Friday, July 31, 2020

First Piece in a Multi-Pitch Setting

We recently received a request to write about this subject:


I follow your climbing blog and really appreciate the humor and knowledge.

I was wondering if you could do a post on clipping the anchor on multi pitch climbs. I have heard a lot of back and forth on the merits of clipping the anchor or just climbing up a few moves and placing a gear. Here is a link to a video where some comments are concerned about the video persons not clipping the anchor. Here is another link to a post from Will Gadd who talks about some pros and cons. I am wonder where guides stand on this issue? Do they never, always or just depends on clipping the anchor?

Ironically, I found a couple of pictures that I took some time ago, thinking that I would eventually do an article on this subject. So, here we go!

To begin with, the concept the questioner eludes to has to do with the idea that clipping the anchor will decrease the likelihood of a factor two fall. In review, a factor two fall is the highest fall factor possible. It essentially means that the climber climbed up above the belayer without placing any gear, and then fell. He falls twice the distance of the rope out before the fall is arrested. In other words, it means that he fell past the belayer and placed tremendous force on the system.

If the concept of fall factors is new to you, check out this article from Petzl.

To decrease the likelihood of a factor two fall, many climbers clip one piece in the anchor, or clip the shelf.

 In this photo, the climber clipped a locking carabiner on the right leg of the anchor.
If one clips a carabiner in this application, it must be a locker. Please note that in
this photo the climber clipped the bolt on the right and then climbed up left. He 
probably should have clipped the bolt on the right.

The argument for clipping a piece to the anchor is twofold. First, the belayer will be pulled up instead of down. And second, a piece in the system will help dissipate some of the force. 

The main problem with clipping a single piece of the anchor is that a fall will double the force on the piece. In other words, you need a counter force equal to the force of the falling climber to arrest him. That counter force doubles the load. If the piece is not adequately placed or the rock is poor, the piece could blow out. 

The fact that a single piece could blow out doesn't mean that this technique is universally inappropriate. Instead, it's possible to clip a single piece if it's absolutely bomb-proof. If there's any possibility that the piece is poor or that the rock is poor, you should avoid clipping the single piece in the anchor.

Some climbers clip the anchor's shelf to put force on more than one piece.
The problem with this is that it puts the arresting piece closer to the belayer.
The anatomy of an anchor may be found, here.

Another -- and perhaps more crucial issue -- has to do with the force a fall puts on the belayer. The belayer could easily be pulled up into the first piece and potentially let go. Additionally, on a lower-angle climb, the belayer could get pulled into the wall and -- in an attempt to protect himself from getting slammed -- let go of the rope and put up his hands.

It should also be noted that clipping into the anchor doesn't completely mitigate the fall factor forces that you're trying to avoid. A fall onto a piece in the shelf or in the anchor will still put massive forces into the system.

So, what to do?

First and foremost, there is no reason to clip the anchor if you are not below it. In other words, if your anchor is at your feet and you clip it, it's not going to do anything. Similarly, there's no reason to clip a piece into the anchor if the climber will just fall onto a ledge anyway.

If the terrain is easy enough to avoid clipping the anchor, most guides will avoid it. However, if there are hard moves directly off the belay station, most guides will clip a carabiner or draw into the anchor. If a guide does clip into the anchor, he usually asks his belayer to unclip the anchor piece once the guide has placed adequate protection higher up on the route. This mitigates the problem of the belayer getting pulled up into the system as the guide gets higher. Though he certainly could get pulled up early in the lead...

Occasionally the terrain above an anchor is run-out or doesn't provide decent protection. If this is the case, it may be appropriate to use the anchor as a much more dynamic first piece. But if it's going to be a dynamic first piece there needs to be more rope in the system, so that there is more stretch in the event of a fall. The only way to do this is to place the belayer significantly (10+ feet) below the anchor. The idea is that if the belayer is significantly below the anchor, the anchor will act more like a normal bomb-proof piece in the lead system and none of the disadvantages listed earlier will apply.

There are two ways to do this:

1) The belayer can clip the rope through the carabiner at the master-point. He can then lower himself down the wall a given distance and then clip the backside of the rope to his belay loop. The advantage to this style is that when the leader gets to the next belay station and he puts the belayer on belay, the belayer can unclip from the clove-hitch and the leader can quickly pull up the slack, decreasing the likelihood of a hard fall.

2) The belayer may also simply clip himself into the anchor long. The problem with this is that his clove-hitch will be high above him and the belayer will have to solo up to it before unclipping it when it's his turn to climb.

While using an anchor as the first piece in a multi-pitch lead is common, one should think through the advantages and disadvantages on every single pitch. This is not a system that should be universally applied to this type of climbing...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, July 30, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 7/30/20


--A husband and wife team suffered a serious fall on Mt. Hood on Sunday, tumbling nearly 700-feet. The pair survived the incident with non-life threatening injuries after falling from the "Hogsback" ridge. To read more, click here.

--News Channel 21 is reporting that, "Jefferson County sheriff’s deputies on Tuesday identified an experienced climber from Kennewick, Wash., who slipped and fell hundreds of feet to his death on Saturday while traversing a glacier high on the slopes of Mount Jefferson with a group of fellow climbers." To read more, click here.

--The Northern Light is reporting that, "non-essential travel between the U.S. and Canada is expected to remain blocked until at least August 21st." To read more, click here.

--A new permit system is being implemented for the Stawamus Chief in Squamish. These permits can be obtained, here. However, in a Facebook Post, the Squamish Access Society writes: "We've been in contact with BC Parks to clarify how the new permit system being introduced on Monday will affect climbers. There is no need for climbers descending from the top to have permits but they will be required for climbers hiking the trail to access climbs on the backside (eg. White Cliff, Sunbeam Wall)."

It's best to email them, as this was taken from their FB page.

--KOMO news is reporting that, "A coalition of state and federal agencies, with support from local tribes, will begin the fourth and final relocation of mountain goats from Olympia National Park to the northern Cascade Mountains." This project began on Monday. To read more, click here.

--It sounds like Sasquatch hunters should head to Idaho. From East Idaho News: "The Bigfoot Field Researchers Organization has 93 reports of Bigfoot encounters in Idaho, meaning for every 100,000 people in Idaho, about five of them have seen or heard a ‘Squatch. That per capita rate earned Idaho fourth place in the ranking of most Bigfoot sightings." To read more, click here.


--The Sierra Club and the outdoor industry as a whole is taking a hard look at itself, especially at one of its primary founders. John Muir notably made derogatory statements about minorities and maintained friendships with avowed white supremacists. Other early leaders had questionable opinions as well. To read more, click here.

--The New York Times recently reported on Pentagon investigations into UFOs. You can see that report, here. With UFOs in the news, it's probably not a big surprise that people are noticing odd things in the mountains. Here is a video that was taken from Big Bear Ski Resort on July 5th:

--The Sierra Wave is reporting that, "Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) will release higher-than-normal water down the Owens River Gorge August 3-9, 2020, in cooperation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and Mono County." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Here's an unusual rescue. A pig was rescued in Red Rock Canyon last week. What was originally thought to be a feral pig, was likely a former pet. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Tacoma News Tribune and others are reporting that, "a Missouri man hiking with a gun in his backpack was shot in the leg, National Park Service officials said. The 70-year-old man was hiking in Rocky Mountain National Park with a handgun in his backpack, park officials said in a Tuesday news release. When he set the bag on a rock, the gun fired a round and shot him in the leg." To read more, click here.

--Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold recently linked up 35-miles and 17 peaks on the "Continental Divide Ultimate Link-Up." To read about their adventure, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Jerry Roberts, a well-known Southern climber, a "godfather of hard climbing," recently died from a heart attack at the age of 54. To read an obituary about this climber's extraordinary life at Rock and Ice, click here.

--CNN is reporting that, "A climber died at Glacier National Park in Montana after falling several hundred feet from a ridge known as the Dragon's Tail. The 20-year-old man, identified as Josh Yarrow, was attempting to retrieve a backpack on Tuesday evening when he fell, the National Park Service said in a statement." To read more, click here.

--Climbing is reporting that, "The Piolets d’Or jury has chosen Catherine Destivelle to be the recipient of their 2020 Lifetime Achievement Award. Since its inception in 2009, the Lifetime Achievement Award is meant to honor climbers who’s careers serve as inspiration to following generations, and has been awarded to legendary climbers such as Walter Bonatti, Reinhold Messner, and John Roskelley. Catherine Destivelle is the first female recipient of the award." To read more, click here.

--Crosscut is reporting on the MountainProject flagging controversy and the web developer at the heart of the story: "n December 2019, Boulder, Colorado-based web developer and climber Melissa Utomo approached Seattle’s Recreation Equipment Inc. (REI) with a proposal to change the functionality of its Mountain Project app, a crowdsourced climbing route finder. Utomo read an article about sexist climbing route names, and realized Mountain Project (of the Adventure Projects suite of apps) had been allowing climbers to label routes with racist or violent names without offering an easy way for other users to report them. She felt compelled to create a basic reporting tool REI could easily integrate into its app." To read more, click here.

--Outdoor Sportswire, and many others, are reporting that, "On July 22, the U.S. House of Representatives took the final vote on the Great American Outdoors Act, sending it on to the president’s desk to be signed into law. The Great American Outdoors Act will dedicate $900 million annually to the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) and direct revenue from federal energy development into our public lands’ nearly $20 billion deferred maintenance project costs. This vote represents the end of a decades-long funding debate and marks the beginning of a new era for trail maintenance, public lands stewardship and outdoor enjoyment." To read more, click here.

--Outdoor Sportswire is reporting that, "Snowsports Industries America (SIA) unveils a robust, new, year-round educational platform designed to provide its current and new members the tools and programs instrumental to short-term recovery during COVID-19 and long-term success well into the future." To read more, click here.

--There is little question that drones have changed the ballgame around climbing, but what about climbing some of the world's most dangerous mountains? The following video shows how drones were used to document the first full ski descent of K2, while also providing information to climbers and skiers, as well as rescue services:

--Gym Climber magazine is reporting on an innovative technique to increase cleanliness in climbing gyms. "As climbing gyms begin to reopen, discussions about the best ways to mitigate risk of COVID-19 continue. Plantd Climbing, a newly formed volume manufacturer based out of Durham, North Carolina, has proposed an innovative idea for keeping climbers safe: a hand-sanitizer-dispensing volume, a.k.a., the Clean Send. The volume is currently in a prototype stage." To read more, click here.

--And maybe chalked up holds at gyms aren't that bad. A new study seems to indicate that chalk might actually reduce the spread of coronavirus. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Coiling and Carrying a Rope in Loose or Easy Terrain

In the following video, AMGA Instructor Team Member Emile Drinkwater, demonstrates a couple of different techniques for brining in rope while moving through easy or loose terrain.

It's not uncommon in alpine climbing for a climber to find herself in terrain where she would be comfortable moving without a rope. But it doesn't really always make sense to take the rope completely off. More commonly, a team wants to move together quickly to the next technical section. Taking the rope off and putting it away leads to additional work and time spent.

If one practices the techniques shown in the following video, it's reasonable to cut down on time moving in easy or loose terrain. And this will speed up the entire day.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, July 24, 2020

Route Profile: Ruth Mountain Climb

The trail leading up to the summit of Ruth Mountain (Shuksan is in the background on the right). Photo by Shelby Carpenter.

This summer I had the opportunity to climb Ruth Mountain for the first time. It proved to be a great peak-bagging adventure--I did it in a day, but you could also break it into two days if you're looking to take your time and spend a night out in the mountains. I'd say this is a great weekend jaunt for someone with backpacking and at least beginner mountaineering experience. You do have to travel on a glacier to reach the summit, but the crux of the route is the trail, which is extremely rocky, root-y, washed out, and occasionally quite exposed. We also guide this route occasionally during our AMTL 1 courses or private climbs at AAI, so coming up with mountain with us is an option if you don't want to do it on your own.

Getting to the trailhead

To reach the trailhead, drive along the Mount Baker Scenic Highway (State Route 542) east towards the Mount Baker Ski Area. You will drive past the town of Glacier and eventually come to signs saying Hannegan Trailhead. Take the dirt road on your left all the way up until you reach the trailhead. There is a campground here you can stay at if you want to get in the day before starting your climb. The road leading up to the trailhead is very bumpy and potholed so four-wheel drive and/or high-clearance vehicles are recommended.

The hike up

Photo by Shelby Carpenter.

For the first several miles the trail is straightforward. It's hot here in the summer so start as early in the day as you can. The trail is very brushy and buggy, and also quite rocky so watch your step to avoid ankle rolls, etc. There are a few areas where you cross over steep scree or dirt slopes like this one:

Trekking poles are nice to have in these areas for extra stability.

Photo by Shelby Carpenter.

Eventually, you will reach Hannegan Pass and the trail will split off in three directions. The trail to the left goes up towards Hannegan Peak and the center trail goes down toward another area. Take the trail to the right to continue up toward Ruth Mountain.

The trail will quickly lead you to a camping area with water access. This is the main area where people camp if they are attempting the route in two days.

From camp to summit

Photo by Shelby Carpenter.

From camp, the route immediately becomes more tricky. You will head up a steep slope that is very washed out and where footing is tricky. Be prepared to use tree roots as handholds.

The trail will be increasingly exposed from here until the summit. There are areas where it would be easy to slip off and have a huge fall. You will have to traverse several scree slopes in addition to traveling on rocky/root-y trails and ridges. Early in the summer, you may still have snow on this part of the route and need to carry (and know how to use!) an ice ax here.

Ridge leading to the summit. Photo by Shelby Carpenter.

Eventually you will gain a ridge leading up to the glacier and the summit of Ruth. You will need an ice axe and familiarity with glacier travel for this part of the climb. There are open crevasses to the left and the right of the track going up but the crevasses are small (no more than 10 feet deep).

Two climbers nearing the summit of Ruth Mountain. Photo by Shelby Carpenter.

From the summit you'll be greeted with spectacular views of Baker, Shuksan, and the Picket Range. There's a summit register in an old Gatorade can up there, so add your name to the list!

Photo by Shelby Carpenter.

The descent

Take care as you make your way down the mountain--all of those exposed spots on the trail are still exposed! If you climb this as a two-day route, you will summit on the morning of day 2, then return to camp and pack up your stuff and hike out.

Gear to bring

If you do this route in a day, you can pull it off with minimal equipment.

Photo by Shelby Carpenter.

Here's what I had in my kit:
-Camelbak Lobo backpack
-Ice axe
-3L hydration bladder
-Mini first-aid kit
-Cell phone and headphones
-Delorme InReach Explorer
-Space blanket
-Snacks and lunch for the day
-Pee rag
-Patagonia Houdini jacket in case of wind/light rain

With this gear I had food and water to last for the day, a first aid kit and communication devices in case of emergency, and an extra layer and space blanket in case something happened and I needed to make it through a night up there.

This is a great route, and I encourage you to get out there and check it out!

-Shelby Carpenter, AAI Instructor and Guide

Thursday, July 23, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 7/23/20


--A 19-year-old climber died on Sunday after falling from Oregon's Three Fingered Jack. It appears that broken holds lead to the tragedy. To read more, click here.

--Andy Brown, a long time climber and Outward Bound Instructor, recently died at the age of 66 at his home on Vancouver Island. To read about Andy's life, click here.

--The Squamish Chief is reporting on three different rescues in the Squamish area late last week. These included a complex rescue of a climber with a broken arm on Birds of Prey (5.10b, III). To read more, click here.

--The National Parks Traveler is reporting that, "A week after Interior Secretary David Bernhardt tossed aside efforts to draft a recovery plan for grizzly bears in the North Cascades ecosystem, a conservation organization announced it would try to undo Bernhardt's decision. On July 7 the Interior secretary, during a roundtable discussion in Washington state, said "the people who live and work in north central Washington have made their voices clear that they do not want grizzly bears reintroduced into the North Cascades." On Wednesday the Center for Biological Diversity initiated a lawsuit to challenge that decision." To read more, click here.

The view from Mt. Baker on July 21st.
Photo by Michael Chorvat

--Rock and Ice is reporting that "John Roskelley, leading American alpinist of his era, is running for Washington State’s 4th Legislative District senate seat. A Democrat, he is on the ballot in the primary election August 4." Roskelley is a renowned alpinist, outdoor author and former mountain guide. To read more, click here.


--The Associated Press is reporting (via the Seattle PI) that, "With no confirmed case of the coronavirus, Yosemite National Park appeared to be a safe haven from the pandemic. But tests of the park's raw sewage have confirmed the presence of the virus, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Saturday, and dozens of people are believed to have been infected. No park employee or resident has tested positive at the park's health clinic, and no visitors have reported being sick since Yosemite began a phased reopening on June 11 after being closed for nearly three months." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting on Nevada's public lands: "The statewide shutdown resulting from the coronavirus pandemic has driven more people to public lands, serving as one of few silver linings during the outbreak, Nevada lawmakers and activists said Thursday. But the surge of visitors in Clark County, and elsewhere throughout the state, has also underscored that preserving access to the outdoors is costly. A pending bill in front of the House of Representatives next week is expected to improve matters, officials say." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell have established a massive new linkup in Rocky Mountain National Park: 17 peaks, 11 named routes, 35 miles, 20,000 feet of vert. Even for guys who climb the Nose in under 2 hours, that’ll take a while… about 36 hours!" To read more, click here.

--The Aspen Times is reporting that, "an adaptive skier who fell from a Snowmass chairlift in February 2019 has taken Aspen Skiing Co. to court. Allison Nicola brought a lawsuit against Skico on July 7 in Pitkin County District Court, where she’s alleging a chairlift operator negligently misloaded her onto Elk Camp lift, from where moments later she fell 17 feet to the ground, her injuries exacerbated by another load operator who landed on top of her." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Anchorage Daily News is reporting that, "a rock climber in the Hatcher Pass area fell more than 25 feet and landed on a ledge about 60 feet above the ground Tuesday, according to a report from Alaska State Troopers. The climber’s injuries were not life-threatening and included neck and back injuries, troopers said." To read more, click here.

--The New York Times is reporting that REI has received a significant amount of criticism from their employees about how they have responded to COVID-19 cases amongst their staff. It appears that they did not adequately notify employees when a staff member became sick, and indeed, may have even told the staff member not to tell others that he was sick. The Coop is currently trying to respond to those criticisms. To read the article, click here.

--SNEWS is reporting that, "if you've paid attention to the news in outdoor retail this week, you might be scratching your head a little. REI made waves with a recent announcement that 400 of the company's retail employees would lose their jobs, effective July 15. Mountain Equipment Co-op made a similar move, letting go of nearly 200 last week. At the same time, we've seen others like Bass Pro Shops—which caters to a similar, or at least comparable, outdoor customer—hire thousands across the country even as the pandemic continues to rattle the economy. So what gives? The answer, experts say, is complicated." To read more, click here.

--In other mask news, mask rules and other COVID-19 regulations are inconsistent between the National Parks. To read more, click here.

--It appears that the Fall climbing season will be open in Nepal. From the Himalayan Times: "With the government announcing to resume all international and domestic flights from August 17, the Ministry of Culture Tourism and Civil Aviation today said that it would let all tourism related activities including mountain climbing in the autumn season commence." To read more, click here.

--Climbing is reporting that, "on July 9, Walltopia, the world's largest climbing wall manufacturer, reported that their headquarters in Sofia, Bulgaria, had suffered an arson attack. On July 3 at roughly 3 a.m., security cameras captured four individuals using incendiary liquid to set fire to a 21-meter rainbow flag on the facade of Walltopia’s building. The flag had been hung temporarily in support of Sofia Pride." Sofia Pride is a LGBTQ+ Pride parade in Bulgaria. To read more, click here.

Friday, July 17, 2020

Why Would a Climber Need a Knife?

It's not always super easy to find things to write about in this blog. So I often lurk on different websites looking for topics to write about. This particular post on caught my attention:

I am a new climber-and I've seen many climbers carry knives. Many of them are really attached to them-and consider them their favorite tool. I've met climbers that have stories about their knives and talk about them like a companion. I was thinking I should invest in one-but would love to hear about your experiences or knife stories.

I'm hoping that it will help me with this decision.

This individual must have a strange local ethic. I've never heard a climber talk about his knife like it was a companion. No, instead I've heard climbers complain that their "harness knives" aren't sharp enough or to debate whether or not carrying such an item is even appropriate.

So there are two parts to this question. First, what might a climber need a knife for. And second, why is there even an argument about whether such a tool is appropriate.

Many of you have read the book or seen the movie, Touching the Void. In that particular incident, two climbers found themselves caught in a tremendously dangerous situation. One hung over a cornice, while the other held him on a rope in a precarious stance. As the stance deteriorated and it appeared that both would die, the climber holding the rope decided to cut it...

Lucky he had a knife!

But this was an incredibly unusual situation. In over two hundred years of climbing history, this has happened exactly one time. So this isn't exactly why you need a knife with you.

No, instead you need a knife with you to deal with this:

In the picture above, there are seven or eight slings wrapped around the rappel horn. Most of them are quite bad. Some are crusty. Some have been eaten by mice. And so the best thing to do is to add one more cord, right?


The best thing to do is to add a cord (which you may need a knife to fashion) and then to cut the other tat away (which will also require a knife), so that there is one nice and clean redundant anchor on the horn. Clearing away the garbage at rappel stations provides great stewardship and it shows that you care about the crags where you climb.

Cutting cords and sling material is a common occurrence on long multi-pitch routes that don't see a lot of traffic. It is not at all uncommon to have to do some work to beef up anchors or to clean up old materials left years before. Additionally, a knife could be used to cut away damaged sections of rope, be used in a first aid situation, or even be used to trim materials for a makeshift shelter. There are a million uses for a knife, especially on long routes...

I alluded to the possibility that there was some controversy about carrying a knife. That is not at all the case. Every guide carries a knife. No, instead the controversy lies in what kind of knife you should carry and how you should carry it.

This photo was submitted to the AAI Facebook Page. It shows a knife that 
came off a harness, opened and got behind a rope. This is an incredibly unusual occurrence. 
It took several stages for this to take place. But it does prove that bad things can happen 
with knives on harnesses and that you have to be careful...

It is not uncommon for people to carry cheap "gas station" knives on cords hanging off their harnesses. Indeed, some people even carry more expensive knives the same way. The concern is that a knife might open and become dangerous, both from the possibility of getting cut as well as the possibility of it damaging gear. As such, there are some guide trainers that don't allow guides to carry knives on their harnesses. They prefer if they were in a pack.

There are a couple of popular harness knives available on the market that theoretically will not open on your harness. The Trango Piranah Climbing Knife (pictured above) is a very small knife that takes up very little space on your harness.

The Trango Sharktool (pictured above) is a nice hybrid between a nut-tool and a knife. It is a nice way to eliminate some of the extra baggage of the other knives described here. In other words, you will only need to have one carabiner for both the knife and your nut-tool.

The Petzl Spatha (pictured above) is a tried and true classic. I would say that I've seen this particular knife on more peoples harnesses than any of the others listed.

Certainly many climbers carry a multi-tool. This is especially useful if you are on an expedition or on a big alpine climb. Some will elect to carry their multi-tool on a harness, but most will stow it in a pack.

So to answer the original question, there are many uses for a knife. But if you start to see your knife as a companion or a close friend, then you should seriously consider therapy...

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Introduction to Carabiners and Uses

There are a lot of different types of carabiners out there. In this particular post we'll look at some basic elements of carabiners. Each of the following videos discusses different aspects that you should be aware of when looking at carabiners:

Carabiner Basics:

The following video defines the parts of the carabiner and hits on some baseline knowledge that you should have.

Most climbers will need an array of lockers and non-lockers. For entry level toproping or baseline mountaineering, you should probably start your rack with four lockers and six non-lockers. You'll be able to do quite a lot with that.

Offset D Carabiners:

This particular video looks at two offset-D carabiners. These carabiners are designed with a large basket and a small neck to ensure that slings and draws stay where they belong when in use.

The brand shown the video, the Camp Photon, is promoted as a particularly light carabiner. This is an important consideration as you build your rack. Ounces equal pounds, and when you're only carrying a few carabiners, it may not feel like it's adding up. But once you have a full rack things might be different.

Separately, gate flutter is mentioned in the video for solid gate carabiners. In the video, the demonstration is done with a locker. This isn't realistic. The problem with gate flutter isn't with lockers, it's with non-lockers with solid gates.

How big a problem is gate flutter? Is it worth the extra money?

It can certainly be an issue. But there are very few obvious accidents that have come from this.

On the other hand, there have been a lot of accidents from nose-clipping. This is where you accidentally clip the nose of the carabiner on a hanger and then fall. Carabiners do break under those circumstances.

Innovative Locking Carabiners:

Innovative locking carabiners are a bit more expensive, but they have their place. Here are a couple videos about them.

The downside to the Magnetron carabiner model is that sometimes dirt can get inside the magnets, which causes them not to lock super easily. But this is rare.

The Gridlock was designed to ensure that the belay loop is in the neck and that the carabiner is not crossloaded. But climbers should be aware of another potential problem with this carabiner:

In the photo, the arrow points to a tab that must be above the belay loop when operating. The belay loop should be in the neck below the tab. If the belay loop is above the tab, and you're belaying, and the climber falls, this tab can break. The broken tab is often razor sharp.

This is an uncommon issue, but users should be aware of this potential problem.

Tri-lock carabiners are nice because they are considered an equivalent of two locking carabiners. These can be used in critical points -- like in a toprope master point, or holding a portaledge -- where you cannot have failure and you need security beyond a single locking carabiner.

So do you need an innovative carabiner, or several? Maybe. Each of these provides something. Some are faster, and others provide more security. And while you might want one or two innovative carabiners, your rack should be dominated by workhorse screwgate lockers and non-lockers.

There are a lot of different types of carabiners out there, many more than what's been described here. As you develop as a climber, you should try different types of carabiners and see what works best for you and what you're doing.

Finally, many climbers use the word "biner" for carabiner. This is a pejorative word for certain populations and probably shouldn't be used. If the word carabiner seems too long to say all the time, then you might use "snap-link" or the British word for carabiner, "krab."

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, July 9, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 7/9/20


--Global News is reporting that, "an injured mountain climber and their party were forced to spend a night in the Tantalus Range before rescue crews could get to them this weekend. Squamish Search and Rescue search manager Landon James told Global News the group had been climbing on Mt. Dione Saturday when one member fell about 20 metres (65 feet)." To read more, click here.

Squamish Peregrin Closure Area

--From the Squamish Access Society: 

A falcon nest site is suspected near the Memorial Ledge. 

To protect Peregrine Falcons the climbing routes within areas circled in red are closed.

Closed routes include Memorial Crack, Memorial Ledge, Karen’s Math and the top of Long Time No See (pitches 8 and 9 and the top of pitch 7). Finish Long Time No See in the trees above the rappel route. Rappel after climbing North Apron routes if possible, but if you do decide to walk to Broadway Ledge to descend, do so quickly and use caution. Broadway Ledge can also be accessed via Desert Dyke (#37 in photo).

Use caution in areas adjacent to the closure, and if you encounter a falcon keep your distance. If birds appear agitated, leave the area as soon as possible.

The closure will be lifted when the juveniles leave the area, which should occur by the end of July.

--The National Parks Conservation Association and many others are reporting on the end of the grizzly reintroduction program in the North Cascades. "Statement by Rob Smith, Northwest Regional Director for the National Parks Conservation Association: 'Grizzlies have been an integral part of the North Cascades ecosystem for 20,000 years but are now one of the most threatened populations in North America. This purely political decision ignores science, Park Service recommendations and overwhelming public support and instead threatens the very survival of one of the nation’s most famous wild creatures. This enormously disappointing decision is the latest flip-flop away from conservation by this administration, which under Secretary Ryan Zinke supported grizzly recovery efforts. We will continue to work with community members to advocate for the reintroduction of grizzly bears.'" To read more, click here.


--Mark Powell, an early Yosemite climber, has died at the age of 91. Mark teamed up with Warren Harding for some of the early explorations of Yosemite's most storied route on El Capitan, The Nose (5.9, C2, VI). To read more, click here.

--From Yosemite National Park's Instagram page:  "Know before you go! Remember, Yosemite is temporarily requiring all visitors to have a reservation to drive in or through the park. For more information on what kind of reservations will permit you entry, visit"

--Brandon Adams and Roger Putnam crushed the Mescalito speed record on El Cap. They climbed the line 13 hours and 46 minutes, shaving nearly ten hours off the old record. To read more, click here.

--Group campgrounds in the Inyo National Forest will remain closed for the time being. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Rock and Ice is reporting that Annie Weinmann, a 28-year old data engineer, just completed the fastest known women's car-to-car ascent of the First Flatiron. She completed her round-trip in 43-minutes and 20-seconds. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A climber was injured in a fall near the coast in San Bernardino County in the Crestline area. To read more, click here.

--The longtime editor and chief of Rock and Ice is stepping down. Duane Raleigh approved the publication of an article about the route name changes in Ten Sleep. Raleigh admits that he had a history of naming routes with racist language. The Ten Sleep article does not mention racism as part of the problem. Raleigh chose to step aside from his role at the magazine to provide opportunities for new leadership. Raleigh's letter about his actions and why he's resigning can be found, here

--On a related note, it is now possible to flag discriminatory names on MountainProject.

--Melanin Base Camp has a post up entitled, "How MountainProject Stole from a Woman of Color and Spent Years Defending Hate Speech in the Climbing Community." The piece recounts what lead up to MountainProject's policy change. To read the post, click here.

--The Climbing Grief Fund from the American Alpine Club is open to donations. If you dontate $15 or more, you'll have immediate access to the film, "A Thousand Ways to Kiss the Ground," about loss in the climbing community. To donate and see the film, click here. Check out the trailer, below:

--In the midst of the pandemic, with many public lands closed, a few people have finished the Appalachian Trail. But the question that some are asking, is at what cost? Outside has a great piece on an unusual year for thru-hikers.

--There is a software update available for the BCA Tracker 2 avalanche transceiver. To read more, click here.

--The New York Times is reporting that, "two of the nation’s largest utility companies announced on Sunday that they had canceled the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, which would have carried natural gas across the Appalachian Trail, as delays and rising costs threatened the viability of the project." To read more, click here.

--NPR is reporting that Ashima Shiraishi, the 19-year old world-class rock climber that became famous when she was very young, has written a children's book. To read more, click here

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "in South Carolina, while crags were closing left and right, an initiative by the Carolina Climbers Coalition to put out-of-work climbers back to work fixing trails has taken off." To read more, click here.

--Climbing is reporting that, "Walltopia—a climbing wall manufacturer—has designed and constructed the world’s tallest climbing wall, located on the side of CopenHill, a recently opened waste-to-energy plant in Copenhagen, Denmark. The 80-meter artificial climbing wall has five routes with ranging difficulty, each broken down into four 20-meter pitches." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Essential Gear for Freesoloing, as Indicated by "Cliffhanger"

So there is a lot of free soloing in the 1993 Sylvester Stalone film, Cliffhanger. But holy moley, they carry a lot of gear.

Here's a fun spoof video about the film and the gear carried for free solo climbing:

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, July 6, 2020

Carbon Dioxide Poisoning in the Mountains

We celebrated New Years Eve in the backcountry. We hiked pretty far back to climb some -- as of yet unknown -- ice climbs. It was a really cool trip, and I'll never forget it. We were in one of the most beautiful places you could imagine, but...

Shortly after midnight on January 1, 2000 -- the first day of the new millennium -- I woke up, gasping in my tent. My girlfriend, now wife, woke up too. There didn't seem to be enough air inside the fabric.

I unzipped the fly, and then unzipped the vestibule to find that we were completely covered in snow. There wasn't a single area of the vestibule that wasn't covered. For all intents and purposes, a storm that brought a combination of wind and two new feet of powder, had buried us.

The closed system resulted in mild carbon dioxide poisoning. We were breathing in the air that we'd breathed out.

I have worked as a professional guide since the year 2000, and since then, I have seen the effects of mild carbon dioxide poisoning several times. And it's always the same. People go to sleep. It snows heavily. They wake up feeling a shortness of breath. They clean off their tent, and then they go back to sleep.

Deep new snow on Mt. Baker.
This was a trip where I woke people up several times
at night to make sure that they cleaned new snow off their tents.

In more severe cases, the person may take a little time to recover. Sometimes it takes up to a full day. A longer recovery can feel like a hangover. 

Severe cases tend to happen when several factors come together: (1) There's a significant snowstorm. (2) The tent is not cleared off. (3) A person is in a tent alone. When there are two people in the tent, it is likely that one will wake up more quickly than the other to deal with the problem. And (4) the person in the tent alone is a heavy sleeper.

It would be an incredibly rare situation where something like this lead to a fatality. The simple reality is that most people wake up when they feel like they can't breathe. Some don't wake up right away, which can lead to a more severe "hangover" style case.

The normal atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide is 0.04%. Sensitive people may start to feel the effects of carbon dioxide when it reaches 1% or 10,000 ppm (ppm = parts per million, a calculation of how many molecules there are of a given substance in a million particles). Most people will wake up when it reaches 1.5 to 2% or 15 to 20,000 ppm. Real health hazards come at 4% or 40,000 ppm. And the risk of death doesn't arrive until you get to about 8% or 80,000 ppm, long after you've awoken to fix the problem.

So, now we get to the real meat of the question.

Most guide services in the United States are requiring the use of masks or cloth face coverings when a physical distance of six feet or more cannot be maintained in an outdoor environment. At AAI, we require face masks under these circumstances. It is part of our COVID-19 operating plan.

Masks are required at AAI when a distance of six-feet or more
cannot be maintained in an outdoor environment. When moving on trails
we require there to be at least twelve-feet between individuals without 
masks due to increased exhalation with work. 

There are a number of internet rumors out there about the dangers of face coverings and face masks. These are unequivocally, bunk. Yes, if you duct taped a plastic bag around your head, you'd have a problem. But a cloth face covering or a mask isn't a plastic bag. Air molecules are really small and can certainly get in and out. 

The following is from an article in Fatherly:

In one small study published in Respiratory Physiology and Neurobiology, twenty subjects wearing surgical masks walked on treadmills for one hour. Scientists measured their blood oxygen and carbon dioxide concentrations, respiratory and heart rates, and core temperatures. After that hour, the scientists found no significant change in these measurements.
Masks and face coverings are used to mitigate hazard from the coronavirus by keeping large droplets in. The face coverings are not meant to keep the disease out. They make it safer for other people to be around you, if you have it and don't know it.

We've had people say things like, "but, you can smell a fart through blue jeans." Or some other variation of that, to say that coronavirus will get you with or without a mask. It should be obvious, but a fart is a gas, and we're trying to stop large droplets. And indeed, if there are large droplets with your flatulence, your jeans would block that too...

(Click to Enlarge)

If you absolutely cannot abide by a mask/facial covering, then you can use a face-shield. Locally, when people arrive in public buildings and say they can't wear a face covering, they're provided a face-shield. 

Indeed, some studies suggest the the use of a face mask, combined with other "social distancing" techniques, may reduce the spread of the coronavirus by up to 85%.

So that's it. Carbon dioxide can be bad, but backcountry travelers are most likely to deal with it in their tents, not in their face coverings.

One last thought for the face-mask doubters. Arjun Arya, MD, made a great point about this. "If you're worried about C02 accumulation from masks, our climate crisis is really going to blow your mind..."

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, July 2, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 7/2/2020


--The News Tribune is reporting that, "A climber missing since Friday while travelling through treacherous terrain at Mount Rainier National Park marks the third person to go missing at the Washington park in a little more than a week." To read more, click here.

--Here's an update on the missing climber. It sounds like he was a skier and was found at that bottom of Liberty Ridge on Rainier. 

--Oregon Live is reporting that a climber was rescued off Mt. Hood on Saturday.

Mt. Baker last week.
Photo by Quinn Slocum

--Artist Point will remain closed until the snow melts on its own accord. This means that there will be an extra couple miles of road walking for people to access the Lake Ann Trailhead for the Fisher Chimneys on Mt. Shuksan. To read more, click here.

--Some climbers in British Columbia are making cool climbing videos that they will provide for free to anyone taking part in an anti-discrimination movement. To learn more, click here.


--After an earthquake caused a rockfall event at Whitney Portal last week, the road was closed. It appears that the road has nearly been cleared and Whitney permits will be available again on July 3rd.

--Climbing is reporting that, "The Yosemite Climbing Association Museum and Gallery was set to open this spring, featuring artifacts and photographs from Yosemite’s climbing history, but was delayed due to the pandemic." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--There is a significant fire on Mt. Charleston just outside Las Vegas. It does appear that some -- if not many -- of the world class climbing crags will be affected. To read more, click here.

One of the boulders vandalized in First Creek. This is a 7-foot by 4-foot boulder.
Photo by Andrew Harris

--Several boulders were vandalized in Red Rock Canyon last week. The bulk of them were hit with spray paint, but some were hit with permanent marker. The boulders are in First Creek on the approach to the Romper Room area. It is believed that the BLM will investigate this.

--And on top of everything else, there has been an increase in poisonous snakebites in 2020. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The town of Breckenridge and the associated ski resort are considering a name change. The town was originally named after an individual who fought for the Confederacy. To read more, click here.

The ski industry is struggling.

--The Colorado Sun is reporting that, "the ski resort industry, reeling from early closures in March, suffered another major blow this week when President Donald Trump extended a ban on visas for immigrant workers through the end of the year.  Citing soaring unemployment, Trump’s proclamation applies to H-1B visas used by technology companies, H-2B visas and J-1 visas. The resort industry has spent years relying on visa workers, especially J-1s, many of them college students from the southern hemisphere who spend several months at resorts teaching skiing." To read more, click here.

--The New Yorker has published a piece entitled, "A Guy Named Craig May Soon Have Control Over a Large Swath of Utah." The piece is about oil leases near Moab between Canyonlands and Arches. To read it, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--USA Today is reporting that, "A California woman was gored by a bison at Yellowstone National Park after approaching too closely to try to take a photo, the second incident in less than six weeks between a visitor and one of the park’s iconic hulking animals." To read more, click here.

--Outside is reporting that, "the Appalachian Trail made it to Washington last week. On June 15, the Supreme Court took on a case about a contentious natural gas pipeline crossing the trail, United States Forest Service vs. Cowpasture River Association. On a 7-2 vote, they overturned a ruling from the Fourth Circuit court of Appeals and decided that, based on the Mineral Rights Act, which allows for government-sanctioned extraction on public land, the Forest Service could grant Dominion Energy the right to run the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) under the Appalachian Trail in the George Washington National Forest." To read more, click here.

--There is significant concern that Canada's iconic outdoor equipment store, MEC -- Mountain Equipment Coop - will not survive the coronavirus pandemic. To read more, click here.

--Outdoor Sportswire is reporting that, "Backcountry Access, Inc. (BCA) has announced a software update specifically and exclusively for its Tracker2 avalanche transceivers. The company recommends that all Tracker2 owners take advantage of this update. This software update improves functionality during power-saving mode. After 12 hours without user input, Tracker2 enters into power-saving mode and begins emitting an audible beep every two minutes to let you know you are in lower power mode. In power-saving mode, the Tracker2 transmit pulse can vary slightly from the international standard. All avalanche transceiver brands must operate on the same international standard to ensure interoperability." To read more, click here.

--This guy took a cheese ball container off the head of a swimming bear cub...