Friday, February 26, 2021

Film Review: The Snow Walker

Not every film I review for this blog is completely connected to the mountains.  Occasionally, I post reviews of books and films that are only marginally linked to mountain culture.  Usually these are connected to our mission of bringing you the most interesting mountain content by some small thread.  The 2003 film, The Snow Walker is one of these.  No, it's not about climbing or skiing, but it is about indigenous culture and adventure, two things that we at the American Alpine Institute care about a great deal.


The Snow Walker is an interesting study of cultural understanding.  The story takes place in the fifties in a world where there is little tolerance for individuals who are not white and male.  Charlie Halliday (Barry Pepper) is a brash young pilot in Canada's Northern Territories who is enlisted to fly a sick Inuit woman (Annabella Piugattuk) who speaks very little English to a hospital in Yellowknife.  In the process of bringing her to safety across the barren tundra, Halliday crashes his plane.  The arrogant pilot must learn modesty, trust and understanding as the only way to stay alive in the barren arctic wastes is to put his faith in Inuit survival techniques.

Most of the stranger-in-a-strange-land culture-clash films have two elements to "make them exciting."  First, they tend to take place in a violent setting.  In other words, there is some kind of war or conflict, often between the cultures portrayed.  And second, there is usually a romance.  Sometimes the romance is between members of the same culture and sometimes it's cross-cultural.  Some excellent examples of these types of films include Kevin Costner's Dances with Wolves, Tom Cruise's The Last Samurai, last year's ubber-blockbuster Avatar, and even Disney's Pocahontas.  The Snow Walker breaks away from these cliche models and does something completely different.  There is no war between cultures and there is no romance between the two lead characters.  Instead, the film documents a story of trust and friendship deep in the wilderness and in many ways, the simplicity of the story creates a far more powerful message than some of the other films that have dealt with this theme.

Barry Pepper -- the film's lead -- is one of those actors you know you've seen before, but often can't place.  He's the guy that's in every movie, but when it comes right down to it, you can't name a single one.  Well, let me do it for you.  Pepper has been in big Hollywood productions like Seven Pounds, Flags of Our Fathers, 25th Hour, We Were Soldiers, Knockaround Guys, The Green Mile, Enemy of the State, and Saving Private Ryan.  He has also played leading and secondary roles in a variety of television shows and lesser known Hollywood and independent films.  The actor has even performed a feature role in a "live action" video game.

Pepper's performance in The Snow Walker makes me wonder why this particular actor has been typed as a supporting character in most of the work that he has done.  The actor has a breadth of range that has been ignored by big Hollywood directors and producers.  As most of us only have the slightest knowledge of Inuit culture, we first empathize with Pepper's character, lost in the wilderness. And then as he begins to connect with his Inuit companion, so too do we.



The Snow Walker is not a film that will blow you away with its originality.  You've seen this story before.  Maybe you haven't seen it with this particular culture being explored, but you've likely seen it with everything from aliens to Samurai. However, it is unlikely that you've seen this type of cultural-understanding story done before in such a tender and "un-Hollywood" way.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, February 25, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/25/2021

Northwest:

--Mt. Rainier National Park has switched its systems to online permitting. In other words, if you want to hike or climb in the Park, you'll have  to obtain an online permit first. To read more, click here.

--The Newhalem crags (including Ryan's Wall) on Highway 20 in Washington, are currently closed due to peregrine nesting.

Skiing the Baker Backcountry

--Gripped is reporting that, "resort and backcountry skiing is booming, and despite the difficult road ahead to approval, a proposal to build a year-round ski and mountain biking area in B.C. got the green light for the next stage of the application process." To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--KTLA 5 is reporting that, "The widow and a friend of a skier killed in an avalanche at a Lake Tahoe ski resort last year have filed separate lawsuits accusing the resort of negligently rushing to open the slopes in unsafe conditions for a holiday weekend that’s typically one of the season’s busiest." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Durango Herald is reporting that, "A petition has been circulating in recent days calling for Purgatory Resort to allow uphill travel on its slopes. Uphill skiing, also known as skinning, is when people climb mountain slopes with skis fitted for backcountry travel. Once at the top, skiers can adjust their gear and glide downhill." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The New York Post is reporting that, "A skier was killed after getting caught in an avalanche in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming, park officials said. Matthew Brien, 33, of Jackson, had been leading a group in the upper part of the Broken Thumb Couloir when the avalanche occurred around noon Monday." To read more, click here.

--TV 6 Fox is reporting on an ice climbing accident in Michigan: "An ice climber in Munising had to be rescued Friday after falling roughly 20 feet during a climb. According to the Alger County Sheriff’s Office, at 3:43 p.m. Feb. 19, Alger County Dispatch received a 911 call reporting that an ice climber had fallen and had significant injuries.  The sheriff’s office says the victim was climbing the ice formation known as “Sweet Mother Moses (WI 3+)” which is located approximately 1/2 mile east of Sand Point in Munising." To read more, click here.

--The National Park Service has quietly launched an app that provides a tremendous amount of information for the park visitor in each park. To read about it, click here.

--Holy smokes! Snews is reporting that, "there’s seismic news in the media, outdoor, endurance, and tech industries today. Pocket Outdoor Media (parent company to SNEWS, Backpacker, and nearly 30 other active living brands) announced news that will catapult the Boulder-based company into a powerful position in these industries: It has purchased Outside Magazine, Outside TV, Gaia GPS, Peloton Magazine, and athleteReg." To read more, click here.

--ABC News is reporting on an unusual bear attack.  An Alaska woman had the scare of a lifetime when using an outhouse in the backcountry and she was attacked by a bear, from below. 'I got out there and sat down on the toilet and immediately something bit my butt right as I sat down,' Shannon Stevens told The Associated Press on Thursday. 'I jumped up and I screamed when it happened.'" To read more, click here.

--E. Chai Vasarhelyi and Jimmy Chin -- the team that brought us the Academy Award Winning Free Solo -- have multiple new projects lined up. From a documentary about the Tai cave rescue to the a series about outdoor adventure athletes, the pair are getting very busy. To read more, click here.

--It's important to respect others on the ski slope, and if you accidentally cut someone off, apologize. And if you get cut-off and you're not injured, no harm done. If someone is out-of-control, it's fine to say something, but it should never turn into a fight. But that's what happened at Vermont's Mt. Snow when a skier and a snowboarder got into it. One person is thrown to the ground. It's BS. A video of the incident is making the rounds.

--Two large new ice routes have been established in the Valdez area of Alaska. To read about them, click here.

Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Avalanche Awareness: Beacon Check

The American Mountain Guides Association and Outdoor Research have come together to create a video on avalanche beacons and the morning beacon check. Arguably, this check is one of the most important parts of the day. If your beacon doesn't work, you're not going to be found if you get avalanched, and you certainly won't be able to find your friend if he gets avalanched...

Check out the video below:



Here is a good process for completing a beacon check:

1) Turn on the beacons and confirm that there is power. Each individual should state their battery life. Batteries that are at less than 80% should be changed out. Rechargeable batteries are not as good as off-the-shelf batteries as they appear to have a lot of power but then lose it quickly.

2) Everybody accept for one person (the leader) should switch their beacons to search mode. They should see if they can "see" the person in transmit mode and the distance on their beacons. Don't touch beacons together when you practice this as direct contact can fry the circuits.

3) The team should turn their beacons back to transmit. The leader can then switch his beacon to search and have the members of the team file by as he checks that he can "see" them with his beacon.

4) Once this is complete, one person should watch as the leader turns his beacon back to transmit.

5) Beacons can be stored in the beacon harness or in a pocket. If in a pocket, the pocket should be integrated (so that it can't tear off) and it should have a zipper.

6) Note that cell phones, Go Pros, radios, or other electronic devices may adversely impact the effectiveness of a beacon. These devices should be stored away from the beacon.

Your avalanche beacon is your life. Make sure that it's on and that it has been adequately checked before going out to ski!

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, February 22, 2021

Avalanche Awareness: Beacon Search

Seventy-five percent of all avalanche deaths are due to asphyxiation. After fifteen minutes of being buried in an avalanche, your chances of survival drop sixty-percent. Knowing how to use an avalanche beacon well is an essential skill for the backcountry traveler.

In the following video, the concept of an avalanche beacon search is described in detail:



Understanding the process of searching for a victim is essential. Practice with your beacon and take an AIARE Avalanche Level I course!

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, February 19, 2021

Body Position and Finger Strength Training

The Climbing Movement Essential Training Series on Youtube is kind of awesome. The series is composed of a number of well produced videos that focus on different aspects of training for climbing.

The following video is specifically oriented toward training for body position and strength. Essentially, you will put yourself into some difficult climbing postures and hold yourself there to build up strength.



Following is a breakdown of the workout from the video:

--12 Climbing Postures
--3 Times Each
--30-45 Minutes
  1. Set a variety of climbing positions using 3 points of contact.
  2. Choose 3 holds (2 arms, 1 foot)
  3. "Freeze" and balance your weight with the points of contact.
  4. Time each posture.
  5. For strength training, muscle failure should occur before 10-12 seconds.
  6. Recreate postures that you encounter in your climbing projects.
  7. Work with higher footholds and harder handholds.
  8. Increase the intensity and pressure as you progress.
  9. The key is to maintain a static contraction without momentum or movement.
  10. Repeat each posture 3 times.
--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, February 18, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/18/21

Avalanche Note:

February of 2021 may go down as one of the deadliest months for avalanche fatalities in history. At this point at least sixteen people have been killed, and maybe more (articles are inconsistent). This is terribly sad. Please be careful out there. If you're unsure about the hazard, go home, or ski/ride at a resort. We want everyone to come home from every mountain trip...

Northwest:


--Gripped is reporting that, "An avalanche in Brandywine Bowl (Whistler area) on Saturday afternoon claimed the life of climber and snowboarder Dave Henkel, 45, a member of the Squamish community. Outpourings of grief and disbelief flooded social media from his many friends and connections." To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "Over the past year, healthcare workers have made an indelible impact on communities around the country. To honor their unwavering commitment and offer thanks, Homewood Mountain Resort is giving away lift tickets, access to the mountain an hour before the general public, and complimentary breakfast to 200 healthcare workers on Sunday, February 28, 2021." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A historic 5.14c in Joshua Tree National Park has been seriously downgraded, now clocking in at a still-quite-hard 5.12d. However, the original grade of 14c made it one of the hardest climbs in the country. Now? Not so much. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Two avalanches resulted in fatalities in Colorado on Sunday. To read more, click here.

--A skier died after striking a tree Breckenridge Ski Resort last week.

--The Denver Channel is reporting that, "A snowmobiler remains missing after an avalanche near Ruby Mountain in Jackson County on Tuesday." To read more, click here.

--The following is an excellent snapshot of what happened on the February 6th avalanche that killed four people in the Wilson Glades area of Wilson Peak in Utah:


--The avalanche hazard in Utah is off the charts right now. Little Cottonwood Canyon has been closed, as have some resorts. To read more, click here.

--Fox 13 is reporting that, "Officials are looking for help in identifying who vandalized parts of Bryce Canyon National Park." To read more, click here.

--A new gym is being planned in Moab. They're interested in hearing the community's thoughts.

Notes from All Over:

--Avalanches aren't the only hazard right now. On Sunday, a 27-year-old died in a tree-well at Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Another skier died in a tree-well at Montana's Bridger Bowl. A third died at Vermont's Stowe Mountain, but this appears to be the result of a tree collision.

--A production company owned by the Obamas will be making a film about Tenzing Norgay for Netflix. Tenzing was on the first ascent of Mt. Everest in 1953. To read more, click here.

--Outside is reporting that, "Kilimanjaro could soon look quite different, and not just because of its shrinking glaciers. The Tanzanian government recently approved construction of a cable car on the 19,341-foot peak, the highest summit in Africa and the tallest freestanding mountain in the world. Still, while it may technically be approved, the project is far from a sure bet." To read more, click here.

--Late last week, several ski resorts in Montana closed due to life-threatening cold weather. To read more, click here.

--Ski slopes in parts of Europe are yellow due to a storm in the Sahara that blew sand into the region. To read about it and to see photos, click here.

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Mixed Climbing Training

I really like mixed climbing. It's tremendously fun. But it's also tremendously pumpy. Clearly to do it well, you should train a lot.  And while I haven't built any special training walls or anything yet, I certainly love seeing what other people have built to train for this particularly odd type of climbing...

In the following video, a farmworker without easy access to the mountains demos several of his training contraptions while talking about mixed climbing.



--Jason D. Martin

Monday, February 15, 2021

How To Wrap a Cordellete

A few years ago I was guiding a multi-pitch line in Red Rock Canyon. Before we launched off the ground, I showed the climbers that I was working with how to wrap up a cordellete.

Their response?

"Oh, it's a Codyball."

"A what?" I responded.

"A Codyball," one of the climbers said. "When we were in the Gunks, we had a guide named Cody who showed us this technique. We didn't know what to call it, so we started to call it a Codyball."

So Cody, wherever you are...thank-you. For I too have started to call this technique of wrapping up a cordellete a Codyball.

Before launching into how to tie a Codyball, I'd like to point out that there are many ways to stow a cordellete. The two most popular ways are 1) to simply triple up the cordellete and then tie an eight into it and 2) to tie a Codyball.

It is easier, albeit sloppier to simply tie the cordellete into an eight. In addition to this, it is quite long. A long cordellete -- or anything long hanging off your harness -- can be dangerous when you are mountaineering or ice climbing. Things can get stuck in your crampons when you are not paying attention.

A cordellete tied as an eight.

A Codyball is a little bit harder to make. It requires you to spend a bit of time wrapping up the cord and it can also hang down too far if you are not careful. If you're wearing crampons, always be very careful about how far down things hang.

To make a Codyball:

1) Start with the end of the cordellete in your hand.


2) Wrap the cord around your hand until there is only about two feet left.



3) Take your hand out of the wrap and squeeze that section of cord together.


4) Wrap the remaining cord around the squeezed section. Be sure to capture the strand coming out of the squeezed section so that it all doesn't come unraveled.


5) Once there is almost no additional cord left, take the remaining line and push it through the eye of the Codyball.

A finished Codyball.

6) When the Codyball is finished, you may clip it to your harness. If it hangs down too much, simply add a couple more twists with the cord around the ball until the tail is at the desired length.

Codyballs provide a great way to stow your cordellete, but like everything else in this blog, they take some practice. When you're sitting around watching movies on your laptop, keep a cordellete in your hand. It will probably only take one or two viewings of The Eiger Sanction before you'll have it completely dialed.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, February 12, 2021

Route Finding: Magnetic Declination

Your compass is pointing in the wrong direction. You know it's not north. Indeed, it's nowhere near north.

So what's up? Is it broken? Defective? What?

The problem is that it's not pointing at "true north." Instead, it's pointing at "magnetic north." Most people don't realize that there are two North Poles, the real one and the fake one, the true one and the magnetic one.

The Compass Dude puts it a bit more succinctly:

Why are there two different poles? Good question!

The magnetic north and south poles are the ends of the magnetic field around the earth. The magnetic field is created by magnetic elements in the earth's fluid outer core and this molten rock does not align perfectly with the axis around which the earth spins.

There are actually many different sources of magnetic activity around and in the world. All those influencing factors combine to create the north and south attractions at each spot on the globe. The actual strength and direction of 'north' is slightly different everywhere, but it is generally towards the 'top' of the planet.

The difference between true north and magnetic north is referred to as the declination. If you are not aware of the declination in a given area, then you may not be able to locate true north.
Example of magnetic declination showing a compass needle
with a "positive" (or "easterly") variation from geographic north.
From Wikipedia

Modern compasses are designed in such a way that the declination may be set. If you adjust the compass properly allowing the arrow to line up, then you will get a reading which shows both where true north is as well as magnetic north.

Most compasses require one to set the red compass point a given number of degrees off of true north. Usually there is a screw on the back of the compass that will allow you to set the declination. Two lines, often referred to as "the shed," will shift the appropriate distance off of true north. Once this is set, you will be able to shift the compass to the point where the needle is in the center of the shed. The printed "N" will then point toward true north.

Unfortunately, the declination is not always the same from one area to another. Every place on the planet has its own local irregularities and due to the fact that magnetic north isn't actually at the top of the globe, there are other variables that need to be taken into account before setting the declination. Following is a short explanation from Wikipedia on the variables:

Magnetic declination varies both from place to place, and with the passage of time. As a traveller cruises the east coast of the United States, for example, the declination varies from 20 degrees west (in Maine) to zero (in Florida), to 10 degrees east (in Texas), meaning a compass adjusted at the beginning of the journey would have a true north error of over 30 degrees if not adjusted for the changing declination.

In most areas, the spatial variation reflects the irregularities of the flows deep in the earth; in some areas, deposits of iron ore ormagnetite in the Earth's crust may contribute strongly to the declination. Similarly, secular changes to these flows result in slow changes to the field strength and direction at the same point on the Earth.

The magnetic declination in a given area will change slowly over time, possibly as much as 2-2.5 degrees every hundred years or so, depending upon how far from the magnetic poles it is. This may be insignificant to most travellers, but can be important if using magnetic bearings from old charts or metes (directions) in old deeds for locating places with any precision.

There are many ways to determine the declination. The first and most common way is to simply get it off of a USGS topo map. Unfortunately many maps are out-of-date and the declination may have changed. You may also get your declination from the web at the NOAA website, here.

Following is a short video which reviews many of the key points in this article:



To learn more about compasses and declination, the Compass Dude has a great site with a lot of valuable information.

Knowing how to use your compass well will help to keep you from getting lost... And staying found makes every trip a lot more fun!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, February 11, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/11/2021

Avalanche Fatalities:

--This has been an incredibly tough year. Please be safe out there...


Northwest:

--Snow Brains is reporting that, "two backcountry skiers from Ashland, OR, were caught in an avalanche around 2 pm Wednesday (Feb 3) near Etna Summit, CA, according to the Siskiyou County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue Team. One of the skiers was able to self-rescue, while the other unfortunately died. He has been identified as 35-year-old Brook Golling." To read more, click here.

--The Daily Beast is reporting that, "A Washington State Patrol trooper was killed Monday by an avalanche while snowmobiling, the Kittitas County Sheriff’s Office announced Monday. Steve Houle, 51, was a 28-year veteran of the patrol, and out riding with another man when he became stuck in the avalanche." To read more, click here.

--The Seattle Times is reporting that, "Washington State Parks opened three temporary Sno-Parks along the Interstate 90 corridor this week to better accommodate a surge of visitors to the Cascades this winter as local residents seek outdoor recreation options during the colder months." To read more, click here.

--A man in Field, British Columbia, successfully rescued an elk that was hit by an avalanche. Check it out, here.

Sierra:

--The Sierra Wave is reporting that, "The Inyo National Forest and the Bureau of Land Management Bishop Field Office are holding a virtual public meeting to gather input for potential off-highway vehicle grant funding requests." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:


--A man missing for 49-days in the Grand Canyon has just been found...alive! To read about it, click here.

--AAI Guide Lor Sabourin has just become the first non-binary climber to send a 5.14a on trad gear. They completed a line called East Coast Fist Bump in Sedona. To read about it, click here.

Colorado and Utah:


--Four backcountry skiers were killed in an avalanche in Mill Creek Canyon on the northeast face of Wilson's Glade. This can be found just outside Salt Lake City. To read more, click here.

--Park Record is reporting that, "Park City Mountain Resort has indefinitely closed its backcountry gates, significantly curtailing backcountry skiing access to public lands from the Wasatch Back in the wake of two recent avalanche deaths just outside its boundaries." To read more, click here.

--There has been a breakout of COVID-19 at Winter Park among the ski resort employees. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A skier was rescued by the Coast Guard in Alaska after being mauled by a bear. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Backcountry Ski Repair and First Aid Essentials

Sarah Carpenter is an AMGA certified ski guide and one of the owners of the American Avalanche Institute, one of AAI's partners in avalanche training. Sarah is one of the best, and when she speaks on backcountry skiing, wise people listen.

The following video covers her thoughts on what is needed in backcountry ski repair kit, as well as in a backcountry first aid kit for a skiing/splitboard outing.



The following is a quick list of what she covers. See the video for context...

Repair List
--Bivy Sack or Rescue Sled
--Cordallete
--Cord
--2-3 Carabiners
--4-5 Ski Straps
--Hose Clamp
--Bailing Wire
--Glob Stopper
--Scraper
--Spare Batteries
--Duct Tape
--Flagging Tape
--Binding Screw/Plummer's Putty
--Multi-Tool
--Binding Buddy

First Aid List
--Gloves
--Faceshield
--Ace Wrap
--Hand Warmers
--Blister Repair
--Athletic Tape
--Wound Closure Strips
--BandAids
--Gauze
--Tampons
--Ibuprophine
--Benedryl
--Imodium

Other Items
--Personal Locator Beacon/Satellite Messaging System
--Radios (Person -to-Person Coms)
--Backup Battery Pack
--Headlamp
--Firestarter
--Radio

--Jason D. Martin


Monday, February 8, 2021

Skin Care for your Ski Skins when in the Backcountry

Climbing skins for your skis are an essential part of backcountry skiing. But they are also a piece of gear that are maybe not thought about or respected as much as they should be given how important they are to your day out.

Following is a short video from the AMGA and Outdoor Research on skin care during a backcountry ski or splitboard outing.


There are a lot of excellent tips in the video and you should definitely watch the whole thing, but here is a round-up of some main points.

--Keep skins warm and dry, dog-hair and pine-needle free.
--Do not leave them in the sun or too close to the fire.
--The glue backer is nice for summer storage.
--Have "bips" and "bops" to repair the tip and tail.

--Jason D. Martin


Friday, February 5, 2021

American Alpine Institute Social Media Resources

If you're reading this post, you're probably reading it because you were lead to it by one of our social media outlets. And you might not be aware that we have other social media outlets that provide different information.


Our primary social media interaction takes place through our primary Facebook account. We promote our blogs, interesting articles and our programs on this feed. Occasionally, we also post photos and videos. 

The primary Facebook account is super busy and we have conversations with climbers, mountaineers, hikers and backcountry users every single day on this medium.


Our Equipment Shop is a gem in the outdoor industry, with a focus on climbing, mountaineering, backcountry skiing, splitboarding, and backpacking. With carefully selected items that range from expedition equipment to outfitting your first day on the trail, our shop staff are constantly testing and trying out new gear so that you don't have to. Check in for updates on new gear, services, Guides Choice testing reviews, and tech tips.


In addition to courses and ascents, AAI is also a Washington State Vocational School. We provide courses for people who would like to be outdoor educators, guides, backcountry rangers and ski patrollers. Our Vocational Facebook Group was designed to provide those who are going through our vocational programs with:
  1. A place for our vocational students to talk to each other.
  2. A place for us to promote vocational programs to those interested.
  3. A jobs board. Many, many, many jobs in the outdoor industry, in outdoor education and in guiding come across our desks. We post them all here.

This page was designed specifically for the womxm of AAI. This includes womxn guides, womxn participants, and womxn who are interested in what AAI has to offer. 

The page includes many conversations that are specific to the concerns of womxn in the mountains and on AAI programs. There are also a lot of tips and tricks, some of which are specific to womxn, and others that are simply good mountain techniques that may be employed by all users.

It should be noted that this is a closed group. Those who are interested will have to apply for entry.


The primary AAI Instagram account is a deeply curated collection of photos of mountain adventure. The photos include climbing, skiing, mountaineering, rescue, backpacking and scenic vistas. Occasionally, we have Instagram takeovers from Instagram influencers who focus on the mountain environment.

Climbing ice in Ouray, Colorado.
An example from our Instagram Feed
Photo by Will Nunez


While the primary Instagram account doesn't have a location specific focus, the AAI Southwest Instagram focuses directly on climbing, hiking, backpacking and skiing in the the Southwestern part of the United States. The feed is populated by excellent pictures from Red Rock Canyon, Joshua Tree National Park and the Sierra-Nevada mountain range.

An aid climbing program in Red Rock Canyon.
An example of our Southwest Instagram feed.
Photo by Andy Stephen


The AAI Twitter feed provides much of the same material as what's found on the primary facebook account. However, it also includes curated retweets from media sources, individuals and organizations that provide insight into conditions, techniques, and the politics of the outdoors. This is an active feed with approximately a dozen tweets or retweets every day.


AAI's TikTok feed is primarily a curated group of clips of climbers, skiers, mountaineers, guides and participants enjoying the mountains. The clips are short -- less than a minute, with most being less than 30-seconds -- and are all set to music.

Julie-Ann Holder and Jacqueline Thompson
do cartwheels on Mt. Baker.
An example from AAI's TikTok feed.

The TikTok feed may be the least educational of all of our feeds. It isn't populated with technical tips or thoughts on the state of a given outdoor area. No, instead, it's just mountain people having fun in the mountains...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, February 4, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/4/2021

Northwest:

--KDRV 12 is reporting that, "Search and rescue teams successfully tracked down a cross-country skier who became lost in the Mt. Ashland area on Saturday evening, according to the Jackson County Sheriff's Office. The Sheriff's Office received a report of the missing skier just before 5:45 p.m. on Saturday. The cross-country skier was reportedly dressed for the weather, and was last seen on the Pacific Crest Trail near Grouse Shelter about two hours prior." To read more, click here.

Natural avalanches pummeled the Baker Backcountry on Monday.
Video by Kyle Dungan

--Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest lost a lot of firefighting equipment to thieves recently: "The United States Forest Service is requesting the public’s assistance in identifying suspects involved with the theft of wildland firefighting equipment from the Koma Kulshan Guard Station near Concrete Washington; the home base of the Baker River Hotshot Crew. During the weekend of December 18th - 21st, 2020, multiple suspects broke into the Forest Service’s Hotshot Compound stealing an estimated $45,000 or more of vital firefighting equipment." To read more, click here.

Sierra:

--The Daily News is reporting that a 54-year-old skier was killed at Mammoth Mountain Ski Resort when he was "buried upside down." This is likely a tree-well immersion incident, but they note that the accident is being investigated. To read more, click here.

--An individual survived being lost in a massive Sierra snowstorm for a week, last week. Check it out.

Desert Southwest:

--From Death Valley National Park: "A canyoneer died in an accident in Death Valley National Park on Saturday, January 30. Justin Ibershoff (38) of Los Angeles, was descending a technical route down Deimos Canyon with six friends. The group was very experienced, and most members of the party had descended this canyon several times before. The incident occurred while Mr. Ibershoff was descending a steep, rocky slope to the top of the third rappel anchor. He apparently stepped on a rock that moved, triggering a rockslide that swept him past two companions and over the edge of the 95-foot-tall dry fall." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Three skiers were killed after an avalanche swept four people down a slope near Silverton on Monday. Vail Daily is reporting that, "The four men, part of a larger group of backcountry skiers, triggered a large avalanche between the towns of Silverton and Ophir while traveling in an area known locally as “The Nose” around the Middle Fork of Mineral Creek." To read more, click here.

--CNN is reporting that, " skier died after being buried by an avalanche Saturday in the backcountry of Summit County, Utah. Kurt Damschroder, 57, of Park City, Utah, was killed after he was caught in the avalanche, Summit County Sheriff Justin Martinez said in a tweet Sunday." To read more, click here.

--Snow Brains is reporting that, "a Colorado Search and Rescue Team has started a GoFundMe to raise funds to replace the $10,300 worth of equipment they had stolen before Christmas. The Rampart Search and Rescue had equipment and belongings stolen after a thief broke into their storage unit early on December 14, 2020, on Huron Street in Northglenn, CO." To read more, click here.

--A ski resort closed since 2001 is slated to reopen in Colorado next year. The Cuchara Ski Resort on eastern slope of the Sangre de Cristo range, operated from 1981 to 2000. To read more, click here.













Notes from All Over:

--East Idaho News is reporting on multiple avalanche burials in the Tetons: "Teton Interagency Dispatch Center received an emergency call at approximately 2:30 p.m. Sunday about several skiers involved in an avalanche in the Olive Oil area located in south east Grand Teton National Park. Park rangers and Teton County Search and Rescue members jointly responded. Four skiers were skiing the east face of Olive Oil when one of the skiers triggered an avalanche. All the skiers were caught in the slide, estimated to be 40-feet wide and 2-3 feet deep. One of the skiers was able to dial 911 and reach Teton Interagency Dispatch Center to ask for help and provide location information." To read more, click here.























--A new crime drama will take place in the National Parks. From Variety: "ABC has given a pilot order to the drama “National Parks,” which hails from Kevin Costner. The project was first announced as being in development at ABC in Dec. 2019.  Anthony Hemingway is now attached to executive produce and direct the pilot via Anthony Hemingway Productions." To read more, click here.

--Two Indian climbers have been banned from Nepal and from climbing Mt. Everest after lying about reaching the summit of the mountain. To read about it, click here.

--Snow Brains is reporting that, "last Saturday, January 30th, two men who had spent the day skiing at Seven Springs Mountain Resort in Maryland got into an altercation about who was a better skier, causing a fight to break out. Paz Argueta, 28, has now been arrested for aggravated assault, simple assault, resisting arrest, and criminal mischief." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, February 2, 2021

Goggle Fogging

So, there I was, a brand new pair of goggles on a wet northwest ski day. The light was flat and there was a lot of fog. It was really hard to see.

The following day...? Crystal clear.

Don't let a wet day ruin your goggles!

But still, really hard to see.

At some point on the rainy ski day, water got in between the lenses of my goggles. And from that point forward, it was almost impossible to get the water out. The goggles were constantly fogging, regardless of the day's weather.

And thus began my quest to fix my new goggles.

Over the next several days, I tried a number of different fixes. Depending on the goggle brand and build, one of these may work better than another.

Let Them Dry Out in a Warm Area

The first and least consequential way of dealing with water between the lenses is to simply place the goggles in a warm dry place. For example, I left mine in the laundry room for a week between ski trips. They were not in a cold garage or left in my car.

It is possible to pop out the lens' in order to make it dry more quickly. Airflow will certainly be better. But I found that my lens'  did not go back in well. Indeed, they constantly popped out of the frame after I did this, adding insult to injury.

Note the mismatch between the lens and the frame in this picture.
This remains a problem to this day with this pair of Julbo Goggles.

The Rice Treatment

Many of you have used rice to get water out of a cellphone. The idea here is the same. Place the lens' -- sans frame -- into a bag or dried rice. Often this will suck out the moisture.

As noted above, the lens may not go back in properly once out.

The Dryer Treatment

The thing that ultimately worked the best, was to put the goggle frames into the goggle bag, then put them in the drying machine. I ran the dryer on medium heat for a half-an-hour, and when they came out, they were all fixed.

Later I did this with a different pair of goggles without taking the lens' out. It worked just fine and allowed me to avoid trying to get the lens back in.

It should be noted that many goggles are designed for multiple lens'. These models may not have the same problem with the lens going back in as those models that don't have this feature.

Non-Between-the-Lens Issue

Sometimes fogging takes place because of something a bit more common than water between the lenses.

1) It's not uncommon for people to put their goggles up on their wet helmet. Snow and water often gets into the goggles that way. This is where a lot of fogging issues start. 

2) Another common reason that goggles fog is if a face mask is tucked up under them. Your breath can fog them. This can be avoided by keeping the mask out of your goggles.

3) This should be obvious, but after you fall down, make sure to clean snow off the goggles. Often snow gets plastered on the padding, which allows them to slowly get saturated as your body heat melts the snow.

4) Occasionally water drips down from above, and enters the goggle padding. A helmet with a visor can help reduce this particular problem.

5) If you're overdressed and you get hot on your descent, sweat and body heat can contribute to goggle fogging.

6) And finally, when all else fails, it's not a bad idea to have a backup pair...

Goggle Care

There are a few rules to keep in mind that will help decrease fogging issues.

1) Avoid rubbing water out of the goggles with your fingers or anything that is rough. It's best to try to shake them out. When you rub the lens, you can inadvertently rub off the anti-fogging agent that manufacturers apply.

2) When you aren't using them, it's best to keep your goggles in a place that is warm and dry. Extreme temperatures can cause them to wear out faster. Indeed, putting cold goggles on your warm face just causes fogging...so try to keep them at room temperature before use.

3) Don't store your goggles away somewhere where they can't dry off. Wet goggles should be treated like any other gear. Dry them, then store them...

Goggles are an essential part of a skier's kit. But if you can't see through them, they're essentially worthless. Take the time to buy a quality pair of goggles and then treat them well. Pay attention to them. They're just as important as any other piece of essential equipment.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, February 1, 2021

Miranda in the Wild - Easy Meal Prep for the Backcountry

When you come on a domestic trip with the American Alpine Institute, you are required to cook for yourself. This is a bit unusual for guide services like ours in North America. Most feed you...but our mission is to help you become self-sufficient in the backcountry. As such, we like to see people cook for themselves.

When you do one of our trips,  we send you a menu with some ideas on how to cook for yourself in the backcountry. But occasionally, something cool comes along that's helpful. This video from REI and Miranda in the Wild provides directions for a few easy to make backcountry meals:



One thing that should be noted is that boiling anything for eight minutes will use a tremendous amount of water. I often bring my water to a boil, put the noodles in it and let them boil for a couple of minutes. Then I turn off the stove and let them soak. Sometimes that's enough. But if you want them really hot, you can always relight the stove for a minute or two.

Happy eating!

--Jason D. Martin