Friday, November 26, 2021

Skis - Baseline Knowledge

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


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

Here's a baseline size chart:

Waist and Turn Radius

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

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

Ski Profile: Camber vs. Rocker vs. Early Rise

Click to Enlarge

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

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

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

Din Setting

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

Touring Bindings

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

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

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


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

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 25, 2021

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

Happy Thanksgiving!

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

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

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


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


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

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

Desert Southwest:

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

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

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

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

Colorado and Utah:

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

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

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

Notes from All Over:

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 22, 2021

How to Belay with a Munter-Hitch

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

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

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, November 19, 2021

Route Profile: North Face Chair Peak

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

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

Chair Peak Approach Route
Click on map to enlarge.

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

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

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

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

Approaching the north face. 

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

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

 A climber approaching the tree belay.

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

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

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

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 18, 2021

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


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

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


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

Desert Southwest:

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

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

Notes from All Over:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, November 15, 2021

Fixed-Point Belay Techniques

There has been a lot of talk in the industry lately about fixed-point belay techniques. Many guides are beginning to employ these techniques on ice climbs and on sketchy alpine climbs.

Essentially a fixed-point belay is a lead belay directly off the anchor, as opposed to the more standard belay technique of operating a device off one's harness. The idea is that a lead fall simply doesn't impact  the belayer the same way that a lead fall impacts him or her in a normal setting.

At a guide training in 2008, a number of our guides experimented with this technique, finding mixed results.  We found that both a tube style device and a munter-hitch worked well, but not so much for a GriGri.  Assisted locking devices seem to transfer a lot more force into the falling person and without movement in the anchor, this resulted in a painful fall for our leader.

The Association of Canadian Mountain Guides (ACMG) has put out a video on this particular technique.  It is a long and comprehensive video on the subject, but it is very good. Please see it below:

The French Guide Training organization, ENSA has also put out a comprehensive video:

At a 2014 AMGA training we experimented with this technique some more and decided that using a tube-style device wasn't appropriate at all. The best application appeared to incorporate the use of a munter-hitch.

In the photo above, we built a separate anchor from the anchor the climber was belaying on. We found that when an individual took a leader fall, it was easier to manage if your hands were far away from the munter-hitch. If your hands were close, you got pulled up into the anchor more easily. Additionally, the fall was greater because the anchor moved up substantially before catching the falling climber.

In the photo above the belayer has just held a fall on a fixed-point system. This system with a piece designed specifically to deal with the upward pull was easier to manage.

So why would you use this system?

It is a very guidey thing to do and it does require one to learn a new belay technique, so it doesn't make much sense...unless you're working with significant weight differences in a multipitch setting. If you intend to take children or small teens up a multi-pitch route, a leader fall may be so dramatic that they get pulled into the anchor and let go. This negates that possibility.

And while there aren't that many uses for a fixed-point anchor, it is one of those things that when you need really need it...

 --Jason D. Martin

Friday, November 12, 2021

Stick Clipping

I was in Red Rock Canyon, just below the first bolt, when my foot smeared off. My stance was somewhat sideways and if I didn't have a rope on, I would have fallen eight feet directly on my side, likely breaking my arm...

But how could I have a rope prior to the first bolt?

Easy. I stick clipped it. And that stick clip saved me from a hospital visit.

Stick clips are an important part of sport climbing. These are specially designed poles that may be used to clip the first bolt with a rope prior to climbing the route. These devices may be purchased from many different climbing companies, they may be made out of homemade supplies or they may be "McGyvered."

The concept behind a stick clip is simple. You have a pole that allows you to clip the first draw to the first bolt with the rope prerigged through the bottom carabiner on the draw. Then you may be toproped through the starting moves of the climb.

There are several manufactured stick clips available on the market. Following are a couple of examples:

Trango Beta Stick Clip

Epic Sport Epic Stick Clip

Homemade stick clips are relatively easy to make. I bought a painters pole and a placed a spring clamp a the end. I duct taped this securely on to keep the spring clamp in place. Alternately, some people use hose clamps to keep the spring clamp in place at the end of the pole.

My well-loved homemade stick clip.

My stick clip wasn't designed with a means to keep the carabiner open. Instead, I just push the carabiner against the bolt until it clips.

There are going to be occasions when you don't have access to a stick clip. On these occasions, you may wish to McGyver something. Climbing magazine put together and excellent video on this topic with the now Executive Editor of the magazine, Julie Ellison, describing how to do this:

I used to be a little wary about carrying stick clips. A lot of my friends made fun of me for carrying it around. But the fact that I didn't hurt myself in that short fall before the first bolt made up for every last joke made by my trad climber buddies...

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, November 11, 2021

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

On this Veteran's Day, we should note that veteran's of World War II essentially started the ski industry in the United States. Read about it, here.


--The North Cascades Highway, State Route 20, closed yesterday for the winter season. It will reopen, most likely, in late April or early May.

--A brown bag full of presumably stolen climbing gear was found in Bellingham this week. If you got ripped off, click here to learn more.


--CNN is reporting that, "a California woman is recovering and says she feels lucky to be alive after being mauled by a black bear that broke into her Lake Tahoe cabin and rummaged through her kitchen." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The BLM is updating it's recreation management plan for Calico Basin in Red Rock Canyon: "Recognizing the need to balance high-quality visitor experience with natural resource protection in one of the region’s most popular recreation areas, the Bureau of Land Management Southern Nevada District announces a public comment period for the draft Recreation Area Management Plan (RAMP) and Environmental Analysis (EA) for the Calico Basin area of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. The public comment period is open from November 8, 2021, to December 8, 2021. The Recreation Area Management Plan will guide future development and provide management direction for recreation resources within the Calico Basin Recreation Area, located in the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area northwest of Las Vegas." A zoom meeting about this will take place on November 18th. To read more, click here.

--The Southern Nevada Climbers Coalition is looking for 60 volunteers for the Red Rock Rehab stewardship events. This year the focus will be on the highly impacted area of Kraft Mountain. During November 20-21 the SNCC and Access Fund will lead projects to eliminate redundant trails, redirect current trails, install vertical mulching in compacted soil, and clean up litter. Email to sign up for one or both days.

Colorado and Utah:

--This ankle injury that required a rescue took place in Larimer County at a crag on Highway 14. Few details are available.

--Yahoo News is reporting that, "Human remains found in Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado are believed to be those of a hiker who disappeared nearly 40 years ago during a ski trip, officials at the park said Thursday." To read more, click here.

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "All proceeds from uphill skiing sales at Winter Park Resort this year will benefit three local nonprofits. Uphill skiers at Winter Park Resort will need to pre-purchase a $25 armband that is good for the full 2021-2022 season. The funds raised from this will go toward Grand County Search and Rescue, Colorado Rapid Avalanche Deployment dog teams, and Friends of Berthoud Pass." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "a skier suffered a minor injury when a cornice broke off and carried him 200-feet down the slope on Tincan Ridge, AK, on Saturday." To read more, click here.

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "on Sunday morning a skier was caught and carried a short distance in a slough in The Great One couloir near Fairy Lake, MT. There were no injuries, but it could have been a worse outcome if carried farther or into rocks." To read more, click here.

--NPR is reporting that, "an 83-year-old from Alabama started walking when he retired more than a quarter-century ago — and never stopped. M.J. 'Sunny' Eberhart strode into the record books Sunday as the oldest hiker to complete the Appalachian Trail. Eberhart, known by the trail name Nimblewill Nomad, acknowledged that despite having tens of thousands of miles under his belt, the trail was tough going at his age, leading to quite a few spills on slippery rocks." To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund is reporting that the "Access Fund and Illinois Climbers Association (ICA) are thrilled to announce the purchase and protection of the House Boulders, a new bouldering area and conservation corridor in southern Illinois." To read more, click here.

--Wyoming Public Radio is reporting that, "Wildlife biologists are proposing winter closures of some terrain in and around Grand Teton National Park. The hope is that the move would help protect the locally-endangered and isolated bighorn sheep herd in the range. But, as KHOL's Will Walkey reports, the recommendations are drawing backlash from some backcountry skiers, and stakeholders from around the region are searching for ways to compromise." To read more, click here.

--The Daily Beast is reporting that, "a mountaineering medical doctor called in a false report of hypothermia after attempting and failing to summit Denali, the tallest peak in North America, so he could be “rescued” by helicopter instead of descending on his own, according to a criminal complaint filed in Fairbanks, Alaska federal court." To read more, click here.

Thursday, November 4, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 11/4/21


--Forest Road 11 -- the road used to access the Sulphide Glacier and Baker River -- is out just before the Shannon Creek Campground. This was reported just a couple days ago, here. As such, it's not clear when it will be repaired.


--As a result of the Caldor Fire, it doesn't look like the Sierra at Tahoe Resort is going to open until after the new year. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "a skier triggered and was caught and carried in an avalanche on Loveland Pass, CO, on Friday October 29th, 2021. The slide occurred in an area locally known as the Kitchen Wall." To read more, click here.

--Affordable housing for ski area employees is nearly non-existent in some ski towns. To counter that, Loveland is leasing a motel 25-miles away to provide area employees affordable housing. To read more, click here.

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "Kirsten Lynch, previously chief marketing officer for Vail Resorts, was yesterday appointed chief executive officer and elected to the Company’s board of directors. Her predecessor, Rob Katz, was appointed executive chairperson of the board and will remain fully active and engaged in Vail Resorts’ key strategic decisions and priorities. Additionally, Ryan Bennett, previously vice president of marketing, lift revenue, was named chief marketing officer of Vail Resorts." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--AAI Guide Wyatt Evenson was featured on The Crux Series, talking about what it takes to guide Denali. To read the piece, click here.

--Footwear News is reporting that, "REI Co-op has created an initiative aimed at helping founders of color with their outdoor-focused businesses. The retail giant has revealed Path Ahead Ventures, an effort it said will help founders of color who are starting and scaling their businesses. For this initiative, REI said it will partner with Black, Indigenous, Latinx and Asian American Pacific Islander entrepreneurs with a goal of helping then build their businesses faster. This effort includes an investment of $30 million in 300 founders." To read more, click here.

--The 2021 Pioets d'Or awards -- the biggest award in world alpine climbing -- have been announced. To see the winners, click here.

Monday, November 1, 2021

How to Cut and Prep Ski Skins

It's that time. The snow is starting to fly and skiing is around the corner. And if skiing is around the corner, then it might also be time to get those skins out and make sure they're ready for uphill action.

There are a number of different skins available on the market. Some of them are easier to cut and shape, while others are harder. As a result, I've included three videos here. Each are a bit different. But if you watch all three, you should be an expert before you actually start cutting...

In this second video, we see a pair of skins that require a bit more work than most. If you can do this (prep the front of the skin), then you can certainly manage something a bit more simple.

In this video, Josh Madsen gives a basic demonstration of how to cut the Voilé Hyper Glide Skins (made by Pomoca) using a Pomoca skin cutting tool:

Obviously, the tool can make it much easier to make a clean and nice cut. But most of us don't have one of these and likely won't buy one. Thus, the first video here.

Happy skiing!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/28/21


Two words: Bomb Cyclone.


--Outside is reporting that, "on October 21, 2021, the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office announced its long-awaited conclusions about what had killed an active, outdoorsy family and their dog on a hiking trail in California’s Sierra National Forest on August 15. They determined that the family died of “hyperthermia and probable dehydration” on a day when temperatures hit 109 degrees. The cause of death of Oski, an eight-year-old Aussie-Akita mix, remains undetermined. Based on a veterinary examination of the dog’s remains and other evidence on the scene, Sheriff Jeremy Briese said Oski probably also died of heat-related issues." To read more, click here.

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "As the Caldor Fire tore through Sierra-at-Tahoe, CA, last month, we feared the worst––one of our favorite resorts was being razed to the ground. Thankfully, that didn’t happen, and due to heroic work by firefighters and the use of snowguns to dampen the area, Sierra-at-Tahoe survived. But that doesn’t mean there wasn’t any damage. The resort, who are working round the clock to prepare for the upcoming season, offered an update on what terrain won’t open next season, which lifts were affected, and when opening day might be." To read more, click here.

--Alex Honnold's mom just climbed El Cap at the age of 70, becoming the oldest woman to do so. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The New York Post and others are reporting that, "a hiker lost on a mountain in Colorado ignored repeated calls from rescuers — later explaining that they had been unfamiliar with the phone number, authorities said. The person was reported missing after they didn’t return from an expedition Oct. 18 on Mount Elbert, the highest peak in the state, Lake County Search and Rescue said." To read more, click here.

--The Salt Lake Tribune is reporting that, "Search and rescue crews led two climbers to safety early Saturday morning after they were stranded overnight in the Gate Buttress area of Little Cottonwood Canyon, Unified Police Department officials said. The climbers, a 26-year-old man and a 24-year-old woman, had ascended to the top of The Thumb climbing feature around 2 p.m. Friday, but headed in the wrong direction as they repelled down and became stuck on a ledge after running out of rope, UPD detective Kevin Mallory said." To read more, click here.

--The Colorado Sun is reporting that, "Sweetwater Lake - The newest federal land in Colorado will become the state’s 43rd state park in a first-of-its-kind partnership between the state and the U.S. Forest Service. What started as an effort to protect 488 acres surrounding Sweetwater Lake above the Colorado River from private development on Wednesday became the country’s first state park on Forest Service land." To read more, click here.

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "With ski season rapidly approaching, resorts are planning out the essential resources to make this ski season like no other. Unfortunately, Colorado ski resorts are facing an unexpected scarcity of employees. As thousands of positions remain unfilled, resorts are becoming frantic to hire employees in time for ski season." To read more, click here.

--Ski is reporting that, "Colorado’s Aspen Snowmass released its Covid-related guidelines for the coming season, including some vaccine requirements for close-contact, indoor spaces." To read more, click here.

--Snowbrains is reporting that, "Former pro-skier David Lesh has been found guilty of illegally riding a snowmobile at a terrain park in closed Keystone Resort on April 24, 2020, and undertaking an unauthorized commercial venture on national forestland. Lesh’s own social media pictures played a part in the conviction." To read more, click here.

--CBS Denver is reporting that, "it’s been another record year when it comes to call volume for the Summit County Rescue Group, a trend that’s showing no signs of slowing down. Last year, the SCRG handled 185 calls and so far this year it’s been 193. The increasing call volume is one of the the reasons the group was selected for a new pilot program to help them deal with the mental toll the load can create. 'This is a program that’s aimed at creating awareness and bringing processes to rescuers to help them recognize stress injuries, prevent it, mitigate it and have good processes available for the individual rescuer,' said Aaron Parmet, Medical Officer for Summit County Rescue Group." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--A Russian boxer fought and killed a bear after it killed his friend. According to The Hill: "The boxer, who has participated in national championships, shot the animal four times. The bear managed to swipe the firearm away and attack the Russian fighter, but in the end, Medvedev stabbed the bear to death." To read more, click here.

--KTVH is reporting that, "The Helena Fire Department rescued a stranded climber Monday morning on Mount Helena and a hiker on Mount Ascension. Around 10:00 AM, Helena Fire received a report of an individual stranded cliff side on Mount Helena. Upon arrival, crews found a climber with no rope or harness approximately 150 feet off the ground." To read more, click here.

--The Hill is reporting that, "President Biden has nominated Martha Williams to lead the Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) after she informally serving in the role since the start of the Biden administration. Williams was previously the director of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks and has also previously served in the Interior Department during the Obama administration." To read more, click here.

--The Outside Business Journal is reporting that, "Guthook Guides announced it has rebranded as FarOut to better reflect the company’s current business model and plans for future growth. The company’s Bikepacking Guides app will also be consolidated in the FarOut app." To read more, click here.

Thursday, October 21, 2021

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


--It appears that a solo climber became stuck on Mt. Erie's Zig Zag route (5.7, II). The Navy rescued the climber with a helicopter. Mt. Erie is a small climbing area near the town of Anacortes, Washington. It is not clear if the climber was free-soloing or rope-soloing.

--Oregon's KATU 2 is reporting that, "Crews rescued a 23-year-old Hillsboro man on Saturday when he dropped his climbing gear and ended up getting stuck on Wolf Rock in Linn County. The 911 call came in shortly before 6 p.m. after Johnathan Takle, 23, of Hillsboro, was performing a technical climb when his gear fell to the ground." To read more, click here.


--The Sierra Wave is reporting that, "firefighter Layla Bradley, age 29, from Powell, Wyoming, died while on an assignment to the forest.  Layla was working as a member of a wildland fire engine from Dragon Fighters Inc, a company that works under contract with the US Forest Service. They were providing additional initial attack coverage for the forest during this difficult fire season." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Fox 21 News is reporting that, "The body of 29 year old experienced hiker Madeline Baharlou-Quivey has been located in Class 5 terrain on Kit Carson Peak after several days of rescue attempts in light of inclement weather. On Monday, Oct. 11, the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office received a report that a climber had gone off-route, cliffing out below the standard route on Kit Carson Peak. The individual who called the department said that they had received a text message from the hiker saying that they needed help from search and rescue." To read more, click here.

--Gephardt Daily is reporting that, "Crews assisted a climber who fell some 30 feet at the Egg in Little Cottonwood Canyon Sunday. Salt Lake County Sheriff’s Office Search and Rescue was called out at 6:15 p.m. and found the climber unconscious and not breathing." This individual was resuscitated and walked out on his own accord. To read more, click here.

--In a separate incident, a climber died after being struck by rockfall in Little Cottonwood Canyon. It's not clear if there's misreporting and this is the same as the last incident. To read a detailed account of this accident, click here.

--There is a bill out there to get rid of single use plastic bottles in national parks. Hopefully it passes!

--WDTV is reporting that, "a national park in West Virginia is telling visitors they need to stop throwing rocks down cliffs, saying it could kill climbers and hikers below. A Facebook post by the New River Gorge National Park and Preserve says a rock climber recently reported to park rangers that multiple people were throwing big rocks from the cliffs at Diamond Point on the Endless Wall trail to climbing areas more than 100 feet below." To read more, click here.

--Here are the books that won for climbing in the Banff Mountain Book Festival.

Monday, October 11, 2021

Do I need Climbing Chalk...?

Do I need chalk...?

This is a really common question for new climbers. And the answer isn't always obvious.

Climbers tend to use chalk to keep their hands dry while climbing. The primary reason that one's hands get wet is due to sweat. But humidity and natural water on a route can also make a climber's hands wet. Chalk can be used to counter these issues.

When we talk about chalk, we're not talking about the type you saw in elementary school. That type of chalk has a calcium carbonate base. Calcium carbonate crumbles and comes apart when it's wet, so it's not that great for climbing. Climbing chalk has a magnesium carbonate base, which absorbs water (or sweat).

There are three primary options for climbing chalk: liquid chalk, loose chalk and chalk balls.

Liquid Chalk

Liquid chalk has really found it's niche as it is the primary chalk now allowed in rock gyms, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Liquid chalk has a calcium carbonate base and is mixed with alcohol. When you put it on, the alcohol evaporates (and kills coronavirus!), leaving a thin layer of chalk on your hands.

The big upside to liquid chalk is that it tends to last awhile on your hands. The downside is that you can't really put it in a chalk bag, so it's hard to "chalk-up" mid-pitch. Additionally, if you have even the tiniest cut or nick on your hand, it will hurt a lot to use, as the alcohol will sting...

Loose Chalk

Loose chalk is primarily used by boulderers and is commonly put into a big chalk bucket. It is easy to spill and often shrouds a rock gym in a veil of chalky mist. I don't really use loose chalk that much, except to refill my chalk balls.

Some chalk comes as a brick that needs to be broken up into loose chalk. However, this tends to be a cheaper and less effective option.

Chalk Ball

Chalk balls are fabric balls filled with chalk that can be placed in a chalk bag. They often come filled, and can easily be refilled with loose chalk. As chalk balls aren't that messy and tend to last for awhile, this is my personal "go to" chalk.

The question as to whether you need chalk really depends on the type of climbing that you intend to do. 

Alpine Climbing

Most alpine climbing isn't that hard. The vast majority of the alpine routes that are regularly climbed in the world, are 5.7 or easier. And even when the routes are harder, the cruxes tend to be short. Chalk isn't really required on these kinds of climbs. You can usually get away without it.

If you are doing a harder alpine climb, you'll have to consider where you're going to hang your chalk bag. The standard spot, at your tailbone, will most likely be covered by a pack. Often alpine climbers that need chalk will offset their bag from their pack, on one hip or another. This usually means it's easier to reach with one hand or another. Chalk balls are easier in this setting, because the ball can be pulled out and used by either hand.

Other Climbing 

In most other climbing settings, chalk is a good idea. However, in some areas there are Leave No Trace considerations. Hikers and birdwatchers don't like to see chalk smeared all over a cliff face. That said, it is possible to buy colored chalk for certain areas. Make sure that you're aware of the local ethics before using any kind of chalk.

A classic chalk bag with a belt.

Finally, you should be aware that there are really two ways that chalk is carried. Boulderers often use chalk buckets, so that they don't have to carry the chalk. However, most other climbers use chalk bags, because they can be clipped to a harness or worn on a belt. If you're doing anything longer than an eight move boulder problem a chalk bag tends to be a better option.

Happy climbing!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, October 7, 2021

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - October 8, 2021


--Outside is reporting that, "on September 28, a ruling by the British Columbia Supreme Court effectively removed police forces from the front lines of the Fairy Creek blockades, a 14-month-long act of civil disobedience dedicated to protecting old growth from logging in and around the Fairy Creek watershed on southwestern Vancouver Island. The court denied the application of the Teal Jones Ltd. timber company to extend an injunction order against protestors interfering with logging. The original injunction authorized the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) to arrest and remove all demonstrators, peaceful or otherwise. Since enforcement began in May 2021, police have arrested more than 1,100 people, making this the largest act of civil disobedience in Canadian history." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

Mt. Wilson in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area.

--The Access Fund is working to save Arizona's Oak Flat. "Right now, Congress is negotiating large scale investments in public lands through the budget reconciliation process—and climbing areas hang in the balance. How Congress will ultimately proceed, depends on what they hear from you in the coming days." To take action, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Huffpost is reporting that, "Tracy Stone-Manning was confirmed to lead the federal Bureau of Land Management on Thursday following a contentious confirmation process in which Republicans and conservative media labeled her an “eco-terrorist” and “violent extremist” for her connection to a tree-spiking incident in the late-1980s. Stone-Manning, a senior adviser for conservation policy at the nonprofit National Wildlife Federation and a former aide to Montana Democrats, will become the first confirmed director since Neil Kornze led the bureau under President Barack Obama. She’ll be charged with overseeing 245 million acres of federal land ― more than 10% of the entire U.S. landmass ―and 700 million subsurface mineral acres." To read more, click here.

--The Outside Business Journal is reporting that Maryland will have an office of outdoor recreation. "Last Friday, the state’s Republican governor, Larry Hogan, announced the creation of the office within the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR). He also announced that J. Daryl Anthony will serve as its first executive director." To read more, click here.

--Backpacker is reporting that, "three years after livestream viewers spotted them approach feeding bears in Alaska’s Katmai National Park and Preserve’s Brooks River, three men are facing federal charges, federal prosecutors have announced." To read more, click here.

--A couple and their dog were attacked by a bear in North Carolina. From Backpacker: "On September 29, a couple was having a picnic near the Folk Art Center along the Asheville stretch of the Blue Ridge Parkway when their unleashed dog began barking at a nearby black bear and ran towards it. In response, National Park Service officials say, the bear began to attack both the dog and the couple over the following minutes, leading to minor injuries. Ultimately, the pair and their pet were able to escape to the safety of their car." To read more, click here.

--It appears that Canadian Ski Resorts will require vaccination of both employees and ski area guests. To read more, click here.

--IFL Science is reporting that, "the melting of an ice sheet in Norway has revealed a pair of incredibly well-preserved skis that have laid untouched for some 1,300 years. The archaeologists who stumbled upon this discovery believe they might be the best-preserved pair of skis from prehistory ever discovered." To read more, click here.

Monday, October 4, 2021

American Alpine Institute Guides Choice - 2021

The American Alpine Institute is pleased to announce the 2021 Guides Choice Award Winners! The Guides Choice has been a highly valued award for over 20 years and long coveted by manufacturers and industry insiders. A core group of AAI guides thoroughly test products in a variety of demanding conditions across 6 states and 16 countries. 

This year four winners have been selected.

Hilleberg Niak Tent

Guides need something that is reliable, since they go out constantly and not always in the best of conditions. So when you are selling a lot of one item to guides unprompted, you know that it is a good product. We do this constantly in the Shop. 

In comes the Hilleberg Niak! 

First introduced to the market back in 2016, this tent has brought rave reviews Before this tent came out the Unna was the go to for the overall mountaineering tent within our ranks. When the Niak came out everyone was making 'oogly' eyes due to the weight savings and packability. The question that needed answering though, since this new lighter weight used lighter materials, was what kind of weather can this thing hold up in? Additionally, we asked how durable the tent was; and how was this tent going to hold up in the long run?

The results are in! It turns out this tent can hold up in some pretty nasty weather. Even though it is deemed a 3-season tent, the Niak can still take on heavy wind and rain extremely well when pitched out correctly. That said, those that use it need to remember that the fly does not go all the way to the ground, so wind and rain blown sideways can sometimes make it inside. I should also not that the lighter material isn't going to work in the absolute worst conditions. Those conditions are where you will require a 4-season tent.

As far as durability goes, they hold up really well too. Quite a few of our guides have this tent and use it throughout the summer and winter, and I have not heard of any durability problems (Trust me I would hear about it if there was).

So the lighter and more packable categories have been checked off. Also on the list, you'll find that this has the versatility of a free standing tent. You get an 'actual' 2-person tent with a good amount of interior space, vestibule space and a low profile for mountain weather.

To sum up this tent is versatile and lightweight. The biggest con is it's durability in extreme conditions.  But if you are like me, and don't really plan to have an adventure in a hurricane, then your bases should be covered.

Guide James Pierson: I have the Niak, and I really love it. It's lighter than the Unna, just as roomy, and can stand up to all but the harshest of conditions. I had it on a Mt. Baker trip in June where we had 60mph sustained winds, with probably 70-80mph gusts and it survived. Admittedly, it may be heavier than some of the other 3-season tents out on the market, but I never have to worry about it standing up to the elements. I also love that it has a real vestibule. I purchased the extra pole holders and am able to set it up with either just the fly or just the inner if I want to go super light in good weather. I would highly recommend it.

Most mountaineers out there are looking for versatility. Cool. This product does the job it's designed to do, but can it do more...? In other words, how can I be more efficient? For example, I have a down puffy that I am using as a down jacket, but can I also implement it in my sleep system, so I can take a lighter sleeping bag to save weight and bulk?

Versatility was the deciding factor in giving the Rap Line the award for 2021. We have an assortment of 6mm static lines for guides to choose from, but there are not an assortment of static lines going out the door. Guides only want to use the Rap Line .

There are many options out there for thin static cords, and if you have a really specific set of needs for a rope like this, then maybe there are other better options out there for you. If weight is your main priority then consider the Petzl RAD Line. If the maximal strength rating is a priority, then consider the Sterling 6mm TRC Cord. Or if the only priority is that you need a tag line, then you can consider the Petzl PUR Line...But for overall versatility, the Edelrid Rap Line takes the cake.

The Edelrid Rap Line has a pretty good feel as well, meaning that it is more supple and is nicer to manage with your hands. The sheath is grippy and the rope itself has a good shape to it. This is important because it gives you the ability to use prusiks on the rope when hauling, rappelling, or climbing out of a crevasse.

The thing that really sets the Rap Line apart from the others is its dynamic reserve, meaning that it has enough stretch (relative to a ‘static’ line) that it makes the rating of two falls from the EN 892 test when being used as a twin rope. Edelrid was able to accomplish this in a really clever manner, implementing Aramid fibers into the rope. These fibers will break under a certain amount of force allowing for the stretch that this rope offers. Due to this particular property of the rope, it's important to inspect it on a frequent basis, as well as after a fall.

The stretch is designed to absorb some of the forces generated from a fall. This can decrease the force applied to you, your anchor, or a piece of protection. This does not mean that you should lead climb on this rope (and that is emphasized in the instruction manual). This rope has some stretch, but not enough to safely use it as a lead line. That said, it can give you the flexibility to belay someone up on an anchor, or to provide a body belay. That is the big takeaway here, the Edelrid Rap Line can do all the things you might need of a 6mm static line.

One other thing to consider for lines like these is belay/rappel device compatibility. Since they are so thin, if you are rappelling off this cord only and not using it as a tagline or partnering it with a thicker rope, make sure that you have a compatible device with you. One option is the Edelrid Mago 8 device, which is tailored to handle thinner cords such as the Rap Line. Always practice and get a feeling for things before actually using them in a 'real' situation. If you plan on using this cord for ski mountaineering, practice rappelling at a crag with heavy gloves on. This will give you a feel for what it is actually going to be like.

NOTE: The use of thin static cords is an advanced technique, and it is highly recommended that you have  proper knowledge of crevasse rescue, rappelling, and mountaineering before including a thin static cord in your system. Always read the instruction manual of the manufacturer and adhere to their recommendations.

If you want to know if a piece of equipment has been seismic in its impact on the climbing sphere, take a look at the average rack around Camp 4.

Where Chouinard’s hardened steel pins had once been the buzz of the Valley, the Totem Cam is now emblematic of the bleeding edge. Friends, Camalots, Aliens: the lineage of camming devices that have moved the needle in free and aid climbing need make room for one more.

Totem understands that the world isn’t perfectly splitter, and where most cams work most of the time, Totems excel in the weird, the untrue and the uneasy placements. The smaller end of the available spectrum has been the most impressive, fitting and holding where other cams dare not go, which has created an almost cult-like following.

Whereas the Aliens used a softer 6061-T6 alloy cam lobe to achieve their signature stick, Totems crank up the engineering and employ a fully flexible stemless design that ensures equal load to distribution to all of the lobes, even allowing for a climber to load just two lobes on marginal aid climbing placements (body weight only). This trademarked Direct Loading System also allows for the cams to be placed in horizontal cracks without worry of being over-leveraged or working their way out.

Our only quibble lies with the racking, which splays the cams widest side out along our harnesses due to the sling design. But we can forgive this given their undeniable function, you just wouldn’t want to rack up with triples. The weight of Totem cams is also a wee bit on the heavier side, but again given their ability we are willing to get a bit stronger (or make our partners carry the rack).

With the capacity to act like offset cams, combined with a larger camming angle as well as a more svelte head width, Totem Cams have taken to not only filling the blanks left by other camming units, but surmounted them on many fronts. As an aid climbing piece they are revolutionary, and for trad climbing they significantly punch above their weight class in terms of sheer utility, which easily lands the Totem Cam a Guides Choice Award.

Guide Ian McEleney: I was skeptical about the Totems at first; there was a lot of hype around them and they looked heavy and bulky. I was quickly won over, however, on an ascent on El Cap where they proved to be incredibly useful, and quickly became gear that I saved for particularly tricky sections. Now a double set of Totems (and maybe triple of the coveted black size) are mandatory for any wall climbing I'm doing. I think the narrow head size and super flexible body let these cams stick in weird flaring placements where other cams will just rip out. Despite their added weight and bulk, they come along any time I'm on unclimbed terrain or on funky rock like limestone.

As a class of protection, nuts often get the backside of the harness. You can’t much blame them, however. They lack the flash of active pro, and there’s only so far you can stray from the old railroad nuts before you end up with something completely foreign. With cams becoming the pro-du-jour on pitches the world over, passive protection has become more refined and specialized. 

Enter the Offset Nut.

Produced from the original Hugh Banner design (there’s something undeniably fulfilling about a pedigree) the DMM Offset Nut leans fully into its roots and understands that constrictions rarely exist in only two planes. Flares, pin scars and awkward pods that would otherwise spit traditionally shaped nuts out receive Offsets handily.

Tuned like a gem, DMM’s Offset Nuts display a variety of facets that taper downward, producing a far more plug-shaped nut that nestles into constrictions with ease. By employing different angles on each face, the nuts can be rotated until the prime placement is achieved. When surface-area contact is the name of the game, having a number of different options greatly increases your ability to place solid protection.

As a set, from 12mm to 30mm, the Offsets are an excellent supplement to your existing traditional nuts, and you may often find reaching for them more often. Being rated at 12kN each and slung with a swaged steel cable will ensure they’ll be able to stand up to multiple seasons of abuse.

Almost comically, the only trouble we have with Offset Nuts is also why they are so good: they can occasionally be tough to get out! Because of their offset profile, the old rip and go style of removal doesn’t yield an extraction as often as we’d like, and fiddling with a nut tool is often the best way to clean.

The Offset Nut has nudged its way onto many of our guide’s harnesses and seems liable to stay put for a while, earning it a Guides Choice Award in 2021.

A Note from the Judges:

In choosing our award winners this year, we opted to do a bit of cleaning up. We awarded some well deserving products that have been on our minds for a number of years. Indeed, the DMM Alloy Offsets in particular, have been on the market in some form or another for years, and were an easy choice in making an award winner. Their shape has made them the nut to have on harnesses across the globe, many even opting to carry only a set of Offsets and supplementing with a few extra in the middle sizes. If that’s not proof of superior use-ability, I don’t know what is.

The Totem Cam, too, has had a long time coming in becoming a Guides Choice award winner. While our guides racks are always changing, we’re beginning to see a new standard forming: a single rack of Camalots, and a single rack in Totems. This speaks volumes about Totems as not only being the specialty pieces you might bring for a couple difficult placements, but rather as a full-fledged and well-developed line of cams that can stand on their own on anyone’s trad rack.

On the new and exciting side of the spectrum, the Edelrid Rap Line is a cord that we are particularly enthusiastic about. As a pull cord it functions just about as well as most on the market, but where the Rap Line truly shines is in its almost off-label uses: as a glacier-travel cord and in navigating quickly changing alpine terrain. These cords have seen wide use on glaciers, and particularly with ski mountaineers who are keen on trimming weight on anything that’ll slow them down on the ascent. We are excited to see companies like Edelrid push the bleeding edge, and believe that the Rap Line is well deserving of a Guides Choice award.

And finally, while we have given many awards to designs by Hilleberg the Tentmaker in the past, the Niak simply couldn’t be denied. It is a testament to the ‘built for the worst’ philosophy that we’ve come to enjoy about Hilleberg tents, and would easily call this a 3+/4- season tent, where Hilleberg only calls it a 3. It’s this hedging against the worst-case scenario that’s baked into the Niak, and what places it above almost any 3-season tent on the market today. On any given weekend, you’re likely to see American Alpine Institute guides unfurling their Niaks on any number of North Cascades peaks.

This year’s equipment choices are all examples of excellence in their respective niches, and we are excited to be bringing them into the spotlight with the honor of the American Alpine Institute Guides Choice Award.

--Christian Schraegle and Nick Belcaster, AAI Shop Management