Tuesday, June 29, 2021

Rope Considerations for Glacier Travel

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

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

Let's take a look:

Rope Length

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

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

A  climber on a glacier.

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

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

Diameter and Rope Type

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, June 28, 2021

Carbon Monoxide Poisoning in the Mountains

Carbon monoxide (CO) is an incredibly dangerous colorless, odorless gas. It can be found in the air any time you burn fuel in cars, trucks, small engines, stoves, lanterns, grills, fireplaces, gas ranges or furnaces. 

Carbon monoxide is dangerous because it displaces oxygen in the blood. This deprives vital organs -- the heart and brain -- of oxygen. Large amounts of CO can overcome an individual in a matter of minutes, causing the person to lose consciousness and suffocate.

Symptoms of CO exposure/poisoning include headache, fatigue, dizziness, drowsiness, or nausea. The most important thing to do when you feel these things is to take yourself out of the situation that may be causing the symptoms. For example, turn off your stove and open up your vestibule.

Approximately thirty deaths every year in North America are attributed to carbon monoxide poisoning in tents. These poisonings tend to happen when people have lanterns, stoves or charcoal fires in an enclosed or poorly ventilated space.

As mountaineers, we commonly cook in our tents. The weather can be extremely nasty, and it's comfortable to cook and eat inside. But this definitely puts us at more risk.

A walled camp on Denali.
Expedition climbers almost always cook inside their tents.

There are a few really simple rules that you can follow to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning in a tent:
  1. When cooking in a tent, the vestibule should be open. It should be easy to breathe.
  2. Individuals in the tent should be sitting up. Nobody should ever lay down while the stove is running. If you wish to lay down, turn off the stove first.
  3. Lanterns, heaters and charcoal grills don't belong in tents.
This really can be the silent killer. We spend a lot of time worrying about objective hazards in the mountains, but then there's this...something that can kill you very quickly, and very easily, if you don't follow the rules.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, June 25, 2021

Improvised Rappels

The American Mountain Guides Association is continuing to put out some really good videos with Outdoor Research. In this video, AMGA Instructor Team Member, Olivia Race, demonstrates three different types of improvised rappels.

1) Six Non-Lockers

This is the classic "Freedom of the Hills" style system that every climber engaging in multi-pitch climbing should be aware of.

2) Double-Stranded Munter

This is a much simpler concept. But it can result in some significant twists in the rope.

3) Three Locker System

This final system is a more modern variation of the first system listed here.

It's important with each of these to ensure that nylon isn't rubbing nylon and that ropes are not running over gates.

Check out an in-depth breakdown of each system below:

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 6/24/21


--There was a major trailhead break-in event at  the Schriebers Meadow trailhead (approach for south side of Mt. Baker) late on Monday or early on Tuesday. Several cars were hit systematically. At least one vehicle was actually stolen. And there were several attempts made to steal gas from the cars too. And while trailhead break-ins happen, this one was uncommon in that it seemed planned and organized. It wasn't just a smash and grab.

--Gripped has posted some updates about access in Squamish and Skaha this weekend.

A climber on Tyndall's Terror (5.7) at Mt. Erie.


--Whitney Portal is closed and several people have been evacuated. The steep terrain in Meyson is making it difficult to fight the fire. Updates can be found, here.

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "Two Californian brothers have set a new record for the longest highline ever walked across mountains in Yosemite National Park, CA. Moises and Daniel Monterrubio, from San Francisco, walked a 2,800-foot-long line from Taft Point west across a series of gulleys 1,600 feet below. The previous record had been 940-feet long, also from Taft Point, but east." To read more, click here.

--According to the Adventure Journal, there is a real fear of the wildfire threat from tourists in Mammoth Lakes, CA: "In Mammoth Lakes, California, a town in the Eastern Sierra known for its skiing and outdoor recreation, tourism has been booming. The town’s residents are terrified. After 2020’s landscape-altering fire season, in which 4 percent of the total area of California burned, Mammoth Lakes locals are keenly aware that rises in tourism come with unique wildfire risks. There is a new and inescapable awareness that each new visitor has the capacity to light the match that starts the fire that destroys their community." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Fire restrictions have been placed in Joshua Tree National Park for the summer season.

Colorado and Utah:

--Climbing is reporting that, "a woman has died following an auto-belay accident at Ascent Studio Climbing & Fitness, in Fort Collins, Colorado, on Saturday, June 12. Fort Collins Police Services spokesperson Brandon Barnes told The Coloradoan that the climber fell from about 40-feet up in the auto-belay area. Authorities have not yet released the woman’s name." To read more, click here.

--A dating group for Colorado climbers has been developed on Facebook...

Notes from All Over:

--Gripped is reporting on a former AAI Guide! "Chantel Astorga, one of North America’s leading alpine climbers, has soloed the Cassin Ridge on Denali, which she followed up with a ski down the West Rib and Seattle Ramp. She climbed alone up the famous ridge to the summit of the 6,194-metre peak in 14 hours and 39 minutes. Most climbers take a number of days. She reached the summit on June 14." To read more, click here.

--KSLA News 12 is reporting that, "Governor Asa Hutchinson spoke Monday, Jun 21 to make a major announcement about tourism in the State of Arkansas. He’s signing an executive order to create the Office of Outdoor Recreation. The Outdoor Recreation Advisory Board will appoint up to 10 people to work in the new office, which will focus on stewardship, investments, and marketing for the state’s outdoor resources." To read more, click here.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

Leave No Trace: Respect Wildlife

In the spring of 2017, a video started to make the rounds. A little girl was sitting on the edge of a dock in Vancouver, British Columbia, "playing" with a sea lion. It appears that the girl and the family of the girl had been feeding the animal prior to what happened next:

The girl was pulled into the water by the animal. Thankfully, she was quickly rescued.

So why did the animal attack the girl...?

The answer is easy. The family had been feeding the sea lion. The sea lion wanted more and grabbed the girl to get more.

This is not a new story. Bears in many US states and in Canada have become habituated to humans and human food. The result is twofold. 1) There are more bear maulings where bears are habituated to human food and 2) more bears need to be put down because of this desire for human food.

It's no different with other animals. Squirrels fed in the Grand Canyon have to be killed or removed because they tend to bite people. Burros in Red Rock Canyon approach the road looking for food only to bite and kick people...while occasionally also causing serious car accidents. Gray Jay's -- also known as camp robber birds -- will land on people in the hopes of getting food, and thus unlearn how to find food themselves.

And the mice... Dear God, the mice. How many campgrounds and camp areas are overrun by mice because people have left food out or have been careless with their crumbs...?

The desert tortoise is incredibly fragile. Touching a tortoise can have a major 
impact on the animal. It may get scared and pee itself, which is a very big problem
for an animal with limited access to water.

Wild animals simply shouldn't be fed, whether on purpose or by accident. A animal that's been fed is a problem for people who might be around the animal...it might bite or harass them. And it's a problem for the animal. The animal might no longer be able to find food itself.

Food is only one problem with wild animals. Another is the idea that people can pet them or take pictures with them or touch them. None of these things are good ideas. There are many stories of people trying to treat a wild animal like a pet, and then being hurt or killed as a result.

The sixth principle of Leave No Trace is to Respect Wildlife. Following is a write-up from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics page on this subject.

Learn about wildlife through quiet observation. Do not disturb wildlife or plants just for a "better look". Observe wildlife from a distance so they are not scared or forced to flee. Large groups often cause more damage to the environment and can disturb wildlife so keep your group small. If you have a larger group, divide into smaller groups if possible to minimize your impacts.

Quick movements and loud noises are stressful to animals. Travel quietly and do not pursue, feed or force animals to flee. (One exception is in bear country where it is good to make a little noise so as not to startle the bears) In hot or cold weather, disturbance can affect an animals ability to withstand the rigorous environment. Do not touch, get close to, feed or pick up wild animals. It is stressful to the animal, and it is possible that the animal may harbor rabies or other diseases. Sick or wounded animals can bite, peck or scratch and send you to the hospital. Young animals removed or touched by well-meaning people may cause the animals parents to abandon them. If you find sick animals or animal in trouble, notify a game warden.

Considerate campers observe wildlife from afar, give animals a wide berth, store food securely, and keep garbage and food scraps away from animals. Remember that you are a visitor to their home.

Allow animals free access to water sources by giving them the buffer space they need to feel secure. Ideally, camps should be located 200 feet or more from existing water sources. This will minimize disturbance to wildlife and ensure that animals have access to their precious drinking water. By avoiding water holes at night, you will be less likely to frighten animals because desert dwellers are usually most active after dark. With limited water in arid lands, desert travelers must strive to reduce their impact on the animals struggling for survival.

Washing and human waste disposal must be done carefully so the environment is not polluted, and animals and aquatic life are not injured. Swimming in lakes or streams is OK in most instances but in desert areas, leave scarce water holes undisturbed and unpolluted so animals may drink from them.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, June 21, 2021

Training: Lockoffs and Campusing

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 ability to lockoff your arms right after pulling up is a key movement to steep climbing on both rock and ice. This video explores some workout techniques that you might use to train for this.

In review:
  1. Set-up a campus sequence using big holds. The goal here is to set-up a sequence where you can lock off each move for 3 seconds.
  2. 3 Campus sequences in the wall, with three sets and 90-seconds of rest between sets.
  3. You will climb up and down using this technique until you're brought to failure.
  4. Failure should happen in 20-40 seconds. If you can hold on longer than 40-seconds, change the holds and make it harder.
  5. Keep track of your time.
  6. And practice!
--Jason D. Martin

Friday, June 18, 2021

Route Profile: Mt Triumph - Northeast Ridge (5.6, III+)

Mt. Triumph is one of those mountains that looks both incredible and incredibly hard to climb. It is a sharp tooth sticking up above the town or Marblemount that begs to be climbed.

The Northeast Ridge is a reasonable route to the summit. It's only about 5.6, but that doesn't mean any of the climbing on the route should be taken for granted. It is a full-on alpine experience that includes some loose and scratchy rock, some moss and giant snow blocks. The mountain is not that far back, but the approach is extremely physical.

Though the route can be done in two days, it is a far more comfortable ascent in three...

Here's a write-up on the mountain from Summitpost.org:

Mt. Triumph is an important mountain in North Cascades National Park. It is located about six miles WNW of the town of Newhalem, WA. It lies entirely within the Skagit River drainage. The peak is not as high as a lot of the other important peaks of the park, yet it possesses just as much chutzpah. Certainly, on the whole, it is more precipitous than most of those peaks. You can see the very top of the peak from Marblemount as it rises over the nearer summit of Oakes Peak. This extra rise hints at its prominence above peaks immediately to the south. Mt. Triumph is connected via Triumph Pass to a slightly higher Mt. Despair--an aptly named tandem if their ever was one. Although Despair is an easier climb than Triumph (at least in terms of the climbing on the mountain itself; Despair requires a longer approach) maybe the peaks should be named in reverse. But then, one feels triumphant to have climbed Triumph, for there is no easy way up it.

Yes, Mt. Triumph is characterized by verticality and sharpness. It is rugged on all flanks. On a topo or from directly overhead, the peak has the appearance of a three-bladed propeller. Evenly spaced Northeast, Northwest, and South Ridges divide evenly spaced East, North, and West Faces. The mountain cradles two rapidly declining glaciers below the East and North Faces. In particular, the eastside glacier is very sickly. It is much reduced from that depicted on topographic maps. A veritable pool table slate of slabs below the glacier makes for quite the tumbling ground for billiard cubes of ice excising themselves from the glacier's lower terminus. The northside glacier isn't faring much better. On both of these we often heard blocks of ice careening down the slabs.

A note about the name: Triumph was named by Lage Wernstedt, the famous surveyor of the North Cascades (namely, in the Pasayten region) in the early part of the 20th Century. In addition, Wernstedt was responsible for the naming of Mt. Despair, Mt. Fury, Mt. Terror, Mt. Challenger, Inspiration Peak, and the "Picket Range." It should be noted that Wernstedt did not climb any of these peaks. Information courtesy of Harry Majors.

Following is a photo essay from a recent ascent of Mt. Triumph:

The approach passes by a series of beautiful alpine lakes.

 The approach is very physical. 
Camping options are at the top of the pass shown in the picture.

Mt. Triumph: The Northeast Ridge is the right-hand skyline. 

The final approach to the ridge requires a traverse across steep snow. 

 The Southern Picket Range

Mt. Triumph 

Looking back at the col where most people camp. 

Climbing the Northeast Ridge

 The obligatory summit selfie.

Looking back at Triumph on the way out.

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

The Art of the Plunge Step

The plunge step is a simple technique for walking downhill in the snow. However, it is one of those techniques that seems relatively straight-forward in certain snow types, while difficult in others.

To do a standard plunge step, stand with your feet shoulder width apart. Bend your knees and drop your rear end. As you step down the hill during your descent, be sure to lead with the heel of your foot. The heel of your boot should be like a dagger, the pointy section of the heel slicing into the snow first.

In soft snow, this technique is relatively easy to understand. On our courses, we will often play games of Red Light/Green Light with students racing down the hill. In soft snow, everybody tends to stay on their feet and in control when we say red light. Hard snow is a different story. It's not uncommon to see people slip and fall trying to plunge step in such conditions. And sometimes it can be quite amusing to play Red Light/Green Light in such conditions...

The main reason that plunge stepping becomes more difficult in firm snow conditions is because your heel doesn't penetrate the snow as easily. Indeed, you have to be incredibly aggressive to get your heel into the snow.

In hard conditions, it's not uncommon for people to become tentative in their steps. Such movement can cause an individual to be more likely to slip as opposed to less likely. Occasionally this develops into a dangerous and frustrating cycle. A climber slips once, becomes more tentative, slips again, and becomes even more tentative, creating yet even a higher likelihood of slipping. The only way to kill this potentially hazardous cycle is to become more aggressive, stabbing your foot deeply into the snow no matter how hard it is.

Moving effectively in the snow is one of the most important things that climbers do. And learning to employ a solid plunge step in all the different kinds of conditions that you might encounter can only help you to become a faster and more solid climber.

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Butt-Axe Belay

We recently ran an article on the stomper belay, a snow climbing belay technique. In the vein of continuing to explore snow climbing belay techniques, we decided that we should spend some time on the butt-axe technique.

No. Not the buttocks technique...the butt-axe technique. So wipe that smirk off your face!

Seriously, the butt-axe technique is a good secure snow belay for steep terrain. This is an excellent technique for forty to fifty-degree steep snow. Part of the reason that it is so good, is that it is extremely fast.

The reason that this is referred to as a butt-axe belay is because after the axe is placed vertically in the snow, and a bite of rope is clipped to the axe, the climber must sit down on the head of the tool. After he sits, he will kick his heels in to create a better snow seat on top of the axe.

The climber is generally tied in directly to the end of the rope. He measures one to two feet of rope out from his harness and then clips it into the head of the axe. Once he's done this, he can sit down on it. A loop of rope is created coming from his harness to the axe. This loop becomes a new belay loop.

In the following picture you can see the loop coming out from the climber's knot to a carabiner with a munter-hitch on it. The rope then contours back underneath him to the axe.

In the preceding picture, the climber is using a munter-hitch to belay. It would also be possible to belay from the loop with a device.

The butt-axe belay is super fast, super simple, and super effective. But like the other techniques described here, it's best to experiment with this belay on low-angle terrain with minimal consequences before employing it in a real setting. You will want to know exactly how well this works in different kinds of snow prior to putting it to the test in the field.

Snow is one of the most variable mediums that we climb. It constantly changes, providing us with many different experiences throughout the season. The more techniques you have in your quiver, the more effective a snow climber you'll be!

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, June 11, 2021

Self-Arrest Techniques

Self-arrest is perhaps the most important skill that we practice in snow school. The British Mountaineering Council put together a nice video on the self-arrest techniques that one should practice.

Though this video is quite good, there are a couple of things that we teach differently:
  1. It is breezed over in the video, but the best way to self-arrest is to avoid falling. Good snow climbing technique should be practiced on low-angle slopes so that when you are on high-angle slopes it comes as second nature.
  2. We teach the piolet canne (cane) position as the baseline position. We only hold the piolet in the self-arrest position when it appears that a fall is likely. As the piolet canne position is the most stable walking position and it provides the most security, we like to see people move up the mountain in this position. One should practice self-arrest starting from the piolet canne position.
  3. There is some debate on whether you should put your feet up or not. The concern -- as the guide in the video points out -- is that if you put your feet down and your crampon points catch, that you might flip head-over-heels. On the other hand, it might stop you more quickly. We teach people to put their toes into the snow to arrest the fall.
There is some controversy about whether to use a leash on an ice axe or not. Most of our guides choose not to use a leash on standard mountaineering routes like the Coleman/Deming on Mount Baker or on the Emmons Glacier on Mount Rainier.

Many people like wrist-leashes because they limit the possibility of dropping the axe. Our guides prefer them for steep terrain. There are two downsides to the constant use of a leash. First, it adds time to a turn, because the axe must be on the uphill side of your body. Moving the wrist-leash from one hand to the other many hundreds of times throughout the day adds time to the clock. Second, if you fall and lose control of the axe, it may become a liability. The last thing that you want in a fall is to be punctured by the axe.

Some people like to attach the ice-axe leash to their harness. This is a very bad place to attach a leash. Any loss of control during a fall could lead to a catastrophic torso puncture injury.

People are very adamant about wanting to use a wrist-leash while climbing for fear of dropping the axe. But really, how common is it for a climber to drop an axe? Not common at all. An ice axe is like a mountaineer's weapon. How many soldiers in the heat of battle drop their weapons? While mountain climbing is definitely not as intense as a war, it can be a dangerous pursuit and most climbers are unlikely to drop the most important tool they carry.

In preparing this blog, I watched a number of videos about self-arrest techniques. There were quite a few bad examples and indeed, some that were just flat dangerous. If you practice self-arrest, always wear a helmet and do not attach the leash of the axe to yourself. Always practice in a place where there is a good run-out. And be conservative in your practice of the head-first/stomach technique as this is a very easy one to get hurt practicing.

Jason D. Martin

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 6/10/21


--NewsRadio 560 is reporting that, "One climber died while another was rescued May 30th on Dragontail Peak southwest of Leavenworth. Chelan County Sheriff’s Office Chief Jason Reinfeld said they received a call around 4:45 pm from the International Emergency Response Center that a Garmin beacon notification indicated a climber had taken a big fall on the serpentine route." To read more, click here.

--A climber was bit by a rattlesnake while climbing at the Matrix in Mazama. It appears that the individual will make a full recovery, but it's good to note that there are a lot of snakes in the area and it's good to keep your eyes open.

--There have been several closures at the Newhalem Crags. Ryan's Wall has been closed in the spring because of raptors nesting high above. Space Wall has been closed pending Park Service (NPS) review, and Canoehalem has just been closed.

--From a post in Skaha Bluffs Collective: "STOLEN GEAR - JUNE 8: We were climbing at Diamondback and left our gear on Sidewinder 5.10c. 6 x quick draws, double length dyneema sling, 3 x locking binders and 1 x nonlocking biner. When we came back later the gear was gone. Please let me know if you have any details that can help with getting the gear back. May give reward as well for any tips." 


El Capitan at Sunset
Photo: Krista Eytchison

--Climbing is reporting that, "Taking advantage of cool, clear conditions in Yosemite in May, two teams made major ascents on El Capitan. Kristoffer Wickstrom and Brandon Adams established the Neptune (VI 5.10 A4) on the Southeast Face, where they followed discontinuous beak seams and crisscrossed nearby lines on 1,100 feet of new terrain. Meanwhile, Amity Warme and Tyler Karow—without previewing—swapped leads up the difficult free climb Golden Gate (VI 5.13a) on Southwest Face over five and a half days." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Climbing is reporting that, "Responding to Joshua Tree’s heavy use, park management is creating a new Climbing Management Plan (CMP)—the first public comment period closes June 13 so there isn’t a moment to lose for giving your input." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "Officials in Utah closed areas of Zion National Park on Sunday as rescue crews searched for a climber who went missing a day earlier. Park officials said the search was taking place in The Narrows — an imposing gorge carved by the Virgin River that has rock walls a thousand feet tall and is one of the park’s most popular destinations." To read more, click here.

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "Two climbers were seriously injured Saturday when they were struck by a big rock dislodged by another climber in Clear Creek Canyon. The accident occurred when a rock grabbed a climber on a hillside broke free and fell, hitting two women standing on a ledge. Golden Fire Department Capt. Ben Moline said the rock was roughly the size of a person." To read more, click here.

--From Climbing: "Access Fund is pleased to announce that—with significant assistance from the climbing community—the Town of Estes Park, Colorado has just purchased and permanently protected a portion of Prospect Mountain, home to the iconic granite climbing on the Thumb and Needle spires. These public lands will now be preserved in perpetuity as Thumb Open Space." To read more, click here.


--Read AAI's dispatches from Denali, here.

Notes from All Over:

--Being a Ranger - National Parks, Forest Service, BLM - is one of the most dangerous law enforcement jobs out there. Listen to this piece on NPR.

--The US Department of the Interior is reporting that, "in celebration of National Trails Day on June 5, Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland announced 10 new national recreation trails in eight states, adding more than 160 miles to the National Trails System. The newly designated trails join a network of more than 1,300 existing national recreation trails, which can be found in every U.S. state." To read more, click here.

--It looks like there are a lot of unfilled positions in the National Parks...

--Camelbak is recalling one of their bottle models due to a piece that can come off and choke the user. To read more, click here.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Additional Closures Put In Place In Lumpy Ridge Area To Protect Nesting Peregrine Falcons

From the National Park Service:

Additional Closures Put In Place In Lumpy Ridge Area To Protect Nesting Peregrine Falcons  

Additional climbing closures have been implemented on the Left Book, The Bookmark, and Bookmark Pinnacle in the Lumpy Ridge Area of Rocky Mountain National Park. Peregrine falcons have been observed displaying continuous aggressive territorial behavior toward climbers in the vicinity of an active nesting area. Peregrine falcons can dive at speeds of over 200mph and may cause bodily harm to humans when defending their territory. If disturbance pressure from climbers is sustained near a nesting area, falcons will abandon their nest causing chick mortality. For the safety of both visitors and this federally protected wildlife species these additional climbing closures have been put in place. Closures will be monitored regularly and lifted once breeding activity is no longer observed.  

Each year to protect raptor nesting sites, Rocky Mountain National Park officials initiate temporary closures in areas of the park.  To ensure that these birds of prey can nest undisturbed, specific areas within the park are closed temporarily to public use during nesting season and monitored by wildlife managers.  Due to high nesting activity last year closures began earlier this year on February 15, rather than March 1.  These closures will continue through July 31, if appropriate.  These closures are actively monitored and may be extended longer or rescinded at an earlier date depending on nesting activity.  

Closures that have been in place since February 15 include Cathedral Wall in the Loch Vale area. The areas above the Loch Vale-Sky Pond Trail are closed to off trail travel. In the Lumpy Ridge area closures include Checkerboard Rock, Lightning Rock, Batman Rock, Batman Pinnacle, Sundance, Thunder Buttress, The Parish, The Book, and Twin Owls, Rock One and now also include Left Book, The Bookmark, Bookmark Pinnacle. These closures include the named formations. Closures include all climbing routes, outcroppings, cliffs, faces, ascent and descent routes and climber access trails to the named rock formations. Check the park’s website at www.nps.gov/romo/planyourvisit/area_closures.htm for updated information on raptor closures.  

The National Park Service is committed to preserving birds of prey. If nest sites are located or territorial behaviors such as aggressive divebombing/vocalizing or birds fleeing nest sites due to human disturbance are observed, please report the location to ROMO_Information@nps.gov.   

The same cliffs that are critical for raptors also appeal to climbers. The cooperation of climbing organizations and individuals continues to be essential to the successful nesting of raptors in the park.  

For further information on Rocky Mountain National Park, please visit www.nps.gov/romo or call the park’s Information Office at (970) 586-1206.  

Public Input Sought on Establishment of the Spacewall Climbing Management Area

From North Cascades National Park:

Public Input Sought on Establishment of the Spacewall Climbing Management Area 

Sedro Woolley, WA – The public is invited to comment on a preliminary proposal to establish and open the Spacewall Climbing Management Area near the town of Newhalem in the Skagit Gorge. 

Per the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), North Cascades National Park Service Complex intends to prepare an Environmental Assessment (EA) to analyze the effects of the proposal and other alternatives.  The Proposed Action would include establishing and opening the Spacewall Climbing Management Area to sport climbing day use. Other preliminary alternatives include: 1) A Restoration Alternative, where the user developed trail and climbing hardware leading to and at the Spacewall would be removed and remediated and the area would remain closed to climbing; 2) A No Action Alternative, where the user developed trail and climbing hardware leading to and at the Spacewall would remain and the area would continue to be closed to climbing. 

The purpose of this action is to protect the natural and cultural resources through the active management of sport climbing activities in the Spacewall area. 

Feedback on the proposed action, environmental issues that should be addressed, other potential alternatives, and sources of data that should be considered by the NPS in the EA are requested. Specific feedback on the proposed action as it relates to visitor experience is also sought.  

To review project information and provide electronic comments, go to https://parkplanning.nps.gov/SpacewallScope  

Comments will be accepted June 1-30, 2021. Hardcopy comments can be mailed to: Superintendent, 810 State Route 20, Sedro Woolley, WA 98284. 

A virtual public meeting will be held on Tuesday, June 8, 5-7 pm PDT.  Additional details are available at the project website.  If you need reasonable accommodations to attend the meeting, please email the contact above as soon as possible. You may join the meeting on your computer or mobile device as early as 4:30 pm at the following link:  https://doilearn2.webex.com/doilearn2/j.php?MTID=m952d43eca16bf49ae98a24ff79802086. Alternate audio is available for a toll at this number: 415-527-5035 

Following the 30-day review, alternatives will be refined and required environmental analysis completed. The EA will be provided for public review in late summer 2021.  

How it's Made: Climbing Ropes

The Discovery Channel used to have a wonderfully engaging television show entitled, How it's Made. Some time ago, they ran an episode on how ropes are made with a focus on climbing ropes and yachting ropes.

Check out the video below:

Sterling Ropes also produced a video on how climbing ropes are made. Though the production values of this video are a little bit lower than that of the Discovery Channel show, there is a great deal more specific information about climbing rope construction. There are also a few goofy jokes that make this video fun to watch.

See the Sterling video below:

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, June 7, 2021

Film Review: Those Who Wish Me Dead

I admit it. I've never been that big of an Angelina Jolie movie fan. Her characters always feel a little bit too full of themselves. They're always just a little bit too cool, a bit too arrogant. And even when the film works, I wonder if another actress could have brought a little bit more depth to the role.

Um. Is Angelina Jolie wearing make-up while fighting a forest fire?

Jolie's new film, Those Who Wish Me Dead, allows the actress a little bit more room to show character depth. Hannah (Jolie) is a small town smokejumper, a wildland firefighter that drops into the heart of a blaze to fight it. On a recent fire, she witnessed the death of a family. This resulted in psychological trauma that she struggles with throughout the film. Her struggle includes both alcohol and dangerous adrenaline-fueled stunts, like popping a parachute while standing in the back of a pickup truck. And though Hannah's make-up is always perfect -- it is Angelia Jolie after all -- she is clearly fighting demons and struggling with PTSD.

After failing a psychological evaluation, Hannah is assigned to work at a fire lookout. There she encounters a scared child alone in the wilderness. The child -- Conner, played by Finn Little, is being hunted by a pair of assassins, for some reason. It's not too clear why. And though Hannah is struggling emotionally, she takes on the child and tries to help him escape from both the assassins and a raging forest fire they set.

So here's the thing. There's some goofy stuff in the movie. I already mentioned the wildland firefighter with perfect make-up. And I already mentioned her penchant for parachuting out of the back of a pickup truck. But did I mention that the seasoned firefighters hoot and holler and drink loudly to interrupt the graduation of junior firefighters...? Or did I mention that law enforcement officers in the film seem to forget that they can call for backup when there are violent criminals in the woods? Or maybe I forgot to note that bad guys are so over the top that it seems like they should be twisting their respective mustaches as they plan to murder everyone they see...

And here's the other thing. There is a pregnant African American woman in the film -- Allison, played by Medina Senghore -- that is a badass outdoors woman. She teaches a wilderness survival school, rides horses and fights bad guys with an aerosol spray can and a fireplace. This is important for representation in the movies as well as in wilderness spaces. Similarly, one of the wildland firefighters is African American, and of course, Jolie represents a female wildland firefighter. So there is diversity here. And on top of that, the film explores issues of mental health amongst outdoors people and first responders.

None of that is common in an action movie. I wish there was more of it.

But what is unfortunately common, is that much of the film is sloppy. And while some of the action is engaging, most of it isn't. There are three separate storylines in the film that ultimately combine in a final confrontation, and while this could have worked, they just don't nail it.

Is it worth popping up some popcorn and watching on the little screen as a streaming movie? Maybe. But Those Who Wish Me Dead is not worth paying for...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, June 4, 2021

How to Avoid the Bonk!

When I was a young climber, I was making my way up the Roman Wall near the top of Mt. Baker. And that's when I felt it. All of my energy was just gone. I felt like I wanted to sit down and go to sleep. But instead, I ate a bar, and suddenly felt good again.

What I experienced is often referred to as "bonking," or "hitting the wall." Wikipedia has a pretty good definition of what happened to me:

In endurance sports such as cycling and running, hitting the wall or the bonk is a condition of sudden fatigue and loss of energy which is caused by the depletion of glycogen stores in the liver and muscles. Milder instances can be remedied by brief rest and the ingestion of food or drinks containing carbohydrates. The condition can usually be avoided by ensuring that glycogen levels are high when the exercise begins, maintaining glucose levels during exercise by eating or drinking carbohydrate-rich substances, or by reducing exercise intensity.

Here's the thing. Your body will store between 1,500 and 2,000 calories of glycogen. When you're walking up hill with a pack, you rip through those calories. It's estimated that a mountaineer on 30-to-40-degree terrain will burn 700 to 1000 calories an hour. That is a massive amount when it comes to glycogen in your system.

Climbers on Steep Terrain on Mt. Baker

When I'm guiding, I like to tell people that they should eat something, drink something and use the bathroom (to go #1) at every break. If they don't feel like eating or drinking, and they don't have to pee, it's all the more important that they eat and drink.

It's not a bad idea to "carbo-load" the night before the climb either. These carbohydrates will help decrease the likelihood of the bonk.

In my case, eating a bar on the Roman Wall was pretty terrible. The route is a mountaineering route, but the Roman Wall is the crux. It's not a good place to take your pack off for a break. If I'd been diligent I wouldn't have had to deal with that.

In addition to all this, training helps. A lot.

Part of the reason you bonk is because your body is switching from the use of glycogen to fat stores. The more you train, the more your body is able to make this transition without "hitting the wall," at least without hitting it as hard as you do when you don't train...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 6/3/21


--Oregon Live is reporting that, "A 63-year-old man died Sunday morning after falling 500 feet while descending Mount Hood, the Clackamas County Sheriff’s Office reported. Witness called 911 to report the accident. The man, whose name has not yet been released, had been climbing with his adult son when he fell at the 10,500-foot level on the Old Chute Route, deputies said." To read more, click here.


--Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park is reporting that, "After a one-year hiatus, fire managers with Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks have scheduled the annual Ash Mountain Prescribed Burn in the foothills of Sequoia National Park, near the parks’ headquarters and entrance station along the main road, Generals Highway. Ignitions are planned to begin on June 6, 2021 and continue through June 9, 2021." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--KTNV TV is reporting that, "Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area’s developed campground – Red Rock Campground – is scheduled to temporarily close from 11 a.m. on June 1 to 2 p.m. on Sept. 1, 2021, during this low-usage period." To read more, click here.

--In related news, it's pretty easy to get a reservation to drive into the Red Rock Canyon Scenic Drive right now.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Montrose Press is reporting that, "An experienced outdoorsman died during an apparent fall while climbing Gilpin Peak, rural San Miguel County. Rescuers who had been searching for Telluride climber Patrick Eells, 29, after he was reported missing Sunday night, recovered his body at an elevation of approximately 13,200 feet, south of the ridge between Dallas and Gilpin peaks, 3.5 miles from Telluride, according to information from the San Miguel County Sheriff’s Office." To read more, click here.


Follow AAI's Denali Dispatches from the mountain, here.

Notes from All Over:

--Gripped is reporting that two climbers were killed in an avalanche on Mt. Andromeda in the Canadian Rockies. There is currently limited information about the accident.

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "On Sunday, May 30, at approximately 1:20 pm, a Mount Washington Volunteer Ski Patroller radioed the USFS lead snow ranger to report that a skier had taken a sliding fall down a 35-degree snow slope into Lunch Rocks in Tuckerman Ravine, NH. A short time later, the ski patroller made contact with the patient and the small group of skiers who were rendering aid and determined that the patient required immediate evacuation due to the nature of the injuries." To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "the third-pitch, also known as the Corner Pitch, on The Shoe “Le Soulier” in Banff National Parks has collapsed. The rockfall left a scar below and into the forest. The corner was an important feature for stem and jams, and was used for feet after passing the crux and onto the next anchor. Nobody should attempt to climb it until the rock (which appears very dirty and loose) is inspected and the bolts possibly moved. The route was first climbed in the 1960s, and was retro-bolted within the past 20 years." To read more, click here.

--Wolves are a controversial animal. But a new study suggests that wolves decrease car/deer encounters, decreasing accidents where they exist. Check it out.

--The Hill is reporting that, "President Biden on Friday visited a rock climbing center in Alexandria, Va., to celebrate the state's lifting of coronavirus restrictions and mark the progress the country as a whole has made in fighting the pandemic." To read more, click here.

--A ranger in Yellowstone was charged by a grizzly bear this week. Check out the video!

--Gear Junkie is reporting that REI will start it's own in-house production company. It will "produce films, podcasts, and editorial programs. The co-op already produces a quarterly magazine, storytelling podcast, and myriad how-to videos. But with the debut of Co-op Studios, the outdoor retail giant officially stakes its business interests in the world of multimedia entertainment." To read more, click here.

--By Presidential Proclamation, June is Great American Outdoors Month...!

--And finally, the highly anticipated adventure film, Super Frenchie will premiere tomorrow. Check it out:

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Miranda in the Wild - Dehydrating your Own Backcountry Food

Dehydrated food is really expensive. Miranda has some thoughts...!

--Jason D. Martin