Thursday, April 30, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 4/30/20

Northwest:

AAI Guide Sam Boyce on the Mustache route on Mt. Baker in 2017.

--The governor of Washington State has announced that some limited outdoor recreation will be opened on May 5th. Climbers should avoid closed lands, avoid unnecessary risks, should stay local and should avoid gateway communities. To read more, click here. Here are some thoughts about climbing as things initially reopen from the Access Fund.

--Here is an update from the Squamish Access Society.

Desert Southwest:

--KTNV Las Vegas is reporting that, "With many Nevadans out of work due to the pandemic the amount visitors near Red Rock Canyon and Mount Charleston have been on the rise. With that extra foot traffic to those areas, authorities report an increase of vandalism at both." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Crested Butte News is reporting that, "A skier caught in an avalanche in the Climax Chutes near Crested Butte was killed Tuesday morning. While the name is not yet being officially released, the skier was a Crested Butte local in his 40s with extensive experience in the backcountry." To read more, click here.

--The Daily Camera is reporting that, "A 24-year-old man was airlifted to a hospital after he fell roughly 30 feet while rock climbing in Button Rock Preserve in northern Boulder County on Tuesday afternoon." To read more, click here.

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "data reveals 27% of Colorado outdoor recreation workforce let go, massive revenue loss, other grim impacts." To read the piece, click here.

--Teton Gravity Research is reporting that, "Aspen Ski Company stated that they may re-open Aspen Highlands in May if conditions and local regulations allow. Currently, all Alterra resorts are closed due to COVID-19, but staff has been maintaining and grooming Highlands in the event of a late-season re-opening." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--It's important not to forget that people are dealing with severe health implications from this pandemic. From Gripped: "Climbing guide Benjamin Paradis has been intubated and is on a ventilator in an Alberta hospital ICU. Paradis is a well respected member of the Canmore climbing community and Association of Canadian Mountain Guides. He has tested negative for covid-19 but is displaying all of the symptoms. He’s married with a young daughter in the Bow Valley." To read more, click here.

--Climbing gyms in Georgia have reopened.

--The National Parks Traveler is reporting that, "while the National Park Service is beginning the planning to reopen parks that have been closed by the pandemic, there's no firm timeline yet for when those openings will occur. For park managers, they'll have to weigh the risk of spreading the virus against economic pressures from their gateway towns." To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund is providing loan relief to Local Climbing Organizations that are in the process of buying lands to preserve. "Since its inception in 2009, the CCLP program has helped local climbing communities purchase 26 climbing areas across the country, conserving $2.8 million worth of land across 17 states. As a revolving loan fund, Access Fund loans the money out, and then after the local community repays it, it is reinvested into another threatened climbing area. The revolving nature of the fund allows Access Fund to use the same dollars to protect more climbing areas over time." To read more, click here.

--And climbing areas around the world are slowly starting to reopen...

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Resources for Continuing Education for Climbers, Skiers and Rescuers

During the shelter-in-place/lockdown/quarantine it's come to our attention that many people are looking for resources to continue their education as backcountry travelers. This blog pulls together some resources for you to explore while you're at home...

Mt. Baker with the moon, early in the morning from Mt. Shuksan.

Before we jump into anything else, I wanted to note that we regularly provide links to interesting articles, blogs, videos and podcasts on our Facebook Page .

Here are our recommendations by category:

Training

For rock climbing training, you might explore, Lattice Training and Training for Climbing. These are training sites/podcasts/instagram/facebook resources. Do a search on your preferred platform. Additionally, the TrainingBeta podcast is really good.

Gripped has a whole pile of free at-home training plans right now. Do a search on their site to go through a progression. And Climbing has been promoting this paid Six Weeks to Stronger Fingers program for awhile.

If you have a home wall, then you might look at Mani the Monkey's youtube page. He's got a lot of great tips as well.

For alpine and ski training, check out Uphill Athlete. This is a paid site, but they have posted at least one plan for free.

I built a drytool training circuit on my deck using door-hinges.
My kids are using it for PE during the pandemic.

Technical Education

As noted, our Blog and Facebook Page are an excellent place to start with this. But you should also check out the AMGA Facebook and Instagram (often the same material) pages. There is a ton of good material there.

Skiing and Avalanche

My favorite skiing podcasts are the Totally Deep Backcountry Skiing podcast and the Next Level Skiing podcast. Both are super engaging and provide some thoughtful tips for backcountry skiers.

The Avalanche Hour is a great podcast for those who spend a lot of time in the backcountry. And the presentations from the Northwest Snow and Avalanche Workshop on youtube are priceless.

Rescue and Accidents

For general climbing and skiing, the Sharp End Podcast is exceptional. This provides in-depth analysis of accidents in North American climbing.

For the mountain rescue community, the following podcasts provide a tremendous amount of insight on different topics:

  • Rescuer MBS - This podcast looks primarily at stress injuries suffered by those in the mountain rescue community.
  • Ronin RescueCast - This is a rope rescue nerd dream world. It includes a combination of discussions on techniques and technical rescue case studies.
  • The Fine Line - This podcast specifically addresses mountain rescue incidents in the Tetons and Wind River ranges of Wyoming. It is very well done.

Let me know what I missed, and I'll add them to the running list!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 27, 2020

The Double-Fisherman's Knot

Arguably, the most difficult knot to teach is the double-fisherman's knot. It is normal for our guides to spend a significant amount of time with students on this particular knot. And even with a lot of time spent focusing on it, some still don't come away with a master's level knowledge of it.

If you have this knot completely wired, then congratulations. If you don't, then this blogpost is just for you...!

The Double-Fisherman's Knot

The double-fisherman's knot is a knot that may be used to join two ropes together. The ropes may be of similar or dissimilar diameters. It is a very secure knot. Indeed, it is so secure, that it is often recommended for cords that will be permanently tied together such as prussik loops.

The biggest problem with the double-fisherman's is that it is very difficult to untie once it has been loaded. As a result, it is not recommended for quick situations where you want to tie two ropes together, such as in rappels.

The Canadian Guide, Mike Barter has put together the following video on how to tie a double-fisherman's knot:

)

As a side-note, while we call this the double-fisherman's knot, that's not exactly right. It is a "bend," instead of a knot. In knot parlance, a bend is a knot that joins two cords or two ropes together.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, April 24, 2020

The Bowline

The Canadian Guide Mike Barter is a funny dude. In this video, he talks about a tying the bowline...while dressed as a cowboy.

Perhaps the best line of this video is when he says that a bowline is "strong enough to pull a snowboarder off his sister."

)

There are a couple of things that I'd like to add to this excellent video.

In addition to what Mike demonstrated, we teach the double-bowline in the curriculum for the AMGA Single Pitch Instructor course. This knot is quite a bit stronger than a single bowline and not as easily untied due to cyclic loading.

Mike repeatedly states that he doesn't want to see people tie-in with a bowline. You may be aware that there is a trend in the sport climbing community wherein people tie in with a double-bowline. There are two big problems with this. The first is that many climbers don't use this technique to tie-in and will not be able to check their partner adequately. And second, if there is a problem in the knot, it is far more likely to fail than a figure-eight follow-through.

There have been a few high-profile accidents with people using a double-bowline for their tie-in. These accidents could have been avoided if the individuals simply used the industry standard figure-eight and checked each other out...

The bowline is a very important knot. And as Mike said in the video, it could even be considered a king of the knots. But when all is said and done, it really should only be used for anchoring to boulders and trees.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Climbing, Coronavirus and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 4/23/20

Northwest:


Sierra:

--It appears that there have been several mountain lion sightings in the Big Pine area. Several goats in town have been attacked and killed. It is very rare for these animals to attack people though. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--There's more garbage on the trails than usual. People are hiking and littering, and few are cleaning up after themselves without oversight. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "Three backcountry skiers were involved in an avalanche near the 12,885-foot summit of Red Peak, located north of Silverthorne, Colorado. One did not survive. Summit County Rescue Group received a report of a skier-triggered avalanche at about 1:40 on Wednesday, April 15. While three skiers were descending Red Peak, a “shallow avalanche” broke at the most-uphill skier, catching the two skiers below. One skier was carried a short distance before managing to “roll back over onto his skis and right himself.” Unfortunately, the third skier was not able to escape the slide, carried an estimated 1,800 feet, sustaining fatal injuries in the process." To read more, click here.

--This is interesting. The day skiing died: Inside the historic day coronavirus forced Colorado’s ski industry to shutter.

--Vail is being sued for not providing the product that they promised as a result of coronavirus. While Ikon Pass holders are getting a deal. They will be able to roll their pass into the next season if things are still being impacted by COVID-19.

--Teton Gravity Research is reporting that, "on Sunday, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) used snow to build barricades preventing access to parking lots at the popular easy access backcountry skiing destination." To read more, click here.

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "A backcountry skier made a lucky escape after getting caught in an avalanche on Friday morning in the Highland Bowl at Aspen Highlands Ski Resort in Colorado." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Climbing magazine is reporting that, "Malcom Daly, a longtime climber and influential member of the community, suffered a stroke yesterday. He is now stable, but in intensive care.  According to a GoFundMe campaign launched by Daly's family, 'Malcolm sustained another stroke yesterday afternoon. The quick response of Karen, the Hailey emergency department, and the Flight for Life helicopter were all instrumental in him getting immediate, and life saving medical services. He is currently in stable condition in Boise, Idaho and starting the recovery process.'" To read more, click here.

--There is some discussion of reopening the National Parks on May 22nd. To read more, click here. But in late breaking news, the Trump Administration says that this could happen earlier.

--Patagonia has reopened their website operations. To read more, click here.

--Leave No Trace has done some work on understanding outdoor recreation during the COVID-19 crisis. Their research can be found here.

--Mt. Everest will have 5G next year.

--A small ski resort near San Bernardino has reopened.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Rope Rescue: Radium Release Hitch

At the American Alpine Institute, we teach two kinds of rescue programs. The first are self-rescue programs. These are programs and lessons that will allow a technical climber to perform a rescue of himself or his partner with the tools he is carrying. The second kind are team rescue programs. These are program where a team of rescue volunteers or professionals work together with specialized gear to perform a rescue. We also call this "rope rescue."

In self-rescue the most common releasable hitch is the munter-mule. In rope rescue - a place where the loads are much greater - the most common load releasable hitch is the radium release.

Like most hitches, there are several ways to tie them. The radium release is no different. But the following video provides you with a basic understanding of how to tie this hitch.



At the end of the video, the demonstrator puts the hitch into a bag. It's interesting that certain populations in the rescue community feel the need to pre-tie everything. It is our belief that a rescuer should have the essential knots and hitches so dialed that they can put them together upside down, wet, or whatever...

--Jason D. Martin


Monday, April 20, 2020

Sunburns in the Mountains

Over the twenty-years that I've been guiding, I've decided that the greatest enemy to the climber is not the rain, it's not the snow and it's not the wind. Instead, it is the sun. There is nothing more relenting and nothing that will have such dire long term effects as the sun.

There was a time in my life when I went from working in the heat of the desert directly to high altitude snow. These are both places where the sun is far more dangerous than in a city. And while I'm not aware of any reports of a higher incidence of skin cancer among climbers, it wouldn't surprise me if this were the case.

The most common places for climbers to get burned are on the tops of the ears, the tip of the nose and on the lips. High altitude climbers on glaciers will also see burns develop on the roof of their mouths and inside their nostrils.

The Author Belaying on Mount Baker
The bandanna covers both his ears and neck.

It might seem obvious, but it is incredibly important to wear sunscreen and cover as much skin as possible when you are in bright sunlight. Over the years I've had a few people on glaciers who decided that they "tan well" and elected not to wear sunscreen. In each of these cases, the climbers contracted serious burns that were so bad, they actually scabbed up.

Whether in the desert or at high altitude one must apply sunscreen and then reapply it often.

Many climbers on big mountains will wear a Buff to cover their faces or will carry multiple bandannas to pin around their faces and necks "Al Qaeda" style. Most will wear sunglasses with a nose beak. And many will apply sunscreen inside the nostrils.

In the desert, some will wear a bandana under their helmets and over their ears and neck. Sunshirts and shirts with collars are also popular. Sunshirts are designed to reflect most of the sunlight away while providing good coverage. Shirts with collars provide a little extra shade for the neck. 

Backpacking Style Sunshirt


The most popular sun protection on the market right now is the sun hoodie. Most companies have some version of this available. These are light-weight, breathable and have a hood to cover your ears and neck.

Mountain Sun Hoodie

Following is a quick breakdown of how to treat a sunburn from the Sunburn Resource:

1. When treating sunburn, it is very important to prevent further damage or irritation. To prevent sunburned skin from getting worse, keep from further direct exposure to the sun, and stay indoors as much as possible.

2. Closely observe the affected areas for blisters. When blisters are present, this means that the skin has been severely damaged, and complications are highly probable. Don’t try to break them, or you’ll increase the risk of infection. If blisters are present on a large area of the skin, get to a hospital’s emergency room immediately. Other instances that warrant medical attention right away are when severe swelling causes breathing difficulty, when pain on the affected area is terrible, and when serious swelling occurs around the limbs such that it threatens to constrict blood flow and cause hands or feet to go numb or turn bluish. Too much sun exposure can also cause other related ailments, such as sun poison or heat stroke. When any of these are suspected or when high fever is detected, consult a doctor immediately.

3. Take pain relievers to help ease the pain and swelling. Aspirin and ibuprofen are examples of oral medications commonly taken to minimize these sunburn symptoms, but do avoid giving aspirin to a child or teenager. Also, consult a doctor before taking any pain killer if you’re also taking prescribed medication.

4. Drink lots of water. This will help you regain lost fluids in your body, as well as aid your system in its recovery from sunburn. Fresh fruit juice, such as watermelon, is also a good alternative. Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, as these may cause further dehydration.

5. Regularly apply a cool, soothing cream or aloe lotion to the affected area to keep it moist. Aloe extract has powerful healing properties, and is most effective in its pure form. Vitamin enriched lotions and moisturizers may also help speed healing. When treating moderate to severe burns, 1% hydrocortisone cream may also be used. Avoid using butter, oil, and strong ointments on burned skin, as these will only irritate and worsen sunburn symptoms.


On mountains like Denali, climbers must completely cover their skin.

6. Shower with cool water whenever possible. This should help ease the pain and discomfort on your skin until it begins to heal. Use very mild soap, and refrain from using abrasive personal skin products, such as exfoliating skin formulas and body scrubs to avoid irritation.

7. Wear loose-fitting clothes made of natural fibers, such as cotton or silk, as sunburned skin tends to be extremely sensitive, and harsher fabrics will do more harm than good. When heading outdoors, wear long sleeved shirts and long pants that cover the affected areas.

8. Leave peeling skin alone. When your skin starts peeling, try your very best not to scratch, scrub or strip the dry skin off. The layer of skin underneath the peeling is still very sensitive, and will only lead to further skin damage when forcibly exposed. Just continue using moisturizer to help relieve itching and dryness.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, April 16, 2020

Climbing, Coronavirus, and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 4/16/20

Northwest:

--There have been some serious tick reports at Mt. Erie. It appears that this is a biggish year for them. Or perhaps the lack of people has made them more focused on the few that are there.

--Tow trucks are towing cars at trailheads in North Bend to help enforce the city's stay-at-home order. North Bend tails include those for Mt. Si and the popular climbing area, Little Si. There are also rumors of towing on the national forest near Snoqualmie Pass (though those have not been confirmed). To read more, click here. To read a thread about the rumors, click here.

Sierra:

--Wildlife is returning in droves to Yosemite National Park, now that there are no people there. To read about it, click here.

--Here is a video of Yosemite, without people:



Desert Southwest:

--13 KTNV is reporting that, "Las Vegas police are stepping up patrols near Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area as people pack the public lands in the area. The Saturday before Red Rock’s scenic loop was closed, BLM officials say 10,000 people entered into the conservation area where there are only 800 parking spots." To read more, click here.

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "A climber with a broken ankle was rescued Sunday from an area east of San Diego, near Descanso, in the Cuyamaca Mountains, according to an official with Cal Fire San Diego. An adult male believed to be 18, Cal Fire Captain Isaac Sanchez said, had fallen approximately 20 feet in the accident." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--A climber was killed after his belay line was severed by rockfall. From Rock and Ice: "Wade Meade, a 29-year-old ski patroller at Park City, Utah, died in a climbing accident on Wednesday, April 8, in Big Cottonwood Canyon, outside Salt Lake City." To read more, click here.

--A climber was rescued from the Second Flatiron in Boulder last week. To read more, click here.

--Teton Gravity Research is reporting that, "More than twenty furloughed members of Vail Ski Patrol are in training to assist their local emergency medical services in the face of an expected surge of COVID-19 cases." To read more, click here.

--Zion National Park is now closed.

Notes from All Over:

--Outside is reporting that, "Sierra magazine and Type Investigations obtained an internal memo from the National Park Service’s Public Health Department to its deputy director of operations warning of dire consequences to the health of both park employees and local communities from the COVID-19 pandemic. In the memo, written on April 3, the department recommends that the National Park Service lock down all of its sites immediately." To read more, click here.

--Bear Tooth Basin Ski Area intends to reopen on May 30.

--Here is a running list of outdoor brands helping with the fight against COVID-19. Let's remember this!

Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Flemish Bend

The flemish bend, also commonly referred to as a figure-eight bend, is a knot commonly used to tie two ropes together.

Why might we tie two ropes together?

The most common reason is for a rappel. And this knot can be used for that application, but it is not the preferred knot. Instead, the preferred knot is the overhand flat bend (often called the Euro death knot or EDK).

There are two common applications for the flemish bend. (1) It is used to tie a cordalette into a loop. And (2) it is used to tie two ropes together for long topropes. In both applications, climbers use the bend because it is easy to untie. A word of warning though...if you elect to toprope with two ropes tied together, be sure to consider the rope-stretch implications of having so much rope in the system.

The flemish bend is very easy to tie. It is simply a standard figure-eight follow-though, threaded by a new rope in the opposite direction. To see an example, click below:



In this particular video, the bend is not dressed at the end. I always prefer dressed knots to undressed knots. Undressed knots are not bad, they won't fail. But dressed knots are easier to quickly check to ensure that they're tied properly.

(Side-note: a bend is a term from a family of knots used to connect two ropes.)

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Alpine Butterfly

In fourteenth episode of the seventh season of The Walking Dead, Rosita is sitting with Sasha in an abandoned building tying knots. Sasha says, "I know a lot of knots, but I don't know that one. Can you show me?"

Rosita proceeds to show Sasha how to tie a butterfly knot. The problem? She doesn't explain the knot's application, or how it will help them survive the zombie apocalypse.

The alpine butterfly is known by a number of names: the butterfly knot, the lineman's loop, the alpine middleman's knot, or the lineman's rider. The construction of the knot allows it to be weighted in multiple directions, the same way an in-line knot might be weighted in a single direction. Additionally, it is a relatively easy knot to untie after loading.

The most common view of the Butterfly Knot.

An alternate view.

There are three common climbing applications for the knot:

Isolation of a Damaged Section of Rope

If you have a core-shot in a rope and need to continue to use it in order to finish your climb or get down, a butterfly knot is often the best way to isolate the damaged section of the rope. The in-line feature of the knot, and the ease of untying, both make this the best option in such a scenario.

Mid-Point Tie-In on a Glacier

Due to the knot's ability to be "in-line" regardless of the load direction, this is a commonly used knot for climber's clipped into the middle of a rope on a glacier. Personally, I don't think it matters that much. The loads in a crevasse fall are small enough that an overhand or a figure-eight-on-a-bight are adequate.

Stopper Knot on a Glacier

The best use of the butterfly is as a stopper knot between climbers on a glacier. Essentially, a climber falls through a bridge, and the rope slices into the lip of the crevasse. The knot wedges, and the climber stops falling, even -- in some cases -- without the other climber dropping into self-arrest.

Due to the fact that the butterfly knot has bulk on both sides of the rope, it is the most likely of the knot options to get stuck in the lip of a crevasse and stop you from falling to the bottom. We have tested this at AAI several times with several different types of knots, and the butterfly ranks as the most likely to stick. Indeed, during a guide training, I once had a guide drop into a hidden crevasse for real, and the knot stopped her instantly.

There are two considerations to this application. First, there should be two to four knots between climbers on a rope team. And second, the team should expect to use a drop-loop style crevasse rescue system if someone falls in, as neither a direct haul, nor a self-rescue with prussic-hitches will easily work.

Tying the Alpine Butterfly

Here is a quick tutorial on the most common way to tie the knot, "the hand wrap method."



The following video shows some other tying options:


Rosita was right to show Sasha the butterfly knot in The Walking Dead. Because if there's one place where you could probably escape the zombie apocalypse, it's on a glacier on a high alpine peak...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, April 10, 2020

Bear Hangs and Other Options

Hanging bear bags isn't always the best way to keep food and other smelly objects away from bears. This is primarily because most of the time, the bag isn't adequately hung. It's either too close to the tree or it's not high enough.

Another really common mistake is to throw a line over a tree branch, haul the bag up off the ground and then tie off the other end to another tree. (Full disclosure: I did this for years.) The bear may inadvertently release the bag and it will come down.

A Bear Vault Bear Canister

A few years ago, Andrew Skurka, a well-known backpacker and backpacking instructor, wrote a controversial article about why he doesn't do bear hangs. In his article, he identified six reasons not to hang bear bags. We've already hit one, you're probably terrible at it because you don't do it enough. He also notes that, (2) it's impossible if you don't have the right terrain. (3) It's time consuming to do it right. (4) You can get injured throwing a rock over a branch. (5) A determined bear will get it anyway. And (6) there are other alternatives.

Many backcountry travelers (and land managers) prefer hard-sided bear canisters, or soft-sided bear bags. Popular hard-sided canisters include things like the Bear Vault or the Bare Boxer. In the soft-sided world, the Ursack is by far the most popular product.

In the soft-sided world, some models come with an aluminum shield that can be placed inside the bag. There are a handful of land managers that prefer this to a straight soft-sided bag and will require them in the backcountry.

Several Ursack Models
Click to Enlarge

Most guides carry Ursacks. This is because the bear canisters take up so much room in one's pack that they are a somewhat unreasonable. But Ursacks are not fool-proof. They require a complex tie-off technique to close them adequately...and a bear might just leave with your sack anyway, leaving you without any food. As such, when possible, I will hang my Ursack from a tree. The following video demonstrates one clever bear hang technique.



The knots from the video can be found below:
Bear hangs with bags that are not bear resistant have to be really really good: 12 feet up. 5 feet out from the tree. And 5 feet below the branch.

And then there is another option, an option that is used by many guides in the high country and is suggested in Skurka's article under the right circumstances. It is possible to sleep with your food to protect it from bears. Most will be startled and run away if you wake up and start yelling while they're pawing around your camp.

The right circumstances are first, no bear canister requirements. Second, black bear country, not brown bear country. And third, a limited, or no history of bears in the area. Obviously, when you're well above tree-line, this may be the preferred option.

Bears are no joke. And food storage, wherever you are, should be carefully considered...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, April 9, 2020

Climbing, Coronavirus and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad -- 4/9/20

Northwest:

--Former president of the Seattle Mountaineers, Frank Fickeisen, passed away at the age of 93 this week. To read more, click here.

--The annual National Brotherhood of Skiers, a black skiers organization, had their annual get together in Ketchum, Idaho this year. The event at Sun Valley at the beginning of March, resulted in numerous COVID-19 infections among the 600-hundred attendees. To read more, click here. REI  produced an excellent film about this group last year. To see the film, click here.

--The Seattle Times is reporting that, "REI said it would keep its 162 retail locations shuttered and furlough many of its roughly 14,000 employees without pay for 90 days as the coronavirus pandemic continues to paralyze much of the bricks-and-mortar retail sector." To read more, click here.

--A new select guidebook is coming out for Squamish!

--In some excellent news, KOMO is reporting that, "A man who broke into dozens of vehicles at Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks has been sentenced to two years in federal prison after he serves a more than two-year state prison term." To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--A rescue team was caught in an avalanche near Donner Pass on Saturday. Thankfully, there were no injuries. To read more, click here.

--With only 17 hospital beds, the town of Mammoth is hoping to put up a checkpoint on the highway to keep visitors who might bring the virus, out. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--KGUN 9 is reporting that, "Following Arizona Governor Doug Ducey's stay-at-home-order, the Pima County Sheriff’s Department has seen a spike in rescues on hiking trails." To read more, click here.

--The Grand Canyon has been closed.

--The Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting that, "Free public trails near Scenic Drive in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area are closed until further notice. The trails are off Calico Basin Road and include Calico Basin, Kraft Mountain and Ash Spring trailheads; Gene’s Trail; Girl Scout Trail; Ash Spring Trail; Calico Overlook Trail; and Calico Basin Trail, according to Red Rock Canyon Las Vegas’ website." To read more, click here.

--A Southtwestern slackliner recently posted this dizzying drone video of slackliners in Red Rock Canyon. Though it's a bit "spinny," it's certainly a scenic video.




Colorado and Utah:

--The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that, "The Bureau of Land Management is considering industry-driven requests to lease tens of thousands acres for oil and gas development near Arches and Canyonlands national parks. In recent months, firms sought to nominate up to 360 parcels on these scenic lands popular for dispersed outdoor recreation outside Moab." To read more, click here.

--The Summer Outdoor Retailer show has been cancelled. This is one of the biggest events in the outdoor industry. To read more, click here.

--Unofficial Networks is reporting that, "CEO Rob Katz announced through a press release VAIL Resorts has deferred all chairlift construction projects, terrain expansion and improvements to base areas. This includes projects planned for Beaver Creek, Breckenridge, Keystone and Okemo. The suspension will save the company $80-85 million." To read more, click here.

--The Durango Herald is reporting that, "Trail systems serve as the lifeblood for Durango outdoor recreation. Keeping those networks open during the coronavirus pandemic is important to public officials, but trail closures are a real possibility because of users who do not follow public health ordinances." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Here is a comprehensive list of closed North American climbing gyms. Remember, you can support them now by purchasing punch cards for future use.

--National Park employees are being muzzled.

--In some good news, a previously unprotected piece of the Pacific Crest Trail has been purchased by the Pacific Crest Trail Association. To read more, click here.

--#Vanlife is not very quarantine friendly. Christina Hadley at Outside writes about how hard it is to negotiate this crisis while living out of a vehicle. Check it out, here.

--As pollution has decreased, the Himalaya has become visible in India. To see a photo, click here.

Tuesday, April 7, 2020

A Climber's Guide to Checking Bolt Security

We use bolts nearly every day in our climbing. But many climbers don't take much time to assess them. Following is a short tutorial on bolt assessment.

Expansion Bolts:

There are two modern types of expansion bolts that are commonly used in climbing. The first is the sleeve bolt. This is characterized by a static nut on the surface of the rock, and a sleeve within the rock. When the bolt is tightened on the surface a small wedge inside the sleeve within the rock is maneuvered up toward the head, expanding the bolt. The second type is a wedge bolt. These are characterized by threads on the surface of the rock. Wedge bolts have one or two static cones and a sleeve that moves when you tighten the bolt on the surface. As you tighten the bolt, the sleeve moves up over the cone, "wedging" the bolt in the rock.

This anchor is constructed with sleeve bolts and mussy hooks.

This rusty and dangerous bolt is a wedge bolt.
In this image, the bolt is galvanized and the hanger is stainless steel. 
Incongruent materials (the combination of two different types of steel)
can also be dangerous.

The following video from the British Mountaineering Council discusses several ways to check a bolt while climbing.



Following are some from the video, as well as a few additional thoughts.

1) Make sure that the bolt is at least a hand's-width away from any cracks or edges.
2) Check the hanger for movement. Does it rotate? Or is it loose? If a bolt is loose and you elect to tighten it, don't crank on it, as you can damage the bolt or rock. Tighten until is is snug, and then put very light force (10-15lbs) on the nut.
3) Check the bolt for movement. If the bolt is loose, there's little you can do.
4) Is there damage or corrosion? Are the materials incongruent? Rusty bolts/hangers can snap off.
5) (Not in the video) If there is a significant amount of thread sticking out of the top of a nut on a wedge bolt, that can be a red flag. How much of the bolt is actually in the rock?
6) (Not in the video) Did the person who placed the bolt combine techniques? In other words, is the bolt both glued and mechanically engaged? There are some legitimate reasons that someone might do that, but more commonly the person didn't know what they were doing.

For more information on older-style mechanical bolts, click here.

Glue-In Bolts:

Glue-ins, if there placed appropriately, are extremely strong. Here's a short video on glue-in assessment for climbers:


In review:

1) Is the bolt in good solid rock, away from cracks or edges?
2) Does the bolt move?
3) Is there wear on the bolt from people lowering off?

The reality is that you may be forced to use a bad bolt in a lot of different types of situations. The goal is to identify red flags and then to build an additional safety cushion. Sometimes you can avoid the use of one of these bolts, and sometimes you can't. But at least -- after evaluation -- you know where you stand...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 6, 2020

Alpine Rescue: A Theatrical Production

Many of you are aware that I have a background in playwriting and directing. I used to be a high school drama teacher and have an MFA in Theatre Arts. As such, nothing touches me as much as fun, funny theatrical productions that combine my passions for the outdoors and the mountains.

This short play, written and performed by Kurt Quinn at The Groundlings in Los Angeles as part of Advanced Lab, is awesome, and very funny. It is well-worth the five minutes it will take to watch it:


--Jason D. Martin

Friday, April 3, 2020

Accessible Alpine Rock Classics in Rocky Mountain National Park

There are only a few peaks in Rocky Mountain National Park that offer both relatively short approaches and "classic" (read: trade route) climbing: Hallett Peak and Notchtop. Both approaches offer modest elevation change at ~1,600-1,700 feet of gain from the Bear Lake Trailhead (same trailhead for both peaks). Mileage is also modest, especially when compared to 12-16 mile days for objectives on Longs or in Glacier Gorge.

Descending from Hallett Peak, the peak on the left side of the photo. Photo Chris Brinlee
Hallett Peak 

Hallett Peak has several routes of 3-4 star quality from 5.7-5.9. When paired with the 1.8 mile approach and 1,600 feet of elevation gain, the North Face of Hallett Peak is undisputedly the lowest hanging fruit for alpine rock in the area. Routes range from 850 to 1,000+ feet and even includes the mega-classic Culp-Bossier (III, 5.8+).

A climber on pitch 4 of the Culp-Bossier on Hallett Peak

The North Face of Hallett Peak is gneiss, and as such its crack systems aren't continuous (especially when compared to other parts of RMNP like the Diamond, or California's Sierra granite) so protection is variable. For trade routes like Culp-Bossier, the 5.8 climbing has great protection but runouts are substantial at 5.6. Additionally, route-finding on the upper face can also be challenging, though many stretches of the wall offer positive edges as a reprieve from the runouts and route-finding difficulties. Trad leaders who are used to multi-pitch routes in more amicable venues such as Red Rock will want to be cautious about selecting this wall as their first alpine rock route in the area.

A climber on the final pitch of the Culp-Bossier, Hallett Peak
Notchtop

Notchtop offers numerous classics at a variety of grades from Spiral Route (II, 5.4-5.6) to Direct South Buttress (III, 5.9). It's a slightly longer approach than Hallett, with just over 3 miles and 1,700 feet of gain but many of the routes will go quicker than Hallett, offering a similar length of day for competent parties climbing at or below their comfort grade.

Direct South Buttress (III, 5.9) is a favorite at the grade, for many RMNP climbers. It's steep, exposed, and offers quality crack climbing in a heroic position, what more can you ask for! The route goes up the peak's prow in the photo below.

A climber looking up at Notchtop from the base
Spiral Route gets overlooked by climbers seeking more sustained 5th class, but for those looking for a fun and moderate alpine day, this route is a must with 3-5 pitches from 5.0-5.4 interspersed with 2nd-4th class terrain. Near the top, one can tack on "Morning" (two pitches, 5.7) to add more technical climbing to the day. 

A climber low on Spiral Route, Notchtop
The descent off Notchtop has two common options: the 4th class ridge descent or three 60m double rope rappels. The ridge descent is engaging and can be time consuming for parties new to traveling in traversing ridge terrain. The rappels are relatively straightforward, though one will need to bring a second 60 meter rope.

Several other routes exist on both peaks described in this post at a variety of grades. Both peaks also offer incredible winter recreation opportunities. Hallett Peak (and Tyndall Gorge, where it is located) gifts climbers with challenging ice and mixed routes like the Great Dihedral (III, M5) and snow couloir climbing like Dragontail Couloir, which also serves as a popular ski mountaineering objective in the spring. Notchtop's aforementioned "Spiral Route" also makes for a challenging yet fun winter climb, making these "short-approach" destinations a year-round gift for climbers, skiers, and snowshoers. Regardless of the season, these peaks are not to be missed by any climber visiting RMNP (who has the requisite experience).    





Thursday, April 2, 2020

Climbing, Coronavirus and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 4/2/20

If you have an old pair of ski goggles and want to help with the coronavirus fight, click here. Some health care workers still don't have eye protection.

Northwest:

--A teenage Canadian climber was rescued after falling on Mt. Hood this week. To read more, click here.

--They have stopped clearing the North Cascades Highway. From the Washington State Department of Transportation, "On March 26, Secretary of Transportation Roger Millar suspended most maintenance work due to COVID-19 safety concerns, and implemented an “Essential Maintenance” approach to further comply with the state’s Stay Home, Stay Healthy order to safeguard public health. Under these guidelines, we have paused most maintenance across the state, including work to reopen the North Cascades Highway. Similar work pauses are occurring on Cayuse and Chinook Passes." To read more, click here.


--Mt. Hood National Forest is closing, everything. From OregonLive: "Closures will affect all trailheads, sno-parks, day-use areas, campgrounds, fire lookouts and cabins within the national forest." To read more, click here.

--Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest has closed facilities and campgrounds, but the forest remains open.

--The Summit at Snoqualmie has closed uphill skiing.

--Washington State Parks are now completely closed. Early in the crisis, they only closed the campgrounds. To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--A couple of Yosemite locals are making coronavirus masks...

--Medium is reporting that, "Mono County, home of Mammoth Mountain, has the highest per capita COVID-19 rate in California; Data shows counties with ski resorts have higher rates than urban areas." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Rescue crews were forced to respond to a skier triggered avalanche near Colorado's Telescope Mountain on Tuesday. To read more, click here.

--From March 27th:


--The National Parks Traveler is reporting that, "Though visitation to Zion National Park reportedly has fallen greatly since the park's campgrounds and lodge were closed, rangers on Thursday had to rescue two area residents who suffered injuries in the park." To read more, click here.

--Arches and Canyonlands are closed.

Notes from All Over:

--Jackson Hole News and Guide is reporting that, "Rescuers have yet to find the man who was buried in an avalanche on Taylor Mountain. The search will continue early Thursday morning. Members of the public are asked to avoid the Coal Creek parking area as it will be closed for search efforts. Skiers are asked to avoid Teton Pass altogether on Thursday." To read more, click here.

--The Billings Gazette is reporting on a climbing accident in Montana: "A man injured after an approximately 50-foot fall while rappelling in a remote area near the Stillwater River Trail was rescued over the weekend after about 12 hours of work from multiple first responder groups." To read more, click here.

--Snowking Mountain in Jackson is still open to skinners who keep their social distance. They have done a fundraiser to keep the groomer going. To read more, click here.

--But the reality is that regular operations in North American ski resorts are over, likely for the season.

--Here is an updated list of climbing area closures.

--Northern Michigan's Shaggy Skis has switched outdoor gear to medical mask production. To read more, click here. So has Outdoor Research. And others...!

--Teton Gravity Research is reporting that, "the section of trail leading up Tuckerman Ravine's Headwall is now closed to all use according to the Mt. Washington Avalanche Center. According to a press release,the section 'extends from Lunch Rocks to the top of the Headwall, where it meets the Alpine Garden Trail. The closure includes skiing and riding the Lip and Sluice.' If you don't know what any of those things are, then you probably should avoid Tuckerman Ravine." Over 400 people were trying to ski this over the weekend. To read more, click here.

--The Tokyo Olympics and climbing's big debut on the world stage has been postponed until 2021. To read more, click here.

--And finally, climbers in France are being fined for breaking quarantine and climbing.