Monday, August 31, 2020

Film Review: Arctic

There are a lot of wilderness survival films out there. In most of them, you can't help but yell at the screen when someone is doing something really dumb that no one would ever do. For example, if you're stuck on a ski lift in sub-zero temperatures in Frozen, then you should probably put up your hood and put your hands in your pockets...! If the dude at the local gear shop recommends that you bring a map in Backcountry, then you probably shouldn't scoff at it...! And if your "guide" is under the age of twenty-five and says he's climbed pretty much every mountain in the United States in Devil's Pass, for the love of God, find a qualified guide before you commit to going somewhere where there have been several fatalities...

You simply don't have this kind of feeling in the film Arctic! Instead of yelling at the screen during the film, I was dragged along by a powerful performance from Mads Mikkelsen (Hannibal Lecter in NBC's Hannibal, and Galen Erso in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) as Overgård. The character barely talks and the film is mostly about this individual fighting for his life, mostly alone, somewhere inside the Arctic Circle.

Arctic doesn't start with a dramatic plane crash. Instead, at the start of the film we meet Overgård, a man who is stranded and alone at his downed plane. He's been there for some time. His entire life revolves around a series of daily tasks (fishing, maintaining a giant SOS sign, using a hand crank to run a survival transceiver). He lives a quiet life on a barren arctic landscape, eating raw fish and living in the husk of his downed plane, while he waits for a rescue.

Finally, a rescue helicopter arrives. But in a dramatic windstorm the aircraft crashes, killing the pilot and severely injuring a twenty-something female passenger (Maria Thelma Smáradóttir). The woman is barely conscious throughout the film, and her wound becomes infected.

As the woman begins to deteriorate, Overgård must change everything. He has to act. He can no longer wait passively for a rescue. The only way the woman will survive is if he hauls her across the mountains to a base that appears to be several days away...

Arctic was the directoral debut for the musician Joe Penna. In addition to directing the film, he co-authored the tightly written script with film editor Ryan Morrison. The duo clearly work well together, as every scene of the film is tightly wound, making it mostly impossible for the viewer to step away and armchair quarterback the decisions made by the protagonist.

I say mostly because there is one sequence that might irk those with rescue training. Overgård tries to haul a sled up a slope using a hip belay. The terrain is steep, likely over fifty-degrees, capped by several overhung boulders. Inevitably the character cannot pull the sled up. He has the equipment to rig a system, but doesn't know how to use it...which is realistic too. Your average climber without rope rescue training would find this to be a difficult proposition, much less a person with no mountain skills.

In many ways Overgård's ignorance of mountain skill and his innovation at survival is exactly what makes this film worth watching. This is a movie about a normal guy in a uniquely abnormal circumstance. It's a piece about how this normal guy deals with significant adversity. And it is awesome...!

There are a lot of wilderness survival movies out there. It's a genre within itself. And when we dig deeply into these movies, we find that mostly they're not that good. But if we dig long enough, eventually -- sometimes -- we find a gem. Arctic is definitely one of those rare finds, and should be high on your list of must-see outdoor films...!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 8/27/2020


--A Eugene-based woman set the Oregon Pacific Crest Trail speed record by completing all 455-miles of the trail in just seven days. To read more, click here.

--And speaking of fast, an ultrarunner ran the 93-mile Wonderland Trail around Mt. Rainier in under 17-hours. To read about it, click here.

--Global News is reporting on a wildfire in British Columbia: "A large area of land to the east and south of Penticton is now restricted to essential travel until mid-October. The B.C. Wildfire Service issued a restriction order at noon on Friday to protect public safety and avoid interference with fire control." To read more, click here.


--From Squaw Valley: "After extensive research into the etymology and history of the term “squaw,” both generally and specifically with respect to Squaw Valley, outreach to Native American groups, including the local Washoe Tribe, and outreach to the local and extended community, company leadership has decided it is time to drop the derogatory and offensive term “squaw” from the destination’s name. Work to determine a new name will begin immediately and will culminate with an announcement of a new name in early 2021. Implementation of the name change will occur after the winter season concludes in 2021." To read more, click here.

--The Sierra Wave is reporting that, "On three separate days (July 24, August 18, and August 19) the Inyo County Sheriff’s Department with assistance from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), U.S. Air Force National Guard Unit, U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), California Department of Fish and Wildlife and the California Department of Justice (DOJ) CAMP Team # 3 and 4 eradicated 42,306 illegal marijuana plants from three locations off public lands within Inyo County. Street value is estimated to be between $84,612,000 and $169,224,000." These backcountry grow operations are sometimes boobytrapped. Climbers and hikers are encouraged to stay away from them. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--3 News Las Vegas is reporting that, "A reward is available to catch the vandals who painted graffiti on a gateway sign at Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area last week. Black paint was found on the sandstone gateway sign the morning of Thursday, Aug. 13, said a spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management." To read more, click here.

--8 News Now is reporting that, "Advocates for Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area are working to secure funds to pay for projects — and to say 'thank you' at the same time. Save Red Rock’s 'Attitude of Gratitude' campaign allows anyone to send thank-you notes to Nevada’s US senators and representatives, who unanimously supported the Great American Outdoors Act." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The Associated Press is reporting on how some redwoods survived wildfires in a California state park. Check it out, here.

--The Rapid City Journal is reporting that, "a Michigan man admitted to illegally climbing Mount Rushmore after he was found “on top of George Washington’s head,” court records show. Ayman Doppke was fined $1,500 after pleading guilty Thursday at the federal courthouse in Rapid City. Prosecutors dismissed charges of disorderly conduct and violating an area closure." To read more, click here.

Thursday, August 20, 2020

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


--It appears that an individual suffered a broken leg after falling from the Catscratch Gullies on Forbidden Peak on Friday. Limited information is currently available, but we do know he was extracted via helicopter.

--On Friday August 7th at 8:13pm a large earthquake dislodged Baron Spire (AKA Old Smoothie), causing a massive landslide in the Sawtooth Mountains. Here's an article about the incident. The following incredible video was taken at Baron Lake:

--Snews is reporting on REI's decision to abandon it's new eight-acre headquarters: "After a pandemic-prompted trial run, the retailer will deconstruct the traditional idea of "headquarters" in favor of remote, flexible work." To read more, click here.

--Speaking of REI, it's being sued for selling an alternative hand sanitizer that doesn't have alcohol in it. The sanitizer appears to be ineffective against COVID-19. To read the story, click here.

--Idaho's Soldier Mountain Ski Resort is for sale, again.

Desert Southwest:

Colorado and Utah:

--A woman at Sugarloaf in Utah was rescued by a football team (Seriously!) after her hair got caught in a mechanical ascender. It sounds like she was stuck like that for at least 45-minutes before the Dixie State University Football Team came to her rescue. Here's a video of the rescue on August 7th:

--The Access Fund is reporting that, "After sustained advocacy from the climbing community over the last several weeks, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) announced today that it has canceled its plans to auction more than 85,000 acres of recreation-rich land around Moab, Utah for oil and gas leasing." To read more, click here.

--Here's a great guide from Outside on adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park.

Notes from All Over:

--Liquid chalk kills coronavirus. Climbing is reporting that, "a team at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus tested 80-percent ethanol liquid chalk on SARS-CoV-2 and found that it cleared 100-percent of the virus within five minutes." To read more, click here.

--And you know what doesn't kill coronavirus, a buff-style mask. It appears that these masks are worse than no mask at all. To read more, click here.

--August 4th is now going to be an NPS fee free day, forever!

--The Hill is reporting that, "Michigan officials on Thursday said that a bald eagle attacked a government drone, sending the aircraft to the bottom of a lake. The incident occurred on July 21 when the eagle took down the Phantom 4 Pro Advanced quadcopter drone at around 162 feet, "tearing off a propeller and sending the aircraft to the bottom of Lake Michigan," the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy told NBC." To read more, click here.

--From NPR: "Amid pressure from Democrats and some Republicans, the Trump administration is planning to withdraw its controversial nominee to head the federal Bureau of Land Management. The sprawling public lands agency, which manages roughly a tenth of the landmass of the United States, has not had a permanent, Senate-confirmed director for the entire Trump era." To read more, click here.

--From Anchorage Daily News: "The Trump administration on Monday took another step to opening Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling for oil and gas, potentially fulfilling a decades-long dream for Republicans. Environmentalists, however, promised to fight opening up the coast plain of the refuge, a 1.56-million acre swath of land along Alaska's northern Beaufort Sea coast, home to polar bears, caribous and other wildlife, after the Department of the Interior approved an oil and gas leasing program." To read more, click here.

Monday, August 10, 2020

Traditional Anchoring Options with a Rope

It's not terribly uncommon to be short on slings or cordelletes at anchor. Maybe they were left at the last anchor. Maybe you used them. Regardless, if you get to the top and you don't have any soft goods to work with, then the key will be to work with the rope

In the following videos, AMGA Rock Guide Lyra Pierotti demonstrates two quick and easy methods to build an anchor without any slings or cords. 

In this first video, the concept could be thought of as stacking. She stacks three cams on top of one another, then clove-hitches the rope to each of them. She places a figure-eight-on-a-bight on the bottom of the stack and uses that for her master point.

The biggest problem with this technique is that Lyra's end of the rope is tied to the anchor. This makes it difficult if she wants to continue leading. This system works much better when leads are swapped.

In this second video, Lyra uses the rope again. This time, it looks a lot more like a traditional pre-equalized anchor, but built with the rope instead of a cordellete.

As with the preceding video, Lyra is still stuck in the system, and will have to do a lot of messing around if she wants to continue to lead.

Using the rope in the system isn't the most elegant technique, but it can certainly help you out in a pinch!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, August 6, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 8/6/20


Early morning on Mt. Rainier.

--Mount Rainier National Park noted that a body was recovered this week: "Park rangers recovered a body of a deceased person from an off-trail drainage near Paradise on Monday, August 3, 2020. The body is believed to be that of Talal Sabbagh, a hiker who went missing in late June." To read more, click here.

--KATU 2 is reporting that, "The body of a Kennewick climber who died in a fall from Mount Jefferson in central Oregon has been recovered. The Tri-City Herald reports 68-year-old David Freepons was climbing July 25 with a group at the mountain when he slipped on a glacier and fell several hundred feet to his death." To read more, click here.

--A major technical rescue took place last week on Mt. Stuart. An individual was lowered pitch after pitch down the northwest face of the mountain in a litter. 


--The Fresno Bee is reporting that, "A mountain climber who died while scaling Mount Humphreys in the remote Sierra Nevada has been identified as Paul Sheykhzadeh, 52, of Reno. Sheykhzadeh’s body was recovered on Monday with assistance from the California Air National Guard and its CH-47 Chinook helicopter due to the high elevation, Fresno County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Tony Botti said." To read more, click here. Paul was an active member of the SAR community.

--It's not a good sign for our National Parks that the president doesn't know how to pronounce the word, Yosemite.

Desert Southwest:

--It's possible that the chemicals that a New Mexico ski area is using are having a chilling downstream effect, and might be killing the soil. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--A 26-year-old climber suffered a fatal fall on Longs Peak last week. From Rock and Ice: "Dillon Blanksma of Golden, Colorado died following an unroped fall from Broadway, the ledge a third of the way way up the East Face—also known as the Diamond—of Longs Peak (14,259 feet), in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP), Colorado." To read more, click here.

--Unofficial Networks is reporting that, "Aspen Skiing Co. CEO Mike Kaplan wrote a letter to passholders to give them an idea of what to expect during the upcoming ski season in the midst of a global pandemic. In the letter Kaplan acknowledged some of the new procedures would be “annoying” but things like decreased uphill capacity of chairlifts and gondolas would foster 'more of an old school experience, but that could also translate to less noise, fewer distractions and, hopefully, more meaning.'" To read more, click here.

Due to the Pandemic, the OR Show was done virtually two weeks ago.

--The Outdoor Retailer Show online didn't really draw the numbers they were hoping for. From SNEWS: "OR's 2019 Summer Market drew 1,400 brands and nearly 25,000 attendees. It was, according OR's parent company Emerald, the largest outdoor B2B show in history. Before this week, those figures had people hoping that OR Online would set some records, too.  Unfortunately, that didn't quite pan out. When OR Online opened on July 21, a total of 100 brands had signed up to exhibit, with slightly more than 1,100 retailers, working media, and designers registered to attend. In terms of actual participation, the figures weren't much better. Over the course of the show's three days, retail buyer attendance was down 70 percent compared to the 2019 Summer Market's numbers; designer attendance came in at 67 percent compared to last year." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A climber was injured near Whitefish, Montana on Sunday. Limited information is available. To read more, click here.

--Time is reporting on some of the additional impacts that have taken place in the National Parks due to the Pandemic: "Many of these spaces, supposed to be untouched swaths of time-proof wilderness, have been overrun by first-time visitors seeking refuge from quarantine, joblessness, or the inability to take far-flung vacations. And as people have flooded into the parks, new crises have arisen for rangers and nearby communities, including indigenous populations who were already particularly susceptible to the virus. To read more, click here.

--Antartica is the only continent not to have any cases of COVID-19, but research stations are sparsely populated during the winter in the southern hemisphere. That will start to change as more researchers and adventurers travel south in September, October and November. Outside is asking how the continent can keep the Coronavirus at bay. 

--It's not currently clear how many wildland firefighters have the coronavirus. And as fire season is ramping up, the Forest Service is trying to figure out what to do. To read more, click here.

--Should climbing in the Canadian Rockies be more regulated? This author, writing for the Calgary Herald, thinks so. "This spring and summer have been unforgiving for climbers and hikers and unrelenting for rescue teams. A skier tumbled 400 metres and died in Banff National Park on July 18. Other recent deaths include a climber on Mount Andromeda and scramblers on Mount Fable and Yamnuska. Kananaskis Public Safety set a record when they were called out to more than 20 rescues over a three-day stretch from July 9 to 11. Will these deaths and rescues compel the climbing community and planners to cross the Rubicon and fundamentally change the way climbing is undertaken in parks?"

--Climbing is reporting that, "on July 31, Kai Lightner launched the nonprofit Climbing for Change, which will partner with brands, climbing gyms, and existing organizations to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) within the climbing community." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

How to Pay Out Slack with Multiple Belay Devices

Petzl's "How To" video on paying out slack is quite good. It looks at the issues surrounding inattentive partners, while also demonstrating good belay technique. 

Check it out!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, August 3, 2020

How To: Partner Check

In this video, Julia Chanourdie goes through all the elements of a partner check before climbing:

The elements of the partner check are as follows:

  • The harness should be well-adjusted and above the hips.
  • Ensure that the buckles are threaded properly.
  • If the harness requires a double-back, confirm that it is doubled-back.
  • Confirm that the knot is properly tied.
  • Confirm that it has been tightened.
  • Confirm that it is through both tie-in loops.
Belay System
  • If using a assisted breaking device (GriGri), confirm that the rope is threaded properly.
  • If using a tube-style device, confirm that the carabiner has captured the rope.
  • Confirm that the carabiner is connected to the belay loop.
  • Confirm that the carabiner is locked.
  • If using an assisted breaking device, confirm the function of the device by pulling on the rope.
  • Confirm that there is a knot in the end of the rope to close the system.
--Jason D. Martin