Red Rock Rendezvous VIPs Michael Hede, left, and Troy Martin celebrate after a 10-pitch ascent of Mescalito Tower via the Dark Shadows route(5.8). Joining the men on their private full-day climb was American Alpine Institute Guide Chad Cochran. “It was amazing. One of the best climbs I have ever done!” Martin said. Photo by Troy Martin

by Brad Myers

Just as there are “first official” days for each season, to climbers across America, the Red Rock Rendezvous has become the kickoff to their outdoor climbing season.

Registration is open and rapidly filling for the 2016 Rendezvous. For the second year in a row, the event will include a VIP option. Although the VIP package at the Red Rock Rendezvous includes some sweet perks, it isn’t so much a red carpet affair as it is a magic portal into the climbing world.

Troy Martin, a 53-year-old climber from Appleton, Wis., was amazed at his VIP experience at the 2015 Red Rock Rendezvous. “The Rendezvous is so much more than an event, it is a community of passionate climbers and outdoor enthusiasts!” he said.

In addition to a full weekend of climbing clinics, Troy also enjoyed taking advantage of the trail running and mountain biking clinics. As for what he enjoyed most about his VIP status he said “Aside from being treated like a VIP, it felt like we were part of the family. Hanging out at [Mountain Gear president Paul Fish’s] RV at the end of a busy climbing day, enjoying a beer or glass of wine with the sponsors and athletes was such a wonderful experience.”

Mike Hede, a 28-year U.S. Marine Corps veteran from Portland, Ore., attended his first Rendezvous last year. As a VIP attendee Mike is quick to point out, one feels more connected to the event, not segregated from the group like VIPs usual are. “It meant we had access to things that most attendees did not, a place to store our packs, a place to chill and drink wine while the sun set, and ample opportunity to mingle with the amazing sponsors and athletes.”

One of the highlights of the Red Rock Rendezvous VIP package is being invited to the Sunday dinner that concludes every Red Rock Rendezvous. Mike said he was surprised to have the opportunity to be “surrounded by all of these amazing athletes, sponsors, guides, and people who made the event happen.”

Mike said unless something crazy comes up he will be back for RRR 2016. “To me, the VIP weekend package was more than worth the cost for the benefits. The guided multi-pitch climb the day after the festival was the single selling point for me. That was amazing! And looking back on the experience now, I will say that having a hotel room (i.e. a shower) at night was also really nice.”

See you at the #RRR2016!

photo by Eric Odenthal

photo by Eric Odenthal

This year, there are more reasons than ever to register early

Registration is now open for America’s best climbing festival, the Mountain Gear Red Rock Rendezvous. Clinics fill up fast so register early to reserve your spot. You’ll save some coin with early registration specials on our most popular packages and, thanks to our sponsors and friends, we’re also awarding sweet early registration prizes.

photo by Jon Jonckers

photo by Jon Jonckers

What is the Rendezvous?

The Rendezvous happens April 1 – 3, 2016. It’s a weekend of climbing, food, partying, and fun with people from all over the country and the globe. Set in the climbing paradise that is Red Rock Canyon, NV, the Rendezvous is three days of climbing clinics for all skill levels. Get expert instruction from AmericanAlpine Institute guides, rub elbows with climbing celebrities, and get beta on the newest climbing gear.

photo by Eric Odenthal

photo by Eric Odenthal

If you’ve never climbed before, the Rendezvous is the ideal place to learn. Thousands of families, kids, and adults have joined our UClimb program and discovered the joy of climbing. You’ll receive personalized instruction on the basics of rock climbing in small groups led by an American Alpine Institute guide. You’ll learn belaying, knots, proper communication between belayer and climber, movement on rock, and climbing etiquette.

photo by Eric Odenthal

photo by Eric Odenthal

If you’re an experienced climber, you can choose from over 100 skill-building clinics in every facet of the sport from multi-pitch and big wall climbing to gear placement and footwork and technique.

New this year, we’ve added expanded clinic hours, more women’s-only options, Friday and Saturday night happy hours and a gym-to-crag track designed to help you move from the climbing gym to real rock.

Keep checking back for updates about America’s best climbing festival.

photo by Eric Odenthal

photo by Eric Odenthal

Now is the Time!

Editor —  October 2, 2015 — Leave a comment

Mugs 2016 header………….………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………

24th annual alpine climbing award opens grant cycle

Ventura, CA (September 28, 2015)— From October 1 through December 1, 2015, the 2016 Mugs Stump Award will be accepting grant applications from small climbing teams with fast and light alpine objectives. Established in 1993 to honor the late Mugs Stump, each year the Mugs Stump Award provides grants to a select number of individuals and teams whose proposed climbs present an outstanding challenge—a first ascent, significant repeat or first alpine-style ascent—with special emphasis placed on climbers leaving no trace of their passage.

Sponsored by Alpinist Magazine, Black Diamond Equipment, Ltd., Mountain Gear, Patagonia, Inc., and W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc., the Mugs Stump Award encourages men, women and teams from North America to submit their applications for a part of this year’s $36,000 in grant funding.

Mugs Stump was one of North America’s most prolific and imaginative climbers until his death in a crevasse fall in Alaska in May 1992. Best-known for his first ascent of the Emperor Face on Mount Robson in the Canadian Rockies and his triptych of brilliant Alaskan climbs—the East Face of the Mooses Tooth, the Moonflower Buttress on Mount Hunter and a one-day solo of Denali’s Cassin Ridge—Mugs was the complete climber, adept at all forms of the game.

Climbers who share Mugs’ vision of climbing as a celebration of boldness, purity and simplicity are encouraged to apply. Past recipients include both well-known and relatively unheard-of alpinists pursuing objectives in Alaska, Patagonia, the Himalaya, the Canadian Rockies, Greenland and more. Details can be found at http://mugsstumpaward.com/winners.

Further information and applications are available at www.mugsstumpaward.com. Climbs taking place between February 1, 2016 and March 1, 2017 are eligible. Applications must be submitted via email to mugs_stump_award@patagonia.com (subject line “2016 Mugs Stump Application”).

Awards will be announced at the Bozeman Ice Festival occurring December 9-13th and published online by December 20, 2015.

Contact: Michael Kennedy
(970) 309-4651


© ATOMIC Austria GmbH / Garrett Grove

The Atomic Backland Carbon Ski Touring boot in its natural environment. © ATOMIC Austria GmbH / Garrett Grove

Review by Mark Beattie

I have known Atomic as a successful ski and boot maker for a long time.  But I’m a backcountry guy and Atomic didn’t make a backcountry boot.  Until now.

When my Atomic Backland Carbons arrived, I thought “this can’t be a pair of ski boots, –the box is entirely too light.” I’ve been selling and using light and ultra-light ski gear for a long time, and I can’t remember casually one-handing a shipping box with alpine touring boots inside.

Right away, I saw a good-looking black and orange boot with a bit of carbon fiber, a simple, rugged-looking walk mechanism, and just two buckles. On the scale, they’re 2 lbs 2 oz per boot with tongues, laces, and footbeds in place.

© ATOMIC Austria GmbH / Garrett Grove

Atomic is going big when it comes to BC ski gear for the 2015/16 season. At the front of their new initiative is the Backland boot. © ATOMIC Austria GmbH / Garrett Grove

The boots were in my normal shell size: 25/25.5. When I did a shell fit, I thought they were going to be too short and narrow. My foot was in full contact with both sides at the front and I had barely a quarter inch behind my heel. When I looked at the sole length, it was 20mm shorter than any of my AT or Tele boots, and 25mm shorter than my alpine boots. Normally I would have gone to the next shell size since there is so little material to punch or grind on the Backland. But the Atomic rep assured me the molding process would mitigate all of my concerns.

Read the rest of Mark’s review here!

rock lake cabinets

A 1947 photo of the Spokane Mountaineers posing by Rock Lake in the Cabinet Mountain Primitive Area. They went on to climb Ojibway Peak without modern climbing gear. Photo by Frank Hefferlin.

It’s time for us to give a little love to our hometown heroes, the Spokane Mountaineers, as they celebrate a century of education, conservation, and adventure. Their alumni is a who’s who of American mountaineering and their collective climbing resume includes a host of first ascents and some of the world’s most daunting climbs. Happy birthday, Mountaineers, and here’s to another century! – ed.

Article by Chic Burge, Historian Spokane Mountaineers, Inc.

It all started back in 1915. Five lady librarians from the Spokane Public Library, headed by Ora Littlefield Maxwell, decided to look for places to walk on the weekends. They rode trolley cars, buses and trains to the end of their lines and walked all day, returning just in time for the last ride downtown.

helen stowell

Past President Helen Stowell stands before Mt. Spokane’s Fire Lookout Tower which is rimmed in ice.

The ladies formed the Spokane Walking Club in September 1915. In 1916 a controversial vote came before the ladies, Should men be allowed into the club? The vote was yes. Read more about the Mountaineers here!

The tendons and pulleys of the hand.

Photos and article by Dr. Jared Vagy “The Climbing Doctor”

The Cause:

The muscles in our forearms extend into long narrow tendons as they reach into the fingers. These tendons run through sheaths and are anchored down by pulleys that keep the tendons gliding flush to the bones. There are five annular pulleys that sling around the bone and four cruciform pulleys that form a cross over the bone to secure the tendon. When excessive strain is placed on the finger tendons, the pressure exerts an outward force on the pulley which may sprain or tear it.

What to Look For:

A. open hand grip

Photo A: Open hand grip

B. full crimp grip

Photo B: Full crimp grip

There are certain crimp grips that place differing amounts of stress on the tendons and pulleys in the fingers. A: The open hand grip exerts minimal stress and is the preferred grip position in most circumstances. B: The full crimp grip, characterized by hyperextension of the final joint in the fingers, exerts maximal stress and should be used only when necessary. C: The full crimp grip with thumb opposition generates 17% more force than without thumb opposition.  It does so without increasing strain to the middle and ring finger pulleys, which are the most susceptible to injury.  This means that you can grip stronger without as much risk for injury.

C. full crimp grip with thumb opposition

Photo C: Full crimp grip with thumb opposition

Change How You Move:

Try to limit using crimp grips while climbing and favor a more open handed grip. When choosing a crimp grip, thumb opposition may increase your gripping force without increasing the strain on the most commonly injured pulleys. With all the focus on the hands, it is easy to forget that many pulley injuries occur from improper body position and technique.  Make sure to climb with the weight in your feet and your hips pressed or rotated into the wall. This will decrease the strain on your fingers by shifting the pressure into your legs. Also, be aware of dynamic moves to and from small edges as this increases the stress on the ligaments in the finger.


About the Author:

Dr. Jared Vagy “The Climbing Doctor” is a physical therapist, professor at the University of Southern California and an authority on climbing related injuries. He has over ten years of climbing experience and has climbed all over the world. Climbing and injury prevention are his passions and he is committed to combining the two.

Dr Vagy at the Red Rock Rendezvous:

If you’re going to be at the 2015 Rendezvous, be sure to check out Dr. Vagy’s clinic “How To Climb Injury Free” if there’s still room. He will also be on hand at “The Climbing Doctor Booth” during the event to answer any of your injury-related questions.

Learn More:

Prevent injuries and take your climbing to the next level.  Check out The Climbing Doctor’s website for more injury prevention information.



Photos and article by JP Russo

The new 2015 DEELUXE Spark XV boot is designed to take anything Xavier de Le Rue can dish out. If you’ve never seen a video of de Le Rue, he rides the most dangerous terrain on the planet like he’s being chased by an avalanche.  He sees a lot of icy steeps, vertical climbing, and rappels. So I wanted to see if the Spark XV would be overkill for an expert rider who doesn’t have de Le Rue’s death-wish.

As a past-owner of the 2014 Spark XV boot, I had some complaints.  I was never able to get past the break-in stage to the comfy wear-all-day feel before the speed laces broke. They broke while splitting, and that was enough to scare me away from speed laces. For 2015, DEELUXE introduced some great improvements so I gave the Spark XV another try.

Read the rest of JP’s review here!

collateral ligaments

The collateral ligaments of the hand.

by Dr. Jared Vagy

The Cause: The finger joints are supported on each side by collateral ligaments. They stabilize the finger from side to side movement. When you climb, your hand and fingers are placed in aggressive positions that may put increased force into the ligament, causing it to tear.

What to Look For: Be aware of any position that stresses the fingers side to side. When climbing finger cracks, the repetitive motion of strenuous finger-locks can increase the stress on the collateral ligaments. When sport climbing, keep your eye out for slanted far-to-reach holds and be careful moving dynamically upward from a gaston or sidepull.

Change How You Move: When climbing finger cracks, make sure to put the majority of the weight into your feet and avoid the rooky mistake of pulling yourself up by your fingers. During sport routes, align your wrist in a more neutral position when grasping far-to-reach holds. Try to move statically instead of dynamically upwards from a gaston or sidepull.

photo A

Photo A: A side-bent wrist position places more stress on the collateral ligament in the middle and ring fingers

photo B

Photo B:
A neutral wrist position decreases the stress on the collateral ligaments in the fingers












About the Author: Dr. Jared Vagy “The Climbing Doctor” is a physical therapist, professor at the University of Southern California and an authority on climbing related injuries. He has over ten years of climbing experience and has climbed all over the world. Climbing and injury prevention are his passions and he is committed to combining the two.

Dr Vagy at the Red Rock Rendezvous: If you’re going to be at the 2015 Rendezvous, be sure to check out Dr. Vagy’s clinic “How To Climb Injury Free.”  There are just a few slots left.  He will also be on hand at “The Climbing Doctor Booth” during the event to answer any of your injury-related questions. Learn more about the Rendezvous and schedule a clinic with the Climbing Doctor.

Learn More: Prevent injuries and take your climbing to the next level.  Check out The Climbing Doctor’s website for more injury prevention information.

IMG 9746

Hans Florine gets after it.

We’re pleased to add Hans Florine to our roster of instructors for the 2015 Red Rock Rendezvous. He’ll be teaching our Fast and Light clinics and we couldn’t be happier.

Hans knows speed. He has repeatedly set and broken one of the most coveted speed records in the world: The Nose of El Capitan. In 2012, Hans and climbing partner Alex Honnold took the record again in 2 hours and 23 minutes, lowering the previous record by a full 13 minutes. In 2014, Hans set the record for fastest solo ascent of the Triple Direct. He holds several records throughout the Yosemite Valley and around the world.

Hans won the first International Speed Climbing Championships in 1991 and has held the U.S. National title eleven times. He won gold at the ESPN X-Games three years in a row, is the co-author of Speed Climbing, now in its second edition, and is the producer of the award-winning climbing documentary, Wall Rats.

Hans has been featured in San Francisco Chronicle, Sports Illustrated, The New York Times, Men’s Journal, Fitness Runner, Rock and Ice Magazine, Climbing Magazine, Alpinist, Diablo Magazine, Master Athlete, and more.

He is a sponsored athlete for Outdoor Research, KineSYS, Honey Stinger, Petzl, LaSportiva, Blue Water Ropes and NUUN. He is an ambassador for The Access Fund, an active member of The American Alpine Club, and supporting member of the Yosemite Fund, Leave No Trace, and the South Yuba River Citizens League (SYRCL).

There’s still plenty of room left in Hans’ Fast and Light clinic. Visit the Red Rock Rendezvous website to learn more or to register for a clinic with Hans Florine.

2014 RRR Staff

The AAI staff greets the day at the 2014 Red Rock Rendezvous.

The American Alpine Institute (AAI) has partnered with Mountain Gear at the Red Rock Rendezvous since 2005. Over the last ten years, the Institute’s world-class guides have provided affordable introductory classes to beginners at the event. Indeed, one thing that any Red Rock Rendezvous participant can look forward to is the high level of instructional skill that AAI guides bring to their programs.

The Institute is first and foremost a climbing school. AAI guides have been offering training to beginning level climbers for forty years. Every guide is trained—not just in the art of guide technique—but in the art of teaching. AAI guides understand the needs of a beginning level climber, from their educational requirements to their understandable fears. This is part of the reason that Jon Krakauer writing for Outside magazine called the American Alpine Institute, “the best all around climbing school and guide service in North America.”

I have personally worked with Mountain Gear at the Red Rock Rendezvous the entire time that AAI has been involved with the event. I am proud to work at the Rendezvous every year. It is easily the best climbing event in North America and I can’t wait for this year’s festival. Every year the event just gets better!

Come join us– American Alpine Institute guides, professional climbing athletes, climbing sponsors and vendors, and all the great folks from Mountain Gear – for spectacular climbing, beautiful vistas, great food, games, parties and fun, in the Red Rocks of southern Nevada!

Jason ColchuckPeak

Jason D. Martin
Director of Operations and Guide
American Alpine Institute


The ARCTERYX Acrux FL features an inner liner and a separate, one-piece outer.

Article by Lila Parlin
Photos courtesy ARCTERYX

ARCTERYX, long known for quality climbing gear and outdoor apparel, has just entered the technical footwear arena with a two-part design based on a slip-on internal liner with a seamless, one-piece polyurethane upper. I recently received a pre-production sample of their new approach shoe, the Acrux FL.

The slipper that forms the liner has big loops both fore and aft to pull on easily. Its one-piece design has no tongue and is designed to keep out debris much like the KSO of Vibram fame.  I only had these shoes briefly before my summer climbing schedule ended, but fall is when one’s feet encounter more dried seeds than any other time of year.  I found these were able to live up to that expectation.  I didn’t wander through a field full of cheat grass for testing, however.

Aero Liner Low Breathability

The breathable liner at the heart of the ARCTERYX Acrux FL Approach Shoe

If you are picturing the one piece polyurethane upper like your father’s galoshes, you are way off base.  The nylon is coated with PU before it is woven, so the upper breathes well.  My feet seemed to be well ventilated even on warm days.  I have not tried them on a cold, wet day, or in dew-heavy grasses, so I can’t speak to that aspect.

The shoe appears to have a narrow toe box, but because of the nature of the lacing, the Acrux FL accommodates my wide foot comfortably.  If you have a narrow foot, you can still lace up nice and tight.   The sole is very stiff, with a rugged sticky rubber rand around the toe.  If you had an approach that involved some technical scrambling, the construction of the rand allows for some edging ability.  I stepped on a small boulder that rocked and tipped my foot outward.  The rubber was sticky enough that the shoe never slipped and this allowed me to catch my balance without rolling my ankle over. It was nice to see that kind of support in a low-top.   If you end up on a long approach like you find at Red Rock Canyon, Nev., you need a good supportive shoe. If your planned climb means that you’re going to have to carry that shoe up and over for an exit hike, it can be a pain to drag a pair of high tops.  I think these approach shoes fit that bill nicely: supportive, but low top, not too heavy or bulky in the pack.

Outer Layer

The one-piece laminated outer shell.

The one drawback for this shoe is that I always felt that the outer shell was sliding along my heel.  The height of the liner meant that the shell was sliding material on material, rather than on my skin, so I never got any blisters.   But I could feel that slide with every step.

Sole Shoe

The ARCTERYX Acrux FL Approach Shoe has a grippy Vibram sole with climbing zone and “Y” Groove spit heel technology for better breaking on the descent.

Let’s talk sizing.  I have a pretty solid 8.5 US women’s foot.  These shoes have UK sizing.  I got a UK6.5, which is supposed to be a US8.  These shoes fit me quite nicely.  I like to wear a medium hiking sock since my feet like cushioning and usually run cold.   I was comfortable with the size 8.  There’s that heel sliding issue, but since I got a prototype, I couldn’t try a half size smaller.  It would be nice to know whether a different size would have fixed the issue without cramping my toes.  My overall thought is that you might want to buy a half size smaller than your norm, unless ARCTERYX has addressed the sizing in the production series.

Overall, this is a nice approach shoe.  The trend has been for the light trail running shoe lately and I am a big fan of minimalist shoes, since I have no problems with my feet or arches.  There are those people who have been longing for a good supportive approach shoe and I think ARCTERYX has got a shoe that fits that niche.

Editor’s note: Lila tested a pre-production version of the Acrux FL. Earlier versions of her review referred to it as the Alpha FL but ARCTERYX has revised the name to Acrux FL since. The full line of ARCTERYX footwear will be available for sale shortly. Check back for updates.


Lila Parlin is a Mountain Gear customer service representative. Her 15-year climbing career spans the northwest and beyond with notable trips to Red Rock, Greece and Yosemite.

Hold position A

Photo A

by Jared Vagy, The Climbing Doctor

The Cause:

Have you ever felt weakness in your hand and numbness in your thumb, index and middle finger after a long session of climbing? You go back home and try to choke down an energy drink but it’s difficult to hold the can. You lie in bed but the only part of you that falls asleep is your hand. It is likely that you’re suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome.

Carpal tunnel syndrome used to occur in office workers who spent hours compressing their wrists while typing at the computer. Now it is becoming common in climbers because of the repetitive use of the muscles in the front of our wrists to grip holds.These muscles are called our wrist flexors. Underneath the wrist flexors runs an important nerve named the median nerve.  Often times when the wrist is in a flexed position repetitively, such as working a climbing project with a lot of slopers, the median nerve can become compressed underneath the muscles in an area called the carpal tunnel. This can cause numbness, pain and weakness in the hand.

Hold position B

Photo B

Hold position C

Photo C

Hold position D

Photo D

What to look for:

Watch out for underclings (A:) and slopers (B:) which place your wrist in extreme flexed positions. You may also be in trouble if you notice your wrist flexes forward (C:) each time you grab a climbing hold.  This places greater than normal pressure on the carpal tunnel. The position of your wrist must be neutral (D:) to minimize stress over the carpal tunnel.

Change how you move:

The next challenge is to apply the skills while climbing. Regardless of the style of hold you are grabbing always make sure to keep your wrist in a neutral position. The less time you spend hanging on slopers or gripping underclings the less stress you will have on your carpal tunnel.

About the author:

Dr. Jared Vagy “The Climbing Doctor” is a Physical Therapist and an authority on climbing related injuries. He has over ten years of climbing experience and has climbed all over the world. Climbing and injury prevention are his passions and he is committed to combining the two.

Learn more:

Prevent injuries and take your climbing to the next level.  Check out The Climbing Doctor’s website for more injury prevention information. To understand more about carpal tunnel syndrome and inner elbow pain you can see a full article written by Dr. Vagy in DPM magazine on pages 40-41.



Mary M. Werremeyer and Kelly J. Cole, Wrist Action Affects Precision Grip Force. Department of Exercise Science, The University of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa 52242, 30 January 1996.

Flanagan J. R., Tresilian J. R. (1994) Grip-load force coupling: a general control strategy for transporting objects. J. Exp. Psychol. Hum. Percept. Perform. 20:944–957.

Johansson R. S., Riso R., Häger C., Bäkström L. (1992) Somatosensory control of precision grip during unpredictable loads. I. Changes in load force amplitude. Exp. Brain Res. 89:181–189.

Koshland G. F., Hasan Z. (1994) Selection of muscles for initiation of planar, 3-joint arm movements with different final orientations of the hand. Exp. Brain Res. 98:157–16.

O’Driscoll S. W., Horii E., Ness R., Cahalan T. D., Richards R. R., An K. N. (1992) The relationship between wrist position, grasp size, and grip strength. J. Hand Surg. St. Louis 17:169–177.

1200x627 FBShare a photo of your greatest epic and you can win a trip to Switzerland where you’ll climb the Balmhorn (3698m) to commemorate Lucy Walker’s 1864 first ascent. Join us on Facebook to learn more and to enter.

The author scouts his next line from atop Thompson Pass near Valdez, Alaska in April 2014.

The author scouts his next line from atop Thompson Pass near Valdez, Alaska during Tailgate Alaska, held every April.

Photos and review by J.P. Russo

Last season I struggled to find a boot to replace my four-year-old Vans when they finally gave out. I was searching for something with a backcountry focus when I settled on the Deeluxe Independent BC. I have been on these boots for a year and couldn’t be happier. Deeluxe targeted the backcountry rider who cares about dependability over flashy colors and complicated lacing systems. Their design is simple, solid, and dependable. Black boots with regular laces don’t sound like anything to write home about, but the Independent BCs are built for backcountry reliability with plenty of tech once you dive deeper.

Read the rest of JP’s review here!

Nichols K2 2

By Travis Nichols

Photos by the author and courtesy of K2

A ski touring trip into Alaska’s Tordrillo Mountain Range back in May gave me a chance to spend extended testing time on the entirely new K2 Wayback 96 177cm and the redesigned K2 Coomback 104 177cm. For 2014/2015, each ski sees a significant redesign with new shapes, rocker profiles, core constructions and finished weights. In each case, K2 not only meets the market’s benchmark products but also exceeds their performance. These are not the lightest, stiffest, boldest, or the craziest-shaped skis out there. And that’s a great thing.

The new Wayback 96 is a svelte touring ski that’s perfectly suited for running up volcanoes and then milking the turns on the way242227 YYY 1 out. While the weight is competitive in its category, it’s a stand-out choice because it allows any skier to feel comfortable on a hairy descent. Unlike competing models with similar or even lighter weight specs, it does not ski like a plank of carbon fiber or a foam noodle. Rather, it’s a smooth, round flex that makes for predictable turns on ice, mank, slush, corn, and soft snow. I certainly noticed the quick tip engagement and medium-length turn radius in the ski. As long as I respected the character of the ski and did not try to draw out the turn, it was super poppy in and out of the carvy turns.

all terrain rocker profile b

A closer look at K2′s All-Terrain Rocker.

The most impressive thing to me was the tip. The rocker profile is low and continuous so the ski never acts like a barge in mixed snow; rather it keeps its buoyancy without bashing into inconsistent variables.  At 200 pounds and 5 feet 11 inches, I was concerned that the 177 cm length was a bit short.  Over a few runs, I learned to trust the tip not to sink despite strong forward pressure in the turn.  The no-drama, less-apparent rocker profile never disappointed and I’m shocked to consider that this may be the appropriate length for a spring volcano option. In the nearly isothermal snow we were working through at the bottom of our laps, I really appreciated the ski’s reliability and predictability, especially for a ski with a thinner width and smaller platform to stand on.

For anyone who is looking for a medium-radius touring ski capable of enjoying any condition, I would highly recommend this as a do-it-all option that will maximize spring turns as much as winter pow.  If I were headed to Europe for a Haute Route or similar traverse, it would be hard to pass up the Wayback 96.

  • Sizes: 170, 177, 184
  • Dimensions: 128/96/118
  • Radius: 21m @ 177
  • Construction: Torsion Box, Hybritech Sidewall
  • Weight: 1550g @ 177cm
  • Features: Skin Grommet, Carbon Web, SnoPhobic Topsheet, Tapered Tip And Tail

Nichols K2 1The redesigned Coomback 104 is, once again, a benchmark ski. Once a clear category leader, the Coomback saw stiff competition in the past few years. Thankfully K2 brought it back to the center of the bull’s eye.  Still a classic, round K2 flex with a huge sweet spot, the ski now has an updated 241805 YYY 1contact point at the tip and an updated rocker profile that allow it to engage quickly when needed for tight turns and yet vary the turn shape to the skier’s needs in a variety of conditions.  I was able to open the turn radius up as much as needed and it never became hooky or unstable.  The elevated rocker on this ski made the 177 cm running length feel a little short for this tester so I can’t wait to bump up to the 184 cm to get the most out of the ski at speed.  I would say the ability to carve from the center of the ski or from the tail was fantastic; the engagement was smooth and predicable despite the shorter-than-desired length.  I would suggest this ski be purchased true to size; don’t hesitate to bump up in length if you are on the cusp.

  • Sizes: 170, 177, 184
  • Dimensions: 136/104/122
  • Radius: 23m @ 177
  • Construction: Torsion Box, Hybritech Sidewall
  • Weight: 1650g @177cm
  • Features: Skin Grommets, Carbon Web, SnoPhobic Topsheet, Tapered Tip And Tail, Powder Tip
Nichols K2 5

Decisions, decisions…

The decreased weight on both models will be immediately apparent to anyone on the up-track or in the swing weight of the descent.  For me, the best improvement went beyond the weight and into the character of the ski. To elaborate, K2 has always made reliable and predictable skis that you can learn on as a beginner, feel confident on as intermediate, or push to your limit as an expert; skis that work in all conditions and skis that truly are tools in the backcountry.

This type of design often sets the benchmark for the category, the product against which other designs are judged.  Sometimes being at the center of things can feel a little vanilla.  Vanilla is one of the best flavors but it’s not a flavor we think of as exciting.  It’s not a spicy curry or exotic saffron; rather it’s the smooth and sultry option that balances your palate.  It should be the smooth vanilla gelato that after one spoonful turns into the whole pint because we can’t help ourselves.

Sadly, vanilla can also be diminished into something like white sheetcake we can’t wait to skip.  For the past few years the predictable nature of the Coomback has left me wanting more.  Although it has been the first ski I would recommend to many users from diverse backgrounds, I was never eager to jump on it personally.

The changes for 2014/2015 go past the specs of shape, rocker profile and weight changes.  It’s still the benchmark ski in the category, and still has a reliable vanilla aspect to it (as any reliable tool should) but this version seems to be spiced up with a little bit of Fireball at the end of the experience to keep things interesting. After the first taste this spring, I’m eager to go back for seconds.

Staff Review: Osprey Rev 18

Editor —  November 13, 2014 — Leave a comment
Mike White trail running in the Adirondack Mountains New York. Fall 2013.

Mike White trail running in the Adirondack Mountains New York. Fall 2013.

By Travis Nichols

Photos courtesy Osprey

An 18 liter running pack?  An ultralight pack vest? What is the Osprey Rev 18 and what’s it good for? Every once in a while a product arrives that fails to land neatly in a defined space and forces us outside our box to see its true intention and purpose.

The Osprey Rev 18 is part of a larger family of packs targeted at efficient movement through the mountains.  The smaller sizes (Rev  1.5, 3, and 6) are clearly trail running masters designed to carry the essentials quickly.  The 24 is more of a nimble day hiker.  The Kode Race borrows from the Rev but is clearly the ski pack.  So where does the Rev 18 land?

Read more about the Osprey Rev 18 here!

by Dr. Jared Vagy


When you look up at your partner while belaying, the muscles in the back of your neck are constantly overworking. Over time, these muscles get strong and tight while the muscles in the front of your neck become weak, creating an imbalance. This imbalance leads to compression of your joints and can lead to pain. Lucky for you, the pain can be avoided by following some simple physical therapy exercises.

What to look for

Poor belaying postures repeated over time can lead to belayer’s neck. The three characteristics that lead to poor posture are a backward tilted neck, slumped spine and forward shoulders. Imagine there is a plumb-line running from the center of your ear, through the middle of your shoulder and torso.

photo a

When you get lazy belaying you tend to slump, causing your neck and shoulders to fall in front of the plumb-line



photo b

To achieve proper posture, you need to keep your head, neck and shoulders on the plumb-line

Change how you move: 

Use correct posture while belaying. After each quick draw that your leader clips or every ten feet they move on top-rope, perform a chin tuck, straighten your spine and pull your shoulder blades back for ten seconds. Safety comes first, so perform while still giving an attentive belay. You can also try Belay Glasses, which are prism glasses that allow you to see your climbing partner above while looking straight ahead.  Or better yet, stay on the sharp end and give belayer’s neck to your climbing partner!

About the author:

Dr. Jared Vagy “The Climbing Doctor” is a Physical Therapist and an authority on climbing related injuries. He has over ten years of climbing experience and has climbed all over the world. Climbing and injury prevention are his passions and he is committed to combining the two.

Learn more:

Prevent injuries and take your climbing to the next level.  Check out The Climbing Doctor’s website for more injury prevention information.

To understand more about Belayer’s Neck you can see a full article written by Dr. Vagy in DPM magazine on page 53.


Aker PD, Gross AR, Goldsmith CH, Peloso P. Conservative management of mechanical neck pain: systematic overview and meta-analysis. BMJ. 1996; 313:1291–1296.

Uhlig Y, Weber BR, Grob D, Muntener M. Fiber composition and fiber transformations in neck muscles of patients with dysfunction of the cervical spine. J Orthop Res. 1995;13:240–249.

Harris KD, Heer DM, Roy TC, et al. Measurement characteristics of a test of deep neck flexor muscle endurance in individuals with and without neck pain. Phys Ther. 2005;85:1349–1355.

Silverman JL, Rodriquez AA, Agre JC. Quantitative cervical flexor strength in healthy subjects and in subjects with mechanical neck pain. Arch Phys Med Rehabil. 1991;72:679–681.

Johansson H, Sojka P. Pathophysiological mechanisms involved in genesis and spread of muscular tension in occupational muscle pain and in chronic musculoskeletal pain syndromes: a hypothesis. Med Hypotheses. 1991;35:196–203.

Norlander S, Nordgren B. Clinical symptoms related to musculoskeletal neck-shoulder pain and mobility in the cervico-thoracic spine. Scand J Rehabil Med. 1998;30:243–251.

Panjabi MM. The stabilizing system of the spine. Part I. Function, dysfunction, adaptation, and enhancement. J Spinal Disord. 1992;5:383–389.

The Motley Crux

Editor —  October 20, 2014 — Leave a comment
Zak Stoked!

Zak Silver celebrates just minutes after getting Motley Crux (5.14a) at Deep Creek, Washington. At 15 years-of-age, he is the youngest person to have climbed Motley. That’s Reggie in the background with the rabbit hat.

by Zak Silver

My first American Bouldering Series National Championships was an amazing time. It was 2013 and I placed 8th in the country. Going into 2014 I thought, “If I did that good the first year why can’t I do better?”

I thought it would come easy. I had put in the same amount of training hours at an even greater intensity. So why wouldn’t I crush? I didn’t know that Youth A was the hardest age group of them all. I realized this in Isolation on Day One but it was already too late. BOOM! I just took a nuclear weapon to my mental game. I basically told myself I wasn’t strong and that was the end of that.

With that vivid and horrible memory already sunk deep in my brain, taking a break from competing sounded nice. Climbing outside became my main objective. My buddy Billy Ward was just getting stoked and it was contagious. I wanted to send everything. My mom called it the “send fever”. Diagnosis: over-thinking every route you want to try and send in a specific season. Symptoms: clammy hands, day dreaming, inability to explain psych. It was even worse in my case because the previous spring and summer, I had tried a lot of the routes I wanted to try and send this year.

All-the-time training was now swapped with climbing outside at Deep Creek and I loved it. Deep Creek is just 25 minutes outside of my hometown, Spokane, Washington. It’s a place that’s known for its trail-running and mountain-biking. You pull up in the parking lot and after the dust settles, you’re surrounded by blocky basalt walls, most of which are not developed and for good reason.

There are two main climbing areas – the Main Wall and The Pit. The area is intimidating when you first get there. The floor is littered with boulders and small rocks and the wall itself is huge. This is the place to climb in Spokane if you want to test your fitness.

Photo by Jon Jonckers

Brett Jessen climbs Deep Creek. Photo by Jon Jonckers.

At The Pit there’s a route on the main pillar called Motley Crux. You walk up and it’s the first thing you see. I learned of Motley when I overheard some guys talk about the few people who had done it including JStar, Paige Claassen, Brian Raymond, Johnny Goicoechea, and Alex Rice. This route has been around for almost 20 years and fewer than ten people have climbed it.

My good friend Bryan Franklin started working Motley before me in March. I had just got Masochist (13b) and was in the middle of working a new project called Pit Boss Indirect (13b). Pit Boss is one of those routes where everything has to be perfect! The temperature can only be between 65 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit and it can’t be in the sun because the rock is black and absorbs so much heat so quickly.

After trying Pit Boss for the seventh time, Bryan told me I should give Motley a go. I was already so pissed, I said, “What the heck, why not?” I ended up falling twice but I made it to the old anchors. I was speechless. I couldn’t comprehend what actually just happened.  I had always pictured Motley to be a climb that only the super strong could do. One of my heroes, Alex Rice, climbed it about 3 years earlier. That only made the route seem further and further out of reach. I had climbed with Alex before and he seemed way above me. He was also the youngest to climb Motley at 19. If I got the route, I would be the youngest by four years. In my mind that was an impossible task.

My best friend Billy is a sport climber who LOVES to project. He taught me that once you get to touch every hold, you can start to link the sections of a route together. Then and only then will you know if the project is worth the time and energy. Billy would get on a climb for the first time and touch every hold then come down psyched out of his brains! He just clicked the self-motivation button in his mind and from that point forward, Billy knew he would send the route. I took this knowledge and funneled it into my mind set on Motley. I also realized quickly that I was stronger than I was giving myself credit for.

“Mr.Silver?” said my geometry teacher.

“What?” I said.

“What are you doing?”

“Oh, nothing.”

“Why do you have a piece of paper with scribbles on it? Along with drool coming out of your mouth?” he asked.

“It’s something for climbing, sir.”

“Well, throw it away, and have your textbook out to page 354.”

“Yes, Mr.Kugler.”

This very thing happened more than once. I wanted to throw up from embarrassment. My friends outside the climbing scene asked what I was thinking when I had these moments in class. I often had to tell them lies. That sounds selfish, but for me it was necessary. I would try to explain how this route really made me feel but I didn’t have the vocabulary. The honest answer was that I was thinking about an inanimate object that I truly loved.

Before you think I have already lost my mind at 16, hold on to your drawers while I explain. I was thinking about the pure joy the route gave me and about the amount of time that I had devoted to this route. I was thinking about how my fingers felt on the first rest crimps, how little feeling I had in them and the way my heart was racing ONE MILLION miles an hour in my chest. I was thinking of myself climbing the route and thinking about how every hold made my whole body feel, how my feet felt compared to the sequence of hand holds. Last, I was thinking about the complete and utter hatred and anger that I was feeling about the crux position.

I have never devoted so much time thinking about any one thing. I found myself re-climbing Motley in my head every night before I went to bed. It got so bad that I knew every foot hold, too. I usually can never remember my sequences. It got to the point where I fell at the same spot for a solid ten goes. This spot was my crux. Everyone knows the Adam Ondra scream, followed by the uncontrollable crying. That was how I felt after falling there so many times. I wanted this route more than I wanted to eat. I love food, so this is a HUGE deal.

Deep Creek at its pumpy best.

The Thursday before I sent Motley, I tried it once and fell at the same place as usual. I decided then and there I was too weak to climb the route. I have never to this day been as motivated to train in my life. I did six laps on Flip a Bitch Bear (12d) which has the very bottom crux of Motley. The route is about 85 feet; I did three laps in less than 20 minutes. Then I did four laps on The Masochist (13b). This route has the last piece of the crux on Motley.

The night before I sent, I went over to a friend’s house, watched climbing movies, and ate too much food. I didn’t get to bed until early in the morning. I woke up around 7 a.m. feeling less than prime. I went to the crag with Billy bumping to Common Market. To our surprise there were tons of people. We walked down the mighty steep hill and crossed the river bed like I had done a thousand times. Walking up and seeing everybody was a nice warm welcome to a not-so-nice morning.

I belayed Billy on his warm-up – Pit Lizard (5.11a). I followed him to clean the quickdraws off the route. I got pumped out of my mind and came down thinking, “Well… that sucked.” I now had no expectations. I knew that all I could do was try my best and see what came of it. I believe that is what enabled me to send. I waited and watched people climb and felt relaxed.

When I decided it was time to go, I was feeling good. Not pumped, but not too cold. I had blood pumping. I walked up and asked for a catch. My friend Reggie answered. He was shirtless and wore a rabbit skin hat; he was the man of the hour. With his manly chest hair, everyone was cracking Russian jokes. It was a fun atmosphere.

I walked up, took my shirt off and tied in like normal. Right before I went, Reggie pulled me close. It was almost silent. He came in close and said, “You’re going to send”! That was the one and only thing I needed to hear. To know that all my buddies were behind me was a great thing to think about. Then I climbed.

When I sent, everything clicked. I hit every foot perfectly, every handhold in just the right spot, and I didn’t spend a millisecond too long on any given hold. I got done with the first crux; the rest hold is a decent crimp just big enough for me to match. I set the ring lock on my right hand and set up for my rest. After hitting it and resting I knew this was going to be good. I hadn’t felt this rested at this hold on any previous attempt. Going through the next 10-15 moves was nothing different than any other time. I had never fallen in that section.

Then I hit the only jug on the whole route. I was pumped but it wasn’t the normal, nauseating pump. I got the sense this was going to be a different burn. I spent about 2 minutes there – much shorter than normal but that was okay. I was feeling good and confident. I found that on this route resting is almost all mental. If you can convince yourself that you are not as pumped, tired, or beat down as you think, then your rest is more effective.

After the jug there’s a tiny left hand two-finger crimp, pulling through to a really bad three-finger slopey pinch. Then you bump up to a good gaston. You’re looking at the last good hold for the rest of the route. It’s a flat slopey bill-shaped hold I clip my last bolt with. Getting high feet, I do the huge full arm stretch move to a two-finger pinch and pulled through to a triangle shaped ½-pad masterpiece.

There were four holds left. They’re horridly polished with thousands of hour’s worth of chalk. I did the moves like nothing. After I made the big move to the jug, it was done. Let me repeat that. The route was DONE! I screamed my head off. There were two easy clips to chains. As I called to Reggie, everyone was cheering me on and congratulating me. Billy came over and gave me a huge hug. I couldn’t have been happier. After I gave the hugs and the fist bumps, I started texting people. First, my coach and Bryan Raymond. They helped me deal with the psychological stuff. Getting texts back from family and friends was awesome.

The glory was great for a few seconds. Then it was over. Just like that it was over. Because in reality it’s a rock climb. Yes, climbing is my life but I can’t make a living out of climbing. The accomplishment of Motley Crux wasn’t going to be the gateway to scholarships or anything for that matter. It was purely for me and it was worth the time and devotion I gave it. I found out more about myself through projecting Motley than through any other activity – what I was willing to give up and how that affected my life.

I want to give a big thanks to Billy Ward. The long days after school and the many hours spent going over and refining beta on our projects is unforgettable. He was a huge piece of this process and I will always strive to be as good a climber as he is. His psych is something that can’t be copied but I will try my hardest. In other words, thank you, Billy.

Photos and review by Jen Uchida, Adventure T&E

Ski season is right around the corner, you guys!  Skis have a fresh tune on them, ridiculous season pass photos have been uploaded, and backcountry huts have been reserved.  While you’re diving into the topo maps and route planning for your backcountry adventures, consider taking a look at the Backcountry Access (BCA) Backcountry Assessor App to compliment your planning.  This app was released by BCA in the summer of 2013 and after a season of use, it has earned a place on my backcountry checklist.  Not nearly as high on the list as the beacon, shovel, and probe, but it’s on there nonetheless.

The app offers seven “tools” to aid you in winter backcountry travel: Tour Planner, 3-in-1 Measuring Tool, Avalanche Forecasts, AIARE Tools, Rescue Guides, Float Pack Refill Locations, and BCA Products.  My favorites and most useful tools are the Tour Planner, Avalanche Forecasts, AIARE Tools, and Rescue Guides.

The Tour Planner tool represents the majority of the active functions within the app for use while touring.  BCA solicits a warning that the app should not be used as a primary source of navigation in the backcountry.  With this in mind, I planned my routes via traditional map and compass before transferring the route to the app.  The fidelity of the maps and ease of route planning left me a bit disappointed at first.  I also questioned the source and publication currency of the topo maps.  The tool offers three map viewing options (satellite, road, and topo). The topo map available on the app is not the same as the USGS topo maps, so using all three viewing options was required to get my bearings and enter in my route information accurately.  There is, however, a steep learning curve when using this method of planning your route by hand first before transferring it to the app, and it became quick and intuitive by the second route I created.  It would have been nice if there were some sort of link between devices so planning could take place on a larger screen (iPad) and transfer to a portable size screen (iPhone).

Out in the backcountry, I did not have the app and GPS on all the time.  In addition to some concerns regarding cellular interference with my beacon, the app demonstrated some deficiencies that prompted me to turn it off and put it in my pocket:

  • The timer used for timing individual legs would freeze when the phone was locked.  Locking my phone to put it in my pocket was necessary for battery life and to make sure the route or another app wasn’t inadvertently altered.
  • The Tour Planner used straight lines between route markers and the timer would only work between successive route markers, versus a group of markers.  This drove up the workload to time legs that had any curves or switchbacks.
  • The GPS on/off indication was vague and on one occasion I ended up draining my battery because the GPS was on and I thought it was indicating off.

However, the Tour Planner tool was especially helpful to spot check location during rest stops or when I lost track of how many switchbacks we passed.  A quick pause to compare the phone to my map and compass was all we needed to stay on track.

The 3-in-1 Measuring Tool was not the most useful tool in the app.  Designed to measure the aspect, elevation, and slope angle of suspicious faces, this module can compare that measured data to the avalanche forecast for that zone.  While this aspect of the app, in my opinion, promises to revolutionize backcountry travel, I found this first generation version to be too cumbersome to use.  By nature of the phone, the tool requires the user to remove gloves (unless you have tech gloves), mess with the phone to get to the Measuring Tool, and making sure the phone was held correctly and not bumped when tapping the screen to capture the measurement.  Without necessary precision of measurement its utility was limited, and I found myself going for the convenience of my traditional slope meter.

The Avalanche Forecasts tool was by far my favorite.  In the weeks and days leading up to a backcountry trip, I would frequently check the avalanche forecasts to stay on top of trends.  It was great to have the most recent forecast digitally while en route, as I hate to mess with tons of loose papers in the backcountry.  I made sure to update it just before leaving town and occasionally checked for service throughout a trip for a chance to update it again.  It was a great tool to reference and converse over with hut-mates in the evenings.  I could use the information and combine it with observations from the day to assess the risk for the next day.

Last, but certainly not least, the AIARE Tools and Rescue Guide were awesome to get your head in the game.  I imagine this is what BCA had in mind for their initiative on human factors and communication in the backcountry.  My team and I reviewed the AIARE Decision Making Framework and Observation References within the AIARE Tools and Rescue Guide tools the night before our departure and during the drive to the trailhead.  The consistency between the information on the app was seamless with the AIARE avalanche coursework and made it very easy to review.  My favorite part was using the Communication Checklist for our pre-departure brief at the trailhead.  It was thorough and succinct, and I wasn’t worried about missing anything important.  The Rescue Guides were also great for the night before our departure and during the drive.  We made a bit of a game out of it as we quizzed each other on the various parts of an avalanche rescue.

As a pre-tour planning tool, this app rocks because of the easily accessible avalanche forecasts and the encouragement of communication and skills review.  Once you leave the trailhead, however, the app has some major shortcomings; some software related and others due to its host, the iPhone.  I’m excited to use this app again this coming season, and can’t wait to see what BCA has in store for us next!

StairwaytoHeaven Ruth 1


Article and photos by Ryan Jennings and Kevin Cooper

After receiving support for our trip through the Mugs Stump Award, Kevin Cooper and I were on our way back to the Ruth Gorge of Alaska to again attempt our long standing objective: the North Face of Mt. Johnson. On April 20, 2014, we landed in Anchorage and drove to the small town of Talkeetna.  The next day we boarded a Talkeetna Air Taxi plane and headed into the Ruth.  The following two weeks culminated in a successful ascent of the most beautiful line we have laid eyes on: The Stairway to Heaven ascending the most direct line up the North Face of Mt. Johnson.

Eleven years earlier we were here for the same line but were quickly sent home. A fixed rappel anchor failed as we descended Shaken, Not Stirred on the Moose’s Tooth, our warm up route, sending us for a tumbling 1000 foot ride to its base.  We returned home with nothing more than a broken ankle and a bruised knee.

Years passed, marriages were made and children were born but we managed to continue to sneak in training.  Link-ups of big ice lines, big wall El Cap routes and small mixed lines on the dirty crags of Redstone, Colo. , led us to believe we were finally ready.  Unfortunately, financial responsibilities and the crushing floods of 2013 all but shut down our dream until we were granted the Mugs Stump Award. The trip was on.

After landing in the Ruth, we set up camp, traveled down-glacier to the wall, assessed an approach and eventually found access pitches to get us past the main obstacle, a giant roof guarding the entire base of the wall.  We found a line out its left side and eventually to what we would later dub the Nèvè Highway.  The Highway would give us access to a large left-facing corner high on the face we hoped would hold protectable mixed climbing to the summit ridge.   From the base, the wall looked slabby. We would soon find out looks can be deceiving.

After establishing the two pitches and fixing lines, we were ready for our ascent.  We had been in the Gorge over a week.  After an aborted attempt a few days earlier, we finally headed out on May 1, 2014, with full packs and a large rack.

We bypassed the threatening serac approach, climbing a 60 degree snow face to the left. We ascended the lines to the hanging snowfield over the roof, organized the rack, and set off.  Kevin led a long traverse right to the base of the Highway but when we arrived, the morning sun was sending massive amounts of debris down.  We deemed it suicidal to continue and had serious thoughts of our sanity.

Fortunately, a cave at its base provided shelter where we sat for hours, waiting until the face finally calmed.  I then set out for what would be the lead of my life.  Within 100 feet, I gave up hope of finding protection but with an average angle of 85 degrees and solid half-sunk picks in good nèvè , I continued on.  Soon Kevin would be forced to break the anchor and follow me onward.   Seven hundred feet later, I finally found solid gear and belayed.  Mentally crushed after this long simu-solo I wanted nothing more than to bail but we were now committed.

Another 500 foot pitch of the same, only steeper, brought us to a scary belay under a hanging mushroom as darkness set in.  Kevin took the lead into the night. After another 500 feet, he reached the base of the corner we had held so much wonder for.  We dug two platforms in the snow and settled in for a couple hours sleep.  As the sun rose, we set off with high hopes thankful to finally have some protection.  A tight squeeze chimney forced removal of all my gear but eventually we were established in the corner.  Kevin led an impressive rotten offwidth which got us into the beautiful line of nèvè and ice we had scoped from camp and we felt hope.

Stairway to Heaven Ruth 3Two pitches later and with darkness approaching again, Kevin thankfully stumbled upon an opening  to a cave of sorts.  After some digging we had a platform large enough to lay side-by-side and crashed out for another short night.  The sun quickly hit though and ice hanging over the cave began to drip.  We ate breakfast and geared up, debating whether to go in the morning sun or wait for cooler temps.  With the minimal ice melting before our eyes, we opted to continue.

I led the Nèvè’s Nightmare pitch up and over many slushy bulges packed in the amazing corner.  Finally at the top of the corner, it was decision time.  We had hoped to continue up and right to the diamond shaped summit snowfield but quickly learned this was not an option as the rock was absolutely horrible and much bigger than expected.  Instead we headed up and left, keeping with the system that we hoped would eventually lead to the ridge.  A few near showstopper sections were surmounted and the final pitch to the ridge gave better rock and truly fun climbing.  I aided one 30 foot section which Kevin followed free on Micro Traxion at likely M7 as I hauled.   As darkness fell once again we gained the ridge and continued out onto the East Face then back to the ridge for a ride to the summit.  The Northern Lights greeted us mid-way through this section and raised our spirits for the summit push.  We reached the summit around 4 a.m., high-fived, snapped photos, and quickly headed down as a storm approached from the west.

The descent, while involved and dangerous, went quickly and we were back at the base and safe around 10:00 a.m.  Paul Roderick from Talkeetna Air Taxi, who had been checking in on us, flew overhead tipping his wings in support.  The gesture was grand to us and I think we both shed a tear.

We had both dreamed of this line since seeing a photo of the face in Jack Tackle and Doug Chabot’s 1995 American Alpine Journal trip report for the Elevator Shaft.   We met a few years later, learned we had the same goals and grew an incredible partnership over the years which would eventually allow us the trust required to climb unprotectable terrain together and ascend steep mixed climbing on often rotten rock into the unknown.   We were proud to have held to Mugs and our ideals of fast, light and clean climbing leaving only one impossible to remove piton high on the face but nothing more of our passing.  We would like to thank the Mugs Stump Award committee and all of the gracious sponsors for allowing us this wonderful opportunity to reach for our dreams and come home safe and successful.  It was, and will likely remain, the climb of our lives.