Every year when I renew my membership to the American Alpine Club, a little ritual takes place. I send them my money for the good deeds they do and they send me the most recent edition of “Accidents in North American Mountaineering.”
The author clipping a bolt in Rattler Gulch
The book itself is one of the good deeds. Reading it every year serves as a reminder of the little things that separate safe and potentially dangerous climbing tactics. I know that a lot of folks think climbing is inherently dangerous, and that’s true to an extent. But it’s far less dangerous than say, driving a car.
The “Accidents” book regales us with stories — many told by the climbers themselves — of mountain mishaps that befall rock climbers, mountaineers and the occasional misguided hiker. It’s important to note the relative safety differences regarding rock climbing and mountaineering. That difference is plain to see in the book, as most accidents involve snow/ice problems on mountaineering routes.
There’s just no other way to say it: Rock climbing is way safer than mountaineering. The climber controls most of the accident-producing dangers, while even the most prepared mountaineer can fall to the unexpected avalanche, collapsed serac or falling rock.
Still, what’s instructive in the “Accidents” book is the repeated reminder that it’s often the little things that cause the problems. For instance, every year a handful of climbers rappel off the ends of their ropes. Knotting the end of the rope — the knot can’t go through your belay device, so you can’t die! — is so simple, but so often overlooked.
Another major hazard for rock climbers is communication between climber and belayer. This year’s edition of “Accidents” contains at least one event where a climber thought he was being lowered to the ground while the belayer thought the climber was rappelling. He fell 100 feet and, remarkably, didn’t die. The lesson is simple: work out what sort of instructions you’ll give once you get to the anchor. Make it very clear that you’re going to re-tie the rope and be lowered instead of rappelling.
I’m gonna pick up this topic again later in the week, and also talk about what the statistics in this year’s accidents reveal about the dangers posed by climbing and mountaineering.
Ever wondered why your climber climbs? Here is the answer, courtesy of the great William Shatner.
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We’ve done a lot of bolting in Mill Creek this year, and we’ve honed our style and apparel over many days of hanging on the wall. For whatever reason, we haven’t shot good photos of ourselves, so I thought you’d appreciate this shot of world-class climber Joe Kinder wearing his bolting suit. Loving the goggles! — Michael Moore
We will have more on this later when Rock and Ice gets its brand new issue online, but for now, suffice it so say that Montana climbing hits the big time in the new issue. In a piece by Bozeman’s Emily Stifler, Gallatin Canyon, Blodgett and Lost Horse all get a little exposure.
The story sort of jumps around, from fall climbs in Blodgett to the tragic death of Guy Lacelle, the ice climber extraordinaire killed last winter in a Hyalite Canyon avalanche.
But the story does linger long enough to give some props to the Bitterroot Climbers’ Coalition and its continuing fight for access at Lost Horse, where the Forest Service has reopened a long-closed gravel quarry.
We’ll get some pics and other story stuff once the RI issue appears on line. The best thing about the story is that it doesn’t mention Mill Creek and advises against climbing in the Bitterroot in the spring because of ticks. That means we’ll still have the place all to ourselves.
Vermont’s Carcass Crag Acquired!
CRAG-VT is thrilled to announce the acquisition of one of Vermont’s best sport climbing cliffs: the Carcass Crag! This winter, CRAG-VT signed a purchase and sale agreement to annex the cliff through a boundary line adjustment on their Bolton Quarry climbing area. With the support of the Access Fund and local climbers, CRAG-VT completed the land purchase in early July. This acquisition adds three additional acres of rock to the Bolton Quarry property and permanently secures public access the cliff. It is the fourth property that CRAG-VT has acquired to ensure public access to climbing and the preservation of the natural environment.
In Vermont, many cliffs are on private land; a fact that presents persistent access challenges to local climbers. To minimize the likelihood of closure by landowners, climbing at the Carcass and several other crags has been a closely guarded secret for nearly a decade. Recognizing the importance of the cliff and the access challenges certain to ensue when the word got out, CRAG-VT decided to be proactive. They approached the landowners, explained the situation, and were able to secure an agreement to buy the cliff. Now that access is permanently secured, CRAG-VT and the Access Fund have opened the door for climbers to enjoy this great place.
Derek Doucet was possibly the first to envision potential of this imposing cliff when he discovered it by accident in the winter of 1998. Doucet had been climbing ice in the Quarry and was preparing to leave when his Black Lab, Auggie went missing. A prolonged search turned up Auggie with his head and shoulders buried in a rotting deer carcass, tail wagging ecstatically. Doucet looked up to see the crag whose name will forever memorialize the hapless deer. That spring, Doucet brought Dave Furman to the cliff and Furman soon established Who’s Your Daddy (5.12c), the Carcass’s mega-classic line. The ‘Daddy was a revelation to the backwater tradsters of Chittenden county; it was a phenomenal route that immediately revealed the potential of sport climbing in Vermont and kicked off the flurry of new route development that defined the following decade. After Furman’s contribution it wasn’t long before other climbers were inspired to put up other great climbs like Alternative Power (5.12a), Worthless Stud (5.11d) and Progress (5.11a)—every route tackling the ominous overhang half-way up the cliff.
Completion of this acquisition was only possible with the effort and support of many people. CRAG-VT would like to thank Dr. Richard Katzman for his level head and diplomacy; Vermont climbers for their tireless enthusiasm; and the Access Fund for their generous grant and continued support.
I picked up Olin Martin early on Saturday morning, and we headed for Mill Creek’s North Rim.
As you all know, my friends Dane Scott and Ken Turley have been developing sport climbs at the North Rim for the better part of the year. They’ve been gracious enough to allow me to join forces with them, and I have been working on new routes through the spring and early summer. I have had help from excellent partners along the way, from my daughter Kate to my friend Tim Karst, who shares credit with me for two routes.
On Saturday, I aimed to add Olin’s name to the list of those working in Mill Creek. Tim and I had sussed out the moves on a new line right of No Dick Tick, a 5.8 climb Kate and I developed and Brett Klaassen Van Orschot helped me bolt. Tim and I had most of the bolt placements marked for the new route, but I still felt like it needed to be climbed a few more times before we put the drill to rock.
Olin drilling the last bolt on Ticktastic, 5.10b/c, North Rim Mill Creek
My usual partners were busy on Saturday, but I’d run into Olin in the climbing gym a few days before and he was up for adventure and anxious to learn how to set a new route.
I met Olin more than a year ago, when a friend of his was dying from brain cancer. Noah Ginnings, something of a legend at the University of Montana, was 26 when he died, and his family graced me with permission to write about his final months. During that time, I met Olin and a handful of Noah’s other close friends.
This was an incredibly emotional time, obviously for Noah and his family, but also for his friends and, ultimately, for me. By the time Noah died, I had fashioned a friendship with Noah’s friends that endures to this day. Brett and Olin, because they are climbers, are the most obvious symbols of this friendship, but there are a handful of excellent young men I am honored to know.
Olin now works as a contract mental-health counselor for the military, and he just spent several months in Turkey, talking to our soldiers on a daily basis and helping them keep their heads straight. What we owe to our soldiers we also owe to Olin.
Olin is 22 years my junior, but he is wise beyond his years, and our conversations throughout the day touched on war, soldiers, family, parenting, fellowship, love, friendship. And oh yes, climbing.
We climbed a handful of routes at Mill, and we also climbed and bolted the new climb, Ticktastic, 5.10b/c. It’s a great line and we had an absolute blast opening it up. My heart was full, of eagles, creeks, towering rock walls and a good friend. Climbing has always been graced by the brother/sisterhood of the rope; it’s an unspoken bond between partners and it is alive and visible in the mountains and rivers that grace our pursuits.
We lived it Saturday, and after a day of work and play, Olin and I entered yet another new chapter in that brotherhood. I came away feeling that a friendship first forged in grief had been transformed into joy.
Here’s some really good news, courtesy of the Access Fund, which we should all be supporting — Michael
Washington Climbers Coalition pays off Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign loan for Index, returning funds to the revolving loan program
The Access Fund announced today that the Washington Climbers Coalition (WCC) has paid back its loan to the Access Fund for the option agreement on Lower Index Town Wall in Washington. The loan was administered under the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign (AFLCC).
In the spring of 2009, the Access Fund loaned the WCC $15,000 to secure an 18-month option agreement to protect the Lower Index Town Wall and surrounding crags from a quarrying operation. The option agreement protected the area while the WCC worked to raise the $300,000 needed to purchase and steward the 20-acre tract of land.
Over the last year and a half, climbers from all over the nation worked together to raise the funds to purchase the Lower Index Town Wall—fundraising through bouldering competitions, slideshows, and major donor requests. “The community response has been incredible,” says Jonah Harrison of the WCC. “The challenge with Index was not, as we had originally thought, getting people together to work and donate to the cause. It was how to channel all the talent, enthusiasm, and funds people offered.” We are happy to report that WCC has nearly reached its fundraising goal and is well positioned to purchase the property before the December 31, 2010 deadline.
The WCC submitted its final loan repayment to the Access Fund on June 22, 2010—returning the original $15,000 to the Access Fund Land Conservation Campaign where it will be loaned back out to save other climbing areas. “It has been exciting to work so closely with the WCC and see the AFLCC’s first loan fully revolve back into the fund,” states the Access Fund’s Joe Sambataro.
The WCC is still working to reassign the land to a climber friendly public owner (such as Washington State Parks or the County), to secure access across the railroad tracks, and to find a suitable location for parking improvements and toilet facilities. With each step, the WCC is closer to securing permanent access for future generations of climbers.
Ken Turley, one of the route-developer extraordinaires at Mill Creek’s North Rim, has started a new blog. It’s called the Mill Creek Report, and you can find it here: http://millcreekreport.blogspot.com/.
The North Rim, located one canyon north of Blodgett Canyon and west of Pinesdale in the gorgeous Bitterroot Valley, is a relatively new climbing area founded by Turley and Dane Scott. They’ve drawn a handful of other folks into the fold now and we’ve been busy putting up routes nearly every weekend since March. I believe we’re close to 20 routes now, with a handful of new routes going up this past weekend. You can read about that and other doings now at Mill Creek Report.
Yours truly drilling on Tick Magnet, 5.10a, Tick Farm Wall, North Rim
By Amanda Fox, courtesy climbing.com
7/6/10 – The second-to-last Bouldering World Cup of 2010 transpired this past weekend in Sheffield, England, where a crowd of more than 20,000 amassed to watch the world’s highest-ranked climbers battle it out.
Belgium’s Chloé Graftiaux climbed back to the top (she placed a disappointing 14th in Eindhoven), finishing first in women’s finals. American Alex Johnson placed a very close second, with Japan’s Akiyo Noguchi – who has finished impressively within the top seven at each event this year – followed with the bronze. Anna Stöhr of Austria, who won in Moscow and Eindhoven, didn’t fare as well in Sheffield, finishing ninth. Graftiaux’s win has shifted rankings, with Stöhr falling to third and Graftiaux taking over first.
The top three women topped out all finals boulders. Only one try separated winner Graftiaux and runner-up Johnson.
Adam Ondra was way ahead of the men’s crowd in finals, topping out all finals problems with only Cedric Lachat of Switzerland, who placed second. Mykhaylo Shalagin of Ukraine finished third. Austria’s Kilian Fischhuber, who remains first in rankings – with only a seven-point lead on Ondra – placed tenth.
Women’s Bouldering Results:
1. Chloé Graftiaux
2. Alex Johnson
3. Akiyo Noguchi
4. Natalija Gros (Slovenia)
5. Juliane Wurm (Germany)
6. Yulia Abramchuk (Russia)
For full results, please check out ifsc-climbing.org.
1. Adam Ondra
2. Cédric Lachat
3. Mykhaylo Shalagin
4. Guillaume Glairon Mondet (France)
5. Rustam Gelmanov (Russia)
6. Tsukuru Hori (Japan)
Full results here
Women’s rankings so far:
1. Chloé Graftiaux – 337.22
2. Akiyo Noguchi – 332.90
3. Anna Stöhr – 326.39
4. Alex Johnson – 276.94
5. Juliane Wurm – 216.68
6. Natalija Gros – 199.60
1. Kilian Fischhuber – 334.74
2. Adam Ondra – 327.10
3. Tsukuru Hori – 250.64
4. Dmitry Sharafutdinov (Russia) – 158.35
5. Rustam Gelmanov – 158.08
6. Guillaume Glairon Mondet – 155.77