Helmets are essential gear that protect your head from falls and falling rock. What better gift is there than buying your loved climber protection for his or her head so that if stuff happens they will come home intact. This past year a couple new innovative helmet hit the shelves of your local climbing shop. Check 'em out and buy now for Xmas.
The new Petzl Sirocco climbing helmet offers featherlight head protection, weighing in at a mere 165 grams or 5.8 ounces, or about half the weight of other climbing helmets. The orange Sirocco is made from polypropylene foam, which has a high rate of energy absorption, and is super strong with excellent impact resistance. The Sirocco has an unfinished look since there is no outer shell covering the foam. The helmet has a webbing adjustment system, cutting down on weight, and a magnetic buckle for one-handed operation.
Black Diamond also designed the Vapor, another futuristic climbing helment that weighs 186 grams or 6.5 ounces, slightly more than the Sirocco. The Vapor uses sheets of Kevlar and carbon rods sandwiched between foam layers, which minimizes weight without sacrificing protection. Large ventilation ports on the sides increases air flow on hot days. A suspension system with a racheting adjuster lets you customize the Vapor to your head size.
It's great to climb light and fast. When you're speed climbing, you get up more routes if you carry less weight on your rack. To climb fast and high, put "new ultralight carabiners" on your Christmas list.
Cut crucial weight by carrying the Nano 23 and Orbit carabiners from CAMP USA on all your quickdraws and cams. The Nano 23 carabiner, available in polished, bronze, and orange, is the lightest in the world at a mere 23 grams each, while its cousin the Orbit is the lightest keylock carabiner at 45 grams or 1.6 ounces. It comes with both straight and bent gates. Use these ultralight carabiners to shave the pounds off your El Cap Nose or Cruise rack.
It's winter here in Colorado and the temperatures later this week are going to plunge down in the teens for high temps. Keep your hands or your climbing partner's hands warm on approach hikes or spring bivouacs by asking Santa for a new pair of Trekker Gloves from Black Diamond.
The Trekker Glove provides basic hand warmth as well as increases your grip on trekking poles. The back of the hand has a lightweight breathable mesh for ventilation. The goat-leather palm and a palm patch allow for increased grip on your poles and help you avoid blisters on long days.
The gloves, weighing a mere two ounces, are best for hiking approaches, trekking, backpacking, and expeditions. Sizes range from XS to XL.
Read more about mountaineering and climbing gloves:
Keep Your Hands Warm: Avoid Cold Hands When You're Climbing
The Best Mountaineering Glove System
Here's a pleasant question to consider: What is the world's worst outhouse?
There's a lot of nasty places out there in the world to do your daily business. I can think of one toilet in the Paris subway that I went in...well I try not to think of it. But for climbers, the privy at Pruitt Hut on Mount Elbrus in Russia is considered pants down to be the absolute most disgusting outhouse at high altitude.
Photograph above: The nastiest dirtiest climber's outhouse in the world hangs over a glacier on Mount Elbrus in Russia. Photograph courtesy HADDUSA.com
David Lee Roth, the frontman and singer from past and present for Van Halen, a heavy metal California band, has also done a bit of rock climbing. Any rocker who's a metal freak has listened to Roth's classic second album Skyscraper, a solo disc that came out in 1988 and features the hit single "Just Like Paradise."
The album's cover features Roth aid climbing on Half Dome, an iconic Yosemite Valley formation. If you look on-line you'll find all kinds of stuff about David Lee Roth and rock climbing. But for the real story about the cover photo you have to go to the Forum on SuperTopo and read the tale by Werner Braun.
Werner Braun, a long-time Yosemite climber and member of the Yosemite Search and Rescue (YOSAR), tells the story about the album cover on Supertopo in 2005. The cover was shot by the great adventure photographer Galen Rowell. Braun and Ron Kauk, another Yosemite climbing legend, were hired to work as riggers for the photo shoot on the top of Half Dome.
The production group, including Roth, Rowell, Braun, and Kauk, went up the day before and camped at the saddle behind Half Dome. Werner Braun recalls, "His (Roth) production people got him a horse to ride to Half Dome along with all of the other equipment for this shoot. David decided he wanted to walk...so I asked if I could ride it. 'Sure, go ahead," he says. "I want to walk." Kauk, running late, passed the group slogging up the trail and asked where Werner was. He's riding David's horse they said. So Kauk jogs up and jumps on the horse too. "As we approach towards the saddle, the horse became more and more tired, somehow it made it."
The next day they all scrambled up to the summit for the album cover photo shoot. Werner recalls, "Galen is running around with his camera trying to figure out the best location. He spots his ace in the hole and tells Ron and me to set up David at the spot you see on that cover." The site turns out to be "no-man's land with very little features for anything that'll hold. "I go, 'WTF Galen, there's nothing out there' and he tells us to do the best we can. Ok man, whatever."
Ron Kauk lowers down and places a bunch of A4 pitons with the final piton a long medium Lost Arrow piton that sticks out about three-quarters of its length. "Ron tells me he hopes it holds David's ass. Ha ha ha ha." They get David Lee Roth on a rope and have him rappel down to the last piton. "He takes one look at that thing and says F*@%! I'm not hanging off that thing. It'll pull out and I'll die. He is now visibly shaking real bad and scared s---less." Roth doesn't know what to think since he has virtually no experience aid climbing.
Werner tells Roth that he has to have "faith in the rigger and the rigger will never lie to you." He then tells Roth that the piton is one foot long and that seven inches of the Lost Arrow "he's looking at is buried in that horizontal crack to his total disbelief." Ron, listening to the dialogue, rolled his eyes while Galen waited impatiently to start burning film. Finally David Lee Roth "gets on that thing shaking like s---."
Werner Braun remembers, "The shoot is on! David does his Hollywood mode. Smiles and all in between bouts of shakes and deep breaths. Galen shoots off his 20 or so rolls in record time and David gets his rope back from above and jugs out. I clean the piton he was on with one jerk of my hand. Kauk's eyes roll again and we're out of there." After the shoot, Roth gave Kauk and Braun a gold-plated carabiner engraved with "Diamond Dave."
Crazy and funny story. You just can't make that stuff up! Thanks for sharing Werner Braun.
For their Adventurers of the Year, National Geographic has selected people who embody adventure by shaping their sports, by exploring the planet, by conservation and educational activities, and by humanitarianism for the last nine years. This year they have selected ten adventurers who live the spirit of adventure including a climber and two alpinists.
The great 20-year-old Czech climber Adam Ondra, one of the nominees, has singlehandly elevated the sport of climbing above the already atmospheric levels established by Chris Sharma. Ondra's route Change, climbed a year ago in October, 2012 in Norway, was the world's first 5.15c route. Then this year Ondra made the first ascent of a long-term Sharma project called La Dura Dura, which is the world's second 5.15c route. Read more about Adam Ondra at the National Geographic website as well as an interview by Fitz Cahill with this new rock master.
The other climbers up for Adventurers of the Year are Canadian alpinists Raphael Slawinski and Ian Welsted, who climbed a dangerous 7,000-foot-high route up the northwest face of unclimbed 23,891-foot (7,040-meter) K6 West peak in the Karakoram Range in Pakistan this past July. The route up the mountain, long considered one of the world's great unclimbed projects, required climbing thin ice plastered to the wall and unstable icefalls and seracs. A terrorist massacre of 10 climbers at nearby Nanga Parbat's base camp added to the climb's danger. Read more about Slawinski and Welsted at the National Geographic website.
Other honorees selected as Adventurers of the Year are adventure educators Amy and Dave Freeman; big-wave surfer Greg Long; community builders Stacy Bare and Nick Watson; explorer Sarah Marquis; distance swimmer Diana Nyad; skier JP Auclair; snowboarder Kevin Pearce; and sky runner Kilian Jornet.
Check out the National Geographic website. Read about all the adventurers. And then vote for your favorite. You can vote every day for the People's Choice Adventurer of the Year until January 31, 2014. Winners will be announced in February.
Photograph above: Adam Ondra stands above his route "Change" in Norway. Photograph courtesy Petr Pavlicek
When I was out in Moab ten days ago, I was reminded that one of the essential climbing skills that every competent climber should know is how to aid climb. Aid climbing certainly doesn't have the glamour of free climbing, which is, of course, the elegant and pure way to climb a rock face from base to summit. Free climbing is simply ascending a cliff without hanging on gear but instead relying on your own strength and climbing technique and wits to clip the anchors at the top.
Aid climbing on the other hand is all about rock engineering, about moving slowly over stone where there are not handholds or footholds or on steep terrain that you don't have the strength or ability to climb without the aid of manmade devices like cams and pitons wedged and pounded into the rock surface. Aid climbing gets you into some wild places--steeply overhanging cliffs, over huge roofs, and up big walls.
My friend Doc Bill Springer from Lubbock, Texas, realized on this last Moab trip that he needs to work on his aid climbing skills, that he needs to get comfortable standing in aiders, setting up complicated hanging belay stations, and using ascenders to second and clean a steep pitch. Brian Shelton with Front Range Climbing Company and myself gave Doc Bill some pointers and got him up a few short but crazy aid routes. He's itching to get back up to Colorado and get some more aid practice on the cliffs around Colorado Springs.
Here are a bunch of articles about aid climbing; aid ratings; how to practice aid climbing; and the essential aid climbing equipment that you need. Check them out and then start practicing. With enough aid work, you just might get up a big aid route in Zion National Park, the Black Canyon of the Gunnison, or up the big daddy--El Capitan in Yosemite Valley.
Read more about aid climbing:
All About Aid Climbing: Learn Skills to Go Aid Climbing
Aid Climbing Ratings: How to Rate Aid Climbs
Your Personal Aid Climbing Gear: Essential Aid Climbing Equipment
All About Aiders: Essential Aid Climbing Equipment
Ascenders: Essential Climbing Equipment
Practice Aid Climbing Takes You High Places: Learn How to Aid Climb
Photograph above: Bill Springer belays Brian Shelton aid climbing up the Devils Golfball near Moab in eastern Utah. Photograph © Stewart M. Green
The Matterhorn, at 14,692 feet high (4,478 meters), is one of Europe's highest mountains as well as its most famous alpine peak. The Matterhorn is the symbol of Switzerland with its almost perfect pyramidal shape and four faces toward the cardinal directions.
The Matterhorn is not only a cultural icon but also is, along with Mount Fuji in Japan, the most photographed mountain in the world. The peak boasts a long and tragic climbing history, numerous classic climbing routes, and continues to shape the sport of alpinism.
Check out this new article The Matterhorn: Photographs and Climbing Quotes of a Classic Mountain Peak for four spectacular images of the mountain and three observant quotes by famed Matterhorn climbers--Edward Whymper, Annie Smith Peck, and Gaston Rébuffat that were inspired by its symmetry and alpine beauty.
Photograph above: The Matterhorn reflects in Riffelsee Lake. Photograph © Buena Vista Images/Getty Images
When you climb around Moab in the heart of the red rock canyon country of eastern Utah, you can climb the proud towers like Castleton Tower, Moses, and North Sixshooter Peak. It's also a blast to climb a bunch of the smaller towers, most of which are under 100 feet tall. They're usually easy to access and a lot of fun to climb without a big time commitment and a long approach hike. The summits tend to be small and intimate too.
The past few days I've been hanging out in Moab with my climbing buddies Brian Shelton with Front Range Climbing Company and Doctor Bill Springer, a cardiac surgeon in Lubbock, Texas. Nights were spent in our usual Moab accommodations, a house trailer behind the Apache Motel, and days were spent jamming cracks, smearing up slabs, and climbing a pile of small towers.
Yesterday we cranked Owl Rock, a classic 100-foot-high tower composed of Entrada sandstone, in the Windows Section at Arches National Park. Bill, after climbing to the belay and rappel anchors a dozen feet below the summit, finally was able to tag its small top, but in raging 30 mile-an-hour winds on a clear day.
The day before we cranked a couple other small towers, including the Devil's Golfball AKA The Happy Turk. This small tower up Kane Creek Canyon is a bit of novelty with its crazy geometry. You look at that top-heavy little hoodoo and wonder "How the heck does it still stand on that little pedestal?" When I look at the Golfball, I always think of Layton Kor's thought, "We don't climb the towers because they're there but because they might not be there tomorrow!"
Photographs above: (Top) Bill Springer rappels off Devils Golfball while Brian Shelton does his best Captain Morgan pose. Check out this and other images by your climbing guide Stewart M. Green at Instagram. (Bottom) Bill and Brian stand on the small summit of Owl Rock. Photograph © Stewart M. Green
I'm climbing around Moab in eastern Utah this week. Yesterday I established a new route with my climbing partners Brian Shelton, lead guide for Front Range Climbing Company, and Bill Springer, a cardiac surgeon from Lubbock, Texas, on a 450-foot-high sandstone cliff that was previously unclimbed. We called the new wall The Green Monster to commemorate the Red Sox World's Series win as well as our climb on Halloween day. The three-pitch route ascends friction slabs up the left side of the wall.
Today we headed south to Indian Creek Canyon, the center of splitter crack climbing in the universe, and jammed our blues away on a bunch of classic crack routes. Saturday and Sunday? We haven't decided where we're climbing yet. Hmmmmm maybe a day at the San Rafael Swell or Arches National Park or maybe head down Kane Creek Canyon. Lots of choices. Lots of fun climbing on the first weekend of November.
Photograph above: Dr. Bill Springer jams and stems up "Binou's Crack," a classic 5.9 crack climb up a corner in Donnelly Canyon, a tributary of Indian Creek Canyon in eastern Utah. Photograph © Stewart M. Green