Backcountry Communication Devices; Satellite phones, VHF radios, & Cell Phones

Technology is a part of the backcountry these days, whether we like it or not.  Backcountry technology can be used heavily, or just for emergency situations.  Typically some form of backcountry communication device is considered standard practice these days, at least in an institutional setting (guide service, summer camp, collegiate outdoor rec program, etc.).  Over the past number of years I have seen communication devices from a multitude of different programs I have worked with and for.  These private guide services that I have worked for outside of Kling Mountain Guides (some of these being the larger ski & mountain guiding operations in the US), as well as American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) programs I have participated in, and numerous collegiate outdoor rec and education programs I have taught for throughout the western US.  These different programs have been domestically (CO, WA, UT, NV, OR, AK) as well as internationally in Russian, Africa, Argentina, and Mexico.

I am in no way a spokes person for the AMGA, these or any other guide services, Wilderness Medical Associates, WEA, or any collegiate program/Association for Outdoor Recreation and Education.  The following is also what we adhere to at KMG.

paul-and-angela-burgendy-col

Paul (AMGA Certified Alpine & Rock Guide in the fore ground) & IFMGA Guide/ AMGA IT member Angela Hawse in the background @ Burgundy Col, Washington Pass, WA. Angela is communicating on a VHF radio to an other AMGA group close to 30 miles away.

  • Two Communication Devices:  Every trip/ program must have two forms of communication devices.  This can be a combination; cell phone, sat phone, VHF radio preprogrammed with local channels, and Spot/ Delorme device.  Most often it seems to be a sat phone and VHF radio.  However, there is never a never and never an always.  Depending on location this might also just be a cell phone.  IE if we are running front country rock climbing trips in Durango, CO then just a cell phone is fine.  As long as the carrier works.  Anybody that has spent time in CO knows that T Moble, Boost Moble, Cingular, etc do not work well, so any of these would not be considered a viable communicant device.
  • Iridium VS Global Star: I have owned and used both the Iridium 9505A phone as well as the Spot Global phone   Up until recently, the Iridium phone was by far the more popular one, reaching much further north and south on the globe then Spot/ Global Star.  I never really knew which one worked better though because I never had an Iridium and Spot phone with me on the same trip to compare them side by side for connectivity. This summer I had that opportunity.  I had my Spot phone and the program I was working for had an Iridium 9505A on the same trip.  My Spot Global phone connected better than the Iridium every time to the point where the program I was working for gave up on their Iridium phone and began to use mine.
  • Larger Programs:  On larger programs (IE there are 12 participants and 3 instructors, that might break into 3 smaller groups in the field) there needs to be one sat phone for the entire group and then each instructor has a VHF radio.  IE a program with three instructors and 12 students, operating at a 4:1 ratio. There should be at least one sat phone in the group total. Then each individual group would have one VHF radio (some mini groups had more than one VHF) to communicate with each other.  Different topic, but family radios such as Motorola Talk About radios are not considered a professional radio.
  • PLB VS Sat phone: I have seen programs/trips that operate with just a Spot/ Delorme.  These are great for calling out the calvary and initiating a rescue.  I have been on multiple searches and recoveries via my local SAR group that were initiated by these PLB style devices.  These are again, great for initiating a search.  However from what I have seen, these do not seem to be best industry practice as a professional level communication device for the following reasons:
    • Can not text a 911 center
    • Can not text a ranger center such as on Mt. Rainier, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, or the Grand Canyon.  Most National Parks emergency dispatch centers are not set up to receive texts directly. Only voice calls from a cell phone, satellite phone or VHF radio will go directly to the dispatch centre.
    • Spot devices go to a third party Emergency Communication Center (ECC) that then must get in touch with the contact list from the Spot’s owner, then to a federal/local dispatch center, etc. etc.   These are extra steps that can take extra time.  As we all know, sometimes these extra minutes make all the difference.
    • All two way texting conversations using a Delorme inReach device must be initiated from the user’s device. Most land agencies cannot initiate a text if they have not received a text from the InReach device first.
    • If I initiate a rescue with a Spot/ PLB, but then want to call it off I cannot do that. This happened to a buddy of mine guiding on Rainer a few years ago.  He had a client collapse on the trial to camp. P on AVPU.  Still had a pulse and respirations.  Long story short they initiated a rescue and asked for a helicopter.  He ended up coming back to A/0 x 3 (person, place, time) after about 15 minutes.  They still wanted a rescue, but changed the urgency to not wanting a helicopter.  They purely requested ground support and an ambulance at the trailhead.  They were able to change their requests because they had a sat phone. A Spot/PLB could not have done this.
    • I cannot “Spot” my medical advisor.  If I have medical concerns on a trip I want to be able to call and actually talk with my medical advisor.
bon-sat-kili

KMG Operations Manager Bonnie making a phone call on an Iridium 9505A sat phone from the flanks for Kilimanjaro, Africa.

 

Global Star/ Spot phone is running a special right now that gives a free sat phone with subscription.  Details can be found here.  This was the deal I used and have been more than happy with it.

There is a great article on communication devices here.  While this article is based on Parks Canada, much of it is very similar to the US System.

So, my final verdict; two communicant devices, one being a sat phone is best industry practice these days.  If I am going to get rid of one device, I would purely carry the Sat phone.  It would seem that the larger US guide services, collegiate outdoor rec programs, as well as the AMGA, a Sat phone is the norm.  Two communication devices are preferred.  I think of it as the sat phone can call the helicopter and the VHF radio can help me land it and deal with the SAR team.

Hope this helps!

Josh Kling, 
AMGA Certified Alpine Guide, Certified Rock Guide, Assistant Ski Guide
IFMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide
AIARE Level 1 & Level 2 Course Leader
Wilderness Medical Associates Instructor 
Posted in Alpine Climbing, American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Training, Avalanche Courses, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Skiing, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Camp Flash Harness Review

cirque-of-the-towers-wind-river-range

Cirque of the Towers, Wind River Range, WY

Springsummernowfall in the Camp Flash Harness

Ohhhhh my, it’s been a good year. Early in the spring, I got a hold of the Camp Flash Harness and was able to get quite a bit of use out of it. The Flash Harness is designed for hard sport climbing and competition climbing. That’s because it’s so flippin’ light – at 8.3 oz! Now, I don’t climb super hard, but I did use this harness to push my personal limits of what hard is, and in the end, that’s all that matters. I also may have used it for what it wasn’t designed for (but really excels at)!

campflash

 

campflash2

 

Early in the spring, I first used the harness to establish a first ascent at the local crag here in Durango, CO. The crag, East Animas  is literally right behind my house. I just walk out the front door with the dog and gf, and the trailhead is a two minute walk away. I scouted the line from a neighboring climb that it now shares anchors with. We top-roped it to see if it would go and if it was worth the investment. Turns out it wasn’t too bad, and is a worthy addition to the home crag.

Wearing the Camp Flash Harness on the FA of 3AM Handy, 5.11c. 4/2016

In June, I did another first ascent at one of our summertime crags around Durango – Lemon Reservoir  This crag sits at a higher elevation and is split by a perfect mountain river. My good friend Josh Armour was in town and put together a video of the process of establishing a new route. I cleaned and worked the route in the Camp Laser CR Harness (see that review here), and sent in the Flash.

gary-on-3am

Now it was alpine climbing season. I spent WAY more time in this harness alpine climbing than sporto climbing and I absolutely loved it! First of all, this harness packs up incredibly small. I can ball it up in my hands and it won’t be seen. I guided four, 3-day trips in the remote Weminuche Wilderness of the San Juan Mountains of Colorado with this harness. We ticked off the classic Wham Ridge on Vestal Peak and climbed Jagged Mountain as well. I only brought a 30L pack and having the Flash Harness inside was crucial to packing light. While the fixed leg loops made it sort of tricky to put the harness on over my approach boots, once it’s on, it’s on. No real worries there. The one other thing I noticed with this harness was the sizing – I usually wear a medium. In the medium Flash Harness, I had it cinched all the way down. Next time, I’ll probably size down. I still believe this is the best alpine harness I’ve ever used.

wham-ridge

Heading down after a successful summit climb of the classic Wham Ridge (5.4) on the sweeping north face of Vestal Peak (13,864’).

 Throughout the rest of the summer, I brought this harness with me on multiple trips. Most notably, the Wind River Range and the Grand Tetons. For me, this harness really excels in the alpine. Again, it is super packable and light and still has 4 gear loops. I’ve carried a double set of cams to #3 and a #4. I’ve off-width’d my way up Feather Buttress in the Cirque of the Towers, and traversed the Tetons for 14 hours.

ridge-walking

Ridge-walking to the summit of Mt. Owen (12,927’) with the Grand Teton (13,776’) in the background.

The Flash Harness will remain an integral piece of my climbing repertoire. In the future, I could see more of an alpine style twist to this harness – with adjustable leg loops and ice clipper slots. I’m looking forward to seeing where this harness will take me this fall and winter.

grand-tetton

The Grand Teton from the summit of Teewinot (12,326’). We traversed from Teewinot to Mt. Owen (pictured to the right of the Grand) and slept on the flat ledge on the right side of the Grand Teton. Climbed the Grand the next day.

Climb on!

Gary Newmeyer
AMGA Certified Single Pitch Instructor
AMGA Assistant Rock Guide
AMGA Apprentice Alpine Guide

www.klingmountainguides.com

gary-on-summit

On the summit of Pingora Peak (11,883’) in the Wind River Range with my partner Mike.

sunsetSunset from Jackass Pass in the Wind River Range

Posted in Alpine Climbing, CAMP USA climbing, Rock Climbing, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Multi-Pitch Rock Climbing Kit

As an American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) certified alpine and rock guide and provider of the AMGA’s Single Pitch Instructor (SPI) courses and exams I am often asked what’s in my climbing kit. Then more importantly I was asked “why?” My guide service office is inside a climbing shop in Durango, CO. The climbing gear section is immense. I get overwhelmed looking at the variety of carabineers and slings. Somebody with less training or a new climber just beginning their vertical career would certainly be overwhelmed. With so many options and climbing gear not being inexpensive, there better be a good reason for everything I bring.

So, let’s pick apart my kit, piece by piece. The kit listed below would be for a day multi-pitch climbing in a venue such as the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The climbs we typically guide are grade II to IV, 5.8-5.10, anywhere from 600 to 1,800 ft, and typically 6-10 pitches.   These include classics such as:

Ground Control to Major Tom (Grade III, 5.8), Maiden Voyage (Grade, III 5.9) Escape Artist (Grade III, 5.10) Russian Arete (Grade IV, 5.9+) Journey Home (Grade IV, 5.10b)

  • Harness – Laser CR Harness: 1 per kit. During the summer months, I pretty much live in my harness. From single pitch trips around Durango to multi-pitch lines in the Black Canyon. I want a harness that can do it all. At $119 retail (no, I do not pay retail, but this is still a great reference point) the Laser is a higher priced harness built for all pursuits. The gear loops comfortably hold a full rack of cams climbing, but pack flat against the harness when I have a pack on an approach. The No-Twist belay loop is probably one of my favorite innovations on Camp harnesses. From a guiding perspective this feature is great. It gives me more security when short roping and short pitching clients such as on the final pitches of the Russian Arête. It also helps facilitate tying a carbineer on a rope. (you’ll have to hire us for a day to learn that one…) The laminate construction is extremely comfortable (or as comfortable as a harness can be after 1,600 + feet) but still packs down small. I like a harness that can roll up and fit inside my helmet for approaches and descents. If you have one harness that goes sport clipping today, multi pitching tomorrow, and will send San Juan ice this winter, the Laser is the harness for you.
Cassin-Laser-CR-4068

Camp Laser CR harness

 

  • Belay carabiner – HMS compact: 1 per kit The name HMS or : ‘Halbmastwurfsicherung’ derives from the German term for half Clove hitch belay, or Munter hitch belay. This carabiner excels at the Munter. It is a round stock carabiner that will allow for rope to smoothly flow over it. I like to have one of these on my harness at all times. It works great for: a master point carabiner on an anchor, belaying with a munter hitch, belaying off the belay loop with a tube device, acting as the rope bearing carabiner when belaying with a Piu2 in guide mode or Ovo, and as the haul point in a mechanical advantage system. It’s a great all around carbineer and comes with me regardless of the climbing mission.
  • Carbines – large lockers – HMS nitro: 2 per kit Now this is my favorite At 55 grams it is an incredibly light-weight HMS carabiner. Similar to the HMS compact, but over 30 grams lighter this carabiner rocks. It will function flawlessly doing everything listed above at 34 grams less per carabiner. This carabiner also has a smaller nose profile than many comparable carabiners. Many climbers don’t consider the nose profile when purchasing a carabiner. A narrow nose profile carabiner will fit through smaller chain links.
  • Carabiners – small lockers Photon Locker: 2 per kit. A great all around locking carabiner with an extremely narrow nose profile. This is the carbineer I choose to use as the “hanger” carbineer when belaying with a plaquette/ guide style belay device or Ovo. This is a great carabiner for anchor attachments as well, again given the tiny nose profile it fits well in chain links, providing me more working space. I often use this for my personal tether attachment on multiple rappels. 
  • Camp Laser CR

    Sterling Nano rope, Camp Laser CR with HMS Nitro through the No-Twist belay loop, Sterling Hollow Block, Camp HMS Compact, Nut Tool, Camp OVO, several Camp Photon wire gate carabiners

  • Wire Carabiners – Photon wire straight gate. 1 per cam, color coded: These are my go-to wire carabiner. They are on all my cams, most of my slings, and anywhere else I need a wire-gate carbineer. These carbineers are the lightest full size carabiners on the market. They have an extremely narrow nose profile. It is also a great carbineer for use with a Garda Hitch/ the alpine clutch, used in a hauling scenario. This sometimes happens when somebody hs trouble pulling a crux move, such as the roof moves on Journey Home or Maiden Voyage. They don’t need to be hauled far, but just need a boost through a tricky few moves.
  • Belay device – Piu 2. 1 per kit: This is a great all around belay device. It is less expensive than either the Black Diamond ATC Guide or Petzl Reverso 4. It is heavier than the Reveroso 4, but lighter than the BD ATC Guide. The top hole, (the hole used to clip to the anchor when in plaquette/guide mode), is oriented in a manner that allows for cleaner ropes when compared to the Black Diamond ACT Guide (which is oriented the other direction). The Piu2 can be slightly “clutchy” when belaying with fatter ropes. That being said, I tend to avoid fat ropes these days, especially on multi-pitch climbs. Fat ropes are heavier, bulkier, and tire out the belayer & climber more due to added weight and friction.
  • Extra Belay Device – OVO: 1 per kit: The Ovo is the choice when belaying up a second. It has larger vertical slots than the Piu2, Reverso 4, or BD ATC Guide. This provides an easier pull and lessons the strain on my elbows. Many climbers end up with tendentious in their elbows due to pulling ropes with high friction through a plaquette or guide style device.
quad in action

The Camp 240 Dyneema sling clipped to two bolts with Photon non-lockers (a narrow nose profile carabiner). This is set up with the Cam OVO clipped with a Photon locker and an HMS Nitro as the rope carabiner. The guide is tethered in with a clove on the Sterling Nano rope to an HMS Nitro Carabiner. Using the quad anchor here with the 240 sling provides more freedom than a traditional pre-equalized anchor. This is a situational dependent anchor system and not always appropriate.

  • Rock Pro – Tri Cam evo, Dynema: 3-4 Tri-Cams per kit: These are classic and almost always come with me. I tend to take the three mid sizes, pink red, blue, brown. They are bomber, versatile, and light. What more could I ask for? Additionally, if we had to bail and leave some gear (there are no permanent anchors on any of the Black Canyon routes listed above) Tri-Cams tend to be more versatile than nuts alone. I prefer the dyneema over the normal nylon because they are lighter and I find they place better than the nylon.
  • Rock Pro – Nuts: A must on any multi-pitch climb. One set of the Camp Pro Nuts always goes with my kit. They tend to fit a similar range as other brands of nuts on the market with only seven, when other brands need nine.
Camp rack

Basic multi pitch rack. Black Diamond Camalots, Camp quick draws and slings, Red Chili Spirit VCR & La Sportive TC Pro shoes, basic First Aid Kit

  • Belay Gloves – Start Fingerless belay gloves: 1 pair per kit: What can I say? I like belying with belay gloves. Having a pair of gloves also gives me more control when short roping a client as well as more control when rappelling. Additionally, the Black Canyon is known for poison ivy. While I have never (knock on wood….) had an issue with it, I prefer to rappel the permanent fixed lines that the park puts in wearing gloves.
  • Helmet – Speed 2.0: 1 per kit: Super light, super comfortable CE rated helmet.   Some of the helmets on the market are centrally lighter, however I prefer a fully rated helmet. I could wear a blue napkin on my head and call it a helmet, but what good would it do? Given the nature of the Black Canyon (long routes, possible loose pegmatite rock, possible chos climbing) I prefer the Speed over lighter weight counter parts. In addition, when wearing a helmet all day, having something that is light weight strains my neck less and makes for a more comfortable day. Lastly, it is lower profile than many other models out there. If the wind picks up and I want to wear a hood, the Speed 2.0 fits under most hoods of wind jackets well.
  • Chalk bag: 1 per kit: Big routes require a chalk bag. Nothing super crazy or special about this.
  • Chalk ball. 1 per kit: Can’t have an empty chalk bag.
AMGA alpine exam

AMGA Certified Alpine Guide and Rock Guide Josh Kling wearing the Camp Speed 2.0, Black Diamond Alpine Start hoody, and Patagonia Ascension 25 pack. The Ascension packs down extremely small and is a great multi-pitching pack.

  • Quad length Dyneema sling – Express Dyneema 240. 2 per kit: This thing rocks. It is the perfect blend of light weight and small size. I have drifted from constructing anchors with cordoletes. While I still cary a chunk of cord, the 240 dyneema is my preferred method these days. It is lighter, packs smaller, has less stretch (IE, my master point stays where I want it even when weighted). I like the Camp version because it’s not quit as dental floss looking as some of the other manufactures versions out there. When clients get to anchor on a long multi-pitch route they want to see something that gives them the warm and fuzzies. Something confidence inspiring.   Just the slightly beefier prefer it over the skinnier versions some of the other seems to make clients more comfortable. In addition, the slightly larger size makes the knots easier to get undone than anything skinnier. See picture of quad attached.
  • Double length Dyneema sling – Express Dyneema 120: My go to if there are bolts. Smaller, faster, and more maneuverable. Just like the enemy migs….
AMGA alpine exam short pitching

AMGA Certified Alpine Guide and Rock Guide Josh Kling with the Camp Air CR harness, and a multitude of HMS Nitro carabiners and 120 & 240 Dyneema slings. The Camp 120 and 240 Dyneema are great for multi-pitch climbing. The 240 is ideal for virtually all anchor construction needs, whether bolted or gear.

  • Double Shoulder length nylon sling. Camp Express 120 CM: A plain old fashioned nylon double length runner is preferred for use as a personal tether given the properties of nylon VS dyneema. Nylon is more dynamic and therefore preferred when it is the main attachment point between the climber and the rope. The double length size works perfectly for rappel tethers.
  • Single Length Dyneema Slings – Mach Express 60: 10 per kit. I tend to rack my cams, nuts, and Tri-Cams on my harness with slings over my shoulder. I pull the Nano 22 off all but four slings and just leave the Photon. Since all my cams are racked and color coded with Photons I do not need the extra carabiners. However, I do need full “draws” for the nuts and Tri-Cams. 
Version 3

AMGA Certified Alpine Guide and Rock Guide Josh Kling during his AMGA alpine exam.

  • Quick Draws – Photon Mixed Express KS. 4 per kit: I like to have several quick draws on my when multi-pitch climbing. They are great for extending gear, and if there are bolts or some sort of bolt ladder, the nylon dogbone is easier for my second climber to grab than a dyneema alpine draw. The clipping action of the Photon goes without saying.AMGA Assistant Rock Guide & Apprentice Alpine Guide Gary Newmeyer standing on the top of the Black Canyon classic, Russian Arete (grade IV, 5.9+, 1,800 ft) in his Camp Speed 2.0 helmet and Camp Laser CR harness.
  • Prussic loop – Sterling Hollow Block:I’m typically not a fan of pre-swen slings, but the Sterling Hollow Block curshes. This little sling is awesome for my conditional belay or “third hand” when rappelling and the perfect size for hauling.
  • SLCDs (Cams) – Black Diamond Camalots: There are a multitude of companies on the marklet that make SLCD’s. I’m still a fan of the Black Diamond Camalots. They seem to the be the most universally used, which means the easiest to swap back and forth between leaders. I rack color coded and individually on the Photon carabiners.
    • 1 x green C3
    • 1 x red C3
    • 2 x .3 Camalot
    • 2 x .4 Camalot
    • 2 x .5 Camalot
    • 2 x .75 Camalot
    • 2 x 1 Camalot
    • 3 x 2 Camalot
    • 2 x 3 Camalot
    • 1 x 4 Camalot
    • 1 x 5 Camalot or #3 Big Bro
  • Nut tool: A must have for any multi-pitch climb. Great for cleaning stuck gear, cleaning cracks prior to placing gear, and for opening beers post climb.
AMGA alpine exam short pitching 2

The Camp 120 Dyneema sling & 240 Dyneema sling (white and silver) visible on Josh’s right hip. These slings pack smaller than cordelettes will and are less of a dingle berry when hanging on a harness.

  • Pack – Patagonia Ascension 25: 1 per kit: This is a great multi pitch pack for full days. It can easily fit everything inside on the approach. I am not a fan of dangling climbing shoes off my harness for the approach. I can think of multiple occasions where folks get to the bottom of a climb in the Black Canyon only to see that something critical (like climbing shoes) has fallen off a harness. If this were anywhere else like Castleton Tower in Castle Valley or Ancient Art in the Fisher Towers, one could just turn around and go back to the car. Unfortunately, with the Black Canyon your exit strategy is climbing the route out. You need all the gear to be with you when you get to the bottom. I know other folks who hike to the bottom of the Black Canyon in their climbing shoes. I’m not a facn of that either. I also like how tiny the pack can get once I pull out all the gear. The lack of zippers means less to break or blow out.
AMGA alpine exam Patagonia Ascension 25

AMGA Certified Alpine Guide and Certified Rock Guide Josh Kling during his AMGA alpine exam, pitches up on Washington Pass, Washing.

  • Climbing Shoes – Red Chili Spirit VCR or La Sportiva TC Pro: For all day climbing I need all day comfort. Both of these shoes climb at a high level, yet are still comfortable. A shoe only performs well if you are willing to wear it. Super tight sport shoes should stay home when you head to the Black Canyon. The TC Pro covers my ankle bone which as awesome when jamming my foot into cracks all day.
  • Headlamp – Black Diamond Spot: Good all use light weight headlamp that can be locked in the off position. That way it doesn’t turn on in my pack. I want a light weight headlamp that can still give me some ample light in case we end up climing in the dark. At 200 lumens, the Spot works great.
Black Canyon Russian Arete summit

Edward Epp sitting atop the Russian Arete (Grade IV, 5.9+ 1,800 ft) in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison. The Sterling Nano 9.0 x 60 M is the ideal rope for long multi-pitch climbs.

  • ROPE Sterling Nano 9.0 Bi-color 60 M: 1 per kit: Once you go bi-color, you’ll never go back. They rock. The Sterling Nano 9.0 is no exception. Ropes tend to be like cars. Ford VS Dodge? Toyota VS Honda? Everybody has their opinion. IMO, Sterling ropes handle better and are less cable like than many other brands on the market. They are supple, feed awesomely through belay devices, and with the 9.0 is lower bulk and weight while still being a full rated rope. I also don’t like to go under 9.0 for multi-pitch climbing. While there are certainly ropes that are skinner, on a long multi-pitch climb I prefer something 9.0 – 9.2. That seems to be the sweat spot for durability and weight. While some folks like a 70 M rope in order to link pitches, I prefer a 60. Lengthening pitches makes communication between belays that much more difficult. This can be a problem somewhere like the Black Canyon where the river is raging below you. A longer rope also is more difficult to deal with at belays, heavier, and can lead to more rope drag issues while leading. Most routes in the Black are very doable with standard 60 m pitches and a 60 m rope. Version 3
  • First Aid Kit: 1 per kit: This is an entirely other topic. Come take a wilderness medical course from one of our Paramedic or EMT instructors. If the lead climber takes a fall and hits his/ her head you need to know the seriousness of the situation. Could you determine the difference between a critical head injury with increased intracranial pressure (ICP) that requires an urgent evac and just a bump on the nogen? Could you stop a critical life threatening bleed? Could you tell if the bleed was in a critical location? If you are climbing anything without a single pitch gravity fed rescue solution, let’s hope you can determine the difference.
  • Emergency Communication Device:  This varies, but typically I cary a Spot Global Phone as well as a Yaesu VX-7R VHF radio. I need to be able to call the Black Canyon emergency services by sat phone and then communicate with them via radio. Again, if something critical happened half way up a route in the Black Canyon, even just a small fall that resulted in a blown out knee where climbing was no longer possible, how would you communicate with the climbing rangers and rescue services? Just yelling is not an acceptable answer commercially, or privately (IMO).
  • Food & Water: Have enough for the day. The North Rim routes, where the bulk of the popular climbing is can get very hot in the summer. I tend to carry 2 liters of water for the day as well s hydrating heavily before the climb. Bonking 4 pitches up the Russian Arête because I didn’t bring enough food and water don’t work. That being said, I do not like to bring much more than two liters of water. A liter weighs in at over 2lbs. I find that bringing more water just weighs me down, making me need to drink more. Two liters suffices. The MSR Two Liter Dromlite works great. It is durable but still packs down tiny. For food, I bring comfort food. I this tends to be a mix of bars, a sandwich, and some candy. Haribo Gold-Bears seem to be really good sending food…
  • iPhone: This is my camera, notebook, guidebook, and toons all in one. I download the Mountain Project route beta and pictures prior to the climb. A great light weight piece of gear that is super versatile. Make sure to get the LifeProof case for it though. I like the Apple Airdrop to share photos taken with my clients immediately when back at camp. No more emailing. If I have the opportunity to take a picture of the climb prior to getting started, IE like the Russian Arête is visible from the North Rim camp ground, I do that. It becomes my own little topo route and gives me the most up to-to-date beta.
  • Wind Shirt: 1 per kit: Some sort super light wind shirt/ jacket. This is likely going to stay in the bottom of my pack for the majority of the day. Therefor I want it to be low bulk, light weight, and free of bells and whistles. I don’t need extra pockets or zippers. The Camp Magic jacket fits this category. The Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody also fits into this category well.

Posted by: Josh Kling –

AMGA Certified Alpine Guide, Certified Rock Guide, Assistant Ski Guide, & IFMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide

alpine_colordiscipline_rock_color

Posted in Alpine Climbing, CAMP USA climbing, Rock Climbing, Uncategorized | Comments Off

CrossFit VS backcountry skiing

This week, somebody turned on the switch for fall weather.  It’s wet, rainy, rumors of snow in the mountains on Facebook pages, and it’s dark in the morning for the 5:30 AM CrossFit Catacombs class.  While many are dreading the short days and cold temps, here at Kling Mountain Guides were are as excited as ever for the snow to start flying!  The KMG inbox is starting to fill with requests for ski trips and avalanche courses.

Finding the cold smoke in the San Juan Mountains near Red Mountain Pass and Silverton, CO

Finding the cold smoke in the San Juan Mountains near Red Mountain Pass and Silverton, CO

After competing my Workout of the Day (WOD to all you CrossFiters out there) and allowing my heart rate to drop I started to think that CrossFit is not only great training for the ski season to come, but that backcountry skiing is just like Crossfit!

Workout of the Day–October 20, 2015

5 rounds for time of:
225/155-lb. Deadlifts, 10 reps
75/55-lb. Snatches, 10 reps
10 Handstand push-ups
75/55-lb. Snatches, 10 reps

The only difference is there is a little more Type 1 fun with backcountry skiing….Hear me out….

Friends that ski together, have an awesome time!  Escaping the elements and having lunch at the Bear Ski Cabin near Red Mountain Pass and Silverton, CO

Friends that ski together, have an awesome time! Backcountry Access Float 32 packs were plentiful while the group escaped the elements and having lunch at the Bear Skin Cabin near Red Mountain Pass and Silverton, CO

1) CrossFit, like backcountry skiing, is a community. You build bonds and friendships with the people you CrossFit with, and you build memories and friendships with those you ski with.

a group of friends skiing fresh San Juan powder near Red Mountain Pass and Silverton, CO

Friends skiing fresh San Juan powder near Red Mountain Pass and Silverton, CO

2) Like Crossfit, backcountry skiing is accessible to all ages and abilities (as long as you are willing to work at it)

Chuck loving himself some powder in the San Juan Mountains near Red Mountain Pass and Silverton, CO

Chuck loving himself some powder in the San Juan Mountains near Red Mountain Pass and Silverton, CO

3) You tend to breath really hard right after the workout.  See pictures below.

Raising the hear rate with one of KMG's AMGA Certified Guides on a powder tour near Red Mountain Pass and SIlverton, CO.   San Juan Mountains

Raising the hear rate with one of KMG’s AMGA Certified Guides on a powder tour near Red Mountain Pass and SIlverton, CO. San Juan Mountains

Breathing hard after an awesome powder run in the San Juan Mountains, near Red Mountain Pass and Silverton, CO

Breathing hard after an awesome powder run in the San Juan Mountains, near Red Mountain Pass and Silverton, CO

But when you are done, YOU. ARE. PSYCHED! (click the link for some high altitude powder skiing)

4) Even conditions are not the best, it’s still skiing!  Just like CrossFit, even if it’s not your favorite workout in the end you are still pretty psyched to have done it.

 5) A Certified Coach will take your workout to the next level.  You could complete a workout on your own, but having a trained and certified CrossFit coach goes a long way.  All of the guides at Kling Mountain Guides have gone through training and certification from the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA).  KMG is the only guide service in Durango that adheres to these standards.  The AMGA is the premier source for training, credentials,and services for professional mountain guides and climbing instructors in the United States.  It is the only organization in the sole US representative to to International Federation of Mountain Guides Association (IFMGA).  When you ski and climb with one of KMG’s AMGA Certified Guides, you can rest assured that your guide has undergone strenuous training and examination from an outside party to the international standards for mountain and ski guiding.

There is only one real CrossFit and there is only one AMGA.  There are other organizations that have surfaced, but we always recommend climbing and skiing with an AMGA Certified or IFMGA guide.

6) Sometimes your nervous before hand: Just like before a big CrossFit WOD, sometimes you are a little nervous before dropping into a big ski line.

AMGA Certified Alpine Guide, Certified Rock Guide, Assistant Ski Guide Josh Kling getting ready to drop into the 1,800 ft line know as the Turkey Chute near Silverton, CO.

AMGA Certified Alpine Guide, Certified Rock Guide, & Assistant Ski Guide, Josh Kling getting ready to drop into the 1,800 ft line know as the Turkey Chute near Silverton, CO.

7) After the WOD/Ski you are tired, sweaty, sore, and SO EXCITED FOR THE NEXT ONE! 

For information on putting together a custom ski trip this winter, please get in touch or say hi at the gym!

Josh Kling, 
AMGA Certified Alpine Guide & Certified Rock Guide
AMGA Assistant Ski Guide
IFMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide 
Owner / Lead Guide
Kling Mountain Guides, LLC
josh@KlingMountainGuides.com
Office: (970) 259-1708
End of the day stoke after some awesome skiing near Silverton, CO.

End of the day stoke after some awesome skiing near Silverton, CO 

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Backcountry Access Tracker2 Beacon Review

For the past several years I have been skiing, guiding, and teaching with the Backcountry Access Tracker2 avalanche transceiver.  I typically get in close to 80 days every winter wearing my beacon. These include a mix of ski patrolling, course leading AIARE Level 1 and Level 2 avalanche courses, ski guiding in the San Juans around Silverton and Red Mountain Pass, and personal skiing.

Students on an AIARE Level 2 having a classroom session on the deck of the Addie S Cabin on Red Mountain Pass. San Juan Mountains, CO

Students on an AIARE Level 2 having a classroom session on the deck of the Addie S Cabin on Red Mountain Pass. San Juan Mountains, CO

I used this beacon on my American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Advanced Ski Guide Course for the close proximity multiple burial beacon drill and will likely use this beacon on my AMGA ski guide exam next spring in Valdez, AK. I want a beacon that is simple and works every time. The Tracker2 does this. These are several key features of the simple Tracker2 that I love.

American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Certified Alpine Guide, Rock Guide, and Assistant Ski Guide, Josh Kling, doing a snow stability assessment. San Juan Mountains, CO. Photo by AMGA Certified Ski and Rock Guide Matt Wade.

1) The toggle switch to get the beacon from transit mode to search mode is one of the simplest on the market, even with gloves or mittens on. There is no finicky button or switch. The toggle is HUGE and easy to deal with.

AMGA Certified Alpine Guide, Certified Rock Guide, and Assistant Ski Guide, Josh Kling, dropping into the meat of the Snake Couloir on Mt. Sneffels.

American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Certified Alpine Guide, Rock Guide, and Assistant Ski Guide, Josh Kling, dropping into the meat of the Snake Couloir on Mt. Sneffels. Photo by AMGA Certified Ski guide and Rock guide Matt Wade.

2) The LED display is extremely easy to see even in low light OR with polarized lenses. If you have every tried to fill up your car with gas while wearing polarized lenses your know how the screen can be difficult to see.  This is due to LCD displays and polarized lenses.  The large red LEDs are visible regardless of lighting or eyewear.

American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Aprentice Ski Guide Mike Henderson using his Backcountry Access Tracker 2 to find the prize and on American Institue for Avalanche research and Education Level 2 avalanche course on Red Mountain Pass.  San Juan Mountains,  CO

American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Aprentice Ski Guide Mike Henderson using his Backcountry Access Tracker2 to find the prize and on American Institue for Avalanche research and Education Level 2 avalanche course on Red Mountain Pass. San Juan Mountains, CO

3) The Tracker2 detaches from the chest harness. This allows it to be worn either in the harness or in a pocket. While my personal preference is to wear my beacon in the chest harness, I do like the option to be able to detach it from the harness. More and more ski guides, patrollers, and backcountry skiers in general seam to be wearing their beacons in designated beacon pockets on their pants. If the beacon is preeminently attached to the harness, this is not an option.

AMGA Certified Ski and Rock Guide Chris "Snowmarshall" Marshall assessing an R2D2 slide in Porspect Gulch.  San Juan Mountains, CO.

AMGA Certified Ski and Rock Guide Chris “Snowmarshall” Marshall assessing an R2D2 slide in Porspect Gulch. San Juan Mountains, CO.

Students on an AIARE Level 2 avalanche course assign snow crystals on their BCA metal crystal card.  San Juan Mountains, CO.

Students on an AIARE Level 2 avalanche course assign snow crystals on their BCA metal crystal card. San Juan Mountains, CO.

4) Ease of use for OTHERS. If I am buried in an avalanche and dug up by somebody that has a beacon OTHER than a Tracker2, I want them to be able to figure out how to turn my beacon off without my help. While multiple-burials are unlikely in the US, they are possible. Having a beacon that others can figure out and turn off is a comfort to me. I do not want my partners struggling to figure out how to turn my beacon off.

Students on an AIARE Level 1 avalanche course looking at snow crystals from a small column test.

Students on an AIARE Level 1 avalanche course looking at snow crystals from a small column test.

While the Tracker2 does not have a marking/ flagging function for multiple burials, I found to not need to not make a difference. The close proximity multiple burial drill in the AMGA ski exam involves finding three buried transceivers in under 7 minutes. Two of the beacons are buried extremely close, and one is a deep burial. After trying serval different three antenna beacons, I have found that the Tracker2 is the best beacon on the market for locking on to the strong signal This is due to its fast processing. If there is a multiple burial (which statistically is low anyways), since there is no marking function there are extra any buttons to push. As long as long as the deposition pile is covered in a systematic fashion, there is nothing additional to do. Despite not having a flagging function, the Tracker 2 still performed flawlessly on my AMGA rescue drill. If I can find three beacons in under seven minutes with the Tracker2, I can certainly find one beacon.

Students on an AIARE Level 2 at the Addie S Cabin on Red Mountain Pass learning about re-cyrstalization of snow.

Students on an AIARE Level 2 at the Addie S Cabin on Red Mountain Pass learning about re-cyrstalization of snow.

Overall this is an awesome beacon. Despite newer beacons being available that taught fancy features, I have stuck with the Tracker2 and been extremely psyched about it.

Josh Kling,
AMGA Certified Alpine Guide & Certified Rock Guide
AMGA Assistant Ski Guide
IFMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide
AIARE Level 1 & 2 Course Leader

Posted in American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Training, Avalanche Courses, Mountaineering, Skiing, Uncategorized | Comments Off

American Mountain Guides Association Alpine Guide Exam

This September I took and passed the American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Alpine Guide exam.  I am now an AMGA Certified Alpine Guide.  The Alpine Guide Certification is designed for people who guide glaciated and non-glaciated peaks, approaches and climbs, with no limitation with respect to season and elevation. It includes rock climbs, peak ascents, waterfall ice climbs, and expeditionary climbing.   The exam is the culmination of multiple other AMGA programs.

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To gain the title of Certified Alpine Guide one must complete the following:

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My alpine exam took place in the North Cascades, WA.  We spent time guiding in the  Washington Pass zone and Eldorado Peak/ Inspiration Glacier zone.  The goals of the 10-day Alpine Guide Exam (AGE) are to assess and certify alpine climbing guides at the AMGA and IFMGA international standards and to further the general education of students.

Format: Exam candidates are expected to carry out guiding assignments given by the examiners during the exam. Candidates serve as guides to the examiners and to the other participants on routes chosen for their complex guiding challenges.

Expectations: The exam is conducted on routes in alpine terrain and may include glaciated and non-glaciated peaks, approaches, and climbs, with no limitation. It includes rock climbs, peak ascents, and waterfall climbs. A strong emphasis is placed on expertise in short roping clients.

Assessment Areas: Screening of movement skills in rock, alpine, snow, ice, and mixed terrain; Crevasse Rescue Drill; Guided days assessment, which includes evaluation in the following nine areas: risk management, client care, technical systems, application, terrain assessment, movement skills, mountain sense, professionalism and instructional technique.

Prerequisites:

  • Current AMGA member
  • Completion of a CPR and WFR Course (minimum 80 hours) or higher certification
  • Successful completion of a Level III Avalanche Course that is AMGA approved
  • Successful completion of the Advanced Alpine Guide Course and Aspirant Exam
  • Confidence leading 5.10a in rock shoes, at the time of the exam
  • Confidence leading 5.7 in mountain boots, at the time of the exam
  • Confidence leading WI 4, at the time of the exam
  • Confidence with French Technique on firm 40 degree snow, at the time of the exam
  • Familiar with LNT practices
  • Since completing the AAGC/AE, you have led or shared lead on 5 different alpine routes grade IV or longer
  • Since completing the AAGC/AE, you have led or shared lead on 10 different traditional style rock climbs rated 5.10a or harder
  • Since completing the AAGC/AE, you have guided 10 days in diverse alpine terrain

My 2015 Alpine Guide Exam consisted of:

Examiners:

Candidates:

  • Alan Orem – AMGA Certified Ski Guide and Certified Rock Guide, Exum Mountain Guides
  • Erica Engle – AMGA Certified Ski Guide, Jackson Hole Mountain Guides
  • Sebastian Grau – AMGA Certified Rock Guide, Mountain Trip
  • Josh Kling – AMGA Certified Rock Guide, Kling Mountain Guides
  • Paul Koubrek – AMGA Certified Rock Guide, Yosemite Mountaineering School
  • Mike Lewis – AMGA Certified Rock Guide, Colorado Mountain School
  • Brian Smith – AMGA Certified Rock Guide, Exum Mountain Guides
  • Dan Zokaites – AMGA Certified Rock Guide, Peak Mountain Guides

Due to having such large objectives in front of us, our exam actually began the night prior to the start.  This consisted of a pre-exam guides meeting at the Winthrop KOA.

Day 1: Direct East Buttress of South Early Winter Spire (Grade III, 5.11, 9 pitches).  Paul started us out from the car and had the first half of the climb.  We switched over for me to take the lead at pitch 6, the infamous bolt ladder and tricky mantle move.  Unfortunately I did take a lead fall at the tricky mantle.  Not ideal for my first lead pitch on  my first day of the exam!  That being said, this was the first fall I had ever taken on any of the AMGA rock or alpine programs I have ever done. While it’s less than ideal for a guide to fall, sometimes it does happen. It was a very soft catch, I finished the move and finished the route.  Other than my slip on the mantle, I was very happy with the rest of my lead.

This was also the first day in my new Camp Air CR harness.  This harness rocks!  I typically am not a fan of light weight low padding harness. The Air CR was a game changer though.  It is new for 2015 and is designed for light and fast alpine style climbing.  Here are a few stats:

  • Lightweight, robust harness with adjustable leg loops
  • Edge-Load Construction on the waist and legs
  • Auto-locking buckles on the waist and legs
  • Elastic straps that connect the waist and legs with steel hooks
  • Patented No-Twist belay loop Absolute coolest feature of any Camp harness and absolutely worth the money.
  • 4 reinforced gear loops, chalk bag loop
  • Hub racking biner compatible
  • 350 g, 12.3 oz (Size M)

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Zoomed in shot of no twist belay loop on the Camp Laser CR harness

My favorite feature of pretty much every Camp harness is the patented No-Twist belay loop.  This feature in essence locks a carabiner to the belay loop in the proper orientation to prevent cross loading.  In addition, the no-twist belay look makes tying a munter on your harness exceptionally easy.  The Air CR was as comfortable as I could have asked for on a 9 pitch route.  However, it was still very low bulk.  Having a low bulk and light weight “kit” of climbing gear is essential for being an alpine guide.  Low bulk and light weight translates to better movement in the mountains.  Better movement in the mountains often translates to safer movement.  The Air CR fits perfectly inside my Camp Speed 2.0 helmet for the hike in and hike out.

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Here I am wearing my Air CR harness and Speed 2.0 helmet on the descent of the East Face of Chablis Spire during a Wine Spire traverse.

Here I am wearing my Air CR harness and Speed 2.0 helmet on the descent of the East Face of Chablis Spire during a Wine Spire traverse.

Like the harness, this is a low bulk light weight, but durable helmet.  Themes repeat and an alpine guide wants a fully rated helmet, that is comfortable for all day weight. The low bulk of the Speed 2.0 makes it much easier and less tiering to wear.  It also fits under a hood much better than a bulkier suspension style helmet.

A low bulk, svelte guide pack set for a multi-day alpine adventure.

A low bulk, svelte guide pack set for a multi-day alpine adventure.

My kit was full of Camp gear.  Specifically, the Photon locking carabiner, HMS Nitro, HMS Compact, Photon wire gate.

Version 2

On the hike into the Direct East Buttress of South Early Winter Spire we found some artillery rounds from avalanche control work. Point being, my helmet and harness are tucked away in the tiny pack with ease.

 

Giving Paul (my partner candidate) a belay while IFMGA Guide and examiner Erik  Leidecker takes some pictures.

Giving Paul (my partner candidate) a belay while IFMGA Guide and examiner Erik Leidecker takes some pictures.

While a comfortable and reliable harness and helmet will not pass any AMGA exam for you, they sure can add to you being confident.

Day 2: North Ridge of Cutthroat Peak to the West Ridge Descent (Grade III 5.7) Today was another alpine rock objective.  However, the grade was significantly easier than our previous days objective.  Moving efficiently is the only way to complete these long objectives day after day.  To move more efficiently on Cutthroat we chose to wear approach shoes for the entire climb.  My shoe of choice was the La Sportive Ganda Guide. Having a shoe that you can climb mid-5th class rock in, while still being comfortable on the approach is awesome.  This shoe does just that.

One hopes to absolutely crush every day of an AMGA exam.  These exams are the time to shine and show the examiners how great you are.  Unfortunately, day two was not that day for me.  While I never overly exposed our group to excessive risk, it was not my best exam day.  Fortunately for me, I still had plenty of time to error correct and show my examiners I knew what I was doing.

 

Day 3: Wine Spire TraverseScurlock photo of wine spires, July 20, 2005

This was probably the coolest objective we had the entire exam.  The assignment was to guide, climb and descend as many of the spires with a bivy somewhere along the route.  Super cool!  Different groups chose different options.  Since we only had two days (one day in, climb that afternoon, camp, climb the next day and hike out) Paul and I choose to make our first objective to be the East Face of Chablis (grade II 5.6 R).  We chose this as our first objective since we were also hiking in that day and wanted a Mazama Start.  A Mazama Start was the term we coined for wanting to start the day with a coffee and breakfast sandwich at the famous Mazama Store.

Despite what the above picture shows, we were able to make it al the way from the Burgundy Col to the East Face of Chablis Spire (pictured) without ever touching snow!  We made quick work of the route climbing it in our mountain boots.  I choose the La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX.  This boot was perfect for the job.  It is slightly stiffer than the previous Trango and climbs rock incredibly well.  It also fits my foot perfectly, which is the most important part of a boot!

Paul (exam partner) in the green and Angela Hawse IFMGA guide and exam director in the red on the radio at our Burgundy Col bivy.

Paul (exam partner) in the green and Angela Hawse IFMGA guide and exam director in the red on the radio at our Burgundy Col bivy.

Day 3: West Ridge of Pisano Pinnacle (grade III 5.9-, 8 pitches) link up to the North Ridge of Burgundy Spire (grade III 5.8 6 pitches)

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Photo from SuperTopo.com Side note, the SuperTopo guide book of Washington Pass was authored by IFMGA ski and mountain guide Ian Nicholson. If anybody has the beta on Washington Pass, this guy does. His guide book was key to success. Recommendation; purchase both the digital PDF version that you can have on your phone and the paper version.


Linking these climbs would make for an awesome 13 pitch 5.9. Unfortunately it was not in the cards for us that day.  Oh well.   We still ended up climbing the North Face of Burgundy.  While the lower half of this route was not the highest queasily rock, to say the least, the upper pitches were super fun!

Summits matter.  Angela on the tip top of Burgundy Spire.

Summits matter. IFMGA ski and mountain guide Angela Hawse on the tip top of Burgundy Spire.

Day 5: House Buttress on Poster Peak (grade III 5.7) 

This was an other alpine rock approach shoe objective.  AMGA Certified Rock Guide and Operations Director for the American Alpine Institue Jason Martin has a great write up on the route here. This time I began the day.  We again chose to do a Mazama Start.  The day just seems to be better when started with a good coffee and breakfast sandwich.  I took us about 2/3 of the way up the route, with Paul taking over for the last 1/3 and descent.

Day 6: Rest day and transition to the west side of Washington Pass.  Due to weather we had chosen to spend the entire first half of the exam on rock objectives on the east side of Washington Pass.  This tends to be the drier side of the pass.  By spending the entire first half of the exam on one side of the pass, we minimized driving time.

Day 7 – 9: Eldorado Peak and Inspiration Glacier zone.

Day 7: Hike in and crease rescue drills.

After hiking in and setting camp, the entire exam headed over to the inspiration glacier for our crease rescue drill.

IFMGA guide and exam director Angela Hawse watching and taking pictures as candidates run through the crevase rescue drill. Photo credit: Angela Hawse

IFMGA guide and exam director Angela Hawse watching and taking pictures as exam candidates run through the AMGA crevase rescue drill. Photo credit: Angela Hawse

Crevasse Rescue Time allowed: 45 minutes

Equipment allowed: 1 Single rope, 1 ice axe, 1 ice hammer (a picket may be substituted for either the axe or hammer), 1 pack, 3 ice screws, 1 harness, 1 helmet, 3 cordelettes, 5 locking carabiners, 4 non-locking carabiners, 3 slings (webbing or cord). Cords should be minimum diameter of 5.5mm Spectra or 6-7mm nylon.

The guide must be protected when within 2 meters of any crevasse edge. Candidates begin the exercise with the client tied in for glacier travel, standing on the glacier. The victim slides into the crevasse. The guide must arrest the fall with the victim in the crevasse suspended by the rope.  The clock starts after the fall has been stopped. The exercise must be completed in the order indicated below.

1. The victim slides into the crevasse, the guide arrest the fall.

2. Build an anchor and transfer load to that anchor.

3. Rappel to victim. Safety back up required on guide.

4. Move victim into upright position with some form of chest harness.

5. Ascend out of crevasse.

6. Establish haul system. Minimum 5:1 mechanical advantage required.

7. Haul victim out of crevasse.

The exercise is complete when both client and guide are on the surface. Candidates may be required to demonstrate other systems in combination with other scenarios. While candidates will be demonstrating the application of technical skills in a controlled situation, decision making, judgment, error correction, and the safety of the guide and client are essential components of the exercise. Intervention on the part of the examiner, should reasonable margins of safety be compromised, is grounds for failing this portion of the exam.

Day 8:  Like the other days, different groups had different objectives.  The different objectives consisted of: East Ridge of Eldorado Peak with a glacier tour, North Early Morning Spire, Dorado Needle, and Klawatti Peak.

Day 9:  While we had planned on spending day nine climbing, inclement weather and timing prohibited climbing.  We spent the morning doing map and compass exercises, while the examiners looked over our tour plans.

Exam candidates and examiner lokking over a map of the Eldorado Peak zone.  While everybody on AMGA exams these days tends to use some app for navigation, such as Gaia, a guide must be able to use an old fashioned paper map too.  Taking a bearing on a map and in the field as well as plotting a bearing on the map and in the field, are skills an AMGA Certified  Alpine Guide should know.

Exam candidates and examiner lokking over a map of the Eldorado Peak zone. While everybody on AMGA exams these days tends to use some app for navigation, such as Gaia, a guide must be able to use an old fashioned paper map too. Taking a bearing on a map and in the field as well as plotting a bearing on the map and in the field, are skills an AMGA Certified Alpine Guide should know.

 Day 10:  Final day exam debrief!   No alarm sleeping in!  Day ten consists of both a full exam debrief as well as individual debriefs.  The exam debrief covers all aspects of the exam from “what’s next” to any and all near-misses or close-calls.  We discussed both the strengths of the program as well as what the exam lacked.  We then each had individual debriefs with our examiners.  By 2:00 PM people where hitting the road and going their separate ways.  Overall it was a great exam.  It’s easy to say with hindsight, but any guide that ever goes through the American Mountain Guides Association Alpine Guide program will come out a better guide, no questions asked.

A few shameless promotions: First a HUGE thanks to the folks at Camp USA for styling me out with some awesome light and fast alpine gear.  In the mountains and alpine environment, the equipment one chooses to climb and guide in is more than just comfort. It can make the difference between succeeding and failure.  Camp gear definitely played a part in my comfort level during this exam.

An additional huge thanks to Smith Optics for styling me out with some amazing sunglasses.  The Smith Dockside sunglasses with CromaPop lenses provided exceptional clarity while spending extremely long days in the mountains. Your eyes, like any other part of your body can tire with extreme use.  Spending huge days in bright light and varying weather conditions can tire your eyes.  I choose the ChromaPop Polarized Platinum lenses with 14% visible light transmission.  This is one of the darker lenses Smith makes.  Big days in bright light require a dark sense. However, unless on a glacier, I find that anything darker than about 14% VLT is too dark.  My eyes end up tiring from straining to see.  This is all magnified if you wear contacts (which I do). Having awesome sunglasses with a huge wrap and dark polarized lenses kept my eyes performing.  It sounds silly, but your eyes matter. Just ask Johny Utah in Point Break “Yeah, vision is over rated…”

Me being taking a very serious selfie in my Smith Dockside sunglasses with CromaPop lenses and my Camp Speed 2.0 helmet

Me taking a very serious selfie in my Smith Dockside sunglasses with CromaPop lenses and my Camp Speed 2.0 helmet

Josh Kling, 
AMGA Certified Alpine Guide & Certified Rock Guide
AMGA Assistant Ski Guide
IFMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide 

 

Posted in Alpine Climbing, American Mountain Guides Association (AMGA) Training, CAMP USA climbing, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Uncategorized | Comments Off

CAMP Geko Hot Gloves; More LOVE!

A (Long) Day in the CAMP Geko Hot Gloves

Photo: Adam F - Geared up with the CAMP Geko Hot Gloves.

Photo: Adam F – Geared up with the CAMP Geko Hot Gloves.

Happy New Year all-

I hope you are all getting some adventures in or at least have plans to in the new year. I want to take a few minutes and fill you in about my latest adventure with the CAMP Geko Hot Gloves. They were my glove of choice on a recent First Ascent. Check ‘em out:
PastedGraphic-2Geko Hot frontGeko Hot back
From CAMP’s website:
  • The perfect combination of performance, warmth and dexterity
  • Soft and supple etched goatskin leather palms are grippy and durable
  • 5 oz Primaloft® main body with thin 4 oz Primaloft® on the palm
  • Durastretch® fabrics allows for a precise and tight fit without restricting dexterity
  • $119.95 USD
Here’s a little more history behind my gloves: I’ve had these gloves for one year already so I have thoroughly done some work in these bad boys. I used them ice climbing all last season and a full season skiing with them. Now, on to season two with them still going strong.
My highlight with these so far this season has been on a First Ascent (Belly of the Beast, IV 750’ WI5+ M6/7 X C1 Steep Snow) of a new mixed route near the classic Ames Ice Hose in Telluride, CO. My climbing partner and I tried the line two times in December of 2014 but retreated at the start of the third pitch.
Finally, our third attempt on January 8th was successful. We pushed our abilities to the max and raced past our comfort zones. I was glad to have the Geko Hot as part of my arsenal.
Nik looking up at the start of the third pitch that thwarted us for two attempts. There’s no protection until the big chockstone.
Nik looking up at the start of the third pitch that thwarted us for two attempts. There’s no protection until the big chockstone.
The gloves are snug to get your hand into, but once you’re in, the fit is great. I absolutely loved having the keeper straps during the early M6+ mixed sections of the route. When the terrain got real technical, I could whip the gloves off and let them dangle from my wrist for a short section of hard rock climbing. Otherwise, the gloves are thin and dexterous enough to climb easy rock with.
Nik climbing up to one of the many chockstone bulges we encountered on route.
Nik climbing up to one of the many chockstone bulges we encountered on route.
Higher up on the route, we encountered some steep snow and I was plunging my tools and hands into the snow for some form of grip. Again, the sung fit kept snow out and my hands remained warm and dry throughout the day.
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Nik on one of the easier steep snow sections of the route.
We continued upwards through a thin WI5+ ice off-width flare and steep snow and rock to finally reach some solid ice. At this point the sun was setting and we were still two pitches from the top (which really means you’re only halfway there). My gloves were starting to get wet, as any would by this point in the day (night?). At least my hands were still warm. We continued up.
We finished a WI4 pitch in the dark and made our way up M4 and deep easy snow to the top. Another cool feature about the Geko series are the padded knuckle guards on the fingers. They help protect your hands when you, you know…punch the ice with your fisted grip on the tool – something that happens from time to time.
We slogged our way back down to the car for a nice 16 hour day in the Geko Hot gloves and our goal completed.
Bottom line: I really like these gloves and don’t have a bad thing to say about them. Try them if you haven’t.
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Photo: Nik M – Looking down the M5+ X rock and snow.
Also be sure to check out the Geko Light Gloves if you’re looking for even more of a performance fit or for climbing in warmer temperatures.
Climb on,
Gary
AMGA Certified Single Pitch Instructor
AMGA Apprentice Rock Guide
AMGA Apprentice Alpine Guide
Posted in Alpine Climbing, CAMP USA climbing, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Camp Laser CR Harness; Falling in Love

Falling in Love with the CAMP Laser CR Harness

Howdy, folks. I just got done putting the CAMP Laser CR Harness through the wringer and I’ve got some great things to share with you. I’ve taken this thing everywhere and climbed many routes! Here’s some stats to get us started:

255 pitches
9 Grade III’s
6 Grade IV’s
1 Grade V
1 14er

Now, let’s have a look-see at this beauty:
Cassin-Laser-CR-4068Cassin-Laser-CR-4068-R

CAMP Laser CR (items in bold I’m excited to talk about)

Mountaineering, ice climbing, climbing on big routes, rock climbing, sport climbing
Laminate construction comprised of laser cut webbing, nylon and internal padding
3-dimensional mesh padding wicks moisture away from the body
Pre-Threaded Buckles on the waist and legs
Patented No-Twist belay loop
Steel drop seat hooks
4 stiff webbing reinforced gear loops
Haul loop
5 sizes
Weight (medium): 410 g, 14.5 oz
$119.95 USD

I started using this harness at the very beginning of SENDtember of this year. I was in Indian Creek, UT for the opening day of Reservoir Wall. Right away I fell in love with the bright green color, and noticed how very well crafted this harness was compared to my last. Very aesthetically pleasing.

After jamming perfect sandstone cracks, it was off to Unaweep Canyon for super fun granite climbing. Things that stuck out to me about the Laser CR was how light and moveable it was. Did you see in the specs how much it weighed? This is a great sport climbing harness. It felt great. Next, I was off to do a rigging gig in Glenwood Springs, CO for an adventure race.

Gary pulling hard in Red Rock, NV

Photo: Lindsey H – Have a Beer with Fear, 5.11a. Red Rock Canyon, Nevada.

Photo: Tony C - Save the Heart to Eat Later, 5.12a. Red Rock Canyon, Nevada.

Photo: Tony C – Save the Heart to Eat Later, 5.12a. Red Rock Canyon, Nevada.

Now to switch it up a bit – I was climbing the famous Wilson Peak (14,023’) outside of Telluride, CO! I got to try out what may be my favorite feature of this harness: the no-twist belay loop. I did a fair bit of short-roping and usually prefer to use a munter when belaying over semi-technical terrain. The belay loop on the Laser CR keeps my carabiner orientated perfectly! The carabiner is always exactly how I want it positioned. It also prevents your carabiner from unexpectedly cross-loading while belaying. Check it out:

IMG_4461

The awesome no-twist belay loop. The belay loop splits and has a rubber keeper in it to hold the carabiner snug, like the bottom end of a quick-draw.

Photo: Peter - On the summit of Wilson Peak, 14,023’. Near Telluride, CO.

Photo: Peter – On the summit of Wilson Peak, 14,023’. Near Telluride, CO.

Fast forward a bit and it’s now ROCKtober. Prime desert season. This is where durability was tested. I put this thing through so many sandstone off-widths and chimneys it’s ridiculous. I climbed the Stolen Chimney on Ancient Art, the North Chimney of Castleton, the classic chimney climb Epinephrine in Red Rock, NV, and many other wide cracks. My last harness broke doing this type of climbing. Not this one – probably due to the steel drop seat hooks versus plastic buckles. While I like this feature, it may also be the one thing I’d have to improve for next year’s model. I noticed the hooks would come undone while in my pack and get twisted around. Nothing major, I’d just have to shake and untwist the leg-loops before I put the harness on. While in Red Rock, I also climbed the biggest route I’ve ever done. Resolution Arete, V, 5.10d C1, 24 pitches, 2500’. I loaded the 4 gear loops (max weight 11 lbs) and haul loop (max weight 220 lbs) with all the gear I’d need for a successful 1 day ascent of a big wall. For being so light, it was nice and comfy to hang around in all day.

Photo: Colby B - High up on Epinephrine, IV 5.9, 14 pitches, 2200’. Red Rock Canyon, Nevada.

Photo: Colby B – High up on Epinephrine, IV 5.9, 14 pitches, 2200’. Red Rock Canyon, Nevada.

Photo: Lindsey H - Pitch 2 of Eagle Dance, IV 5.10d C0. Red Rock Canyon, Nevada.

Photo: Lindsey H – Pitch 2 of Eagle Dance, IV 5.10d C0. Red Rock Canyon, Nevada.

As the season winded down, I got to sneak in a few more big climbs in The Black Canyon, most notably two ascents of The Russian Arete, IV, 5.9+, 8 pitches, 1800’. Look how pretty she looks after all these pitches.

Photo: Ed E - On the summit of the Russian Arete, IV 5.9+, 8 pitches, 1500’. Black Canyon National Park, Colorado.

Photo: Ed E – On the summit of the Russian Arete, IV 5.9+, 8 pitches, 1500’. Black Canyon National Park, Colorado.

I conclude this review with a recent onsight ascent of my first 5.12a! And now that winter is upon us, I’m excited to see the CAMP Laser CR excel on the brilliant ice there is to climb in the San Juans.

Photo: Jeff - Power Play, 5.12b. The Box, Socorro, New Mexico.

Photo: Jeff – Power Play, 5.12b. The Box, Socorro, New Mexico.

So, bottom line: Best harness I’ve ever used. 4 season, all purpose harness. It does it all, very well.

Thanks for reading,

Gary
AMGA Certified Single Pitch Instructor
AMGA Apprentice Rock Guide
AMGA Apprentice Alpine Guide

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Route Profile: Maiden Voyage, Black Canyon of the Gunnison. Grade III, 5.9, 6 pitches

Route Profile: Maiden Voyage – Grade III 5.9, six pitches.

The Black Canyon of the Gunnison has a reputation of being for the extreme climber. With its remote circumstances, tick and poison ivy infested approaches, loose and unpredictable rock, challenging route finding, difficult and unprotected pegmatite bands, and long committed routes of up to Grade VI, climbing in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison is not for novices or for climbers who are not fully competent in free climbing on big, remote walls.

In fact, climbing at the Black Canyon – often looked at as Colorado’s version of Yosemite – is as much a form of alpine climbing as it is pure rock climbing. The limited view of incoming weather or unforeseen problems on an otherwise “moderate” route can turn a pleasant day’s outing into a nightmarish epic. Remember that every climber needs to be thinking “self rescue” in Black Canyon. No helicopter will pluck you to safety. Still, for experienced, competent and committed climbers, the fearsome “Black” offers some of the North America’s greatest rock climbing challenges in a wild and rugged setting.  KMG tends to avoid the gnarly and go for the more fun moderate routes.  Hence, Maiden Voyage AKA The Red Dihedral.

The climb Maiden Voyage is about as far from gnarly as can be and by far the route we guide the most. This climb consists of great rock, relatively easy route finding, an easy approach with minimal poison ivy, and 6 moderate pitches of climbing. This is the most popular climb in the Black Canyon and maybe one of the best 5.9’s in the country.

In addition to the reasons listed above, the canyon gets a harsh reputation due its committing nature. Unlike a traditional climb of a UT desert tower or Red Rock Canyon wall, at the Black you start on top and work your way down with hikes and rappels. There are only a few gullies that allow access the inner canyon. Maiden Voyage is on the CheckerBoard wall on the North Rim of the Black. The climb is reached by descending the Cruise Gully, named after the Scenic Cruise climb (one of the best 5.10’s in the country). This gully involves two mandatory rappels on fixed lines that the park service installed. The Robbie Williams guide book talks about down climbing some exposed sections. All but the most confident climbers would prefer to use the fixed lines and rappel, a much better way to mitigate the risk of getting hurt before even reaching the climb.

After the rappels it’s a short hike on a descent trail (great for the Black Canyon) leads to the base of the climb. There is minimal poison ivy on the approach. I (nock on wood) have never had any issues with me or my clients getting any of “the green itch.”

The first pitch consists of roughly 100 ft of wandering 5.6. While the climbing is fun, the gear is minimal. Some climbers choose to link the first two pitches. However, the crux of the climb is at the start of the second. We choose to shorten the first pitch, which allows for an easy transition to the second. This also allows for the climb to get the crux of the route over right after their break.

The third pitch climbs fun cracks and corners to a 5.8 roof. This is the routes second crux. The moves are all there with great holds, but not obvious at first. After the roof, relatively mellow climbing takes you to the belay.

Pitch four continues up fun cracks and corners, involves some stemming, and leads to a great belay ledge. Pitch five is all less than vertical 5.7 climbing to the final belay ledge. Some parties choose to stop at the top of pitch five. Typically though, KMG chooses to go one more pitch to the summit of the wall. The last and sixth pitch ascends 5.6 climbing up fun ledges and edges to reach the summit block. From the summit block, we have a spectacular view of both the north and south chasm view points. If you squint, you typically can see folks grasping the guard rails and peering into the abyss. Awesome! A quick rappel gets us back down to the top of pitch five. From there it’s a 20 minute hike back to the rim and the North Rim Ranger station. Congratulations! You just climbed a six pitch classic in one of the deepest canyons in the US

Skylar and Dan racking up at the base of Maiden Voyage.

Skylar and Dan racking up at the base of Maiden Voyage.

 

Skylar topping out pitch 3, Maiden Voyage

Skylar and Dan enjoying lunch on one of the huge belay ledges that Maiden Voyage has to offer.

Skylar and Dan enjoying lunch on one of the huge belay ledges that Maiden Voyage has to offer.

 

John topping out Maiden Voyage

John on Maiden Voyage

John is peering into the abyss of the Black Cnayon of the Gunnison after climbing Maiden Voyage.

John is peering into the abyss of the Black Cnayon of the Gunnison after climbing Maiden Voyage.

John and Carson enjoying some post climbing libations as their hang on the North Rim guard rail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

John and Carson enjoying some post climbing libations as their hang on the North Rim guard rail, Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

 

Josh Kling, 
AMGA Certified Rock Guide
AMGA Assistant Ski and Alpine Guide
AMGA Aspirant Mountain Guide 
AIARE Level 1 & 2 Course Leader

 

Posted in Alpine Climbing, CAMP USA climbing, Rock Climbing | Comments Off

Camp Speed Helemt

I see helmets as an essential piece of climbing equipment. However finding a good helmet has been difficult and the less I’ve liked my helmet the easier it is to convince myself I might not need it. Enter the Camp Speed helmet. It has been a great addition to my go to climbing equipment selection. Weighing in at a feather weight of 231g, the Speed is relatively unnoticeable while being worn. Its innocuous presence is a combination of impressive weight and a close to the head fit. This helps to avoid the constant upward movement helmet bumps that can come with a more bulbous fit. Although light and sleek are qualities which come with diminished durability, I have found that it holds up exceptionally well to the rigors of rough lifestyle and general abuse. I am not the most gentle person and have been known to store and pack my gear in less than careful fashion. However I have yet to see development of dents, cracks or other less serious damage to my own helmet. The days of the light and fast helmet that gets dented from sitting up against your Nalgine for too long in a tightly packed pack are over. In addition to durability in the more benign of situations the Speed is a UIAA certified dome piece, made of EPS foam that is capable of protecting you from more consequential hits. Many other light weight helmets on the market are purely CE rated.  What’s the difference between UIAA and CE certifications? A UIAA-certified helmet meets a more stringent standard. Their EN 12492 standard requires that 20% less impact force get transmitted to the headform during lab testing than does CE certification using the same test method, so keep this in mind when comparing models.

Since it is a foam helmet it will need to be replaced if it receives a serious impact but the one time use is the standard trade off for light compact helmets.  In addition to its durable and versatile construction it has ample ventilation for hot days or expeditions that call for heavy exertion. All helmets are going to be a bit warmer than an open breeze but with twenty-two ventilation holes I’ve been able to keep plenty comfortable. My one dissatisfaction has been from the headlamp clips. It has two in the front and one in the back at the center.  I would prefer a four clip system or a larger center back clip. I have not found my head lamp as easy to set up as with some other helmets. Having said that its by no means a laborious task. Over all I’ve been very pleased by finding something to help sooth my aversion to having a block of foam strapped to my head and look forward to many safe and comfortable days in the mountains.

Alec on top of Storm King peak in the heart of the San Juans sporting his Camp Speed Helemt

Alec Johnson

AMGA Certified Single Pitch Instructor

AMGA Apprentice Rock Guide

Posted in CAMP USA climbing, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Uncategorized | Comments Off