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Monty_Smith

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About Monty_Smith

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  1. PLB Legislature introduced in WA Legislature

    One more post and I'll go back to lurking. I was asked to prepare an article for the Mazama Bulletin on the current state of locating beacons. I've approached it as a non-biased informational article that highlights the pros and cons, but also educates people on the issue. I'm posting it here as an FYI. Many folks on CC.com are also from the Seattle area, and if you want this printed locally, just let me know. Locator Beacons – MLU, PLB and SPOT By Monty Smith Since locating beacons and mandatory usage are again in the news, I was asked to provide some information. In this article I will describe the various systems in use, how and when they’re used, advantages and limitations, current issues, and how to stay alive. First, let me define the different types of beacons or locators; three which apply and one that doesn’t. There is a new device called a RECCO reflector that is often discussed alongside new locating technologies. Popular in Europe and growing in popularity here, these are tiny devices that are sewn into clothing or built inside ski boots. A specialized RECCO receiver sends out a signal which bounces back when the receiver is pointed toward the reflector. They are used like a passive avalanche transceiver. The receivers are too big and expensive to be carried on a climb and are typically used by ski areas to locate skiers caught in an avalanche. Like an avy beacon their operating distance is quite small, on the order of tens of meters, so are not an option for locating climbers lost on a mountain. Locating beacons used to find lost climbers are the MLU (Mt Hood Locator Unit), PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) and SPOT (Satellite Personal Tracker). Most Mazamas are familiar with the MLU, developed by a mandate from the Oregon legislature after the Oregon Episcopal School tragedy in 1986. They transmit through snow, can be picked up many miles away, and have batteries that will last weeks when activated. Their limitations are that they are line of sight only and must be manually activated. Many people think once activated they will initiate a rescue, but there is no monitoring. The receivers (there are six in Oregon) remain tucked away until 911 is called, and then one is assembled and turned on. Mount Hood is the only mountain in the world to have such a system. MLUs are available for $5 rental at most Portland outdoor stores as well as 24/7 rental at the Mt Hood Inn in Govt Camp. There is no place to obtain an MLU at Timberline. PLBs and SPOTs are similar to each other in that when activated, they’ll notify authorities via satellite and provide them with GPS coordinates. Both are about the same size and weight as an avy beacon. A PLB is a rescue-only device and works via the military satellite system; once activated NASA notifies local authorities. It also transmits a homing signal similar to an MLU which allows searchers to zero in. A SPOT is consumer-oriented and communicates through the troubled Globalstar satellite phone network. This is a commercial system (for-profit) with features such as Google Maps tracking and an “All OK” signal sent to pre-programmed email addresses. The biggest differences are reliability and cost. PLBs are built to military specifications, while a SPOT has the reliability of a consumer GPS. PLBs currently cost $3-400 but do not require an annual fee. SPOTs are ~$100 but have a $100/year annual fee, more if you want Google Map tracking or roadside assistance. Like an MLU, both require manual activation in case of emergency. One nice feature of the SPOT is if Google Map tracking is being used, friends at home can tell something is amiss if they keep reading the same location for an extended period. Most people agree that the new satellite based locators are a big improvement over the old MLU technology. But whereas MLUs will work through snow and transmit for weeks, PLB/SPOTs use a higher frequency signal that is blocked by snow, and have a battery life of only 1-2 days. Both are available for purchase at most outdoor stores but only available for rent by mail-order. Portland Mountain Rescue has worked with one rental company, PLBRentals.com, to provide winter-only PLB rentals for the same price as MLUs ($5 + shipping). This deal has been made available to Mazamas by using coupon code MAZAMA, or to the general public with code MTHOOD. PLBs and SPOTs are two-way devices only insofar as they receive a high-frequency signal from a GPS satellite and transmit a lower-frequency signal to a communication satellite. There is no confirmation that your signal was received, so they’ll transmit multiple times. Their accuracy is only as good as the GPS signal received. One issue being tested is the extent to which a snowcave will limit the functionality. In order for them to work, they must reliably receive the high-frequency signal from GPS satellites. But the higher the frequency, the more the signal is blocked by water. As any GPS user knows, the location accuracy and time to get a reading is dependent on good signal quality. When used within snowcaves, the depth of the cave and density of the snow may impact GPS accuracy, or even preclude receiving any GPS signal. Initial testing indicates greater location error than would be required to pinpoint lost climbers. Further testing by PMR is ongoing. Cell phones have also been discussed as two-way communication devices. When you call 911, your location is picked up by the operator; quite accurately if you have a GPS-enabled cell phone. But as every user knows, reception can be spotty outside of urban areas. On Mt Hood, cell phones generally do not work anywhere other than directly above Timberline. A GPS and a cell phone can be a good combination, but only if you have service. Although of limited accuracy, cell towers can triangulate phone location based on the signal received from multiple towers. For this to work the phone must be turned on, the phone company must cooperate (sometimes they don’t) and if you’re having trouble connecting to one tower, it is unlikely you will you be able to connect to multiple towers. This is an area that is changing rapidly, but among the available choices there still is no panacea. No solution is currently what anyone would consider a ‘good’ solution that could be relied on to save your life. Only you can do that. However, there are currently bills being introduced or discussed in both the OR and WA legislatures that will mandate the use of locating beacons during the winter months. These bills assume that a beacon will increase safety and significantly improve rescue efforts. Carrying a beacon sure can’t hurt, unless you’re relying on it and/or have prioritized it over survival gear. Lost climbers are usually lost due to storms, when it can take days to locate and reach them. During that time, survival is critical. Items such as shovel, pad and stove can keep you alive, but a beacon won't. Always make sure you bring those critical items, then pack the beacon too.
  2. PLB Legislature introduced in WA Legislature

    Although I hope to not get in the middle of the arguments, I thought I’d post a response from PMR. For the record, I'm the VP of PMR, chair of their Public Education efforts, and have been asked to take on the expected fallout regarding beacons after the unfortunate tragedy last month. I have been the one working with Kevin Stoltz and PLBRentals.com; the generous $5 winter rental program was conceived through a conversation together. Kevin’s offer works for everyone – it gets better safety devices in the hands of climbers, increases awareness, and of course is also smart marketing that helps build business. Our next step is to develop a pilot program to rent the PLBs locally (Portland). There are mutual benefits to working together and it is PMR’s hope that we can continue to collaborate to improve availability and awareness of locating beacons – MLU, SPOT or PLB. However, we respectfully differ on the value of legislation. Please be assured that PMR is not “reconsidering their previous position based on the recent deaths”. Our position is that legislation is misguided, unenforceable, and will not achieve increased safety. It is also our goal to not be perceived as an outspoken opponent to legislative efforts. If legislation is going to be introduced, we would rather work with the legislators to educate and if necessary help craft a bill that provides the greatest benefit (or at least does the least damage). To be seen as an opponent and barred from providing input wouldn’t serve anyone’s needs. So if anyone hears that PMR is working with legislators, it is to educate and minimize any short-sighted legislation. So far our efforts are working. A bill will likely be introduced in Oregon, and we believe our outreach efforts will include SAR experts in the crafting of the bill. After a bill is introduced we may also lobby against it, too. But of course we have to see what gets introduced and act accordingly. Washington’s HB 2619 is a good example of how things can go awry. This bill would mandate the use of an EPRIB, ELT or PLB. The first two are marine and aircraft beacons and have no place in a land-based solution. Other obvious choices such as SPOT or satellite phones (and arguably, cell phones) currently are not part of the bill, and clearly indicates the original drafter was not well-informed. What will save peoples’ lives (and I know I'm preaching to the choir on this board) is education. Surviving long enough for searchers to reach you is CRITICAL. Providing your exact location is sure a great bonus, but is of no value if you’re already dead when rescuers arrive. What will keep you alive is basic snow survival skills, and at a minimum, a shovel, pad and stove. Any climber knows those are far more critical to saving lives than any sort of electronics. Our task, and for which we’re asking for your help, is to get this point across to legislators, the general public, and most importantly, TO CLIMBERS. In our efforts to build safety awareness, we've put together a one-stop shopping page for safety information for climbing Hood’s S Side. This has a map with GPS and bearings, weather and avy links, and lots of info on beacon use and how to obtain one, including info on the $5 winter PLB rental from PLBRentals.com. Check it out at http://www.pmru.org/safetyed/Climb_Safe.html And remember: -KNOW the conditions -KNOW your route -Be PREPARED -HAVE a BACKUP PLAN Monty Smith VP, Portland Mountain Rescue
  3. Russian (USSR) Ice Screw

    USSR Ice Screw - titanium? This is a relatively inexpensive screw and more of a collector's item - it's stamped "U.S.S.R." it might be one of the titanium screws; not sure I could tell aluminum from titanium. I got this a few years ago on Ama Dablam; our team was the route-fixing gear repository and a couple of us grabbed the russian screws. It's sat here ever since and I figured it's time to pass it along. Asking $25 Monty 503-427-0883
  4. Hood S Side Conditions

    I posted this for the PMR'rs and thought the CC'rs would also like to know, so am posting it here, too. Monty I went up Hood with Erik today (we, and Terry Campbell, were the Ready Team) – Erik asked if I could post the conditions as well as remind of the change to 8:30 departure time (see Scott’s email below) on tomorrow’s Ready Team. Nothing to note below ~10,000ft. Crater Rock had a 12”+ layer of fresh over a very thick and very consolidated layer, that slope was moderate avy potential. The normal crack at the foot of Devil’s Kitchen was bigger than Erik and I had seen it before; only about a ft wide, but 10+ft deep; we opened up the small snowbridge, making it more visible. The bootpath goes lower on Crater Rock than usual, taking teams right over the crack. The Gates still looked steep, with a full gully below them, and a 10ft? ice step thru the center. Cutting around to the Mazama Chute looked like lots more avy-prone snow - so before continuing I dug a pit on the both sides of the Hogsback, looking at the layers in either direction. The thick fresh layer seen below kinda petered out just below the Hogsback, and the right/south pit (Crater Rock side) had only about 8” of 4-finger over an indeterminately-thick consistently well-bonded layer of pencil hardness (I stopped digging at ~3ft). A shovel shear showed no sign of movement of the lop layer at all. Yeah, I could have dug deeper, but I knew this layer dumped 5-6ft of snow and didn’t want to find out just HOW deep it was! The left/north side had a clearly seen thin ice crust about 8” down that looked and felt like rime crust, and had a thin unbonded layer between it and the top layer (buried surface hoar?). But the rime was very rough and full of ice nodules, holding the looser snow in place above. A tap test went the full 30 whacks without moving. So we decided to try the face/Chute, while Terry checked out the Gates. The layer (mostly) disappeared just below the cliffs, and we had (mostly) good conditions all the way to the summit. But there were a couple places of VERY deep loose snow – like thigh-deep, but only for ~10ft. Just below the Chute there was more fresh snow and boots/crampons slipped on the hard layer below, but there was no indication of crack propagation or anything that smelled like avy. The Chute itself was ice; a second tool would be nice, but only for ~10ft. Terry said the Gates were OK coming up, but wouldn’t make for a good descent route. Normal steepness on most areas; the Chute itself was 35-40deg, and one large wind ridge was probably closer to 45deg. We opted to go unroped but all other climbers (3) at the Hogsback turned without summiting. Right now, ropes and protection are highly recommended unless everyone in the party is very comfortable with steep snow, ice and self-arrest. So if you’re going up, watch the temps. Rising temps could cause loosening of that upper layer, and be particularly careful around Crater Rock. We almost turned back at the Hogsback but the pits were encouraging, and higher up, things were more stable. Another couple freeze-thaw cycles should stabilize things, but I’d be especially careful on N and W-facing slopes, looking for that ice/loose layer combo. Monty
  5. [TR] Rainier- Liberty Ridge 7/3/2005

    We were the other team up there that Chad And Oleg saw. They passed us while camped on Curtis Ridge, we met up with them at Thumb Rock, and we graciously followed their bootprints to the summit. Ours was a Himalayan shakedown climb. I’m putting together an unguided climb of Shishapangma for this fall, and the team flew out for teambuilding, gear shakedown, and see how we all get along. Our team was Valerie Hovland from CO, Eric Landstrom from WI, David Lew from TN and me, Monty Smith, from Portland. All of us have high-altitude experience, with Shishapangma being at least the third expedition for each of us. Did we ever envy Chad and Oleg’s light packs! We planned on doing this siege style, similar to Shishapangma, so had everything with us, each laden with 50-60+ lbs of gear. Food for five days, four pickets and screws, two tents; I think one of us was even packing a kitchen sink. The objective was a shakedown and teambuilding trip, with the secondary objective to be the route itself. The plan was three days on the route, an extra day on the summit to explore the ice caves, and descend on the fifth. We met and camped at White River CG, with the three of them meeting at SEA-TAC. We left for Glacier Basin Friday at 10:30 and had a reasonably leisurely hike to Curtis Ridge, arriving in the late afternoon. Plan was to rise at 3am, but the wind was so fierce, plus the forecast of an approaching front, that we opted to remain in bed to see if it calmed. By morning it looked good, the clouds remained below us, so we headed out mid-morning. Crossing the Winthrop was pretty straightforward. There were no less than three previous sets of tracks, which we followed. Chad/Oleg’s recommendation of a lower route was correct, as we ended up on the ridge too high and had to descend a few hundred feet to the ramp onto the Carbon. As mentioned, the Carbon was no big deal. The rangers had warned us that it may be impassible, but we easily found routes through only two crevasse fields. The avalanche debris off Liberty Wall was totally awe-inspiring – the amount as well as how far it reached. It was also the obvious route onto the lower ridge. The previous night, we watched the hanging glacier atop the wall partially calve but not drop, so we were concerned with crossing the debris field should the calved portion fall. Accessing the lower ridge through the Liberty Wall avy debris field The climb to Thumb Rock was soft, but uneventful. We stayed roped with running belay the entire way, using 1-2 pickets per rope length, depending on steepness and snow conditions. Rockfall, which the rangers also warned us about, was non-existent. We saw some very faded tracks and were quite oblivious to another team being ahead of us until we topped out at Thumb Rock and found two guys preparing to bivy. Climbing over a small rock band below Thumb Rock We were up at 3am and on the route by 5am, again lugging the monstrous packs. At the first rock we traversed below it and around to the right, then followed Chad/Oleg’s tracks most of the rest of the way. Not much more to say about the conditions, other than to say 5am departure was too late – some of the soft snow had us very concerned with avy conditions. We used all four pickets before swapping leads, and could have used more to lengthen the time before the time-sapping lead swap. We intermittently used screws, but it was mostly snow. Just a bit of exposure - maybe 4,000ft... Approaching the ice cliff at the summit it appeared their tracks went further right, while we found an easy ramp straight up from the last (long) snowfield. Their description (ramp to the right, cut left) sounds the same, but we encountered nothing more than 30deg ice above the ramp, and straight up to the summit of Liberty Cap from there. Our route up Liberty Ridge Oddly enough, there were two pairs of snowshoes right below the cliffs. One pair was neatly stuck in the snow (looked like MSR Denalis) and the other pair haphazardly tossed lower. Given our packs and fatigue, we just left them. We topped out mid-afternoon and camped in the saddle between Liberty Cap and Columbia Crest, for a well-needed rest. Monday was for fun. Arising about 7:30 we leisurely broke camp and lugged packs over to the Emmons route and dumped them, then summited with only ice axe and crampons. Next we explored the ice caves on the side nearest the Emmons. I’d always wanted to explore them and was surprised how accessible (and totally cool!) they were. Images from inside the ice caves. One access point to the ice caves (on the N side right above the Emmons) We began descending about 1pm and half walked, half swam through deep mush into Schurman, and finally to the cars by 7pm. The best part of the trip wasn’t the route, which was great, but the team-building experience. We’re going to Tibet for up to two months (trying to tack Cho Oyo onto the end of the trip) and we’d only ‘met’ via telephone. Teamwork and rapport is of utmost importance to all of us, even having turned highly experienced climbers away whom we judged wouldn’t work well on the team. We all ‘bonded’ well, thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company, and for the remaining two months of planning, it was great to get to know each other under similar (if not more difficult) conditions than what we’ll experience in Tibet. Edited on 7-6-05 to add the images.
  6. Current beta on Rainier routes other than standard

    Looking for Liberty Ridge route beta, and will accept similar areas such as Emmons. Anyone got recent info?
  7. Buying USGS Quads Online

    anyone got a good source for buying quads online? Gotta have some way of clicking thru/zooming in maps to find the one I want (most quad sellers require you to enter the quad name, which for a new area you usually don't have!) thx Monty
  8. Denali Climbing Rangers

    I checked MSNBC's website and the Denali special will be re-broadcast Sat, Nov 8, 8-10pm ET (not sure if that's 5PM PT - no mention). Monty
  9. Fred Beckey to speak in Portland Nov 17

    First, let me apologize for screwing up the date - it's Tuesday, Nov 18, not the 17th. Next, let me address the questions people have asked (both are cut/pasted from the original notice) Tickets are $6 in advance and $8 night of the show, available at the Mazamas Clubrooms and at The Mountain Shop (628 NE Broadway, Portland). He will be speaking on “Climbing North America – Alaska to Mexico” including Alaska, Canada, Cascades, Sierras, Wind River, Baja California, and the Desert Southwest. Sorry for any confusion on the date! Monty Smith Mazamas Expedition Committee Chair
  10. Sorry, I goofed on the earlier posting. The date in the test is correct, but I blew it on the header. Tuesday, Nov 18 is the correct date. sorry for the confusion. Monty Smith The Mazamas is proud to bring renowned climber and author Fred Beckey to Portland for a book signing and slideshow Tuesday, Nov 18 at 7pm to be held at Cleveland High School Auditorium (3400 SE 26th Ave. Portland). Tickets are $6 in advance and $8 night of the show, available at the Mazamas Clubrooms and at The Mountain Shop (628 NE Broadway, Portland). Fred Beckey has spent most of his life climbing and has too many first ascents to count, plus has authored many books including the comprehensive Cascade Alpine Guide series on the Washington Cascades. He will be speaking on “Climbing North America – Alaska to Mexico” including Alaska, Canada, Cascades, Sierras, Wind River, Baja California, and the Desert Southwest. In addition to the slideshow, stop by and meet Fred at The Mountain Shop earlier that afternoon where he will be available for book signings 2-4pm. This slideshow is brought to you by the Mazamas Expedition Committee, and sponsored by The Mountain Shop. Check out Fred Beckey’s new book Range of Glaciers - The Exploration and Survey of the Northern Cascade Range. Mazamas. Your adventure starts here. BUILD YOUR SKILLS, your confidence and your friendships‹all in the safe and adventurous world of the Mazamas. We are a mountaineering and outdoor organization with a proud tradition of leadership, safety, conservation, and climbing education in the Northwest for over a century. Life's too short to be on the sidelines. Explore the possibilities with the Mazamas.
  11. The Mazamas is proud to bring renowned climber and author Fred Beckey to Portland for a book signing and slideshow Tuesday, Nov 18 at 7pm to be held at Cleveland High School Auditorium (3400 SE 26th Ave. Portland). Tickets are $6 in advance and $8 night of the show, available at the Mazamas Clubrooms and at The Mountain Shop (628 NE Broadway, Portland). Fred Beckey has spent most of his life climbing and has too many first ascents to count, plus has authored many books including the comprehensive Cascade Alpine Guide series on the Washington Cascades. He will be speaking on “Climbing North America – Alaska to Mexico” including Alaska, Canada, Cascades, Sierras, Wind River, Baja California, and the Desert Southwest. In addition to the slideshow, stop by and meet Fred at The Mountain Shop earlier that afternoon where he will be available for book signings 2-4pm. This slideshow is brought to you by the Mazamas Expedition Committee, and sponsored by The Mountain Shop. Check out Fred Beckey’s new book Range of Glaciers - The Exploration and Survey of the Northern Cascade Range. Mazamas. Your adventure starts here. BUILD YOUR SKILLS, your confidence and your friendships‹all in the safe and adventurous world of the Mazamas. We are a mountaineering and outdoor organization with a proud tradition of leadership, safety, conservation, and climbing education in the Northwest for over a century. Life's too short to be on the sidelines. Explore the possibilities with the Mazamas.
  12. any current beta on DC route?

    Any recent beta on the route conditions on DC? I’m looking at taking three climbers up – each are experienced (Mazamas Basic plus about four peaks each), but this will be their first time up something like Rainier, and none of them is especially proficient at crevasse rescue (in case *I* fall in!). What’s the route like this year, and is taking three less-experienced folks up in October just a really, really bad idea? And when to the ladders come down? I did a one-day up-back last year at this time and thought things were fine. Good route-finding, minimal scary crevasse crossings, etc. But with the long, hot summer… Monty
  13. Looking for Rainier beta

    I'm looking at doing a one-day shot up Rainier later this month. Did it up the Cleaver last month and was surprised at how what good shape the route was in. Wondering if anyone has any experience in climbing Rainier in late October or recent beta on either DC or Emmons. thx Monty montys@orel.ws
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