Monday, October 31, 2022

Training for Endurance

Endurance is an extremely important part of climbing and mountaineering. Obviously, these two pursuits require different types of endurance. Rock climbing requires an individual to climb a series of moves without getting to pumped. Additionally, rock climbing also requires that you build endurance in a way that allows quick recovery when you find a rest on a route. Mountaineering is completely different. It's the art of going...forever.

Professional climber Joe Kinder has recently been putting out videos on techniques for climbing. His most recent foray into that realm is a piece on rock climbing endurance. Check it out below:

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, October 28, 2022

Toproping Etiquette

The following is a series of etiquette oriented questions that arise around toproped climbing at popular cragging destinations. The answers to these questions should be adhered to at North American Climbing destinations. Locations outside of North America may have different etiquette issues.

A Climber Lowers Off a Route in Leavenworth, Washington
Photo by Ruth Hennings

1) Where should I set-up my "camp" at a crag that I'm going to climb at all day?

Gear and equipment should not be placed directly under the wall. It's good to set-up a "safe" area away from the wall where you can relax without a helmet on and eat lunch. This will also keep the base of the wall from being crowded with gear and packs.

It's a good idea to consolodate your group's gear. Avoid allowing equipment and packs to be scattered around.

A Climber Leads Tonto (5.5) in Red Rock Canyon
Photo by Jason Martin

2) What if I have a large group and want to "take-over" a crag for the day?

It is not appropriate for a group to "take-over" a crag. Climbing areas are public areas that are open to everyone. As such, it is incredibly rude for a group to hold an entire area -- or even a few routes -- hostage for the day.

If you have a large group, you have a large impact on both other users as well as the area. The best thing that you can to mitigate that impact is to keep a low profile, allow others to work in on the wall that you're using. Never leave a rope up that is not being used to "hold" a route.

If you do have a lot of ropes up and other users wish to climb routes that you have ropes on, it is okay to allow people to use your ropes if they look like they know what they're doing. If they don't appear knowlegable and they are climbing on your gear, you could become legally liable if something happens to one of the climbers that aren't with your group.

A group climbs at the Cowlick Co. Crag in Red Rock Canyon
Photo by Jason Martin

3) What if a large group is using a crag and refuses to give up a climb to my small group?

If you've got moves, then offer to have a dance-off for the climb. Seriously, joking with people will often loosen them up. In most cases, people that have had a good laugh will be more polite and more open to allowing people to climb.

If the large group is very rude and refuses to give up a climb, then politely find another place to go. It's not worth lecturing an ignorant climber about crag ettiquete. More often than not, a lecture will just reinforce negative behavior.

4) Is it okay to use the same anchor bolts as the person on an adjacent route?

Yes and no. Will this cause the person next door problems? If so, they were there first. If not, then be sure to ask them before clipping in next to their carabiners. If they say yes, then clip the bolts, but be sure not to do anything that changes their set-up in any way.

5) Where should I go to the bathroom when I'm cragging?

If there is an outhouse nearby, always use that first. Avoid urinating at the base of the wall and always avoid urinating in cracks on a wall as this causes the smell to linger.

If you have to defecate, know the rules of the area. Some areas require the use of WAG Bags, while other areas require you to dig a cat hole and pack out your toilet paper. Never go to the bathroom on the ground, stack the toilet paper on it and then put a rock on top.

6) When should I say something to a person who is doing something dangerous?

This is up to you. I usually don't say anything unless there is real and iminent danger. If there is mild danger, I will usually chat with the people for awhile in a non-threatening way before providing any unsolicieted beta.

7) Is it okay to toprope the first pitch of a multi-pitch climb?

More often than not, the answer is no. This is a more complex issue than the others and it does depend on the route and the route's history. People who are doing multi-pitch climbs always have the right of way over those who will TR a climb.

Some climbs are multi-pitch climbs, but nobody does anything but the first pitch. In this case, all the other ettiquete rules apply. Other climbs are commonly climbed as multi-pitch routes and are seldom done as single pitch routes. Such climbs should not be toproped.

8) Is it okay to yell beta at people who didn't ask for it that I don't know?

No, many climbers like figure out the moves on their own.

Climbers who keep these concepts of etiquette in mind will almost universally have a much better time with a lot less conflict at the crags. And climbing isn't about conflict. It's about having fun...!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, October 27, 2022

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/27/22


--Gripped is reporting that, "Squamish-based Nathan Roberts died in a climbing accident in Cheakamus Canyon on Oct. 15. The BC Coroners Service have not released any information, saying they’re investigating." It is currently believed that Nathan died free-soloing. To read more, click here.

--NPR is reporting that, "a Washington state woman left her home to let her dog out early Saturday morning and ended up fending off an attack from a black bear. The woman, who sustained non-life threatening injuries, punched the bear "right in the nose," which led it to run away, according to one official." To read more, click here.


--An 8-year-old boy has set out to become the youngest person ever to climb El Capitan. Check it out!

Desert Southwest:

--The Las Vegas Review Journal is reporting that, "authorities are warning visitors to Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area to be vigilant after a rash of car break-ins this month. According to the Bureau of Land Management, which manages the popular hiking and camping refuge west of Las Vegas, there were multiple break-ins at one of the conservation area’s parking lots in early October." To read more, click here.

--Joshua Tree National Park is in the process of closing up old open mine holes. To read about it, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--It has started...let's be careful out there. Snowbrains is reporting that, "the last flakes of the first significant snowfall of the winter in Utah had barely even settled when a skier triggered an avalanche in Little Cottonwood Canyon. According to Utah Avalanche Center (UAC) forecaster Craig Gordon, the slide was triggered near Main Chute on Mount Baldy above Alta Ski Area. Nobody was injured." To read more, click here.

Moab's Delicate Arch is a major tourist attraction in Arches National Park.

--Arches National Park is completely filling up as early as 8:30am. To read about it, click here.

--From Rocky Mountain National Park: "Beginning in late October and early November 2022, construction will begin on a new and improved entrance station at the Fall River Entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park. The Fall River Entrance is one of two major entrance stations on the east side of the park and is located on U.S. Highway 34, just inside the park boundary. During this major construction project, only one lane at Fall River Entrance will be operational to enter the park and one lane to exit. Park visitors are strongly encouraged to avoid the Fall River Entrance and use the Beaver Meadows Entrance." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Outside is reporting that, "Citing lawlessness and “chaos,” Cotopaxi CEO Davis Smith announced on his personal LinkedIn page yesterday that he has closed the company’s sole San Francisco retail location. 'As of today, we are closing the store due to rampant organized theft and lack of safety for our team,” Smith wrote on October 18. “Our store is hit by organized theft rings several times per week.'" To read more, click here.

--SGB Media is reporting that, "The North Face plans to open more than 70 stores in North America and up to 300 additional retail and partner locations globally over the next five years. The North Face also said it plans to continue transforming existing sites to ensure consistent store formats for consumers who shop brick-and-mortar." To read more, click here.

--And finally, Climbing has some costume ideas for your upcoming trick-or-treat festivities.

Monday, October 24, 2022

Climbing Technique: Heel Hooks and Toe Hooks

As the terrain gets steeper, it becomes harder and harder for a climber to hold on...and that's where heel hooks and toe hooks come into play. In the following video, professional climber Joe Kinder discusses how to effectively employ toe hooks and heel hooks in vertical and overhung terrain.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, October 21, 2022

Rock Climbing Rests

Rock climbing endurance takes time and focus to develop. The more time climbing, the more endurance one will have. However, no matter how much endurance you have, you still need to know how to conserve energy, so as not to "pump out."

In today's blog, two strong climbers share their tips on how to rest effectively mid-climb.

This first video features pro climber Jonathon Siegrist talking about how he looks for rests. Please note, only the first half of the video is pertinent to this blog post:

In review, Jonathon's tips are:
  1. Rest with arms extended.
  2. Keep hips open and keep the torso over the feet wherever possible.
  3. Don't over-grip. 
  4. Heel and toe hooks can provide additional resting positions.
In this second video, Lonnie Kauk discusses his thoughts on resting.

Lonnie's tips are similar to Jonathon's:
  1. Stay calm and relax.
  2. Keep arms straight whenever possible.
  3. Don't over-grip.
  4. Remember to breathe. Take deep breaths.
The key take-away from these videos...? Resting is important. You will climb better if you know how to conserve your energy as you go...!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, October 20, 2022

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/19/22


--The Seattle Times is reporting on the Bolt Creek Fire near Index and the future of wildfire on the west side of the Cascades: "Thinning fuels on a hand crew in the first few days of the Bolt Creek fire, Cassandra Brazfield recalls hearing thuds as trees hit the ground. Early on, the fire — that for weeks has smoldered and smoked out Western Washington — behaved in interesting ways, she said. “It would just burn when it was super humid.” It would light up the “duff,” a dense, peaty layer of partially decomposed moss and litter, and the understory would catch fire. Trees would fall unexpectedly. 'It was scary,' said Brazfield, a firefighter with the state Department of Natural Resources." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Gripped is reporting that, "Alex Honnold has established a roughly 60-kilometre traverse that included 14 Red Rock multi-pitch routes, hiking and scrambling for well over 7,000 metres of vertical in a 32-hour push. He called the traverse Honnold’s Ultimate Red Rock Traverse or HURT." To read more, click here.

--Z107.7 is reporting that, "Joshua Tree National Park Superintendent David Smith provided Gary Daigneault with an update about the Park’s new West entrance. Smith explained that the entrance would help mitigate crowding at the entrance in Joshua Tree, and ensure that park rangers spend less time selling tickets to eager Park visitors. Smith said that funding for the new construction has been raised, entirely through entrance fees, but that contracting for the project has proved to be the most serious delay." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

-From the New York Times: "President Biden on Wednesday announced the creation of the country’s newest national monument, protecting tens of thousands of acres in the mountains of Colorado from mining and development and delivering an election-year gift to Michael Bennet, one of the state’s two Democratic senators. Standing on the grounds of Camp Hale, a World War II military installation that was used to train the U.S. Army’s 10th Mountain Division, Mr. Biden said he was designating 53,804 acres of rugged landscape as the Camp Hale-Continental Divide National Monument." To read more, click here. Here's more from Climbing.

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "The snowboarder who was involved in a hit-and-run collision that killed famed instructor Ron LeMaster at Eldora Mountain Resort, CO, last year has pleaded ‘not guilty’. Nicholas K. Martinez, 28, entered the plea during his arraignment in Boulder County Court on Friday. A court hearing will take place in January 2023." To read more, click here.

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "Aspen Skiing Co. (SkiCo) is asking the public to help name the trails at the resort’s new Pandora terrain, set to open 2023-24. An online form asks people to submit their suggestions under five categories: local people, local history, mining history, notable terrain, or greek mythology." To read more, click here.

--Climbing is reporting that, "after weighing several proposals to minimize winter ski traffic in Little Cottonwood Canyon, Utah’s Department of Transportation (UDOT) announced on Wednesday that it plans to ferry skiers to and from Alta and Snowbird in the world’s longest gondola. UDOT was also considering a road-widening plan, which would have added two bus-only shoulder lanes to SR-210, the avalanche-plagued road that winds its way up the canyon. Local climbing organizations have staunchly opposed both proposals, noting that the traffic is only a real problem for some user groups, and only on the snowy weekends." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The story about the Iranian climber that didn't wear a headscarf while competing over the weekend is changing by the minute. By the time you read this, the story may have evolved more. From CNN on October 19th: "a female Iranian rock climber, who did not wear a hijab at an international competition in South Korea, has returned to Iran as Iranian groups based abroad raised alarms over her fate back home. Elnaz Rekabi, 33, competed without a hijab during the International Federation of Sport Climbing’s Asian Championships in Seoul on Sunday. Videos of her wearing a headband with her hair in a ponytail while competing spread on social media." There are reports that this individual may go to jail for this infraction. But it is much more complicated, as Iran is currently seeing significant civil strife around women's rights. To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "the 2022 Piolets d’Or awards will take place from Nov. 18 to 20 in Briançon, France. The award will go to two ascents, with one being by Archil Badriashvili, Baqar Gelashvili and Giorgi Tepnadze from Georgia for their first ascent of the northwest face of Saraghrar Northwest in Pakistan. And the other award will go to Sean Villanueva O’Driscoll of Belgium for his Moonwalk Traverse of the Fitz Roy Range in Patagonia. A special jury mention goes to Nikita Balabanov, Mikail Fomin and Viacheslav Polezhaiko from the Ukraine for the first ascent of the southeast ridge of Annapurna III (7,555 m)." To read more, click here.

--Speaking of bears...if you haven't seen the viral video of the bear attacking the climber on fourth class terrain in Japan yet (don't worry, the climber fights it off) then check it out, here.

Monday, October 17, 2022

Rack on the Shoulder or Shoot from the Hip?

I admit it...

I wore a shoulder rack until approximately 2013. Please don't judge me. I started climbing in 1992. It's hard to change and evolve. But after 21-years of shoulder slinging, I finally switched and began to shoot from the hip...

Why would you subject yourself to a shoulder sling, you might be asking?

The author in Red Rock Canyon (circa 2005)
sporting a shoulder rack on a multi-pitch climb.

Easy, there are a number of advantages to racking on a shoulder sling.

Shoulder Sling Advantages

1) It's easy to shift a shoulder sling from one side of your body to the other when climbing off-widths or chimneys.

2) When you climb sport routes, nothing changes on your harness.

3) It's very easy to swap leads by handing the rack to your partner. Indeed, on some speedy ascents, we actually used to hold the sling out so the climber following the pitch would climb right up into the sling and then keep going...!

4) It's easy to see the gear that you have on your rack. Nothing is hidden on a gear loop at the back of your harness.

5) In steep snow, with a lot of clothing, it may be easier to find gear on a shoulder sling.

But there are also a lot of disadvantages.

Shoulder Sling Disadvantages

1) A large rack rubs your shoulder and neck raw. It can be very painful to carry doubles or triples.

2) On low angle terrain, the rack constantly gets in your way. It's hard to see your feet.

3) The edges of cams commonly get caught on edges while you're climbing, making it difficult to move efficiently.

4) Shoulder slings with fixed loops tend to change positions on your shoulder. Heavier gear constantly pulls the rack into inopportune positions.

5) If you fall and flip upside down, it's possible to lose the entire rack.

If you look at the advantages and disadvantages of a shoulder sling, it starts to feel like it's about even. There are five advantages and five disadvantages. But choosing whether to use a shoulder sling or to "shoot from the hip" isn't so much about the advantages and disadvantages of the shoulder sling, it's also about the advantages and disadvantages of racking on your harness.

A climber with a rack on his harness.

Advantages of Racking on the Harness

1) Nothing is rubbing on your neck or shoulder.

2) You can see your feet. Additionally, there's nothing in front of you, so it's easier to see mid-level holds.

3) The edges of your cams are less likely to get caught.

4) Ice screw clippers work extremely well on a harness, but don't work at all on a shoulder rack.

5) Everything feels cleaner and more streamlined when it's on your harness.

6) Most climbers use this system. This makes it easier to work with lots of different partners while having similar systems.

Disadvantages to Racking on the Harness

1) Depending on the harness, gear may be hanging in awkward places. This is especially true with harnesses that have offset gear loops. It can be problematic when cams are hanging over the front of your thigh.

2) It's harder to swap gear between leads.

3) It can be hard to see which cam is which at your waist. I personally rack my cams with carabiners of corresponding color to easily find what I need on my gear loop.

4) There may not be enough space on the gear loops to accommodate all the gear required for a lead.


How you rack is ultimately a personal choice. But I do lean toward racking on the harness. The main reason for this is because I did rack on my shoulder for over twenty years. I didn't want to change. But when I finally committed to updating my system, I found it to be much more streamlined.

That said, I don't put everything on my harness. I still put some slings over my shoulder. So you could say that my technique is a bit of a hybrid...

If you're new to climbing, I would strongly suggest that you try both systems. There is value to being able to accommodate different systems for different kinds of climbing. But ultimately, you're going to lean toward one system that you use most of the time. These days, it's highly likely that you'll lean toward "shooting from the hip." However, if you decide that the shoulder sling is better, there's nothing wrong with that. How you climb is completely up to you...that's one of the cool things about this sport!

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, October 14, 2022

Super Munter and Zooper Munter

In this blog, we have covered the super munter before. This is a technique that is used to add more friction to a munter-hitch lower for seriously heavy loads.

The super-munter is a variation on the munter-hitch. It creates a tremendous amount of friction and doesn't have one of the main problems of the munter-hitch, it doesn't tangle the rope. Indeed, the action of the rope as it goes through the super-munter twists the rope and then twists it back.

There are very few applications for the super munter (also sometimes called the monster munter) in normal climbing. Instead, the applications are more rescue oriented. This particular hitch provides so much friction that it is possible to lower two climbers -- one cradeling the other -- or perhaps a litter and a liter attendant in a SAR operation.

Super munters on two separate legs of a mountain rescue system, backed up by tandem prussiks make for an excellent redundant lowering system with limited equipment. And indeed, such a system would also pass the "Whistle Test." (The Whistle Test is a concept used in mountain rescue. The idea is that if everyone let go of their given strands at the sound of a whistle, the system would stop on its own and no one would get hurt.)

The problem with the super munter is that you have to anticipate that you are going to add the additional friction at the beginning of the operation. In other words, you have to tie the munter with the appropriate position of function, so that you can easily cross the break-strand over the load-strand and then clip it into the carabiner. If you did not do this right then a second option is to make a zooper munter.

This essentially requires a second carabiner behind the first, with the gate facing the spine of the first carabiner. To build the zooper munter, just bring the rope around the back and clip the second carabiner. You can see this in the second video which is a bit shaky since I was holding the camera and tying the knot at the same time.

The zooper munter allows you to create additional fiction without pre-planning. In many ways, this is a far more useful version of the super munter because it doesn't have to be pre-planned and -- even if the carabiner is situated correctly, you wouldn't have to open the gate.

Large amounts of friction are important when it comes to SAR operations and indeed, are super important when you are in a mountain rescue setting with limited gear...

--Jason D. Martin

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 10/12/22


--Here's an awesome piece on a blend of ultra-running and technical mountaineering in the North Cascades.

--Here's a piece from AAI's director about graffiti on public lands.


--The Reds Meadow road has been closed for the season in the Eastern Sierra. 

--Here's a list of seasonal campground closures in the Eastern Sierra.

Desert Southwest:

--A complete report has been produced on the recent deaths of two climbers at Tahquitz Rock. It appears that the fatalities were the result of the use of an old webbing anchor in descent. The webbing snapped and the pair fell. A handful of experienced climbers have died over the last few years making this mistake.

Mt. Wilson in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area

--What a nightmare. We've been fighting this for over 20-years. From the Las Vegas Review-Journal: "A project to build more than 400 single-family homes on Blue Diamond Hill near Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area can move forward. In a unanimous vote — and with opposition from Save Red Rock conservation advocates — the Clark County Zoning Commission voted Tuesday to permit the housing development and approved a tentative map of the project." There are more hurdles for the developer to overcome, but this is a bad sign. To read more, click here.

--Some bolting gear was stolen by -- what is believed to be -- climbers from the Story Crag at Mt. Potosi near Red Rock Canyon. To read about this, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "at a meeting on Tuesday, Vail Town Council outlined its parking rates and passes for the upcoming winter season. The town will be introducing peak days and charging more on these days, as well as rate increases across the board, including the Premier Pass, which will increase from $3,330 to $5,500—a 65% increase." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--We don't always report on fatalities outside North America, but this is a big one. Twenty-nine people were killed in a single avalanche on Monday in the Garhwal Himalaya of India. To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "Australian Daniel Heritage, 28, died while climbing near the town of Banff in Banff National Park last week. Details of the the accident, including the route and what happened, are unknown." To read more, click here.

--WCAX is reporting that, "A climber died after falling from a cliff near the Everett Dam in Clough State Park in the town of Weare, the New Hampshire Department of Fish and Game says. Rescue crews were called about 4 p.m. Sunday after receiving a report of an individual who had been climbing the cliff that was off the trail and was not a designated climbing area." To read more, click here.

--CNN is reporting that, "REI has quit Black Friday, forever. For the past seven years, the retailer has closed its doors on the day after Thanksgiving to give its employees a day off. The Seattle-based seller of outdoor clothing and gear said Tuesday that starting this year, every part of its business — all 178 stores, its distribution locations, call centers and headquarters — will close every year on Black Friday." To read more, click here.

--The following video is an excellent little piece on climbers of color in the Midwest:

--Congressman Ben Cline's website is reporting that, "Congressman Ben Cline (R-VA-06) and Congressman Chris Pappas (D-NH-01) led a bipartisan letter to National Park Service (NPS) Director Charles Sams requesting that NPS institutes a policy that reserves spots for active-duty military, Gold Star families, and Veterans to enter lottery systems at national parks. Currently, the NPS has a lottery system for several attractions at park units across the United States. A lottery system may only let in a set number of individuals to a portion of a national park, with slots often going quickly. The NPS already gives active-duty military, Gold Star families, and Veterans free access to national parks, but there are no spots reserved in these lottery systems for them, often resulting in them not being selected." To read more, click here.

--The New York Times did an article on one of our favorite Alaskan National Park events every year: Fat Bear Week! To read about it, click here.