Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/29/21


--Crystal Mountain Ski Resort will charge for parking this year. But cars that have four or more people in them will be free.


--A high speed lift is being added to Mt. Rose at Tahoe. 

--The Tahoe Daily Tribune is reporting that, "the cold front moving through the region Monday night into Tuesday brought high winds and dropped some rain on the Caldor Fire, and officials are planning aggressive mop up in and around the perimeter with improved weather conditions in the forecast." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--E and E News is reporting that, "Environmentalists won a notable victory this week with a federal judge’s order that the Fish and Wildlife Service reconsider extending Endangered Species Act protections to the iconic and stressed-out Joshua tree. In a sharply worded opinion, U.S. District Judge Otis Wright II concluded the agency fumbled its analysis of a petition to list the desert species, calling the 2019 decision to deny protections 'arbitrary and capricious.' He directed the agency to undertake a do-over. 'The Service’s findings regarding threats posed by climate change and wildfire are unsupported, speculative, or irrational,' Wright declared in his opinion issued Monday." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--US News is reporting that, "Search and rescue crews have recovered the body of a Durango man who died while climbing Blanca Peak in southern Colorado. The Durango Herald reports 57-year-old Vaughn Fetzer was reported missing Sept. 20, and his body was found in treacherous terrain on the state's fourth highest peak Monday." To read more, click here.

--Fox 31 is reporting that, "A 44-year-old climber, who the Saguache County Coroner identified as Jeremy Fuerst, died in a fall between the Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle on Saturday. Division of Fire Protection and Control – Canon City Helitack and Custer County Search and Rescue personnel began a search around 1 p.m. after a call reporting an overdue climber was received. Fuerst was spotted in an aerial search about 300 feet below the traverse between the Crestone Peak and Crestone Needle." To read more, click here.

--Climbing is reporting that, "Donald Bearie, a recording engineer originally from Grand Rapids, Michigan, was lowered off the end of a rope in South Platte, Colorado, last week. He fell roughly 25 feet and fractured his wrist, ankle, scapula, and two vertebrae. Bearie was between health insurances at the time of the accident and now is facing more than $100,000 dollars in medical bills. There’s a GoFundMe set up to help him get back on his feet and into the mountains." To read more, and to donate, click here.

--Vail Daily is reporting that, "A large die-off of fish in Mill Creek and Gore Creek over the weekend from a suspected accidental discharge from a tank used for snowmaking on Vail Mountain has caught the attention of the Colorado Parks and Wildlife department. Colorado Parks and Wildlife officials visited Vail on Tuesday to investigate. Representatives from the town of Vail and Colorado Parks and Wildlife said Mill Creek had been visibly impacted by a blue-gray color Tuesday." To read more, click here.

--The Outside Business Journal is reporting that, "one of the most widely known and beloved indy gear shops in the outdoor industry, Neptune Mountaineering in Boulder, Colo., has been acquired by another legacy shop, Ute Mountaineer in Aspen, the two businesses announced jointly this afternoon. The acquisition is set to finalize on Sept. 30." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Yahoo News is reporting that, "a California woman professing to be a shaman who was arrested and charged with igniting the wildfire that has thousands of homes under threat claimed the fire was started inadvertently while she was attempting to boil bear urine, authorities said. Alexandra Souverneva, 30, could be sentenced to up to nine years if convicted of starting the Fawn fire, according to officials." To read more, click here.

Monday, September 27, 2021

How to Sleep Warm while Camping

REI has a fairly good group of videos on entry level tips and techniques. In this video, they cover:
  • Sleeping Bag Selection
  • Air Pad and Closed Foam Pads
  • Sleeping Bag Liners
  • Clothing for Sleeping
  • Exercise in Your Sleeping Bag
  • Snacks and Beverages to keep You Warm
  • Hot Water Bottles

Staying warm in the backcountry is just as much of an art as anything else in the backcountry. It takes practice to do it well...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 24, 2021

How to Use and Autobelay

Many rock gyms have auto-belay devices. These devices allow you to do a roped climb without a climbing partner. They increase your ability to use your training time at the gym effectively because it's much easier to do laps or work a route, without putting someone else out.

In this short video, a rock gym employee discusses how to use an auto-belay device.

There are a couple of important things that he mentioned in the video:

First, remember to actually clip into the auto-belay carabiner. There's no one there to check you, so you have to check your harness and carabiner yourself. If you don't clip in properly -- or at all -- you may get hurt.

Most auto-belay accidents happen because the climber forgot to clip into the belay.

Second, if you accidentally let go of the carabiner, don't worry about it. Don't try to climb up and get it. Just tell a staff member. These things happen all the time.

Third, the first few times you use the auto-belay it will be very scary. It doesn't rally catch you until you've fully weighted it, and so it can feel like you're falling for a moment before it engages. There's value in getting used to this close to the ground.

Auto-belays are great. I personally really appreciate it when gyms have this option available...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 23, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/23/21


--Cascadia Weekly is reporting on the East Baker Lake Trail: "This trail area at the edge of the Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest complex is being recognized as Whatcom County’s representative in a national network of protected, publicly-accessible old-growth forests. The forest will be the first in Washington to be added to the network that includes 25 states. Other old forests in the state may soon join the list." To read more, click here.

--The campfire ban in Olympic National Park and National Forest has been lifted. North Cascades National Park has also lifted the ban.

--Due to summer heat, Mt. Shasta is nearly snowless.

--The Chronicle is asking questions about flightseeing over PNW National Parks: "Should visitors to Washington’s national parks hear only hooting owls and bugling elk, or are the sounds of low-flying aircraft also part of the experience? Administrators at Mount Rainier and Olympic national parks, along with the Federal Aviation Administration, are formulating policies to determine the future of commercial sightseeing flights over the two parks." To read more, click here.

--"The National Park Service (NPS) has selected Don Striker to serve as the superintendent of North Cascades NPS Complex starting in November. This position oversees North Cascades National Park and Ross Lake and Lake Chelan national recreation areas. Striker currently serves as the superintendent of Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska." To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting on the ongoing rockfall incidents in Squamish: "A huge rockfall that occurred from the North Walls on The Chief in Squamish after midnight on Sept. 20. A number of well-travelled routes were damaged or destroyed. A huge area has now been closed." To read more, click here.


--Large parts of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park are closed right now due to fires. To see a map of closures, click here.

--The Tahoe Daily Tribune is reporting on the impacts of the Caldor Fire: "he Caldor Fire burned hottest in decimated communities and the landscape has dramatically on the main highway leading to South Lake Tahoe. Blackened earth, scorched trees and burned homes are prominent alongside U.S. Highway 50 from Echo Summit to Kyburz. The USDA Forest Service Burned Area Emergency Response Team recently completed data gathering and analysis of the Caldor burned area to produce a soil burn severity map of the 219,578-acre, 76% contained blaze." To read more and to see photos of the devastation, click here.

--The Squaw Valley Ski Resort will now and forever be known as Palisades Tahoe. Here's the official announcement:

--Speaking of Palisades Tahoe, a popular patroller there is battling cancer. His friends have set-up a go-fund-me.

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "Mt. Rose Ski Tahoe announced today that it has raised its minimum wage to $15 per hour for all positions that were previously below. The increase represents a 66% increase over the standard $9 per hour mandated minimum wage in Nevada. The resort will also require employees to be vaccinated for COVID-19 ahead of the start of its 2021-22 winter season." To read more, click here. It should be noted that many more resorts will be required to vaccinate their employees due to the new Biden Executive Order concerning companies that employ more than 100-people. UPDATE: Liftblog and Snowbrains both keep reporting on more and more resorts that will require the vaccinations of employees.

Desert Southwest:

--The lodge at Mt. Charleston - a popular restaurant with climbers and skiers from Las Vegas - has burned down. To read about it, click here.

--An individual is facing federal charges for committing arson in Petroglyph National Park. To read about it, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Summit Daily is reporting that, "An injured climber was transported to a Front Range hospital via Flight for Life on Sunday, Sept. 19, after suffering a serious fall down a cliff face near Montezuma. At about 11 a.m., the rescue group was dispatched to a climbing area between Keystone and Montezuma known as Haus Rock, located a short drive down Montezuma Road off a pullout, according to Summit County Rescue Group Public Information Officer Anna DeBattiste." To read more, click here.

--The Bellingham Herald is reporting that, "A Pennsylvania man faces homicide charges after a Texas bow hunter was found shot and killed Friday in San Juan National Forest, Colorado cops say. First responders were dispatched to Kilpacker Trail Head on Friday morning for reports of a hunter who was accidentally shot, according to the Dolores County Sheriff’ Office. It took a search party 10 hours to come upon the body of 31-year-old Gregory Gabrisch, according to KDVR." To read more, click here. It is hunting season. Keep your eyes open and make sure hunters know you're human when bashing through the brush!

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "14er Mount Lindsey, located near Alamosa, Colorado, has been closed to public access due to liability concerns. Access to the summit block of the 14,048ft tall mountain is now prohibited, as stated by a sign placed by the landowners, the Trinchera-Blanca Ranch. While the closure doesn’t impact the surrounding peaks or most of the trail to the top, the summit and surrounding area have been placed off-limits to hikers. A forum post made by Lloyd Athearn, the Executive Director of the Colorado Fourteeners Initiative, states that the closure was enacted out of a concern for legal liability based on a recent court case and exception in the Colorado Recreation Use Statue." To read more, click here.

--Outside is reporting that, "For the first time in its 75 years of operation, Aspen Skiing Company (Skico) will charge for an uphill ski pass. In recent years, Aspen, Colorado, has become a hot spot for uphilling enthusiasts, largely because, until now, Aspen Snowmass gave uphillers free access to skin up all four mountains, season pass or not." To read more, click here.

--The Colorado Sun is reporting that, "the Colorado Geographic Naming Advisory Board on Thursday made its first recommendation: changing the name of Squaw Mountain in Clear Creek County to Mestaa’ėhehe Mountain. After a year of plodding procedural meetings, the board unanimously approved renaming the peak — referred to in debate as “S-Mountain” — after the influential Cheyenne translator known as Owl Woman, who facilitated relations between white settlers and Native Americans tribes in the early 1800s. Mestaa’ėhehe is pronounced mess-taw-HAY. (Click here for an audio clip of the pronunciation.)" To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Buckrail is reporting that, "Grand Teton National Park rangers responded today to a report from a climber ascending Teewinot Mountain of a deceased male at the base of the Black Chimney climbing route. Rangers arrived to the scene and recovered the remains of the deceased climber. The National Park Service is conducting an investigation into the accident." To read more, click here.

--Inform NY is reporting that, "A pair of climbers from Fort Drum were rescued last week after getting stranded in Lewis County. Around 8:30 p.m. on September 16, the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation’s Ray Brook Dispatch was notified of two climbers from Fort Drum that were in need of assistance. The climbers were located at Inman Gulf in the Tug Hill State Forest." To read more, click here.

--Those who wish to travel to Everest Basecamp this fall will be required to be vaccinated. Though their message was a bit muddled about this, it's likely climbers will have to be vaccinated in the spring as well. To read more, click here.

--A guy needed to be rescued off a cliff in New Hampshire, and now they want to bill him for it. Charging for rescue is a dangerous thing to do, even if the person deserves it. Why? Victims might hide from rescuers for fear of being charged. And they might not call for help until their situation is life threatening...

--CNN is reporting that, "The International Federation of Sport Climbing (IFSC) has apologized to Austrian climber Johanna Farber after inappropriate images of her were broadcast during the World Championships in Moscow. Multiple media outlets reported that the event's broadcaster aired a close-up replay of Farber's bottom during the boulder semifinals last week, prompting the sport's governing body to post an apology." To read more, click here.

--Climbing is reporting that the the AAC’s Catalyst grant winners for BIPOC and LGBTQIA+ climbers have been announced. To see who won and what they'll use their grant for, click here.

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

Don Striker Selected as Superintendent for North Cascades National Park Service Complex

The American Alpine Institute just received the following email from the National Park Service:

SAN FRANCISCO - The National Park Service (NPS) has selected Don Striker to serve as the superintendent of North Cascades NPS Complex starting in November. This position oversees North Cascades National Park and Ross Lake and Lake Chelan national recreation areas. Striker currently serves as the superintendent of Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska. 


“With 28 years of experience in the National Park Service, Don has a proven history of visitor and resources management,” said Acting NPS Regional Director Cindy Orlando. “He brings extensive skills in managing vast natural areas and an ability to cultivate partnerships, which make him a great fit for this position.”

“I am excited to serve as the superintendent at the North Cascades National Park Service Complex, which is at the heart of nearly two million acres of interagency wilderness,” said Striker. “I look forward to joining an amazing team and working with the park’s world-class partners to conserve the scenic, natural and cultural values of this unique area.”

In his current role, which he has held since 2013, Striker manages six million acres of wilderness and mountain landscapes, including North America’s highest peak, and the traditional homeland of Alaska’s Athabascan and Dena Native people, where they continue to practice a subsistence way of life. He recently served for 18 months as the acting regional director for the NPS in Alaska, overseeing all NPS operations across 16 parks, two affiliated areas and 54.7 million acres. Striker has also served as the superintendent at New River Gorge National River and Mount Rushmore and Fort Clatsop national memorials.

In addition to several superintendent positions, Striker has served as a comptroller at Yellowstone National Park and held several high-level administrative positions representing the NPS on interagency teams within the Department of Interior.

Striker holds a Bachelor of Science in Economics from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania. He and his wife Gretchen of 34 years have three children: Ryan (30), Bobby (28) and Kali (26). In his free time, Striker enjoys all things outdoors.

The North Cascades NPS Complex encompasses a “vast sea of peaks.” More than 300 glaciers are within the park – the largest single concentration of glaciers in the United States outside of Alaska. The NPS complex also preserves evidence of more than 9,000 years of human presence on the landscape including high elevation archeological sites. Park staff protect and interpret evidence of the early use of the landscape by Native Americans, homesteaders, miners, trappers, tourists, and industry as well as the conservation and management of forest lands by the federal government. Learn more at

At the American Alpine Institute, we have known Don Striker as Superintendent of Denali National Park and Preserve since 2012, and we are extremely pleased about his appointment to lead and manage North Cascades National Park.  At Denali, he has overseen our concession for mountaineering services which include six Denali expeditions each year and mountaineering courses and ascents on many other peaks within the park.  

AAI's president Dunham Gooding commented,  "This is a fairly dangerous and stressful operation, and Superintendent Striker has governed with respect and what might be called a light touch.  He has high expectations, but if one does what has been promised in one's contract, he respects the work and doesn't micro-manage (or second guess tough decisions on the mountain)."  

"More generally speaking, I would say he is progressive, easy to talk to, kind, and immensely caring about people, nature, and people in nature.  Colleagues believe he got the job as Denali Superintendent back in 2012 because he made a name for himself building partnerships, fostering extensive volunteerism in parks, and working effectively with state governments." 

Before taking charge of Denali, Striker was superintendent of New River Gorge and Mount Rushmore National Memorial, and comptroller at Yellowstone National Park.  His background is in economics (University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business) and the first half of his career was spent in financial management for both the NPS and the Department of the Interior.  He will be bringing an unusual array of skills and experience to the North Cascades.

The American Alpine Institute offers climbing courses and guided ascents in six states and sixteen countries, but our single biggest area of operation is in the North Cascades, and we are really looking forward to working under Superintendent Striker's leadership and management.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

An Alternative Classics Tour of Boulder, CO

Boulder and the surrounding areas are home to literally thousands of rock routes. From Dream Canyon's China Doll (II, 5.14-) to the Direct East Face of the First Flatiron (II, 5.6) there is an incredible spectrum of offerings...where does one even start? In this article we'll recommend climbs at each grade from 5.6 to 5.12 that you may not have heard of. Recommendations are made on the basis of quality, and not to be taken as routes that are necessarily the best protected climbs.

A climber follows March of Dimes in Eldorado Canyon

West Chimney to Icarus, Eldorado Canyon (4-5 pitches, 5.6R)

Two shorter "approach pitches" of 5.6 via the West Chimney (and yes, it is an actual chimney) takes climbers to a scrambling pitch to the base of Icarus. The three pitches of Icarus are fun, airy, and the final pitch is the same as the Yellow Spur- an incredible arete high above the Canyon floor. Climbers should be confident climbing 5.6 with poor protection (the final pitch is where the "R" rating comes from).

A climber enjoys the final arete pitch on Icarus
North Face Center, Boulder Canyon (2-3 pitches, 5.7+)

This shady climb is perfect for those hot summer days as it faces North. Take a fun tyrolean traverse across Boulder Creek to clean granite crack climbing for 2-3 pitches depending on how one pitches it out. The descent is a short and amicable walk-off.

Gambit, Eldorado Canyon (4 pitches, 5.8)

Gambit offers a variety of different climbing styles for 4 pitches up Shirttail peak- the highest point in Eldorado Canyon. It is indeed a further walk than other Eldorado canyon routes but 45 minutes is well worth this high quality climb.

A climber on the final moves of Gambit, Eldorado Canyon

Green Spur, Eldorado Canyon (4-5 pitches, 5.9)

The Yellow Spur gets a ton of attention, and rightfully so, but the Green Spur is also a high quality classic and rarely has the same crowds.

Outer Space, Eldorado Canyon (4 pitches, 5.10)

This undisputed classic protects (relatively) quite well with modern trad gear and should not be missed for competent 5.10 trad leaders. Start on the Bastille Crack for two pitches before busting right on a wild traverse to two pitches of extremely exposed climbing.

A party on Outerspace, Eldorado Canyon.

Vertigo, Eldorado Canyon (4 pitches, 5.11b)

This well-protected climb offers truly classic climbing in Eldorado Canyon with a beautiful dihedral and an imposing roof that offers unparalleled exposure.

Thunderdome, Boulder Canyon (1 pitch, 5.12-)
This one pitch classic offers quality granite crack climbing on trad gear and is a must for the grade.

One final recommendation!
Hands of Destiny, Boulder Canyon (2 pitches, 5.12+)

This gem was first climbed on trad gear and later retro-bolted, making it quite popular present day for those climbing at the grade.

This list is the tip of the tip of the iceberg- there are too many routes to climb in a single lifetime!

A climber enjoys the moderate second pitch of Wind Ridge, Eldorado Canyon. 

Monday, September 20, 2021

Film Review: The Horn

Mountain rescue is a tough job.

People are lost. People are injured. People are dead. And the rescuers have to go out and try to deal with the situation in every condition imaginable. It is an incredibly difficult job. And in the United States most of the people involved in mountain rescue are volunteers.

In the Alps of Europe, things are different. People still get lost, people still get injured, and people still die, but those involved in mountain rescue are professionals. They have state of the art training, high-end helicopters and advanced rescue equipment. They are truly some of the best mountain rescuers in the world. And they have to be, because at the height of their season, a rescue team might see 20 calls in a day. It's no different than being a paramedic at a fire station in a small city!

This is where The Horn -- an awesome documentary series on Netflix -- starts, at a the home base of Air Zermatt, a high-end helicopter equipped mountain rescue unit.

Air Zermatt is composed of pilots, doctors, mountain rescue specialists, paramedics, helicopter technicians and mountain guides. They are based at the foot of the Matterhorn in the mountain village of Zermatt, a place where thousands of people every year, climb, ski, base jump and get hurt in the mountains.

The team fluctuates between high-end, high-risk mountain rescues and ski accidents. But regardless of how a person got hurt, or the terrain their in, the team operates like a Swiss clock, perfectly in tandem with one another. It is incredibly cool to see a mountain rescue operation like this.

The Horn is produced by Red Bull TV, an online television platform. The movement of this series from Red Bull's high octane streaming website to Netflix is another demonstration of how outdoor adventure sports are slowly making their way into our national consciousness. It also brings forward the issues of risk that surround adventure sports. These issues can lead to some hard questions from the outside of the adventure sport world.

Whenever there is an accident in the mountains, people ask, "who's paying for this?" They ask, "who's paying for the rescues?" Their concern is that taxpayers are footing the bill for adventure sports. The downside to a series like this is that it does show flashy helicopters run by a private company that provides rescue services in the Alps. I can imagine the uninformed believing that this series is also reflective of how things operate in the United States.

It's not.

The Alps and rescue services there are completely different. As noted above, in the United States, rescues are primarily facilitated by volunteers. There are professional rescuers in the Untied States, and depending on the organization, some tax dollars may go to them. But even then, the bulk of the hours spent in rescues are still done by volunteers.

Regardless of the politics around rescue, one thing is clear. The Horn is a beautifully produced television series. The views of the mountains around Zermatt are incredible. The stories of the rescuers are incredibly engaging. And the tension around some of the things that the Air Zermatt team has to deal with is palpable. This is an incredible show, and well worth the time!

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 17, 2021

Leave No Trace: Dispose of Waste Properly

The third principal of Leave No Trace is to Dispose of Waste Properly. When discussing LNT, most people immediately jump to human waste disposal when talking about this. But that's not the only consideration when it comes to disposing of waste properly.

First, it's important to make a plan to pack out all trash and waste. Occasionally there is waste that is difficult to pack out, think gray water or toothpaste, but there are ways to deal with that...

Gray Water

This is what is generated when you wash your dishes in the backcountry. There is almost universally bits of food waste left in your pots and pans. As such, there are a couple of ways to deal with this.

Drink It - The most extreme practitioners of LNT will drink their gray water. If you can do this without throwing up, you're a better person than I am.

Strain It - The more common technique is to strain your water to get all the food fragments out of it. You can easily pack these out after cleaning your dishes.

Scatter It - While straining or drinking the water is preferred, there are some areas where it is recommended that you scatter your dishwater in the gravel on the roadway. These are most commonly front-country campgrounds.


Most people don't like to swallow their toothpaste, though that is one option when it comes to this kind of waste. The other option is to "raspberry" it. In other words, spit with your mouth shut, allowing the toothpaste to scatter and speckle the ground.

Human Waste

So what about human waste disposal?

As we all know, human waste comes in two main forms: urine and fecal matter. However, occasionally it comes in other forms too. This may include sanitary napkins, condoms and vomit.

In a wooded area, urine can usually be left anywhere. However, in the alpine one should try to urinate on rocks away from fragile heather. Mountain goats like the salt in human urine and will tear up the ground to get at it.

Climbers should avoid peeing in cracks on multi-pitch climbs. It's better to pee out on the face of the rock so that the urine breaks down. When one pees in a crack, it often doesn't break down and makes everything stink.

There are several ways to deal with solid human waste. The two most commonly accepted techniques are to dig a cathole or to pack it all out.


Catholes are the most commonly used method of human waste disposal in the backcountry. The idea is simple, you dig a hole and bury your poop. Once completed you pack out your toilet paper in a ziplock bag.

Following is a short description of catholes from the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics:

Catholes are the most widely accepted method of waste disposal. Locate catholes at least 200 feet (about 70 adult steps) from water, trails and camp. Select an inconspicuous site where other people will be unlikely to walk or camp. With a small garden trowel, dig a hole 6-8 inches deep and 4-6 inches in diameter. The cathole should be covered and disguised with natural materials when finished. If camping in the area for more than one night, or if camping with a large group, cathole sites should be widely dispersed.

Waste Bags

These are commercial bags that are used to haul out human waste. Commonly used brands include the WAG Bag, Rest Stop and the Biffy Bag. The idea is simple.

You poop in the bag...

Most waste bags come with toilet paper, a wet wipe and a double bagging system.

In heavily used areas where it's hard to dig, waste bags are the best option for human waste disposal. These bags are also commonly used in alpine and winter environments. And finally, these can also be used to dispose of other human waste products like tampons and condoms. These types of items should always be packed out, no matter how far back you are...

Other Techniques and Thoughts

There is no question that catholes and waste bags are the most commonly used and likely the best option for the disposal of fecal matter. But there are a few other techniques that may be used in areas that are not popular where there are very few people.

When I think about these techniques, I think of extremely obscure mountains or big traverses that are uncommon and take too long (over four days) to carry all of the waste out. If any of these techniques were used in popular areas, they would have an immediate effect on visitor experiences and water quality; and would likely make it an unpleasant place to visit.

Smear Technique - With this technique, fecal matter is smeared thinly on a rock in the sun. The idea is that the waste will dry out and blow away. But for this to work, the waste has to be spread so thinly that it is no more thick than the width of the side of a coin.

The smear technique is overused. It is commonly employed in areas with too large a user group for the fecal matter to break down before others encounter it. And sometimes people use this technique in shady areas where the waste never breaks down.

Crevassing - In this technique, waste is thrown into a crevasse. Obviously, this eventually makes its way into the watershed below the glacier. On obscure glaciers, this isn't that big a deal. But if you see others on the glacier or you're following a bootpack, it's likely not a remote enough glacier to use this technique.

The Poop Bird - This one's pretty simple. You poop on a rock and throw it off a cliff or moraine, the idea being that it will splatter and spread everywhere so that it will break down quickly. It goes without saying that this is for extremely remote places.

Burning Toilet Paper - Some people like to burn their toilet paper and bury it in a cathole or allow the ashes to scatter. This is not a recommended technique as the toilet paper never really completely burns down, and it also creates a forest fire hazard. That said, if you are completely adverse to carrying out your toilet paper, this is likely a better option than leaving it lying around. If you choose to employ this technique, please please please make sure that the toilet paper has completely gone out and that there are no cinders or glowing bits left over.

And finally, I did mention vomit. In the event of a an incident where vomit is generated, it should be immediately buried. Vomit attracts all kinds of animals.

There is no doubt that the best way to keep the places where we recreate clean and beautiful, it is imperative that we Dispose of Waste Properly.

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Film Review: The Alpinist

Sender Films has long been a leader in the documentary filmmaking of climbers and climbing. They were originally responsible for the Reel Rock Film Tour, Valley Uprising and The Dawn Wall. All of these have had a deep impact on climbing culture, the way we see the leaders in the climbing world, and the way we see ourselves.

The Alpinist joins the ranks of the other films within their portfolio. This profile of the iconic Canadian climber, Marc-André Leclerc takes us into the mind of one of the world's leading young alpine soloists as he makes extreme ascent after extreme ascent.

Like The Dawn Wall or Free Solo, the film explores not just the serious side of this individual, but the quirky elements of a climber. It covers the weirdness of Marc-André's dirtbag lifestyle, living in a stairwell. It covers his experimental drug phase. And it covers his obsession with soloing hard and very serious alpine climbs, things that anyone would be proud of completing with a partner. And finally, it covers the young man's untimely death...

This is an engaging, funny and often scary, film. We are certainly transported into a different world, a world that is a throwback to climbers of old. Marc-André didn't post on social media, he didn't have a following aside from inside some internet forums, and he didn't even have a phone. We got to see an old-school adventurer taking on things in a way that was -- at least in his mind -- very pure.

The psychology of Marc-André in the film was a bit tough though. And maybe this is my age and my experience managing people, but there is a moment in the film, where the filmmakers can't find the young climber. They have no idea where he is. And he certainly doesn't pick up his phone. They're frustrated, and in some ways, it's easier to get into the minds of these people who are managing a project, than into the mind of an early-twenties individual that doesn't believe in social media or phones...

And this is a weakness in the film. We think we know who Marc-André is, but just barely. I'm not sure we got as deeply into his mind as we got into the minds of people like Tommy Caldwell or Alex Honnold in similar films. But I'm not sure this is the fault of the filmmakers. Marc-André was a tough subject.

There is a piece of adventure documentary filmmaking that has become a little overdone with these types of films, and that's the outside commentary. The filmmakers find well-respected members of a given community and have them talk about the documentary subject's adventures. Inevitably, someone will say, "who is this guy?" They'll say what the person is doing is "groundbreaking," or the "future of the sport." And then -- like with Free Solo -- they'll talk about the danger that the person is facing while completing his adventures.

It's a bit of a contradiction to say, in one paragraph that we didn't get to know Marc-André well enough, while in the next to say that there was too much outside commentary on him. And this really gets to the heart of the difficulty of making a film about someone like this. We want to know this person. We want to know their motivations and who they are. But their motivations and who they are are obscured by the fact that they're not totally interested in our interest in them...which is not something we're used to in the 21st Century.

Criticism aside, this is a good film. And it's a hard film.

When Marc-André death is presented late in the film, there wasn't a dry eye in the theater. No. Maybe we didn't know him as well as we could have. We wanted to know him better. We wanted to understand him and see him continue to succeed in the mountains.

But now he's gone...

And in his passing, we are left with what we're always left with when a person dies in the mountains: Deep feelings of grief. Grief for the loss of a special person. As well as grief for that person's family and friends. 

The documentary film crew gave us a glimpse into this person's life. And for that, I feel gratitude. We all got to know somebody who left us far too early. In many ways, The Alpinist film was a beautiful and thoughtful memorial to Marc-André Leclerc...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 13, 2021

Pro Tip: How to Eat Your Climbing Partner if You're Starving

Backpacker Magazine did a poll recently. They asked their readers if they would be willing to eat their partners in the event of an emergency. A large percentage of those who responded said, yes! Yes! Of course I would eat my partner!!!

So what did Backpacker magazine do about it? What any responsible outdoor magazine would do. They put together a somewhat perverse video on how to eat your partner.

And what did we do about that...? What any responsible guide service blog would do. We reposted the video below for your -- clearly -- perverse viewing pleasure...

I do think it is important to note that the meat in a mountain guide's body is much worse than any other meat...anywhere.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 10, 2021

Film Review: High Lane

There are a lot of horror-style movies out there that involve climbing in some way. Most of them are not just bad, but are really bad. It's actually somewhat uncommon to come across one that is...mediocre.

The reality of most film of all genres is that it's mediocre. You're often not totally bored. You find some engagement with the characters and then when the movie is over, you quickly forget it. Surprisingly, really bad films tend to stay with you a bit longer.

High Lane (2009) is one of those mediocre films that will likely drop out of my brain shortly after I write this blog. But that doesn't mean that I wasn't engaged by it. For a "horror-thriller" style film, set in the mountains, it was much better than most of its competitors, but that's not really saying much.

Five friends decide to go on a trip to Croatia where they will take a via ferrata route up into the mountains. For those who are uninitiated, via ferrata is a form of climbing where one wears a harness rigged with lobster claws. The via ferrata routes follow cables and ladders -- many of which were set during World War II -- through the mountains. If you fall, the lobster claws attached to your harness will catch you.

In any case the friends are composed of two women and three men. One of the women, Chloé (Fanny Valette), previously dated one of the men, Loïc (Johan Libéreau) and is currently dating one of the other men, Guillaume, (Raphaël Lenglet). This provides a bit of tension throughout the story, and indeed, is one of the subplots that raises this film above many of its competitors.

The group is lead by Fred (Nicolas Giraud), an accomplished climber who is sure that he can bring the group up into the mountains on a via ferreta route that is rusty and falling apart. Needless to say, he doesn't do a good job and the team gets caught in the mountains. And of course, the fact that they're caught is compounded by the fact that there is a delusional psychopath in the mountains that has set traps all over the place and might be a cannibal...or something. All of this leads to where most horror movies lead to, a combination of blood and guts and edge-of-your-seat tension.

There is one scene that is particularly interesting for climbers. The via ferrata completely falls apart and the climbers are stuck with two injured people in the forest above the cliffs. They have a rope, but pretty much nothing else: no gear, no extra clothes, nothing.

One of the great values of a film like this is that we tend to put ourselves in the characters shoes...and I have to admit that this was one time where I wasn't sure what I would do. The situation was incredibly difficult. Especially with the lack of equipment to rig anything. It's scenes like this that make this type of film worth watching. What would you do...?

High Lane is a French film that has been dubbed. This is a bit disconcerting at the start. I generally prefer films that have subtitles. But the dubbing is doubly disconcerting because there are sections in English where the characters lips line up, but then they start speaking in French again. This is annoying. However, the plot is just interesting enough to allow you to forget about the dubbing.

A second larger problem with this film is the way that the director (Abel Ferry) elected to cut together footage that was designed to raise tension.

Here's an example: A character is running. Another character is loading a crossbow. A character is running. Another character is still loading the crossbow. The first character is still running and the music is intense so he must be in danger, but the other character is still loading the crossbow.

Most directors would make three cuts where Ferry elected to make six or seven. The intent to create tension goes on for so long that there is no tension anymore...

Early in this review I noted that there is tension between two male characters over a female character. Though the characters actions are sometimes stupid (like fighting with one another while being hunted by a madman), this little subplot provides a small amount of depth to otherwise flat characters. It also provides a few plot twists that allow for a more interesting story.

The via ferreta sequences are mostly true to the way they would actually be...minus cables randomly breaking. That's a given in this kind of film, and I'm willing to suspend my disbelief. Indeed though, if nothing else, this film gets viewers psyched for cool via ferrata routes

High Lane is an engaging ride that explores some places that other similar mountain thrill-horror movies do not. But that doesn't mean it's a good movie...but if you've got nothing else to do, it might be worth an hour and a half of your time...

--Jason D. Martin

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Fixed Lines for Cragging

There are many types of fixed lines. Some climbers use fixed lines in aid climbing to get back to their high point. Some climbers use them in expeditionary climbing to protect exhaustingly long slopes. And others use them more simply just to move up and down from the top of a smaller crag.

Each style of fixed rope has its uses, but surprisingly, the style used the most is the third style. Short sections of fixed rope are common at cragging areas throughout the country. Most of these ropes are used to facilitate classes for beginners.

Fixed lines are designed to protect an individual who is moving over exposed second, third or even fourth class terrain. In this application (with beginners) they shouldn't be used for more difficult terrain. Instead, such terrain should probably be belayed.

Fixed lines are relatively simple to install. Build a 12-point SERENE anchor at the top and then work your way down the exposed area, placing gear along the way. At each piece of gear, the fixed line should be clipped in with an overhand eight knot. It should not run through the carabiners freely as this would defeat the purpose of the pieces. Each stretch of rope should be isolated.

There are three ways that an individual might use a fixed line. First, they might simply use it as a handline. This is the simplest way as there is little for climbers to do but hold the line. Such a use indicates that the likelyhood of a fall is low and that an individual or a group simply needs a little bit of additional security.

Climbers moving down a hand-line.

Second, they might use the lobster claw technique. This is where an individual girth-hitches two slings to their tie-in point. A locking carabiner is then clipped to the end of each sling. A climber can then clip both slings to the fixed line as he or she moves up the line. As the climber gets to set pieces, he or she can clip past the piece without coming completely off the rope.

A static line protecting a brushy ledge. Note the pieces along the rope.

Another view of a static line protecting an exposed area along a trail.

The third technique is to place a prussik on the fixed line. A prussik offers the most security as it won't allow a person to fall anywhere if they slip. If you have one section that requires such tactics, it's not a bad idea to pre-rig the prussiks so that the beginner doesn't have to rig it in an exposed area.

No matter which style of line you employ, a good rule of thumb is that only one person should be attached to a given part of the line. You should never have two people in the same part of the system.

Fixed lines are great, but they should not take the place of a real belay. Before exposing your beginner friends to a fixed line, be sure that it makes sense. Be sure that it is the best solution to your problem. And be sure that everybody knows what they're supposed to do when they move up or down the line...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 6, 2021

Film Review: Meru

Conrad Anker and Jimmy Chin have been major names in the climbing world for a long time. Both of the athletes have built themselves into climbing superstars.  Conrad is world famous for his ascents and even made waves in the non-climbing world by finding the body of George Mallory on Mt. Everest. Jimmy is well known for his climbing photography and cinematography.

In 2004, I was living in Las Vegas and guiding in Red Rock Canyon every day. Many of my friends at the time were living the "dirt bag" lifestyle, living out of their cars and getting after it whenever they could. It was then that I met a young climber who had just linked up three huge classic lines in Red Rock. Renan Ozturk linked Epinephrine (5.9, IV), Cloud Tower (5.12a, IV) and Levitation 29 (5.11c, IV) in a single day. I was absolutely amazed. Each of those lines are not only big, but are nowhere near each other...

It didn't surprise me when I started to hear stories about Renan climbing with Conrad and Jimmy. There's no doubt that he had the chops to play in the same world class arena as the other two.

There have been several articles and films that featured each one of these climbers over the last several years. But none of them come close to the aesthetic quality and the human tension that exists in the film, Meru.

Meru tells the story of the three climbers and one mountain: Meru. Or to be more specific, the Shark's Fin of Meru, which is a massive granite peak that combines mountaineering, ice climbing, mixed climbing and A4 big wall climbing skills to ascend. Dozens of parties have tried the route, but no one had succeeded.

Conrad attempted the route in 2003 with Doug Chabot and Bruce Miller, but failed. They simply didn't expect it to be as challenging as it was. The film chronicles his return to the mountain with Renan and Jimmy in 2008 and 2011.

In the course of the film, we discover that all three of the men have dealt with close calls and loss. Conrad's mentor died first, and then his best friend. Renan becomes seriously injured in an avalanche. And Jimmy barely escapes from another avalanche with his life.

The three men all have different reasons for climbing Meru. It was a dream passed down to Conrad from Mugs Stump, his alpine mentor. It was a passion for Jimmy as he slowly brought himself back into the climbing and skiing world from his brush with death. And it was an absolute necessity for Renan to prove to himself that he still is who he was before his accident.

Meru is a beautiful film. The scenery mixed with the expert cinematography is breathtaking. But the real story is the story of the three men, mountain partners who work together to achieve a goal while sealing the bonds of friendship...

There is no doubt that it was a tremendously difficult task to make such a film in such conditions. There were times when I was amazed by the fact that the camera elevates as if by a boom (where did they get a boom in the mountains?) to provide a better shot. There were other times that I was shocked that they kept the camera rolling when someone was clearly in pain or at the edge. And there were times that I was amazed by the fact that they probably had to climb something twice or even three times in order to get a shot. And indeed, I was amazed by the fact that it all came together so seamlessly. Meru is a testament to documentary filmmaking. It is a testament to what can be done...

I had an unusual experience in this film. It was the first documentary-style climbing film that I had ever seen with a non-climber audience. Most of the films that I see like this are at Reel Rock Film Festival, at Banff Film Festival or at 5 Point Film Festival. The people watching films at these types of festivals tend to be like-minded individuals, who don't hyperventilate at the heights depicted or question the motives of the climbers.

It was valuable to have this experience watching the film with non-climbers, in part because hearing the reactions and the gasps of the audience reminded me what a beautiful place the mountains are, and how the images of what we do inspire others. But we need inspiration too. And that's where the value of a movie like this comes into play. Those of us who are not world class climbers need people like Conrad, Jimmy and Renan to inspire us. And a film like Meru does exactly that. It reminds us what is possible...

Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 3, 2021

Why You Need to Wash Your GORE-TEX Jacket! | Miranda in the Wild

Miranda in the Wild was approached by the folks at Gore-Tex to talk about how to keep these jackets alive...!

Check it out:

Here are a couple of important take-aways:

1) Wash your Gore-Tex item often.
2) Use any liquid detergent.
3) Drying with heat is essential.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 9/2/21


--This is a very cool report of a first ascent on the Mt. Challenger Massif, wayyyyy back there. 

--Gripped is reporting that, "a new five-pitch 5.10b traverse called Forgive My Trespass has been added to the Papoose in Squamish. Established this year by John Howe and Penny Cooper, the line adds a cool adventure to one of Howe Sound’s lesser-visited granite walls." To read more, click here.

Mt. Baker at Sunrise on September 1st.


--Beta and many others are reporting that, "a confluence of factors lead to the decision on Monday to temporarily close all National Forests in Region 5, effectively the entire state of California. The state’s firefighting resources are overwhelmingly occupied with several fires already burning, and adding more fires to their list could be devastating." To read more, click here.

--Ski is reporting that, "the fast-moving Caldor wildfire that has burned over 150,000 acres in California’s El Dorado County over the last two weeks made its way into the Lake Tahoe Basin over the weekend. Images from Sunday show the blaze nipping at structures and chairlifts at Sierra at Tahoe ski resort, 12 miles from the town of South Lake Tahoe, where evacuations were ordered overnight as the wind-fueled wildfire advanced." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Climbing is reporting on a catastrophic anchor failure: "One climber is dead and another seriously injured following an accident on Thursday, August 26 in Eldorado Canyon, Colorado. The two climbers fell over 100 feet—still roped together—while climbing the Wind Tower formation. According to a press release from Boulder County, the surviving climber was in his 20s, while the deceased was in his 30s." To read more, click here.

--The Adventure Journal is reporting that, "Gate Ninety-Nine 90, a popular access point for sidecountry skiing at Utah’s Park City Resort, has been permanently closed. Last winter, two skiers were killed there in two separate incidents, and, after much deliberation, the resort decided that was quite enough, and closed the easy and obvious entry point, right off the Ninety-Nine 90 lift." To read more, click here.

--Ski is reporting that, "Telluride Ski Resort is the first U.S. ski area to bundle accident insurance with its lift tickets, but according to Spot CEO Matt Randall, it won’t be the last. Spot partnered with Powder Mountain last season to provide complimentary insurance on its season passes (you can add it onto lift tickets for $5/day), and Randall says that the Austin-based healthcare startup hopes to be available to more skiers through lift tickets and season passes in the coming seasons." To read more, click here.

--Maury Birdwell just made the fastest known ascent car-to-car on the Diamond on Longs Peak. The free-soloist clocked the round-trip at 3:26, so fast...the ranger in the parking lot didn't believe him. Read about it, here.

Notes from All Over:

--Rochester First is reporting that, "A woman was killed in a climbing accident at a North Carolina state park on Monday afternoon, authorities have confirmed. The woman, a 30-year-old resident of Durham, was climbing at Pilot Mountain State Park when she fell 90 feet to the ground, said Kevin Key, of Surry County Emergency Services." To read more, click here.

--A mountain lion attacked a kid near Malibu last week. From Huffpost: "A California mom saved her 5-year-old son’s life when she repeatedly 'punched' a mountain lion mauling the boy in the front yard of their home in Los Angeles County. The 65-pound juvenile big cat was killed later Thursday by wildlife wardens on the family’s property between Calabasas and Malibu. The boy was dragged by the mountain lion about 45 yards and suffered significant trauma to his head and upper body, but was in stable condition at a Los Angeles hospital on Saturday." To read more, click here.

--Axios is reporting that "President Biden will nominate Charles F. Sams III to be the next director of the National Park Service, where, if confirmed by the Senate, he'll face the growing toll of global warming on the U.S. iconic park system, the White House stated Wednesday. Why it matters: Sams is of Native American heritage, and the Park Service has never been led by an enrolled tribal member before. In addition, the Park Service has not had a Senate-confirmed leader since the Obama administration, with four people serving in that role in an acting capacity during the Trump administration." To read more, click here.

--TV Insider is reporting that, "Alex Honnold is climbing again, this time for a Disney+ docuseries from National Geographic. The streaming service has greenlighted the three-part On the Edge with Alex Honnold with the subject of the Oscar-winning Free Solo. It sees him embark on a lifelong dream: an epic climbing quest across the remotest and toughest walls and peaks of Greenland." To read more, click here.

--Vail Resorts has announced the opening dates for all of its resorts.