Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Knee Pain in the Backcountry

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

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

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

--Jason D. Martin

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, October 12, 2020

How to Fit a Backpacking Pack

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

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

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, October 9, 2020

Projecting a Climb

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Happy projecting!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, October 8, 2020

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


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


Mt. Rainier Mid-Summer

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

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


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

Desert Southwest:

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

Colorado and Utah:

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

Notes from All Over:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Rock Climbing Rests

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

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

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

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

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

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, October 5, 2020

Do I need Climbing Chalk...?

Do I need chalk...?

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

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

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

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

Liquid Chalk

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

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

Loose Chalk

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

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

Chalk Ball

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

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

Alpine Climbing

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

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

Other Climbing 

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

A classic chalk bag with a belt.

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

Happy climbing!

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, October 2, 2020

REVIEW: Black Diamond Cirque 30 pack

Cirque 35 (left) and Cirque 30 (right)

As backcountry skiers, we carry a variety of things in our packs. There's the standard, beacon, shovel, and probe, but there are also extra layers, water, a repair kit, first aid, and the list goes on. While requirements vary by user, I think we're all in agreement that an ideal pack fits and functions well, with lightweight and durability as added bonuses. While I've only had the Cirque 30 pack from Black Diamond a few months, so far it checks the boxes of fit, function, and lightweight. I'll give you a durability report in a few years, but given it's made out of 210d Dynex, I don't expect to run into any issues.

Let's start with fit: This pack comes in a two different torso sizes.
Small/Medium: 16-19" Torso and 26-40" Waist
Medium/Large: 18.5-21.5" Torso and 28-45" Waist

I'm 6 feet, 175lbs, and the Medium/Large fits great (the waist belt sits approximately 1" above my belly button). To note, the waist belt on the 30 is 1.5" webbing, versus the 35 and 45 have padding, a zippered pocket, and gear loop. The contoured shoulder straps feel natural and adjust well from 1-4 layers. The Cirque 35 and 45 feature Black Diamond's Swing Arm technology, which supposedly allows the pack to move more fluidly from side to side as you ski, but I don't notice any movement on the 30 that would necessitate this technology. In short, BD probably didn't include it on the 30 because it's not meant to carry as much weight as the larger packs. None of the Cirque packs come with load adjusters, which again speaks to the well thought out fit. Lastly, there is a minimal foam pad for back padding, which can be removed for packability or use as a lightweight summit pack.

Moving on to function, there is a lot to talk about. The Cirque 30 has many features that I find useful and well designed in a ski pack:
Diagonal and A-frame ski carry (more on this below)
Integrated avy tools pocket with drain holes
Two zippered pockets (one inside and one outside)
Ice tool pick pockets with quick deploy piolet system
Top quick-cinch closure

The ski carry system has two options: Diagonal and A-frame. The diagonal system has a set loop at the bottom and integrates with the main adjustable strap on top. This is quick to setup, and the bottom loop can accommodate a 140mm tail. I have noticed that when the pack isn't fully loaded, the skis can have a bit of swing to them when diagonally carried. While I have yet to try out the A-frame carry, the pack features ski holsters and a glove friendly, top snap closure. The exterior pocket is easily accessible with both carry systems. Unfortunately for snowboarders, there are no split carry capabilities.

The integrated avy tools pocket is accessed by a red snap buckle on the inside of the pack. Inside the pocket you'll find a sleeve for your probe and shovel handle, with space for your shovel blade on top. I find that the buckle is easy to use with gloves and quick to find inside the pack (both essential features). Since this pocket is separate from the main compartment, I will often stuff my skins in there to keep things in the main compartment dry.

Exterior pocket: Perfect for lunch

This pack comes with two zippered pockets - one on the outside and one inside. The outside pocket is strategically located at the top of the pack, features a waterproof zipper, and has become the go to storage for my lunch + snacks. The inside pocket is positioned against the back of the pack, and more often than not, holds my headlamp, multitool, inReach, and radio. This pocket combined with the cinch-top closure makes for an easy radio microphone cord pass through - a key feature for guides or anyone looking to communicate often within their group.

I have not yet had the chance to carry ice tools with this pack, but it seems well designed - having the picks stashed together. Going further, I'm super excited to use the quick deploy piolet system, for when I find myself in need of instant security on an ascent. In short, you can disconnect your piolet (axe) with one hand, while keeping your pack on your back. Ski mountaineers of past have tucked their axes between their packs and their back, on the chance they would need to deploy it mid climb.

The closure system of the Cirque 30 might be my favorite thing about this pack. The top opening is essentially a draw cord that opens and closes without ever having to touch a toggle. To open, simply pull apart the top of the pack. To close, just pull the cord. One strand of webbing runs over the top of the pack to secure everything in place. All of these features are glove friendly. All this being said, I am thinking about replacing my draw cord with something less porous, as I've had a couple instances with it freezing up and making the pack hard to open.

I have yet to use this pack on an overnight, but that's not what it's made for. While this pack is called the Cirque 30, it actually boasts 2136 cubic inches of space, which converts to 35L. For day tours, I think this might actually be the perfect pack size. See below for my daily tour kit:

One drawback to the minimalist features of this pack is the lack of helmet attachment. You could certainly rig something up with the A-frame ski carry points, but that'd be a custom project.


Weight: [S/M] 560 g (1 lb 4 oz)
[M/L] 760 g (1 lb 11 oz)

Volume: [S/M] 28 L (1831 cu in)
[M/L] 30 L (2136 cu in)

Price: $179.95

Color: Torch (red)

--Charlie Lane, AAI Equipment Shop Manager

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/1/2020


--King 5 is reporting on a fatality on Mt. Rainier last week: "A 27-year-old man died during a climbing trip on the Muir Snowfield at Mount Rainier. The man was identified as Alex Fitzgerald, who lived in Seattle and Michigan. The man's hiking partner, a 23-year-old woman visiting from Virginia, made a distress call Wednesday morning, saying the pair was "lost in in high winds, heavy rain, and white-out conditions at about 9,300 feet elevation after spending the night in a tent at Camp Muir (elevation 10,188 feet)," according to a statement from the Mount Rainier National Park Service." The woman survived the ordeal. To read more, click here.

Clouds and Mt. Hood from Mt. Rainier

--KDRV 12 is reporting that, " Despite a multi-agency rescue attempt, a climber died over the weekend after falling on Mt. Shasta, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office received a 911 call on Saturday just before 7 p.m. A woman said that she had been climbing on Mt. Shasta with her boyfriend when he fell down an embankment, sustaining injuries. The climber reported that she was on the north face of the mountain, at roughly 11,000 feet." To read more, click here.

--Parts of Mt. Hood National Forest reopened on Saturday after being closed due to wildfires for two-and-a-half weeks. To read more, click here.


--Inyo National Forest is to remain closed due to hot and dry conditions until at least October 8. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Residents along Sandstone Drive in Red Rock Canyon's Calico Basin have placed rocks along the side of the road where cars have traditionally parked. It is not clear at this point whether this is legal or not. Many people accessing the bouldering in Red Rock use this "street parking." This situation will certainly lead to conflict between residents and visitors. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "On Sunday, September 27, the body of a male climber was found in the area of Crestone Needle – a Sangre de Cristo Range peak that's considered to be one of Colorado's most dangerous 14,000-plus-foot mountains. The body was later identified as Jeff Deardorff, an experienced Colorado climber that had summited many of the state's highest peaks." To read more, click here.

--A climber that sustained a 40-foot fall in Eldorado Canyon was rescued on Sunday. To read more, click here.

--Backpacking is reporting that, "in November, Colorado will make history when it lets voters decide whether to reintroduce gray wolves. But the discovery of the state’s first confirmed pack in nearly a century is casting an old debate in a new light." To read more, click here.

--A Trump Administration executive order on foreign visas is making it hard for ski areas to hire for the season. From Voice of America: "As ski resorts try to figure out how to operate safely during the coronavirus pandemic, by requiring facemasks, enforcing social distancing in lift lines and eliminating dine-in service, Trump's order has added another obstacle heading into the winter: hiring enough temporary workers to fill crucial jobs like operating chair lifts, serving food and cleaning hotel rooms." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A climber died at New Hampshire's Rumney after falling over fifty feet. In an Associated Press news story, they state that equipment malfunctioned, but there is limited additional information. To read more, click here.

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

--The Hill has a great editorial on bringing back the Civilian Conservation Core to fight wildfires: "While the daunting nature of climate change and intensification of wildfires can cause us to feel helpless, there are pathways forward. A new Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) could stimulate the economy, provide work to unemployed and underemployed folks and help significantly reduce wildfire damages in the Western U.S. The best part? There’s bipartisan support for the revival of the CCC. Recent polling finds 75 percent of likely voters support a new CCC, including 74 percent of Republicans. Support like this is hard to come by in the era of polarization, especially on environmental issues." To read more, click here.

--Bad news on the conservation front from the New York Times: "The Trump administration is expected to finalize its plan to open about 9 million acres of the pristine woodlands of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest to logging and road construction. The administration’s effort to open the Tongass, the nation’s largest national forest, has been in the works for about two years, and the final steps to complete the process have been widely expected for months. They come after years of prodding by successive Alaska governors and congressional delegations, which have pushed the federal government to exempt the Tongass from a Clinton-era policy known as the roadless rule, which banned logging and road construction in much of the national forest system." To read more, click here.

--So a massive mountain just collapsed in on itself in Kyrgyzstan. The footage is insane:

--EcoWatch is reporting that, "a federal judge in Montana ordered William Perry Pendley, the head of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), to quit immediately after finding that the Trump administration official had served in the post unlawfully for 14 months, according to CNN. The ruling may reverse an entire year of decisions that Pendley made to open up the American West to oil and gas drilling, as The Washington Post reported. The judge in the case, Brian Morris of the U.S. District Court for the District of Montana, said that Pendley had been appointed to the post, but his name had never been submitted to the Senate for confirmation." To read more, click here.

--Footwear News is reporting that, "REI is officially carbon neutral. Now, it wants to halve its entire carbon footprint over the next decade."  To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "a ceremony took place in the Bow Valley on Sept. 29 that revealed the replacement name of a mountain north of Canmore. For over 100 years, the peak has been referred to using a racial slur, but Bald Eagle Peak, a traditional name that was used generations ago, will be reinstated." To read more, click here.