Thursday, April 29, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 4/29/21


--A 27-year old climber died in Leavenworth on Friday at Bruce's Boulder. It appears that he had some kind of a trad gear failure that lead to a fall. To read about it, click here.

--Go Skagit is reporting that, "The Highway 20 west entrance portal to North Cascades National Park was recently vandalized, and thefts at the park’s trailheads are increasing." To read more, click here.

--Who's winning? From the Seattle Times: "the two biggest rival corporations in ski resort management staked their claims in Washington state in 2018 by purchasing two of the Central Cascades’ most beloved ski areas. Vail Resorts, based in Broomfield, Colorado, bought Stevens Pass, the lovably crusty ski area on one of the continent’s snowiest mountain passes reachable by road; meanwhile, Denver-based Alterra Mountain Company snapped up Crystal Mountain, a resort founded by Seattle ski bums at the edge of Mount Rainier National Park." To read more, click here. And do click, it's a good article.

--North Shore News is reporting that, "Two rock climbers have been fined and banned from entering Grouse Mountain Regional Park for a year after pleading guilty to damaging natural features of the park to create a new climbing route. In September 2019, Brent Nixon, 45, and Sara Newhook, 31, began work on an unsanctioned trail, cutting down branches and trees, removing mosses and lichens, and drilling anchors into a rocky outcrop in a closed area not far from the top of Grouse Mountain, the court heard at their sentencing on Wednesday (April 21)." To read more, click here.

--The Canadian Government is worried about people visiting Squamish during the pandemic. To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting on the fastest known time on the ski traverse between the Bugaboos and Rogers Pass. To read about it, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--After a climber vandalized a rock art panel two weeks ago, now we have to deal with this below. To read about this fresh nightmare, click here.

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "Rescuers were called to the Second Boulder Flatiron on Sunday after a 25-year-old male climber became stuck on the formation while attempting to ascend it with no ropes. The Boulder County Sheriff's Office reports that the incident occurred at about 3:30 PM when the climber became stuck in the area of the 'Dodge Block' route. According to Mountain Project, Dodge Block is a 5.0-rated route that takes climbers up the Second Flatiron formation. It's not bolted for sport climbing, meaning that most climbers either use trad climbing gear or no gear at all." To read more, click here.

--The Outside Business Journal is reporting that, "twenty-two months after the staging of the last Outdoor Retailer Summer Market in June 2019, the industry’s largest trade show is finally set to run again in person. The event, scheduled for August 10 to 12, officially opened registration today, and leadership is hopeful that in the 15 weeks until the show stages, a majority of past-show attendees will feel comfortable signing up to return to Denver and gather again face to face. Show director Marisa Nicholson told Outside Business Journal this week that interest in the show at an all-time high, and that she’s confident the event will be able to stage uninterrupted." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Patch is reporting that, "Emergency crews rescued an injured adult who was rock climbing in the Cleveland National Forest Sunday. The injury was reported at 3:14 p.m. at Ortega Falls off Highway 74 near El Cariso, according to Cal Fire/Riverside County Fire Department." To read more, click here.

--SGB Media is reporting that, "according to the monthly report from the National Parks Service, visits to national parks totaled 20.6 million in March, up 37 percent from 15.1 million in March 2020 as the pandemic emerged." To read more, click here

--Should discussions of police reform include law enforcement rangers in National Parks? Recent incidents indicate that the answer to that question is likely, yes. To read about this, click here.

Tuesday, April 27, 2021

Rappelling - The Basics

The American Alpine Club produced a nice piece on rappelling. The following video looks at both considerations and techniques for a successful rappel.

Following is a review of the video:

Counterweight Rappelling vs. Fixed Line Rappelling

This is a standard rappel technique. Both strands of the rope are threaded through a tube style device. The fact that both strands are threaded allows the climber to counterweight herself.

In fixed line rappelling, the rope is tied off and the climber descends a single strand. This can be done with a tube style device or with an assisted braking device.

Why Do Climbers Rappel?

The first reason a climber might rappel is because the climber ascended a multi-pitch route that requires multi-stage rappels. The second reason may be to clean anchors in a single pitch setting. And finally they rappel in emergencies.

Four Key Principles of Rappelling

1) Climbers must be secured during the setup.
2) Climbers must use a backup.
3) Rope ends should be managed and systems should be closed.
4) Avoid entanglements - keep hair and clothes out of devices.

The remainder of the video addresses how these fundamentals are managed by a climber. It also addresses anchor cleaning and fireman's belays.

Rappelling Accidents Happen Because:

1) A climber didn't understand how a rappel worked.
2) A climber didn't double-check everything carefully.
3) A climber didn't have an adequate backup.
4) A climber didn't manage the ends of the rope.

Rappelling can be super dangerous. It's important that you manage your rappels adequately.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 26, 2021

Friction Hitches

The American Mountain Guides Association and Outdoor Research have teamed up to develop a handful of instructional videos. In this particular video, AMGA instructor team member, Patrick Ormond, demonstrates three major friction hitches: the autoblock, the prussik, and the kleimheist.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, April 23, 2021

Crack Climbing Basics: Tape Gloves

A climber makes use of her tape gloves to jam the awesome Mithral
Dihedral on Mt. Russell, High Sierra (A. Stephen)

Today we will learn how to make tape gloves to better facilitate hand jamming.  I've been seeing "hand-jammies" more and more these days, but when I tape, I still use the tried and true athletic tape.  Made properly, tape gloves don't leave too much adhesive residue on your hands, have a lower profile than hand-jammies, and you can reuse the same gloves over and over again.  All you need is a roll of 1" width athletic tape.  Here's how:

In order for the gloves to hold their form, it is important to build in some framework.  Rip your tape into 1/2" wide strips.  You want the strips long enough to reach from your wrist bone, around your finger, and back again. You will need three strips per hand, and will wrap a strip around your pinky finger, first finger, and thumb.  Spread out your fingers as much as you can while doing this process.

Once the foundation of the gloves is set, it is time to put on the outer layer.  I use a panel method to do this so that I can keep my palm free of tape, both for comfort's sake and for ease of removal and reuse.  To do this, use the full width of your tape, and cut strips that are a 1/4" longer on each side than the width of the back of your hand.

Align the strips so that the edge of the first panel is even with your knuckles.  Fold the overlap at each end so that it sticks back on itself and the framework strip.  Then add panels moving down towards your wrist, with a 1/2" of overlap on each, and stop just before your wrist joint.  I usually need about four panels per hand, but this is all dependent on your hand size.  Remember to keep your fingers spread far apart during this process.

Once you've built your foundation and added the panels, the final step is to secure it all to your hand by wrapping a length of tape around your wrist.  Make sure to keep your wrist in a relaxed, prone position.  Start the wrap on the inside of your palm and, keeping the 1/2" overlap on the previous panel, wrap the tape around your wrist twice.  Don't wrap too tight-you don't want to restrict the movement in your wrist too much. End on the inside of your palm once again.

The best feature of these gloves is that you can reuse them.  I used one pair for an entire season before they were shredded!  Once you are finished sending, all you have to do is cut the wrist strap on the inside of your palm, gently unstick the tape from your hand, and wriggle your fingers through the loops of the foundation.  When its time to jam some splitters again, just put them back on and wrap your wrist again.  Try to keep it to a single wrist wrap every time you reuse the gloves to keep the bulk down.

Ok, there you go!  For less than $10, you have your own home-made "hand-jammies."

--Andy Stephen, AAI Instructor and Guide

Thursday, April 22, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 4/22/21


--A climber was airlifted from Mt. Erie near Anacortes, to Seattle, after suffering a serious fall last week. No information beyond this is known.

--Gripped is reporting that, "Squamish climber and route developer Jason Green has made the first ascent of his multi-month project. He he said is the “last great line in the Smoke Bluffs” to be opened. He called it Vulture Culture, a bolted 5.13-." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--So Alex Honnold isn't done with big adventures. Gripped and others are reporting that the free soloist just linked three of Red Rock’s best multi-pitches for 29-pitches of free solo climbing: Levitation 29 5.11+, Cloud Tower 5.11+/12-, and Rainbow Wall Original Route, 5.12a, in a half-day. No big deal... Check it out.

--Joshua Tree National Park is preparing a new climbing management plan. If you want to be kept in the loop, sign up for their newsletter.

Colorado and Utah:

--CBS Denver is reporting that, "A 37-year-old man was rescued Tuesday afternoon from the snowy slopes of Wilson Peak after falling approximately 2,000 feet while skiing from its summit, according to the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office." To read more, click here.

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "Rescue teams were called into Colorado's backcountry on Sunday for an injured skier stranded in the snow with a broken humerus. The Pitkin County Sheriff's Office was notified of an injured skier on the trail to the McNamara Hut at about 2:55 PM. The backcountry skier, a 54-year-old female, was suffering from a broken humerus and in "extreme pain", unable to self-extricate, according to the sheriff's office." To read more, click here.

--Snow Brains is reporting that, "Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Search and Rescue (SLCOSAR) was called out Friday evening to assist two “cliffed-out” skiers near Mount Superior, UT. The two set out from Alta early Friday afternoon, intending to ski the south face of Superior. They missed their line and ended up descending further west, between Superior and Monte Cristo." To read more, click here.

--Snow Brains is reporting on another pair that got lost after entering the backcountry from Aspen: "On Saturday, 4/17/2021, at approximately 11:40 am, the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office was notified by Aspen Mountain Ski Patrol of two skiers who had skied “out-of-bounds” at the base of Walsh’s ski run. Walsh’s is a Double Black ski run at the Eastern ski area boundary on Ajax Mountain in Aspen, Colorado. After communicating with the father of one of the subjects, rescuers learned that two male skiers, 55 and 57 years old, respectively, were reported to be in good spirits, healthy, and had no known medical conditions." To read more, click here.

--The Summit Daily is reporting that, "a Florida man is facing an assault charge after allegedly striking a man in the face with a ski pole at Keystone Resort earlier this month. Guido Diaz, 42, was arrested on a charge of second-degree assault after a violent confrontation on the ski slopes left another man with broken teeth and cuts on his face, according to an arrest affidavit. On April 2, deputies with the Summit County Sheriff’s Office were dispatched to Keystone to respond to a fight. The deputies spoke at the Keystone Medical Center with the individuals, who gave conflicting reports of the incident." To read more, click here.

SkiHi News is reporting that, "A bill that would require Colorado ski areas to share safety strategies as well as statistics revealing injuries and fatalities didn’t make it out of a committee vote Thursday in Denver after hours of emotional testimony. More than 20 supporters representing a mix of families who have lost loved ones to skiing accidents, injured skiers, consumer safety advocates, physicians and academic experts testified in support of Senate Bill 184, known as “Ski Area Safety Plans and Accident Reporting,” in Thursday’s hearing in front of the Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee, which is chaired by Sen. Kerry Donovan, a Vail Democrat." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Backpacker is reporting that, "Wildlife officers shot and killed a grizzly bear last Friday after it fatally mauled a guide near Yellowstone National Park, Montana, wildlife officials said in a press release. The attack occurred on Thursday about three miles north of Yellowstone near Baker’s Hole campground. The victim, identified by his employer Backcountry Adventures as Carl Mock, called 911; according to the New York Times, when first responders arrived 50 minutes later, they found the bear still in the area. Emergency medical personnel transported Mock to Idaho Falls, where he underwent several surgeries before passing away from a “massive stroke” on Saturday morning." To read more, click here.

--A 22-year-old female climber was injured in a fall in South Dakota, but little else is know. To read more, click here.

--The North Face has unveiled the US Olympic Climbers uniforms. Check 'em out, here.

--Is it possible that the shelf-stable diet that many hikers and climbers eat could be so bad for us that it has  an effect on our arteries? It sounds like the answer is yes. One hiker had extreme adverse affects from a thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. From Backpacker, "The tests however, revealed that his arteries had taken a turn for the worse. Heinbockel’s brachial artery flow-mediated dilation—a measure of how well the endothelial lining, a layer of cells on the inside of blood vessels, is functioning—had dropped by more than 25%, while his aortic stiffness had risen by 5%, changes associated with an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. 'That degree of decrease might be what you expect to see, you know, over multiple decades of someone aging, and he experienced that in only 112 days.'" To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "Yamnuska will be closed from May 21 to November 2021 so that Alberta Parks can improve the hiking trail. In 2020, a hiker died on the scree descent that has become popular for hikers and climbers to use on their way back to the parking lot." To read more, click here.

--So a rabid bobcat attacked a woman in her North Carolina yard. Her husband took care of it by grabbing the animal and throwing it across the yard. This is a crazy couple of wild animal seconds:

--And COVID has made it's way to Everest Basecamp. Not awesome.

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Crack Climbing Basics: Hand Jamming

Crack climbing is the one of the oldest forms of classical climbing, and in some ways a lost art.  With the influx of climbing gyms and the popularity of sport climbing, original forms of climbing, like crack climbing, fall by the wayside a bit.  Traditional climbing, where the climber places removable protection as he climbs, requires cracks to provide protection.  Knowing how to confidently jam cracks is the first step in entering the world of trad climbing.  Knowing basic crack climbing technique can also translate into other disciplines of climbing- I've been on sport climbs and boulders where knowing how to jam has meant being able to cop a rest, or has allowed me to avoid difficult gaston or lie-back moves.  Today, we will talk about different basic ways to jam hands and feet in cracks, and some ways to start practicing safely.


A climber uses a handjam to gain the belay ledge  (A. Stephen)

Getting Started

If sport climbing is gymnastics, then crack climbing is wrestling.  The over-arching goal is to find some combination of body parts that fit into the crack, and when flexed, will allow vertical mobility.  It's not quite as barbaric as it sounds, and once you learn proper technique you will be able to utilize a variety of positions that are as good or better than any jug.  The best size crack to start on is one that is a cupped-hand size, which can be anywhere from 3"-.75"wide depending on your hand size.  It seems like alot of climbing gyms have cracks of a couple different sizes, but if you live somewhere blessed with splitters and can get a rope up on one to learn, even better!  You will want to tape your hands at first.

The Cupped Hand

 This is the first jam to learn.  Not only is this one of the most secure feeling, but it is usually also a pretty decent size for your feet.  To perform a cupped hand jam, put your hand in the crack thumbs up and tuck your thumb in towards your palm.  Keep your fingers tight together and press your fingers against one wall of the crack while the the back of your knuckles and hand press against the opposing wall.  Try to flex your hand to push against the walls of the crack.  Test it out by trying to hang on it with a straight arm.  Just as in face climbing, with crack climbing restful positions are usually found on either fully extended or "locked off" (fully flexed) positions.

Thumbs up jamming

Thumbs Down 

The second jam to master is the thumbs-down cupped hand.  In many cases this provides the most secure jam to rest on.  It has the same general technique as thumbs-up cupped hands- except this time put your hand in the crack thumbs down, and this time focus on not only expanding your hand in the crack, but on rotating your elbow downwards.  This jam works great from a straight arm position, and while it feels more secure, its disadvantage is that it's harder than the thumbs up jam to move upwards on.  In straight-in (pure crack climbing technique) jamming, I have adopted the strategy to rest and place gear on a fully extended arm and a thumbs-down jam, then move upwards with a thumbs up

The author demonstrates a thumbs down resting position.

The Feet

To foot jam, insert your foot sideways into the crack by bending your knee and hip outwards.  Then,  transfer your weight onto the foot and focus on trying to rotate your foot back to a standing (flat footed) position.  Focus on dropping your heel as you stand on the jammed foot to give you extra purchase in the crack.  Foot jamming has a bit of a painful learning curve.  The basic idea of camming your foot into a crack then standing on it just sounds heinous.  It certainly takes some getting used to, and as you experiment with different sizes you will notice that the foot jam becomes more painful and less reliable, while some sizes like the hand jam to fist jam size are actually pretty comfortable.  I would definitely recommend wearing very comfortable climbing shoes such as the 5.10 Anasazi slipper or the Sportiva Mythos- tight fitting shoes with downturned toes definitely make foot jamming much less comfortable.

Hand-cracks make for great footholds! (A. Stephen)

The Technique

Go up.  Seriously!  Until you start to get into grades above 5.9, most straight-in crack climbing consists of simply following the crack.  I recommend starting in a gym or on a top-rope to get the motions down.  My strategy with hand-size cracks is to make my legs and feet do the majority of the work.  Often times crack climbing is a race against the pump clock, so I try to keep moving and whenever possible I try to make big moves, with each foot being inserted into the crack at mid-thigh height or above.  I try to stand all the way up on each foot before I move my next hand.  I look for constrictions in the crack that will allow me to "lock" my hand behind it - these will provide the best rests.  Most of all, practice as much as you can in a safe setting- it gets easier, less painful, and unlocks a whole new world of climbing potential.

--Andy Stephen, Instructor and Guide

Monday, April 19, 2021

Route Profile: Dream of Wild Turkeys, 5.10a III

Dream of Wild Turkeys is an exceptional climb located on the Black Velvet Wall very near to the classic long Red Rock climb Epinephrine. I made it to Red Rock a week ago and after a couple days of sport climbing and bouldering I had the chance to get on this route with fellow AAI Guide Britt Ruegger. Britt is preparing for the AMGA Rock Instructor Course and we thought this route with 8 pitches of 5.9 or harder would be a good training ground for the course.

The beauty of this route is the sustained nature of the climbing combined with a comfortable amount of protection. Where the climbing follows cracks traditional protection is easily attainable, and when the cracks peter out bolts pop up to protect the face climbing. This casual mixed protection makes me feel warm and fuzzy and is a credit to the first ascentionists George and Joanne Urioste's dedication to putting up routes you want to repeat!

AAI Guide Britt Ruegger pulling past the first 5.10a crux on Pitch 3. 
The highlights of the route include pitch 2, a long right angling crack that eats up gear and is sustained at the 5.9 grade. Pitch 3 brings the crux and you go straight up a thin crack with small crimps on the face at 5.10a until you reach a bolted traverse to the right. This sets you up for the long fist to hand crack of pitch 4 that ends with a few tricky 5.10a bolt protected face moves to the anchors.

Britt demonstrating the delicate footwork necessary on this technical face climb.

The rest of the route continues on with endless face climbing mainly at the 5.9 grade. Ten pitches of fun sustained climbing make this a must do route!

The leader of another party climbs pitch 7.
Every belay is also a bolted rappel station, so you can go down at any point. This makes the route a great objective for folks just starting to climb longer routes that are not confident in their speed and efficiency.

Things to take into account on this route:

-Two ropes are required to rappel this route. We climbed with twin ropes but a single rope and tag line would work just fine as well. You end up going straight down with the rappels and utilize a couple anchors that are on variations to this route.

-This is a very popular route and you should get an early start if you want to be first! However, there are many great back-up routes close by if the route is taken.

-The road into the Black Velvet Canyon parking area is rough dirt and rock and requires a vehicle with a reasonable amount of clearance. Not impossible in a passenger car, just much quicker and enjoyable with a truck.

-There are many hanging belays on this route which leads some folks to nickname the route Dream of Belay Ledges! Its not that bad but worth noting in comparison to the more common comfortable Red Rock belays.

The Red Rock season is in full swing here in Vegas and I'm excited to be working with some folks next week on a Learn To Lead Course. If you're after some great desert sandstone climbing or want to improve your skills in traditional and multi-pitch terrain come visit us in Red Rock!

--Jeremy Devine, AAI Instructor and Guide

Friday, April 16, 2021

Natural Anchors

Okay, kids. The question for today is easy. What is a natural anchor?

The most straightforward definition is that a natural anchor is any simple anchor point that nature provides.

The class know-it-all in the front row raises her hand and asks, "but Mr. Martin, isn't a crack a natural anchor?"

A crack is a crack. We actually have to put something inside the crack before we have a piece. It is a natural spot to place an anchor, but it is not a natural anchor point. No, instead a natural anchor is anything that is already there. The most common examples of natural anchors are trees, bushes, boulders, pinches and thread-throughs.

This tree, found on the iconic Northwest route, Outer Space (III, 5.9), 
has little more than a few roots in the crack system keeping it in place.

Before you elect to use a tree as an anchor point, you should make sure that it is "Five-and-Alive." In other words, that it is at least five inches in diameter, five feet tall, has a good root-base and is alive. You should be wary of trees that could have a root-base in dirt or sand and on top of the rock. An anchor with this kind of structure could easily fail.

This photo shows a tensionless wrap with a static rope on a very large tree.

Bushes and Shrubs

In the mountains and in the desert, it is not uncommon to use bushes and shrubs that clearly don't meet the Five-and-Alive standard. These are primarily used as rappels to get down obscure gullies or to get off the backside of a peak, so the tendency is to try to avoid leaving too much gear. The tendency is to want to only leave webbing or cordage.

When you elect to use these less-than-stellar natural anchors, consider equalizing a number of them together. If you're tying your cord around a desert bush that is comprised of a number of finger-sized sticks, you'll probably want to equalize this with similar bushes. Depending on the size and density, I would want at least two of these, if not more.

And lastly, when it comes to bushes and shrubs as anchors, use common sense. Don't put your weight on something that might blow out. You could always back up the first person (usually the heavier person) on rappel with a loose gear anchor. If all goes well, the second person could tear down that anchor and then descend. If the equalized bush anchor didn't come apart during the first rappel with the heavier climber, it's reasonable to believe that it wouldn't come out with the second climber either.


Boulders can be absolutely fantastic natural anchors. But there are a few things to look at before committing to a boulder. First, make sure that it is in good contact with the ground. Boulders on sandy or sloping surfaces should be considered suspect. Second, make sure that it won't wobble or roll toward the edge. Every boulder should be checked by pushing and pulling on it to confirm it's position. And lastly, if there is any possibility of movement, don't use it. The last thing you need is a boulder falling down on top of you.

Pinches and Thread-Throughs

Pinches are places where two large boulders come together so tightly that you can wrap cordage or webbing around them. Thread-throughs are places where there is a hole in the rock that you can something through to tie-off.

It is not uncommon for people to simply miss these opportunities while trying to build an anchor. They simply aren't as intuitive for most people as the other natural anchors out there. If you can keep the fact that these exist in mind and you look for them, you'll find them.

Like boulders and trees and bushes, it's important to make sure that pinches and thread-throughs are sturdy enough to handle the stress of being an anchor. This is particularly important in sandstone or in other soft and friable rock-types.

Natural Chockstones

In the following video, the Canadian Mountain Guide, Mike Barter demonstrates a quick and dirty improvised anchor.

Ultimately, the great value to natural anchors is that they don't require much gear. And since they don't require much, you'll have plenty to use on your next lead.

Class dismissed. Now go build some natural anchors!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, April 15, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 4/15/21


--News 21 is reporting that, "a Beaverton man climbing South Sister alone called 911 for help Monday morning when he got stuck on a small, precarious ledge at 9,800 feet elevation, prompting a challenging, day-long rescue effort in which an Oregon Army National Guard helicopter crew hoisted him to safety, officials said. To read more, click here.


--The Tahoe Daily Tribune is reporting that, "a rock climber was reportedly severely injured last week when he fell about 100 feet down sharp rocks in a remote area off Silver Fork Road near Kyburz. The man was accompanied by another climber who called 911 but, according to California Highway Patrol Valley Division Air Operations, due to accessibility challenges rescue crews requested the assistance of a helicopter." To read more, click here.

--The Sierra Wave is reporting that, "Yosemite National Park to Re-Implement a Day-Use Reservation System Beginning on Friday, May 21, 2021. Yosemite National Park – Beginning Friday, May 21, visitors to Yosemite National Park will need a day-use reservation to enter the park. The temporary day-use reservation system will allow the park to manage visitation levels to reduce risks associated with exposure to COVID-19." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--AZ Central and many others are reporting on the death of a congressional staffer in Death Valley. "One of two missing campers from Tucson who were found on a remote, steep ledge in the Willow Creek area of Death Valley National Park died, officials said Friday afternoon. Alexander Lofgren, 32, was pronounced dead and Emily Henkel, 27, was hospitalized after the two were removed from the ledge at about noon on Friday, the Inyo County Sheriff's Office said on Facebook." To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund needs your help to save Oak Flat! Please urge Congress to repeal the law that allows the transfer of Oak Flat in Arizona—an Apache ancestral territory, premier climbing destination, and national forest—to a foreign-owned mining company. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--This is unacceptable. Bolts should be nowhere near petroglyphs:

--In an update, the individual responsible has apologized and has stated that he's received death threats over this.

Notes from All Over:

--A woman faked her death at New River Gorge to avoid prison. "Last May, Rodney Wheeler dialed 911 with a frantic plea for help: His wife had just plunged hundreds of feet over a steep cliff in a West Virginia national park. Authorities quickly launched a massive search for Julie Wheeler, 44. For days, hundreds of volunteers, police, and professional rescuers trekked along the base of the New River where her husband said she had fallen, aided by helicopters and rescue dogs. But Julie Wheeler had never gone missing. Three days after she supposedly fell off a cliff, authorities found her hiding inside a closet in the couple’s Beaver, W.Va., home." To read more, click here.

--Climb United is a task force that has been put together by the American Alpine Club and a number of outdoor brands to look at diversity and inclusion in climbing. They are also looking carefully at the "offensive route name" issue. "The Guiding Principles will serve to establish an agreed-upon philosophy toward publishing climbing route names, while the Guidelines provide an evaluation and management system for addressing discriminatory route names. The AAC will host a public forum on the draft guidelines on April 21 at 6 p.m. MDT to engage the community and encourage questions and feedback." To read more, click here.

--Everybody is getting excited for climbing in the Olympics...even though it was supposed to happen last year. The Climbing Business Journal has a piece on the recent "reintroduction" of the American Olympic climbers to the media. Read it, here.

--Patagonia will no longer be adding logos to their clothing. From SGB media: "we’ve learned is that adding an additional non-removable logo reduces the life span of a garment, often by a lot, for trivial reasons. People change jobs, and the extra logo makes for an awkward re-gift. People tend not to pass logoed gear down to their kids, and not everyone wants to be an advertisement on weekends, even if they’re proud to go into work on weekdays. The result? Perfectly good gear ends up forgotten in the closet—or worse, gets tossed in the trash." To read more, click here.

--And finally, in a heartwarming video, we watch Jacob Smith at the age of 12, ski Big Sky Resort's Big Couloir. Oh yeah, and he's blind....

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

How to Choose a Pair of Rock Climbing Shoes

Bryan from Oregon Outside has put together a great tutorial on rock shoes. In the following video he quickly goes through a number of different considerations that you might have when choosing a rock shoe.

Check it out below:

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 12, 2021

The Appalachian Trail in Five Minutes

Thru-Hiker Kevin Gallagher hiked the 2,175 mile Appalachian Trail in six months. Numerous people complete the entire trail every years. But Gallagher did something a little bit different on his trip.

Every day of his trip, Gallagher took twenty-four slides of iconic portions of the trail. He recently put these slides together into a film, which condenses the entire journey into a single five minute segment. He titled the film, "The Green Tunnel."

Following is the product of his adventure:

To learn more about Gallagher and his work, click here.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, April 9, 2021

Route Profile: Sultana Ridge - Mt. Foraker

Mount Foraker as seen from Denali. The Sultana Ridge is the prominent,
lighter colored ridge running up the center of the mountain.

Mount Foraker – 17,400 ft / 5303 m

Route: Northeast Ridge (Sultana Ridge)
Difficulty: Alaska Grade 3
Elevation Gain: 10,500 ft along 9 miles of ridge


Standing at 17,400 ft in the central Alaska Range, Mount Foraker is only 14 miles from Denali and provides a dramatic backdrop for climbers on the West Buttress route. Foraker is the second highest peak in the Alaska Range and the fourth highest in the United States. First climbed in August 1934, it rises directly above the base camp for Denali, but sees far fewer ascents each year.

Approaching Foraker on the Kahiltna glacier.

Setting up camp below Mount Crosson. 

An expedition on Foraker generally requires less acclimatization time than Denali because it is almost 3000 feet lower. The Sultana Ridge follows a pure and scenic ridge for seven miles. Climbing over several smaller peaks, including Mount Crosson, the ridge encompasses the crest of the Alaska Range. Similar in difficulty to the West Buttress of Denali, the Sultana Ridge of Foraker offers true remoteness for Alaskan mountaineering; retreat is more difficult, camps are more exposed, and there is no support network on the route. You will likely have the whole route to yourself!

After passing Crosson, climbers gain the true
Sultana Ridge.

After flying onto the Kahiltna glacier, we will set off towards advanced base camp at the base of Mount Crosson. Ascending the ridge using a couple camps, we will summit Crosson (12,800 ft) and descend 1100 ft to reach the col between Crosson and Point 12,472. If avalanche conditions are safe, we will likely bypass the summit of Pt. 12,472 and traverse it’s southeast face at 12,200 ft. The next three miles of the Sultana ridge are a long series of ups and downs with cornices and crevasses. Eventually, the ridge mellows as it links up with the upper Northeast Ridge of Foraker.

Moving along the corniced Sultana Ridge.

Looking up the Sultana Ridge
to the summit of Foraker.

Due to difficult camp options on the upper mountain, our high camp will be at 12,300 ft. The ridge becomes less steep around 14,000 ft and tops out on the summit plateau at 17,100 ft. Summit day is a 5100-foot push and will reward us with impressive views of the Alaskan tundra, Denali, and the breathtaking Alaska Range. After enjoying the summit of Mount Foraker, we will retrace our steps on the descent, crossing over the summit of Mount Crosson again and returning to the Kahiltna glacier. Our bush-pilot will bring us back to Talkeetna where we can share our stories with other climbers and begin the journey home.

Success! The summit of Foraker offers incredible
views of Denali and the Alaska Range.
Have you already climbed Denali and are looking for more Alaska adventures? Are the Big 3 (Denali, Hunter, and Foraker) on your tick list? Looking to summit a slightly lower mountain before taking on a full Denali expedition?

Mount Foraker is a great mountain and AAI is starting to gauge interest in a Foraker expedition in 2015. If this sounds like a climb you would like to join, please contact us for more information. Our well-known climbing programs can help you sharpen your skills and take your climbing to the next level.

Climb on!

Dylan Cembalski
Alaska Programs and 7 Summits Coordinator
AAI Guide

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Cold Weather Camping Tips

As we move into the spring, it is still winter in the mountains. And when you go mountaineering in the summer, it's always snowy!

So with that in mind, here are some helpful tips for winter (cold weather) camping:

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, April 5, 2021

Miranda in the Wild - Trying Every Kind of Backpacking Stove

Miranda is at it again...with a great video on the different types of stoves out there. This is a really good survey on the stove types.

There are a couple of things to think about, especially with isopro stoves. As Miranda says, "these are most likely to be the best for most people."

1) It's important to note that really cold isobutane fuel canisters don't operate as well as those that are warm. You can keep them warm in your tent (or even sleeping bag) for early morning use. Don't put them directly on the snow when cooking, if you can avoid it.

2) Some of the higher-end isopro stoves (like the Jetboil or Reactor) are extremely efficient, compared to the "pocket rocket" style that she demonstrates.

There's no reason for most of our readers to use the solid fuel or alcohol stoves.

With the woodburning stoves, there are some models that you can charge your devices off, while cooking. This is the only good thing about these.

And though they're a pain, there are some real advantages to white gas stoves. They work well at altitude, and they work okay in the cold. In extreme cold, the gas may still need to be warmed to work well. I've had experiences on both Denali and in Peru where we had problems with how cold it was with these stoves.

I've found that I spend a lot of time tinkering and cleaning the white gas stoves, and really prefer isopro stoves...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, April 2, 2021

Considerations for Roping Up on a Glacier while Ski Mountaineering

The following video discusses some of the questions that you might consider around roping up for glacier travel. 

It is common to see skiers moving on glacial terrain, unroped. Anytime you are on a "wet" glacier -- a glacier with snow on it --  there is the possibility of a crevasse. That said, your skis do create less force on the snow than walking does, so you can get away with a little bit more than you can in spring and summer mountaineering on foot.

Ross Berg, a Canadian guide, talks about glaciers and what he considers before roping up on a ski mountaineering program.

Ross lists three considerations at the end of his video:

Familiarity -- Do you know the area? Have you seen it without snow on it? 

Visibility -- Can you see, or are you in a white-out? Everything is more dangerous when you cannot see.

Snowpack -- Do you have a good snowpack? Are the crevasses filled in or covered by a lot of snow?

He also notes that you should be conservative until you have more skill and knowledge at reading glaciers and understanding them...

--Jason D. Martin