Friday, December 31, 2021

How to Remove Your Skins with Your Skis On

The first time I saw someone remove their skins without removing their skis, I remember being flabbergasted. My first thought was, "that was awesome." It is incredibly efficient to remove your skins without taking off your skis, but it takes some practice.

In the following video World Cup Ski Mountaineering Racer Melanie Bernier demos a few easy techniques that will help with quick skin removal.



--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/30/21

Northwest:

--Kamloops Now is reporting that, "The search for a Kelowna man who went missing while snowboarding at Big White on Sunday has come to a tragic end. Police confirmed that the 42-year-old's body was found late this morning by search and rescue crews and the Big White Ski Patrol." To read more, click here.

--The Lewiston Tribune has published a piece on the shrinking glaciers in the Pacific Northwest: "It’s been a strange year in Washington. A hearty snowpack blanketed the Cascades, but then March and April were the fourth-driest on record in Washington, according to the state Ecology Department. May brought some moisture, but then a record heat wave, which experts considered virtually impossible if not for climate change, seared the state in late June. The weather station near the Paradise Visitor Center on Mount Rainier, which is at 5,400 feet elevation, reached 91 degrees on June 29. Over five days, the heat sliced the snowpack in half, shedding more than 2½ feet of depth." To read more, click here.

--A new WI 6+ has been climbed in Squamish.

--Speaking of which, some Washington Ice Conditions may be found, here.

Sierra:

--NBC News is reporting that, "Search and rescue teams in California are looking for a skier who disappeared on Christmas Day, with officials saying rescue efforts have been hampered by record snowstorms in the Sierra Nevada mountain range. The man, Rory Angelotta, 43, a ski shop manager from Truckee, was reported missing Saturday when he didn't show up for a Christmas dinner. To read more, click here.

--A party of two were caught in an avalanche at about 9000-feet on Thursday near Mammoth Rock. One person pulled his airbag and remained on the surface. He was able to dig out his partner in less than five-minutes. To read an account of the accident, click here.

--On Sunday, many roads and ski resorts were closed in the Eastern Sierra due to a combination of massive amounts of new snow and wind. To read about it, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "a backcountry skier was caught, fully buried, and killed in an avalanche near Cameron Pass, CO in the Front Range on December 24, 2021." This was the 4th avalanche fatality in the USA this season." To read more, click here.

--There's a new carpool app for skiers in Colorado coming from major metropolitan centers. To read about it, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--LiftBlog is reporting that many ski areas are currently unable to staff night skiing. Be sure to check ahead before heading to your favorite resort in the evening.


Monday, December 27, 2021

Backcountry Skiing - How to Start!

The words skiing and fun are essentially synonymous with one another. The art of skiing is one of the most pleasurable pastimes in the world. There is nothing quite like sliding on the snow at a beautifully maintained ski area—

Except – that is – skiing the backcountry

But skiing in the backcountry can be intimidating. Indeed, assuming one has easy black diamond movement skills, there are three elements that might keep a skier from venturing into the backcountry: equipment, avalanche danger, and navigation. Once an individual has been introduced to each of these elements, a journey into the winter backcountry seems far more reasonable.

Equipment:


There are two major types of touring skis, telemark and alpine touring. Telemark skis are designed with a free heel that is never clamped down. This is in direct opposition to alpine touring skis. These skis are designed to have a free heel when moving uphill and a fixed heel for downhill skiing.

Unless you are already a telemark skier, it is not recommended that you venture into the backcountry with a telemark ski. Most resort skiers will have a much better time transitioning to alpine touring skis.

A backcountry skier rips down a clean line on a beautiful slope.

There are dozens upon dozens of touring skis on the market. Each ski is designed with a different thing in mind. Some are designed to be super lightweight, whereas others are heavier, but are designed for better performance skiing downhill. Most of those that are new to backcountry skiing should use heavier skis to start with. While this adds weight for uphill travel, it will make the downhill portion of the day much easier to deal with, especially if the conditions are variable or difficult.

There are two major types of backcountry alpine touring bindings on the market. The first is the standard AT set-up, which allows for a skier to easily step into the binding. And the second is the super lightweight tech binding. The first type of binding (Fritschi Diamir, Marker Duke, Atomic Tracker, etc.) will be easier for the standard resort skier to adapt to, but most people these days ski on the second kind of binding (Dynafit, G3, BD Plum, etc.).

Like the skis, there are dozens of different boot options for AT skiers. The biggest difference between alpine ski boots and AT boots is that AT boots are designed to have both an uphill and a downhill mode. In other words, they flex forward and backward for good uphill movement. Ideally a new AT skier will be able to find a boot that works well for both uphill and downhill movement. Ski shop employees can help you find a model that works well for you.

AT skis are designed to go both uphill and downhill, but they need assistance going uphill. You will need to purchase a good set of climbing skins to place on the bottom of the skis for uphill travel. These will then be removed for downhill action.

A skier skins up a slope.

And finally, you will need to carry four essential pieces of avalanche safety equipment. You will need an avalanche transceiver, an avalanche probe, a shovel and formal avalanche education. Nobody should ever travel in the winter backcountry without these essential items.

Avalanche Danger:

The final equipment items on the list are an avalanche transceiver, an avalanche probe and a shovel. These items are for the worst-case scenario. They are in your kit so that you can rescue your partner after an avalanche. They are not avalanche repellant.

An average of 27 people die in avalanches every year. Avalanches are a real threat and they kill people.

There is really only one way for the new backcountry skier to adequately address avalanche danger. He or she will need to take a full 3-day Level I Avalanche Safety course. The best avalanche safety programs conform to American Avalanche Association standards. Locally, these are identified as American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) compliant programs. The American Alpine Institute provides AIARE Level I courses at Mt. Baker every weekend.

Backcountry Navigation:

Skiers regularly enjoy resort skiing in flat light buried in a fog bank. This marginally dangerous resort activity provides significant additional danger in the backcountry. Obstacles with difficult visibility are only the beginning of the problem. You also need to know where you are and how to get home.

There are four additional tools that the backcountry skier should learn to use. These are a topographical map, a compass, an altimeter and a GPS. These are all tools that you can learn to use by playing with them in the frontcountry; and you can find numerous resources online to help you understand these tools in order to use them effectively.

Historically GPS units have been very expensive. However, today there are a number of apps that can be used on your phone in airplane mode. My personal favorite is Gaia, but there are several others out there as well. These apps are not super intuitive though and will take time and practice to perfect before using them in the field.

Courses:

The fastest way to get dialed into all of this is to take a course. The American Alpine Institute has several courses available. To learn more, check out our list of backcountry skiingsplitboarding, and avalanche safety programs.

Resort skiing is great, but in a straight-up comparison, backcountry skiing is just more fun. There is a lot more that you have to know. Your skiing skill has to be a great deal higher and earning your turns just feels more rewarding. It is well worth any resort skier’s time to step off piste and to explore the world of backcountry skiing.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, December 24, 2021

The Ancient Art of Wishing Merry Christmas

A group of profane climbers including the likes of Andy Lewis (Skandy!) and Ammon McNeely set out to make the iconic summit of Ancient Art into a Christmas Tree. Please note that there is profanity in this video and enjoy!



Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from the American Alpine Institute...!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/23/21

American Alpine Institute Employment Opportunities:
  • Single Pitch Instructor and Hiking Guide, based in Las Vegas.
  • Spring and Summer Climbing Guide and Instructor based in Bellingham - with the possibility of year-round work in other states.
  • Full-Time Administrative Assistant based in our Bellingham Office.
  • Part-Time Graphic Designer
To learn more about these, click here.

Northwest:

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "Two teenage boys were killed in an avalanche on Friday afternoon in the Big Hole Mountains west of Driggs, Idaho. The pair were caught and buried by the slide near Relay Ridge in the area of Ryan Peak. One boy was skiing, the other snowmobiling." To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "a snowboarder has died after an accident in an out of bounds area at SilverStar Mountain Resort in B.C. this weekend. He was riding alone and was found by another skier who saw a snowboard poking out of the snow." To read more, click here.

--This is a nice piece that celebrates the work done by the Washington Trails Association Trail Crew.

Desert Southwest:

--Gripped is reporting that, "Alex Honnold has made the second ascent of one of the hardest multi-pitch routes at Red Rock with Synthetic Happiness on Rainbow Wall. Honnold sent it with Priti Wright belaying. This was the second big free route Honnold completed on the impressive Rainbow Wall this season, with the other being What Dreams May Come 5.13+ with Tommy Caldwell." To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "A man fell to his death on Mount Whitney, CA, last week while on a five-day, four-night trip in the backcountry during the biggest storms of the winter so far. Eric Goepfert, 50, was reported missing by his wife when he failed to return on Friday December 17th as planned." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--A skier was caught and fully buried in an avalanche in Utah's Big Cottonwood Canyon on Friday. He was successfully rescued, but the avalanche was caught on video:


--In a separate incident on Friday:


--Snowbrains is reporting that, "A 600-foot wide, roughly two-to-four-foot deep avalanche was triggered in Hidden Canyon near Brighton Resort on Sunday. The slide was reported to Brighton Ski Patrol by someone other than those who triggered it. Upon inspection, ski patrol noticed two tracks entering the avalanche but no tracks coming out the other side. The Utah Avalanche Center reports that Brighton & Solitude ski patrols were called into the scene, bringing Recco-locating devices and two dog teams to search the debris field. They later determined that no one was caught in the avalanche." To read more, click here.

--The Daily Camera is reporting that, "two rock climbers who were stuck Saturday night on Redgarden Wall in Eldorado State Park have been rescued. Shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday, the Boulder County Communications Center received a call from two climbers who were close to hypothermic and needed to be rescued." To read more, click here.

--The Summit Daily is reporting that, "After voting to unionize in May, Breckenridge ski patrol has made it through contract negotiations with Vail Resorts. Voting on the new contract closed Monday, Dec. 13, and was ratified Tuesday, Dec. 14, with a 'near unanimous vote.' Ryan Anderson, a Breckenridge ski patroller who helped lead unionizing efforts, said negotiating with Vail went quite well. He said local management at the resort has kept its word in supporting patrollers throughout the process." To read more, click here.

--In more union news, Snowbrains is reporting that, "The Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association (PCPSPA) has “overwhelmingly” rejected the latest contract offer from Vail Resorts, which would have $15/hr as the starting wage for a patroller. The same offer has been made by Vail Resorts three times now, each time rejected by the roughly 200 patrollers at Park City Mountain Resort, UT. The current starting wage is $13.25/hr, and PCPSPA is holding out for $17/hr." To read more, click here.

--The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting on the difficulties of keeping climbers off closed routes in Bears Ears. Many areas have cultural significance and cannot be climbed. To read more, click here.

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "Former pro-skier David Lesh should have been in court today for his sentencing after being found guilty of illegally riding a snowmobile at a terrain park in closed Keystone Resort on April 24, 2020, and undertaking an unauthorized commercial venture on national forestland. However, his decision earlier this month to fire his attorney means he will not face sentencing today, Tuesday 21st December, as his new attorney cannot begin work on the case until Wednesday 22nd December. The Judge has said he is “less than pleased” with the circumstances." To read more, click here.

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "Ouray Ice Park is closer to a major expansion with a grant from Great Outdoors Colorado, the state agency funding outdoor-related projects with lottery revenues. The $100,000 grant is "the jumpstart that we need," said Peter O'Neil, executive director of the nonprofit overseeing the southwest Colorado playground beloved by ice climbers around the world." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Snowbrains is reporting on an avalanche last week: "A skier triggered and was caught in an avalanche near The Apron at Bridger Bowl Ski Area on Thursday. According to the Gallatin National Forest Avalanche Center, no one was injured and the ski area is closed." To read more, click here.


--Variety is reporting that, "In a presentation to buyers delivered at the start of the Pre-Cannes Screenings on Monday, director Doug Liman described his new movie 'Everest,' set to star Ewan McGregor, Sam Heughan and Mark Strong, as the 'ultimate adventure film.' HanWay Films is selling international rights at the virtual market, while UTA Independent Film Group handles U.S. 'Everest is about the first attempt to climb Mount Everest in 1921, Liman explained. 'It resulted in the first 11 deaths on Everest.' The film charts the intense rivalry between and driving obsession of English mountaineer George Mallory (McGregor) and the eccentric Aussie climber George Finch (Heughan). Strong plays the arrogant Arthur Hinks of the Royal Geographic Society, who selects Mallory to scale the mountain." To read more, click here.


--The Sierra Club is reporting on California's Outdoors for All initiative: "The initiative, billed by Governor Gavin Newsom’s administration as the “largest-ever single investment in parks and open space for underserved communities,” will invest more than a billion dollars to create new parks, protect existing ones, and expand access to the outdoors for all Californians. These investments are crucial. We are facing the overlapping challenges of the climate crisis, the biodiversity crisis, and the nature equity crisis. Both the federal government and the state of California have set ambitious goals of protecting 30 percent of all lands and waters by 2030 to tackle the worst effects of these crises. The “Outdoors for All” initiative will be vital in achieving those goals and addressing these challenges head-on." To read more, click here.

Monday, December 20, 2021

Belayer Positioning in Ice Climbing

In conjunction with Petzl and Outdoor Research, the American Mountain Guides Association has produced a series of tech tip videos. In this particular video, AMGA Instructor Team Member Pat Ormond, talks about positioning a belayer during an ice climb.


In review, the video states that "belayer positioning is very important in ice climbing due to falling ice.

They have three guidelines that should be remembered:

1) During ice leads, consider down-anchoring the belayer so that they don't get pulled into falling ice.

2) When toproping, it's important to consider anchoring the belayer away from the base of the climb to avoid falling ice.

3) If you elect to use a down-anchor (ground anchor), the belay loop should be used, and not the back of the harness.

--Jason D. Martin




Friday, December 17, 2021

Cheap Gifts for Climbers

My sister-in-law recently asked me what I wanted for Christmas. As usual, I had no idea what I wanted. So I poked around the internet to look for articles on gifts for climbers. The problem is that a lot of the lists included expensive outerwear or equipment. It also required the buyer to understand something about climbing. That said, there was one list I liked. I thought the Mojo Gear list was pretty good. But other than that...

So here are some things that climbers might like that mostly won't break the bank.

Battery Packs ($20-$50) and/or Solar Panels ($90+)

One of the biggest problems with being in the backcountry is the ability to recharge your devices. You should never plug a device directly into a solar panel. This will drain the device unless you have perfect light. Instead, you should consider charging a battery pack (sometimes called  a battery bank). Then charge your device from this.


A battery pack alone might be enough to get you through a day or two. A solar panel might not even be necessary.

Goal Zero has several battery pack and solar panel options available. Check them out, here.

Chalk Bags ($10-$30) and Chalk ($2-$15)

Last year my mother bought me a chalk bag and chalk. She doesn't really understand what I do or why. And my chalk bag was absolutely falling apart. This was one of the best gifts ever. I was super psyched that my mother was supporting my climbing and it was also something that I really needed that I didn't want to buy for myself.

Chalk bags come in all types. You can get cool kitschy bags, and you can get plain jane bags. If you poke around on the net, you will find every kind you can imagine.

Skin Salve ($6-$20)

Skin Salve is one of those things that a lot of climbers don't buy, but they need. It's especially useful when people go on climbing trips where there is an intensive amount of climbing over a short period of time.

The are lots of salves available. These include brands like Giddy,  Joshua Tree Healing Salve, Burt's Bees and Metolius.

Kitschy Climbing Shirts ($15-$30)


There are a lot of funny climbing shirts out there. Cafe Press usually has a handful that are fun. Look Human has some good ones. And of course, there's always Etsy.

Harness Knife ($20-$40)


Multi-pitch climbers generally carry a knife to cut cord and webbing for rappels, but there are only a few out there that are climber specific. The Petzl Spatha is a great knife with a carabiner hole. The Trango Shark Nut tool is both a nut tool and a knife. And the Trango Piranha Climbing Knife is a nice compact knife for a climber.

Hot and Cold Water Bottle/Thermos ($15-$50)


A wide-mouth water bottle that also acts as a hot and cold thermos is an awesome gift. Hydroflask provides the most popular model right now, but there are a lot of others out there.

Subscription to a Climbing Magazine ($30-$60)


There are four major magazines that climbers read in North America. They are Alpinist, Climbing, Rock and Ice and Gripped. Alpinist is probably the best magazine for the alpine climber. Climbing and Rock and Ice are very similar to one another and cover everything from bouldering to big wall climbing. And Gripped is a Canadian oriented magazine.

Membership to Access Fund or American Alpine Club ($35-$75)


The Access Fund is an organization that lobbies for climbers. Their primary mission is to keep public lands open for climbing. This is an excellent organization to support.


The American Alpine Club lobbies for climbers, but also supports them in other ways. They provide two yearly publications: The American Alpine Journal and Accidents in North American Mountaineering. They also provide rescue insurance, lodging discounts in certain climbing areas, and grants for climbers.

Gift Card for the American Alpine Institute ($100-Whatever)



If you're reading this blog, you probably already know that the American Alpine Institute is a climbing school and guide service that operates in six states and sixteen countries. The organization's mission is to provide world class mountain education, exceptional guided experiences and to inspire natural preservation. We have programs for all levels of climber's and skiers, from rank beginners to extremely advanced... We know that this doesn't exactly count as a "cheap gift for a climber," but it is -- without a doubt -- the best gift on this list... Check us out!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, December 16, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/16/21

Northwest:

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "a 66-year-old man was killed and five others buried after an avalanche struck their party just outside Crystal Mountain Resort, WA. A foot of snow had fallen on the area in the previous 24-hours, and wind gusts were as high as 100-mph." To read more, click here.


--Snowbrains is reporting that, "Professional skier Karl Fostvedt was skiing with his buddy ‘Harlan’ at Sun Valley, Idaho when he a deer popped out in front of him on a run causing him to hit and kill it. Harlan said he 'heard the deer’s neck snap as they collided.' Harlan was miraculously unhurt and proceeded to ski the deer off the mountain by carrying it on his shoulders as he skied down to the base." To read more and to watch a video, click here.

--CBC is reporting that, "a Victoria-based climber has decided to resign from the national climbing team due to the climate impact of traveling to competitions and his ethical dilemma of representing a country with a history of Indigenous oppression. Tosh Sherkat, 23, has been climbing since he was a kid. He moved from Nelson, B.C., to Vancouver Island when he was 13 to join a professional climbing academy." To read more, click here.
 
--And finally in our PNW round-up, something a little bit lighter...um. Hitler.



Sierra:

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "It’s been three months since the Caldor Fire began, which blazed across three counties, El Dorado, Amador, and Alpine, and covered over 200,000 acres. The fire destroyed thousands of homes and structures, damaged ski areas like Sierra-at-Tahoe, and injured multiple people. After a joint investigation from The El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office, USDA Forest Service, Cal Fire, the California Department of Justice, and the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Crime Lab, the El Dorado County District Attorney has announced the arrest of the suspected arsons." To read more, click here.

--In more depressing news, the Sierra snowpack could be gone within 50-years. To read about it, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The US Department of the Interior is reporting that, "National Park Service special agents with the Investigative Services Branch are working to identify potential female victims of surreptitious recordings taken in bathroom facilities in the backcountry of Grand Canyon National Park. In September 2020, park visitors at Phantom Ranch reported that they believed a maintenance worker had recorded them while using a toilet. The individual was subsequently fired and removed from the park.  For the past year, agents have been working to identify the scope of the suspect’s activity. At this time, there is no indication that these images were shared or distributed by the suspect. This remains an active and open criminal matter. At the same time, the Department is conducting an internal review." To read more, click here.

--There is a move afoot to make Spirit Mountain and Christmas Tree Pass in Nevada, a new national monument. Christmas Tree Pass is home to a number of rock climbs, with rock formations similar to Joshua Tree. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--So scientists at the University of Colorado, Boulder, would like to study people exercising while stoned. The jokes write themselves. To read more, click here.

Just outside this frame, there are dozens of people waiting to take
photos in front of the Delicate Arch in Arches National Park.

--In 2022, you're going to need a reservation to get into Arches National Park. To read more, click here.

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "Little Cottonwood Canyon, near Salt Lake City, Utah, has had a growing traffic problem become increasingly apparent in recent years. The latest poll provides insight into the local Utahns’ opinions on improvements. Suggested realistic alternatives have been narrowed down to two primary options: a gondola through the canyon and an improved bus transportation system. Only 20% of those polled chose the gondola, while 60% said they preferred an enhanced bus infrastructure. High costs for the two proposals are a deterrent for many, with the gondola construction costing an estimated $592 million and the bus system costing upwards of $510 million." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The Outside Business Journal is reporting that, "Patagonia has won the U.S. Department of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence (ACE) in climate innovation, the company announced yesterday. The Department of State awards six ACEs annually to U.S. companies operating internationally, focusing on those that show leadership and 'whose operating practices and decision-making exemplify American values and international best practices,' according to a release. Patagonia was recognized for its conservation work in its namesake region of Patagonia in Argentina and Chile through its support of former Patagonia CEO and current board member Kristine Tompkins’ Tompkins Conservation." To read more, click here.

--Nevada Current is reporting that, "the Bureau of Land Management Tuesday announced plans to relocate senior leadership positions from its former Grand Junction, Colo., national headquarters back to Washington, D.C. The deputy director for operations will head back to Washington, D.C., joining BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning and the deputy director for policy and programs, who are already based in the nation’s capital. Most assistant directors and deputy assistant directors, eight in all, will also return to D.C., along with 30 vacant senior positions. About 100 positions in total will be based in D.C." To read more, click here.

Monday, December 13, 2021

Downhill Stationary Kickturn

There is one area that can be very sketchy. Imagine that you are on steep terrain wearing your skis and you have a cliff below you. You need to make a turn to get out of the terrain. The best option is a downhill stationary kickturn.

Outdoor Research and the American Mountain Guides Association teamed up to bring you this video of AMGA Instructor Team Member, Margaret Wheeler, demonstrating the turn.


--Jason D. Martin

Friday, December 10, 2021

How to Uncoil a New Rope

You've just bought your brand new rope and you are extremely excited to pull it out and get some use out of it. You notice that it is bundled up in a nice tight little coil, and you think, "hey, this is perfect for my pack!" So you take it to the crag.

It's a beautiful day and you're itching to get on a route. You pull the plastic wraps off the coil, you release the initial wraps, and then...you drop the coils on the ground.

Opps.

Party foul.

Now the whole coil looks like spaghetti, and you spend the next hour trying to untangle the mess.

Sound familiar?

It's certainly happened to me. And it's certainly happened to a lot of people I know. And if it hasn't happened to you, it certainly can...

When you uncoil a new rope, you have to be very careful. Essentially, you have to unspool the coil. The most ideal way to do this is with a partner. One person puts his arms inside the coil, while the other carefully unspools the rest onto the ground.

This can certainly be done by an individual, but you have to be much more careful.

Following is a video (unfortunately not in English) which shows a technique for uncoiling a new rope.



Happy climbing!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/9/21

Northwest:

--Climbing has published an obituary for Jolene Unsold, a climber and former congressperson who died in November at the age of 89. It's not really possible to sum up this amazing individual here. Just go read the article about her.

--Uphill travel at Snoqualmie will require a pass this year. 

--In late November, a team put up a new mixed line in Esmerelda Peak. The line, Moonlight Serendipity (WI2 M5+ 1,200ft), connects gullies and ice smears on the northeast face of the peak. To read about the ascent and to see photos, click here.

Sierra:

--The Sierra Wave is reporting that, "the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association (ESIA) has hired two climbing rangers to patrol the increasingly popular climbing and bouldering areas in the Bishop area. This is the third year of the program. Climbing in the Eastern Sierra is an interagency activity, so the climbing rangers are supported by numerous partners: the  Bishop Area Climbers Coalition, Bishop Area of Chamber of Commerce, Friends of Inyo, Los Angeles Department of Power and Water, Bureau of Land Management Bishop Field Office and the Inyo National Forest. The rangers will be focused on the Tablelands, Happys and Sads, the Buttermilks, Pine Creek, the Gorge and Upper Gorge, and the Druids." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--ABC 4 is reporting that, "crews with the Unified Fire Department rescued a rock climber that fell at Little Cottonwood Canyon. Crews said the climber fell about 30-feet and was was located about a half a mile off the road." To read more, click here.

--Climbing is reporting that, "A climber in Clear Creek Canyon, Golden, Colorado, was hit by rockfall Saturday, December 4, and is now in the ICU in a medically-induced coma." The website has a complete recap of the accident, something we don't see often.


--A skier died after colliding with a tree at Eldora this week. This is the second fatality at the ski area in two weeks. To read more, click here.

--A Ranger was shot after pursuing a couple in Rocky Mountain National Park yesterday. The Ranger's bullet proof vest saved him. After an exchange of gunfire, the couple was subdued. One was injured. Following is a video from the incident provided by local news:



--News Channel 21 is reporting that, "One of America’s most popular national park hikes will require a permit as of 2022. Officials at Zion National Park have announced that as of April 1, 2022, visitors who want to tackle the famous Angels Landing hike, which scales a 1,488-foot tall rock formation to reveal sweeping views of the canyons below, will have to enter an online lottery to try and get a permit." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "the Mt Washington Avalanche Center reports that a slab avalanche in Left Gully in Tuckerman Ravine on Sunday carried a skier 600-feet downhill, hitting several rocks, and causing ‘bad breaks’. The solo skier was traveling uphill at the time." To read more, click here.

--Check out the winner of the Red Bull Illume outdoor adventure photography contest, here.

--The John Lauchlaun Award is a Canadian grant that awards between $5000 and $10,000 to individuals interested in expeditionary rock climbing. From Gripped: "From the beginning, the award aimed to promote the development of Canadian mountaineers at an international level and to perpetuate the bold and adventurous spirit exemplified in John Lauchlan’s mountain exploits." To read more, click here.

--NBC News is reporting that, "a treasure trove of emeralds, rubies and sapphires buried for decades on a glacier off France's Mont Blanc has finally been shared between the climber who discovered them and local authorities, eight years after they were found. The mountaineer stumbled across the precious stones in 2013. They had remained hidden in a metal box that was on board an Indian plane that crashed in the desolate landscape some 50 years earlier." To read more, click here.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Rock Rescue: The Munter Mule

In the following clip, a climber demonstrates two things. First, he shows us how to tie a munter hitch on a carabiner clipped to a harness. And second, he shows us how to mule off a munter hitch that is clipped to a locker on a pre-equalized anchor.

The munter-mule is one of the most useful combination's that one can employ in any rock rescue scenario. It provides the basis for load transfers and for a number of other rescue techniques.

In the video, the climber refers to the mule knot as a slip knot...which it is, but the official name for what he is doing is the "mule."

It is important to watch how the climber releases the mule. He never takes his hand off the brake  strand. I believe that the most common mistake that people make in this particular setting is that they completely let go of the brake strand as they jump their brake hand up the strand and closer to the hitch. When you practice, be aware of this and be careful to avoid letting go of the brake strand.



--Jason D. Martin

Friday, December 3, 2021

Avalanche Awareness: Proper Probing Technique

The following video is the second in a three-part series put together by backcountry access.

Once again, I'd like to state the importance of having proper avalanche training before traveling into the winter backcountry. And proper training doesn't come from a two-minute video.



--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 12/2/2021

Northwest:

--On Saturday, the first avalanche fatality of the season took place in northeastern British Columbia. Three snowmobilers were caught. Two were partially buried. The third was fully buried. Unfortunately, they were not able to revive that buried individual. To read about the accident, click here.

Smith Rock State Park in Oregon

--News Channel 21 is reporting that, "a Redmond woman was injured when she struck her head while climbing at Smith Rock State Park on Sunday morning, prompting a rescue effort, authorities said. Shortly after 11 a.m., a Deschutes County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue volunteer climbing in the area of the Dihedrals informed a Special Services deputy he had come upon an injured climber needing assistance on a route known as “Darkness at Noon,” according to Deputy Donny Patterson, assistant SAR coordinator." To read more, click here.

--There's a lot of complexity to the current desire to "protect" Mt. Waddington. The legendary Mt. Waddington Guidebook author, Don Serl, has some thoughts. To read them, click here.

Sierra:

--The Hill is reporting that, "officials are reminding visitors that it is illegal to feed or approach the wildlife at Yosemite National Park after a girl was attacked by a buck that other visitors were feeding." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The Las Vegas Review Journal is reporting that, "Outdoor enthusiasts fear a federal proposal intended to improve Calico Basin will have the opposite effect and hamper access to the popular and free recreation area in the mountains just west of Las Vegas. The Bureau of Land Management is seeking to adopt a new long-term plan to accommodate current and expected future demand at the basin while protecting the more than 5,000 acre site’s natural and cultural resources." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Cedar City News is reporting that, "Two people were rescued and one person was pronounced dead in Zion National Park over the weekend. Over the weekend, the Zion National Park Technical Search and Rescue Team responded to an emergency call at the exit of Heaps Canyon, according to a press release issued by the park. Rescuers found two people who were canyoneering stranded on a rock perch about 280 feet above Upper Emerald Pools. They also found one man suspended from a rope about 260 feet above the pool (20 feet below the perch). The man who was suspended, 31-year-old Andrew Arvig of Chesapeake, Virginia, was lowered to the ground and later pronounced deceased by a doctor, the news release states. The search and rescue team assisted the other two people with rappelling safely to the ground." It appears that the deceased died of suspension trauma. To read more, click here.

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "a pair of climbers were attempting Mt. Superior’s South Ridge when one of them fell and sustained severe head and back injuries, according to Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue. A Life Flight helicopter was dispatched to hoist the patient off Mt. Superior and take them to a nearby trauma center." To read more, click here.

--Fox 31 is reporting that, "a 72-year-old skier who died following a collision with a snowboarder on the Windmill run at Eldora Mountain Tuesday has been identified as Ron LeMaster." To read more, click here.

--KPCW is reporting that, "ski patrollers crowding near the Canyons Village ski parking lot and holding signs on opening day said they’re not going on strike, but they do want better pay. About 30 off-duty patrollers stayed through the morning to represent the Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association. They held signs and talked to passers-by at the roundabout and Highway 224 intersection about their ongoing negotiations for better wages. Meanwhile, their on-duty colleagues worked normal shifts on the mountain above." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A climber was injured in a serious fall in West Virginia near the Meadow River. There's limited information on what lead to the accident, but he did fall at least sixty feet. To read more, click here.

--The New York Times is asking questions about the Piolet d'Or. "Since 2008, at least seven Piolet d’Or winners, including the Swiss climber Ueli Steck, have gone on to die in the mountains." The question is whether this elite award rewards risky behavior. To read the article, click here.

--Climbing is reporting that, "the long awaited lead climbing-compatible autobelay will hit the European market in 2022. The U.S. market to follow. When used properly, autobelays allow you to project and train on your own, which is great when you’re short on time and/or partners. But, since they are traditionally anchored at the top of walls, climbers have always been limited to vertical or slab terrain, and top-roping only. Now, however, ProGrade has flipped it, anchoring the system at the bottom of the wall, allowing you to lead climb on steep terrain all on your own." To read more, click here.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Static vs. Dynamic Climbing Technique

Mani the Monkey has some great training videos on Youtube. His videos are well-produced and offer a tremendous amount of information in a short period of time.

Mani created the following video about the advantages and disadvantages of static and dynamic climbing styles. The static style of climbing is to move slowly and carefully, often locking off and carefully finding the next hold. The dynamic style is to move more fluidly with a lot more swing to the body's movement.

Many gym climbers find dynamic movement more effective. While outdoor climbers tend to lean toward static movement due to a greater fear of falling and getting hurt. The reality is that each of these movement techniques has advantages and disadvantages. Check out the following video for more!



In review, here are the pros and cons of each technique:

Static Pros:

  • Low Acceleration Effort
  • Control over the Gripping Process
Static Cons:
  • High Effort when Reaching Over
  • Slower Climbing Style
Dynamic Pros:
  • Low Effort when Reaching Over
  • Takes Little Time
Dynamic Cons:
  • Higher Effort during Acceleration
  • High Effort when Gripping the Target

Everybody leans toward one style of climbing or another. The trick to becoming a better climber is to not only understand which style you fall in, but to learn how to effectively use the style that you're less comfortable with...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, November 26, 2021

Skis - Baseline Knowledge

When you start to talk about skis, it's important that you have a working knowledge of the different parts and each skiers different needs. This blog provides you with a baseline of understanding, so that you can hold your own in a conversation about what ski is best for what use...

Length

Skis are measured in centimeters. Most adults skis are between 160cm and 200cm in length. The length of the ski that you purchase should be in line with your height and weight...but those that are new to skiing may want a shorter ski for better control.

Here's a baseline size chart:



Waist and Turn Radius

The waist is the area directly underfoot. This is often where the width of the ski is measured. Wider skis are best for powder, but they are also harder to handle for beginners.

The wider a ski, the longer the turn radius. Here's a short video about how this works:



Ski Profile: Camber vs. Rocker vs. Early Rise


Click to Enlarge

Camber is a concave profile that allows for better snow contact and more pop coming out of turns. The rocker, on the other hand, is a ski profile with a more upturned tip and tail for deep snow conditions.

A flat or early rise ski, is a ski profile that has a flatter bottom with upturned tips. This is good for deep snow.

The following video delves into camber, flat/early rise and rockered skis:



Din Setting

The DIN setting, short for Deutsches Institut für Normung (German Institute for Standardization), is a ski setting that determines the amount of force that can be placed on a binding before it releases. This is set based on your weight, height and ability level. The DIN setting is usually adjusted by a ski shop professional, because if the ski doesn't release when you need it to, you will break your leg.

Touring Bindings

There are two standard types of bindings for the backcountry, frame bindings and tech bindings. Frame bindings are a heavier binding that aren't as good for touring, but perform exceptionally well in downhill terrain. They also operate better as crossover in-bounds/out-ofbounds bindings.

Tech bindings (or pin bindings) have a pin and hole system and attach directly to the boot. These are the go to bindings for ski touring and ski mountaineering. They don't operate as well in an in-bounds setting.

Frame and tech bindings release differently, so when people have a release malfunction, the injuries look different. Frame bindings tend to lead to knee injuries (meniscus, ACL, MCL, etc.), while tech bindings tend to lead to broken bones.

Conclusion

Skiing and backcountry skiing are equipment heavy sports, and we could talk tech all day. And while this isn't a comprehensive list of terms and concepts, it is a solid introduction.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/25/21

Happy Thanksgiving!

This is one of the biggest weekends of the year for climbing at certain areas. These areas include Smith Rock, Red Rock Canyon, Joshua Tree National Park, Moab, Indian Creek and many others that usually have decent weather this time of year.

If you don't have camping reservations, and you don't have a lodging plan, and you intend to visit one of these areas, make sure that you have a back-up plan.

And be careful...! There's often a spike in accidents over the long weekend...

Northwest:


--Glacier Creek Road (FR 39), which provides access to the north side of Mt. Baker, has been washed out at about mile 3.7. This is a severe washout. In addition to this, the road that is used to access Shannon Ridge on Mt. Shuksan has some severe erosion. It's still passable, but at mile marker .7 to mile maker, 1.2, the road could go if we have another serious weather event.

Sierra:

--My San Antonio is reporting that, "Three of Yosemite’s campgrounds — Tuolumne Meadows, Bridalveil Creek and Crane Flat — will be closed as they undergo extensive renovations. There will be no camping available at all three sites during the closures. Tuolumne Meadows will see the longest closure, as the National Park Service says that it will be shuttered until 2024, or even 2025, for rehabilitation. It is Yosemite’s largest campground, sprawling across 140 acres with 304 drive-in campsites for campers with cars, 21 for backpackers, seven group sites and four horse sites. The site serves 141,000 visitors a year." To read more, click here.

--Here's a cool piece on the Tahoe Nordic Search and  Rescue Team.

Desert Southwest:

--In an unusual move, the Joshua Tree National Park closed the classic route Heart of Darkness (5.11a) due to poor anchors. The closure will likely be short-lived. To read more, click here.

Caustic (5.11b) is a classic line in Calico Basin.
Photo by Caden Martin

--There is a Change.Org petition out there that is asking the Las Vegas BLM not to begin charging for parking at Red Rock Canyon's Calico Basin. A policy of charging people for parking could really push more people to park along the road, creating further problems for homeowners in the area. To read more and to sign, click here.

--In Tommy Caldwell and Alex Honnold news, they just completed the first repeat of What Dreams May Come (5.13, 10-Pitches) in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. In researching this post, I found that there's another route in Red Rock with the same name that's only 5.6. To read more, click here.


Colorado and Utah:

--From the Colorado Sun: "It wasn’t that long ago that ski resort operators lost sleep over snowfall. Then they had to fret over once-in-a-lifetime protocols to limit the spread of contagion at their ski areas.  Now, the worries are stacked even deeper, with affordable housing, dwindling numbers of workers and ever-lengthening lift lines joining the perennial fretting over snow and looming threat of spiking COVID cases." To read more, click here.

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "The Park City Professional Ski Patrol Association (PCPSPA) has been meeting with representatives from Park City Mountain, UT, and Vail Resorts since August of 2020 to negotiate a new contract. The current contract covering approximately 200 Ski Patrol and Mountain Safety personnel expired in November of 2020. With the opening day of the 2021-22 season just around the corner, the Union hopes to secure a contract that will lead to a livable wage for career employees." To read more, click here.

--There's a lot of plastic in your skis. And as we know, plastic is part of our environmental problem. In steps WNDR Alpine Skis. In an effort to decrease plastic in the world, the company is fashioning skis out of algae. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--OPB is reporting that, "The U.S. Senate unanimously confirmed Chuck F. Sams III Thursday as the first Native American to serve as director of the National Park Service in its 105-year history. Sams, a member of the Cayuse and Walla Walla tribes, which are part of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, will be the first confirmed director of the NPS since 2017 as the agency has been led by acting directors since then." To read more, click here.


--The Department of the Interior has announced: "Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland today formally established a process to review and replace derogatory names of the nation’s geographic features. She also declared “squaw” to be a derogatory term and ordered the Board on Geographic Names – the federal body tasked with naming geographic places – to implement procedures to remove the term from federal usage. 'Racist terms have no place in our vernacular or on our federal lands. Our nation’s lands and waters should be places to celebrate the outdoors and our shared cultural heritage – not to perpetuate the legacies of oppression,” said Secretary Haaland. “Today’s actions will accelerate an important process to reconcile derogatory place names and mark a significant step in honoring the ancestors who have stewarded our lands since time immemorial.' To read more, click here.

--The American Safe Climbing Association is kicking of a bolt replacement fundraiser. "There are tens of thousands of bolts in the US that need immediate replacement, and hundreds of thousands that will need replacement in the coming years. The cost of high-quality hardware is significant, even with cost-saving through bulk ordering and all-volunteer labor, the average cost to rebolt just one sport climb is well over $100." To read more and to donate, click here.

--And finally, in an effort to increase safety through the Kumbu Icefall on Mt. Everest, a pair of individuals may develop a work around, using a via ferra. To read about it, click here.


Monday, November 22, 2021

How to Belay with a Munter-Hitch

Outdoor Research and the American Mountain Guides have produced quite a few excellent videos. If you haven't checked them out yet, log onto youtube and go to the AMGA Tutorials page.

The following video -- featuring Elaina Arenz, AMGA Certified Rock Guide and occasional AAI Guide -- demonstrates several iterations of how one might use a munter-hitch to belay. The video covers belaying with a munter-hitch, tying off a munter-hitch and lowering with a munter-hitch.



--Jason D. Martin

Friday, November 19, 2021

Route Profile: North Face Chair Peak

As winter descends on the Cascades, I find myself thinking about one of my favorite winter alpine climbs in the Pacific Northwest. The North Face of Chair Peak is a classic winter ascent that can easily be done in a day. It has a beautiful alpine face that gets covered in snow. The freeze thaw cycle turns the face from powder on rock to a spectacular three pitch alpine line.

The route is moderate and with the exception of one ten foot step, the bulk of it is between fifty and sixty-five degrees. That one step is perhaps eighty degrees, but it is very short and sometimes isn't even iced up. The first time I climbed the peak, that last section was 5.6 rock.

Chair Peak Approach Route
Click on map to enlarge.

 Approaching Chair Peak. The face in the center is the east face
To get to the north face, you must drop over the saddle on the right.

The approach to this climb is relatively straight forward. You simply park at the Alpental Ski Area and then make your way up the Alpental Valley to the end, where Chair Peak oversees the bowl beneath it.

(Click on the image to view a larger version.)
This photo shows the north face on the righthand side and the
two variations that one can take on the northeast buttress which
is a route of a similar grade to the north face.

There are two routes that should be considered on the mountain. The north face is the obvious one, but the northeast buttress is just as good. However, the northeast buttress often requires a bit more mixed climbing than the north face.

Approaching the north face. 


The first pitch of the route climbs up a cool corner and gully on thin alpine ground.


The second pitch works it way up steep snow and ice to a tree belay.

 A climber approaching the tree belay.


The third pitch makes its way up more thin terrain to another belay, before the last pitch goes over the aforementioned step up to the summit.

The descent off the mountain is straightforward. A couple of rappels bring you down a gully on the south side of the east face.

On a short winter day, you really can't beat an outing on Chair Peak!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/18/21

Northwest:

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "Climate change has led numerous predictions to be made about the future of the skiing industry. An alarming study led by researchers at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reveals that there may not be enough snow to ski on Mount Hood in 50 years and that the Cascades may not have any snowpack by 2070." To read more, click here.


--A new movement in British Columbia aims to protect Mt. Waddington and to make it a non-motorized park in the Coast Range. To read about it, click here.

Sierra:

--Gripped is reporting that, "Brette Harrington has redpointed her El Capitan project with a tick of the 31-pitch El Corazon 5.13b. Harrington climbed with Elliott Bernhagen, who nearly sent the full route." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Climbing is reporting that, "Las Vegas lost a legend when Wendell Broussard, 81, passed away in mid-October. He was a lifelong adventurer, masterful storyteller, and mentor. Wendell was rugged at 6’4, yet elegant. For nearly 50 years, he worked nights as a dealer at Caesars Palace. By day, he was an architect of routes in Red Rock Canyon, with about 100 first ascents to his credit. But Wendell’s legacy is much more than that. He left a blueprint for a fulfilling life, demonstrating that the goal isn’t just to survive, but to thrive." Wendell always had a story to tell, and he'll be missed. To read more, click here.

--Somebody is leaving painted rocks all over Carlsbad Cavern National Park in New Mexico, and the Park Service would like this to stop. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

Lor Saburin climbing in Red River Gorge
Image from They/Them by Patagonia Films

--If you haven't watched the awesome film from Patagonia about the non-binary climber and AAI Guide, Lor Sabourin, then you should watch it now! A piece on the film and on Lor was recently posted by CNN. To read that, click here.

--Gear Junkie is reporting that, "Petzl has issued a recall for every Scorpio Eashook via ferrata lanyard delivered this year. The carabiner gates may stop automatically closing, making the system unsafe." To read more, click here.

--Peakrankings is reporting that, "a traditional ski resort staple is permanently disappearing from all Vail Resorts mountains. A source within the company has confirmed to PeakRankings that physical pocket trail maps will not be returning to Vail’s resorts after the company discontinued them for 2020-21 due to COVID. Instead, guests will be advised to pull up mountain guides on the EpicMix app or individual resort websites. The company says the choice not to reintroduce trail maps is an environmental one as part of its Commitment to Zero, with concerns about paper use and viable virtual alternatives spearheading the decision." To read more, click here.

--Wildfires are having a greater and greater impact on climbing. Check out the Access Fund blog on how the growing threat impacts the sport we love.

Prices for Single Day Walk-Up Lift Tickets are Obscene...


--The New York Times is reporting that, "In August 2018, Mark Lantis’s mother dropped him off at a trailhead at Yellowstone National Park to search for the buried treasure of an eccentric millionaire. But after going off trail and getting lost in the Wyoming backcountry, Mr. Lantis ended up in need of a helicopter airlift. He ultimately did not find the treasure, but he was charged with reckless disorderly conduct. After a hearing before a magistrate judge in 2019, Mr. Lantis was convicted and sentenced to five years of unsupervised probation. He was also banned for five years from Yellowstone National Park and ordered to pay a $2,880 fine to cover the cost of the rescue." It is the opinion of AAI's staff, that charging for rescue is always wrong. The reason? People may become afraid to call for help when they need it, or may hide from rescuers. To read more, click here.

--High Country News is reporting that, "despite knowing for years about widespread harassment across the agency and promising to take action, the National Park Service buried an internal study that shed new light on the problem, High Country News has confirmed. The Voices Tour Report, which was compiled in 2018, goes further than any past NPS report in describing how women, LGBTQ+ and Black, Indigenous and people of color are treated in the workplace and left unprotected by agency leadership. In early November, an employee leaked the report to Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER), which tipped HCN off." To read more, click here.

--Deadline is reporting that, "Tragedy struck in the Tibetan Himalayas on October 5, 1999, when an avalanche claimed the life of two Americans, including Alex Lowe, a mountaineer considered perhaps the foremost climber in the world. It was an incalculable loss for the climbing community, but something worse for the family Lowe left behind: wife Jennifer and their three young boys, Max, Sam and Isaac. Max, who grew up to be a filmmaker, attempts to come to terms with his father’s death and all that happened after it in the National Geographic documentary Torn." To read more, click here.