Thursday, January 14, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 1/14/21


--Mt. Rainier National Park is reporting on a fatality that took place on January 10th: "Rangers at Mount Rainier National Park today recovered the body of Constance Markham, 65, of Eatonville, Washington, from a steep slope below Ricksecker Point in the southwest corner of the park. Markham’s accidental fall was reported at 12:30 pm yesterday. Searchers located her in steep, hazardous terrain and confirmed that she was deceased. A ground team returned to the area today and she was recovered using a helicopter to complete the extrication." To read more, click here.

--On January 7th, a 26-year-old snowboarder died after falling off a 65-foot cliff at Whistler near the Peak Chairlift. To read more, click here.

--Schweitzer Mountain in Idaho is partially closing over the Martin Luther King weekend (January 15-17). In a statement, the mountain's CEO cites an "overwhelming lack of compliance with our mask policies and social distancing in the rental shop, day lodge, and lift lines during twilight skiing." Additionally he notes that he, "will not continue to tolerate the verbal abuse that has been directed towards our staff as they have attempted to enforce our safety requirements." To read more, click here.

--Following the Sea to Sky Gondola sabotage -- the cable was cut for the second time this summer -- the Squamish based attraction has found that it is not adequately covered by insurance. They are suing their insurance broker. It's not clear what this means for the gondola's future. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A snow cave collapsed this week on a Boy Scout near Red Lake in New Mexico. Adult leaders dug the boy out and transported him to the hospital, but the child did not survive. To read more, click here.

Recent new graffiti in Red Rock Canyon.
It's not clear if the BLM is pursuing the individuals who defaced these rocks.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Utah Avalanche Center has posted a report on the fatality of a 31-year-old man in the Dutch Draw area near Park City late last week. To read more, click here.

--Snow Brains is reporting that, "A $10,000 reward is offered for anyone offering information to help identify the hit and run skier that put a 74-year-old lady in the hospital with serious injuries. Betty Benjamin was skiing in the China Bowl area of Vail Mountain, CO, at 2 pm on January 6th, 2021, when she was hit straight on by a teenage male on skis. She is currently recovering in hospital with a collapsed lung and every one of her right-hand side ribs broken. Her brother, Jim, is offering the reward." To read more, click here.

--The following video is an emotional recount of an avalanche that took place on January 9th in Steep Hollow, Franklin Basin, Utah. Thankfully, the victim survived:

--Out There Colorado has posted a story and a video of someone getting avalanched near Loveland Pass on January 8th. To see the post, click here. And here's a news story on the accident. The snowboarder did deploy his airbag on the 1000-foot slide.

--The Colorado Sun is reporting that, "Colorado Court of Appeals panel last week delivered the first state appellate decision affirming the use of waivers to protect ski resorts from lawsuits filed by injured skiers. " To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--KURL 8 is reporting that, "A group of Bozeman-area skiers climbing up The Fin on Republic Mountain outside of Cooke City were swept down by an avalanche on January 8, 2021. According to a report by the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center (GNFAC) one skier was seriously injured and had to be evacuated by helicopter and another was temporarily unconscious and not breathing." To read more, click here.

--A Wisconsin skier was airlifted to a hospital after hitting a light pole on Saturday. To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund is promoting a free slot in the Uphill Athlete training program. The slot is for a woman, or person who identifies as a woman, in the women's training group. To read more, click here.

--This is a spooky story about some climbers that were attacked by killer bees in Hueco Tanks, Texas.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

Understanding Mechanical Advantage

The ability to understand mechanical advantage is an essential part of technical rope rescue, crevasse rescue and climbing self-rescue.

The best way to begin an understanding of mechanical advantage is to understand how a toprope works. If a 150lb person is on one side of a rope, then a belayer has to provide at least 150lbs of force to keep the person from lowering to the ground.

In order to make it easier to understand, we should consider the 150lbs as a unit of one. So to stop a unit of one from lowering, then an individual must put an equal amount of force on the other side, essentially a unit of one. The weight of 150lbs is arbitrary. The important thing to remember is that we have to put a unit of force on the opposite side to keep the first unit from going down.

If there is one unit of force on one side, countering a unit of force on the other side, that means that there are two units of force on the anchor.

The man in the image is putting one unit of force on the right side to counter one unit of force 
on the left. There are two units of force on the anchor.

In this image, there are two units of force on the load, and one unit of force on the anchor.
The hand is putting one unit of force into the system, because the rope travels through a moving 
pulley, it exerts  two units of force on the load. This is a simple 2:1 hauling system.

To count out mechanical advantage, one should always start with the haul line and always start by counting it as a single unit. Traveling pulleys multiple mechanical advantage. 

In this image, the rope remains a unit of one all the way through to where the green prusik is 
attached. At the pulley with the prusik, there is a 2:1 mechanical advantage.
The two in the traveling pulley are added to the one that follows the rope.
This is a 3:1 simple system, commonly called a z-pulley system.

In this image, the haul line is a unit of one. The upper traveling pulley is a unit of two.
The unit of two travels on the lower line through the lower pulley, multiplying at the load.
As there are two lines, with the unit of two traveling through the pulley, this is a compound
4:1 mechanical advantage system. It's compound because one pulley is compounding the force
of the other pulley.

In this image, a 3:1 has been laid on top of a 2:1, creating a 6:1 compound system.
The haul line places a unit of two on the upper traveling pulley. The line then runs through 
to the prussik, adding an additional unit. So the system is 3:1 at the green prusik. The 3:1
is mirrored on the opposite side of the lower traveling pulley, creating a 6:1.

It's important to note that the idea behind mechanical advantage is that pulleys and changes in direction theoretically decrease the amount of force required to haul a load. However, friction from rock or snow can increase the load.

It's also important to note that for every increase in mechanical advantage, one will have to pull more rope to move a load. For example, n a 2:1 mechanical system, a rescuer has to pull two-feet of rope for every one foot the load moves; in a 6:1 mechanical system, a rescuer has to pull six-feet of rope for every one foot the load moves...

Following are some challenges for you. Try to count out the mechanical advantage and then look at the bottom of this blog to get the answers. To avoid looking at the answers before you're ready, don't scroll past the section that says, "Don't scroll down any lower until you want to see the answers!"  There are five mechanical advantage challenges:





Understanding mechanical advantage is an important part of rescue. It is possible to memorize what certain systems look like, but there is great value in being able to count out a system...

Don't scroll down any lower until you want to see the answers!

1) 9:1 Compound
2) 9:1 Compound, Offset
3) 4:1 Simple
4) 5:1 Complex (Complex systems often have pulleys traveling toward one another.)
5) 27:1 Compound

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, January 11, 2021

Beginner Tips and Techniques to Improve Your Skiing: Athletic Position in Motion

Kate Howe is a PSIA ski instructor that has spent hundreds of hours teaching beginner level skiers how to make their way down the slope. In this video, Kate discusses fore and aft ski work while moving down the slope.

Check it out:

If you are new to skiing, the best thing you could possibly do would be to hire a ski instructor at a resort for a day or two. You will learn significantly more and improve significantly faster if you do this...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, January 8, 2021

Beginner Tips and Tricks to Improve Your Skiing: Fore/Aft Pressure Control

Kate Howe is a PSIA ski instructor that has spent hundreds of hours teaching beginner level skiers how to make their way down the slope. In this video, she discusses your stance and how to use pressure within your ski boot to improve your downhill technique.

Check it out:

If you are new to skiing, the best thing you could possibly do would be to hire a ski instructor at a resort for a day or two. You will learn significantly more and improve significantly faster if you do this...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 1/7/21


--A skier died last week after falling into a tree well near Whistler. It's important to be constantly vigilant of this threat if skiing alone inbounds, and it's always best practice to ski with a partner in the backcountry. To read more, click here.

--Access to the mountains on the east side of the Cascades is decreasing. From the Washington DOT: "the east side closure point on SR 20 North Cascades Highway will move from Silver Star Gate at milepost 171 to Early Winters at milepost 177. The change in closure point is due to increasing winter conditions and allows maintenance crews to focus snow and ice control elsewhere. The road will be gated, and a snow berm will be constructed at the closure point. Recreationalists should plan accordingly, as vehicles will not be able to access the highway past the closure point beginning Wednesday morning."

--The Pacific Crest Trail Association is reporting that, "The September 2017 fire that swept through the Columbia River Gorge temporarily closed 10 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail and a popular PCT alternate route, the Eagle Creek Trail. Pacific Crest Trail Association volunteers were able to reopen the PCT quickly, but the Eagle Creek Trail, which follows a steep and beautiful canyon, just reopened on Jan. 1." To read more, click here.

--The Bonner County Daily Bee is reporting that, "The Idaho Panhandle Avalanche Center issued a warning early Tuesday morning recommending against travel in slide-prone areas of the Selkirk and Cabinet mountains. The warning comes after an alpine skier caused a slab avalanche slightly below the summit of Blue Mountain, a popular backcountry destination on the northern side of Schweitzer Mountain Resort." To read more, click here.

--A group of snowmobilers had a close call with an avalanche this weekend near Calispell Peak in Northeastern Washington. There were no injuries, and the person caught was rescued immediately, but it took some time to find his snowmachine. To read more, click here.


--NPR and others are reporting that, "He was the last surviving member of the first climbing team to scale El Capitan in Yosemite National Park. And he spent his life fighting for conservation, protecting the Sierra Nevada in California. But on New Year's Day, famed climber George Whitmore passed away at 89 due to COVID-19 complications, his wife Nancy told NPR." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Las Vegas Review-Journal is reporting that, "Outdoor recreation in Nevada in 2019 accounted for nearly $5.5 billion in economic output, up from roughly $5.2 billion in 2018 and $5.1 billion in 2017, according to data released in November by the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Bureau of Economic Analysis." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Climbing posted their annual "Climbers we Lost" article this week. Please take the time to look at the list. Every one of these people were loved deeply by our community.

--Alaska Native News is reporting that, "Alaska Air National Guardsmen of the 176th Wing rescued a fallen ice climber Jan. 2 at Chugach State Park near Anchorage. Alaska Air National Guard Tech. Sgt. Katie Magnuson, Alaska Rescue Coordination Center search-and-rescue senior controller, said the Alaska State Troopers requested assistance from the AKRCC reporting that the climber fell approximately 40 feet and suffered an injury." To read more, click here.

--This is a great piece on Deb Haaland, the Native American woman expected to be the new Secretary of the Interior. 

--Employees at Hunter Mountain Ski Resort in upstate New York seems have been hit with a COVID outbreak. We don't know the details here, but many resorts have employee housing and struggle to keep people safe:

--Gripped is reporting that, "the Edmonton Ski Club is building an arificial ice climbing wall with the Edmonton Alpine Club of Canada (ACC) section. Edmonton houses hundreds of ice and rock climbers who visit the mountains weekly" To read more, click here.

--Permits will be available for thru-hikers in 2021 on the PCT. To read more, click here.

--SGB Media is reporting that, "Garmin International and Garmin Services, units of Garmin Ltd., announced the acquisition of substantially all the assets of GEOS Worldwide Limited and its subsidiaries. A privately-held provider of emergency monitoring and incident response services, GEOS Worldwide operates the International Emergency Response Coordination Center (IERCC), the nerve center for SOS rescue efforts triggered by Garmin’s inReach personal satellite communicators. The IERCC’s response coordinators have fielded more than 83,000 emergency incidents around the globe since 2007, including more than 5,000 SOS incidents generated by Garmin customers." To read more, click here.

Thankfully, the ski industry has taken a hint from some of 
the controversy around inappropriate climbing route names.

--So there's some kind of smartphone app that allows you to play a climbing game. A writer at Gripped downloaded and played the game. Here's his review...

Tuesday, January 5, 2021

An Introduction to Drytool Movement

Drytooling is the act of rock climbing with ice gear. Modern drytooling is a form of sport climbing, often on steep rock with an occasional ice move. It is both physically demanding, and quite fun...

Alpinists have been engaging in drytooling in the mountains since the very beginning of the sport. Ice climbers began to play with it to link ice features together. But then something happened. People realized that moving over rock with tools required special skills and techniques. So, like off-width climbing or aid climbing, a small group of people began to focus solely on this sub-genre of the sport.

AAI Guide Chad Cochran Drytooling near Mt. Baker.

The art of drytooling as a stand-alone discipline of climbing really took off in the early 2000s. Suddenly people were pushing the limits; and before you knew it, there were drytooling routes and competitions everywhere.

If you're already an ice climber, drytooling is an easy sport to get into. But not all of the moves on the rock are obvious. It's not just about hooking and pulling. There is some method to the madness. In the following video Ian Hanson talks about some of the basic techniques used in drytool movement:

It should be noted that drytooling is physically demanding. The first time you give it a try, you really should expect to get completely blown out. But as you develop technique and strength, you'll also develop success...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, January 4, 2021

Belaying a Skier Over a Cornice

In this video, two techniques are described that may be used by a backcountry skier to check out the edge of a cornice. The first technique is a body belay. And the second technique employs a t-trench.

--Jason D. Martin