Friday, October 30, 2020

Film Review: Blood Glacier

Happy Halloween!

I really wanted to do something fun for the Halloween blog today, but couldn't think of anything too unique, so I decided to watch a "Climbing Horror Movie."

You probably didn't think that was a genre. But I found one. And it was a doozy...

I really really wanted to like Blood Glacier. It's a horror movie that was actually shot in the mountains, with people who appear to know something about the mountains. It's a film where a climber could have suspended their disbelief...

...but the horror elements were so bad and the story was so hokey, that nobody else possibly could have.


There were several indicators that this film experience might not work out.

I know. I know.

The first and most obvious indicator was the title.  But there were several other indicators in the first couple minutes of the movie. It was produced by IFC Midnight, which essentially is an indicator that it's going to be a B-level film from the get-go. Additionally, as the film opened, they showed glaciers and mountains, which would suddenly go from pristine to a filtered red at the same time they played jarring music.

Oh yeah, and the film was dubbed too. I think it might have been made by Germans...or something. It's hard to tell while watching it. But it was indeed shot in the Alps.

The bloody glacier in Blood Glacier.
Click on the photo to expand it in its awful gory bloody glacierness.

A group of climate scientists are studying glaciers in a remote corner of the Alps. They discover that a glacier appears to bleeding. Unbeknownst to them, the "blood" coming from the glacier is mutating the local wildlife. Essentially the bacteria in the substance creates hybrid animals. If an animal ate something, the new hybrid would have characteristics of both the host and the thing the animal ate. And of course the hybrid is born the same way an alien from the Alien franchise is born, by bursting out of the host's body.

This presents a bit of a problem for the scientists. You know, because for some reason the prime minister is on her way up to the hut with the hero's ex-girlfriend and lots of other people to get attacked by hybrid blood glacier monsters.

This movie was bad enough that I don't really expect many of you to see it. So I'm going to spoil it for you. If you don't want it spoiled. Don't read another word.

It turns out that the hero and his girlfriend were going to have a baby. She had an abortion and regretted it. She wanted a baby with him...

Which is good because an infected dog licked the hero's blood and had a hyrbid dog-baby-thing burst out of it's stomach which the pair adopted as their own.

For some reason this doesn't seem very plausible.


My favorite line of the entire movie takes place when a woman who is sobbing is also eating a banana. The Prime Minister screams at her, "stop eating that banana while you're crying!" I did in fact laugh quite hard at that moment of the film...

So the story and the dialogue are both pretty laughable, but so are the monsters. It seems like we've been spoiled with monsters for several years on the big screen that look real. Some of these are done with CGI and others are done with puppetry and make-up. The most believable looking monsters actually use a combination of both.

The monsters in this movie are so bad that it's hard not to laugh at them. They look like something that a high school drama scene shop with no budget might produce for a teenage haunted house. They're terrible...and kind of funny.

I really really wanted to like Blood Glacier, but I didn't. The hokiness provided some laughs, but it wasn't really worth an hour and a half of my time...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, October 29, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/29/20

Election:

--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.

--Outside has published an excellent round-up of down ballot races that impact the environment. Check it out.


Northwest:

Liberty Bell, Last Week

--A skier was injured on Mt. Baker near the Black Buttes on Sunday. It was reported that conditions were difficult with a breakable crust. The skier may have suffered a dislocated shoulder and was hoisted out by a Navy helicopter. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--A climber was rescued after taking a 100-plus foot fall on the second Flatiron just outside Boulder last week. It was reported that the female climber was free soloing the Freeway (5.0, II) route when she fell. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Gripped is reporting on a different kind of George Mallory mystery. One other than the popular, did-Mallory-and-Irvine-Summit-Everest one. "On April 10, a Chrisite’s auction item listed as “Lot 216 – an ice axe” sold for a staggering $240,000 CAD despite being listed for only $14,500. The “ice axe” was rumored to be George Mallory’s which he used on Mount Everest in 1922. American investor and climbing enthusiast Warren B Kanders bought the ice axe and after month of expert analysis, there are  doubts it was even made in his lifetime." To read more, click here.

--Will the Pieps DPS Sport avalanche transceiver get recalled? Maybe. To read more, click here.

--A husband and wife team have recently made a first ascent of K6, a relatively unknown peak in the heart of Pakistan's Karakorum. To read more, click here.

--And finally, a new WI 4, M5+ route was recently established just outside Canmore. To read about it, click here.


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Toproping Etiquette

The following is a series of etiquette oriented questions that arise around toproped climbing at popular cragging destinations. The answers to these questions should be adhered to at North American Climbing destinations. Locations outside of North America may have different etiquette issues.

A Climber Lowers Off a Route in Leavenworth, Washington
Photo by Ruth Hennings


1) Where should I set-up my "camp" at a crag that I'm going to climb at all day?

Gear and equipment should not be placed directly under the wall. It's good to set-up a "safe" area away from the wall where you can relax without a helmet on and eat lunch. This will also keep the base of the wall from being crowded with gear and packs.

It's a good idea to consolodate your group's gear. Avoid allowing equipment and packs to be scattered around.

A Climber Leads Tonto (5.5) in Red Rock Canyon
Photo by Jason Martin

2) What if I have a large group and want to "take-over" a crag for the day?

It is not appropriate for a group to "take-over" a crag. Climbing areas are public areas that are open to everyone. As such, it is incredibly rude for a group to hold an entire area -- or even a few routes -- hostage for the day.

If you have a large group, you have a large impact on both other users as well as the area. The best thing that you can to mitigate that impact is to keep a low profile, allow others to work in on the wall that you're using. Never leave a rope up that is not being used to "hold" a route.

If you do have a lot of ropes up and other users wish to climb routes that you have ropes on, it is okay to allow people to use your ropes if they look like they know what they're doing. If they don't appear knowlegable and they are climbing on your gear, you could become legally liable if something happens to one of the climbers that aren't with your group.

A group climbs at the Cowlick Co. Crag in Red Rock Canyon
Photo by Jason Martin


3) What if a large group is using a crag and refuses to give up a climb to my small group?

If you've got moves, then offer to have a dance-off for the climb. Seriously, joking with people will often loosen them up. In most cases, people that have had a good laugh will be more polite and more open to allowing people to climb.

If the large group is very rude and refuses to give up a climb, then politely find another place to go. It's not worth lecturing an ignorant climber about crag ettiquete. More often than not, a lecture will just reinforce negative behavior.

4) Is it okay to use the same anchor bolts as the person on an adjacent route?

Yes and no. Will this cause the person next door problems? If so, they were there first. If not, then be sure to ask them before clipping in next to their carabiners. If they say yes, then clip the bolts, but be sure not to do anything that changes their set-up in any way.

5) Where should I go to the bathroom when I'm cragging?

If there is an outhouse nearby, always use that first. Avoid urinating at the base of the wall and always avoid urinating in cracks on a wall as this causes the smell to linger.

If you have to defecate, know the rules of the area. Some areas require the use of WAG Bags, while other areas require you to dig a cat hole and pack out your toilet paper. Never go to the bathroom on the ground, stack the toilet paper on it and then put a rock on top.



6) When should I say something to a person who is doing something dangerous?

This is up to you. I usually don't say anything unless there is real and iminent danger. If there is mild danger, I will usually chat with the people for awhile in a non-threatening way before providing any unsolicieted beta.

7) Is it okay to toprope the first pitch of a multi-pitch climb?

More often than not, the answer is no. This is a more complex issue than the others and it does depend on the route and the route's history. People who are doing multi-pitch climbs always have the right of way over those who will TR a climb.

Some climbs are multi-pitch climbs, but nobody does anything but the first pitch. In this case, all the other ettiquete rules apply. Other climbs are commonly climbed as multi-pitch routes and are seldom done as single pitch routes. Such climbs should not be toproped.

8) It it okay to yell beta at people who didn't ask for it that I don't know?

No, many climbers like figure out the moves on their own.

Climbers who keep these concepts of etiquette in mind will almost universally have a much better time with a lot less conflict at the crags. And climbing isn't about conflict. It's about having fun...!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, October 26, 2020

Rappelling Safety

There is no doubt that rappelling is one of the more dangerous things that we regularly do in this sport. This is because we trust everything to one or two strands of rope and an anchor. If anything goes wrong, it can be catastrophic. However, there are some things that every climber can do to make rappelling safer.

First, if it is possible to safely walk off from the top of a climb, simply walk off. Limiting the amount of time that you spend rappelling is a surefire way to limit the amount of exposure that you have to potential mistakes.

Second, climbers should always try to tie off the ends of their ropes in order to close the system. This is a simple thing to do that is often overlooked. Some climbers are afraid that their ropes will get stuck after they throw them...which is a legitimate fear. Closing the system should be a default tactic. But if there are extenuating circumstances, then perhaps the system should be intentionally left open.

I have recently started to experiment with tying the ends of the ropes off and clipping them to my harness. In a multi-pitch rappel setting this decreases the likelihood of ropes getting stuck below the next belay station, as well as providing the security of a closed system.

People seldom think about tying knots in the end of the rope in single pitch terrain, but ironically, that's where most people accidentally rappel off of a single end of the rope. All that it takes is a minor rope offset to ruin your day. Knots in the rope will keep such a thing from being anything more than another minor element to fix.

Rappelling with a Prussik above the Device

And third, climbers should use some kind of rappel backup.

A Prussik Hitch on a Rope

There are two friction hitch backup options that are commonly used. Some people like to put a prussik hitch above their rappel device, whereas others prefer to put an autoblock hitch below the device. There are advantages and disadvantages to rappelling both ways. The biggest advantage to either of these options is that you are less likely to die if you make a mistake. The biggest disadvantage is that it takes extra time to put these things together...

Note the autoblock coming off the climber's leg-loop.

Most people will put their hand on the autoblock hitch while rappelling. You might notice that the backup in this scenario is on a non-locker. Generally, you don't need a locking carabiner for a back-up, but if you want more security, you can certainly use one.

Rappelling with a friction hitch above the device has gone a bit out of fashion. One advantage to rappelling with a prussik hitch above is that it is easy to switch a rappel system into a rope ascending system. The prussik is already attached to the climber's belay loop, so all that he has to do is to add a second friction hitch for his feet below the first friction hitch. That said, in a free-hanging rappel, if the hitch gets loaded, it can be hard to release it.

Most climbers now rappel with a friction hitch (usually an autoblock hitch) below the device, attached to a leg loop. This allows both hands to hold the rope below the device which provides for more redundancy in the rappel.

An Autoblock Hitch

A friction hitch works well below the device...most of the time. It is, however, imperative that climbers who employ this technique be extremely careful. If a climber elects to hang from the rope by nothing more than his device and a friction hitch, it is possible that the hitch could be disengaged if it touches the device. Such a thing would result in catastrophic failure. This usually happens when one twists his body away from the friction hitch. If a climber needs to mess around with ropes or something else while hanging from a device and a hitch, he should definitely put a catastrophe knot in below the hitch. This will ensure that should something happen, the climber will not fall to the ground.

Rappelling is the most dangerous thing that we do. So why not create more security by trying to walk off when you can? Or by tying knots in the end of the ropes? Or by putting a friction hitch into the system? Any one of these simple techniques could save your life...

UPDATE:

AAI Guide Andrew Yasso recently received the following text from a student that he taught this material:

Sup Andrew! 
It's ******, ***** *****'s nephew, the kid you took climbing and lent a crash pad too. Hope all is well.

Anyway, just wanted to share some photos!


That knot you showed me saved a 4 foot fall due to miss judging how much rope i need for a rappel!



This is a great example of why we should always close systems and use friction hitches to back up rappels!

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, October 23, 2020

Low Impact Climbing in Joshua Tree

Most folks who play outdoors are familiar with the basic Leave No Trace principles. Those principles apply differently to different environments and activities. Here are a handful of refinements of those principles for the rock climber in Joshua Tree National Park. Many of these concepts are also applicable to rock climbing in other desert settings such as Red Rocks, Zion National Park, and the greater Moab area.

Climbers' Trails

Desert plants and alpine plants have a lot in common, both are easily damaged and don't grow back. Ninety percent of the climbers in Joshua Tree are visiting areas with at least an unofficial climbers trail, if not an official maintained trail, leading from the road to the rock. Short-cutting these trails can permanently damage the desert ecosystem. This is probably the biggest impact that climbers are having on the park. The park service is even aware of it and is in the process of gathering information before formally deciding what to do about the problem. Most approaches in Joshua Tree are casual rambles that last for a few minutes. Take the time to find the trail. Just because it doesn't make a beeline from the car to the route you want to climb, doesn't mean it's not the right trail to be on. If, as is often the case, you have multiple options, try to stick with the most hardened path.

Paulina Varshavskay on Tennis Shoe Crack (5.8)
Photo by Ian McEleney


Know When To Bag It

Use the pit toilets at the road. If you have to urinate at the crag, step away from the routes and go on a rock. Plants “breathe” through their leaves, so urinating on them is not the same as watering them. It does, however, make them more appetizing to salt deprived animals. If you have to defecate and can’t make it to the pit toilet you have several options, but know that burying your fecal matter in a cat hole is not very effective in desert soils. In addition, leaving your toilet paper behind is completely unacceptable. The best option is to use a Wag Bag.

Trash

Pack it out, even if you didn’t pack it in. It’s easy to carry a plastic bag (the kind they give you at the store for your donuts and beer) for this purpose. Most climbers wouldn’t knowingly leave trash, but it’s common to have the wind blow your tape or candy bar wrapper into the bushes when you weren’t watching. A quick visual sweep of an area is a good way of ensuring that you’re not forgetting any trash (or #6 Camalots).

Mitzi Harding on Toe Jam (5.7)
Photo by Ian McEleney


Don’t Be Rude

The desert is naturally a quiet place. Many climbers savor this quality. Refrain from unnecessary screaming. Another climber could be at the crux of their route and might not appreciate you and your buddy debating the merits of American energy policy at full volume.

Leave your dog at home. Your canine companion may be a model of good behavior, but a dog's mere presence puts stress on native animals that are already locked in a struggle to survive. Not all climbers like being near dogs, even well behaved, leashed ones. Their fecal matter has all the same disposal problems as human fecal matter. Last but not least, the park has a pretty strict set of rules regarding dogs and tickets have been issued.

Rappel Anchors

Most routes in Joshua Tree do not have bolted anchors at the top. Often even routes that do have bolt anchors do not have hardware for rappelling on those anchors. This means that though there are bolts in the rock and hangers on those bolts, there are no rings, chains, quick links, or other hardware on the hangers to run the rope through for rappelling. If this is the case, the standard descent for that formation is either a walk-off or an established rappel somewhere else on top. There is no need to leave webbing and hardware on those bolts for your rappel. It can sometimes take a little investigation and scrambling to find the best and safest way down. If for some reason you MUST leave webbing behind on an anchor, use the tan colored webbing available at several shops in town.

What’s The Point?

These techniques might be a little inconvenient. They might require some advance planning, or even the carrying of extra stuff. Think about it. If all you cared about was the climbing, you could certainly get more routes done in the gym. You traveled all the way out here to climb awesome routes in an unparalleled setting. One visit probably won’t be enough. Do your part to keep Joshua Tree beautiful for other climbers and for yourself.

--Ian McEleney

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/22/20

Election:

--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.

Northwest:

--From the Access Fund: "Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest and Access Fund are pleased to announce that 11 acres in Icicle Canyon outside Leavenworth, Washington, are now permanently protected as public land. This conservation project is the result of a collaboration between Access Fund, the U.S. Forest Service (USFS), and local partner organizations. The parcel includes popular climbing areas known as Alphabet Rock and Icehouse Boulders, as well as the initial access path to the historic crag of Givler’s Dome farther uphill on adjacent USFS lands. Together, this critical inholding features more than 40 historic cracks, slabs, faces, and hueco-filled roofs, as well as dozens of boulder problems." To read more, click here.

Horne Lake is a climbing area on Vancouver Island.

Sierra:

--Tom Herbert recently set a new speed record on the Muir Wall (5.10, A2+, VI) on El Capitan in Yosemite. The route was first completed by his father in 1965. To read about the ascent, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Rocky Mountain National Park is currently closed due to fire activity.

--The Vail Daily is reporting that, "In matters of the law, it’s true that anything you say can and will be used against you. But in submitting his GoPro footage to the Colorado Avalanche Information Center in March, Vail resident Evan Hannibal said he wasn’t expecting his comments in the video to help establish a case against him resulting in a reckless endangerment charge and a potential $168,000 in restitution." To read more, click here.

--The Durango Herald is reporting that, "A wildfire has scorched at least 15 acres and trapped nearly 20 hikers Monday near the popular Ice Lakes trailhead, west of Silverton in the San Juan Mountains. U.S. Forest Service spokeswoman Esther Goodson said an aerial crew was en route Monday to battle the blaze, which had burned 15 to 20 acres as of 2:30 p.m. Monday." To read more, click here.

--Two snowboarders who unintentionally started an avalanche above I-70 near the Eisenhower Tunnel are being charged with reckless endangerment due to the avalanche washing over the road. Additionally, the state is trying to recover $168,000 for an avalanche mitigation device destroyed in the slide. No one was injured as this took place on March 25th at the start of the pandemic lockdown. Criminal charges have never been filed in Colorado for an avalanche before, and there is some question about what kind of precedent this will set. To read more, click here.

--This kind of stuff is the type of thing that leads to charging people for rescue. It's possible that a missing woman found in Zion National Park, faked her disappearance. From ABC 4: "The liaison of the Washington County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue is speaking out about several discrepancies he says he sees in the case of a California woman who was found alive after being missing for 12 days inside Zion National Park." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The CBC is reporting on a backcountry ski fatality in Alberta, Canada: "A skier has died on a backcountry trail in Kananaskis Country. It happened near the Robertson Glacier on Monday. RCMP say the 40-year-old man, from Invermere, British Columbia, was skiing with three friends when a whiteout hit and the group was separated." To read more, click here.

--Pocket Media, the company that owns Climbing magazine, has recently purchased Rock and Ice and Gym Climber. Climbing and Rock and Ice will come together under the title, Climbing. To read more, click here.

--The North Face is spending 7 million dollars in an effort to diversify the outdoors. From The Cut: "Part of its new global “Reset Normal” initiative, the brand is pledging $7 million toward diversifying the outdoors. It will do this through the Explore Fund Council, a global fellowship program launched in partnership with Emmy Award–winning screenwriter, producer, and actor Lena Waithe and climber and Academy Award–winning director Jimmy Chin. The idea is to create a group of experts across culture, entertainment, academia, and the outdoors to help guide the brand on spending that $7 million." To read more, click here.

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

Election:

--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.

Northwest:

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.

Sierra:

--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.

TECH SPECS

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

Northwest:

--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.

Sierra:

--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.