Climbing in a Time of Coronavirus, vol. 21

A sample of hats collected in the 2020 Grand Canyon Over-the-Rim Clean-up.
Photo by John Furniss, organizer extraordinaire.

Howdy AMCers:

Was that a cool breeze we felt this morning? We think this means that fall — or the Arizona version thereof — is on its way. The ongoing record-high temperatures down here near Phoenix are not inspiring confidence, but the Flagstaff LEAF-ometer reports color in the high country!

Speaking of Arizona’s high country, a small squad of 24 AMC members recently pulled off the 30th annual Grand Canyon Over-the-Rim Clean-up. As the first in-person AMC event since early March, the clean-up was conducted with several new safety protocols due to the ongoing pandemic. Organizer John Furniss outfitted everyone with Arizona state flag masks, as well as harness-friendly personalized containers of hand sanitizer, and socially-distanced fun was had by all. Working all day Saturday and again on Sunday morning, the group collected 46.8 pounds of trash from along the most heavily visited areas of the South Rim, plus 13.9 pounds (!) of coins from the giant wishing well, er, Mather Point. The team picked up a variety of hats, more than the usual number of plastic bottles, and a sudden influx of face masks, among other detritus. By following up with all of the participants to make sure that everyone has remained healthy, we’re hopeful that we can declare our in-person test run a success.

AMC member Merlin Rupp on clean-up duty at Mather Point. Photo by John Furniss.

With that great event in the rearview, we’re looking ahead to the next big club undertaking: Basic Outdoor Rock Climbing school. Schools Chair Bill Fallon and BORC Lead Instructor Scott Nagy, among others, have been hard at work developing new safety protocols and revising the way we present the class in order to deliver the full curriculum with minimal risk to students or instructors. Much like the Grand Canyon Clean-up, the class will have reduced numbers of both students and instructors and will include a combination of online sessions and outdoor practice. At this point, the class is fully subscribed with 20 students and is scheduled to start next week, so we look forward to welcoming some new climbers into our midst!

And what better way to celebrate spreading the love of climbing in Arizona than by talking to a true Arizona climbing legend? Our next member meeting will be an online presentation from the inimitable Jim Waugh on Wednesday, October 28.

Jim himself took his first climbing lessons with the Arizona Mountaineering Club in 1975 (we’re so proud!), and even served as AMC President, but has also written several climbing guides, founded the Phoenix Bouldering Contest, coached both the Phoenix Rock Gym climbing team and the Thailand national climbing team, and put up more first ascents across the state than just about anyone alive. So, you know: he’s got some experience. For this event, Jim will be talking about the iconic Baboquivari Peak, one of the few mountain summits in Arizona that is reached only by technical climbing and is sacred to the Tohono O’odham people. Don’t miss it!

While Baboquivari is one example, many of the mountains and landscape features across Arizona hold powerful cultural significance for Indigenous people. Tucson-based Diné climber Len Necefer has a powerful and important new story in Alpinist about how he uses activities like climbing, skiing, and biking to forge new connections with the sacred peaks central to his ancestral traditions.

Even without deep traditions, the mountains offer many lessons to people willing to learn. Alpinist Kitty Calhoun recently reflected on what she learned from a long-ago Himalayan climb that… did not go as planned.

In other news from the Himalayas, we were sad to see that that Ang Rita Sherpa, who holds the record for climbing Mount Everest 10 times without supplemental oxygen, has passed away at the age of 72.

Closer to home, outdoors enthusiasts have also lost Bob Gore, who invented the wonderful stuff that is Gore-Tex fabric, and has died at age 83.

We also took note of two recent tragedies in the New Hampshire mountains, where a hiker apparently fell while exploring near a waterfall and, in a separate incident, a climber fell to his death at Rumney Rocks in what may have been a rappelling accident.

Fortunately, not all outdoor accidents end in tragedy, although having partners trained in first aid certainly helps tip the scales in favor of survival. Outside features Tim Cahill’s story of how his quick-thinking rafting companions brought him back from death after he drowned in the Grand Canyon’s notorious Lava Falls.

And, in Backpacker, climber Minko Nikolov shares the experience of being struck by lightning last summer in Colorado — and includes tips for how to avoid this particular scenario.

By now you know that safety is one of our favorite topics, we are delighted to present this incredible report from Rock and Ice, in which Eliot Caroom has analyzed the last 30 years of data from Accidents in North American Climbing to understand the most common causes of climbing accidents. We suggest reading the whole thing, but key takeaways are: Check your protection when trad climbing; Don’t skip the basics (check your knots!); and be extra-extra-extra careful on descents, which make up a third of total accidents in this analysis.

While we do (very much) want to avoid accidents, Grant Statham, rescue technician for several of Canada’s major national parks, and Geoff Powter, climber, author, and psychologist, discuss the psychological challenges posed by climbing accidents, and how, perhaps, the risks inherent in climbing can encourage all of us to live a richer, more authentic life.

Which leads us to this audio interview that Peter Levine conducted a few months ago with Alex Honnold, who talks about, among other things, the risks and rewards of rock climbing.

And this would be a great time to apply for the American Alpine Club and TINCUP Whiskey’s Partner-In-Adventure Grant, which seeks to help newcomers learn to recreate in a safe manner by increasing their outdoor skills.

Maybe not super-safe, but definitely rewarding: Jacopo Larcher and Barbara Zangerla have set a new speed record on “Odyssee,” the most difficult route on the Eiger, with crux pitches up to 5.13c. The pair climbed the 1,400 meter route in just 16 hours.

For those of you who recreate in avalanche terrain, Will Gadd wrote an essay for Arc’teryx about why manufacturers should add Recco reflective strips to outdoor apparel — to make recovery easier.

With snow danger on the mind, there’s an interesting legal case working through U.S. courts right now, in which a client is suing a Seattle-based guide because their Everest expedition failed to summit. The guide says he was making a reasonable risk assessment when he called the trip off. The client says it’s a scam. And the entire case could set a precedent for how mountain guides handle similar scenarios.

But if you just can’t wait for winter sports, check out this teaser from Powder for the upcoming short film, Nothing.

Incidentally, have you ever wondered about the history of skiing?

Will “ski lifts” soon be relegated to the history of skiing? Amazon now has a patent for a drone that can drag skiers up mountains using a tow handle.

However, it turns out you don’t actually need snow to ski. Your nearest volcano might offer a pretty sweet ride…

While volcano-shredding might be a blast (literally), the winter outdoor industry represents a significant number of jobs as well as playing an important part of the U.S. economy. Also, winter sports are fun. But climate change has already started to affect winter and these changes are projected to continue for the foreseeable future. Snowboarder Jeremy Jones, who started Protect Our Winters, has a new film called Purple Mountains that discusses ideas for working across political affiliations for the good of our planet.

Of course, a lot of us love snowy mountains for climbing, not just skiing. However, sometimes the mountains — and the weather — have other ideas, as chronicled in this beautiful multi-media story from the New York Times Magazine about a Tetons Grand Traverse that Jimmy Chin recently attempted with Conrad Anker, Savannah Cummins, and Manoah Ainuu.

While the pandemic has certainly upended travel plans, it has been brutally hard on climbing gyms. Those that are surviving are doing so because they are valued by their community. That’s certainly true for Florida’s Coral Cliffs gym, which has developed a passionate following over the past few years due largely to owner Abby Dione, who happens to be the only queer, black woman to run a climbing gym in the U.S. And she’s kicking ass.

Of course, much of climbing is about finding a path through challenges, as in The Artist, a new short film about Boone Speed, presented by Black Diamond.

For more vicarious climbing goodness, cue up the latest installment of the American Alpine Club’s Legacy Series, which features John Gill.

Or log on to a virtual film festival. 5Point Film Festival, Banff Mountain Film, and No Man’s Land all offer new viewing opportunities this month.

Want to watch a film in person? AZWCC and CASA are co-sponsoring a drive-in viewing of No Man’s Land Film Festival in Tucson on October 22. And yes, plans for a Phoenix show are in the works.

Meanwhile, Focus Climbing Center had a very 3D message for all of us this week.

Do you sometimes feel that some routes would be a little easier if you were taller? Climbing discusses the challenges and benefits of climbing-while-short.

Here’s a really short climber (although he probably won’t stay that way for long) who can’t get enough of the sport.

If you’re on the opposite side of the age spectrum from the upward-bound toddlers, you might be interested in this Uphill Althete podcast on nutrition and the aging athlete.

For those who love a good science mystery — or those who are prone to muscle cramps, check out this article from Outside on the latest research into the painful phenomenon.

No mysteries here, but if you’re looking for some good climbing books to read this fall, here are six.

Or maybe you like to hear about the embarrassing stories, missteps, or mistakes that we all make in the outdoors? Check out Warren Miller’s Long Underwear podcast.

As Arizona continues to see some haze from fires across the West, this article from Wired explains that we can expect longer and more complex fire seasons in the future.

And National Geographic explains why we should employ more beavers to help with firefighting efforts.

Speaking of delightful wildlife, have you been following along with Katmai National Park’s Fat Bear Week?

Well, if any of your adventures take you into bear country before hibernation season starts, Parks Canada has some helpful tips on how to use bear spray.

In addition, Leave No Trace education team Justin and Patrice also put together a pretty amusing—and very informative—video about how to hike safely in bear country.

Meanwhile, as 2020 continues to redefine adventure — and life in general — here is a lovely meditation on embracing the unknowns.

Venture on (carefully and with appropriate protection)!

Ann & Andrea

Author: Andrea Galyean

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