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  • 04/07/2020 8:56 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    News Flash!

    Never seen footage of a live ice climber caught in a trap near the south fork of the Shoshone River in Cody, Wyoming. This report is an exclusive for MAA members! The name, cough-cough ... Paul S. ... cough, of the ice climber has been withheld to protect his Facebook presence from desperate circus-act recruiters. Props to Petzl for making such an effective/shiny lure. The planets must have been aligned on this 29th day of February (leap year day!) for such a rare occurrence to happen. 

    Video footage here: Trapped Ice Climber

  • 04/07/2020 4:02 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Last year a private team of MAA members headed to Cody, WY in search of reportedly endless amounts of back-country ice climbing. They determined that this was indeed the case, so this year MAA ran it's first ever Cody ice climbing expedition (late Feb - early Mar, 2020). To summarize ... it was EPIC! We secured a week rental in a awesome log-style cabin situated in the middle of a valley carved out by the Southfork of the Shoshone River. This remote region is the habitat of many wild animals including grizzly bears, wolves, bald eagles, ice climbers (we caught one live in a trap!), etc. As such, carrying bear spray while on our approaches was necessary! The mountains surrounding the South Fork host endless multi-pitch ice lines ranging from WI3 to WI6 (most in the 4-5 range). We found the approaches to be long (45min - 3 hours) and challenging. The ice was no different! We heard and confirmed that the ratings are a bit sand-bagged (maybe a number grade harder than recorded in the guidebook). This was definitely next-level ice climbing, and sooooo worth it! I think the highlight for most of us was climbing Smooth Emerald Milkshake (WI4, 7P, 250m). This was a full-value day! Almost a 3hr mostly snow approach, 6 pitches of amazing ice, cold front moving through, and three stoked 2-man teams who rocked a 13hr day. Our entire team agreed that this was a stellar trip, and so, we will be running it again next year.  

    Here are some shweeet pix:

    Our pad. What an epic view!

    Chillin after a great day on the ice.

    Paul starting out on the money pitch of Smooth Emerald Milkshake (WI4). Very cold brittle ice. We all thought it felt more like WI5.

    Pouty faces cuz we got denied on this (3rd) pitch of Broken Hearts. Very warm and ice was too thin, esp at the top. Based on the name we figured this may be a common issue. 

    Last pitch of Wyoming Wave: Todd going up, Frederick rapping down. Great ice!

    Doug & Steve. I think they had permasmile for weeks afterwards. Wooohooooooooooo!

  • 02/03/2020 7:42 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    This past weekend MAA members, Mido, Robin, Renan and myself, ascended a very fun yet grueling 20 mile and 8800' total gain/loss ascent of San Gorgonio. The team set out at 10am on Saturday morning walking through the closed road to the trail head and quickly began the ascent up the initial switchbacks in cactus, yuccas and oak trees. This quickly gave way to alpine conditions and the team carefully made their way through icy trails and melting snow bridges to high creek camp with a beautiful view of Yucapia ridge. With a high wind advisory for Sunday afternoon of gusts up to 55mph, the team woke up at 3:30am and began their final ascent shortly after 4am. The initial ridge was steep and we were constantly looking for the stars to show through the trees signifying that we made our first goal. After reaching it, San Gorgonio's snow capped peak vaguely loomed in the sky and the team trodded along as the sunrise turned the sky orange and views of San Jacinto and the Salton Sea came into focus. A series of demoralizing false peaks were tempered by Robin's previous experience on the mountain (and his shared stash of Reese's Cups) and the summit was attained at 8:30AM. Everyone had made it and we quickly enjoyed a meal and made a hasty retreat to camp knowing full well that there many miles back to the car. The hike down was a series surprises at the steepness of sections we previously thought weren't that steep on the way up. As the miles dragged and 12 hours of constant motion weighed on us, we were extremely excited to finally make it back to the cars in time for the 2nd half of the Superbowl. Great times and great memories, thanks again team! 

  • 06/15/2019 4:19 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Kevin, Cory, Greg and Emily set out last weekend to conquer Cloudripper's West chute. What we found instead was ALOT of Sierra Snow still present. The route is a loose class III scramble up a very steep gully. What we encountered was an approach littered with recent avalanches and the same gully now covered with a layer of snow over the loose rock footing. The team awoke early and after consideration opted for a fun and much safer climb up nearby Chocolate Peak. We were on the summit in time to watch the sunrise over the Inconsolable Range and back in Bishop for breakfast by 8am. The SoCal crew, Kevin, Cory and Greg, were also able to boast the Sierra summit and then an evening surf sesh in the same Sunday. Good Times! 

  • 05/22/2019 3:44 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    May 4-5, 2019: Six MAA mountain addicts (Vish, Kay, Frederick, David, Kevin, Todd) ascended Mt. Tom via the Elderberry Canyon route and slid on our butts much of the way down. Epic!

    Four of us (Frederick, Kevin, David, Todd) were there as a team-practice/pre-climb for our planned ascent of Mt. Rainier via Liberty Ridge later that month (unfortunately we just canceled it yesterday due to nasty weather ... waaaaaaaaa!). Vish joined to further his training/prep for Denali, also in late may. Kay, new to the club was just stoked to climb. A couple friends (Steve & Karyn) skinned up on Saturday to ski, and hung with the gang before tackling the Elderberry headwall.

    Saturday afternoon we worked on tuning our crevasse rescue skills. Time well spent in anticipation of Rainier & Denali. The weather deteriorated toward the end of the day, becoming quite windy and cold, however we awoke to bluebird skies on Sunday. 

    Sunday morning we picked a chute with no visible avy activity to attain the ridge then navigated multiple false summits before reaching the top. Was a gorgeous day! We descended a less-steep snow field further north on the headwall which offered great glissading. After breaking camp we glissaded most of the approach snow field back to its end. I believe we logged well over 3K' of glissading for the day. Woohooooo!

    We all had a great time, and a serious permasmile reaction to the trip!  ;) 

  • 05/07/2019 7:59 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    “North of Casaval Ridge is a beautiful, long gully that begins in HIdden Valley at 9,200 feet and ends nearly 4,000 feet later at the broad snowfield at the base of Misery Hill.” (Selters and Zanger, The Mt. Shasta Book, 3rd ed.)

    Many believe that the West Face is the prettiest route on Mt. Shasta. I know eight MAA climbers who won’t argue with that. In 2018, this trip was cancelled due to a late-season storm. This year, the weather was perfect and the snowpack was deep.

    We departed Bunny Flat before 9am on Friday, May 3rd. The hike to Horse Camp followed an astonishing 300 foot-wide debris path from a “100-year” avalanche in February. We cached our snow shoes at Horse Camp and traversed to Hidden Valley.

    On Saturday, an alpine start under a new moon created a navigational challenge. We needed to occasionally turn off our headlamps to visually navigate by the faint light of the Milky Way. The icy crust of the West Face (35 to 40 degrees) was ideal for a moderate, non-technical climb with crampons and mountaineering axes. The first climbers reached the top of the West Face (13,100’) at 8am. After a long break, we trudged up Misery Hill, walked to the fumaroles, and climbed the picturesque summit block.

    The descent featured 3,000’ glissade led by Aaron “buns of steel” Bailey.  Icy patches provided plenty of opportunities for self arrest. It was a highlight of the trip. After well-deserved night of sleep, we hiked out on Sunday morning.

    Team: John Scruggs (EL), Natasha Wyatt, Aaron Bailey, Sissy Petropoulou, Leslie Thomas, Nick Myllenbeck, Phil Lowenthal, Dan Kubaczyk

  • 04/03/2019 6:46 PM | Deleted user

    Ski Dreams is a couloir tucked in the Sawtooth Range almost next to Matterhorn Peak. In addition there are several options in the vicinity that combined with the long approach (5-6 miles) make for a nice multi-day trip. As the trip planning evolved, a storm popped in the forecast. After monitoring it the expectation was for very light snow, cold temperatures and mild winds. Given prior experience with the local weather it was best to prepare for worse conditions. The plan was on day 1 to hike in, setup camp and scout the area; on day 2 attempt Ski Dreams and scout other objectives (e.g. the Doodad); on day 3 attempt final objective and ski back to trailhead.

    On the approach it was a beautiful day, only made better due to the awesome snow coverage. Throughout the day winds started to pick up and around midnight snow started to fall. The forecast predicted 1-2" of snow at camp elevation (9.8k ft) but on the morning of day 2 it seemed that 5-6" fell overnight. Strong winds and light snow continued throughout the day.

    The group did a short tour on low angle slopes to assess snow stability and confirmed there were at least 6" of fresh, cohesive, and non-reactive snow over the older hard pack. This combined with poor visibility (~100 yards) made the group head to camp after enjoying a couple of laps. Hunkering down is not the most fun thing to do but in this case it was the safe decision. As the storm moved through the winds hit ~40 mph with ~60 mph gusts; enough to knock one over. Thankfully our camp was sheltered and secure.

    Overnight the winds and snow died down but the extra energy created dangerous wind slabs. After a good discussion the team didn't feel confident that the conditions were safe for a ski dreams push. We decided in spite of the beautiful blue bird day and fresh pow to pack camp and ski to the car. For some in the group this is the 3rd Ski Dreams attempt. But as they say, the mountain will always be there. On the plus side the ski out was wonderful and with the great coverage it was possible to ski all the way to the car without skinning. 

    As the team headed out, there were a couple of parties heading for the couloir. Later at home we read that one of the parties triggered an avalanche, thankfully without casualties. I think we made the right call.

  • 04/03/2019 1:27 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    [MAA team on the Hotlum Glacier]

    No we're not talking morbid tales of demise, but rather snow protection. What do you know about how to use pickets, a bollard, or a snow seat to give your team some security in that couloir / glacier / steep face?

    Using specialized techniques and tools, any snow slope is not only climbable, but protectable. There are options beyond individual self-arrest, but it always involves a rope and some form of protection. But you can't just rope up like you would do at the rock crag and call it good. Climbing steep snow safely requires a bit more.

    First, some understanding about protection. Generally, snow does not provide the best options...rock protection is generally the strongest protection available. Ironically, it should be your first choice on a snow climb. That's one reason why it's a good idea to climb on the side of a couloir. Next best option is an ice screw, if you can get it, but that's rare. Next best is probably a natural anchor such as a large, well-rooted tree or a very large boulder, flake, or horn.  

    If none of these options are available, then your next best strategies to protect yourself and the team on the climb are the usual tri-fecta of 1. snow protection, combined with 2. belayer positioning, and backed up by 3. an effective team self-arrest.

    [MAA team in the Cross Couloir on Mt. Tallac]

    I. Snow Protection

    Pickets are the universal choice here. The standard 1.5 foot T-shaped aluminum snow picket can be hammered in vertically, like a fence post (as a "picket") or buried horizontally in a T-slot (as a "deadman"). You will need a double length (48") sling or an attached cable to extend it for anchoring. 

    Next best option is to use a mountain axe, also placed as a picket or a deadman, and you'll need to sling it as well by clipping to the head or using a girth hitch or clove hitch around the shaft. Once the axe is solid you can connect it to the picket(s) and begin creating your belay anchor. 

    Other options include a snow fluke, a bollard, or any other object of some size that can be used as a dead man, like skis, snowshoes, or a pack. To learn more about this paid members can view Snow 3 online training

    Snow flukes aren't used much because they only work well in a small range of snow conditions. They are a v-shaped plate of aluminum with a cable that is buried a foot or two in the snow. If weighted, the fluke travels deeper into the snowpack the more pressure it receives. If the snow is too loose it will pull out and if the snow is too dense, it won't move at all. (Perhaps it's best use is as a huge, flat chock placed behind a rock.) 

    A bollard is also not used much but is great to know about and fun to use, if you have the time to dig one. It is a tear-drop shaped trench that is dug in the snow where the rope can be placed so that is in effect "lassoes" a big circular plug of snow. A bollard requires some practice to do well, but does enable you to use it as an anchor, or even rappell from it, using nothing but snow. Not sure if that is encouraging or not!

    II. Belayer Positioning

    This is what's called a "snow seat". It is a way of anchoring oneself while seated in the snow, feet wide and braced, in order to provide more strength to an often dubious snow anchor. Most often it is used at the end of a lead to bring up the team, but it can be used at any time, even in rock climbing, to add to the overall strength of a belay anchor.

    In snow climbing, if the team is belayed directly off the harness using a Munter Hitch, a device, or even a hip wrap, then the snow anchor components are usually equalized and the master point is attached to the belayer's belay loop to function as a backup to the snow seat.

    In this way belaying a team on the snow is often different than rock climbing: the belayer's position is considered the primary strength of the anchor with the various snow anchors components factored in as additional strength, and the team is belayed from the harness instead of from the master point of the anchor. 

    [Team simul-climbing the Hotlum Left Ice Gully on Mt. Shasta]

    III. Team Self-Arrest

    Most of the time snow climbs are done using a technique called a running belay or "simul-climbing". This is a technique where the entire team is spread out on the rope and all moving at the same time. The leader places protection at regular intervals and the last person on the team removes it, taking care to keep a few pieces attached to the rope at all times.

    If any member of the team falls everyone executes a self-arrest in response. This is the first line defense against injury. Secondly, the rope will come tight on the protection and that will add a level of security. But if protection fails, the team still has self-arrest as their primary risk management strategy. So as the first and the last resort, it must be done well!

    Learn More - all of these skills and techniques are taught in our Snow 3 and Snow 4 training courses being held in April and May. You can also learn more by watching the online video training and we have some applicable seminars on our YouTube Channel

    Happy climbing!

  • 03/27/2019 2:37 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    [A portion of our MAA climbing team happy on the summit of Matterhorn Peak]

    By Doug Harris

    After a winter in which Every.  Single. Weekend. Seemed to bring another storm I was surprised to see clear skies and no wind in the forecast for our ascent of Matterhorn Peak March 15-17.  Our seven-member team met at the end of Twin Lakes Road in Bridgeport at 9am, went over packs, distributed some group gear and made our way to Horse Creek Trail shortly after 10.  

    God bless skiers and the boot-pack they provide.  Right out of the gate the Horse Creek Trails hits you with an 800 vertical foot ascent and the prospect of going up that in unconsolidated snow was not something anyone had been looking forward to.  However, the skiers got there before us and we were more than happy to use the steps they had kicked.

    [Bret glad that so many skiiers have been to Matterhorn Peak lately]

    Temperatures were warm during the day; we snowshoed up to 10,200 feet picked a location for camp, dug out tent sites and set up a cooking spot in a grove of trees.  While the day had been borderline hot and Mountain Forecast was calling for nice temps at night as soon as the sun dipped behind the ridgeline it got surprisingly cold.  Nathan packed a few extra pounds of gear and was wandering around camp in a full down suit complete with down booties and seemed utterly unperturbed by the cold. While I can’t speak for others I, at least, was jealous.

    Of the seven members who camped that night two were feeling ill and opted not to continue, a third volunteered to stay behind and keep an eye on them (thanks Leslie!).  Nathan, Aaron, Brett and myself were out of camp by 7:00 the next day, to the top of the east couloir by 10:00 (give or take) and on the summit by 10:30. Blanketed in snow from all those storms the view from the top looking south along the Matterhorn-Whorl ridgeline toward Yosemite was jaw dropping.

    [Looking south toward Whorl Mountain and Yosemite NP]

    The descent took a little longer than planned when we found the Ski Dreams couloir unusable and had to get back to camp via Horse Creek Pass.  Walk back to the trailhead was uneventful and everyone reached their car by 11am the next day. Thanks to all our members for a great trip!

  • 03/26/2019 4:00 PM | Anonymous member (Administrator)

    Our winter mountaineering training wrapped up with a stellar weekend of rappelling, traveling, and climbing on the Mountaineering Level 2 (MTN 2) Winter Mountaineering Course March 15th - 16th, held at Billy Mack Canyon near Truckee. 

    Snow levels have been off the charts -- we got a chance to experience it firsthand. We had to dig our way through the wall of snow just to get started. 

     Travel to basecamp was straightforward and pleasant, and in no time we were digging a snow cave, a quinzhee, setting up tents and a group kitchen area. A heck of a lot of digging. There was so much snow that we found drifts buried inside of drifts. The snow was somewhere around 10 - 15 feet deep everywhere, with incredible cornices.

    Our kitchen set up was a very nice place to spend the evening together enjoying meals and a mild winter night with about a billion stars.

    Some of our team slept in tents and quite a few spent their first night in a snow shelter. The next day we trekked out to Babylon Dome and worked on fixed lines and rappelling with a full winter setup (pack, crampons, gloves, etc.)

    In addition to our winter camping and technical skills, we also spent quite a bit of time working on advanced navigation, learning how to shoot a bearing without using the needle and how to move through terrain when we can't sight a bearing to our destination. 

    The mountaineering series continues with MTN 3, which is "Expedition Mountaineering" -- this is our most physically demanding training with a 24 hour circumnavigaton and technical climb, with a bivouac in the snow. Light and fast is the name of the game here, no basecamps. This is meant to prepare members for the final push to the summit, having the skills, technique and know-how for success. 

    Thanks everyone for a successful and rewarding training!

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