You saw it here first!
Posted by sibylle in skiing (Tuesday March 20, 2007 at 7:18 pm)

Atomic’s Hot New Nomad line, with the Crimson at the bottom
On February 10 I wrote about Atomic’s new line of skis, the Nomad. Today the cover of the March / April issue of Skiing announces “Seven hot new skis for 2007″, with a picture of the Crimson on its cover.

Above are the Crimson, Blackeye, and Whiteout. I’m eager to hear what the magazines say about these awesome skis.

I taught ski lessons the last two days after spending a week climbing cracks at Indian Creek in 70-degree sunshine. We still enjoyed a great deal of sun on the slopes, enough to make me wonder how long it will last.

I’ll close with a picture of sunrise from my cabin.


Moon over Buffalo Mountain

That’s Buffalo on the left with the Gore Range on the right.

Hands forward!
Posted by sibylle in skiing (Friday March 9, 2007 at 8:13 pm)


Annie Black ripping it up

Photo by Natalie Harris on a heli-skiing trip with Selkirk Tangiers Heli-Skiing

OK, any student who’s skied with me has probably heard “Hands forward” a gazillion times. Here’s Annie Black, a PSIA examiner, demonstrating powder skiing form with her hands forward. (PSIA stands for Professional Ski Instructors of America and the examiners are the super honchos that give us instructors our annual tune up and training at the beginning of the season.)

Why hands up? Especially in powder skiing and bumps you want a forward body position. Driving your hands forward helps maintain that forward position. You should be able to see both hands in your peripheral vision and plant your pole with a flick of the wrist. Try it.

I can’t guarantee that you’ll ski like Annie, but then, not many of us do!

Musings on climbing and ambition
Posted by sibylle in Yosemite (Monday March 5, 2007 at 8:43 pm)

This wasn’t an ambitious climb by any means, but we were training for other, more ambitious climbs.

Chris Hampson and I set out to climb Overhang Bypass in Yosemite, an easy 5.7, in order to reach the top of Overhang Overpass, a 5.11 thin finger crack about which we knew very little. Chris led the first easy pitch and then we simul-climbed the next 2 – 3 pitches (both parties moving at the same time while the leader places some gear at intervals. I was leading and placed gear every 25 – 30’, which I do no matter how easy the route appears to be.

After I traversed left beneath a roof and then headed back up, I stopped to belay after the rope jammed in a crack at the roof’s edge. I initially set an anchor with the two pieces I had left that were the right size. When Chris arrived, I asked him for the gear and after placing a third cam in the anchor I said, “There, that anchor’s bomb-proof in case anyone takes a whipper.”
Chris replied, “Yeah, but we know that’s not going to happen today.”

He lead up the ‘trough’ which angles up and left toward a ledge, on which he would traverse back right to end up above me. When leaving he said, “I won’t place much gear to avoid rope drag.”

Chris climbed up and left, out of my sight and I could only feed out rope by feel, until only about 20’ remained.

Suddenly I felt a big tug.

Oh no. He must have fallen. I couldn’t see or hear him, but was frightened because he’d said he wouldn’t place much gear. He also wasn’t moving much, from what I could feel of the rope, and the weight wasn’t going off the rope.

We eventually communicated. He fell about 150’. He talked coherently at first, and less so as time passed. Eventually Search and Rescue arrived and rappelled down to him. By the time they got there, Chris had died.

There’s a lot I’ll never forget.

When leaving car, I said, “Oh, I forgot my helmet.” I could have turned back and gotten my helmet, and maybe he would have gotten his.

Where he placed no gear, I would have run it out too, since it was easy ground and we were traversing.

I wear a helmet a lot more now – on all multi-pitch climbs; on hard leads; anywhere with any possible rock fall.

Ethics revisited
Posted by sibylle in books, films, photography (Thursday March 1, 2007 at 9:32 pm)

Ethics of ambition, 2007

Today I once again had the great pleasure of talking at the University of Colorado to Dr. Paul Strom’s class, the Ethics of Ambition. When I met with the class the last several years, I focused on barriers to women climbing that Bev Johnson and I had broken on our first female ascent of El Capitan. I discussed some issues regarding women climbing in last year’s post here.
A partial synopsis of that talk is that:

Extreme ambition demands limitless egotism and selfishness.
First ascents, especially of Himalayan peaks, often entail risking death. Breaking barriers to do new, hard climbs requires tremendous time, commitment and dedication. Climbers then don’t have sufficient time for other people and leave behind friends and family.

This year I changed my talk’s focus. Four of my friends and climbing partners died in 2006 – Walter Rosenthal, Jeff Schoen, Charlie Fowler, and Todd Skinner. This followed my climbing partner Chris Hampson dying after a fall when we were climbing together in Yosemite in 2003; and after carrying out a body while working on YOSAR in 2001. Two days later I found out it was Tom Dunwiddie, with whom I lived for three years while we were at UC Irvine.

This year I talked about the accidents my friends had died in, what led to those tragic consequences and asked what, if anything, they could  have done differently.

Walter was the first, and one of my best, friends to die last year. He died attempting to rescue two ski patrollers at Mammoth when they fell into a volcanic vent. His accident differs from the others in that he was working and trying to save his freinds and colleagues, not pursuing a dream of far off mountain conquest.
Walter left behind his widow, Lori, and daughter Lily. I posted Jim Stimson’s tribute here.  Lori commented that:

“I do want you to know that Walter never would’ve jumped in to rescue the other two patrollers if he had thought there were any gases at toxic levels. He was always the safest and most thoughtful of climbers, mountaineers, workers, etc. and never would have thought of leaving his daughter fatherless in such a cavalier manner. It is difficult enough for me and Lily to deal with his death, without the thought that people might think he was a silly hero. He only thought that James and Scott had suffered head injuries.”

Lori’s statement supports my suggestion above that he was responding to help others, not attempting difficult climbs or other selfish or ambitious aims.
This still leaves us with the following questions:
Should he have gone after the patrollers? Or sent someone else?  Or waited for more safety equipment (gas masks, oxygen)? What is the right thing to do when someone falls into a hole, you don’t know what is wrong with them, they don’t respond, and they are exposed to cold temperatures?

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