It’s been frigid on the Front Range this week. Highs in the mountains are in the single digits, with enough wind to freeze your skin before you know it. I’m not complaining. Cold weather means light pow and more ice.
I was out Monday checking it out and thought a useful blog post would provide a few tips to better enjoy your sub-zero outdoor pursuits this winter.
Guiding is a profession that requires a myriad of equipment for various applications while holding up against years of abuse. I am no exception, and when it comes to packs I am not only abusive but picky as well. Finding a pack that will do the job it’s designed for is not an easy task, but I think I have nailed it with the Backcountry Access Alp 40 liter.
Thursday was… a day of cold, wind, clouds, sun, adventure, challenge, and fun!
I’m typically sort of a nerdy guy, fascinated with books, gadgetry, gizmos, numbers and all other things socially awkward. I even talk nasally, have freckles, wear thick glasses and routinely go for days without showering. So when I got my hands on BCA’s new Tracker2 avalanche beacon last year, you can just imagine my unclean snort-giggling fits of glee.
Now, this beacon isn’t brand new to the market but I’m sold on it despite a number of other cool beacons out there. Despite my nerdicular tendencies, I appreciate the simple and efficient design of the T2 beacon. Boasting an additional antennae and faster micro-processor than it’s predecessor, this beacon already out-performs others on the market, including the original Tracker. Ah, but those boys at BCA think of everything, even super-cooling the antennae before building their beacons so that really cold days won’t damage the frequency we so vitally rely on. Cold temps can adversely affect the antennae, causing frequency drift but BCA cools them first, then aligns the frequency. It’s just one less thing to worry about when you forget the beacon in the car overnight as you rush indoors to catch another rerun of Family Matters.
My favorite feature of the T2 is how quickly it can switch functions, from transmit to search and vice versa. Other beacons have a prolonged start-up time and, in a stressful situation, these 6-15 seconds seem like hours. With the T2, you can turn it on, immediately pull the search “tab” and begin your signal search, all in less than two seconds. The super fast micro-processor gives real-time information as you search and the third antennae effectively eliminates “dead zones” in your fine search phase. Priceless.
As unlikely as multiple-burial scenarios may be, my favorite T2 feature comes in handy when searching for multiple victims. Let’s say you’ve pinpointed one victim and are looking for a second. Your searching beacon will “lock on” to the buried beacon you’ve just found and will prefer that signal even though you move away, something called signal loyalty. With the T2, it’s easy to “reset” your searching beacon simply by pushing in the search tab and immediately pulling it back out. If nothing else, this at least clears the “memory” which might allow you to focus in on the closer, stronger signal. This is just a little shortcut/tip that has helped me find three beacons in a football field of snow in less than two minutes. Dorking out for a few minutes and mastering the ins and outs of “special mode” will also make you an asset in any multiple-burial scenarios. These are just some of the features and one little trick that make the Tracker2 stand out above the rest. If you’re interested in honing your companion rescue skills, just tape up your glasses, tighten those suspenders and come on over to CMS for a day of knee-slapping nerdery. I’d love to show you what I know and, chances are, I’ll have recently showered. 🙂 Here’s to a great, safe winter!
CMS Guide and AIARE Level 1 Instructor
Well, the snow is flying, the ice is forming and the sweet days of 60 degrees and sunny are still happening in the Front Range.
Two days ago I climbed in Eldo, yesterday I skied and today I’m climbing in Eldo again. Friday I’ll be climbing in Boulder Canyon, we have ski guide training coming up and our first avalanche course of the season is just around the corner. Life is good.
But what of the purple and green routes you ask? Well gym climbing season is also kicking into high gear.
Just like last winter, we will spend from now until the snow is gone training for next year’s main rock climbing season. Working on technique, strength, endurance and strategy we also have a great time for a couple of hours out of our busy week. This week Tom’s son Thad also joined us.
Slopers and steeps were the main focus this week with progress made by all. We worked slopers in the bouldering area and the steep moves on full length routes focusing on body position to increase reach while decreasing arm fatigue. Although I have to admit, we also worked a bit on overhanging sloper problems!
Training in the gym can be a great way to hit the ground running (I mean hit the rock sending!) in the spring. I still have a free hour or two on Thursday afternoons, care to join me?
Head Guide, Colorado Mountain School
A friend of mine who works at a popular outdoor retailer recently told me that they are easily selling four pair of AT boots to every one pair of tele boots this fall. Randonee equipment is in the midst of a surge in technology and popularity, and boots are leading the charge.
The Black Canyon is home to some of the longest and best rock climbs in the state of Colorado. It is a place that has an intimidating and dark reputation. Horror stories of bad rock, dicey runouts, and getting benighted can be heard whenever the The Black is mentioned. Think of Yosemite’s bad ugly brother that lives in the attic and you’ll get the picture of this brooding canyon. Despite The Black’s fearsome reputation, the classic routes are as good as you will find anywhere and can be a great place to hone your skills for bigger alpine rock objectives in the greater ranges.
Small backpacks for leader and follower (10-15L capacity e.g. Black Diamond BBEE)
Minimum of 2L of water each (Hydration systems are helpful)
Roll of athletic tape
Enough food to keep you going for 12 hours
Emergency space blanket (this is something I always carry with me on long routes)
Good weather forecast!
70m rope mandatory for linking pitches
1-2 sets of stoppers with RP’s
1x green C3
1x red C3
2x .3 Camalot
2x .4 Camalot
2x .5 Camalot
2x .75 Camalot
2x 1 Camalot
3x 2 Camalot
2x 3 Camalot
1x 4 Camalot
1x 5 Camalot or #3 Big Bro(optional for OW on crux pitch)
14 alpine draws
Here at the Colorado Mountain School our go-to outdoor apparel is Marmot. When I heard they were making a new pack, the Drakon 35, I was excited to try it out. I have used Marmot packs in the past and had great experiences with them.
Colorado Mountain School guide, Russell Hunter, demos a Rutschblock Test on an AIARE Avalanche Level 1 course. No matter if you are a backcountry skier, snowboarder, snowshoe-er, or snowmobiler, this is a course you shouldn’t miss. Join us this winter for your avalanche education.
We offer avalanche courses nearly every week starting in December and running into April. We have many options available:
1) Full days Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
2) A holiday break course running full days December 27-29.
3) Tues/Thurs (6-9pm classroom work) + all day Saturday and Sunday (RMNP Field session).
Call us today to reserve your spot.
Colorado Mountain School
We’re still digging out from Winter Storm #2 and storms #3 and #4 are already in the forecast! As the snow pack builds over the next month or so, this is the perfect time to also be building your backcountry skiing fitness base. A complete ski conditioning program should include elements of aerobic and anaerobic fitness, plyometric resistance, and strength training. The aerobic conditioning will get you up the skin track; the anaerobic conditioning will enable you to link turns for hundreds of vertical at a time; the plyometric resistance training will prepare your body for dynamic skiing movements in ever changing snow conditions; and the strength training will build overall power and will help to prevent injury.
Please Note: The Boulder Rock Club offers ski conditioning classes free for all members. Tuesdays at 5:45pm and Wednesdays at 12pm.
Lots of folks around here say that alpine climbing in Rocky Mountain NP is some of the best training available for the greater ranges of the world. Some actually say that the greater ranges are some of the best training for climbing in Rocky. We get wind; we get cold. But we do have some classic mixed climbs requiring long approaches, snow, ice, and rock climbing. Full winter days in the Park require footwear that allows you to move quickly and comfortably. And stay warm. And climb well.
Blind climber Erik Weihenmayer tackles his hardest route to date – Eldorado Canyon’s The Naked Edge – to benefit the Access Fund. Support climbing advocacy and conservation: http://accessfund.org/join
If you have any interest in climbing The Naked Edge call us to set up your private outing. November can be a great time of the year to get on this amazing route.
Colorado Mountain School
As the summer time rolls out and the winter time rolls in I begin to reflect on the all the great climbs I did over this last climbing season. I climbed quite a few routes this spring, summer, and fall and there are a few that really stick out in my mind.
The first route that sticks out in my mind is the East Ridge of the Maiden. My friend and I did this route this spring. Many formations in this area are closed due to falcon nesting. It may be because of this, but we were the only ones on the formation that weekend. The guide book says it is 5 pitches. We strung together pitches 1 and 2 as well as 3 and 4. We were climbing with a 70m rope, which made it nice. Pitch one is a beautiful crack and pitch three involves some wild face moves. After topping out two single rope rappels bring you back to the ground. The first rappel involves a free hanging rap down to the “crow’s nest”. The second rap is down the south face. A quick scramble back to the base brings you back to your packs and the trail to head out.
The second route that sticks out in my mind is Fat City (5.10c) at Lumpy Ridge. This route is on the Book formation. Although the hike up to the Book can be a bit of a hump, this route is well worth it. Plus when you add in the route Cheap Date, this is a route that shouldn’t be missed, and that is what we did. When I first moved to Colorado, this is the route that I took my first trad lead fall on. That fall happened on the first pitch and I couldn’t even get through the second pitch. This time, 5 years later, I made it through the first pitch without any problems. The second pitch is the crux. Thin fingers lead to a bit of a chimney, followed by and overhang. Really work the feet for the finger sections and you’ll do fine. For the chimney section make sure you rack your gear on the right side of your body. For the overhang I threw my right hand up with a thumbs down jam and tossed my hip over the lip and kind of scummed it on the wall. The third pitch has a bunch of great lie-backing. It is a fairly long pitch and will bring you to the cave. From there you can finish up on Cheap Date or do other various exit routes. Once you top out, hug the wall to your right and you’ll end up back at the base of the formation. This route has a little bit of everything, and because of that I recommend you put this route on your to-do list.
The third route that sticks out in my mind is Rewritten (5.7) in Eldorado Canyon. This route is situated high up on the Redgarden Wall. My climbing partner and I started the route with the first pitch of the Great Zot (5.8). By doing this, you get to climb a great crack through a little bulge. Really fun. After two more pitches of fairly easy climbing, you come to another amazing pitch. A traverse out left brings you to an airy and exposed hand crack. After this pitch you get another amazing pitch up a knife blade arête. From the top of the arête one more final pitch brings you to the top. Overall, these six pitches are amazing. A walk off brings you back to your packs.
There are many more routes that where a blast. For whatever reason these routes just stick out in my mind. I recommend everyone doing them. If you don’t feel comfortable leading them, the guides at the Colorado Mountain School can guide you up anyone of these routes.
Call us today if you have any questions.
Colorado Mountain School
I’m a huge fan of the Oz carabiner by Black Diamond because of its light weight. Using a full rack of these carabiners saves my load a few pounds. I have had trouble with other lightweight carabiners in the past due to my hand size. The Oz carabiner is perfect for my large hands and gives me peace of mind while serving its function impeccably.
Colorado Mountain School Senior Guide
AMGA Rock and Alpine Guide Certified
Weight : 28 g (1 oz)
Closed Gate Strength : 20 kN (4496 lbf)
Open Gate Strength : 8 kN (1798 lbf)
Minor Axis Strength : 7 kN (1574 lbf)
Gate Opening : 22 mm (0.86 in)
At the end of September I, and some of my fellow CMS guides, finished our second season of running climbing camps for a non-profit organization called First Descents (FD). They provide adventure programming for young adult cancer survivors, roughly ages 20-40. I know the name does not seem to fit with climbing, but the organization started out providing kayaking camps – and where climbers look for that coveted first ascent of a route, paddlers look for the first descent of a river.
FD camps are 6 days long, and like many climbing adventures, the first and last days are travel days. The real meat of each camp happens during the middle 4 days with 2 days of top roping and multipitch prep work to build everyone’s skill sets so they are ready for the graduation climb – a full-blown multipitch climb on the final day! There is one well-earned non-climbing day thrown in as well when campers get to sample some of the local sights in the program area like Estes Park, CO or Moab, UT.
FD campers (and sometimes the volunteer staff) arrive with a wide range of cancer experiences – from folks who have been out of treatment for many years, to campers who are recently diagnosed and still in the midst of treatment. Climbing experience runs the gamut as well, from total novices who have never been on a rope (indoors or outdoors), to the occasional camper who has done some trad or sport leading.
And while a typical guided climbing experience tends to focus on climbing or educational objectives, these take a backseat to FD’s main objective – creating a community for a group of cancer survivors who frequently have had to go through the challenges of cancer with a relatively small to non-existent support network. I am continually amazed how many times I hear campers say, “Until this week, I have never met another young adult cancer survivor.” After camp, however, they know 10-15 folks who they don’t have to explain cancer to, who understand first-hand the intricacies of cancer treatment…people who ‘get it’! Never mind the connection they make to the larger FD family which is growing all the time.
The community they build is a powerful tool – not only at camp where campers support and encourage each other on and off the rock, helping each other achieve more than they dreamed they could…but also, after camp. I love hearing the post-camp stories about campers who feel like their camp experience was the impetus they needed to realize that they have too long allowed cancer to run their lives, that they feel like they have gone home, taken their lives back and have started to realize some of their pre- and post-cancer dreams. Dreams like writing music, starting a non-profit, publishing a book, mending broken relationships, quitting a hated job and starting a dream job for much less pay, moving to Colorado, completing a triathlon or marathon, climbing on their own even though they are terrified of heights…the list goes on and is incredibly inspiring!
For a CMS climbing guide who (like my peers) is passionate about seeing people stretch their physical, mental, emotional and spiritual limits through climbing and the mountain environment… what is there not to love about being a part of the First Descents experience?! FD season can’t come soon enough – I can’t wait!
By the way, if you are (or someone you know is) a young adult cancer survivor and you want information about attending FD camps, or if you are psyched to find out how to volunteer (no cancer required!) for camps, check First Descents out at… http://firstdescents.org/
For more photos check out Photo Adventures with Ed.
Colorado Mountain School
“These make me see better! Russ, you’ve got to try these.” Said my sister to her husband after trying on my Revo brand sunglasses. His take? “I almost don’t need my prescription lenses with these!” He enthused.
And in fact, I was so psyched on my new Revos that I now have 2 pair.
For me the main draw in a pair of sunglasses are the optics and the optics on the Revos are phenomenal. Crystal clear, no distortion and keeps my eyes feeling rested even after a long day (or week) in the harsh alpine light of the Rockies.
The lenses are polarized and block 100% of UVA, UVB and UVC light.
Rock climbing, ice climbing, skiing, or roaming the urban environment the Revos are with me, making my job easier.
Head Mountain Guide
Colorado Mountain School