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Rad

tips for alpine newbies

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Know if your partners...are on crazy meds!

Probably more helpful to know if they are off their crazy meds.

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We all know how cold and long this winter was in the Cascades? Colder than usual in my book, anyway. I had 0 problems with my 8 year old Camelback 100 oz bladder, though breaking or leaking is still a minor concern, I don't worry about freezing up any more. Bladders also provide very efficiently pack/load-balanced hydration. Carry a small amount of Chlorine to sanitize water, or if in the winter mode bring an empty nalgene and your stove also, however you'll probably be packing that anyway.

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"Know your knots" and "know how to belay" aren't tips.

 

Yes they are...wouldn't a tip to "learn as much as you can" be good for a newb???

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We all know how cold and long this winter was in the Cascades? Colder than usual in my book, anyway. I had 0 problems with my 8 year old Camelback 100 oz bladder, though breaking or leaking is still a minor concern, I don't worry about freezing up any more. Bladders also provide very efficiently pack/load-balanced hydration. Carry a small amount of Chlorine to sanitize water, or if in the winter mode bring an empty nalgene and your stove also, however you'll probably be packing that anyway.

 

Thread Drift: I tend to agree with Jimmy. I did have ice form in my bladder this winter, but it was down around zero and blowing 70-90. I don't think a nalgene would do any better. The three things I do to ensure I've got water: bring a cap in case the hose freezes solid, blow the water back out of the hose after you drink, and bring an extra 1L bladder in case on leaks. This still works out to at least an 8oz weight savings for 2 liters. That said, for beginners, regular old water bottles might not be a bad idea, just so you have less to worry about.

 

These are pretty good; light and no hose:

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/nalgene_cantene_water_bottle_1L.html

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Rob said

* Use some of your "alone time" to work through escape scenarios. If something goes wrong on this pitch or the ones following immediately, how will you bail? What will you do if the leader gets hurt?

 

* When reaching spots on the route from which escape is easy, consider your options. How are you on time? How's the weather? Constantly reevaluate conditions when opportunities present themselves -- don't just blindly press on.

 

* Learn and practice self-rescue techniques

 

These are priceless, well worth repeating! Thanks Rob!

 

to contribute to the thread drift - bladder was one of the best things I did for my climbing - constant hydration - even when in the head down suffer-through-the-approach mode. Too often before I would bust my ass for too long w/o stopping to drink 'cause bottles are a pain to get out of the pack.

 

blowing the water out of the tube helps a ton, and I found that I have had less freezing in the bladder (against my back, covered with insulation from stuff in the pack) than with a Nalgene put on top of the pack where it was easy to get to.

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I've never had problems with freezing in my bladder (blowing the tube out works great!) but I've had a bladder burst in my sleeping bag after adding hot water (from melting snow). Apparently the hot water melted the glue on a couple of the seams.

 

I'll never trust one again. They're useless to me if I can't put hot water in them. I've never had a nalgene leak, so the choice is obvious to me.

 

I bought a bottle belt for my nalgene and I keep it strapped to the hip belt on my pack, to encourage me to drink often.

 

http://www.rockclimbing.com/gear/Detailed/1200.html

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Scramble, no hardware, one day:

A pack over 15 pounds has stuff you don't need in it.

 

Glacier, overnight:

A pack over 25 pounds has stuff you don't need in it.

 

Rock, overnight:

A pack over 35 pounds has stuff you don't need in it.

 

A warm sleeping pad is VERY important. Use a 3/4 or 1/2 length. Use your rope and pack and put them under your head and feet. Store the pad inside your pack by rolling it up and letting it unravel inside. Stuff your sleeping bag (which is in a bivy sack) to the bottom (no stuff sack) then pack everything else on top. Try a frameless pack.

 

The only things that should be outside your pack is:

ice axe

crampons(maybe)

picket

rope(maybe).

 

Don't have a bunch of stuff dangling around.

 

Relax and take a deep breath on the steep slopes, it will save you a lot of energy. Stressing out on the scary stuff is a huge energy drain.

 

Learn how to hike properly. I see people walking on their toes up steep trails. Turn sideways(ish), relax and walk flat-footed.

 

Take the toilet paper off the roll and roll it up and put in zip lock with other first aid stuff.

 

Roll a foot or two of duct tape(over a single spot) up close to your handles on your poles. Good for first aid and repairs.

 

Take a foot or so of floss for that beef jerky.

 

Cheese lasts a few days in the pack. Quick easy snack.

 

Most peaks in the Cascades can be done with sneakers after the Winter snow melts off.

 

Usually when I leave the car at an alpine start I'm freezing my ass off in my t-shirt and my buddies have a bunch a crap on. 5 minutes later up the trail they are stopping for 10 minutes while they take everything off! Big waste of time.

 

I've gotten by for 16 years without carrying a knife with me. It's up to you. A sharp rock, an ice axe or even my buddies knife has been enough.

 

Take a cotton bandana to wipe off sweat. Synthetics suck at this.

 

Bring a cloth to clean your glasses.

 

Drink plenty of water. Most of the time that tired exhausing headachy feeling when you are driving back home is because you didn't drink enough water.

 

There is always that person that takes forever to do things, like change clothes, drink water, set up a belay etc... Don't be that person.

 

Tents suck unless someone else carries it. Use a bivy sack.

 

If someone askes you to carry the rope or the tent, take the rope. You shouldn't have room for the tent anyways because you took the smallest pack possible.

 

I don't filter or boil my water.

 

Don't be stupid but don't be shy.

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Wow, who knew...I never thought of putting that darn pad in the pack...thanks for the lesson Bill. See you in a couple weeks.

 

Scramble, no hardware, one day:

A pack over 15 pounds has stuff you don't need in it.

 

Glacier, overnight:

A pack over 25 pounds has stuff you don't need in it.

 

Rock, overnight:

A pack over 35 pounds has stuff you don't need in it.

 

A warm sleeping pad is VERY important. Use a 3/4 or 1/2 length. Use your rope and pack and put them under your head and feet. Store the pad inside your pack by rolling it up and letting it unravel inside. Stuff your sleeping bag (which is in a bivy sack) to the bottom (no stuff sack) then pack everything else on top. Try a frameless pack.

 

The only things that should be outside your pack is:

ice axe

crampons(maybe)

picket

rope(maybe).

 

Don't have a bunch of stuff dangling around.

 

Relax and take a deep breath on the steep slopes, it will save you a lot of energy. Stressing out on the scary stuff is a huge energy drain.

 

Learn how to hike properly. I see people walking on their toes up steep trails. Turn sideways(ish), relax and walk flat-footed.

 

Take the toilet paper off the roll and roll it up and put in zip lock with other first aid stuff.

 

Roll a foot or two of duct tape(over a single spot) up close to your handles on your poles. Good for first aid and repairs.

 

Take a foot or so of floss for that beef jerky.

 

Cheese lasts a few days in the pack. Quick easy snack.

 

Most peaks in the Cascades can be done with sneakers after the Winter snow melts off.

 

Usually when I leave the car at an alpine start I'm freezing my ass off in my t-shirt and my buddies have a bunch a crap on. 5 minutes later up the trail they are stopping for 10 minutes while they take everything off! Big waste of time.

 

I've gotten by for 16 years without carrying a knife with me. It's up to you. A sharp rock, an ice axe or even my buddies knife has been enough.

 

Take a cotton bandana to wipe off sweat. Synthetics suck at this.

 

Bring a cloth to clean your glasses.

 

Drink plenty of water. Most of the time that tired exhausing headachy feeling when you are driving back home is because you didn't drink enough water.

 

There is always that person that takes forever to do things, like change clothes, drink water, set up a belay etc... Don't be that person.

 

Tents suck unless someone else carries it. Use a bivy sack.

 

If someone askes you to carry the rope or the tent, take the rope. You shouldn't have room for the tent anyways because you took the smallest pack possible.

 

I don't filter or boil my water.

 

Don't be stupid but don't be shy.

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Good stuff, Mr. Simpkins, but you have a system that may not suit everybody. For example, few of us want to carry a frameless pack as we find the extra weight of two small wands in the back of the pack is worth it. And in my book, tents do not suck. A light tent weighs little more than two bivvy bags, and is far preferable. Your leave it all home and carry the tiniest pack approach is not bad, but not necessarily the model that I think inexperienced climbers should shoot for.

 

The key is to figure out what gear you really want as opposed to stuff that you only think you want because it was sold to you or appears on some "newbie alpine climber checklist" and thinking about where you may want heavy duty as opposed to light weight. If you are going to be doing sitting glissades, for example, the light and fast wonderpants are probably a bad idea. If you are going to be bushwacking in the dark, those super small led headlamps are not adequate. If you are going to hike a trail to a basecamp, there is nothing wrong with a bulky pack or having extra items like maybe a beach chair strapped on the outside. Etc.

 

As for a "tip" rather than a reaction to someone else's advice, I'd say that new climbers should not overlook some of the non-technical skills and consider off trail backpacking and scrambling objectives worthwhile along with the tick list peaks in Jim Nelson's guidebook. Set a top rope on a steep snow bank, and learn to climb up and down without using an ice axe and crampons. Practice plunge step on steep slopes with a good runout at the bottom. Climb a messy gully somewhere and spend time talking with your partners about how to manage it so that you are not exposing your buddies to rockfall - looking to traverse back and forth so nobody is below anybody else, bunching up where this can't be done, and taking advantage of sheltered places to stop and wait.

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Similar to what Mattp said about the off trail backpacking, being familiar with map and compass skills is a very worth while skill; and probably being able to ID things on a map with where they are in real life is also very important. Also being comfortable with the surroundings makes all the difference, e.g. skiing steeps at resorts before hitting the steeps in the BC.

Just another note on leaving a trip itinerary in your car; if you are in an area of high crime put the note where nosey people can not read it.

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Good stuff, Mr. Simpkins, but you have a system that may not suit everybody. For example, few of us want to carry a frameless pack as we find the extra weight of two small wands in the back of the pack is worth it. And in my book, tents do not suck. A light tent weighs little more than two bivvy bags, and is far preferable. Your leave it all home and carry the tiniest pack approach is not bad, but not necessarily the model that I think inexperienced climbers should shoot for.

 

The key is to figure out what gear you really want as opposed to stuff that you only think you want because it was sold to you or appears on some "newbie alpine climber checklist" and thinking about where you may want heavy duty as opposed to light weight. If you are going to be doing sitting glissades, for example, the light and fast wonderpants are probably a bad idea. If you are going to be bushwacking in the dark, those super small led headlamps are not adequate. If you are going to hike a trail to a basecamp, there is nothing wrong with a bulky pack or having extra items like maybe a beach chair strapped on the outside. Etc.

 

As for a "tip" rather than a reaction to someone else's advice, I'd say that new climbers should not overlook some of the non-technical skills and consider off trail backpacking and scrambling objectives worthwhile along with the tick list peaks in Jim Nelson's guidebook. Set a top rope on a steep snow bank, and learn to climb up and down without using an ice axe and crampons. Practice plunge step on steep slopes with a good runout at the bottom. Climb a messy gully somewhere and spend time talking with your partners about how to manage it so that you are not exposing your buddies to rockfall - looking to traverse back and forth so nobody is below anybody else, bunching up where this can't be done, and taking advantage of sheltered places to stop and wait.

 

You are right Matt. What I said is what works for me. It's up to each person to decide what works for them.

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the most important part of climbing is the partnerships... if you are a good climber but an asshole, no one will want to climb with you twice, and once you run out of partners it will be soloing or moving to a new area where no one knows you as the only options.

 

so the most important alpine skills are people skills. make your partners look forward to climbing with you again.

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so the most important alpine skills are people skills. make your partners look forward to climbing with you again.

 

:tup:

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so the most important alpine skills are people skills. make your partners look forward to climbing with you again.

 

:tup:

 

I agree there is nothing more miserable then climbing with a bossy partner with pms. Its great to climb with people who are easy going yet competent.

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*Pack one more energy bar than you think you need.

 

*I've never had my camelbak leak or rupture, but I always have a Nalgene along too.

 

*Fortify your high camp against snaffles.

 

*Carry a bit of duct tape.

 

*ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS have a headlamp!

 

*Don't be fooled by "easy" ratings such as the West Ridge of Forbidden being 5.6. On this (and most mountains), the rock climbing is the easy, fun part - alpine climbs have a lot more involved than a day at the crags.

 

*Be careful descending loose gullies. Stay close, wear helmets, and only stop in sheltered areas. Be even more careful if you have to pull your rappel rope in an area with loose rock.

 

*Read Accidents in North American Mountaineering and start to gain a situational awareness for how things can go wrong and steps you can take to prevent bad situations from starting in the first place.

 

*Get good at using an ice axe and going down steep snow. Do not count on self arrest. In certain conditions it's not completely reliable. Think of it as a last resort, and hopefully you will prevent needing to self arrest through solid footwork, good balance, and self-belay.

 

*Research the route thoroughly before you go. Sounds obvious, but...

 

*Listen to your gut instinct. If something doesn't seem right, question and check the thinking of other party members, even if you feel like a newbie with nothing to offer or no authority.

 

*The climb is only half over at the summit. 80% of accidents happen on the way down..we hear this over and over, but it's very true.

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*Don't be fooled by "easy" ratings such as the West Ridge of Forbidden being 5.6. On this (and most mountains), the rock climbing is the easy, fun part - alpine climbs have a lot more involved than a day at the crags.

 

I think this is especially true of the Cascades.

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actually the stat from the accidents book states more happen on ascent...

 

Man I don't know why I'd ever be without a knife!

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There is always that person that takes forever to do things, like change clothes, drink water, set up a belay etc... Don't be that person.

This is a great one.

 

How about

 

Take enough emergency gear to survive an unplanned bivy, not enough to make it comfortable.

 

Scope out complicated routes from a distance and memorize key landmarks.

 

When hiking steep slippery terrain, like ball bearings or talus, the goal should be that you will not slide uncontrollably. Short contolled slides are acceptable. Many newbies seem to need to make sure that they will have perfect control with each step. That wastes energy (and nerves).

 

That said, do everything you can to avoid creating rockfall.

 

 

 

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Take chopsticks instead of a fork or spoon! They're more useful and can get those pesky little corners of deliciousness out from your freeze-dried food.

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Similar to what Mattp said about the off trail backpacking, being familiar with map and compass skills is a very worth while skill; and probably being able to ID things on a map with where they are in real life is also very important.

In the same line...

 

Do your homework with a map/compass before the climb.

Take important bearings for your route and write them on the map and on the back of your compass.

I tape a piece of "write-in-the-rain" paper to the back of my compass and write down important bearings and elevations. On a nice sunny day you won't even look at it, but if the weather turns bad and visibility to nil you'll have that key info right there.

Plus, its nice to have the elevation of certain features so you can recalibrate your altimeter if needed.

 

Yeah, buy an altimeter.

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Expanding on what Lisa said ("Research the route thoroughly before you go. Sounds obvious, but...")

 

 

I'd say research the route so much that you feel like you've climbed it already. Use as many sources of info as possible: guide books, TR's, Googles (including Google Image Search), Google Earth (with USGS topo and 1m resolution aerial photo overlays - GPSVisualizer.com), etc.

 

Also get an idea of alternate ways off a route towards help in case you are unable to take the planned route. A logging road or a ski park over the hill, a small town just down the canyon, etc.

 

Two words sum it all up: SITUATIONAL AWARENESS.

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