need. The commands are as follows:

Rock -- This should be yelled whenever anything falls. If you hear this, press your body against the wall and do not look up. Your helmet will provide some protection. Unfortunately, sometimes people yell "stick" or "camera." Such unusual commands often result in inappropriate reactions. In other words a person may not immediately attempt to get out of the way.

Watch me -- Climber will say this to a belayer if he is nervous and thinks he might fall.

Falling -- The appropriate command if you actually fall.

Up-rope -- When a climber says this, he is asking that slack be eliminated from the system.

Slack -- The climber needs slack.

Tension -- Anytime a climber wants to sit back on the rope and rest they should use this command.

Clipping -- Periodically a leader will need more rope to clip a piece of protection. When a leader says this he's actually asking for a few feet of slack.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, November 16, 2020

Getting Rid of the Funk: How to Clean Your Climbing Shoes

I sat down on the bench next to my partner. We'd just finished a dawn patrol at the climbing gym.  And though it was cool outside and even a bit cool in the gym, my feet were shriveled pickles inside my tight shoes. But I ignored it and stripped off my shoes.

"Whoa!," my partner said, dramatically waiving his hand in front of his face with one hand, while plugging his nose with the other. "Dude," he said dramatically. "You're feet stink."

And they did. Or more accurately, my climbing shoes stunk. It was time to give them a wash.

Recently climber Joe Ho, posted a great video on his blog about techniques for washing and cleaning climbing shoes. Please see the video below:



The quick and the dirty of it is that Joe washes his shoes in a washing machine. He fastens the velcro straps down and washes them on warm with soap. When he is done, he lays them out to dry.

I used the techniques shown in the video to wash a pair of shoes, and there was still a little bit of a scent in them, but it was no longer overpowering...

Jason D. Martin

Friday, November 13, 2020

Stick Clipping

I was in Red Rock Canyon, just below the first bolt, when my foot smeared off. My stance was somewhat sideways and if I didn't have a rope on, I would have fallen eight feet directly on my side, likely breaking my arm...

But how could I have a rope prior to the first bolt?

Easy. I stick clipped it. And that stick clip saved me from a hospital visit.

Stick clips are an important part of sport climbing. These are specially designed poles that may be used to clip the first bolt with a rope prior to climbing the route. These devices may be purchased from many different climbing companies, they may be made out of homemade supplies or they may be "McGyvered."

The concept behind a stick clip is simple. You have a pole that allows you to clip the first draw to the first bolt with the rope prerigged through the bottom carabiner on the draw. Then you may be toproped through the starting moves of the climb.

There are several manufactured stick clips available on the market. Following are a couple of examples:

Trango Beta Stick Clip

Epic Sport Epic Stick Clip

Homemade stick clips are relatively easy to make. I bought a painters pole and a placed a spring clamp a the end. I duct taped this securely on to keep the spring clamp in place. Alternately, some people use hose clamps to keep the spring clamp in place at the end of the pole.

My well-loved homemade stick clip.

My stick clip wasn't designed with a means to keep the carabiner open. Instead, I just push the carabiner against the bolt until it clips.

There are going to be occasions when you don't have access to a stick clip. On these occasions, you may wish to McGyver something. Climbing magazine put together and excellent video on this topic with the now Executive Editor of the magazine, Julie Ellison, describing how to do this:



I used to be a little wary about carrying stick clips. A lot of my friends made fun of me for carrying it around. But the fact that I didn't hurt myself in that short fall before the first bolt made up for every last joke made by my trad climber buddies...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 12, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/12/20

Northwest:

--Mt. Rainier National Park is reporting that, "On Sunday, November 8th, a snowshoer who had been missing overnight was located and rescued from the Nisqually River drainage below Paradise. The snowshoer was last seen on Saturday November 7th at 1:45 pm, when he and his partner separated below the Muir Snowfield at an elevation of 9,500’. The missing party intended to descend on snowshoes to Paradise, while his partner continued on skis to Camp Muir. When he did not return to the Paradise parking lot, his partner reported him missing to park rangers. Three National Park Service (NPS) teams conducted an initial search for the missing snowshoer until early morning in winter conditions that minimized visibility. The overnight low at Paradise dropped to 16 degrees Fahrenheit with five inches of new snow." To read more, click here.

--AAI guide Katie Griffith wrote a piece about guiding and wildfire smoke that appeared in the Mt. Baker Experience this week. To read the article, click here.

--An older unnamed route in Squamish was rebolted this week by the first ascentionist and renamed Riden' with Biden (5.9). The route can be found just right of The Zip (5.10a), a super popular route. To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--Emily Harrington just became the first woman to free Golden Gate (5.13a, VI) on El Capitan in a 24-hour period. This awesome achievement was wildly misreported by the mainstream press. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

AAI Guide Alex Fletcher encountered some very large 
mountain lion tracks in the Spring Mountains above Las Vegas this week.

Colorado and Utah:

--CBS 4 Denver is reporting on a fatality on North Maroon Peak last week: "A craft brewing company in Denver is remembering one of its brewers — Jason Buehler, the 43-year-old who fell and died in a mountain climbing accident near Aspen late last week. Buehler was head brewer at Denver Beer Company taproom and was a resident of Niwot." To read more, click here.

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "In recent weeks, a number of incidents have occurred on the Second Flatiron in Boulder, Colorado that have required a response from search and rescue teams. According to the Boulder County Sheriff's Office, a 31-year-old female climber required rescue on Sunday afternoon after getting stuck while scrambling on the Second Flatiron in Boulder County. The climber reached a section of the climb in which she was unable to safely move up or down the rock formation. Members of Rocky Mountain Rescue Group were able to reach the stuck climber via technical gear before lowering her down the mountain. She was uninjured and able to hike back to the trailhead." To read more, click here.

--The Journal of Emergency Medical Services is reporting that, "A 23-year-old man fell about fifteen feet while scrambling on Mount Sanitas near Boulder around 2 p.m. Sunday, according to the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office." To read more, click here.

--A skier triggered an avalanche near Independence Pass this week, on a north facing slope in Mountain Boy Basin. This is the first videotaped avalanche of the 2020-2021 season that we're aware of. There were no injuries. Following is the video:


--Kimberly Kelly, a single mother in Utah, suffered a serious climbing accident two weeks ago and cannot work. A Go-Fund-Me site has been set-up to help her pay her bills while she recovers. Check it out, here.

--Wolves will be reintroduced in the Front Range. From the Colorado Sun: "Proposition 114 passed as a flurry of Front Range-votes widened the initiative’s margin of victory, paving the way for the animals’ return to the Western Slope." To read more, click here.

--Well here's something interesting from the Colorado Sun: "Are Colorado’s backcountry skiing stashes “trade secrets”? A snowcat outfitter suing a former guide claims they are. Steamboat Powdercats has sued a former employee, Stephen Bass, to stop his book from hitting shelves. They say it has to do with safety. The publisher says it has to do with access to 'fresh pow.'" To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A climber was injured at New Hampshire's Rumney on Monday. He was able to walk out on his own, but -- due to his injuries -- needed the trail cleared by a leaf blower as he walked with assistance. The dry leaves covered treacherous footing. To read more, click here.

--Outside Online is reporting that, "the Department of the Interior failed to meet (last) Tuesday’s deadline to submit a list of projects it wants to fund in fiscal year 2021 with money earmarked by the Great American Outdoors Act. Not only does the missed proposal threaten the success of a huge variety of conservation projects, but advocacy groups warn it could be an attempt by the Trump administration to undermine the act’s goals. The move coincided with the election, even as vulnerable Republican senators who supported the GAOA campaigned on its passage." To read more, click here.

--An Idaho man tried to cook chicken in one of the geysers at Yellowstone National Park. Thankfully, he got caught. Now he will have to pay a $600 fine and will have two years of probation. To read more, click here.


--In related news, ABC is reporting that, "the importance of nature and the environment was evident this election as voters across the country approved more than two dozen conservation ballot measures. The initiatives include nearly $3.7 billion in new funding for land conservation, parks, climate resiliency and habitat, according to The Trust for Public Land Action Fund." To read more, click here.

--Interested in competing in a freeride skiing tournament? You can find out how, here.

--The New York Times is reporting that, "At 6,288 feet above sea level, Mount Washington in northern New Hampshire is known to countless travelers and bumper-sticker aficionados as the highest point in the Northeast and, according to the meteorologists who work there, 'home of the world’s worst weather.' And for nearly nine decades, there has always been a cat in residence. The latest one, a black Maine coon named Marty who arrived at the summit in 2008, died on Saturday of an 'unexpected illness,' Rebecca Scholand, an official at the Mount Washington Observatory, said Monday night. Marty was 14, she said. Or 15." To read more, click here.

--NPR is reporting that, "the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced U.S. military veterans and Gold Star families will be granted a lifetime of free access to national parks, wildlife refuges and other federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior." To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund and Climbing are reporting that, "Gunks Climbers Coalition (GCC) and Access Fund are pleased to announce the purchase and opening of a new section of cliffline in the Shawangunk Mountains of New York. This acquisition adds a new, backcountry climbing area to the Gunks, offering a uniquely remote experience that boasts traditional climbing, top roping, overhangs, vertical faces, and even a little crack climbing—ranging from 5.5 to 5.13." To read more, click here.

Friday, November 6, 2020

The Business of Ski Resorts

This is a fascinating look at why ski tickets are so expensive. It looks at the both the business of the ski resort, as well as how a town supports resort infrastructure. The video also looks at why large companies are buying up ski resorts and creating multi-resort passes. 

If you enjoy inbounds skiing, there probably isn't a better video out there to understand what's happening in the big picture of the ski industry.



--Jason D. Martin








Thursday, November 5, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/5/20

Northwest:

--The New York Post is reporting that, "The body of an accomplished Oregon mountain climber who was reported missing on Mount Hood was found in a crevasse about 9,400 feet up the state’s tallest peak, authorities said. The search for Austin Mishler, a 27-year-old wilderness guide from Bend, ended Thursday, two days after he failed to return from a planned climb of Eliot Glacier on the mountain’s northeastern slopes, according to the Hood River County Sheriff’s Office." To read more, click here.

--The Seattle PI is reporting that, "rangers at Mount Rainier National Park have recovered the bodies of two men from Tolmie Peak in the northwest corner of the park, officials said. Park officials said Monday the bodies were discovered on Saturday by hikers. An investigation so far suggests the people died from self-inflicted gunshot wounds in the previous few days, according to park officials." To read more, click here.

--The Vancouver Sun is reporting that, "a man found shot dead in a burnt-out vehicle on a logging road near Squamish in 2017 is now believed to be a U.S. man who started neo-Nazi groups and owed millions of dollars as an internet spammer." It's been reported that 38-year-old Davis Wolfgang Hawke, a U.S. resident, was a climber who never wanted his photo taken. The entire homicide is shrouded in mystery. To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--The Tahoe Daily Tribune is reporting on an expected massive shift toward the backcountry this winter. "When the pandemic hit Lake Tahoe last spring, most businesses closed, including ski resorts. Many were upset, frustrated and confused to have the season cut short, especially with feet of new snow in the forecast. However, along with snowmobilers and snowshoers, many avid skiers and riders turned to human-powered ways of getting their turns in on the mountain. Sales for backcountry equipment has skyrocketed and local shops are seeing a new wave of people wanting to get their hands on gear." To read more, click here.

--The Sierra Wave is reporting that, "the Inyo National Forest is reopening the majority of the John Muir Wilderness and a segment of the Ansel Adams Wilderness as the risk from wildfires is decreasing." To read more, click here.

--The Sierra Wave is also reporting that, "The Inyo National Forest has implemented 05-04-50-200-21, effective November 3. This opens the Inyo portions of the South Sierra, parts of the Golden Trout, most of the John Muir, parts of the Ansel Adams and all the Owens River Headwaters, and Hoover Wilderness Areas." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Red Rock Canyon has started their reservation system for those who wish to enter the Scenic Drive. You can make a reservation at https://www.recreation.gov/. There have been and continue to be a lot of complaints about the system. Check those out, here.

A climber high on Epinephrine (5.9, IV).
Photo by Rich Draves

--Climbing is reporting that, "Last week, Alex Honnold reported that he has broken the speed record on Epinephrine (5.9, IV), a 15-pitch route in Red Rock, Nevada. He soloed the 15-pitch route in 34 minutes and 51 seconds, beating out the late Brad Gobright’s record by nearly four minutes. Including the approach and descent, Honnold completed the outing in a mere 1:59:57. The average party spends 7-10 hours on the sustained route, which follows a network of airy chimneys." To read more, click here.

--It appears that Atman (5.10b), a short crack route in Red Rock Canyon, was bolted recently. The bolts were subsequently removed. This is the second time this has happened on the Yin Yang wall. 


--A dehydrated abandoned dog was rescued in Joshua Tree this week...

Colorado and Utah:

--The climber that fell free soloing the Second Flatiron last week has died. To read more, click here.

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "A Colorado county just tightened their COVID-19-related restrictions to make gathering in a group of more than five a misdemeanor, carrying a possible fine of up to $5,000. Pitkin County, home to the mountain towns of Aspen and Basalt, is cracking down on social gatherings ahead of Halloween weekend due to the "quick and steady" climb in COVID-19 cases. The mountain county announced stricter guidelines for personal gatherings on Friday, limiting gatherings to five people with no more than two separate households." To read more, click here.

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "San Luis Valley Climbers Alliance (SLVCA), a local nonprofit organization of dedicated climbers, and Access Fund, the national advocacy organization that protects America’s climbing, are pleased to announce they have secured permanent access to Denny’s, the go-to crag for steep sport climbing in Colorado’s San Luis Valley. SLVCA now needs help to ensure the area remains stewarded and protected forever." To read more, click here.

--Teton Gravity Research is reporting that, "a federal judge has banned Virtika founder and social media personality David Lesh from entering U.S. Forest Service lands following numerous flagrant rule violations that most recently included posting a picture of defecating in Colorado’s famous Maroon Lake. As of this past Friday, 35-year-old Lesh will no longer be allowed to enter any U.S. Forest Service lands for the foreseeable future. On top of the ban, Lesh will be prohibited from posting any content on social media of himself or anyone else violating state or federal laws on any federal lands under the jurisdiction of the court, including National Forests, National Monuments, Bureau of Land Management land and other federal property." To read more, click here.

--The first human triggered avalanche took place over the weekend on Bald Mountain near Breckenridge. No injuries or burials were reported. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The Bozeman Daily Chronicle is reporting that, "A skier died Tuesday afternoon after a crash in the Bridger Mountains near Sacajawea Peak, according to a news release from the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office. Caroline Lupori, a Bozeman resident originally from Colorado, and another woman hiked in from Fairy Lake to ski the Great One on Tuesday afternoon. Lupori fell and sustained “traumatic injuries” while skiing the run." To read more, click here.

--We knew that camping was popular this year with the pandemic and all, but the reports out of Canada are crazy. Calgary CTV News reports on the numbers in Alberta: "Numbers from the province show a massive jump in provincial park campsite reservations in recent months, going from 5,209 in September 2019 to 286,657 in September 2020. That's an increase of more than 5,400 per cent." To read more, click here.

--InformNY Now is reporting that, Fifth grade students now have free admission to National Parks in the United States. Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt officially signed a Secretary’s Order on October 28 that will waive entrance fees to national parks. This order will allow fifth grade students to have free admission to all United States national parks, wildlife refuges and public lands and waters." To read more, click here.

--The Sierra Club is reporting that, "On October 29, in a move that seems aimed at appeasing ranchers and hunters just days ahead of the presidential election, the Trump administration finalized a controversial rule which removes Endangered Species Act (ESA) protections for all gray wolves in the lower 48 states, excepting Mexican gray wolves in Arizona and New Mexico. The move, long in the making, turns over management of this imperiled species to states and tribal governments." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, November 3, 2020

Film Review: Downhill

The Will Ferrell/Julia Louis Dreyfus black comedy, Downhill, is an engaging, but not-terribly-funny sketch of a married couple with children on a ski vacation in Austria. The film delves into the complexity of a long term relationship that has been strained by each person's response to a "close call" in the mountains.


Pete (Will Ferrell) and Billie Stanton (Julia Louis-Dryfus) are in the midst of a fun family vacation, skiing in the Alps. The pair start the film with normal family vacation issues -- the kids don't really want to be there, they're in the adult-oriented hotel instead of the kid-oriented one, etc. -- but all seems well until a fateful lunch.

The family is sitting on an open deck below the ski slope, when a charge explodes triggering a controlled avalanche. At first, the family watches as the snow slides down the mountain, but as it gets closer to their open-air restaurant, they panic. Pete grabs his phone and runs, whereas, Billie grabs her children and tries to cover them with her body. As a light powder cloud below the avalanche wafts over the deck, everyone discovers that they're fine, that there was nothing to worry about...

Downhill, an American remake of the 2014 Swedish Film Force Majeure, follows the couple as they both try to make sense of how Pete reacted to the avalanche. The fact that he ran and left his family behind, has a profound impact on Billie and the children, and a monumental impact on the couple's marriage.

Interestingly, this is the first film to explore a mountain version of something that has been talked about a lot recently in the climbing community, traumatic stress injuries. Laura McGladrey has been promoting her ideas about this widely for the last few years. She writes:

There is growing recognition of traumatic stress injuries in climbers, mountaineers, and rescuers who experience overwhelming events such as the death of a climbing partner or a near miss in an avalanche. When a climber watches a partner rappel off the end of the rope, their own life is forever changed.

Critical incidents and near misses share similar characteristics that overwhelm one’s response system, establish a connection to the injured person, or create a profound sense of helplessness.


This is exactly what happens in the film. And as such, we get to watch two of our favorite comic actors try to reconcile their feelings. The quality of the performances and the love we all share for these individuals in all of their roles, deeply impacts us. We want them to be successful in the recovery of their relationship, and we want them to avoid the pitfalls that appear as a result of their injuries.



Most of us have had something explode within a relationship, something that seemed like a small bomb at first, but then grew, like an avalanche, to consume it. This is only one of the metaphors that they embrace in the film. Indeed, Downhill is filled with images/metaphors that are meant to indicate where the couple is in relation to one another. When they're close, they stand next to one another brushing their teeth at the same sink, and when their relationship is damaged, they stand behind a bathroom partition with a sink on each side, brushing...

The script by Jim Rash and Jessie Armstrong does have a handful of comic moments built into it. For example, Miranda Otto as Lady Bobo is a hilariously inappropriate supporting character, that is both sex-crazed and oddly unaware of personal boundaries. But one clownish character doesn't really make the film feel like a rip-roaring comedy. The film feels a lot more like A Marriage Story, than any of these other two actors film or television vehicles. It's better to think of this as a "dramedy" instead of a "comedy."

It's always refreshing to see stories set in the places where many of us like to recreate. These types of stories help bring a film home. Occasionally, a mountain set-piece makes a story feel more real to outdoors people. That is certainly the case with, Downhill...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, November 2, 2020

Sleeping Bag Temperature Ratings

Miranda in the Wild from REI is at it again. Here she is with a short video on how temperature ratings on sleeping  bags work.


--Jason D. Martin

Friday, October 30, 2020

Film Review: Blood Glacier

Happy Halloween!

I really wanted to do something fun for the Halloween blog today, but couldn't think of anything too unique, so I decided to watch a "Climbing Horror Movie."

You probably didn't think that was a genre. But I found one. And it was a doozy...

I really really wanted to like Blood Glacier. It's a horror movie that was actually shot in the mountains, with people who appear to know something about the mountains. It's a film where a climber could have suspended their disbelief...

...but the horror elements were so bad and the story was so hokey, that nobody else possibly could have.


There were several indicators that this film experience might not work out.

I know. I know.

The first and most obvious indicator was the title.  But there were several other indicators in the first couple minutes of the movie. It was produced by IFC Midnight, which essentially is an indicator that it's going to be a B-level film from the get-go. Additionally, as the film opened, they showed glaciers and mountains, which would suddenly go from pristine to a filtered red at the same time they played jarring music.

Oh yeah, and the film was dubbed too. I think it might have been made by Germans...or something. It's hard to tell while watching it. But it was indeed shot in the Alps.

The bloody glacier in Blood Glacier.
Click on the photo to expand it in its awful gory bloody glacierness.

A group of climate scientists are studying glaciers in a remote corner of the Alps. They discover that a glacier appears to bleeding. Unbeknownst to them, the "blood" coming from the glacier is mutating the local wildlife. Essentially the bacteria in the substance creates hybrid animals. If an animal ate something, the new hybrid would have characteristics of both the host and the thing the animal ate. And of course the hybrid is born the same way an alien from the Alien franchise is born, by bursting out of the host's body.

This presents a bit of a problem for the scientists. You know, because for some reason the prime minister is on her way up to the hut with the hero's ex-girlfriend and lots of other people to get attacked by hybrid blood glacier monsters.

This movie was bad enough that I don't really expect many of you to see it. So I'm going to spoil it for you. If you don't want it spoiled. Don't read another word.

It turns out that the hero and his girlfriend were going to have a baby. She had an abortion and regretted it. She wanted a baby with him...

Which is good because an infected dog licked the hero's blood and had a hyrbid dog-baby-thing burst out of it's stomach which the pair adopted as their own.

For some reason this doesn't seem very plausible.


My favorite line of the entire movie takes place when a woman who is sobbing is also eating a banana. The Prime Minister screams at her, "stop eating that banana while you're crying!" I did in fact laugh quite hard at that moment of the film...

So the story and the dialogue are both pretty laughable, but so are the monsters. It seems like we've been spoiled with monsters for several years on the big screen that look real. Some of these are done with CGI and others are done with puppetry and make-up. The most believable looking monsters actually use a combination of both.

The monsters in this movie are so bad that it's hard not to laugh at them. They look like something that a high school drama scene shop with no budget might produce for a teenage haunted house. They're terrible...and kind of funny.

I really really wanted to like Blood Glacier, but I didn't. The hokiness provided some laughs, but it wasn't really worth an hour and a half of my time...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/29/20

Election:

--The election is coming soon, and this may be the most important one of our lifetimes. Certainly, the future of our public lands and our climate are both on the ballot. Protect Our Winters has created an excellent tool to help you #MakeADamnPlan to vote. Check it out.

--Outside has published an excellent round-up of down ballot races that impact the environment. Check it out.


Northwest:

Liberty Bell, Last Week

--A skier was injured on Mt. Baker near the Black Buttes on Sunday. It was reported that conditions were difficult with a breakable crust. The skier may have suffered a dislocated shoulder and was hoisted out by a Navy helicopter. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--A climber was rescued after taking a 100-plus foot fall on the second Flatiron just outside Boulder last week. It was reported that the female climber was free soloing the Freeway (5.0, II) route when she fell. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Gripped is reporting on a different kind of George Mallory mystery. One other than the popular, did-Mallory-and-Irvine-Summit-Everest one. "On April 10, a Chrisite’s auction item listed as “Lot 216 – an ice axe” sold for a staggering $240,000 CAD despite being listed for only $14,500. The “ice axe” was rumored to be George Mallory’s which he used on Mount Everest in 1922. American investor and climbing enthusiast Warren B Kanders bought the ice axe and after month of expert analysis, there are  doubts it was even made in his lifetime." To read more, click here.

--Will the Pieps DPS Sport avalanche transceiver get recalled? Maybe. To read more, click here.

--A husband and wife team have recently made a first ascent of K6, a relatively unknown peak in the heart of Pakistan's Karakorum. To read more, click here.

--And finally, a new WI 4, M5+ route was recently established just outside Canmore. To read about it, click here.


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Toproping Etiquette

The following is a series of etiquette oriented questions that arise around toproped climbing at popular cragging destinations. The answers to these questions should be adhered to at North American Climbing destinations. Locations outside of North America may have different etiquette issues.

A Climber Lowers Off a Route in Leavenworth, Washington
Photo by Ruth Hennings


1) Where should I set-up my "camp" at a crag that I'm going to climb at all day?

Gear and equipment should not be placed directly under the wall. It's good to set-up a "safe" area away from the wall where you can relax without a helmet on and eat lunch. This will also keep the base of the wall from being crowded with gear and packs.

It's a good idea to consolodate your group's gear. Avoid allowing equipment and packs to be scattered around.

A Climber Leads Tonto (5.5) in Red Rock Canyon
Photo by Jason Martin

2) What if I have a large group and want to "take-over" a crag for the day?

It is not appropriate for a group to "take-over" a crag. Climbing areas are public areas that are open to everyone. As such, it is incredibly rude for a group to hold an entire area -- or even a few routes -- hostage for the day.

If you have a large group, you have a large impact on both other users as well as the area. The best thing that you can to mitigate that impact is to keep a low profile, allow others to work in on the wall that you're using. Never leave a rope up that is not being used to "hold" a route.

If you do have a lot of ropes up and other users wish to climb routes that you have ropes on, it is okay to allow people to use your ropes if they look like they know what they're doing. If they don't appear knowlegable and they are climbing on your gear, you could become legally liable if something happens to one of the climbers that aren't with your group.

A group climbs at the Cowlick Co. Crag in Red Rock Canyon
Photo by Jason Martin


3) What if a large group is using a crag and refuses to give up a climb to my small group?

If you've got moves, then offer to have a dance-off for the climb. Seriously, joking with people will often loosen them up. In most cases, people that have had a good laugh will be more polite and more open to allowing people to climb.

If the large group is very rude and refuses to give up a climb, then politely find another place to go. It's not worth lecturing an ignorant climber about crag ettiquete. More often than not, a lecture will just reinforce negative behavior.

4) Is it okay to use the same anchor bolts as the person on an adjacent route?

Yes and no. Will this cause the person next door problems? If so, they were there first. If not, then be sure to ask them before clipping in next to their carabiners. If they say yes, then clip the bolts, but be sure not to do anything that changes their set-up in any way.

5) Where should I go to the bathroom when I'm cragging?

If there is an outhouse nearby, always use that first. Avoid urinating at the base of the wall and always avoid urinating in cracks on a wall as this causes the smell to linger.

If you have to defecate, know the rules of the area. Some areas require the use of WAG Bags, while other areas require you to dig a cat hole and pack out your toilet paper. Never go to the bathroom on the ground, stack the toilet paper on it and then put a rock on top.



6) When should I say something to a person who is doing something dangerous?

This is up to you. I usually don't say anything unless there is real and iminent danger. If there is mild danger, I will usually chat with the people for awhile in a non-threatening way before providing any unsolicieted beta.

7) Is it okay to toprope the first pitch of a multi-pitch climb?

More often than not, the answer is no. This is a more complex issue than the others and it does depend on the route and the route's history. People who are doing multi-pitch climbs always have the right of way over those who will TR a climb.

Some climbs are multi-pitch climbs, but nobody does anything but the first pitch. In this case, all the other ettiquete rules apply. Other climbs are commonly climbed as multi-pitch routes and are seldom done as single pitch routes. Such climbs should not be toproped.

8) It it okay to yell beta at people who didn't ask for it that I don't know?

No, many climbers like figure out the moves on their own.

Climbers who keep these concepts of etiquette in mind will almost universally have a much better time with a lot less conflict at the crags. And climbing isn't about conflict. It's about having fun...!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, October 26, 2020

Rappelling Safety

There is no doubt that rappelling is one of the more dangerous things that we regularly do in this sport. This is because we trust everything to one or two strands of rope and an anchor. If anything goes wrong, it can be catastrophic. However, there are some things that every climber can do to make rappelling safer.

First, if it is possible to safely walk off from the top of a climb, simply walk off. Limiting the amount of time that you spend rappelling is a surefire way to limit the amount of exposure that you have to potential mistakes.

Second, climbers should always try to tie off the ends of their ropes in order to close the system. This is a simple thing to do that is often overlooked. Some climbers are afraid that their ropes will get stuck after they throw them...which is a legitimate fear. Closing the system should be a default tactic. But if there are extenuating circumstances, then perhaps the system should be intentionally left open.

I have recently started to experiment with tying the ends of the ropes off and clipping them to my harness. In a multi-pitch rappel setting this decreases the likelihood of ropes getting stuck below the next belay station, as well as providing the security of a closed system.

People seldom think about tying knots in the end of the rope in single pitch terrain, but ironically, that's where most people accidentally rappel off of a single end of the rope. All that it takes is a minor rope offset to ruin your day. Knots in the rope will keep such a thing from being anything more than another minor element to fix.

Rappelling with a Prussik above the Device

And third, climbers should use some kind of rappel backup.

A Prussik Hitch on a Rope

There are two friction hitch backup options that are commonly used. Some people like to put a prussik hitch above their rappel device, whereas others prefer to put an autoblock hitch below the device. There are advantages and disadvantages to rappelling both ways. The biggest advantage to either of these options is that you are less likely to die if you make a mistake. The biggest disadvantage is that it takes extra time to put these things together...

Note the autoblock coming off the climber's leg-loop.

Most people will put their hand on the autoblock hitch while rappelling. You might notice that the backup in this scenario is on a non-locker. Generally, you don't need a locking carabiner for a back-up, but if you want more security, you can certainly use one.

Rappelling with a friction hitch above the device has gone a bit out of fashion. One advantage to rappelling with a prussik hitch above is that it is easy to switch a rappel system into a rope ascending system. The prussik is already attached to the climber's belay loop, so all that he has to do is to add a second friction hitch for his feet below the first friction hitch. That said, in a free-hanging rappel, if the hitch gets loaded, it can be hard to release it.

Most climbers now rappel with a friction hitch (usually an autoblock hitch) below the device, attached to a leg loop. This allows both hands to hold the rope below the device which provides for more redundancy in the rappel.

An Autoblock Hitch

A friction hitch works well below the device...most of the time. It is, however, imperative that climbers who employ this technique be extremely careful. If a climber elects to hang from the rope by nothing more than his device and a friction hitch, it is possible that the hitch could be disengaged if it touches the device. Such a thing would result in catastrophic failure. This usually happens when one twists his body away from the friction hitch. If a climber needs to mess around with ropes or something else while hanging from a device and a hitch, he should definitely put a catastrophe knot in below the hitch. This will ensure that should something happen, the climber will not fall to the ground.

Rappelling is the most dangerous thing that we do. So why not create more security by trying to walk off when you can? Or by tying knots in the end of the ropes? Or by putting a friction hitch into the system? Any one of these simple techniques could save your life...

UPDATE:

AAI Guide Andrew Yasso recently received the following text from a student that he taught this material:

Sup Andrew! 
It's ******, ***** *****'s nephew, the kid you took climbing and lent a crash pad too. Hope all is well.

Anyway, just wanted to share some photos!


That knot you showed me saved a 4 foot fall due to miss judging how much rope i need for a rappel!



This is a great example of why we should always close systems and use friction hitches to back up rappels!

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, October 23, 2020

Low Impact Climbing in Joshua Tree

Most folks who play outdoors are familiar with the basic Leave No Trace principles. Those principles apply differently to different environments and activities. Here are a handful of refinements of those principles for the rock climber in Joshua Tree National Park. Many of these concepts are also applicable to rock climbing in other desert settings such as Red Rocks, Zion National Park, and the greater Moab area.

Climbers' Trails

Desert plants and alpine plants have a lot in common, both are easily damaged and don't grow back. Ninety percent of the climbers in Joshua Tree are visiting areas with at least an unofficial climbers trail, if not an official maintained trail, leading from the road to the rock. Short-cutting these trails can permanently damage the desert ecosystem. This is probably the biggest impact that climbers are having on the park. The park service is even aware of it and is in the process of gathering information before formally deciding what to do about the problem. Most approaches in Joshua Tree are casual rambles that last for a few minutes. Take the time to find the trail. Just because it doesn't make a beeline from the car to the route you want to climb, doesn't mean it's not the right trail to be on. If, as is often the case, you have multiple options, try to stick with the most hardened path.

Paulina Varshavskay on Tennis Shoe Crack (5.8)
Photo by Ian McEleney


Know When To Bag It

Use the pit toilets at the road. If you have to urinate at the crag, step away from the routes and go on a rock. Plants “breathe” through their leaves, so urinating on them is not the same as watering them. It does, however, make them more appetizing to salt deprived animals. If you have to defecate and can’t make it to the pit toilet you have several options, but know that burying your fecal matter in a cat hole is not very effective in desert soils. In addition, leaving your toilet paper behind is completely unacceptable. The best option is to use a Wag Bag.

Trash

Pack it out, even if you didn’t pack it in. It’s easy to carry a plastic bag (the kind they give you at the store for your donuts and beer) for this purpose. Most climbers wouldn’t knowingly leave trash, but it’s common to have the wind blow your tape or candy bar wrapper into the bushes when you weren’t watching. A quick visual sweep of an area is a good way of ensuring that you’re not forgetting any trash (or #6 Camalots).

Mitzi Harding on Toe Jam (5.7)
Photo by Ian McEleney


Don’t Be Rude

The desert is naturally a quiet place. Many climbers savor this quality. Refrain from unnecessary screaming. Another climber could be at the crux of their route and might not appreciate you and your buddy debating the merits of American energy policy at full volume.

Leave your dog at home. Your canine companion may be a model of good behavior, but a dog's mere presence puts stress on native animals that are already locked in a struggle to survive. Not all climbers like being near dogs, even well behaved, leashed ones. Their fecal matter has all the same disposal problems as human fecal matter. Last but not least, the park has a pretty strict set of rules regarding dogs and tickets have been issued.

Rappel Anchors

Most routes in Joshua Tree do not have bolted anchors at the top. Often even routes that do have bolt anchors do not have hardware for rappelling on those anchors. This means that though there are bolts in the rock and hangers on those bolts, there are no rings, chains, quick links, or other hardware on the hangers to run the rope through for rappelling. If this is the case, the standard descent for that formation is either a walk-off or an established rappel somewhere else on top. There is no need to leave webbing and hardware on those bolts for your rappel. It can sometimes take a little investigation and scrambling to find the best and safest way down. If for some reason you MUST leave webbing behind on an anchor, use the tan colored webbing available at several shops in town.

What’s The Point?

These techniques might be a little inconvenient. They might require some advance planning, or even the carrying of extra stuff. Think about it. If all you cared about was the climbing, you could certainly get more routes done in the gym. You traveled all the way out here to climb awesome routes in an unparalleled setting. One visit probably won’t be enough. Do your part to keep Joshua Tree beautiful for other climbers and for yourself.

--Ian McEleney

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/22/20

Election:

--The election is coming soon, and this may be the most important one of our lifetimes. Certainly, the future of our public lands and our climate are both on the ballot. Protect Our Winters has created an excellent tool to help you #MakeADamnPlan to vote. Check it out.

Northwest:

--From the Access Fund: "Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and Access Fund are pleased to announce that 11 acres in Icicle Canyon outside Leavenworth, Washington, are now permanently protected as public land. This conservation project is the result of a collaboration between Access Fund, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and local partner organizations. The parcel includes popular climbing areas known as Alphabet Rock and Icehouse Boulders, as well as the initial access path to the historic crag of Givler’s Dome farther uphill on adjacent USFS lands. Together, this critical inholding features more than 40 historic cracks, slabs, faces, and hueco-filled roofs, as well as dozens of boulder problems." To read more, click here.

Horne Lake is a climbing area on Vancouver Island.

Sierra:

--Tom Herbert recently set a new speed record on the Muir Wall (5.10, A2+, VI) on El Capitan in Yosemite. The route was first completed by his father in 1965. To read about the ascent, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Rocky Mountain National Park is currently closed due to fire activity.

--The Vail Daily is reporting that, "In matters of the law, it’s true that anything you say can and will be used against you. But in submitting his GoPro footage to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center in March, Vail resident Evan Hannibal said he wasn’t expecting his comments in the video to help establish a case against him resulting in a reckless endangerment charge and a potential $168,000 in restitution." To read more, click here.

--The Durango Herald is reporting that, "A wildfire has scorched at least 15 acres and trapped nearly 20 hikers Monday near the popular Ice Lakes trailhead, west of Silverton in the San Juan Mountains. U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Esther Goodson said an aerial crew was en route Monday to battle the blaze, which had burned 15 to 20 acres as of 2:30 p.m. Monday." To read more, click here.

--Two snowboarders who unintentionally started an avalanche above I-70 near the Eisenhower Tunnel are being charged with reckless endangerment due to the avalanche washing over the road. Additionally, the state is trying to recover $168,000 for an avalanche mitigation device destroyed in the slide. No one was injured as this took place on March 25th at the start of the pandemic lockdown. Criminal charges have never been filed in Colorado for an avalanche before, and there is some question about what kind of precedent this will set. To read more, click here.

--This kind of stuff is the type of thing that leads to charging people for rescue. It's possible that a missing woman found in Zion National Park, faked her disappearance. From ABC 4: "The liaison of the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue is speaking out about several discrepancies he says he sees in the case of a California woman who was found alive after being missing for 12 days inside Zion National Park." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The CBC is reporting on a backcountry ski fatality in Alberta, Canada: "A skier has died on a backcountry trail in Kananaskis Country. It happened near the Robertson Glacier on Monday. RCMP say the 40-year-old man, from Invermere, British Columbia, was skiing with three friends when a whiteout hit and the group was separated." To read more, click here.

--Pocket Media, the company that owns Climbing magazine, has recently purchased Rock and Ice and Gym Climber. Climbing and Rock and Ice will come together under the title, Climbing. To read more, click here.

--The North Face is spending 7 million dollars in an effort to diversify the outdoors. From The Cut: "Part of its new global “Reset Normal” initiative, the brand is pledging $7 million toward diversifying the outdoors. It will do this through the Explore Fund Council, a global fellowship program launched in partnership with Emmy Award–winning screenwriter, producer, and actor Lena Waithe and climber and Academy Award–winning director Jimmy Chin. The idea is to create a group of experts across culture, entertainment, academia, and the outdoors to help guide the brand on spending that $7 million." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Knee Pain in the Backcountry

Knee pain is a real issue for a lot of backpackers and mountaineers. For some people, this can be a gamestopper.

There are a handful of ways to decrease that pain. First, there are a some things that you can do immediately, while on the trail. And second, there are some excercises that you can do to build the muscles around the knee. Today's video from Chase Mountains covers all of these things in depth:



In review, the things that you can do immediately to decrease pain are:
  1. Choose less steep trails.
  2. Reduce your weight and the amount you carry.
  3. Use trekking poles.
  4. Keep your hips low and squat a bit when on steep terrain.
The remainder of the video goes through two exercises that can be done to increase the strength of the muscles around the knees. These include:
  1. Trendelenburg Test (7:45)
  2. Sideline Hip Abduction (9:30)
The video creator also has a book entitled Hike Strong (it is not cheap), which provides several more exercises.

--Jason D. Martin

--Jason D. Martin




Monday, October 12, 2020

How to Fit a Backpacking Pack

REI's Miranda seems to be getting popular on YouTube. She often goes as Miranda in the Wild. This is because the content provided in these YouTube videos is excellent.

In this video, Miranda and friend discuss how to size a backpack. Check it out!



--Jason D. Martin

Friday, October 9, 2020

Projecting a Climb

Projecting a climb is the process of working out all of the moves so that you can do it cleanly.

Most commonly people project climbs that they want to lead, but it is also certainly okay to project a boulder problem, a mixed climb, an ice climb or a toprope problem. You get to decide what it means to project something. And you get to decide when you've completed your project and you're ready to go onto the next one.

There are a few things that one can do to work a project.

First, consider an appropriate route. The best route to project is one that is just out of your ability level. If you pick something that's super difficult, then it's going to take a long time to get it. 

Second, break down the project into sections. It's certainly okay to work sections separate from one another, even if you have to batman up the rope to get to them. Obviously the crux is the most important section to dial in. It's good to do every section over an over again, until it's possible to begin linking. If it's a trad route that includes gear placement, that should be included in the projecting process as well, prior to your redpoint. (A redpoint is the first time you do the route cleanly, without a toprope.)

Third, if the goal is to lead the route, dial in the entire line on toprope before you go for the lead. Climbing trainer, Eric Hörst, recommends that you do the route at least three times without without falls before you give it a lead attempt.

This video from Climbing Tech Tips has several additional ideas for projecting a climb:


Happy projecting!

--Jason D. Martin


Thursday, October 8, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/8/20

Election:

--The election is coming soon, and this may be the most important one of our lifetimes. Certainly, the future of our public lands and our climate are both on the ballot. Protect Our Winters has created an excellent tool to help you #MakeADamnPlan to vote. Check it out.

Northwest:

Mt. Rainier Mid-Summer

--Mt. Rainier National Park is reporting that, "Superintendent Chip Jenkins announced today that the public comment period has opened for a proposed expansion of the lahar detection system at Mount Rainier National Park. The United States Geological Survey (USGS) Cascades Volcano Observatory has proposed changes to the existing volcano monitoring system inside Mount Rainier National Park as part of a broader effort to implement an expanded lahar detection system. Public input will be accepted during the scoping period from October 5-30, and will assist the National Park Service (NPS) in identifying concerns, potential alternatives, and suggested mitigations. To submit comments at any point during the open comment period, please visit the NPS Planning, Environment, and Public Comment website. A virtual public meeting to provide a project overview and answer questions is scheduled for 4:30-5:30 pm on Wednesday, October 21, 2020." To read more, click here.

--There was a moment when it seemed like the Canadian outdoor equipment coop MEC would survive a buyout by the American Investment Fund. No more. It's happening. Read about it at Gripped.

Sierra:

--The Tahoe Daily Tribune is reporting that, "Free parking, as precious to some skiers as virgin mountain powder, has returned to one Lake Tahoe resort but not before its corporate owner waged an expensive year-long legal battle with two season-pass holders. An 80-year-old attorney and another man whose first job out of college was parking cars at the mountain now owned by Vail Resorts filed separate lawsuits when Northstar California replaced traditional free parking with $20 daily fees ($40 weekends) — after they’d purchased their passes." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The emergency phone in Hidden Valley Campground at Joshua Tree is broken. It should be noted that the only places where there is good cell reception are near the Park Entrances near Twentynine Palms and the town of Joshua Tree.

Colorado and Utah:

--ABC 4 is reporting that, "Search and Rescue teams from Utah County worked through the night to save a man stuck above Bridal Veil Falls in Provo Canyon. The Utah County Sheriff’s office says the 37-year-old climber became stuck above the upper falls late Saturday and could not get down the mountain." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A climber was rescued from North Carolina's Stone Mountain due to exhaustion this week. From the Wilkes-Journal Patriot: "Emergency personnel rescued a rock climber unable to continue at a point about 200-300 feet from the top of Stone Mountain after starting at the bottom near the Hutchinson homestead on Oct. 1. 'The climber had no injuries. He was just exhausted and unable to get himself down or up any further,' said Chief Cole Wyatt of the Wilkes Rescue Squad." To read more, click here.

--It's always sad when they have to euthanize a bear. From Anchorage Daily News: "Denali National Park and Preserve officials say they decided last week to kill a grizzly bear after it got into food stored in cabins, sheds and lodges in the Kantishna-Wonder Lake section of the park." To read more, click here.

--Should outdoor brands endorse politicians. REI and Patagonia disagree. From Snews.

--Gear Junkie is reporting that, "The Consumer Product Safety Commission today issued a voluntary recall, performed by Petzl, of its Low-Stretch Kernmantle Ropes. According to the notice, the ropes 'can have a deep cut or tape securing the ropes together,' potentially leading to a break and fall or injury hazard." To read more, click here.

--The Adventure Journal is reporting that, "the magazines Bike, Powder, Snowboarder, and Surfer are being shut down by owner American Media, which also owns Men’s Journal. This includes both print and digital products for Bike, Powder, and Surfer, and print for Snowboarder. Powder will print its remaining 2020 issues, with the photo annual dropping in mid-November and the gear guide being released later. We have been told but not confirmed that Snowboarder will also print its remaining issues." To read more, click here.

--The controversy over neck gaiters continues...or not. In a new study, they found that a single layer neck gaiter stopped 77% of the respiratory droplets, that a mask blocked 81% and that a double-layered neck gaiter blocked 96%. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Rock Climbing Rests

Rock climbing endurance takes time and focus to develop. The more time climbing, the more endurance one will have. However, no matter how much endurance you have, you still need to know how to conserve energy, so as not to "pump out."

In today's blog, two strong climbers share their tips on how to rest effectively mid-climb.

This first video features pro climber Jonathon Siegrist talking about how he looks for rests. Please note, only the first half of the video is pertinent to this blog post:



In review, Jonathon's tips are:
  1. Rest with arms extended.
  2. Keep hips open and keep the torso over the feet wherever possible.
  3. Don't over-grip. 
  4. Heel and toe hooks can provide additional resting positions.
In this second video, Lonnie Kauk discusses his thoughts on resting.


Lonnie's tips are similar to Jonathon's:
  1. Stay calm and relax.
  2. Keep arms straight whenever possible.
  3. Don't over-grip.
  4. Remember to breathe. Take deep breaths.
The key take-away from these videos...? Resting is important. You will climb better if you know how to conserve your energy as you go...!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, October 5, 2020

Do I need Climbing Chalk...?

Do I need chalk...?

This is a really common question for new climbers. And the answer isn't always obvious.

Climbers tend to use chalk to keep their hands dry while climbing. The primary reason that one's hands get wet is due to sweat. But humidity and natural water on a route can also make a climber's hands wet. Chalk can be used to counter these issues.

When we talk about chalk, we're not talking about the type you saw in elementary school. That type of chalk has a calcium carbonate base. Calcium carbonate crumbles and comes apart when it's wet, so it's not that great for climbing. Climbing chalk has a magnesium carbonate base, which absorbs water (or sweat).

There are three primary options for climbing chalk: liquid chalk, loose chalk and chalk balls.

Liquid Chalk

Liquid chalk has really found it's niche as it is the primary chalk now allowed in rock gyms, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Liquid chalk has a calcium carbonate base and is mixed with alcohol. When you put it on, the alcohol evaporates (and kills coronavirus!), leaving a thin layer of chalk on your hands.

The big upside to liquid chalk is that it tends to last awhile on your hands. The downside is that you can't really put it in a chalk bag, so it's hard to "chalk-up" mid-pitch. Additionally, if you have even the tiniest cut or nick on your hand, it will hurt a lot to use, as the alcohol will sting...

Loose Chalk

Loose chalk is primarily used by boulderers and is commonly put into a big chalk bucket. It is easy to spill and often shrouds a rock gym in a veil of chalky mist. I don't really use loose chalk that much, except to refill my chalk balls.

Some chalk comes as a brick that needs to be broken up into loose chalk. However, this tends to be a cheaper and less effective option.

Chalk Ball

Chalk balls are fabric balls filled with chalk that can be placed in a chalk bag. They often come filled, and can easily be refilled with loose chalk. As chalk balls aren't that messy and tend to last for awhile, this is my personal "go to" chalk.

The question as to whether you need chalk really depends on the type of climbing that you intend to do. 

Alpine Climbing

Most alpine climbing isn't that hard. The vast majority of the alpine routes that are regularly climbed in the world, are 5.7 or easier. And even when the routes are harder, the cruxes tend to be short. Chalk isn't really required on these kinds of climbs. You can usually get away without it.

If you are doing a harder alpine climb, you'll have to consider where you're going to hang your chalk bag. The standard spot, at your tailbone, will most likely be covered by a pack. Often alpine climbers that need chalk will offset their bag from their pack, on one hip or another. This usually means it's easier to reach with one hand or another. Chalk balls are easier in this setting, because the ball can be pulled out and used by either hand.

Other Climbing 

In most other climbing settings, chalk is a good idea. However, in some areas there are Leave No Trace considerations. Hikers and birdwatchers don't like to see chalk smeared all over a cliff face. That said, it is possible to buy colored chalk for certain areas. Make sure that you're aware of the local ethics before using any kind of chalk.

A classic chalk bag with a belt.

Finally, you should be aware that there are really two ways that chalk is carried. Boulderers often use chalk buckets, so that they don't have to carry the chalk. However, most other climbers use chalk bags, because they can be clipped to a harness or worn on a belt. If you're doing anything longer than an eight move boulder problem a chalk bag tends to be a better option.

Happy climbing!

--Jason D. Martin