Friday, May 29, 2020

The Dangers of Glissading

Yep, you can find them in just about every issue of Accidents in North American Mountaineering. They have unwieldy headlines like:

"Climber injured in Glissade Accident"
"Out of Control Glissade Leads to Fatality"
"Inexperience, Lack of Proper Clothing and Glissade with Crampons On"

Gissading is an incredibly fun endeavor. I've often felt that after achieving a somewhat physical summit that a good glassade run back down makes it all worth it. It's as if nature gave you something back for all of the work that you did to get up there. The desire to glissade though should be tempered by the reality...and the reality is that a lot of people get hurt glissading.

Most injuries take place because an individual breaks one of the cardinal rules. To stay safe, the best thing to do is to take these rules seriously.

The Cardinal Rules of Glissading 
  1. Never glissade with crampons on. If you're wearing crampons it means that you're probably on hard snow or ice. This means that should you glissade, you will slide really fast. If you slide really fast and you catch a crampon spike, your leg will snap like a dry twig. As such one should never glissade with crampons on. 
  2. Never glissade on a rope team. If one person loses control on a rope team, then others may do so as well. 
  3. Never glissade on a glacier. It's likely that you'll be roped up if you're on a glacier so if you do glissade, you will be breaking two rules at once. We don't glissade on glaciers because of the possibility of hidden crevasses. 
  4. Always make sure that you can see where you're going. This should make sense. If you can't see, then you could end up sliding into a talus field or off a cliff. 
  5. Make sure that there is a good run-out. A good run-out is imperative. One should certainly avoid glissading above dangerous edges, boulders or trees. 

These rules are quite black and white. There are few gray areas in glissading. If there is some question, then the best thing to do is to err on the side of caution. Though you might be tired, sometimes walking down the mountain is the safer alternative.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Climbing, Coronavirus and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 5/28/20


--The NCW Life Channel is reporting that, "A climber who fell near the top of a ridge in the Wenatchee Foothills on Monday had to be rescued by crews from the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office’s and Chelan County Fire District 1. The climber was coming down the peak above the WRAC in the Wenatchee foothills when he started sliding and injured his shoulder, said Capt. Clint Webley of the fire district said." To read more, click here.

Mt. Hood from Timberline Lodge

--There were two rescues on Mt. Hood over the holiday weekend. Conditions were bad, and the mountain was busy. There is some concern that pent up demand as we reopen is leading to poor choices. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive will be reopening on June 1st...just as it gets too hot to climb. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Fox News is reporting that, "A Utah climber who fell and cracked his head while scaling a cliff by himself on Sunday was rescued after he regained consciousness, and nearby campers heard his cries for help, authorities said. The 52-year-old man, whose name has not been released, was climbing up a slot in the cliff near Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery, by the Colorado border, when he fell an unknown distance, the Uintah County Sheriff’s Office said. He told rescuers he didn’t know how long he was unconscious before he awoke and yelled for help." To read more, click here.

--Some yahoos lit a massive bonfire under the Red Monster Boulder in Utah's Ibex climbing area. There is carbon damage on two popular hard boulder problems. To read more, click here.

--Eldorado Canyon's The Naked Edge (5.11b, 6-pitches) , has a new speed record: 24-minutes and 14-seconds bridge-to-bridge. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--REI and are parting ways. To read more, click here and here.

--Ski is reporting that the "Indy Pass Adds 7 Independent Ski Areas for 2020-’21 Season.
The $199 multi-resort season pass will now offer skiers access to 52 independently owned ski resorts across North America." To read more, click here.

--If the Olympics aren't able to happen next year, they won't happen...

--There is real concern that summer sleep-away camps for children may go bankrupt this summer. A New York Times guest columnist and summer camp owner believes that there's an answer: Make summer camps available to families. "We believe that summer camps heal and strengthen social bonds, and therefore provide a vital service during these stressful times. While we cannot predict exactly what the state of public health will be in our home state or other states during the summer months, we do know that families are yearning for safe outdoor spaces where their children can feel free again. We know that camps have always been those safe spaces. By opening cabins to entire families, camps can provide the same invigorating social connections and memorable moments for parents and their families as they always have for kids." To read more, click here.

--A boy in the Italian Alps had a very close call with a bear this week. The family was on a picnic when a bear approached. The boy's dad filmed the boy as he carefully moved away. We're not huge fans of people who film close calls with bears. This is because it's better to be focused on the animal and doing the right thing than on getting something for facebook. However, this boy does such a good job, it's worth watching him as he escapes the animal:

--Snews is reporting on how many outdoor brands are now manufacturing masks, not just as PPE, but for activewear. To read more, click here.

--From the New York Times: "How the Pandemic Splintered the Appalachian Trail: The coronavirus scuttled plans and forced officials to ask people to get out of the woods. Of the thousands who hoped to hike the trail this year, only a few hundred remain." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Route Profile: Cutthroat Peak, S. Buttress (5.8, III+)

Every winter the Washington Department of Transportation turns a cold shoulder to a stretch of State Route 20 that winds its way through the Northern Cascades.  This area sees so much snow and crosses so many avalanche paths that it is not feasible for them to maintain the road and keep it plowed.  This stretch can see sometimes more than 60 or 70 feet of snow in some places.  Every spring, we eagerly await the reports from the DOT as they start the clearing process.  Depending on the snowfall and the avalanche conditions, this can take a few weeks, or a few months.  This year, the highway was cleared and open by May 8, and climbers and skiers alike have already started enjoying the numerous routes there.

The Liberty Bell Group from the East.  Dana Hickenbottom.
SR 20 cuts through the heart of the North Cascades National Park, and is the access for hundreds of peaks.  One of my favorite areas along there is known as Washington Pass.  This Pass is home to some of the best alpine rock climbing in the state.  The most notable formation there is the Liberty Bell Group, which includes Liberty Bell, Concord Tower, Lexington Tower, North Early Winters Spire and South Early Winters Spire.  Each of these peaks have numerous routes on them ranging from 5.6 beginner routes to 5.12 Grade V monsters.

However, the Liberty Bell Group isn't the only fine chunk of granite in the area.  Another great is Cutthroat Peak, which is just to the north of Liberty Bell, on the other side of the highway.  At 8050', it tops out at about 300' higher then anything in the Liberty Bell Group.  When viewed from the east or west, you can see the distinctive North and South Summits, which form the shape of the salmon that it is named after.

Climbers approaching through the grassy meadows to
the southwest of the peak.  James Pierson

There are a hand-full of routes on the peak, mostly in the moderate range, although there are a couple in the 5.10 and over range, as well as some alpine ice routes.  From the highway, you park at a broad pull-off south and just west of the peak, approximately 1.5 miles west of Washington Pass.  Drop down into the drainage and start the brushy hike up the other side towards the meadows on the southwest of the peak.  Ascend the northern-most notch of the Southwest Arm to get to the base of the South Buttress to start the real climbing.  The South Buttress, shown middle-center in the photo below, is a great 5.8 route that follows the crest of the feature, with a few short sections that venture to the east before returning back to the ridge.  If you find yourself getting sucked too far to the left, be sure to steer yourself back to the crest again.

View of Cutthroat Peak from the summit of Liberty Bell.  James Pierson

The majority of the route is easier climbing with a few short but well protected 5.6 - 5.7 spots.  The crux of the climb (5.8) comes near the top, just before you start the final easy scramble.  This takes you up to the first of the two summits.

Rock Ptarmigan trying to blend in. James Pierson
Mountain goat coming to say hello.  James Pierson

Above is a 360 deg. panorama from the summit of Cutthroat Peak.  From this vantage point, you have spectacular views of the Liberty Bell Massif, Big Kangaroo Peak, Silver Star Peak, the Wine Spires, in to British Columbia to the north, and on a good day you can even catch glimpses of Mt. Baker.

Climber starting to rappel down the
West Ridge. James Pierson
For the descent, you have two options.  If there are no other climbers behind you, you can rappel the route.  The other option is to continue scrambling and drop into the notch between the North and South Summits, ascend the North Summit and then rappel down the West Ridge route.  There are fewer rappels this way, but there is also some loose scree scrambling as you come off the West Ridge.

Cutthroat Peak is often overlooked by climbers since its neighbors on the other side of the highway have such easy access.  But with a little extra effort on the approach, you will find a great climb for anyone looking for a long, moderate climb with beautiful surroundings.

--James Pierson, Program Coordinator and Guide

Monday, May 25, 2020

Captain Kirk likes to Climb Mountains

Captain Kirk likes to climb mountains.

In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the movie starts with Captain Kirk most of the way up a free solo ascent of El Capitan. Of course, Spock has to mess things up by showing up in his jet boots.

We've posted this clip in the past, but we've never had William Shatner's commentary on the scene before. It's pretty funny. William Shatner is clearly not a climber.

So before we look at Mr. Shatner's comments on climbing, we have the scene from Star Trek V to refresh your memories:

This is the clip where William Shatner explains that mountain climbers like to hug and make love to the mountain:

And this is the remix of the clip fashioned as a musical:

Yep, Captain Kirk sure does like to climb mountains!

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Ice Bollard

Steep snow or ice can be descended two ways. A climber could downclimb the terrain or he could rappel. Rappelling is always a dangerous option as a lot can go wrong...but in the mountains, sometimes the speed of rappelling is safer than downclimbing.

A Climber Rappels Off of an Ice Bollard

In hard frozen snow or on ice, one option is to create a bollard. A bollard is essentially a tear-drop shaped pillar that is cut into a frozen surface with an ice axe adze. The rope is then wrapped around the bollard for the rappel. Once the rappel is completed, the climber can simply pull the rope.

Bollards are not the strongest anchors available, but they are quick and effective. If you choose to use a bollard, it is important to do two things. Back them up and reset the rope after each rappel.

An Ice Bollard loosely Backed-Up by an Ice Screw

To back-up a bollard, create the bollard and then preset the rope. Place a piece of snow protection (e.g. a picket buried as a deadman) and then loosely clip a sling to both the piece and to the rope. Once this is set-up, the heaviest person with the heaviest pack should rappel first. The theory is that if the heaviest person with the heaviest pack doesn't blow out the bollard, then a lighter person should be able to remove the back-up piece and safely rappel.

To reset the rope after each rappel, simply treat the rope like dental floss. Pull on each end of the rope once your down. Resetting the rope like this will ensure that it doesn't freeze into place and get stuck.

An Ice Bollard backed-up by an Ice Screw

Snow and ice bollards are a quick and effective style of anchoring that avoids leaving trash -- or expensive gear -- behind. Practice with this style of rappel anchor will lead to a solid and safe understanding as to how one should employ them effectively...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Climbing, Coronavirus and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 5/21/20


--Timberline Ski Resort on Mt. Hood reopened on May 15th. To read more, click here.

--Oregon's Smith Rock State Park has reopened on a limited basis. To read more, click here.

The Twin Sister Range, east of Bellingham.

--It looks like the Canadian Border will stay closed to at least June 21. Squamish is for Canadians only! To read more, click here.


--Here's an update on the status of roads and campgrounds in the Eastern Sierra.

Desert Southwest:

--KNAU NPR is reporting on how the Trump Administration's border wall will impact the Arizona Trail, one of 11 National Scenic Trails in the United States. "The proposed 74-miles of new border barrier would cut through the southernmost section of the Arizona National Scenic Trail in the Huachuca Mountains and Coronado National Memorial. The Trail Association says it would obliterate the starting point of the 800-mile trail, transform the landscape and alter the experience for its tens of thousands of users." To read more, click here.

--Joshua Tree National Park has reopened, but there are a lot of camping restrictions. To find out more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--A climber in his early twenties was seriously injured in Utah's Snow Canyon on Tuesday. To read more, click here.

--Estes Park Trail Gazette is reporting on a technique to decrease the number of visitors in Rocky Mountain National Park upon reopening. "Plans include a proposal to the Department of the Interior (DOI) to move forward with access based on a scheduled time and approved permit. The park is hoping to limit the number of visitors to 13,500 per day during the first stage of reopening." To read more, click here.

--Arapahoe Basin still might reopen. 

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Colorado’s current snowpack is at just 43 percent of where the snowpack was this time last year and 64 percent of the average for this date, despite reaching a peak snowpack at 103 percent of the norm this season. This low snowpack is due to warm temperatures and a dry spring, which has resulted in a faster melt and less snow." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A climber was injured in a rappelling accident near Billings, Montana this week. To read more, click here.

--The New York Times is reporting that, "Patagonia, quick to close, could be the last to reopen." To read more, click here.

--There is a lot of fear that wildfire camps could be places where COVID-19 runs rampant. To read about it, click here.

--Gripped is reporting on some new Canadian routes: "A handful of new multi-pitch routes have been climbed up the Solar Panel wall west of Nordegg in central Alberta. The climbs are accessed from the Preskott Creek parking area, the same lot used for the new sport climbing area Little Russia." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

The Mountaineers Rest Step

When I first started mountaineering it became clear to me that there were two things I needed to be successful. And no, I'm not talking about a lighter ice axe or more breathable clothing.

Nope. What I need were legs and lungs.

I realized that I needed to be able to walk uphill forever. And I realized that I needed to be able to breathe while I walked uphill forever.

The problem is that nobody can really walk uphill forever. Going up into the sky on a snowy peak really works the quads. Tired quads, plus walking uphill early in the morning, plus altitude, equals tired lungs.

There is a simplistic trick that can help you to preserve both your legs and your lungs. The Mountaineer's Rest Step is a technique that slows you down a bit -- which helps you keep your breath -- and allows you a micro-rest on every step. In the simplest terms, all that you have to do is lock your knee on every step. Locking your knee allows your body to rest on your skeletal system instead of on your muscles.

The Rest Step definitely slows you down. Some might say that this is far from ideal when trying to cover a lot of ground, but the reality is that slow and steady wins the race. It's always better to go slower and take less breaks than to go fast and have to stop a lot.

The Rest Step is a key mountaineering technique. On long summit days it doesn't get any better than taking a mini-rest with every step.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, May 18, 2020

The Ethics of Leaving Fixed Ropes, Caches and Draws

The ethics of leaving gear in the mountains or at the crag is complex. Some might consider anything left behind anywhere, akin to abandoning gear. Indeed, some National Parks and the Bureau of Land Management identify any gear left behind for any reason at all as abandoned.

So under these draconian policies, if you leave a tent up on a mountain, hike down to your car to do a resupply, and then bring your food back up, a ranger could decide that you've abandoned your tent. And while resupplying is not a common tactic, it definitely happens to some extent in every mountain range in the country.

There are three tactics that climbers regularly employ that require them to leave equipment unattended for -- potentially -- extended periods of time. These include fixed ropes, caches, and fixed draws. And unfortunately, not every climber is educated on the ethics of these issues, so sometimes gear is stolen.

Aid climbers commonly fix lines on big walls. They will climb as high as they can, fix ropes and then rappel to the ground and return to camp. Their ropes will remain fixed in position. The following day, they will climb up the rope with mechanical ascenders to reattain their high point. These lines are regularly unattended at night and sometimes during the day. Obviously, these climbers are trusting that the equipment will not only be there when they return, but also that nobody will have messed with it creating a dangerous situation.

Mountaineers fix lines on steep and exposed snow or ice slopes. These types of ropes tend to be set-up by guides or by large expeditions that need to get a lot of people through a dangerous section quickly. Fixed ropes in a mountaineering setting are almost always left on popular trade routes that require them. However, occasionally a person will leave a fixed line on a less popular route to help facilitate quick movement early in the morning.

A Fixed Hand-Line Employed by Guides to Assist Beginners on Exposed Terrain

There are numerous places throughout the country where fixed lines have been left permanently to help facilitate safe movement. Most of the areas where such ropes have been left don't provide many other alternatives. Some of these are employed on sketchy rock sections, but others are used to bypass steep mud

Occasionally, large groups will set short fixed lines at cragging areas to help beginners safely move up and down a sketchy section. Unlike the other examples, these lines are unlikely to ever be left unattended for more than a couple of hours.

Obviously in every example, the loss of a fixed line could result in a dangerous situation. It's pretty unlikely that somebody straight-out abandoned a rope in decent shape that is clearly tied off for a reason...

In many mountaineering and expeditionary settings, a food or gear cache is an important part of a team's strategy. Commonly these cache's are buried in the snow and marked with wands or an avalanche probe. If such a cache were to disappear, it could mean the end of an could also be very dangerous for those who were expecting it to be in place.

It is the responsibility of those who employ the use of fixed lines and caches to clean them up when they are done. If they don't, this creates a negative impression about climbers with land managers and the public. If land managers know who abandoned a cache (in a place like Denali National Park), they will impose a fine. Additionally, climbers who permanently leave these types of things behind provide a better argument for the ethically challenged to steal your cache or your fixed line.

A Climber Confronts the Thief Responsible for Stealing Draws Off His Route in Smith Rock State Park

Photo by Ian Caldwell

Many high-end climbers (5.11-5.15 climbers) regularly employ the use of fixed draws on their projects. In other words, they leave draws fixed on hard bolted sport climbs so that they can easily come back in order to continue working on the ascent of their routes. Many sport climbers will come back to the same climb over and over again, sometimes logging weeks or even months, working to successfully complete their climbs.

This technique of "working" a climb used to be looked-down upon, but has become the norm for people trying to climb very difficult routes. The technically hardest rock climbs in the world are now regularly being climbed this way.

The issue with this technique is that it is now common for climbing draws to be almost permanently left on hard climbs. There are two problems with this. First, some land managers don't like the nearly permanent installation of these draws. And second, the fact that these draws have been left behind provides a major temptation to individuals who don't know any better and for thieves.

In the Winter of 2010, three climbers confronted an individual who was systematically stripping draws off of hard climbs at Smith Rock State Park. Instead of physically attacking the individual for stealing draws, the climbers kept level heads and educated the individual about what he was doing and how it affected them. Luckily for the climbing community, these climbers elected to film the confrontation for educational purposes. A video of the incident can be seen below:

There are many climbers out there who don't like the fact that there are bolts in the rock. And there are many climbers out there who really don't like the fact the bolts have draws permanently affixed to them. But when all is said and done, regardless of your beliefs about this issue, if you know that the draws have been set to assist in a climber's ascent, then taking them is stealing.

There is controversy around each of these three topics. But fixed lines, caches and fixed draws are an important part of many climbers experiences and it is important to respect those who choose to employ such tactics as long as they do it in a way that is in line with a local climbing area's ethics.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, May 15, 2020

Quick Belay Techniques

In the world of climbing, it's not at all uncommon for one climber to be stronger and more experienced than his or her partner. In such a situation, many climbers elect to move together on easier terrain. In some cases, teams with this kind of make-up even choose to simul-climb. If there is a significant difference in strength and skill level, then moving together and simul-climbing should probably be avoided.

Instead of "simuling," the better option would be for the stronger climber to scramble up easier terrain in short 20 to 50 foot pitches and then situate himself in a good stance or seated position. Once he's stable, he could then employ a quick belay technique to bring up his partner.

The author uses a quick munter-hitch belay on Mount Russell in the High Sierra

Before employing a belay technique, it is incredibly important that the climber is in a very solid stance or seated position. If the position isn't safe and there is the possibility that the climber could be pulled from his position, then he should place a piece of gear and clip into it. If that's not enough and there is still danger, then this is not a quick belay situation and a true SERENE/ERNEST anchor must be built.

There are a number of belay techniques that may be used from a stance. Following is a quick breakdown of each of them in order of strength:

Hand Belay

It should be obvious to everyone that a hand belay is very weak. The hand belay should only be used to assist someone through an easy move. It should never really be thought of as something that could arrest a real fall and it should never be used to protect someone in a truly exposed area. That said, a simple hand belay can occasionally help a someone step up onto something tall or can create confidence in a climber as they step over an obstacle.

Carabiner Pinch

A carabiner pinch is a simple and quick belay wherein a carabiner is clipped to your harness or an anchor. The rope goes from the climber through the carabiner and is then redirected back toward the climber. The belayer can simply pinch the rope on either side of the carabiner to create more friction.

Clearly, this too is a very weak belay technique. As with a hand belay, this should only be used for minor assistance on terrain where there are little consequences to a fall.

Though many guides use the carabiner pinch for quick and simple belays, I personally believe that it is just as effective to turn the carabiner pinch into a munter-hitch. Such an adjustment requires almost no additional time, but adds a great deal more security.

Shoulder Belay

A shoulder belay is a very quick body belay. In this technique, the belayer turns his body to the side so that his profile is facing the cliff. If his right shoulder is oriented toward the drop, then the rope from the climber will run up from the edge, through his right hand, across his back, over his shoulder and into his left hand. The belay will then look a lot like a hip belay, but from a standing position, over the shoulder.

To make this technique work properly, the climber strand should be at approximately the same angle as the leg closest to the edge. Ideally, this strand parallels that leg.

The biggest problem with this technique is that the center of gravity is really high. If the leg is not parallel with the strand going to the climber, it's easy to get pulled out of position.

Following is a short video that was made during a Canadian guides course in 1996 which shows a guide trainer instructing junior guides on the use of this technique:

Hip Belay

The hip belay is perhaps one of the oldest belay techniques and has been used effectively in a variety of circumstances. Due to it's limitations, however, most modern climbers only use this technique on terrain up to low fifth class.

To implement a hip belay, the climber must first find a good seat. Ideally there will be some kind of feature to place one's feet on in order to create more stability. Once in position, the belayer puts a wrap of rope around his waist and then uses the "pull pinch slide" belay technique to bring in rope. If the climber falls, then the belayer will wrap the rope more radically around his body.

If the belay seat is not solid, the belayer may elect to put in a piece to back himself up. If he does this, then the piece should be on the same side as the end of the rope running to the climber. This will keep the belayer from getting twisted if the climber falls.

And finally, Any anchor piece should be on the same side of the belayer's body as the climber strand.

The following is a very good video on hip-belays from a snow seat.

Please note three things in the preceding video:

1) AAI doesn't recommend the rope twist on the arm as shown in the video.

2) AAI recommends that one kick the heels of their feet into the snow in addition to the bucket.

3) It's not ideal for one to belay a leader from a bucket/snow seat.


An extremely quick and effective technique is to place a carabiner on the belay loop and tie a munter-hitch into it. From a good stance or a seat, this is an incredibly useful means of creating a quick belay. The trick though, is to be able to build the munter-hitch in the carabiner.

Once you are able to easily build a munter-hitch on a carabiner, this particular technique can be faster and more secure then either a shoulder belay or a hip belay. It can also be easier to get it into place due to the fact that backpacks often hinder the other body belay styles.

Quick belays are an incredibly important part of a climber's arsenal. However, they will really only be quick and effective with practice. Once each of these are dialed, then belaying a second on easier terrain becomes far more quick and efficient.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Climbing, Coronavirus and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 5/14/20


--The Bellingham Herald is reporting that, "A helicopter search and rescue team from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island airlifted a 27-year-old Seattle woman off Mount Baker after she was injured in a skiing accident Saturday, May 9th." The same article reports that there was also rescue on Mt. Stuart. To read more, click here. Here is a bit more info on the Stuart incident which took place in the Cascadian couloir.

Mt. Baker on Mothers Day
Photo by Caden Martin
--The Statesman Journal is reporting that, "A sweeping permit system that would have limited hiking and camping in three of Oregon's most popular wilderness areas has been delayed until 2021. Given the complexities surrounding the coronavirus pandemic, and its impact on public lands, the U.S. Forest Service said it would begin the permit system a year from now." To read more, click here.

--Oregon Public Broadcasting is reporting that, "Some ski resorts in Oregon are preparing to reopen, but exactly when they can operate again is still up in the air. Gov. Kate Brown announced earlier this week that some outdoor recreation activities can resume. Brown is expected to issue an executive order to officially allow ski resorts to resume operations in the coming days." To read more, click here.

--KDRV is reporting that, "The actions of some careless stewards of Oregon state lands have caused the Department of Forestry to temporarily shut down dispersed camping on ODF-managed lands starting on Monday. Unlike campgrounds — which have been closed in Oregon due to the COVID-19 response — dispersed camping areas usually do not have restrooms or sites for disposal of garbage. Campers are supposed to pack out everything that the bring in, as well as properly disposing of human waste." To read more, click here.

--Highway 20 opened on Tuesday, to no fanfare. Usually, this is a big deal, as it allows access to Washington Pass. But this year the Department of Transportation kept their work to themselves. To read more, click here.

--The Chief and Murrin Park are opening in Squamish this weekend, as is Skaha. Great for Canadians, but the border remains closed to Americans. To read more, click here.


Here is an update on what trailheads and campgrounds in Inyo National Forest are open and closed, as of May 11th.

Desert Southwest:

--The BLM has implemented its summer fire restrictions around Red Rock Canyon.

--The Desert Sun is reporting that, "a Joshua Tree man has been arrested in connection with a fire that burned 150 acres of prized conservation land in Joshua Tree south of Highway 62 on Monday." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--CNN is reporting that, "A woman suffered burns after falling into a thermal feature at Yellowstone National Park on Tuesday, according to the park officials. Yellowstone has been closed to visitors since March 24 due to the coronavirus pandemic. The woman "illegally entered the park," the National Park Service (NPS) said in a statement." To read more, click here.

--The Hill is reporting that, "Outdoor industry companies including Patagonia, L.L. Bean, and North Face called on Congress to invest in recreation infrastructure to help with the industry's recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Over 60 companies, led by the Outdoor Industry Association, wrote a letter to congressional leadership on Monday urging them to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, which would provide permanent funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and for the maintenance backlog of federal public lands." To read more, click here.

--Here's an update as to what's open and what's not in the National Parks.

--Climbing is reporting that, "Texas Climbers Coalition (TCC) and Access Fund are pleased to announce the acquisition and permanent protection of Monster Rock outside of Austin, Texas. Monster Rock has been a popular crag for years, giving climbers relief from the heat and crowds of other central Texas crags." To read more, click here.

Friday, May 8, 2020

3:1 Haul with a GriGri

A lot of climbers get really wrapped up in using a GriGri on the ground, either for top-roping or for belaying a leader. But a GriGri can also be used effectively at the top of a crag, for belaying a second.

One very nice aspect to using a GriGri as your top-of-the-crag belay device, is that it can easily be converted to a hauling system. If your partner can't follow the pitch, you can help him through the difficulties, by quickly switching the GriGri from belay mode to hauling mode.

In this photo, a climber hauls a climber using a 3:1 system 
with a GriGri as a ratchet.

To swap your GriGri from belay mode to haul mode, you must simply:
  1. To start, belay directly off the anchor with your GriGri. Make sure that it is loaded properly so that the climber strand is going to the climber. It is also good to make sure that the handle to the GriGri is facing away from the rock.
  2. As you belay, make sure not to take your brake-hand off the brake-strand.
  3. When the person gets stuck, tie a catastrophe knot on the brake-strand. This could be an overhand or a figure-eight on a bight.
  4. Take a short loop of cord and tie a friction-hitch to the load strand. This can be a prussik-hitch, a kliemheist, or an autoblock hitch.
  5. Clip a carabiner to the loop and then clip the brake-strand to the carabiner.
  6. Take the catastrophe knot out.
  7. Yell down to the climber to climb, in order to help you.
  8. Then haul on the haul strand.
This is essentially a z-pulley system and so there is a mechanical advantage of 3:1. In other words, you're pulling a third of the person's weight, plus friction. This isn't really enough mechanical advantage to haul a person a significant distance, but it is more than enough to help a person pull a move or two.

Following is a video that I took of AAI Guide Andrew Yasso using this system:

We should note that a Trango Cinch will work exactly the same way, as will autoblocking devices like the Reverso and the Guide XP.

The GriGri is often overlooked as a tool by people who spend a lot of time on multi-pitch terrain or in the mountains, but it is an excellent device for single-pitch climbing. This application of it's use is only one of the many tricks that this device and others like it are able to perform.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Climbing, Coronavirus and Outdoor News Round-Up from Here and Abroad - 5/7/20


--There is a new crowdsourced online ice climbing guidebook being developed for the Cascades. Check it out, here.


--The Reno-Gazette is reporting that, "A Tahoe-area skier required a helicopter rescue near an Inyo County peak following an avalanche on Wednesday. The skier and her companion were climbing from Onion Valley toward Independence Peak despite earlier pleas by local authorities for people to avoid high risk activity in the area due to the strain the COVID-19 pandemic is placing health and public safety resources." This took place on Wednesday, April 29th. Not yesterday. To read more, click here.

--Medium is reporting that, "The forest and counties will control access to Red’s Meadow, the Lakes Basin and Mt. Whitney with the winter gates, which are currently closed. However, the land is open. It is unclear when those gates will be opened as staffing and tourism is still a concern from a land management perspective." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Gizmodo is reporting that, "the Trump administration released a long-awaited plan to 'revive and strengthen the uranium mining industry' to boost nuclear power. If enacted, the proposal would wreak ecological havoc on U.S. public lands, including the Grand Canyon." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "A climber was seriously injured after falling from a rock formation Tuesday afternoon at Longmont Dam Road near Lyons, Colorado." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Outdoor Recreation Roundtable is reporting that, "An Outdoor Recreation Roundtable (ORR) member survey, in partnership with the Oregon State University Outdoor Recreation Economy Initiative, finds that the outdoor recreation industry is facing dramatically decreased sales and revenue, difficulties with production and distribution and large numbers of furloughs and layoffs." To read more, click here.

--Glacier National Park has cancelled all backcountry permits for the summer 2020 season. To read more, click here.

--Here is a list receiving regular updates about which national parks are open and closed.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Backpacking and Camping Hacks: Part II

This is the second installment of our Backpacking and Camping Hacks series.

The idea here is to give you several bite-size tidbits that you can use whenever you are living out of a tent, whether that be on a multi-week mountain expedition, or on an overnight campout...

Packed to the seams.

Extras in First Aid Kit

There are two things that live inside my first aid kit that might seem odd.

The first item is a lighter, just in case I forget one for my stove. I'm also likely to carry my first aid kit when I'm away from camp, and it's nice to always have some way to start a fire if needed.

The second item is Afrin, or some other nasal decongestant. I find it tremendously hard to sleep with a runny or stuffy nose. This medicine lives in my kit, just in case.

Pee Rags for Women

Many women use pee rags instead of toilet paper. The rag can be hung on the outside of the pack to dry after use, and can be washed in the evening. This decreases toilet paper garbage on the trail and is way better than the "drip dry" method.

There is some concern that pee rags can lead to UTIs. This is why it is important to wash the rag every night. Consistent washing will also keep the rag from smelling.

There are now products out there that are designed specifically for this use. Women may wish to check out the Kula Cloth as an option.

Prepping for Blisters

It is important to hike in your boots before a big trip. Try to break them in. And figure out if there are areas where you get hot spots on big days. Once you know where you're prone to get blisters, you can place gorilla tape, duct tape, athletic tape, mole skin or KT tape on the area where you tend to get hot spots prophylactically, before you start your hike.

Tape on the Water Bottle or Trekking Pole

Some people carry duct tape on their water bottle. I usually carry gorilla tape on my trekking poles. I like gorilla tape because I can use it on my heels if I start to get blisters and it's so tacky that it doesn't matter if I sweat. Obviously, there are a million other things I might use this kind of tape for as well.

Additional Sleeping Bag Warmth

Fill a water bottle with hot -- maybe even boiling water -- and put it in your sleeping bag. If it's too hot, put a sock over it.

Bring Food You Want to Eat

It's not too uncommon to see people trying to do some kind of a diet while in the field. That's not the time for it. When you're in the field, you should eat well and enjoy your downtime.

Weight Savings Quick Ideas

These tips are trip specific and are modular. Some things work better in conjunction with others. Use good judgement.

Before we get into the actual weight savings items, the first and best thing you can get to cut weight is a scale. Weigh your pack and then start cutting from there.
  • Cut the handle off your toothbrush.
  • Carry travel toothpaste. Squeeze out extra paste into a separate tube so you don't carry any extra at all.
  • Don't carry extras, like deodorant or a travel pillow (use clothes).
  • If you wish to read, download books in your phone and carry a battery bank to recharge.
  • Always look for the lightest gear when making purchases. Ounces = Pounds.
  • A mid-layer with a hood may allow you to leave a hat behind.
  • Carry the lightest sleeping bag possible. Don't carry extra warmth (more fill for more warmth = more weight) if not needed.
  • Use the smallest pack possible. Big packs lead to more things in a big pack.
  • Carry a Nalgene bottle and use it for both carrying water during the day, as well as for hot drinks at night. If you do this, test it at home first to ensure it won't melt if you put hot water in it.
  • Don't bring a 4-season tent, unless you need a 4-season tent. Often you can use a 3-season tent in the spring in the mountains, on the snow. You may even be able to get away with a bivy bag or a tarp, a tarp being the lightest of all options.
  • If you're on a summer backpacking trip, you may be able to leave the rain pants behind. Wear shorts on a wet day and expect your legs to be soaked. Every leaf, branch and piece of grass on the trail will be wet. In colder seasons, rain pants are a must-have.
  • Put your sunscreen in a small tube. Only bring what you need, not a large bottle.
  • Alcohol stoves are often used by lightweight thru hikers.
  • A collapsable bowl may double as a mug.
  • Bring the smallest headlamp possible for the job. You may want a lot of light on a mountaineering trip, so you might need something more substantial for that. But you can get pretty small for backpacking.
  • Bring the knife you need. It's common to see people on backpacking trips in particular with large hunting style knives. That seems excessive.
  • Titanium sporks should be used for eating.

You might also consider the book, Lighten Up by Don Ladigin. This book was designed for backpackers and thru-hikers, but many of his tips can also be employed by mountaineers.

I often repost these blogs every couple of years. If you have things to add, please leave them in the blogger comments, and I'll be able to repost those too.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, May 1, 2020

Backpacking and Camping Hacks: Part I

There are a lot of little tricks to backcountry travel. Some of these are not intuitive and so, in this series within our Wilderness Skills label, we are going to start looking at some of these baseline skills.

Even if you're a seasoned backpacker/climber/mountaineer/backcountry skier, there's likely something here for you.

Check it out:

Attaching a Guy Line to a Tent Stake

Here's a 30-second tip for campers...

Drying Clothes

Your sleeping bag is a clothes dryer for damp clothes. Soaked clothing, not-so-much. If clothes are soaked through, you just don't have enough body heat to dry them in your bag.

For example, if you have wet feet, you can put on a dry sock, then put the wet sock back on over it. Once you've got this system on your feet, climb into your sleeping bag. By morning, you will once again have two pairs of dry socks.

To increase the warmth and the drying capacity, it's possible to put a Nalgene bottle into your bag with you filled with hot water. This will keep you warm and increase the drying speed of items in your bag. If your socks are soaked through, fill the bottle with boiling water and then put the socks on over the bottle...this will dry them enough that they can go into the bag.

A warning though... Not all sleeping bags are the same. Some bags have a "water resistant" lining. If your bag has this, water can become caught inside the bag, you'll get cold, and you'll wake up wetter than when you went to bed.

Trash Bag Liner

Use a large heavy-duty trash bag as a liner inside your backpack. This will ensure that if it's wet out, your goodies won't get soaked through.

Start Cold on the Trail or on the Alpine Start

It's pretty common to get out of the car at a trailhead and for it to be chilly. The obvious response is to put on all your clothes while you get ready. The same is true for an early morning (midnight?) start on a mountain. But remember, as soon as you start walking, you're going to need to strip down.

Start cold at the trailhead or early in the morning, so that you don't have to stop five minutes into your trek.

You can never have too much Tea.

When it's chilly, or early, or you're stuck in your tent, there's nothing better than a warm drink. Coffee and hot chocolate are great, and should not be ignored if either of those are your drink of choice. But tea is really light, and worth its weight in gold if you're stuck.

This is minor, but if it's dry out, I often let tea bags dry before putting them in my garbage. Those little bags filled with water can add up. If it's wet out, I'll wait to dry them until it's dry out...

So there you have, a few backpacking and camping hacks to get you started. Stay tuned for more...!

--Jason D. Martin