The Boulder Climbing Community: a natural partner for the CMC

May 13, 2015 by

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If you are a rock climber in the Boulder area, you have probably heard of the Boulder Climbing Community (BCC); so this article is primarily for those who are not climbers. But it could be for climbers too, who might have heard of the BCC, but are yet unaware of who they are, or what they do. I wanted to write this article for the benefit of all CMC members, just to let them know about how the BCC is helping the stewardship of climbing areas, and helping to integrate all the Boulder area climbing organizations. The BCC could also serve as an example to other public sectors who need to unify their efforts for a common public need.

The Boulder Climbing Community (BCC, boulderclimbers.org) is the youngest of the climbing-oriented organizations in Boulder, but perhaps most audacious in its vision, depth of experience in its core management team, and the most accomplished in what it has achieved in its short history. This is in no small part due to its founder, Roger Briggs. Roger earned his reputation in the Boulder community from a long ways back, both as a climber and a career spent as a teacher of physics in the Boulder school system. Perhaps the one climb that has most cemented Roger’s reputation was his creation of Death and Transfiguration in 1973, where he personally committed to using modern “clean” technology (i.e. no pitons). This climb is regarded in the local climbing community as one of the transformative events that helped to pursuade the collective climbing community at the time of the necessity to convert from environmentally destructive pitons to more environmentally benign “clean climbing” which used nuts (camming devices were yet to be invented). It foreshadowed Roger’s deep committment to conserving climbing areas today.

I  happened to attend some of the early organizational meetings of the BCC when it was just getting started. Due to my IT background, and knowledge of the local climbing community, I offered to help get their website started; at it turned out, my services were unnecessary, but it allowed me to witness the beginning of the organization. At the time,  other local climbing organizations existed, but their coverage of the local environment was fragmented. The Access Fund, though headquartered in Boulder, was focused regionally and had a national scope. The American Alpine Club (AAC), located in Golden, had an international scope, focused regionally as well. The Action Committee for Eldorado (ACE) was focused on Eldorado Canyon State Park, and The Flatirons Climbing Council (FCC) focused on the Flatirons.

Each of these organizations have their specific missions, and were pretty internally oriented. There were a few occasional joint projects, which would usually be a conservation project of some kind, confined to brief, small scale, periodic events. Moreover, there tended to be geographical boundaries. None of the organizations covered Boulder Canyon,  a fact that became incresingly apparent with the lack of attention to climbers’ impacts there. Boulder Canyon presents a difficult management case, because the land use ownership is so fractured between private and public use, requiring tedious negotiations for any conservation operation.

Also, none of these organizations sought a connection with the climbing community overall, or tried to foster communication between them. So it was that that Roger reached out to, and started the BCC in 2010. The American Alpine Club graciously allowed the website to be hosted on its servers in Golden, and others with technical skills pitched in. Not long after, the 501(c)3 was formed, making it a tax deductible organization to donate to, and funding started coming in. A core staff of volunteers helped, but gradually better funding allowed for some paid staff. It should be mentioned that Roger’s brother, Bill Briggs, an accomplished climber in his own right and a professor of mathematics at the University of Colorado at Denver, pitched in to help, and continues to serve as financial manager.

Five years later, the BCC is in full bloom. Its first major project was restoring the trails around the base of Castle Rock, which was the most accessible, located just off Boulder Canyon road at the top of canyon. There is now a trail crew team of three full time members that heads up the Front Range Climbing Stewards (FRCS), that are dedicated to trail projects in the area. Repairing the badly eroded trails at Cobb Rock is a prime future project. Generously, the FRCS are currently engaged in helping to rebuild the Royal Arch Trail, which is not primarily used by climbers, but is such an important trail in Boulder Open Space and was so devastated by the 2013 floods, that they have voluntarily taken it on, to help Boulder Open Space, which is still recovering from the trail damage done by the 2013 floods. Other BCC initiatives include wag bags (both for dogs and people) at several trailheads, and bolt replacement at the most critical locations; an innovative online “bad bolt” reporting form on their website allows climbers to help  identify them. All of these activities obviously require clear and open communication within the climbing community, and this is the BCC shines. It has an effective online presence, a monthly newsletter, and sponsors or participates in numerous local events.

In conclusion, the Boulder Climbing Community has helped to strengthen the stewardship of the climbing areas in the Boulder area, and the cooperation between all the climbing organizations located here. With the increasing population in the Front Range, and the resulting impact on Boulder County recreational areas, the BCC is filling an important and needed role in helping preserve Boulder’s climbing areas for future generations.

Basic Rock School kicks off the 2015 climbing season

April 20, 2015 by

The Basic Rock School (BRS, for short) is among the Boulder group’s most attended schools, and it could not happen without its instructors. This group of volunteers, of varying levels of climbing experience, are what make it possible to teach this fundamental course. How do they prepare for this, you might wonder? Glad you asked…

Of the skills involved, the self-rescue techniques are the ones which (hopefully!) seldom get used for real. Providing an annual opportunity to do so for current and past BRS instructors is the purpose of the Instructor Practice Session and the RMR Review Session.  When this custom exactly began is lost in CMC history, but it has been the custom ever since I began assisting with BRS in 2005. The fact that there has always been at least a minimum group of instructors wanting to hold it does seem to justify making the effort. I know it certainly took me several seasons of practicing “Passing the Knot” on rappel before it seemed to sink in!

Another tradition that was established sometime back was practicing these drills not just among BRS instructors, but to ask the Rocky Mountain Rescue Group (or RMR, for short) to offer instruction in advanced self-rescue techniques. Being able to see the various ways in which an injured climber can be rescued by another climber deepens the insight and creativity needed to solve such problems. In a real life rescue situation, conditions will seldom fit neatly into a classroom scenario, so developing a toolbox of skills is the best way to prepare.

But it helps to prepare to participate in the RMR drills, where it is expected that the participants already know how to “Pass the Knot” on rappel; that’s just for starters! Thus the pattern became to have an Instructors Review Session prior to the RMR Rescue Practice, and have the instructors “warmed up” to get the most out of the RMR Practice.

Preparations for this spring’s sessions began back in February, when I contacted RMR volunteer Darin Carlsen about this year’s date to hold it. We agreed on April 18, which was as late as possible without interfering with the beginning of BRS on April 14. Then it became evident that the Instructors’ Review Session should be the week before, on April 11. We are fortunate to have the Boulder Open Space available to us to conduct these sessions, and over time some known spots have become the preferred places to conduct them.

An added aspect this year was the inclusion of BRS Test Out applicants in the Instructor Review Session; this is an example of how CMC courses continue to evolve, and improve as a service to the community. I helped develop the BRS Test Out procedure (which you can read about in more detail on our website: BRS Test Out Procedure), which is intended to attract experienced climbers into the CMC. Most climbers already know what is taught in Basic Rock School, except for the self-rescue techniques. The majority of climbing community, in my observation, are not aware of how to perform self-rescue until they progress to the point of seriously advanced alpinism, where your team needs to be completely self-reliant in case of an accident; the most commonly used self-rescue technique these days is having a cell phone and dialing 911, as the RMR is all too aware!

So the BRS Test Out procedure only requires that the applicants demonstrate their knowledge of what all BRS students learn, which still does require testing them in person. Previously, I had done this the past few years as a separate field outing, and it was not a burden, since only one person at a time had applied; but this spring we had three such applicants. Taking a suggestion from Gretchen Gaugler, the BRS assistant director, we decided to allow the Test Out applicants to participate in the Instructor Review session, where practicing the self-rescue drills is emphasized. This would accomplish not only observing that the applicants could perform the procedure, but allow them to get to know the other BRS instructors.

Thus this year’s Instructor Review included two such applicants, Jake Mashburn and Jordan Holquist, who performed well. Here’s a photo of the group observing Jordon practice Escaping the Belay, near the Crown Rock area on Flagstaff Mountain:

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For more of my pictures of the Instructor Review, see here.

The following week was the RMR Practice session, which I was somewhat apprehensive about due to weather forecast: cold, wet and chance of snow! But the show had to go on, so I emailed the group of six BRS instructors who were coming to be prepared for the worst. The three RMR volunteers, Tim, Dale and Kevin, met us in Boulder Canyon, at the rock formation “The Dome”, at 8am where despite the cool and cloudy conditions, we hiked up the short trail to the favored spot for this exercise.

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Here you can see the instructors waiting to get started, while the RMR volunteers are atop the rock, setting the anchors for the drills. As you can tell from the green poncho that Clare Reda has on, conditions were a bit moist! We would even see a few snowflakes this morning…

But we got started nonetheless; here is Tim giving the initial talk about what we would be covering that day. This would br three separate exercises showing how to lower an injured or stranded climber by rappeling down to them, and getting them to safety.

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Eventually, all six BRS instructors would play both victim and rescuer, sometimes repeating the exercises more than once — and having a lot of fun in the process!

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And then the sun came out! This was most welcome, helping to warm up and dry things out. We were continually putting on and taking off clothing as conditions changed. The RMR volunteers were all quite attentive, closely observing, commenting and demonstrating the skills and giving tips to the instructors. A few stories from RMR missions, some amusing, all informative, helped to pass the time time.

More photographs of the session are available here.

We were all done by around 2 pm, and everyone agreed it had been a very worthwhile and productive session. I hope to express our thanks to Rocky Mountain Rescue in the future in some way, and there was talk of a possible CMC-sponsored Happy Hour somewhere in the vicinity of the RMR headquarters on east Walnut Street — we shall see!

BCMC 2014 Annual Dinner this month

January 5, 2015 by

The Boulder Group’s 2014 annual annual dinner will continue our potluck format, but this year in this new venue in St John’s Episcopal Church’s Parish Hall, on Saturday, January 17th at 5pm, which we believe will be an excellent venue for our event. Hope you can make it!

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Photo by Janine Fugere, January 2014

 

Our featured speaker will be Gary Neptune, past owner of Neptune Mountaineering (pictured here in the lobby of the store), a long time supporter of the Club and a legendary figure in the Colorado climbing and skiing community. Gary will share with us his lifetime passion for the outdoors, and some of his more daring adventures, with pictures from his personal collection. Janine Fugere took the great picture of Gary that can be seen on the dinner flyer (to see it online click here).

Please register all participants in advance, though walk-ins are ok, and of course guests are welcome. This will be a potluck so please bring a dish of your choice, indicating your dish’s category when you sign up at the state website and buy your ticket ($10 at cmc.org). When you bring your dish, please list the ingredients on a small card that can be placed beside it, so persons with dietary requirements can know what is in it. You are also allowed to bring beverages of your choosing, though punch (alcoholic & non-alcoholic), water and coffee will be served. An ongoing count of the dish categories can be seen online, to aid you in selecting what dish to bring; you can see a count of the dish categories here. (This count is updated manually; it is not automatically updated when you register.)

 

Dinner Agenda

Social Hour           5:00 PM
Potluck Dinner     6:00 PM
Annual Meeting   7:15 PM
Presentation         8:00 PM
Socializing             9:00 PM
Conclusion            9:30 PM

Food Dropoff

We are making a special effort this year to make sure that all the potluck dishes stay warm and are served promptly! And there is a handy way for you to drop off your dish before you park: the alley way drop off! There is an alley on the north side of the church, which runs east-west between 13th and 14th streets, and one of the entrances to Parish Hall opens on to it. There will be servers standing by to take your dish at this entrance, and keep it warm in the kitchen for you until the dinner. This way you don’t have to carry your food from where you park — how convenient!

Dish Pickup

Please don’t forget to pick up your serving dish after the dinner. These will be placed on a designated table after the dessert is over. If the dish was all eaten up, the serving dish will be cleaned for you.

Map

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click to enlarge

 

 

St Johns Episcopal Church takes up most of the block along Pine Street between 14th and 15th Streets. Parish Hall is located in the northeast portion of the church. There are three entrances to Parish Hall: 1) from the southwest, though the main lobby, 2) from the east, where there is a small parking lot, and 3) from the north, via the alley. You should use the alley entrance to drop off your potluck dish; otherwise, the main entrance is to the southwest, unless you are able to park in the small parking lot on the northeast corner next to 15th Street.

Parking at St John’s

The neighborhood where St John’s is located regulates on-street parking, so please be careful where you park, and observe posted parking signs. The above map indicates where the limited parking is available on St John’s property: there a lot off of 15th Street, some spaces on 14th Street, and some in the alley. Public buses also run down Broadway, which is just two blocks away; the Hop bus also runs up Spruce Street, one block away. As a last resort, there is a Boulder parking garage at 15th and Pearl, two blocks south.

Share Your Pictures

During the social hour, a rotating slide show will be displayed of pictures from Boulder CMC trips and schools during the past year. If you have any pictures you would like to share, please send them to dinnerpics@cmcboulder.org. (Please limit to about a dozen or so, thank you).

Dinner Volunteers

If you are able to help with the dinner, assistance with setting up and taking down of the tables and chairs would be appreciated. Send your contact information to dinnerhelp@cmcboulder.org. Thanks!

Attempt on Arestua

January 3, 2015 by

One of my climbing friends, Nick Arms, had never been to the Årestua hut above Eldora. So, when we both had a holiday break from work on Monday, December 22, and any climbing road trips were out of the question, I suggested a hut trip to this renowned landmark.

“Sure!” said Nick, “How long does it take to get in there?”

“Well,” I replied, “that depends…”

In our case, it would depend on Nick being on snowshoes, and me being on skis. (Nick only snowboards, since it hurts his left ankle too much to ski, due to the metal pins in there from a bouldering accident years ago.) But I had been to the hut several times over the years (my first trip in was in 1986), and told him it be “about three hours”…which was my first mistake. Because of this casual attitude, we started from the Eldora parking lot about 2pm:

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Nick getting psyched to hit the trail

The temperature felt like it was in the teens, and it was snowing moderately — which is actually good for the trail conditions. We both felt really good to heading into the woods, and I was looking forward to showing my friend what a great hut we were going to stay in. I had also told him about the cool solar system that had been installed this year, meaning we would have light inside the cabin after dark.

For those not aware, the Eldora ski area is surrounded by USFS land (though there are private lands mixed in as well). The trail to the hut uses the Jenny Creek trail for the first section, which can be accessed by hiking around the edge of the beginner’s ski slope, which is the first slope you see on the left as you enter the main parking lot.DSCN0001_01

After hiking around the busy bunny slope, we found the entrance to the Jenny Creek trail….

An hour later, we were still not half way, though I was not yet that concerned, since we seemed to making good progress, despite the fact that Nick was on snowshoes.

DSCN0001_04 This is a shot of me, looking into the Jenny Creek drainage. I could see that someone had broken trail for us earlier in the day. I suspected it might be other people headed into the hut, since the hut calendar showed that two other people were registered to be there. With all the fresh snow, having a broken trail really helps.

However, when we reached the fork from the Jenny Creek trail where the Guinn Mountain trail begins its steep ascent towards the hut location, our trail breakers had turned off the trail; they were likely doing their own day tour, and not going to the hut. This meant that Nick and I were going to have break trail the rest of the way…and we were only half way there. DSCN0001_06

This is the sign at the trail fork; it is now about 3:42pm; I found out later that it is still about two miles to the hut from this point. With the need to break trail, Nick and I began alternating this task so that we did not tire ourselves out. This was a concern, but I was still confident at this point that we could make it to the hut. We did have headlamps, after all, and of course the trail would not be hard to find through the trees…right?

This was my last photo taken during daylight; it is about the last trail sign indicating the way to the cabin; it’s now about 4:50pm, the light is beginning to fade, and we do not seem anywhere close to the hut:

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It is darker than it looks in the photo. We had to start using our headlamps around 5:30pm. When you are in the woods after dark, and you cannot see any farther than your headlamps, your world becomes much smaller, and it is not so easy to find your way…as we were about to discover.

Now we were quite dependant on the plastic blue diamonds that are traditionally used to mark cross-country ski trails by nailing them to trees. However, only a fraction of these are reflective on this trail, meaning that we had to get up close to a tree to see them.

It was at this point that I made a disastrous route finding error, and caused Nick and I to ascend a steep hill in nearly knee deep snow. There is a similar steep section that ascends a hill about a quarter mile from the hut, and in the dark I mistakenly thought this was that place. But without a trace of a broken trail, and a disturbing lack of blue diamonds marking the way, it was becoming unnerving to keep pushing up this hill. We reached a plateau of sorts, and I searched desparately for any sign of a previous trail, or one of the precious blue diamonds — but neither could be found.

Now becoming rather aware that we might be facing the prospect of an unplanned bivouac in the woods, with minimal survival gear, dropping temperature, and in a raging blizzard, we had to take careful stock of the situation, and not make any more mistakes. As you should always do when you get lost, we decided to retrace our trail until we were certain we were back on the correct trail. We had probably wasted about 45 minutes on this route finding error, and tiring ourselves out quite a bit in the process.

Having refound the trail, we discover it continued in a different direction, but did find more blue diamonds proving it was the right direction; we forged ahead…

Nick asked, “Does any of this look even vaguely familiar?” I had to admit to him that it did not — especially at night! Then we hit a somewhat steeper hillside, which seemed an unlikely route for the trail, and suddenly could not find any more blue diamonds. Needless to say, we were getting pretty worried at this point!

DSCN0001_09Though hard to see in this poorly focused image, this is a shot of Nick pointing to the last blue diamond we could find. It is now about 6:45pm, and we had to face the reality that it was unsafe to continue on under these conditions. The knee deep snow was exhausting us, and we would be in danger of not being able to get back to our vehicle if we continued pushing on.

Once we turned around, we both felt an immense sense of relief, now that we knew for certain our path back to safety. We just had to get through the next three hours or so that it would take to return.

Though I kept my full climbing skins on my skis the whole time, which slows you down considerably, I was still far ahead of Nick on the downhills. After the long descent down the steep section of the Guinn Mountain fork, I waited for Nick at the bottom. To conserve my battery, and see what it was like, I switched off my headlamp while I waited for Nick. What darkness! What stillness! Gradually, as my eyes adjusted, I could barely make out darkend trees against the clouded night sky. The one redeeming weather factor was that there not much wind. I could hear, and feel, the snowflakes falling on me, the only sound to be heard.

Gradually, we retraced our way back, step by weary step. Poor Nick, i thought; not only was he on snowshoes, but his right snowshoe had a partial hardware failure, which put his foot at an awkward angle, and made for less floatation. Finally, we emerged back on to the ski slopes of Eldora….then finally past the last lift, where the temperature gauge read six degrees above zero! But at last we were back to the truck, and were safe:

Nick inside the truck...

Nick inside the truck…

And me happy to be back as well!

And me happy to be back as well!

So we learned some hard lessons on this trip: don’t underestimate something that seems familiar to you if you haven’t done it in a while; get an earlier start; check the forecast; and consider all factors before starting out. I never doubted for a moment that we would not make it back safely, but if either of us had had a hardware failure out there in the deep snow, things could have turned out much differently!

If you would like to learn more about the Guinn Mountain / Årestua hut, there is detailed information on the BCMC website:

http://www.cmcboulder.org/cabin-arestua.html

Broome Hut

December 2, 2014 by

by Chris Marotta

Fellow CMCers, have you ever thought of doing a hut trip? If so, then I’m here to tell you about the relatively new Broome hut that is close to the Denver metro area. The Broome Hut is located in the Second Creek drainage between Berthoud Pass and Winter Park. The hut opened in early 2013, and replaces the old A-frame hut that was built in the 1950’s and torn down some years ago. The Broome hut (11,350’ elevation) is a 1 mile hike or skin from the Second Creek TH with an elevation gain of about 900 feet. It affords spectacular views of the Berthoud pass area during the day and dazzling stargazing opportunities once the sun goes down. The location offers access to snow shoeing, skiing, and hiking in the Second Creek area. The hut has two bunk rooms with 6 beds each, plus 2 private rooms that sleep 2 each. Maximum capacity is 16. The hut also offers a room for day hikers with a restroom. The hut is managed by the Grand Huts Association (http://grandhuts.org/about/broome-hut/). Reservations can be made through the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association (http://www.huts.org/The_Huts/broomeHut.php)


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