Thursday, December 31, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/31/2020


--Snow Brains is reporting that, "Two snow bikers have been found dead following an avalanche in Pemberton, BC, about 40-miles north of Whistler." To read more, click here.

--This one's a little out of our normal purview, but we thought we'd include it today. From My Clallam County: "A man in his 60s was struck by a falling tree Tuesday as he rode his bicycle inside Olympic National Park. His injuries, described by a paramedic as traumatic, were severe enough that rescuers decided the best course of action was to call in a Life Flight helicopter rather than try to move him." While the fact that he was on a bike was unusual, getting hit and seriously injured by a falling tree is not. We recommend taking a close look at trees around campsites, especially during wind storms.


--The Tahoe Daily Tribune is reporting that, "Two people were caught in backcountry snow slides over the weekend according to the Sierra Avalanche Center, one a skier and the other a snowmobiler and both escaped serious injuries." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A 22-year-old was died after he collided with a tree at a New Mexico ski resort on Saturday. To read more, click here.

--KOB4 is reporting that, "A video taken Sunday at the Petroglyph National Monument in Albuquerque shows a park ranger tasing a Native American man for being off the trail. Darrell House, a Native American and Marine veteran, was walking his dog at the national monument on Albuquerque’s West Side. While at the sacred site, House said he often prays and meditates, which sometimes means leaving the trail by a few feet." We did not post this video here as it is deeply disturbing. To read more, click here.

--There are many smash and grabs at cragging areas. This one happened at the Red Springs Parking Lot at Red Rock Canyon. Part of risk management in 2020 should be to take your valuables out of your car before parking, or at least hide them well in the car.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Summit Daily is reporting that, "A solo backcountry skier was killed in an avalanche Saturday, Dec. 26, on Berthoud Pass in nearby Grand County. Grand County Search and Rescue responded to a call of an overdue backcountry skier at about 3 p.m. Saturday. The skier was in the area of Chimney Chute in the First Creek Drainage of Berthoud Pass, according to a report from the Colorado Avalanche Information Center." To read more, click here.

--Vice President Mike Pence is likely taking ski lessons at Beaver Creek Resort on a vacation in Vail. To read more, click here.

--The new strain of COVID-19, the strain that has been working through the UK, has been discovered in Colorado. It is believed that this strain is more easily transmitted. As of this writing, no new restrictions have been placed on the state. To read more, click here.

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "Authorities on Tuesday were investigating the vandalism of Aspen's natural gas system which left thousands of residents and visitors without gas in the middle of the busy holiday season. The FBI and state law enforcement officials were working with police to investigate the disruption, which began Saturday." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--We don't usually report fatalities or rescues outside North America. But this was too to big an incident not to cover. Gripped and many others are reporting on several avalanche deaths in Iran on Friday: "After three days of search-and-rescue efforts, two bodies were found on Sunday, bringing the number of dead to 12. Iranian rescue workers then ended their search for survivors. Rescue teams rescued at least 14 missing people." To read more, click here.

--Following a significant storm cycle with a lot of rain on snow, an avalanche destroyed a building at New York's Belleayre Ski Center. No one was injured in the slide. To read more, click here.

--President Trump commuted the sentence of Utah state Rep. Phil Lyman last week. According to the Deseret News, "Lyman, R-Blanding, was serving as a San Juan County commissioner in 2014 when he led a protest of about 50 ATV riders in a southeastern Utah canyon home to Native American cliff dwellings that officials closed to motorized traffic. The ride occurred amid a movement in the West pushing back against federal control of large swaths of land and came in the wake of an armed confrontation Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy had with Bureau of Land Management over grazing fees." Lyman was ordered to spend 10-days in jail and pay significant fines. To read more, click here.

--Backpacker is reporting that, "Jennifer Pharr Davis's adventures as a long-distance hiker have carried her thousands of miles across the US and six continents. Her latest achievement is taking her into government. Pharr Davis, a former fastest known time holder for the Appalachian Trail, is the newest member of the President's Council on Sports, Fitness, and Nutrition, an advisory committee aimed at promoting active lifestyles in the United States." To read more, click here.

--The comedian, Chelsea Handler, did a ski lap on her 45th birthday, in her underwear, holding a margarita and a joint. To see a clip, click here.

--And finally, we're not really sure we understand what's happening between the North Face and Gucci...

Tuesday, December 29, 2020

A Question of Risk

Bruce Tremper, the author of Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain and Avalanche Essentials was recently interviewed in a video by Black Diamond. There he talks about risk in avalanche terrain.

Though Bruce has a lot of excellent wisdom in this video, there are two moments that really stand out. The first is when he says, "I will never be as confident in my avalanche skills as I was in my early twenties." And the second is when he says, "the whole extreme thing has gotten out of hand."

It is possible that the two comments are connected. People in their twenties are also those who are pushing the limits in the backcountry. Unfortunately, they are also often the ones who die out there. There's a lot to be said about ratcheting back your risk taking behavior so that - as Bruce says - you can enjoy your sport for a long time to come...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, December 28, 2020

Film Review: 180° South

In 1968, Yvon Chouinard, Doug Tompkins and a handful of other climbers from Southern California dropped everything, bought a van and drove to Patagonia to climb Fitzroy. This 5,000 mile journey into the heart of the South American mountains became a focal point of the climbers lives. They felt that the journey to get to the mountain was just as important as the mountain itself. Indeed, Chouinard, who started the Patagonia clothing company, sites this trip for his later involvement in conservation efforts throughout the world. And Tompkins also sites the trip as the inspiration that led him to eventually move down to Patagonia in order to help create national parks in Chile.

The newly released film, 180° South, doesn't really go into much depth about that initial trip to Patagonia. Instead, the film focuses on a much younger adventurer named Jeff Johnson. Johnson saw a film entitled, Mountain of Storms, about Chouinard and Tompkins 1968 trip. This short film inspired Johnson to make his own trek south in the search of adventure.

Johnson picked out an obscure Patagonian peak and some friends to join him on it. The friends included Chouinard and "the-funny-man-of-climbing" Timmy O'Neil, as well as pro surfer Keith Malloy. Along the way, he also befriends a young woman named Makohe whom also joins them on the climb.

To imitate Chouinard's and Tomkin's long ago journey, Johnson gets "hired" to help crew a 57-foot sailboat down to South America. While he didn't exactly imitate the 1968 van ride, he did imitate the adventure of the travel. Johnson experiences everything he could experience on a small boat during the journey from seasickness serious damage at sea.

When Johnson finally arrives in Patagonia, he and his crew bushwack in and try to climb Cerro Corcovado, a striking glaciated peak capped by an imposing rock tower overlooking the ocean.

180° South is a beautifully crafted film. Stylistically it is quite similar to Banff Mountain Film Festival films like Take a Seat, the documentary about the tandem bicycle rider who road 20,000 miles from Alaska to South America, always looking for someone to join him on his bike. Or like Alone Across Australia, another Banff film about an adventurer who walks across Australia pulling a cart with his dog. These are the outdoor adventure films that strike home and 180° South can easily hold its head up among these other classic documentaries. 

180° South is an absolutely phenomenal film. It encompasses all of the elements that make for a beautiful "mountain" (in the Banff sense) film. It explores conservation and culture through the lens of adventure sports and it gives us some insight.

One element that works some of the time, but doesn't work consistently thoughout the film is a thematic connection between the mountains and the sea. Much of the film is about a boat journey and surfing, but then the piece transitions into a mountain phase. Once in the mountains they do repeatedly callback the sea...but as the narrative shifted away from the sea, it would have made more sense to focus on that environment.

180° South was released on DVD, at a series of theaters and on streaming video almost simultaneously. And while this has happened with a handful of films over the last five years, it's not terribly clear why they did this with the documentary. For most viewers, it doesn't matter. The film is accessible immediately on Netflix via streaming video.

Yvon Chouinard is an icon in the outdoor and climbing world, and this film helps us to understand what has motivated him. It is the same thing that motivates each one of us each time we go outside.

The trailer for 180° South can be viewed below. To see the film's website, click here.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, December 25, 2020

Santa's Rappelling Dilemma

A couple of years ago, Santa decided to make a dramatic entrance into the Gardens Mall in Palm Beach, Florida. But instead of flying in behind eight tiny reindeer, Santa decided to rappel in. But unfortunately, Santa isn't very good at rappelling...

Indeed, Santa's so bad at rappelling, that it's lucky that he's still in one piece.

At the time that this video was shot, I had young children and I can still imagine their thoughts back then. First, they would probably be horrified. And then after the horror wore off a little bit, they would probably ask a number of know, like:

"Why did Santa let go of the rope when he was trying to free himself. What if the device somehow released when he was trying to pull the rope through. Santa would have gone splat!"

"Why didn't Santa have an autoblock back-up on his rope or wrap the rope around his leg while he tried to work his beard out? You know, so he would have been safer and not gone splat?"

"Why didn't Santa have a couple of prussik cords or slings that he could have used to climb up the rope to release his beard?"

"Why didn't Santa just rappel on an extension? You know, like the guy in the next picture? This would have put the device up high enough that his beard would have been less likely to get stuck."

And lastly, "why was it again that Santa didn't just fly in with his sleigh?"

The kids might have some comments too, like, "Santa needs to take a class. Mrs. Claus should get him a course with know, so that he's around to bring us gifts next year!"

My kids were really smart when they were little. They' were so smart that they even found this cool write-up and description of exactly what Santa could have done...

Happy Holidays from all of us at the American Alpine Institute!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, December 24, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/24/2020


--A pair of climbers were rescued in Smith Rock this week after their rope got stuck on descent. To read more, click here.

Smith Rock State Park

--The National Park's Traveler is reporting that, "A lawsuit filed Wednesday seeks to renew the grizzly recovery program for the North Cascades of Washington state, a program that was supported by former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke but scuttled by his successor, David Bernhardt. The lawsuit, filed by the Center for Biological Diversity, maintains the Trump administration's abandonment of the program violates the Endangered Species Act and was based on politics, not a conservation-driven decision."To read more, click here.

--A number of COVID-19 cases have been attributed to a party in employee housing at the Big White Ski Resort in British Columbia. As of now, 76 cases have been attributed to the party. To read more, click here. Something similar also happened at a resort in Calgary.


--Fire restrictions in Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park have been removed.

Desert Southwest

--The Reno Gazette Journal has published an editorial on Congress and it's blockage of a bill that would allow for military tests in sensitive desert areas: "The values of these landscapes are embedded in their very existence and the inherent benefits they provide — such as recreational access, land and water conservation, Tribal history and culture, and protection of wildlife. In the Congress-approved 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, both military sites received status quo time extensions for the next 25 years, which means they cannot expand their current footprints for bomb testing and other damaging activities that leave irreversible scars on these landscapes." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Snow Brains is reporting that, "Since Friday three Coloradans lost their lives in avalanche accidents and 132 avalanches were reported. One hundred and eight avalanches were triggered by people in the last week. More people die in avalanches in Colorado than any other state, and this year conditions are especially dangerous." To read more, click here. And here's some more info on two of the fatalities.

--If you work at Vail, Breckenridge, Beaver Creek or Keystone, your employee pass for weekend skiing or riding is no longer valid. The reason? Reservations for weekend visits are full. To read more, click here.

--Vail Resorts has asked the Summit County to remove resort skier number restrictions. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--During the Trump Administration, there was a significant "brain drain" in the Bureau of Land Management. Many career employees left their positions, leaving the next administration and the future of these lands in dire need of administrative repair. To read about this, click here.

--Snowbrains is reporting on an increase in vandalism in national parks since the pandemic began: Since coronavirus started back in March 2020, multiple other national parks and recreation areas have reported similar issues. In April, Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area in Pennsylvania cited an over 600% increase in vandalism and illegal dumping, with 13 cases reported in April 2020 compared to only two the year before. Also, in April, the City of Rocks National Reserve in Idaho reported multiple graffiti incidents on prehistoric pictographs and signatures. In September this year, graffiti along five miles of trail and illegal fires were reported in Acadia National Park. These examples are most likely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to incidents like these." To read more, click here.

--Outside and many others are reporting that, "president-elect Joe Biden has chosen Representative Deb Haaland, a first-term congressperson from New Mexico, to be his secretary of the interior. If confirmed by the Senate, Haaland will be the first Native American to run the Department of the Interior and the first to serve on a presidential cabinet. She’ll oversee agencies like the Bureau of Land Management and National Park Service, in addition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs." To read more, click here.

--The Tahoe Daily Tribune is reporting that, "The Human-Powered Travel in Wilderness Areas Act, introduced by Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah), seeks to remove the blanket ban of bicycles in wilderness areas by inserting language to ensure that the rules restricting 'mechanical transport' does not include forms of non-motorized, human-propelled travel." It's important to note that this may be an attempt to chip away at the landmark Wilderness Act. To read the article, click here.

--This shouldn't be news to anyone, but ski towns are suffering in the pandemic...

--Several resorts are punishing people who don't show up for their reserved parking spot. Check it out, here.

--WVPB Public Broadcasting is reporting that, "The new federal stimulus relief package includes pandemic-related aid, as well as other end of year business, including a new national park designation for southern West Virginia. The New River Gorge will be redesignated from a National River to a National Park and Preserve, making it the 63rd national park in the country and 20th preserve. It was announced in a press call Monday with West Virginia’s U.S. Sen. Shelley Capito." To read more, click here.

--Climbing is reporting that, "alpinists Benjamin Lieber, Alex Hansen, and Austin Schmitz put up two new big routes this Autumn season in the Hayes Range in Alaska. The first was DeWild Style (AI4+) on the SE Face of Peak 9,250 that Lieber and Hansen climbed. After that success, they recruited their friend Schmitz for his first trip to Alaska. Together the three established Longing for Light (AI5) on the NE Shoulder of Mount Moffit." To read more, click here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2020

American Alpine Institute Guides Choice - 2020

The American Alpine Institute is excited to announce the Guides Choice award winners for 2020! The Guides Choice has been a highly valued award for over 20 years, and truly represents the pinnacle of industry leading outdoor gear. 

While based in the Cascade range of Washington, testing takes place all over North and South America, from Cotopaxi and Aconcagua to Red Rocks and the Sierra, and all the way up to Denali. While these products represent innovation and engineering at it's finest, they have also stood up to heavy use, with days-on-end in the field.

Mammut Barryvox S

The holy grail of avalanche transceivers, the Mammut Barryvox S does it all and then some! Named after the legendary Swiss St Bernard, Barry Der Menschenretter or “Barry the people rescuer,” the Barryvox transceiver dates back to 1968, and literally translates to “Barry’s voice.” Since it’s first iteration, the Barryvox has undergone many improvements in keeping with it’s main purpose: Keeping people alive and safe in the mountains.

Launched in 2017, the Barryvox S is the first transceiver of it’s kind to have a digital search radius range of 70m (90m analog), intuitive search technology, beacon to beacon firmware upgrades, and in-hand customizable features. In addition, the Barryvox S uses three antennas for pinpoint accuracy, can be used with lithium batteries for extended life in avalanche terrain, and has an easy-to-use locking mechanism. All this being said, what really sets the Barryvox S apart from the rest are it’s search features:

Dynamic screen icons give the rescuer visual cues to run, walk, or get down to surface of the snow. These icons may seem a little corny at first, but when thrown into a rescue scenario it can be helpful to see what you’re supposed to be doing rather than having to think about it.

Smart Search Mode operates in the background and keep the rescuer directed towards the victim, adjusting and correcting for sloppy search techniques. This is great for both new and experienced users as it helps to shorten the path to the buried victim.

Lastly, the Barryvox S has a rugged outer construction that is grippy and easy-to-use with gloves and it’s compact size fits great in a dedicated pant pocket or chest harness.

While there are many avalanche transceivers on the market today that have similar features to the Barryvox S, our guides place their trust in Mammut to help them eliminate as much risk as possible in avalanche terrain. After 3 years of testing in the world’s most rugged environments, we can proudly and safely say that the Barryvox S is a true Guides Choice winner.


Petzl Multihook

The Abalakov thread, aka V-thread, is an ice protection technique used to create an anchor in ice. In short, an ice screw is used to drill two holes (tunnels) which interconnect in a V shape, allowing for the passage of a cord or sling. The technique of drilling holes can be done with any ice screws, however the longer the holes, the stronger the anchor. To retrieve the cord or sling from one hole or tunnel, and pull it out through the other, requires a way to snag the cord or retrieve it. This is where the magic of the V-thread tool comes into play.

The Petzl Multihook is one of many V-thread tools on the market today, and yet it stands at the top because of its superb design and engineering. At first glance you will notice that the Multihook is shorter in length than other V-thread tools. Not only does this save weight, but it’s also a design that allows for the main hook to flip out of the body like a pocket knife. The hook itself is rigid and sharp, and comes with a serrated blade for cutting cord, slings, and rope in the field. Compared with other V-thread tools, the flip of the hook is easy to use with gloves and doesn’t require any added finger strength. The Multihook is also easy to rack with a carabiner, and nests perfectly inside ice screws (and even stays put with the addition of a little cord loop). A few guides mentioned that the length of the Multihook is not long enough to clear the shaft of ice on longer ice screws, however this relatively small gripe pales in comparison when considering all of it’s other features. At $30, the Multihook is one of the more expensive tools in its category, but like most things Petzl, we expect it to hold up to years of use. After two years of testing, the Petzl Multihook is our 2020 Guides Choice award winner for innovation in mountain climbing and v-thread tools.

CAMP Nimbus Lock

The Nimbus Lock has quickly and easily become a new favorite of numerous guides at the American Alpine Institute. Many have cited the ideal shape and size as the highlight attributes that warrant the attention this carabiner has received. With a rounder cross section build rather than an I-beam construction, this build allows for a much smoother action for friction-related uses in climbing.

You will find many guides use this as their rope-capture carabiner on their belay devices and for it’s more traditional use of belaying with a ‘munter’ hitch. The rounder cross section build has less friction than I-beam shaped carabiners, and while most I-beam carabiners hold too much friction for some specific operations, the Nimbus Lock provides smooth rope feeding. Due to its preferred shape and size, it also can serve as a lightweight ‘master carabiner’ on an anchor. Weighing in at 69g, it is currently one of the lightest options in its category and for its size. The Nimbus Lock finishes off the accolades with a keylock nose and laser etched visual warning to ensure your locker is locked.

Again, congratulations to all of this years winners for truly elevating what is possible in the outdoor industry! As a Guide Service, we are constantly on the lookout for products and innovations that change the way we look at mountains. Thank you to all the companies who have submitted products to our testing program. Use the promo code GuidesChoice20 for 20% off these three items at through the end of the year. Happy Holidays!

--Charlie Lane, AAI Equipment Shop Manager

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

Stretching for Climbers

I never used to stretch before climbing. If I was climbing outside, my idea of stretching was the walk to the crag, and climbing an easy route first to "warm up a bit." If I was training at the climbing gym, I would do a lap traversing the gym and call it good.  

Alpine climbing?  

Forget it.  Fortunately, I never injured myself 'climbing cold' like this, but rather discovered the benefits of stretching after going to a few free yoga classes at my local climbing gym.  After the sessions I would go climb, and noticed the difference right away. Suddenly I could pull moves that would usually send me chucking.  High-stepping was no longer such a big deal.  Difficult moves that I would have tried to power through I now had the confidence and flexibility to finesse.  

But eventually I was out of free yoga sessions- surely there were some resources out there for climbing-specific stretches.  

Why Stretch?
Stretching not only helps with injury prevention and flexibility, but also allows you to get more mileage out of your training and climbing sessions.  According to a recent study by Dr. Wayne Westcott, author of more than 20 books on various types of exercise and strength training, stretching the specific muscles used after any type of workout can produce a 20% more gain in strength than can be achieved by just working out.  You can read more about it here.

Before or After?
Research shows that stretching before, during, AND after is ideal.  If done correctly, stretching before climbing will increase your flexibility and prevent injury, while stretching during and after will help with muscle balance and recovery time.  Stretching during climbing may be hard in some settings (alpine/multi-pitch), but if you're at the gym or the crag, it's pretty easy just to do a few stretches in between laps.

I have achieved the best results in performance from warming up with 'dynamic' stretching.  Dynamic stretching is defined as smoothly moving through a full range of motion. When developed for sport-specific movements, dynamic stretching is widely considered the best way to increase blood flow and helps to reduce injury.  There is a great article on dynamic stretches for climbers with detailed pictures here.

When stretching during and after a workout or climbing session, it is best to practice static stretching, which is where you hold a single position for a set amount of time (usually 30 seconds or more).  Doing yoga qualifies, and Kaylee Frano, an indoor-climbing youth team coach, has written a great article with the specific stretching routine she uses for her team, as well as including a more in-depth look on what the benefits of post-exercise stretching are.  Her article is here.

A common problem many people run into when they first begin stretching regularly is called 'stretch reflex', where you stretch too aggressively without any type of warm-up.  At the least, stretch reflex can lead to decreased performance; at its worst, a pulled muscle.  Before you do your pre-exercise stretching, try doing some jumping jacks, push-ups, sit-ups, or very easy climbing to get the blood flowing a bit.  Remember to breathe during the movements and stretch slowly, deliberately, and pragmatically.  Just like climbing at that next number grade, flexibility won't happen overnight!

In a sport where flexibility is so necessary, it is remarkable how little emphasis is put on stretching.   When you first start, it can be painful and frustrating.  For me, the biggest hurdle was focusing on sitting still and being patient, but in the end the benefits are well worth the effort.


Happy Sending!

Andy Stephen, AAI Instructor and Guide

Monday, December 21, 2020

Skier Films Himself Falling Off a Massive Cliff

This is insane...

Austrian Stefan Ager climbed to the top of a peak on the Stubai Glacier in Austria, with the intent to ski the extreme terrain below. Unfortunately, as he was clipping his boot into his ski, he slipped and literally fell thousands of feet over rocks and steep snow fields. Fortunately, he survived with only bumps and bruises.

The really weird thing about this incident...? He had a helmet cam on, and he recorded the whole thing...

The footage is below:

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, December 18, 2020

How to Wax Your Skis and Snowboard

It's getting to be that time. Our guides have been playing in the snow for a couple of weeks now and ski areas are opening around the country and so, with that in mind...

Surprisingly, only a small percentage of skiers and snowboarders take the time and energy required to properly wax the base of their equipment. Skis and snowboards simply don't perform as well when they are not maintained.

There are different waxes for the different temperatures. Colder snow with sharper snow crystals need a more robust wax to keep the skis from getting damaged, whereas warmer, wetter snow causes more friction, which can slow you down without the right wax.

For those that are lazy, there are rub on waxes that can easily be applied in a few minutes. But before you get too lazy, you should always remember that the more time you spend putting the wax on, the longer it will last.

Once you have determined the temperature of snow that you are likely to encounter, you will need the following items:
  • Iron for ironing the wax into the ski base - should be specialty iron for waxing
  • Vise for stabilizing skis while waxing
  • Scraper for removing extra wax
  • Brush for removing extra wax
After you have obtained the proper equipment, you're ready to make a foray into the world of waxing. We have mined the internet for two films on this subject. This first video from Edgeworks, provides a solid base of information for those who would like to wax. The second video expands on the information in the first video and provides a few extra tips for snowboarders. If you are going to start waxing your skis or snowboard, it is strongly suggested that you watch both videos to build a solid basis of knowledge. It is possible to damage your equipment without a good understanding of what you're getting into...

For more techniques including some waxing techniques for first time waxers, check out this awesome Spadout article on How to Wax Skis.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, December 17, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/17/2020


Mt. Baker Backcountry on Saturday, December 12, 2020.


--The Access Fund is reporting on the need for trail work at Lover's Leap: "No formal trail system was ever developed for Lover’s Leap, and visiting climbers have created an unstable web of access trails across the mountainside, trampling sensitive vegetation and causing severe erosion in the loose granitic soils. Haphazard belay areas are also crumbling and becoming highly unstable. These issues not only threaten the ecosystem within the Eldorado National Forest, but they frustrate visiting climbers and have potential to hinder emergency response teams who need quick, direct, and stable access to the area." To read more, click here

Desert Southwest:

--The National Parks Traveler has some tips on how to visit Joshua Tree National Park over the holidays. Check it out, here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "A backcountry skier was “briefly submerged” in an “small” avalanche Monday on Marble Point near Carbondale. The avalanche, roughly 100 feet wide and 200 feet long, was trigged by a skier at about 10,400 feet in elevation." To read more, click here.

From the Colorado Sun Report on Ski Injuries in Colorado.
Read the article and see more graphs, here.

--Skiing is dangerous. Ski under control and look up hill when you traverse. From the Colorado Sun: "New statistics provided by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment offer a peek behind the resort industry’s curtain. A study of ski-season hospital admissions in 20 mountain ZIP codes shows as many as 55 skiers and snowboarders a day arriving at emergency departments. Another report shows 4,151 skiers and snowboarders transported to emergency rooms in ambulances or helicopters in 2018, 2019 and the first part of 2020, which is about 10 patients every day of the season. And a review of CDPHE statistics showed more than a third of the 1,426 skiers and snowboarders admitted to Colorado’s trauma centers in the 2017-18 season required immediate surgery." To read more, click here.

--The Ski Area Management magazine (SAM) is reporting that, "Robert Redford is selling Sundance Mountain Resort in Utah to Broadreach Capital Partners and Cedar Capital Partners, which are both real estate investment firms specializing in the hospitality industry.SundanceNight The transaction includes all assets of Sundance Mountain Resort, including the resort buildings, ski lifts, on-site dining venues, and event spaces. On mountain, the resort has 450 acres of skiable terrain spread across 44 trails, 2,150 feet of vertical served by five lifts, a year-round ZipTour, summer mountain biking, and hiking." To read more, click here.

--Vail Resorts is struggling. From Yahoo Finance: "Vail Resorts (MTN) came out with a quarterly loss of $3.63 per share versus the Zacks Consensus Estimate of a loss of $3.59. This compares to loss of $2.23 per share a year ago. These figures are adjusted for non-recurring items. This quarterly report represents an earnings surprise of -1.11%. A quarter ago, it was expected that this ski resort operator would post a loss of $3.56 per share when it actually produced a loss of $3.82, delivering a surprise of -7.30%." To read more, click here.

--Winter Park will now require reservations for skiers.

--Mother Jones is reporting that, "President Donald Trump‘s legacy on public lands is a four-year war against protected wild places, which has included dismantling Utah’s Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante national monuments. That legacy will follow him long after he’s out of the White House. But many of the rollbacks are unlikely to survive the incoming Democratic administration. President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President–elect Kamala Harris have vowed to not only restore the Utah monuments, but designate new protected sites to safeguard ecologically important landscapes and combat the global climate crisis." To read more, click here.

--We Know Outdoors is reporting that, "While reports of crowding and resource damage in Colorado’s public lands have been commonplace during the coronavirus pandemic, what unfolded over the summer in the spectacular Ice Lakes area of the San Juan Range near Silverton has to be among the most egregious. Campfires were built on sensitive high alpine tundra, fueled by wood pilfered from historic mining structures. Human waste was left around the perimeter of Ice Lake and neighboring Island Lake. Campers unable to find legal campsites near the trailhead below set up tents on roadsides or overstayed 14-day limits on legal sites." Land managers are currently considering the implementation of a permit system for the area. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The iconic rock gym chain, Brooklyn Boulders, has an uneven relationship with its employees and members of marginalized communities. Some are working to change this. But change is slow and painful. Check out Outside's article entitled The Battle for Inclusivity at Brooklyn Boulders.

--After a five year closure, Saddleback Mountain Ski Area near Rangeley, Maine has reopened. To read more, click here.

--The Adventure Journal is reporting that, "the first winter ascent of K2 was supposed to be the last great prize in Himalayan alpinism. Now it’s starting to look a bit like a circus. As of today, four expeditions have set their sights on the world’s second-highest mountain this winter, including Seven Summit Trek’s 45-strong commercial expedition. Add to that a pair of elite all-Nepali teams and the trio of Icelander John Snorri Sigurjónsson and his guides, Pakistani winter ace Muhammad Ali Sadpara and his 21-year-old son Sajid, and the so-called Savage Mountain will play host to nearly 60 climbers this winter." To read more, click here.

--The Reel Rock film everyone is talking about is Black Ice. It's a film about a group of black gym climbers from South Memphis who go ice climbing in Montana with Conrad Anker. Forbes has just posted an excellent article on the piece.

--Inside Outdoor is reporting that, "Backcountry-related equipment sales in the U.S. grew a staggering 76% in the opening months of this year’s snow season (August through October 2020) compared to the same period last year." To read more, click here.

--Not to sound too elitist, but if you're buying your camp stove at Walmart, it's not that weird that there's a recall. From SGB Media: "About 20,600 Camp Chef portable stoves are being recalled. According to a statement from the U.S. CPSC, an internal part of the gas regulator component can have a sharp edge that can wear or tear a hole in the seal causing gas to leak out of the top of the regulator, posing a fire hazard. Camp Chef has received 26 reports of gas leaking from regulators. No injuries have been reported." To read more, click here.

Friday, December 11, 2020

Ski Area Avalanche Control Work

Ever wonder how they "control" avalanches in a ski area?

You've probably heard that they blast.  But what does blasting mean?  In some cases it means literally throwing a bomb into the snow.  And in other cases, it means firing a charge at the slope.

This first video shows how the ski patrol in Park City, Utah controls avalanches:

In this second video, the ski patrol at the Las Vegas Ski and Snowboard Resort control avalanches with a World War II-era Howitzer. There are many different "guns" used to control avalanches, but the use of the old technology is probably the most interesting.

Avalanche control is hard and sometimes dangerous work. Resort skiers and those who travel on highways in places where avalanches impact the roads can thank these avalanche professionals for keeping things safe.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/10/2020


--CNN is reporting that, "A climber who had stopped to rest during an expedition on Mount Hood was rescued after falling into a snow-covered volcanic crevice. Caroline Sundbaum, 32, of Portland, Oregon, was climbing the mountain at around 11,200 feet on Friday when another climber saw her sit down to rest on her pack and then disappear, the Clackamas County Sheriff's Office said in a news release." It should be noted that these fumaroles are far more dangerous than a crevasse, as they often contain poisonous gas. To read more, click here.

--Native pictographs near Bend have been vandalized. To read more, click here.

--The Bellingham Herald is reporting that, "two people were injured after a chairlift detached from its line at a Washington ski resort, according to a news release from the resort. At 11 a.m. on Dec. 5, a chair carrying two people broke from the lift line on Chair 1 at 49 Degrees North Mountain Resort in Chewelah, the release said." To read more, click here.

--Mountaineers Creek Road in Leavenworth has been gated for the season. This is the road that accesses the Stuart Lake Trailhead. It's still possible to go up the road, but it will now need to be done on skis, snowshoes or on foot.


Desert Southwest:

--Another day, another monolith. This one is near Joshua Tree National Park. To read about it, click here.

--The Desert Sun is reporting that, "A wildlife corridor extending through Joshua Tree National Park received another piece of protection this week, as the Mojave Desert Land Trust teamed up with a spiritual center to conserve 227 acres for animal movement." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--A climber was injured at Garden of the Gods in Colorado this week. Limited information can be found, here.

--The Arkansas River Watershed Collective is doing some work near Monarch Ridge that could have an impact on Colorado backcountry skiers. "While our fuels mitigation and forest health treatments along Monarch Ridge have created additional lines along Perfect Trees, there are also new hazards from logging operations including stumps, slash and stacked logging decks. Be aware that tree removal may increase the avalanche risk. Be safe and use caution if you ski here this winter." To read more, click here.

--The Wilderness Society is reporting that, "on November 30th, the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes and The Wilderness Society filed an official petition to rename Mt. Evans, in Colorado’s Front Range, as Mt. Blue Sky. The new name would honor the culture and traditions of both tribes; the Arapaho are known as the Blue Sky People, and the Cheyenne practice an annual life-renewal ceremony called Blue Sky. Mt. Evans is a beloved landmark and “fourteener” that overlooks the Denver skyline, but it carries the weight of a gruesome and still-relevant atrocity that occurred about 183 miles to the southeast: the Sand Creek Massacre." To read more, click here.

--The Aspen Times is reporting that, "an affidavit requiring visitors to acknowledge they have come to the area with a negative COVID-19 test and understand the local public health orders is being prepared for mass distribution in Pitkin County so that lodges and businesses are prepared for its implementation on Dec. 14." To read more, click here.

--A group of artists is claiming that they're responsible for the Utah monolith and all the other monoliths that appeared following that. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--BMC and many others are reporting that, "Doug Scott – one of the most legendary and respected mountaineers of the twentieth century -- has died aged 79. Scott, from Nottingham, began climbing at nearby Black Rocks in Derbyshire in 1953. From that point on he became a regular climber and within five years he was making his first alpine seasons. However, it is with the high mountains of the world that Scott will always be associated and he made 45 expeditions to the mountains of Asia." Scott died after a battle with cancer. To read more, click here.

--Rock and Ice and many others are also reporting on the death of the innovative Scottish climber, Hamish MacInnes, at the age of 90. In addition to the many ascents Hamish made, he was also an inventor and created the Terrordactyl ice axe, one of the first technical climbing tools. To rear about Hamish's life, click here.

--The Revelstoke Mountaineer is reporting that, "backcountry skiers were witnessed entering the winter prohibited area Macdonald West Shoulder on Dec. 3. The following day Parks Canada temporarily closed NRC Gully trailhead parking and the adjacent area in West Rogers, including Macdonald West Shoulder #4 and NRC Gully. The area marked in red is permanently closed while the striped area is the new temporary closure of Rogers West in Rogers Pass. The winter permit system in Glacier National Park separates skiers from artillery fire and the resulting avalanches, which is a part of the avalanche control protecting the highway and railway traffic from natural avalanches." To read more, click here.

--Climbing has been officially included in the 2024 Olympics. Thankfully, this time speed climbing will be in a separate category from boulder and lead climbing. There will be four events eligible for medals in the climbing category. To read more, click here.

--Camping in California is pretty much closed right now.

As usual there are mistakes in the mainstream media's understanding of even the most 
basic mountain issues. The Daily Show reported on the new height of Mt. Everest, 
but put up a photo of Ama Dablam. This is a common media mistake.

--The BBC is reporting on the new official height of Mt. Everest. "Until now the countries differed over whether to add the snow cap on top. The new height is 8,848.86m (29,032 ft). China's previous official measurement of 8,844.43m had put the mountain nearly four metres lower than Nepal's." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, December 8, 2020

Ten Tips for New Skiers (Resort Skiing)

At AAI, we teach backcountry skiing skills. These skills require a strong proficiency in resort skiing first. Many of you are headed to ski areas across the country to learn how to slide down snow for the first time, so that at some point, you can get away and check-out the backcountry.

Like many things, learning to ski can be frustrating, especially if you don't come from an area or a family with a lot of skiers. Even the basics can be difficult. So to alleviate some anxiety, REI has produced the following video. Check it out:

In review, here are some things to think about:

Arrive Early

Parking can be an issue at many ski resorts. Additionally, lines to purchase passes may be long. And if it's a powder day, expect people to line up at the lifts very early.

Carry Equipment Well

It's hard to describe how to do this. Please watch the video.

Food and Water Breaks

Be sure to fuel up before you start your day. It's not a bad idea to carry snacks on the mountain. And be sure to use the bathroom before you depart for the hill (facilities may be limited).

Lift Tickets

You may be able to buy tickets online early. But if you do, expect to stand in line to pick up a physical copy. 

It is possible that you will need to carry an electronic ticket in your pocket, which will open lift gates. If so, keep it away from your cell phone. It may not work if it's too close.

"Sticker tickets" are placed on a "wicket" and threaded through a zipper. It's good to put these on a pant leg zipper or a pocket zipper. If it's near your face on your primary zipper, it may whip you while you ski.

Gloves or Mitts

You should use what works for you...but whatever it is, should be waterproof.

Avoid Taking Out Your Phone on the Lift

It is easy to drop.

Clear Unload Zone

It's important to get away from the unloading zone when you get off the lift. This is particularly important for snowboarders who may sit down to clip their foot in. The last thing you want is have an out-of-control skier/boarder run into the small of your back.

Keep Googles Dry

Make sure to keep the inside of your goggles dry. When you take off your googles while snowing, lift them away from your helmet to ensure that no snow gets in. This will decrease fogging.

Rest on the Side of the Run

Many ski really fast, and sometimes out-of-control. Don't stop where people can't see you or where people are skiing. Indeed, if you fall below a rollover, get up right away and clear out. You do not want to get hit from above.

Take a Lesson

The very best thing you could do as a beginner skier is to take a lesson. You will improve way faster than trying to learn on your own.

And finally, don't give up. Your very first day out is going to be hard. Expect that. You'll get better...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, December 7, 2020

Film Review: Man vs.

It started with Survivor in the year 2000. It got better -- and worse -- when Bear Grylls appeared on the scene with Man vs. Wild in 2006. It got better -- and a little worse -- With Naked and Afraid in 2013. And then, it all culminated in the best wilderness survival show, Alone, in 2015. 

I know. I know. There were others: Survivor Man (premiered in 2005), Alone in the Wild (premiered in 2009), Dual Survival (premiered in 2010), Man, Woman, Wild (premiered in 2010) and many, many more.

In Alone -- the best of them all -- participants are given a small amount of gear, including camera gear, and then they're dropped off somewhere remote. And then they have to live off the land for as long as they can, while filming themselves. Whoever stays out the longest, wins. The show is great, and well worth your time. But it's not why we're here today...

Inevitably, someone somewhere was going to take one of these survival shows and turn it on its head. They were going to make a film or a tv series where something goes wrong beyond what naturally exists within these reality programs. It finally happened with the film, Man vs., a 2015 movie that has made its way to the streaming services.

Doug Woods (Chris Diamantopoulos) is an outdoor survival expert. He is the host of an outdoor survival show that is a cross between Alone and Man vs. Wild. He gets a lost hiker profile from his producers and then has to survive using equipment that fits his profile. In the film, his profile is "lost nature photographer," so the only equipment he has is the equipment someone like that might have. After he has his profile, he's dropped off in a remote location, and then has to live off the land using only the provided equipment for five days. The whole time he's out, he films himself.

This feels like the premise of several of these types of shows. The difference? Woods is not in the woods alone. Someone is stalking him.

The shoot starts fine, but then things get weird. There's an odd earthquake. The fish in the lake are dead. And someone is messing with the survivalist's equipment and traps. It doesn't take long for us to realize that whomever is out there, is not friendly.

We have all been out there in the wilderness, in the dark and heard something, something that kept us up for hours. Was it an animal? A bear? A person? Something else...? This feeling is captured in the film. And there are a number of well-crafted moments where you're right there with Doug Woods. WTF is happening...? And that's when the film works the best.

There are also a number of moments where you're taken out of the film. His clothing is nowhere near warm enough. He doesn't have a sleeping bag. His shelter is crap. And the way he starts a fire is ludicrous. But that's not all. There are also some other goofy moments, where the story feels like it's jumped the shark. The implications are too big for the small story, and that can pull you out of it.

Chris Diamantopoulos is a charismatic lead. The character is mostly written well, and it's easy to empathize with him, to step into his shoes, and to feel his fear...especially as more and more things go wrong.

Even though the lead character is well-crafted, the story often isn't. Other characters are sketches. They say and do things that don't make sense. The "guide" who is supposed to watch over the backup crew is an ass right from the beginning who is absent through most of the movie. Why would they hire that guy? They ride in an RV, drinking whiskey at 5am. What? How are they going to get anything done? There are marital problems between Woods and his wife, but she gratuitously flashes him in a video hidden on his phone. Huh...? This is just a sampling. There are a lot more problems like this in the film.

All that said, the film is still entertaining. And it's worth watching on a streaming service, but it's probably not worth renting. The I've-been-there-in-the-woods-scared-of-something-in-the-dark part of the film works. And a few of the reveals work too. But it's no masterpiece...which really is too bad. Our community deserves a scary outdoor movie that's good...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, December 4, 2020

Steeped in Tradition - Alta Ski Patrol

Ski resorts are like schools. We think fondly on the places where we learned to ski. We have our favorites. We are locals or visitors. And we have respect for an area's history.

One important piece of every ski area's history is the history of its patrollers. These are the people that open the mountain, mitigate avalanches, respond to injuries and keep visitors safe. It's a very cool, very underpaid - considering what we pay for ski passes, job.

The following video comes to us from Alta Ski Resort. It is one of a series of videos about the resort, but this is the one that sticks out. It is about the history and culture of patrollers at the resort...


--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, December 3, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/3/20


--The CBC is reporting that, "One man was killed in an avalanche near Mackenzie, B.C., on Saturday, according to RCMP. Two people were snowmobiling in the Powder King/Bijoux Falls area when the avalanche happened just before 2 p.m. PT. One of the snowmobilers was buried in the snow, according to a statement Monday." To read more, click here.

--SWX is reporting that, "Mt. Spokane Ski and Snowboard Park has changed its uphill skiing policy, shortening the time skiers are allowed to ski up and instituting a $50 season pass. The changes, which will go into effect when the resort opens in December, are temporary, said Jim Van Löben Sels, general manager for the park." To read more, click here.

--King County Search and Rescue is reporting that they responded to 203 calls this summer. Up from 198 in 2019. Previously, 198 was the record. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Daily Camera is reporting that, "a Boulder man was rescued Friday after dislodging a rock while descending a rock gulley, narrowly escaping a serious injury. The 36-year-old climber was in the 33,800 block of Boulder Canyon Drive and was able to take partial cover as the rock rolled over him, a news release from the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office said." To read more, click here.

--At least 28 human-triggered avalanches have already been reported in Colorado!

--So that monolith thing in Utah that appeared and disappeared. Climbers got rid of it. But weirdly, a similar piece of trash (monolith) appeared and disappeared in Romania.

Notes from All Over:

--A 39-year-old man died in a climbing accident at North Carolina's Hanging Rock State Park. It's not clear if this fatality was a scrambling or technical climbing incident. To read more, click here.

--The Bozeman Daily Chronicle is reporting on a skier fatality in Montana: "A skier died Tuesday afternoon after a crash in the Bridger Mountains near Sacajawea Peak, according to a news release from the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Office. Caroline Lupori, a Bozeman resident originally from Colorado, and another woman hiked in from Fairy Lake to ski the Great One on Tuesday afternoon. Lupori fell and sustained “traumatic injuries” while skiing the run." To read more, click here.

--We usually don't cover hiker rescues, as there are too many. But this one is interesting. From the Daily Mail: "An injured hiker who slipped and got trapped under a massive falling boulder in California for 12 excruciating hours has been miraculously rescued after he cut his pants open with a pen knife to get his phone and he dug his way out from under the rock." To read more, click here.

--The International Federation of Sport Climbing -- the organization that manages international climbing competitions -- has recently introduced three paraclimbing competitions. This is an excellent move towards representation for paraclimbers in the world of competition. To read more, click here.

--This is usually the time of year that the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour takes place. But due to the pandemic, it's not happening this winter. Instead, it is possible to watch the films online. There are two shows available. The cost for one program is $15 and it's available for three-days. The cost for two programs is $28, and they'll be available for fourteen-days. To learn more, click here.

--It is worth thinking about how the American climbers that will attend the Olympics in Tokyo next year are funded. Gym Climber has an article on that topic up right now.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Rappelling into a Ski Line

This is a cool little video that covers rappelling considerations while on skis...

--Jason D. Martin