Thursday, March 23, 2023

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 3/23/23


--560 KPQ is reporting that, "The Washington State Department of Transportation (DOT) will begin its seasonal clearing of the North Cascades Highway on Monday, March 27. The 44-mile stretch of State Route 20 closes annually during the winter months from the Ross Dam Trailhead to Early Winters due to heavy snow and persistent avalanche risks." To read more, click here.


--Yosemite has reopened!

--The Inertia is reporting that, "every week seems to come with a new winter storm to track in the Sierra Nevada region and we’re now stepping into territory where every week brings some kind of new record. The trend in the past decade has seen a handful of strong starts to the season that tapers off significantly as spring approaches, so when January 1 rolled around this year we were in a wait-and-see pattern. For reference, California had recorded 64 percent of its average April 1 snowpack as 2023 began, which accounted for 174 percent of the average snowpack for the first week of January." To read more, click here.

--This video is making its rounds of a patroller seriously losing his cool. Generally, our assumption is that the patroller is in the right, but this is a bad look for Palisades Tahoe.

Desert Southwest:

--From The Hill: "President Biden on Tuesday will designate two new national monuments at Nevada’s Avi Kwa Ame and Texas’s Castner Range and will also take a step toward the designation of a national marine sanctuary. The Avi Kwa Ame monument in Southern Nevada will include the peak also known as Spirit Mountain, which is part of the creation story of several tribal nations. The area is a desert landscape that contains a Joshua tree forest and fauna including the desert bighorn sheep, desert tortoise and Gila monster." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Sacramento Bee is reporting that, "An avalanche engulfed three people near Marble, killing one, Colorado officials report. The Friday, March 17, avalanche caught two skiers and a splitboarder touring the backcountry near Rapid Creek, the Colorado Avalanche Information Center said." To read more, click here.

--Summit Daily is reporting that, "Spring break has kept the Summit County Rescue Group busy this year. Over just the last 11 days, members responded to an overnight rescue of a backcountry skier, a snowmobile accident in Heeney, an airlift for an injured skier at Mayflower Gulch and several calls to Quandary Peak." To read more, click here.

--Fox News is reporting that, "A 56-year-old man died at Arches National Park in Utah on Sunday, the second hiker reported to have died on a trail at the park within a month, officials said. Park rangers had responded to a "report of CPR in progress" at Devils Garden Trail, the National Park Service said Monday. Officials with the Grand County Sheriff’s Department, Grand County EMS, and Classic Air Medical also responded to the trail." To read more, click here.

--Gwyneth Paltrow is currently defending herself against an accusation that she ran into a retired optometrist on a Utah ski slope. The optometrist's lawyers state that, "Paltrow crashed into Sanderson with such force that he broke four ribs and left him with a concussion. They claimed the concussion left him unable to adequately convey the seriousness of the crash, saying a ski instructor confronted him and berated him after the incident while Paltrow "bolted" away from the scene." To read more, check out an article at KOMO News.

--KPCW is reporting that, "On Monday the head of Deer Valley Resort had an update for the community about possibly joining forces with the new Mayflower ski resort, which plans to open in late 2024.
During a panel discussion about the state of the local ski industry Monday night at the Park City Library, Deer Valley President and COO Todd Bennett offered unprompted remarks about negotiations between the resort and Mayflower developer Extell." This new resort will not allow snowboarding. To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--CBS Boston is reporting that, "A skier who was buried in snow for about 6 1/2 minutes after getting caught in an avalanche in New Hampshire's White Mountains this week was dug out by a companion and survived uninjured, authorities said." To read more, click here.

--THV11 is reporting that, "on March 7, a man was sentenced for illegally guiding hikers at Buffalo National River (in Arkansas). According to reports, Jeffrey Johnson was sentenced to two years probation, $600 in fines, $80 in processing fees, and was ordered to pay $2, 686.27 in restitution. Mr. Johnson was also banned from the Buffalo National River for two years" To read more, click here.

--WUSF Public Media is reporting that, "the National Park Service is now requiring permits that could cost hundreds of dollars for filming in national parks – including the 11 parks across Florida and more than 400 others across the country – if there is an intent to make money off the recordings. That’s an increasingly common scenario among emerging content creators, including YouTubers, Instagrammers and Tik Tokers, who worry the government is turning out the lights on their growing industry." To read more, click here.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 3/16/23

From the Access Fund:

--"The National Park Service and US Forest Service are working on new national-level guidance that may prohibit fixed anchors in Wilderness areas, which would amount to a fundamental re-interpretation of the Wilderness Act of 1964. In other words, the government would regard bolts as illegal unless federal bureaucrats provide special allowances for individual fixed anchors. At stake is not only the ability to safely climb some of the most iconic routes in America, from big walls in Yosemite and Zion to alpine spires in Rocky Mountain National Park, but also the potential erosion of climbers as Wilderness advocates." To read more, click here.

--From Gripped: "Utah and Colorado politicians want to protect access to famous rock climbing areas. Utah Rep. John Curtis says that climbing and outdoor recreation is an “ever-growing industry.” Curtis and Rep. Joe Neguse, D-Colorado, co-introduced the bipartisan Protect America’s Rock Climbing Act, which would “reiterate Congress’ intent for climbing to be an activity allowable and compatible with wilderness designations.” To read more, click here.


--There's limited information at this point, but a skier was seriously injured by an avalanche in the Baker Backcountry near Mt. Herman on Wednesday. 

--So a stranded driver hooked his cell phone to a drone, sent it up, got service, and got rescued. Read about it, here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "the backcountry ski season has been marred with touchy snow conditions and several avalanche deaths, but on March 8, Christina Lusti and Andrew McNab made the first ski descent of southwest couloir of Mount Niflheim in B.C." To read more and see the line, click here.


--The Inertia is reporting on a slide in Tahoe last week: "A large avalanche slammed into an apartment building in the Olympic Valley area near Palisades Tahoe, one of California’s most storied ski resorts. The avalanche, according to reports coming out of the Tahoe area and it was significant – as in not just a sluff slide." To read more, click here.

Yosemite's El Capitan

--Nobody seems to know when Yosemite will reopen. Maybe tomorrow...? Maybe not...

Desert Southwest:

--There was some kind of accident in Red Rock Canyon on Sunday afternoon. This was likely a rappelling accident.

Colorado and Utah:

--The New York Times is reporting that, "the state of Utah is fighting in federal court to gut the very law that first protected its landscapes that have since become among the nation’s most popular national parks, visited about 10 million times in 2022. The courts should toss out the state’s lawsuit." To read more, click here.

--Backpacker is reporting that, "After state legislators voted down a bill that would have blocked hikers from suing private landowners over injuries, the owner of two of Colorado’s most popular summits says he’ll close the trail to the top." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Gripped is reporting that, "one month after Yosemite ice climber Zach Milligan died while soloing Polar Circus north of Lake Louise, another ice climber has died in Canada’s mountains. Police have said that an ice climber died after falling around 10 metres on a route that’s 25 kilometres up the Kootenay River Forest Service Road. The only route in that area is Gibraltar Wall, a four-pitch WI4." To read more, click  here.

--AAI Guide Lauren Olivia Smith had a close call while leading an ice climb in Montana in January. The story can be found, here.

--The Bangor Daily News is reporting that, "vandals are leaving false markers along trails in Acadia National Park, which could lead hikers to follow unsanctioned and potentially dangerous routes along the park’s rugged terrain, according to park officials. The National Park Service is trying to find out who spray-painted red splotches or blazes along the trails. The park uses blue paint — known as blue blazes — to mark trees or rocks along hiking trails so that visitors know which routes to follow to safely get to their destinations." To read more, click here.

--ANI is reporting that all foreign trekkers are going to be required to hire a guide to trek in the country after April 1st. To read more, click here.

--The Fairbanks Daily Newsminer is reporting that, "the National Park Service proposes constructing an estimated 17 miles of trail in the frontcountry of Denali National Park. The area proposed for development is the nonwilderness area of the park between the George Parks Highway and the Nenana River, on the eastern margin of the park" To read more, click here.

--This is spooky. From Science Alert: "Each year, hundreds of mountaineers camp at the South Col on Mount Everest's southern side in preparation for their attempt to reach the roof of the world. While these adventure seekers may be taking home some well-deserved bragging rights, a new study shows they may also be leaving behind some tenacious microbes that seem capable of bunkering down to survive on the icy, desolate outcrops." To read more, click here.

Thursday, March 2, 2023

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 3/2/23


--Spokane Public Radio is reporting that, "Grizzly bears in Washington’s North Cascades could gain habitat as the climate warms, according to a study that looked at how climate change could affect the reintroduction of grizzly bears. The study, published in the journal Biological Conservation, found potential high quality grizzly bear habitat in the North Cascades Ecosystem will expand as the climate changes. The study looked at climate scenarios through the 2080s." To read more, click here.

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "Comedian and actor Chelsea Handler celebrated her 48th birthday her way: by skiing in a U.S.-Canadian Patterned bikini down the slopes of Whistler, Canada. Handler was born on February 25, 1975, in New Jersey, and the near naked birthday ski in Whistler has become somewhat of a tradition for her. She first came to Whistler for her 38th birthday and has returned every year. This year, Chelsea was lucky to be able to catch some powder runs as a birthday present." To read more, click here.


--Yosemite National Park will be closed indefinitely due to deep snow.

Desert Southwest:

--The Deseret Sun is reporting that, "A Minnesota man who climbed into an off-limits ancient cave and petroglyph site in Joshua Tree National Park has been fined $540 and banned from any national park for a year. Alexander Lee Demko, 34, of Minneapolis was found guilty on Monday by U.S. Magistrate Judge Shashi H. Kewalramani in Riverside of one misdemeanor count of illegally entering, climbing, walking on, and traversing the Barker Dam Petroglyphs site, an archeological resource in the park." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Durango Herald is reporting that, "Two backcountry skiers died in an avalanche Saturday near Vallecito Reservoir. The men left to go skiing at 7 a.m. Saturday south of the reservoir with the intention of returning about noon the same day, according to a news release from La Plata County. But after failing to return, someone notified authorities at 9:18 p.m. that the men were missing." To read more, click here.

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "The body of a snowmobiler caught in an avalanche on Saturday was located and recovered yesterday, the CAIC reports." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The National Parks Traveler is reporting that, ", a national portal for accessing recreational activities on federal lands, is cluttered with unauthorized and possibly illegal “junk fees” that potentially generate hundreds of millions of dollars for a government contractor hired to operate the site, according to a lawsuit. The filing, which requests a jury trial and seeks at least $5 million in damages, raises the question of whether in effect has privatized public lands for the benefit of Booz Allen Hamilton, Inc., which operates the site. It was filed last month in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern Virginia and asks the court to order Booz Allen to refund to consumers processing, lottery, and cancellation fees charged on the website and mobile app." To read more, click here.

--Eddie Bauer has discontinued its "Guide Built" program, laying off all of their brand ambassadors and athletes. To read more, click here.

--Gear Junkie is reporting that, in the near future, "REI will only sell products that are entirely free of PFAS, the harmful category of chemicals. That’s the news from the Washington-based retailer, which announced Tuesday new product standards for itself and its thousand-plus brand partners. REI’s new rules will require its suppliers to cut all per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) from all cookware, apparel, shoes, packs, and similar gear. It’s a planned phase-out of all remaining products with the chemicals. Its deadline? Fall 2024." To read more, click here.

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/23/2023


--NBC News is reporting that, "A mountain climber accidentally triggered a deadly avalanche in central Washington, killing three people on the expedition, authorities said Tuesday. The victims were among six 'backcountry travelers' on Colchuck Peak, which is near the Cascade Mountains village of Leavenworth and about 120 miles east of downtown Seattle, according to the Northwest Avalanche Center." To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "two people died in an avalanche near Kicking Horse ski hill in Golden this week, bringing the total number of people killed by avalanches this winter to nine.  The size 3.5 avalanche measured 115 metres wide and 950 metres long with a crown depth of 1.5 metres and it ran on a weak layer. Avalanche Canada said this season’s snowpack is similar to the 2002-2003 season when 25 people died in British Columbia’s backcountry." To read more, click here.

--Don Striker, the superintendent of North Cascades National Park, has laid out three primary challenges and objectives for the coming year. To read about them, click here.


--Gripped is reporting on the death of a legend: "one of Yosemite’s most iconic big wall speed climbers, Ammon McNeely, has died at the age of 52. Details of the accident are unknown, but sources close to McNeely say that he fell off a cliff near Moab, but it wasn’t climbing related. During his time in the Valley, McNeely climbed over 60 routes on El Capitan and spent hundreds of days on the wall." At this point, it appears that Ammon was sitting on a rock near the edge of a cliff that fell, and he went with it. To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--The iconic invisible house near Joshua Tree National Park is for sale. A mere 18-million will get you a house with an indoor pool that disappears into the landscape due to the house's mirrors. To read more, click here.

--A lost hiker started a wildfire near Sedona. He's now being charged $300,000 for the damage the fire created. To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Vail Resorts doesn't appear to be doing a good job with employees who have traveled to the US to work for them. Summit Daily tells one story: "Queiroz is among several employees of Keystone’s parent company, Vail Resorts, who said they’ve faced challenges securing hours after traveling to work in the United States on a temporary student visa — known as a J-1 — for the 2022-2023 ski season. Students say it’s led to financial burdens as they contend with a high cost of living in Summit County that includes their housing, groceries and transportation." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Gear Junkie is reporting that, "Alterra Mountain Company, the owner of 16 ski resorts and facilitator of the Ikon Pass, will pay a total of $17.5 million to those who held passes in the COVID-shortened 2019-2020 season. That’s after a Colorado judge awarded the sum following a court case in late January." To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "German climber and experienced high-altitude mountaineer Jost Kobusch has become the fifth person ever to reach the summit of Denali, North America’s highest mountain at 6,190 metres, solo and unsupported in winter." To read more, click here.

Thursday, February 16, 2023

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/16/2023

Desert Southwest:

--Backpacker is reporting on three different rescues this month in Death Valley National Park: "When most people think of Death Valley, they think of heat—blistering, record-setting, egg-frying, triple-digit heat. But over eight days this month, a very different hazard sent SAR teams scrambling to rescue three stricken hikers: cold and snow." To read more, click here.

--The Access Fund is doing everything it can to keep reservations and fees from coming to Calico Basin in Red Rock Canyon just outside Las Vegas. To read more, click here.

--A couple of climbers had to rescue a free soloist who was stuck at a crux at El Cajon Mountain this week. This comes on the heels of the death of a climber on the same crag in December. It is not okay to free solo anywhere near your limit. And you certainly should never free solo a line that is not totally obvious. The amount of people getting in trouble or getting hurt, is rising. To read the story, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--The Silverton Ski Area is adding another lift.

--Seasonal raptor closures have gone into effect in Rocky Mountain National Park's Lumpy Ridge area. To read more, click here.

--The Owl Creek Chase Nordic Race had a bit of an issue last week. From The Aspen Times: "The race, which typically takes place on the Owl Creek Trail from Snowmass to Aspen, was rerouted due to moose activity near Buttermilk Ski Area." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Gripped is reporting that, "it’s a sad day in the climbing community as word has spread of the death of Zach Milligan, a climber originally from Montana with close ties to Yosemite. The accident took place on Polar Circus, a 700-metre WI5 in the Canadian Rockies. After receiving a call at 11 p.m. on Saturday night, a Parks Canada’s visitor safety team flew a drone over the climb on Saturday. “They found what appeared to be the deceased person at the bottom of a cliff in that area,” said Sgt. Susan Richter of the Lake Louise RCMP." To read more, click here.

--TV6 is reporting that, "The body of an ice climber that went missing off of Miner’s Castle at Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore last week has been recovered. According to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, the body of 31-year-old James Bake of Gaylord was recovered." To read more, click here.

--A climber was injured this week in Lakeside, California. From Fox 5: "A climber fell from a large distance near an East County park on Saturday, said CAL FIRE Public Information Officer Thomas Shoots. Officials received a call shortly before 12:30 p.m. reporting the incident, which occurred on a trail near El Monte County Park. CAL FIRE said the trail had difficult access." To read more, click here.

A still from the wild boar attack.

--A wild boar attacked snowboarders in Japan last week. Watch a video, here.

--The Climbing Business Journal has released a report on the state of the climbing gym industry. "The report chronicles and analyzes all the major industry happenings for the year 2022. More specifically, the report showcases the size and scope of the climbing gym industry in the United States and Canada, exploring in-depth the various shifts, changes and evolutions that took place in climbing gyms of all types last year. And, for the first time ever, the report reveals average annual growth rates in the U.S. and Canada and features a look at Mexico’s climbing gym industry as well, thus expanding the breadth of the report to encompass all of North America." To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "some of North America’s most experienced ice and mixed climbers gathered last weekend at the Michigan Ice Festival. Of all of the climbs that went down, a new WI6+ above Lake Superior might be the most impressive." To read more, click here.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 2/9/2022


Due to some field time, this news update was not posted last week. The current edition covers two weeks of outdoor news.


Low on Mt. Rainier

----Kiro 7 is reporting that, "Washington’s National Park Fund awarded a record-setting $1.1 million to the state’s three largest national parks on Wednesday. The funds will support 42 “priority projects” at Mount Rainier, North Cascades and Olympic National Parks." To read more, click here.

--Unsurprisingly, a new research paper indicates that Bigfoot is likely many bears. From BioRxiv: "It has been suggested that the American black bear (Ursus americanus) may be responsible for a significant number of purported sightings of an alleged unknown species of hominid in North America. Previous analyses have identified correlation between ‘sasquatch’ or ‘bigfoot’ sightings and black bear populations in the Pacific Northwest using ecological niche models and simple models of expected animal sightings. The present study expands the analysis to the entire US and Canada by regressing sasquatch sightings on bear populations in each state/province while adjusting for human population and land area in a generalized linear model. Sasquatch sightings were statistically significantly associated with bear populations such that, on the average, one ‘sighting’ is expected for every few hundred bears. Based on statistical considerations, it is likely that many supposed sasquatch are really misidentified known forms. If bigfoot is there, it may be many bears.' To read more, click here.

--WlFi is reporting that, "Nestled between the snowy ranges of Mount Rainier and Glacier Peak, a significant glacier in Washington state has disappeared after existing full of ice and snowpack for millennia, according to a researcher who has tracked the glacier for years. In this swath of mountain range in the Washington Cascades east of Seattle, the climate crisis dealt the final blow to the Hinman Glacier, the largest in the region, according to Mauri Pelto, a glaciologist with Nichols College. It's not just the Northern Cascades that's losing ice. Researchers recently found that up to half of the planet's glaciers could be lost by the end of the century, even if the world's ambitious global climate targets, including phasing out fossil fuels, are met." To read more, click here.

--Climbing is reporting that, "While certainly no Joshua Tree or Red River Gorge, City of Rocks National Reserve in southern Idaho holds its own as a climbing mecca for the area, with a storied history, over 600 routes, over 120,000 visitors each year, and 14,407 acres of land. During the first week of December 2022, the National Park Service acquired an additional 105 acres of land adjacent to the City of Rocks and the Idaho Department of Parks and Recreation purchased 260 adjacent acres, all land that had previously been privately owned and had limited access for use. With these new additions comes the opportunity for the development of many new climbing routes." To read more, click here.

--It appears that Aaron Minton and Tucker Merrill climbed a new ice line on the west face of Sloan Peak. To read about it, click here.


--There's news coming out of Yosemite on an Access Management Plan. This could have a real impact on all visitors to the valley. Read about it and comment on it, here.

Desert Southwest:

--From the National Parks Traveler: "Planning a backpacking trek in Joshua Tree National Park in California? You can obtain the necessary permit online at For the rest of February you'll also be able to self-register for a backcountry permit at trailheads in the park. However, the new online system will be fully implemented on March 1 and the self-registration, paper-based permits will no longer be available.  " To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "a skier was killed in a fall in the Y-Couloir in Utah’s Little Cottonwood Canyon on Saturday, February 4th. According to the Unified Police Department, the victim was a 36-year-old male backcountry skier who had lost control of his skis around 1 p.m. and fell a long distance to the base of the couloir. The fatal fall did not involve an avalanche." To read more, click here.

--The Denver Post is reporting that, "A snowboarder was found guilty of leaving the scene of a collision that killed a skier at Eldora in 2021. Nicholas Keith Martinez, 29, of Wellington, was found guilty Tuesday of leaving the scene of a skiing or snowboarding crash, a petty offense, in connection with the death of Ron LeMaster. Following the trial, Martinez was sentenced to a $500 fine and costs, as well as 40 hours of community service to be completed within 90 days." To read more, click here.

--The Colorado Sun is reporting that, "The United States will pay family members of a Ugandan human rights activist killed in an accident at Arches National Park more than $10 million in damages, a federal judge ruled Monday." This was not a regular outdoor incident, but instead the horrible result of human error. A gust of wind swung an untethered gate into the woman's car, killing her horribly, in front of her new husband. To read more, click here.

--Climbing is reporting that, "Nestled on the southwest side of Hallett Peak in Rocky Mountain National Park, Chaos Canyon, one of North America’s best known bouldering areas, is home to nearly 1,000 boulder problems on impeccable Rocky Mountain granite. Due to a massive rockfall event on the south slope of Hallett Peak on June 28, 2022, the National Park Service has indefinitely closed access to all areas west of Lake Haiyaha, including all of Upper Chaos and Upper Upper Chaos, home to some 80% of the canyons boulder problems. These closures have raised questions about the future of climbing in the canyon and lead some to speculate about the National Park’s long term attitude toward climbers." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--KTOO in Alaska is reporting that, "It took dozens of rescuers several hours to retrieve a skier who broke his leg after venturing beyond the Eaglecrest Ski Area with two friends on Saturday. Jackie Ebert, Operations Chief for Juneau Mountain Rescue, says they were able to mobilize quickly thanks to the timing of the accident." To read more, click here.

--The Insider is reporting that, "A skier caught in an avalanche in Alberta, Canada, on February 3 was saved by two rescuers who hiked for hours to reach him, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, or CBC, reported on Sunday. The man, who has not been identified by name in media reports, is in his thirties and is from Nelson, British Columbia, per the CBC. He went off the ski path at Castle Mountain Ski Resort on Friday afternoon and was caught in an avalanche, the ski resort's sales and marketing manager, Cole Fawcett, told the media outlet." To read more, click here.

--Huffpost is reporting that, "The Biden administration on Wednesday followed through on its commitment to ban commercial logging and other development across more than 9 million acres of Alaska’s Tongass National Forest — the nation’s largest national forest. The move reverses a Trump administration rule that gutted safeguards for the world’s largest intact temperate rainforest." To read more, click here.

--The New York Times has posted a really interesting article about how skiing in Ukraine is a respite from the war raging in that country. To read the story, click here.

--Is it possible that beer without alcohol, "near-beer", is better post workout than sports drinks...? Here are some thoughts.

--So will anyone wear 3D printed climbing shoes? They're out there...

--And finally, though it's not news, this is fun to watch:

Monday, January 30, 2023

How to Build a V-Thread

You've just completed a spectacular ice climb. Everything went smoothly the entire way. But now you're three pitches off the deck and you don't want to leave anything behind on your descent. There is a way to do this and it is surprisingly simple.

The V-thread -- also known as the Abalakov anchor -- is a simple technique wherein one simply links two holes bored in the ice together and then threads a cord through, the cord is then tied-off and used as an anchor.

Following is a short video on how to do this with a single ice screw:

It's not a bad idea to back-up an ice anchor before rappelling. This article provides some tips as to how one might back-up a V-thread.

It's a good idea to practice this on the ground before employing it in a descent. Though this is conceptually simple, it can be difficult to line up the bore holes. This is definitely not something that you want to use for the first time in a raging snowstorm as it's starting to get dark.

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, January 27, 2023

Avalanche Awareness - Strategic Shoveling

This video is the third in the three-part series put together by Backcountry Access.

As with the first two parts, I'd like to once again throw in a word of warning. One should not travel in the winter backcountry without proper avalanche education.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 1/26/23


--Castanet is reporting that, "RCMP have confirmed two have been killed following an avalanche in the Mount McCrae area near Revelstoke Monday afternoon. A third person suffered injuries In a statement, police say a small group of people had been heli-skiing in the area known as 'Chocolate Bunnies' southeast of Revelstoke at the time of the avalanche." To read more, click here.

--A climbing wall is being constructed on the old concrete silos in the town of Concrete. From Go Skagit: "The climbing wall that is planned for the back of the old silos that welcome visitors to the town of Concrete has had its first climbing holds installed. The holds, which climbers will use to scale the silos, are gray and rock-like in order to match the aesthetic of the silos and give climbers a more natural experience, said Jeremy Akers, who is funding the climbing wall." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--A climber in Arizona who got her knee stuck in a crack was freed through the use of dish soap. To read more about this rescue, click here.

A Joshua Tree in Joshua Tree National Park

--The National Parks Traveler is reporting that, "Joshua Tree National Park and the Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians have signed an agreement that allows for continued cooperation and a path toward shared stewardship of park resources. 'The Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians and Joshua Tree National Park have a long, extensive history of working together to protect sacred sites and interpret the history of the first people in this area,” said Superintendent David Smith. “This agreement is just the next step in a journey where we continue to collaborate to protect the park's resources and honor the history of the people who helped shape this cultural landscape.'"To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah: is reporting that, "Visitation at Utah's "Mighty 5" national parks took a slight tumble in 2022. A little more than 10.5 million people visited the five national parks last year, down about 7% from the record-setting 2021 numbers, according to a analysis of National Park Service visitation. While the numbers are well ahead of the COVID-19 pandemic-impacted 2020 levels, the 2022 figures ended up 2% below pre-pandemic levels in 2019." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--SGB Media is reporting that, "It looks like big snow equals big business, at least for ski resort owner and operator Vail Resorts, Inc. The company reported preliminary season-to-date total skier visits were up 12.5 percent through January 8, compared to the 2021/22 season-to-date period." To read more, click here.

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "For the first time in 74 years, winter 23/24 will be the first winter without a brand new Warren Miller movie. The news comes on the anniversary of the great man’s passing on January 24th, 2018. The news was announced by director/director of photography Chris Patterson on Instagram. Patterson has been filming Warren Miller movies for thirty years. According to Patterson, the heartbreaking decision has been made by Outside Inc due to financial challenges. While no new movies will be filmed, future movies will be created from already existing footage." To read more, click here.

--Gripped is reporting that, "While some places in Canada known to have fat ice had a slow start, classics from coast to coast are now in and getting climbed. In Banff National Park, two new routes were just climbed above Lake Minnewanka near the town of Banff. Both require skating along the frozen lake and add to the growing number of routes next to the famous body of water that ends in the Ghost River Valley." To read more, click here.

Monday, January 23, 2023

Route Profile: Cat in the Hat, 5.6+, II+

When I first moved to Las Vegas in 1999, there was one route that everyone told me I had to do.  I had just started grad school and it was still August in Vegas. If that doesn't mean anything to you, then you've never been in desert southwest in August.  The average daily temperature was 103 degrees.

Cat in the Hat (5.6+, II+) was going to be one of my very first routes in the Canyon that would soon become my home. But it was an inauspicious start. Somehow in our transition from hiking to climbing, the water didn't make it back into our packs. So under the burning sun, we had to bail after the second pitch.

I was back a week later to finish the route, once again in the sun. But since that time, I have literally frozen on the route. I've been snowed on. I've been nearly blown off by wind. I've rappelled off in a rain storm. And I've sweated under the hot sun.

I know. It doesn't sound that great.

But I've also had some of my best days of moderate climbing and guiding on the route in near perfect conditions... Cat in the Hat is like an old friend. A route that will always be there to make me feel at home.

The route is important to the history of Red Rock Canyon as well. The most iconic first ascentionists in Red Rock are George and Joanne Uriosite. The couple moved to Las Vegas in the mid-seventies, but didn't climb much. They were turned off by the amount of sharp brush and the poor rock they encountered on their first forays out. But then in 1976, the pair plus friends Bruce Eisner and John Shirley, began to explore the Mescalito, the prominent feature that that showcases Cat in the Hat on its south face. They quickly discovered the route and made the first ascent after two separate exploratory trips.

The quality of the route changed the perspective of the Uriosties. They no longer saw Red Rock as as a chossy heap of scrub filled rocks, but instead as a playground. The pair went on to be part of the small team of desert explorers that made Red Rock what it is today.

On the approach to the Mescalito, the majority of the route is hidden
 in the south fork of Pine Creek. The red line shows the top of the route.
(Click on Photo to Enlarge)

Cat in the Hat is a six pitch pleasure cruise. The route has lots of nice ledges and that makes it all the more amazing when you reach the final pitch. It's amazing, because suddenly there is significant exposure. The climbing's never hard, but you definitely feel the air beneath you.

 A climber follows the final pitch of the route.

There's something else about the final pitch that makes first time leaders squirm a little bit. The final thirty feet of the route is not too run-out, but it is run-out just enough to make many climbers squirm. That mild run-out is also one of the most memorable of any climb in the area.

There are some rules for Cat. First, avoid the route in December and January. The sun is too low and the bottom of the route can be frigid. Second, avoid the route when it's really hot out; there is no shade. And if it's hot, be sure to bring lots of water. And finally, the route's quality also can lead to crowds. My strategy is to start very early, or to start very late. You either want to be there before the crowds, or after.

A climber pulls through the final moves of Cat in the Hat.

I've probably climbed Cat in the Hat thirty times. And every time, whether in the rain or cold, or in sun on a beautiful day, I've had a great time. A route like this one was made for climbers. And most climbers were made for a route like this...

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, January 20, 2023

Indirect, Redirect and Direct Belays

Most climbers know intrinsically that there are a few of different methods that a climber might use to belay from the top. These are indirect belays, redirected belays and direct belays. Following is a quick rundown of each:

Indirect Belay

An indirect belay is when one belays directly off of his body. In the old days a climber would finish a line, clip into the anchor and then put his follower on belay directly off his belay loop. This is referred to as an indirect belay because the belay doesn't directly transfer force into the anchor. The force must go through the belayer's body first.

Very few experienced climbers still use an indirect belay for standard rock climbing. However, in a setting where one cannot build a strong enough anchor, it makes a lot of sense to put your body between the force of the load and whatever anchor you have.

In the above photo, AAI Guide Tad McCrea is belaying directly off his harness on a steep slope. His is attached to a snow picket, but a snow picket isn't that strong. In a snow setting, an indirect belay allows one to absorb some of the force so that it's not directly transmuted to the anchor.

Certainly, if it is impossible to build a solid rock anchor, a stance with a single piece could be almost as good as a bombproof anchor.

The biggest downside to an indirect belay is escaping the system. It's reasonable to tie-off a system and transfer the load to the anchor using some rock rescue trickery. However, if you put your body between the anchor and the load to begin with, your anchor may not be good enough to take the load...which could be a problem.

Redirect Belay

In the 1990s, it became quite popular to climb a pitch, clip into the anchor and then redirect your belay off the anchor point and back down to the climber, essentially making a mini-toprope. Often one would redirect off a single piece in order to make sure there was enough room to belay.

Climbers found this to be much more pleasant than your standard indirect belay. They liked the idea that they would be pulled up instead of down when a person fell.

There are a few problems with the system.  First, when a climber belays with a redirect, there is a pulley-effect, which doubles the force on the anchor. This isn't a very good idea if you're using this on a single piece or have a weak anchor. Second, if the climber is heavier than the belayer, the belayer can get pulled up into the redirect and potentially let go. And third, this is a hard system to escape in the event of an emergency.

Modern climbing technology has nearly eliminated the redirect belay from use. There are very few circumstances where this technique is applicable.

Direct Belay

The direct belay is a belay directly off the anchor. These are the most common belays in the climbing world today. Most climbers use an autoblocking device, like a ATC Guide or a Petzel Reverso, but one could also belay directly off the anchor with a munter-hitch.

The idea behind a direct belay is that, (1) you are not in the system; and (2) it's very easy to escape the belay. If you can build a solid anchor, there is almost no reason to use anything but a direct belay.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, January 19, 2023

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 1/19/2023


--Mt. Rainier National Park is receiving a lot of blowback for it's weekday closures. From the Seattle Times: "Paradise is popular with families for sledding and snow play, snowshoers and Nordic skiers, out-of-town visitors eager to see snow up close, and backcountry skiers and winter climbers who explore the park’s higher reaches. The closure has pinched a nerve in a region dealing with chronic overcrowding at winter recreation access points, an issue that flared elsewhere Jan. 2 as Stevens Pass and The Summit at Snoqualmie handled overwhelming crowds, and day hikers packed the Mount Tahoma Trails network." To read more, click here.


--Outside is reporting that, "California’s snowy winter could mean trouble for thru-hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail. According to current measurements, the northern Sierra Nevada range currently has 173 percent of the average snowpack for this time of the year, followed by 201 percent in the central Sierras, and 222 percent in the southern Sierras. Statewide, snow levels are 199 percent the average amount. Amidst the worst drought in 1,200 years, the moisture could help restore some of California’s water supply. But there are drawbacks to the heavy precipitation.  Flooding and risks to backcountry travel are hazards that could be on the horizon for the spring and summer." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--With the wet cold weather, be prepared for closures at Red Rock Canyon. And consider climbing on limestone after these storms. There are several limestone areas outside the Red Rock Scenic Drive.

--3 News is reporting that, "The steady winter storms this season are especially good news at Red Rock Canyon, where a project is turning the rain into more rain. Scientists say they've successfully increased rain in Red Rock Canyon this season by cloud seeding." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--A skier died in a tree well at Steamboat on Friday. Please be careful out there and consider the thoughts in this video.

--Out There Colorado is reporting that, "Crew members from Snowmass Ski Patrol were deployed into the backcountry near Snowmass ski area on Saturday after being notified that an out-of-bounds skier fell into a river.  Ski patrol officials contacted emergency services at around 3:09 PM on Saturday, saying they were in contact with a skier that skied out of bounds near the West Willow drainage and had fallen into the river." To read more, click here.

--From the Access Fund and the Boulder Climbing Coalition: "The BCC and Access Fund are looking for climber input to help us in formulating our submission on Rocky Mountain National Park’s re-examination of its visitor use management strategy. In general, Park officials believe that excess visitation is hurting the ecology, system infrastructure, and user experience. They have not identified climbers in particular as a cause of those problems, but any further changes to the Park’s timed entry system will affect climbers. The Park is initiating a public process (NEPA) to consider various options. They have mentioned some possible changes for consideration, but say they are open to other ideas as well." To read more, click here.

--Climbing is reporting that, "On January 1, a new law took effect in Colorado that provides extra support to the state’s search and rescue teams. Senate Bill 168 transfers the backcountry search and rescue responsibilities of the Department of Local Affairs’ (DOLA) to the division of Parks and Wildlife, which is expected to provide teams with a bigger budget. The new law also provides volunteers with immunity from civil lawsuits that result from failed missions. And if a volunteer becomes permanently disabled or killed while on duty, the law will also provide the volunteer’s dependents with access to higher education." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--Climbing is reporting that, "Last December, Iranian authorities arrested at least five athletes, including several climbers, from the southern city of Shiraz. Their arrest came amid the widespread anti-regime protests, which have been ongoing since September 16, 2022. Hesam Mousavi, a prominent rock climbing and highline instructor, was among the detainees. Others arrested were Eshragh Najaf Abadi, a former member of Iran’s national cycling and mountain climbing teams; Amirarsalan Mahdavi, a rock climber and snowboarding coach; and Mohammad Khiveh, a mountaineer. According to Iranwire and the Center for Human Rights in Iran, other climbers from Shiraz have since been arrested, including Marjan Jangjou, Hamid Ghashghaei, and Hamed Qashqaei." To read more, click here.

--Outside is reporting that, "after nine teleconference meetings, plus dozens of emails, texts, and phone calls, the American Alpine Club has finally agreed on a new name for its annual award for excellence in climbing. The honor, formerly named for groundbreaking American climbers Robert and Miriam Underhill, will now be called the Pinnacle Award. The club chose to rename it after leadership learned of Robert L.H. Underhill’s antisemitic views, which he expressed in written letters to colleagues in 1939 and 1946." To read more, click here.

Monday, January 16, 2023

10 Essential Backcountry Ski and Snowboard Tips!

Backcountry skiing is a knowledge and gear intensive sport. Today's blog hits on a few equipment suggestions as well as some technique ideas for the active backcountry skiers and snowboarders...! Following are ten tips for backcountry travelers.

1) Carry a Repair Kit

This is a commonly forgotten item for backcountry skiers. Breaking a ski or a binding in the backcountry is a big deal. At least one person on every team should have some kind of repair kit. And it should be able to pretty much repair anything.

I broke my binding several years ago, miles from the car. Thankfully, we had the equipment to fix it...!

A backcountry ski repair kit.
(click to enlarge)

The repair kit should at the very least, include: a multi-tool, duct tape, ski straps, a pole splint, a skin tip, an extra pole basket, zip ties, bailing wire, hose repair clamp, lighter, scraper, cordellete and a binding buddy with extra screws.

2) Skins Inside Jacket

It's not uncommon for backcountry skiers to take short laps. This is sometimes referred to as yo-yoing. Short laps tend to mean quick transitions without much of a break. Instead of taking the time to take off your backpack, fold up your skins and put them inside your jacket...

3) Carry a Hydration Bladder

Skinning is hard work. It's not uncommon for you to want something to drink while making your way up a steep hill.

"But the tube on my hydration bladder will freeze," you say.

You're right. It will. Unless you take care of it.

To keep your tube from freezing: 1) Get a tube insulator. 2) Put the bite-valve down the neck of your jacket when not in use. 3) Blow the water back into the bladder after your finished drinking. 4) And finally, if it's super cold out, use a "backpack-style" bladder, and wear it under your jacket.

4) Wax the Tops of Your Skis or Snowboard

Obviously, everyone waxes the bottoms of their skis. But the tops?

Yep. This is a great way to keep snow from bunching up on top of your skis.

5) Put Your Downhill Ski on First

When standing on a slope, place your downhill ski first and step into it, and then your uphill ski. This will give you more stability as you get your skis on.

6) Don't be too Aggressive

People tend to ski somewhat aggressively in-bounds. There are a lot more things to be worried about when you're in the backcountry. As such, it's important to make sure that you take it slow and don't get overconfident.

7) Ride with a Partner

If there's an accident, you will need help. If there's an avalanche, you will need help. Backcountry skiing is dangerous and if you don't have a partner with you,

8) If Skiing Adjacent to a Resort, Know the Uphill Rules

Some resorts allow backcountry traffic to skin uphill inside their ropes. Other resorts don't allow this at all. It's important to know and follow the rules if you're near a resort. If you don't and you cause a problem for downhill traffic, it can have a negative impact not only on you, but on other backcountry skiers who might wish to use the area.

9) Beware of Tree Wells

After a big dump, tree-branches can create a hollow area beneath a tree. This area can be a trap for skiers or snowboarders, especially if they fall into it head first. The snow on the tree branches can come down and suffocate you. It is a very dangerous place.

It's important to become educated on tree wells. You should understand how to avoid them, and what to do if someone gets caught in one. To learn more about tree-wells and how to manage them, click here.

10) Take an Avalanche Course and Check Conditions!

An AAI Guide describes the snow layers on an Avalanche Course.

There is nothing more important than understanding avalanches and how to avoid them. To do this, your best bet is to take an avalanche course. Additionally, you should always check with your local avalanche forecaster to determine if it's worth it to go out on a given day...!

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, January 13, 2023

Belaying a Skier Over a Cornice

In this video, two techniques are described that may be used by a backcountry skier to check out the edge of a cornice. The first technique is a body belay. And the second technique employs a t-trench.

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, January 12, 2023

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 1/12/23


--Here's an avalanche report from an incident on Incline Peak.

--Outside is reporting that, "The Range of Light National Monument would link Yosemite and Sequoia–Kings Canyon National Parks. Thousands of acres in California’s Sierra National Forest have been proposed as a national monument. Many argue that the protection is crucial for wildlife, the environment, and wilderness recreation. But it will face stiff opposition." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "On Monday, an avalanche killed a hiker at Mount Charleston, near Las Vegas, NV. The man was hiking at 11,000 feet on the Mummy Spring trail in the Spring Mountains recreation area next to the Lee Canyon ski area when he was caught in a slide in a wooded area. It is not yet known if the man triggered the slide or if he was caught in a natural avalanche." To read more, click here.

--The Deseret Sun is reporting that, "an Orange County woman who died after falling and hitting her head on a rugged trail above Joshua Tree National Park's Rattlesnake Canyon near Indian Cove has been identified. The Riverside County coroner's office identified the deceased woman as 58-year-old Anna Nuno of Lakewood, in Los Angeles County." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--Climbing has posted a tribute to the climbers we lost in 2022.

--The Colorado Sun is reporting that, "Two men were killed in a backcountry avalanche Saturday afternoon near Winter Park. The Grand County Sheriff’s Office says it was alerted to the slide on Corona Pass, in the area of Mount Epworth and Pumphouse Lake, at about 2:15 p.m. 'Initial reports were that two snowmobilers had become buried in the avalanche,' the sheriff’s office said." To read more, click here.

--2 KUTV is reporting that, "Several weekend search and rescue operations have authorities across Utah urging preparedness. Teams helped victims in Cache and Washington County, as well as a man who crashed and broke his leg while backcountry skiing in Big Cottonwood Canyon." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--KTLA 5 is reporting that, "A female hiker on Mt. Baldy died after sliding an estimated 500-700 feet down Baldy Bowl’s steep, icy hillside Sunday, authorities announced.  Officials with the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department received a call from the California Office of Emergency Services in reference to “an SOS message from a Garmin InReach device” stating that a hiker had just fallen down Baldy Bowl, the sheriff’s department said in a news release." To read more, click here.

--While there's a lot of snow in the west, there's  not much in the east. Mad River Glen in Vermont has ceased operations due to lack of snow.

Monday, January 9, 2023

Perfecting the Powder Turn

I don't think I'll ever be the skier I want to be. I'm constantly working on something. That's one of the cool things about skiing. It can be a life-long obsession in making perfect turns.

And no turn is more fun to make than a turn in powder...

Today's Stomp It Tutorial covers five tips to develop and perfect your powder turn. There's so much in this video, I'm about to watch it again!

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, January 5, 2023

Climbing and Outdoor News from Here and Abroad - 1/5/23

Post Holiday Note:

Normally, this report updates news on a weekly basis. Due to holiday staffing, this report covers the news from December 23rd through January 4th.


--Gripped is reporting that, "a huge rockfall on Snowpatch Spire is sending shockwaves through the local and international climbing community. This will forever change this part of the Bugaboo Provincial Park and access to certain routes. The face has classic aid and free routes, including the Tom Egan Memorial Route, which Will Stanhope freed at 5.14 in 2015, which is now gone. The popular Sunshine Crack, an 11-pitch 5.11 first climbed by Alex Lowe and Shelly Scott, has also been destroyed as at least the lower pitches have been wiped out." To read more, click here.

--King 5 News is reporting that, "The Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) began Phase 3 construction this year on a 15-mile stretch of Interstate 90 between Hyak and Easton that will include new wildlife crossings. The crossings will help reconnect animals with habitats they have been isolated from because of high traffic volumes on the interstate – joining existing crossing structures that have already had an impact on wildlife." To read more, click here.

--Here's an update from Gripped on a new ice route in British Columbia. This report also includes several other updates on Canadian ice.

El Capitan at Sunset

--Gripped is reporting that, "two people were killed in Yosemite National Park following a rockfall near the park entrance, according to the Mariposa County Sheriff’s Office. Officials said the rockfall took place between the Arch Rock Entrance and the town of El Portal, within the boundaries of Yosemite National Park. It happened on Tuesday and was described at the time as 'a significant rockfall.'" To read more, click here.

--The Tahoe Daily Tribune is reporting that, "the first Sierra snowpack survey of the season on Tuesday showed that California is way above average, but officials caution that last year was also well above average at the beginning of the year before three record months of dry weather resulted in one of the smallest packs on record. The Department of Water Resources conducted the survey at Phillips Station, located near the entrance to Sierra-at-Tahoe, and discovered the snowpack is at 177% for the location and  is at 174% of the historical average for this year, an impressive amount due to a stormy December. The snow there was at a depth of 55.5 inches — enough to store 17.5 inches of water." To read more, click here.

Desert Southwest:

--Joshua Tree National Park, through a ranger's eyes...

--From the Grand Canyon Trust: "New data released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis shows outdoor recreation growing rapidly in the Grand Canyon state, adding over $9.8 billion to Arizona's economy in 2021 and providing over 100,000 jobs. The findings underscore the need to permanently protect the Arizona economy and the Grand Canyon region from new uranium mines that could put land, air, and especially clean water at risk of radioactive contamination. Arizona outdoor recreation jobs depend a healthy, safe Grand Canyon." To read more, click here.

Colorado and Utah:

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "a snowboarder was killed in an avalanche on Monday, December 26, on Berthoud Pass, CO. Four backcountry tourers were caught, two fully buried, and one killed. It is the first avalanche fatality of the winter 2022/23  season. Local news is reporting the victim was a 44-year-old man." To read more, click here.

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "a backcountry skier was killed on Saturday in an avalanche on Peak 10 near Breckenridge, CO. The skier and his partner had left Breckenridge Resort, CO, through a backcountry access gate." To read more, click here. is reporting that, "a tree fell on a Park City Mountain resort ski lift line Monday, killing a resort employee. The tree fell about 10:45 a.m. on the line of the Short Cut chairlift, Sara Huey, senior manager of communications, said in a statement." To read more, click here.

--On December 22nd, a chair at Breckenridge with a person onboard, was ripped off the chairlift cable by high winds. The occupant was okay after the incident. To read more, click here.

--SnowBrains is reporting that, "At approximately 4:50 pm on Thursday, December 29th, Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputies learned a 38-year-old female from Fruita, CO, became too exhausted to make it to the 10th Mountain Division Hut, Betty Bear, off of trail 505, in the White River National Forest. The skier activated the SOS feature on her Garmin InReach. She communicated with Pitkin County Sheriff’s Deputies via text message. The female skier told Deputies that her water had frozen, but she had food. The female skier said her friends were faster and traveled ahead. She said her friends were already at the Betty Bear Hut. The female skier could not make it to the hut because she was too exhausted." To read more, click here.

Notes from All Over:

--The Miami Herald, strangely, is reporting on an ice climbing accident in New Hampshire: "A climber needed rescue after a piece of ice came loose and fell on top of him during his ascent, New Hampshire officials said. James Lawrence, a 37-year-old “experienced” ice climber from Dover, was climbing Willey’s Slide — a climbing route in Hart’s Location — in the afternoon on Dec. 30, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department said in a news release." To read more, click here.

Tim Howell became the first person to wingsuit off Aconcagua.

--Gripped is reporting that, "Tim Howell has become the first climber to jump from Argentina’s Aconcagua (6,962 m) and to fly to the valley using a wingsuit. Due to conditions, Howell could not jump from the summit instead launching from near the second camp." To read more, click here.

--The New York Times posted a piece on ice climbing and climate change on Christmas Day. Check it out. here.