Friday, July 3, 2020

Rope Considerations for Glacier Travel

What type of rope should I use for glacier travel...?

This particular question is a moving target, and has three distinct parts. The first part concerns rope length on the glacier, the second part concerns rope type and the third part concerns the diameter of rope one might use.

Let's take a look:

Rope Length

There are several considerations that need to be addressed to determine rope length. How many people are going to be on the rope? Are there crevasses? If someone falls in, how do you intend to rescue them? Do you intend to pitch any portion of the climb?

First and foremost, we have to make sure that there is enough rope in the system to ensure that no two people are on the same snow bridge at once. Additionally, we need to make sure that there's enough distance so that if someone does fall in a crevasse, her partners have enough time to self-arrest before they get pulled into the hole.

A  climber on a glacier.

Second, if the rope is shorter, it may be difficult to perform more than one type of crevasse rescue. We teach beginners the "Direct Haul" technique because it is the simplest and requires the least amount of rope. However, the Direct Haul, doesn't work if there are knots in the rope (used to help arrest the crevasse fall) and can be difficult if the rope is embedded deeply in the crevasse lip.

One can get away with a much shorter piece of rope if they intend to only perform a Direct Haul style rescue. However, if a climber wishes to perform any kind of Drop Loop system -- which takes a lot less muscle to perform due to better lip management -- they will need a lot more rescue rope, at least twice the amount out between individuals on either end. In other words, if there's 40-feet between two climbers on a two-person team, each climber will need at least 80-feet to complete a rescue, meaning that a two-person team would need a 60-meter rope. Bigger teams can get away with less, if they intend to perform a drop-loop.

Diameter and Rope Type

In recent years, there has been a push to use semi-static ropes on glaciers. The reason that one might want this is because dynamic ropes stretch, and if someone falls into a crevasse while tied to a dynamic rope the stretch might be great enough for the person to hit something, or for the person to get "corked" in the crevasse. The idea is that if you use one of these semi-static ropes, then he risk of hitting something or getting corked goes down.

Some might argue for dynamic ropes because they're afraid of how hard and fast the rope will stop them in the event of a fall. But the reality is that a rope team is commonly pulled a bit before the falling climber stops. This provides for a slower, less jarring hit.

Semi-static ropes can get really really thin. But for prussic-hitches to work, and for stopper butterfly knots (knots placed in the rope to arrest a fall in the lip of a crevasse) to work, the rope needs to be at least 8mm. 

If you will be pitching, rock climbing, or ice climbing in any way, you should still use a dynamic single rope. 

A half of a twin rope should never be used because it's designed to stretch in conjunction with a second rope. When alone, it will stretch dramatically, which could lead to a climber hitting something or getting corked.

Choosing the right rope is a much easier skill than many others in climbing. It just takes a little practice...!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, July 2, 2020

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

Northwest:

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

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

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

Mt. Baker last week.
Photo by Quinn Slocum

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

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

Sierra:

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

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

Desert Southwest:

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

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

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

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

Colorado and Utah:

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

The ski industry is struggling.

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

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

Notes from All Over:

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, June 26, 2020

Tips for Minimizing Rockfall in Loose Terrain

In the following video, AMGA Instructor Team member Emilie Drinkwater discusses a few techniques that can be used to decrease rockfall in loose terrain.



It's not brain surgery. But a lot of people don't accurately protect the belayer from rockfall. It should be easy though. Just place cams up above the loose rock to keep the rope from knocking stuff down onto the belayer.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 6/25/20

Northwest:

--A US Air Force Pararescueman was killed when his anchor failed while rappelling near Boise in October. The following article details what lead up to the service member's death. To read about it, click here.

Sierra:

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "On June 9, Ray Warburton of Bishop, California, died while descending the North Couloir on Mount Humphreys, a prominent peak above the area that he’d summited several times through the years by multiple routes. Ray, 59, may have been struck by rockfall, which was heard by climbers on the nearby East Ridge. Ray leaves his wife, Lesley Allen, and their two children, Augie and Lacy, ages 9 and 8." To read more, click here.

El Capitan
Photo by Krista Eytchison

--The Fresno Bee is reporting that, "The man in charge of concession operations for Yosemite National Park had a short run in his new position after a video surfaced on social media of him teeing off at the edge of a protected meadow, aiming to strike Half Dome with a golf ball. 'That hit the rock,' said Michael Grisar at the end of a short video clip that’s since been removed but was captured by Yosemite employees and circulated widely on Thursday. Grisar was then vice president of operations for the park’s concessionaire, Yosemite Hospitality, a subsidiary of Aramark." To read more, click here.

--The Squaw Valley Ski Resort is considering a name change. The word "squaw" has long been considered derogatory, sexist and racist. Hopefully this happens. To read more, click here.

--The Reno Gazette Journal is reporting that, "a rockslide near the main parking lot of the Mt. Whitney trail closed the Whitney Portal Area and forced officials to evacuate campgrounds, according to a Facebook post from the Inyo County Sheriff's Office." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--St. George News is reporting that, "A rappelling accident in Kane County resulted in a man receiving traumatic injuries Tuesday. A climber in the Fat Man’s Misery slot canyon fell 20 feet after his rappel line snapped, Kane County, Utah, June 23, 2020 | Photo by Shawn King and Mica Steiner Church, courtesy of the Kane County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue, St. George News The Kane County Sheriff’s Office received a report Tuesday that a 37-year-old man had fallen 20 feet while rappelling down the final stretch of 'Fat Man’s Misery,' a popular slot canyon just outside of Zion National Park that empties into the East Fork of the Virgin River in Kane County, according to a press release from the Kane County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue team." To read more, click here.

--The Know Outdoors is reporting that, "Aspen Skiing Co.’s skier visits plummeted by 20 percent during a 2019-20 season shortened by the coronavirus crisis, the company announced Wednesday." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Gripped is reporting that, "missing scrambler has been found deceased on Mount Fable near Exshaw in the Bow Valley west of Calgary. Canmore RCMP said they received a call that Trina Ramanaden, 44, was overdue on June 21 at 8:30 p.m. She had been part of a large group when she chose to take a different, more difficult trail on her own." To read more, click here.

--Rock and Ice is reporting that, "Michael “Mike” Flood, a longtime Southern California climber, remains in critical condition after a fall soloing the route Potholes (5.9) at Stoney Point, where he was a respected regular, on June 14. Climbers on the scene hastened to help, one phoning 911. Flood, 58, was helicoptered out and taken to the Intensive Care Unit at Northridge Hospital. He fell from near the top of the route, approximately 50 feet, according to a Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD) report." To read more, click here

--Alaska Public Media is reporting that, "An Army National Guard heavy-lift helicopter has removed the old Fairbanks city bus from the spot near Denali National Park where it once housed Christopher McCandless, the subject of the popular nonfiction book “Into the Wild.” Photos posted to Facebook on Thursday show a twin-bladed Chinook helicopter carrying the bus away from the remote site it occupied near the Teklanika River, where it attracted numerous tourists who had to be rescued after the book’s publication." To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund is reporting that, "the Texas Climbers Coalition (TCC) and Access Fund are pleased to announce the official opening of Medicine Wall in San Antonio to rock climbing. After nearly 20 years without legal access, TCC now owns Medicine Wall, and Access Fund holds a conservation and recreation easement to permanently protect the property for rock climbing. Medicine Wall is free and open to the public for climbing and other low-impact activities." To read more, click here.

--From the AAC: "The American Alpine Club (AAC) Board of Directors announced today that it has named Mitsu Iwasaki as the organization’s next Chief Executive Officer, effective August 3. Iwasaki is currently the Executive Director of the Mazamas in Portland, Oregon." To read more, click here.

--Climbing is reporting that, "in the wake of the recent racial justice discussions across the United States, local route developers have come together to rename several controversial routes within the sport climbing epicenter of Ten Sleep Canyon, Wyoming. Ten Sleep is no stranger to controversy. Over the years, the limestone wonderland has become a hot spot for discussions about route manufacturing and, more recently, about the process of naming—and renaming—routes." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Route Profile: Northwest Rib, Mt. Shuksan (5.7, III)

Mt. Shuksan is one of the most photographed mountains in the world. The peak is draped in hanging glaciers and beautiful rock buttresses. But most people stick to one of three routes, the Sulphide Glacier, the Fisher Chimneys or the North Face. But the reality is that there are several more interesting lines and variations on the peak. The Northwest Rib is one such feature.

Fisher Chimneys and Sulphide Routes on Mt. Shuksan.
(Click to Enlarge)

Fred Beckey doesn't give much information about this route. He notes the following:

This is the narrow rock spur that separates the White Salmon and Hanging Glaciers; the route crosses the 1939 ascent line. First ascent by Pat Cruver and Dave Davis in July, 1974. Use the White Salmon approach (see the Fisher Chimneys route). The original party kept mostly on the rib's crest, but many variations are possible. The climb joined the Northwest Face route at the summit pyramid and was completed by the 1939 finish. Grade III; class 5.7 (one pitch); the climb is mostly class-4, easy class 5 on firm rock.

It should be noted that the concept of "firm rock" is a bit in the eye of the beholder. There are definitely sections of this line that are very loose. That said, if you are interested in some adventure climbing and can handle some areas of looseness, the rest of the route is well-worth the time.

 The NW Rib from the bottom of White Salmon Glacier.
(Click to Enlarge)

The NW Rib essentially links the White Salmon Glacier with the Upper Curtis. The line climbs up just to the right of the Hanging Glacier. Indeed, it also provides access to the upper Hanging Glacier above the seracs, if that is a line that you're interested in.

The NW Rib from the top of the Fisher Chimneys.
(Click to Enlarge)

The route can be broken into several sections.

Section 1: Approach

The standard approach is via the Fisher Chimneys. At the top of the Chimneys and below Winnie's Slide there are a few areas to bivy. Above Winnie's Slide there are a few more. After the beginning of July, there is often running water near camp where you access the upper Curtis Glacier. Sometimes this is available earlier.

The route could be done from Lake Ann and back in a day, but that would be a very big day and would likely not include a summit. Indeed, the best way to do this line and include a summit would be to climb the Fisher Chimneys on Day 1. Climb the route and the summit on Day 2, and then descend the Fisher Chimneys and go out on Day 3. If you elect to do this as a two day adventure, it's unlikely you'll have time to summit and go out on the same day...but it is possible to complete the route, and then descend the Fisher Chimneys on a two day itinerary as the top of the route is only thirty or forty minutes away from the bivys between the Curtis Glacier and Fisher Chimneys.

Most parties require anywhere from five to eight hours to get from the car to the top of the Chimneys. It takes four to six hours to get back to the car from the top of the Chimneys.

Approximate line of ascent.
(Click to Enlarge)

Section 2: Descend the White Salmon Glacier

Drop down skier's left on the White Salmon Glacier to avoid crevasses. Traverse to the base of the route at approximately 5500-feet (this is lower than the maps seem to indicate and could have been due to a faulty altimeter.). The route starts at a prominent loose gully with a large chalkstone in it. (Approximately 1 hour to the base of the route from the bivys.)

Section 3: Transition and Ascend the Choss Gully and Heather

Transition out of glacier travel mode and into climbing mode and then make your way up. We climbed up left of the chalkstone on loose rock to heather climbing, left of a steep heather chimney.

Chimney Start - This looks somewhat intimidating from the glacier, but it is 
not as steep as it looks. It is one of the crux loose sections of the route though.
(Click to Enlarge)

Go out left, avoiding the heather chimney and then work back right to better climbing. This will be two to four pitches or simul-climbing, depending on what you do. Things will stepen at the end of the heather for the next section.

Section 4: Climbing!

Continue up a slightly loose mid-fifth class section toward a beautiful handcrack that cuts through a roof. Once below the handcrack, you have three options:
  1. Go straight up through the handcrack to the top of a tower. (5.7-5.8, appx. 100 feet from base.)
  2. Climb out left to a -- hidden around the left corner -- more consistent handcrack. (5.7, appx 100 feet from base.)
  3. Or continue up the gully to the right on third, fourth and low fifth class terrain. If you choose to do this, aim for the crest when you can to get out of the loose.
Regardless of which way you go, continue on the ridge or just left it. There will be a few hundred feet of climbing with many variations, until you are forced to traverse to the left above the bottom of the Hanging Glacier.

Section 5: Better Climbing!

You will make your traverse below a series of cool slabs. Work up these fourth and low-fifth class slabs, avoiding loose rock. You may want to place pro to keep the rope away from looseness. Your goal is to work up toward the obvious notch.

As you get closer to the notch, the climbing gets better. The notch brings you back onto the ridge. Some easy climbing will eventually get you to the base of a nice handcrack. Climb the 5.6 crack. Above the handcrack pitch, there's another nice crack, but it can be avoided on the right with easier climbing.

Section 6: The Choss Apron

As you work through good climbing, a finger will appear above you on the ridge. Aim for that. Eventually you will get out of the good climbing and find yourself on the "Choss Apron." This is really the last challenge. Work up and right on the apron. Eventually you'll find a giant cave behind a tower. Go right at that wall and work up through easy terrain to the top of the route.

Top of the Route:

You made it. Now you're looking at the Upper Curtis Glacier! Negotiate the moat and then decide if you're going to climb the rest of the mountain via the upper Fisher Chimneys Route, or via the NE Ridge of the Summit Pyramid (5.7).

NW Rib of Mt. Shuksan from the White Salmon Glacier
Photo by Ben Gardner
(Click to Enlarge)

Final Thoughts:

How many pitches is this? Who knows. It depends on how you do it. The route is approximately 1300-feet long. There are definitely sections where you could simul-climb. There are also definitely sections where pro is scarce and simul-climbing could be very dangerous. Additionally, there are loose area throughout the route, so maybe silmuling isn't such a good idea. You have to decide for yourself.

There are variations everywhere on this route. As such, I gave some big brushstrokes in this description. It's okay to take them for a grain of salt. 


All that said, it took my party five hours from the base to the top of the route. It took eleven hours to descend to the climb, climb the route, descend to camp and then descend back down to the car. We did not go to the summit, but we had a grand adventure on an obscure Shuksan route...

--Jason D. Martin


Monday, June 22, 2020

Film Review - The Ritual

Netflix is known for some quality television programming. Many shows the network has produced have been good, and in some cases they've been great. Think Orange is the New Black, House of Cards, Stranger Things, Bloodline, Mindhunter, Black Mirror and on and on and on. Simultaneously, Netflix is also known for some real film flops. Think The Cloverfield Paradox, Bright, The Do-Over, The Ridiculous Six, and on and on and on.

Essentially, the network's original contents trends toward quality television, and away from quality film. Certainly there are exceptions to this rule. And indeed, the Netflix original film, The Ritual, is an exception. It's not a great movie. It doesn't stand out. But it's not bad either...


Four men from England journey into the hills of Sweden on what appears to be a popular high trail. When one member of the group becomes injured, the team decides to cut down off the ridgeline and into a thick ancient forest. The idea is that if they make their way through the forest, they will finish the trail faster. The problem is that the forest is haunted by some kind of inhuman monster, as well as by a death cult that worships the beast. The combination of these two things makes their shortcut mildly longer than expected...

I personally can't imagine taking someone who is injured off trail through a forest, even if it looked to be a shorter distance. In real life, once the team realized that going straight through the forest means climbing over and under logs all day, it's likely they would have given up on that strategy.

There are many problematic elements to The Ritual. It's not always a good movie, but it's creepy enough, with just enough of a Blair Witch style feel to it to keep you engaged. For example, Luke -- the film's lead character played by Rafe Spall -- lost a friend to a burglar at a convenience store, while he hid safely behind a rack of chips. Luke is haunted by this. And the monster in the woods torments him with memories of the robbery. Indeed, there are some incredible sequences where Luke is half in the primeval forest with some kind of horrible beast nearby and half under the garish lights of the store, dealing with the loss of a friend by the hand of a different kind of beast. These splits in the character's reality are nightmarish and provide the viewer with a creeping sense of dread.

It's unfortunate that the other characters aren't provided with a similar depth. We know they're also tormented by the monster. But we really don't know what their torments are.

For the outdoor adventurer, there are a handful of "don't-do-this" type lessons in the film. These lessons are exagerated. There is no question about it. If you read this blog, you probably wouldn't do what these guys do at the level they do it at. But you (and I) might do one or more of these things at a more subtle level and that makes it interesting...

The story starts with a major screw-up. A team of amature backpackers don't have any type of communication equipment that works in the backcountry, so after a minor injury, they leave the trail. Some weird stuff happens at night after they're in the woods; you know, stuff like one guy waking up to find that he's naked, covered in blood and worshiping a statue of a straw elk-man hybrid. A bunch of weird things happen to other people too, but instead of retreating back to the trail (which they should have done), or even continuing to follow their compass bearing (which isn't as good as retracing their way back to the trail, but better than what they do), the team decides to follow the least rational member of the party down a faint trail deeper into the forest. In the real world of outdoor adventure, we call this the consistency or commitment heuristic. Sometimes we make a bad mistake and then just go with it until there's an accident. Sometimes when someone seems to know what they're doing -- or in this case someone seems super committed to one action -- the rest of the team follows that person, even when they know it's the wrong thing to do.

In a horror movie, we expect people to die. It's worth remembering, that these heuristic traps can lead to real-life horror too. Committing to a mistake is unlikely to lead you into a haunted forest, but it could lead you into avalanche terrain. And blindly following a leader that is making a bad choice, could also lead you into a situation that requires a rescue...



I wish that filmmakers would put weight into prop backpacks, so that actors could feel what it's like to carry a pack. Instead, many movies that take place in the backcountry seem fake from the start. In this film, one character never buckled his waist belt. Another's pack rode so high that there was significant visible air between his shoulders and the straps. Actors in backcountry films are often supposed to look tired, but using packs full of newspapers or whatever is in there, makes them look goofy.

It's worth noting that the monster -- when we finally see it in this movie -- is pretty cool. Indeed, it might be one of the cooler movie monsters to come out recently. I don't want to describe it in detail. It is actually well worth waiting for, and could be a good reason to watch this film in and of itself.

The Ritual is a strong enough entry into the backcountry horror genre to get a thumbs up. But it's a weak thumbs up. I wouldn't recommend it if it were in the theatre. But it's well worth a watch on Netflix...

--Jason D. Martin




Friday, June 19, 2020

Route Profile: Aiguille de I'M - North Ridge

The Aiguille de I'M is an odd feature in Boston Basin in the North Cascades National Park. Often referred to as "The M," this feature actually looks like an "M." Found just south of the Torment Forbidden Traverse, the small peak splits Boston Basin from Torment Basin, with the Taboo Glacier on the west side and the Unnamed Glacier on the east...

Aiguille de I'M
(Click to Enlarge)

The Aiguille de I'M has two named routes on it. The first is the South Ridge, a cool 5.6 romp up an exposed ridge. And the second is the North Ridge, a 5.5 exposed ridge line.

(Click to Enlarge)

Approach: Approach as for Forbidden Peak in Boston Basin (see Selected Climbs in the Cascades, Volume I) and camp at either the lower or the upper bivy sites. From the bivy, make your way up toward the Forbidden Gully or the Cat Scratch Gullies (the two options commonly used to access Forbidden Peak.) Traverse toward the notch to the right of the North Ridge of Aiguille de I'M.

Classic Sharp Ridge Climbing on "The M."

Route: From the notch make three or four fourth class pitches to the base of a tower. Make a final forty-foot 5.5. pitch to the top of the tower. It is possible to climb further, but not recommended as the true summit looks like it's about to topple over.

A cllimber cruising up the sharp ridge.

Working up the Summit Tower. 

Looking back on the ridge from the summit tower.

Descent: Make one forty-foot rappel and then reverse the ridge climb.

The North Ridge is a very cool ridge line. It can easily be done as a half-day climb from Boston Basin. And it is far less committing than almost anything else in the Basin since it is so short.

There are dozens of these little gems in the Cascades that are often missed. The M is well worth your time...

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

The Pacific Crest Trail in Three Minutes

The Pacific Crest Trail is a 2,660-mile trail that runs from Mexico to Canada. It's on many people's bucket lists, including my own. Unfortunately, I don't think I'll be able to do this until I retire.

That said, we can all enjoy this short film where I guy took two seconds of video every day and spliced it all together.

Check it out below!



--Jason D. Martin

Monday, June 15, 2020

AAC Universal Belay Standard - Belaying a Leader

The American Alpine Club has produced a handful of educational videos. The following video -- concerning lead belays -- is a follow up to their video on toprope belays. This video does an excellent job of going through all of the nuances of each of the following aspects of belaying a leader:
  1. Positioning the belay to avoid a clash of bodies.
  2. Consciously managing the slack.
  3. Securing a leader who is resting on the rope.
  4. Arresting falls with a solid, yet "soft" catch, or stopping the leader cold if obstacles are in the fall line.
  5. Hoisting a fallen leader back to their high point as needed.
This nine minute video is a must-watch for new belayers, as well as for those who have been belaying leaders for a long time. There is a tremendous amount of information within each chapter of the video.



--Jason D. Martin

Friday, June 12, 2020

How Fire can Restore a Forest

It's that time of year again. The time when we see the Western United States go up in flames. It's often a depressing time because many of the massive fires we see every year reshape their environments dramatically. However, fires can have a rejuvenating effect on the forest.

In March 2013, photographer Rich Reid (http://richreid.photoshelter.com/) joined fireworkers as they conducted a controlled burn at Georgia's Moody Forest Preserve. He left his cameras rolling for nearly two months to capture the stunning regrowth of the longleaf pine habitat. What resulted was a really cool little video which shows forest floor regrowth.



The Nature Conservancy works to prevent the destructive megafires that are so common these days in the west. Learn more about their programs at Nature.org/adoptfireworker.

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

Film Review: Sanctum

Outdoor adventure movies come and go, and unfortunately few of them are really very good. Sanctum fits squarely in the "not-very-good" category.

The film follows a team of cave-divers, climbers and cave explorers on their quest to drop down a deep hole in Papa New Guinea in order to find a cave system that connects to the ocean. While exploring the depths of the cave a cyclone settles on land far above the team. The team's exit is blocked and the water begins to rise. This forces the team to descend deeper into the cave system and to try to find a way out to the ocean.




The plot is fascinating and it could have been an excellent outdoor adventure film. But alas, the writing is quite poor. The characters are weak. And there are some sequences that are just plain bad...

The writing team for this film is made-up of people who haven't done much when it comes to narrative drama. Screenwriter Andrew Wight has a number of underwater documentary films to his credit, but no real narrative film-writing experience. And screenwriter John Garvin has no other screenplays to his name. Director Alister Grierson has a handful of other movie titles under his belt, but they all appear to be second-rate B films.

It is clear that the reason this movie was made was because super-director James Cameron (Titanic, Avatar, The Abyss) was behind the production team. It's well-known that Cameron enjoys working with an underwater environment. He has pioneered a number of underwater and deep-sea filming techniques for both his narrative blockbusters as well as for some of his lesser-known documentary works.

The underwater cave diving sequences in Sanctum are cool. Some of them are really cool. And this element of the film lends credence to the entire -- sometimes painful -- experience of watching the movie. It is clear that the focus of the film was to play with this type of cinemetagrophy instead of telling a story that has some value.

Supposedly the story is based on real life events. It appears that the real-life version of the story wasn't anywhere near dramatic enough for Hollywood. The problem with the real-life story was that, while dramatic, everybody survived and there were no cardboard villains twisting their mustaches.

In 1988 Sanctum screenwriter Andrew Wight was on an expedition that mirrored the one in the film. His team was exploring a deep cave when a cyclone arrived causing a flash-flood which cut-off their exit route. Wight and his companions were forced deeper into the cave system to find their exit.

The core of the story is really interesting, but the characters and the situations some of the characters put themselves in are somewhat ludicrous.

There is a tendency in Hollywood-style outdoor adventure films to paint one character as a gruff, hard, outdoor-type guy. Usually this kind of character has seen it all. And often there's a coldness or a latent level of violence in the character. Think Clint Eastwood in The Eiger Sanction, or Scott Glen in Vertical Limit, or even Brad Pitt in Seven Years in Tibet. The character is so common in these types of movies, that he (and it usually is a he) is almost archetypal.

The problem with the gruff-outdoors-guy-who's-seen-it-all-and-is-an-ass because-of-it character is that he doesn't exist in real life. Yeah, there are a lot of anti-social climbers out there. And yeah, there are a lot of people who are obsessed with their objectives. And indeed, there are a lot of people out there who will push it to the limit and beyond to achieve their goals. But, you know what? Even when they're arrogant, most of these people are still nice. They want to talk about their passion and they want to bring you into it. And most of them don't see death on a daily basis the way these types of characters seem to.

The leader of the caving team, Frank (Richard Roxburgh) is just such a character. At one point in the movie a man is seriously injured and Frank decides that the best way to deal with him is to drown him instead of to try and get him out. This is absolutely crazy. And not only that, but dealing with an injured character that they're trying to keep alive would have been a whole lot more interesting than murdering him.

There is another archetypal outdoor adventure movie character as well. That's the billionaire playboy explorer, who is actually a coward. Ioan Gruffudd plays this character well because there's little to play. It's a boring and simplistic characterization that needs to disappear from adventure films.

This is a women and minorities die first movie. These types of films had their heyday with horror movies in the seventies, eighties and early nineties. I thought that modern filmmakers were done with such a terrible story arc, but I was wrong.

And from a climbing perspective, one woman dies after she gets her hair caught in a belay device and decides that she should try to cut it out...accidentally cutting the rope. She should have taken one of our classes...

Sanctum is not a good movie, but there are some interesting sequences and some moments where you're with the characters as they struggle to survive. But when they start to talk, things fall apart...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, June 8, 2020

In Balance, Out-of-Balance


It seems simple, but the reality is that many serious falls take place in places that should not be that technical. Many falls take place in spots that could easily be negotiated with good technique.

When I started working at the Institute, I had quite a bit of experience. I intrinsically understood the techniques for walking on snow and on ice, but they weren't well defined in my head. Well defined techniques lead to better techniques.

The primary snow/ice-walking technique that I'm referring to is the in-balance vs. out-of-balance step. These steps are designed to be used on 30 degree to 50 degree terrain. And if they are used properly, a climber will be able to ascend a slope with a great deal of security.

In-balance and out-of-balance (the cross-over step) walking provides you with stability and a strong sense of when you are safe and when you are not. With practice it allows climbers to move effectively and safely over steepish terrain.


When one is in-balance, both feet are situated in such a way that if you stop, you will be completely stable. I shot the above photo looking down at my feet while I was in-balance. If you are carrying an ice-axe, it is best to move the axe from one placement into the next while you are still in-balance. The axe should never move while you are out-of-balance. If it stays stationary while out-of-balance, it will provide an extra point of security during less secure movements.


The above picture shows a climber taking an out-of-balance step in snow. Note that his left foot is directly above his right foot.

Clearly in the snow that the above climber is moving in, such a step is not required. One need only to move in-balance and out-of-balance in terrain that requires additional security...like on steep ice...


The in-balance out-of-balance step is incredibly useful while wearing crampons. The cross-over step allows the ankles to bend in such a way that all of the crampon points on the bottom of the boot are engaged in the ice. You'll note in the above picture, that the climber's toe is nearly pointing down hill. This allows every point to engage.

The movements required for good in-balance and out-of-balance walking are not hard to master. And the reality is that most of the time that you are moving in the mountains, such steps are not required at all. It is only when the terrain becomes steep or dangerous that it really becomes important. Indeed, the important part is not just moving properly but being aware of your movement. In other words, always knowing when you are in-balance or out-of-balance leads to more security in the mountains.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, June 5, 2020

Glacier Travel Ettiquete

Climbing etiquette is a weird and wiley thing. What is acceptable in one area may not be considered acceptable in another. What is common practice in one spot, may be looked upon with horror in another. In the larger climbing world, there are millions of etiquette questions, but on a glacier there only tends to be a few.

1) What is the etiquette for passing a rope team on a glaciated climb?

It is acceptable to pass a rope team on a glacier. However, this must be done without hindering the other team's progress that you're passing. If a team has a pace and continues to hold that pace, then they have a right to the boot-pack trail no matter how fast they're moving.

A team works its way up Mount Shuksan
Photo by Alasdair Turner


In order to pass the slower team, the faster team must step out of the boot-pack and pass the other team without slowing them in any way. This may take considerable energy if the snow outside the boot-pack is soft or deep. The passing team should not complain about having to pass as they didn't get up as early as the slower team.

If your rope team is walking in a boot-pack and needs to take a break, the polite thing to do is to step out of the trail. You should not take a break in a place that blocks others. If your team is slow and is taking a lot of standing mini-breaks (i.e. stopping for a few seconds or even a minute or so), then you should step out of the boot-pack and allow faster teams to pass in the trail without protest.

2) Who has the right to the steps that have been kicked in the slope?

There is a nice line of steps kicked into the slope going all the way up the mountain. Clearly, it is easier to use the steps that another team has put in than to create your own. As you're climbing up the mountain, you see another team descending in the steps. Their plunge-steps are completely destroying the steps as they descend. And while this may make things more difficult for your team, you didn't create the steps and as such, don't have any ownership over them.

A team camps on the Easton Glacier on Mount Baker
Photo by Alasdair Turner


If you create a series of steps up the mountain, you do have the right to use them on your descent. However, it is far more polite to leave these steps for others. I will almost universally try to leave my steps for other climbers, unless the snow is incredibly soft and difficult to move through. Occasionally, the snow is so deep that new downhill steps could cause a climber to hyper-extend his or her knee. When conditions are this severe, I use my uphill steps for downhill travel.

3) What should I do with my human waste? Should I leave it on the summit for all to see with a nice pile of toilet paper? Or should I do something else with it?

You should do something else with it.

On expeditions or on big mountains, sometimes you can put your waste in a crevasse, but you should pack out your toilet paper. On smaller glaciated peaks, you should use a Wag Bag or the equivalent and pack everything out. On mountains like Mt. Baker and Mt. Rainier, all waste should always go out with you. If you are incapable of doing this, then you shouldn't be in the mountains.

If you have other etiquette questions, feel free to post them. This is such a large topic that a single Blog cannot do it justice.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, June 4, 2020

Climbing, Coronavirus and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 6/4/20

Northwest:

--A climber died after sustaining a 40-foot fall at the Little Si climbing area in North Bend last week. The 22-year old climber was at the British Aisles crag when the accident happened. It is not clear what lead to the accident. To read more, click here.

--This jogger spent hours in a tree in British Columbia after being chased and charged by a black bear.

--A climber got his knee stuck on the approach pitches to St. Vitus Dance in Squamish late last week. SAR assisted him. There have been no updates.

Desert Southwest:

--Taos News is reporting that, "A recovery team trekked into the West Basin of Taos Ski Valley on Wednesday (May 27) and recovered a set of human remains believed to be those of John McCoy, a 72-year-old skier who disappeared while skiing alone on Jan. 2." Top read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--It appears that the BLM is considering the closure of a large swath of desert near Moab to climbing. Here's a link to a mountainproject article about it. And here's a link to the BLM scoping of this proposal.

Notes from All Over:

--It's possible that the height of Mt. Everest will change. From Outside: "A group of eight researchers from China finally summited Mount Everest on Wednesday, May 27. One of only two climbing teams on the mountain this year, they were there for a very specific purpose—to take the most accurate measurement to date of the world’s tallest point." To read more, click here.

--The Outdoor Industry is responding the the violence against people of color in many different ways. Here is a round-up of what industry leaders are doing.

--Here is a breakdown of which national parks are now open for climbing.

--The headline from the article in Gripped says it all: "Canada’s First Reopened Climbing Gym: Closed
Toronto's The Rock Oasis closes a week after reopening. The Ontario Climbing Federation releases a statement the same day as the closure." To read the piece, click here.

--So in some good news, the coronavirus doesn't really like altitude.

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Dangers of Glissading

Yep, you can find them in just about every issue of Accidents in North American Mountaineering. They have unwieldy headlines like:

"Climber injured in Glissade Accident"
"Out of Control Glissade Leads to Fatality"
"Inexperience, Lack of Proper Clothing and Glissade with Crampons On"

Gissading is an incredibly fun endeavor. I've often felt that after achieving a somewhat physical summit that a good glassade run back down makes it all worth it. It's as if nature gave you something back for all of the work that you did to get up there. The desire to glissade though should be tempered by the reality...and the reality is that a lot of people get hurt glissading.

Most injuries take place because an individual breaks one of the cardinal rules. To stay safe, the best thing to do is to take these rules seriously.

The Cardinal Rules of Glissading 
  1. Never glissade with crampons on. If you're wearing crampons it means that you're probably on hard snow or ice. This means that should you glissade, you will slide really fast. If you slide really fast and you catch a crampon spike, your leg will snap like a dry twig. As such one should never glissade with crampons on. 
  2. Never glissade on a rope team. If one person loses control on a rope team, then others may do so as well. 
  3. Never glissade on a glacier. It's likely that you'll be roped up if you're on a glacier so if you do glissade, you will be breaking two rules at once. We don't glissade on glaciers because of the possibility of hidden crevasses. 
  4. Always make sure that you can see where you're going. This should make sense. If you can't see, then you could end up sliding into a talus field or off a cliff. 
  5. Make sure that there is a good run-out. A good run-out is imperative. One should certainly avoid glissading above dangerous edges, boulders or trees. 

These rules are quite black and white. There are few gray areas in glissading. If there is some question, then the best thing to do is to err on the side of caution. Though you might be tired, sometimes walking down the mountain is the safer alternative.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Climbing, Coronavirus and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 5/28/20

Northwest:

--The NCW Life Channel is reporting that, "A climber who fell near the top of a ridge in the Wenatchee Foothills on Monday had to be rescued by crews from the Chelan County Sheriff’s Office’s and Chelan County Fire District 1. The climber was coming down the peak above the WRAC in the Wenatchee foothills when he started sliding and injured his shoulder, said Capt. Clint Webley of the fire district said." To read more, click here.

Mt. Hood from Timberline Lodge

--There were two rescues on Mt. Hood over the holiday weekend. Conditions were bad, and the mountain was busy. There is some concern that pent up demand as we reopen is leading to poor choices. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive will be reopening on June 1st...just as it gets too hot to climb. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Fox News is reporting that, "A Utah climber who fell and cracked his head while scaling a cliff by himself on Sunday was rescued after he regained consciousness, and nearby campers heard his cries for help, authorities said. The 52-year-old man, whose name has not been released, was climbing up a slot in the cliff near Jones Hole National Fish Hatchery, by the Colorado border, when he fell an unknown distance, the Uintah County Sheriff’s Office said. He told rescuers he didn’t know how long he was unconscious before he awoke and yelled for help." To read more, click here.

--Some yahoos lit a massive bonfire under the Red Monster Boulder in Utah's Ibex climbing area. There is carbon damage on two popular hard boulder problems. To read more, click here.

--Eldorado Canyon's The Naked Edge (5.11b, 6-pitches) , has a new speed record: 24-minutes and 14-seconds bridge-to-bridge. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--REI and MountainProject.com are parting ways. To read more, click here and here.

--Ski is reporting that the "Indy Pass Adds 7 Independent Ski Areas for 2020-’21 Season.
The $199 multi-resort season pass will now offer skiers access to 52 independently owned ski resorts across North America." To read more, click here.

--If the Olympics aren't able to happen next year, they won't happen...

--There is real concern that summer sleep-away camps for children may go bankrupt this summer. A New York Times guest columnist and summer camp owner believes that there's an answer: Make summer camps available to families. "We believe that summer camps heal and strengthen social bonds, and therefore provide a vital service during these stressful times. While we cannot predict exactly what the state of public health will be in our home state or other states during the summer months, we do know that families are yearning for safe outdoor spaces where their children can feel free again. We know that camps have always been those safe spaces. By opening cabins to entire families, camps can provide the same invigorating social connections and memorable moments for parents and their families as they always have for kids." To read more, click here.

--A boy in the Italian Alps had a very close call with a bear this week. The family was on a picnic when a bear approached. The boy's dad filmed the boy as he carefully moved away. We're not huge fans of people who film close calls with bears. This is because it's better to be focused on the animal and doing the right thing than on getting something for facebook. However, this boy does such a good job, it's worth watching him as he escapes the animal:



--Snews is reporting on how many outdoor brands are now manufacturing masks, not just as PPE, but for activewear. To read more, click here.

--From the New York Times: "How the Pandemic Splintered the Appalachian Trail: The coronavirus scuttled plans and forced officials to ask people to get out of the woods. Of the thousands who hoped to hike the trail this year, only a few hundred remain." To read more, click here.


Tuesday, May 26, 2020

Route Profile: Cutthroat Peak, S. Buttress (5.8, III+)

Every winter the Washington Department of Transportation turns a cold shoulder to a stretch of State Route 20 that winds its way through the Northern Cascades.  This area sees so much snow and crosses so many avalanche paths that it is not feasible for them to maintain the road and keep it plowed.  This stretch can see sometimes more than 60 or 70 feet of snow in some places.  Every spring, we eagerly await the reports from the DOT as they start the clearing process.  Depending on the snowfall and the avalanche conditions, this can take a few weeks, or a few months.  This year, the highway was cleared and open by May 8, and climbers and skiers alike have already started enjoying the numerous routes there.

The Liberty Bell Group from the East.  Dana Hickenbottom.
SR 20 cuts through the heart of the North Cascades National Park, and is the access for hundreds of peaks.  One of my favorite areas along there is known as Washington Pass.  This Pass is home to some of the best alpine rock climbing in the state.  The most notable formation there is the Liberty Bell Group, which includes Liberty Bell, Concord Tower, Lexington Tower, North Early Winters Spire and South Early Winters Spire.  Each of these peaks have numerous routes on them ranging from 5.6 beginner routes to 5.12 Grade V monsters.

However, the Liberty Bell Group isn't the only fine chunk of granite in the area.  Another great is Cutthroat Peak, which is just to the north of Liberty Bell, on the other side of the highway.  At 8050', it tops out at about 300' higher then anything in the Liberty Bell Group.  When viewed from the east or west, you can see the distinctive North and South Summits, which form the shape of the salmon that it is named after.

Climbers approaching through the grassy meadows to
the southwest of the peak.  James Pierson

There are a hand-full of routes on the peak, mostly in the moderate range, although there are a couple in the 5.10 and over range, as well as some alpine ice routes.  From the highway, you park at a broad pull-off south and just west of the peak, approximately 1.5 miles west of Washington Pass.  Drop down into the drainage and start the brushy hike up the other side towards the meadows on the southwest of the peak.  Ascend the northern-most notch of the Southwest Arm to get to the base of the South Buttress to start the real climbing.  The South Buttress, shown middle-center in the photo below, is a great 5.8 route that follows the crest of the feature, with a few short sections that venture to the east before returning back to the ridge.  If you find yourself getting sucked too far to the left, be sure to steer yourself back to the crest again.

View of Cutthroat Peak from the summit of Liberty Bell.  James Pierson

The majority of the route is easier climbing with a few short but well protected 5.6 - 5.7 spots.  The crux of the climb (5.8) comes near the top, just before you start the final easy scramble.  This takes you up to the first of the two summits.

Rock Ptarmigan trying to blend in. James Pierson
Mountain goat coming to say hello.  James Pierson


Above is a 360 deg. panorama from the summit of Cutthroat Peak.  From this vantage point, you have spectacular views of the Liberty Bell Massif, Big Kangaroo Peak, Silver Star Peak, the Wine Spires, in to British Columbia to the north, and on a good day you can even catch glimpses of Mt. Baker.

Climber starting to rappel down the
West Ridge. James Pierson
For the descent, you have two options.  If there are no other climbers behind you, you can rappel the route.  The other option is to continue scrambling and drop into the notch between the North and South Summits, ascend the North Summit and then rappel down the West Ridge route.  There are fewer rappels this way, but there is also some loose scree scrambling as you come off the West Ridge.

Cutthroat Peak is often overlooked by climbers since its neighbors on the other side of the highway have such easy access.  But with a little extra effort on the approach, you will find a great climb for anyone looking for a long, moderate climb with beautiful surroundings.

--James Pierson, Program Coordinator and Guide

Monday, May 25, 2020

Captain Kirk likes to Climb Mountains

Captain Kirk likes to climb mountains.

In Star Trek V: The Final Frontier, the movie starts with Captain Kirk most of the way up a free solo ascent of El Capitan. Of course, Spock has to mess things up by showing up in his jet boots.

We've posted this clip in the past, but we've never had William Shatner's commentary on the scene before. It's pretty funny. William Shatner is clearly not a climber.

So before we look at Mr. Shatner's comments on climbing, we have the scene from Star Trek V to refresh your memories:



This is the clip where William Shatner explains that mountain climbers like to hug and make love to the mountain:



And this is the remix of the clip fashioned as a musical:



Yep, Captain Kirk sure does like to climb mountains!

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, May 22, 2020

The Ice Bollard

Steep snow or ice can be descended two ways. A climber could downclimb the terrain or he could rappel. Rappelling is always a dangerous option as a lot can go wrong...but in the mountains, sometimes the speed of rappelling is safer than downclimbing.



A Climber Rappels Off of an Ice Bollard

In hard frozen snow or on ice, one option is to create a bollard. A bollard is essentially a tear-drop shaped pillar that is cut into a frozen surface with an ice axe adze. The rope is then wrapped around the bollard for the rappel. Once the rappel is completed, the climber can simply pull the rope.

Bollards are not the strongest anchors available, but they are quick and effective. If you choose to use a bollard, it is important to do two things. Back them up and reset the rope after each rappel.


An Ice Bollard loosely Backed-Up by an Ice Screw

To back-up a bollard, create the bollard and then preset the rope. Place a piece of snow protection (e.g. a picket buried as a deadman) and then loosely clip a sling to both the piece and to the rope. Once this is set-up, the heaviest person with the heaviest pack should rappel first. The theory is that if the heaviest person with the heaviest pack doesn't blow out the bollard, then a lighter person should be able to remove the back-up piece and safely rappel.

To reset the rope after each rappel, simply treat the rope like dental floss. Pull on each end of the rope once your down. Resetting the rope like this will ensure that it doesn't freeze into place and get stuck.


An Ice Bollard backed-up by an Ice Screw

Snow and ice bollards are a quick and effective style of anchoring that avoids leaving trash -- or expensive gear -- behind. Practice with this style of rappel anchor will lead to a solid and safe understanding as to how one should employ them effectively...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Climbing, Coronavirus and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 5/21/20

Northwest:

--Timberline Ski Resort on Mt. Hood reopened on May 15th. To read more, click here.

--Oregon's Smith Rock State Park has reopened on a limited basis. To read more, click here.

The Twin Sister Range, east of Bellingham.

--It looks like the Canadian Border will stay closed to at least June 21. Squamish is for Canadians only! To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--Here's an update on the status of roads and campgrounds in the Eastern Sierra.

Desert Southwest:

--KNAU NPR is reporting on how the Trump Administration's border wall will impact the Arizona Trail, one of 11 National Scenic Trails in the United States. "The proposed 74-miles of new border barrier would cut through the southernmost section of the Arizona National Scenic Trail in the Huachuca Mountains and Coronado National Memorial. The Trail Association says it would obliterate the starting point of the 800-mile trail, transform the landscape and alter the experience for its tens of thousands of users." To read more, click here.

--Joshua Tree National Park has reopened, but there are a lot of camping restrictions. To find out more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--A climber in his early twenties was seriously injured in Utah's Snow Canyon on Tuesday. To read more, click here.

--Estes Park Trail Gazette is reporting on a technique to decrease the number of visitors in Rocky Mountain National Park upon reopening. "Plans include a proposal to the Department of the Interior (DOI) to move forward with access based on a scheduled time and approved permit. The park is hoping to limit the number of visitors to 13,500 per day during the first stage of reopening." To read more, click here.

--Arapahoe Basin still might reopen. 

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Colorado’s current snowpack is at just 43 percent of where the snowpack was this time last year and 64 percent of the average for this date, despite reaching a peak snowpack at 103 percent of the norm this season. This low snowpack is due to warm temperatures and a dry spring, which has resulted in a faster melt and less snow." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A climber was injured in a rappelling accident near Billings, Montana this week. To read more, click here.

--The New York Times is reporting that, "Patagonia, quick to close, could be the last to reopen." To read more, click here.

--There is a lot of fear that wildfire camps could be places where COVID-19 runs rampant. To read about it, click here.

--Gripped is reporting on some new Canadian routes: "A handful of new multi-pitch routes have been climbed up the Solar Panel wall west of Nordegg in central Alberta. The climbs are accessed from the Preskott Creek parking area, the same lot used for the new sport climbing area Little Russia." To read more, click here.