Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Knots for Rappelling

There are two key knots for rappelling. The first is the overhand flat bend and the second is the barrel knot (sometimes referred to as the strangle knot). In the following video Climbing magazine's Jullie Ellison demonstrates these two important knots...

The overhand flat bend (also known as the Euro Death Knot) is the go to knot for tying two ropes together for rappelling. The primary reason we use this over another knot is because of the way it rides over the terrain when you pull the rope. The knot exists on one side of tied ropes which makes it less likely to get caught when you pull the ropes...

As Julie notes, some people are concerned that the overhand flat bend will roll over on itself and roll off the end of the ropes. In the video, she shows to tie the knot pretty far from the ends of the rope. This length makes it impossible for the knot to roll. There are a couple of other things you can do to keep the knot from rolling as well...

 In this first photo, I tied an extra overhand around both strands. 
This would decrease the liklihood of rolling.

In this second photo, I tied two overhand flat bends and seated themselves together.
This is my preferred style and I tie my cordelletes into loops with this as well as my ropes.

Some people think that if they tie two ropes together with a flat figure-eight that it will be stronger. Ironically, this is incredibly weak and can roll with as little as 2kN of force (under 500lbs). There have been fatalities from using the flat figure-eight to tie two ropes together.

Julie goes on to talk about tying barrel knots in the end of the rope. She recommends triple barrel knots, but a double is fine, as long as it is pulled tight. A loosly tied double barrel knot can become untied.

A double barrel knot.

Historically climbers and guides didn't tie knots in the ends of their ropes. They were afraid that the ropes would get caught below. That is changing. There have been way too many accidents because there were no knots in the ropes. If you're worried that the ends will get caught below, simple tie an overhand or an eight in the end of the rope and clip it to your harness during the rappel...

--Jason D. Martin

Monday, September 27, 2021

How to Sleep Warm while Camping

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

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

--Jason D. Martin

Friday, September 24, 2021

How to Use and Autobelay

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

--Jason D. Martin

Thursday, September 23, 2021

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Desert Southwest:

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

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

Colorado and Utah:

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

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

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

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

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

Notes from All Over:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

An Alternative Classics Tour of Boulder, CO

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

A climber follows March of Dimes in Eldorado Canyon

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

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

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

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

Gambit, Eldorado Canyon (4 pitches, 5.8)

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

A climber on the final moves of Gambit, Eldorado Canyon

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

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

Outer Space, Eldorado Canyon (4 pitches, 5.10)

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

A party on Outerspace, Eldorado Canyon.

Vertigo, Eldorado Canyon (4 pitches, 5.11b)

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 20, 2021

Film Review: The Horn

Mountain rescue is a tough job.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It's not.

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

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

--Jason D. Martin