Friday, June 27, 2008


I have no patience with people who do not give. Help out other people when they need it because your going to need it some time too. Sooner than you think. Give information, time, advice, listen, understand, try to find away to help. Don't just throw money at some thing to ease your conscious, but really give of yourself.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Climbing with the Girls

We did a really nice alpine bolted route on the German side of our "Haus Berg", the Untersberg, on Thursday. Valerie, Sabine, Jennifer and I climbed the 7 pitch/320m/V- route "Anfängerfreuden" on the Berchtesgadener Hochthron. Everything worked out very nicely; the route was dry, weather cooperated, the climb fit the experience and fitness of the group, and everyone moved efficiently.

The approach is around 1000 meters of elevation gain and then you have the climbing with a short bit of easy scrambling to link up pitches 2 & 3. In total there is about 1350 meters of hiking and climbing involved. We climbed as two 2 person rope teams. We shared the belay anchors so that the lead climber of the second team could directly follow the second climber of the first team. for the two crux pitches we needed about 30 minutes, and for the others a bit less. Efficient, clean, uncomplicated climbing.

Jennifer and Sabine making a short slab traverse just before a steep bit in the fourth rope length.

Coming up to the belay in the fourth rope length. The climbing is a slight bit overhanging with big and plentiful holds.

Valerie exiting at the end of the last pitch. The last rope length is a slab with cracks and water runnels.

We were finished at about 14:30. Te weather held for us and there were no problems while underway.

The route tops out at about 1950 meters, not too far away from the hut "
Stöhrhaus". This was the second alpine climbing route for my wife, Jennifer. Valerie and Sabine have done some multi-pitch climbing, but are also still gaining experience. With the long approach, including scrambling on steep grass and rocky slopes (with lots of loose rock), to get to the start of the route - Plus the long hiking descent - the whole endeavour was serious and demanding for everyone. The smile on my face says it all; we had a great, very full, day.

Monday, June 16, 2008


Unsettled - this has been a recurring word in the weather forecasts in the area. What to do? You could go to the climbing gym, mountain bike, trail run, etc. You could also go alpine climbing. Adjust your mind set and your goals. Just because our ego says that you want to climb route "x" or mountain "y" does not mean that the mountain gives a shit. Also, just because you have time, it happens to be the weekend or you've paid a guide, does not mean that it's the right time.

However, unsettled does not mean that you should sit around and bitch about questionable weather or bad conditions. On my old white Petzl helmet I had written after a particular spell of being feed up with excuses, "It's better to try and fail than sit on your ass and do nothing". I try to always keep this in mind. To paraphrase what Will Gadd recently wrote on his blog, "It's always better when you do something".

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Back in the Gym

After about a month of doing a lot of courses and climbing and skiing in the mountains, I just got back in the gym to start getting at it in the weight room. It's always a rude reminder that no matter how fit you are in the mountains, the weight room exposes some holes in your overall level of conditioning.

I wanted an overall body workout with a bit of emphasis on my legs. Later in the day I planned on going to the indoor climbing gym to do climbing specific strength endurance work.

The weight room workout looked like this:
  • warm-up with cross trainer, about 10 minutes (easy)
  • bar bell complex, 6 sets of 6 reps of dead lift/row/power clean/front squat/overhead press/back squat/push up - 20 to 50kg
  • squat complex of overhead squat/front squat/back squat on bench (legs below 90 degrees) super set of 10 reps each, 20-80kg, five rounds (first round is ohs @ 20kg, fs @ 40kg, bs @ 60kg) with a focus on form, movement and flexibility
  • cool down with an easy 1000m row

The source for all my training in the weight room is from Gym Jones and the Mountain Athlete. Mark Twight and Rob Shaul have both done so much work in the area of applying training principals to people who are working out to improve themselves for mountain activities.

I had a few hours of personal training work in the indoor climbing gym later in the afternoon. Afterwards, I did my climbing workout which involved strength training with pull-ups and boulder intervals, and then technique work with roped climbing easy warm-up routes plus on-sight climbing and then finishing off with three laps on a 5c to cool down.

A training day like this is really efficient in regards to getting the most training effect for your time. It is also something that I have come to realize brings me more benefits than always spending day after day in the mountains.

As I mentioned, this was the first time I have done a training day like this for about a month. In that month interval, I have climbed a lot of multi-pitch routes, ski touring, ski mountaineering and sport climbing. I felt really fit hiking or skinning on the approaches. I lost about a kilo over the month too. However, the workout day described above stressed my body and wore me out more than any of the days spent in the mountains during the previous month.

Intensity and its effects are very interesting.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

What Makes A Good Course?

I teach a number of courses in all aspects of climbing. skiing and mountaineering. I have also taken my fare share of courses to gain specific certifications or to update my training in safety and/or continuing mountain related education.

I have been fortunate to take part in some great courses as an instructor and participant. But, there have also been some duds, and one experience as a participant in which my intuition was screaming, "wtf!" throughout, and after the training concluded I left with feelings of anger and spite.

I have hopefully learned from all of this.

So, what makes a good course? I am talking about the type of experience where participants leave with a feeling of , "wow, that was really cool!", "I can't wait to do more", and are totally motivated to improve and learn.

Here's a list in random order with a few thoughts:

  • A course is about the participants - their needs, wants, level, etc. It is not an opportunity for the guide or instructor to demonstrate how technically advanced, fit, cool, superior, etc., that they are.
  • An course leader has to transmit the feeling consciously and subconsciously that they want the participants to be successful.
  • As a course participant it is your responsibility to have the right equipment, know how it works and have it properly fitted and adjusted. Do not waste valuable course time fiddling with your stuff (or having the guide mess with it) when it should have all been taken care of at home.
  • Please, modern ice screws.
  • The general concept and overview of the course comes from the life-long experience of the guide or instructor. At every level there are some basic things that participants need. These concepts need to be presented in a flexible manner that takes into account weather, conditions and daily time constraints.
  • Participants learn by doing things for themselves. They need to internalize the information from the guide or instructor and then find their own methods and systems for correctly setting up crevasse rescues, building anchors, searching with a transceiver, etc.
  • A verbal explanation from the course leader is just that. It does not mean that anything close to learning has occurred.
  • Patience is essential for any instructor or guide.
  • Participants are usually nervous about their abilities during a course. It is reassuring for them to get an explanation that is an overview of the course, daily modifications to the schedule and activities and the rational behind why tasks and exercises are being done.
  • The quality of how something is done is much more important than simply reaching the perceived goal. For example, the perceived goal when climbing a two-pitch 5b route is getting to the top. However, what is the actual aim is that participants should climb in complete balance and control, rope management should be safe and clean, the change over at the middle belay point should be organized and efficient, and lastly the climbers should execute everything in a calm, unhurried, confident state of mind.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Alpinverein Salzburg alpine.ausbildung, "Schihochtouren"

We had a great course over ski mountaineering at the end of May. The course was on the north side of the Grossglockner mountain at the Oberwalder Hütte. The weather was better than expected, but somewhat unsettled. We did have one day of really great weather, which allowed us to do a classic tour and ski perfect corn snow. Course member Christain Perst took a lot of nice photos. Here are a few of them.

On the left are some of the group heading to the hut. The Oberwalder hut is on top of the rock outcrop obscured by clouds on the left side of the picture. The hut is at just under 3000 meters.

Below shows a fast way to build an equalized snow anchor with skis. In the right snow conditions this type of anchor is great for crevasse rescue and belaying steep snow slopes. The skis are rammed into the snow slightly against the direction of pull and off-set. I am using a 240cm sling with a twist to create a sliding point of equalization. When we are travelling high in the mountains on glacier covered terrain, we have two great snow anchors already on our feet.

One of my favorite things to do in the ski mountaineering season is to combine steep snow and ice faces with ski descents. For the course we used our "best weather day" to climb the north east face (45 degrees / 250 meters) and ski down the north facing shoulder of the Johannisberg. The route is a great introduction for newbies into this type of ski alpinism. The next few photos give you a good feel of the face.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Weizenbier & Fat Skis

You gotta love both. Tradition and a bit of punk attitude in the middle of the north eastern Austrian Alps. Stick with the good stuff but keep your mind open for newer, better solutions - Seths with Dynafits ski better in all conditions and are lighter than wimpy touring skis with heavier bindings. Oberwalder Hütte end of May after climbing and skiing the north east face of the Johannisberg. Prost!