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A Blog from the Guides at Fox Mountain Guides and Climbing School about guiding, climbing and life as a guide.

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Karsten Delap
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Rappel Extension Options

Posted on Monday, 09 November 2015 in Guiding

When a technical descent requires a rappel, choosing to add an extension is often beneficial for adding safety and efficiency. There are a variety of methods for creating rappel extensions, each one carrying advantages and disadvantages making use of materials and application important. With this in mind we will explore some of the ways to extend rappels while looking at the nuances of the individual methods.

First, lets take a look at the girth-hitching methods. The girth hitch with anchor attachments has come under scrutiny in the last decade due to it causing weakening of the material used, so it is best to use nylon and stay away from super static, ultra-high-molecular-weight polyurethane, (UHMWPE) materials like dyneema for this application.

This “girth hitched master-point” method makes a very obvious master-point for the rappel device and attachment to the anchor. Once you start to descend you clip the anchoring carabineer to your belay loop to make the system redundant while on rappel. The downside to this method is you should use nylon and the tether is not all that long as tying the master point eats up a lot of material.


This second method, the “girth hitched overhand” method also uses the girth hitch and is a great way to use the full length of material for the anchor attachment allowing more comfort at the rappel stations.  The anchor attachment can again be clipped to the belay loop upon decent to achieve some redundancy. The down side to the method is needing to use nylon and also the bulky overhand knot that stays in the carabineer.  This knot can make it hard to work with the carabineer and it has an ambiguous clip-in point for the rappel device.


The next series of extended rappels we will look at involve basketing instead of the girth hitch. This allows us to use UHMWPE type materials like dynema without compromising the strength of our tethers.

Below is the “basketed sling with an overhand” method. This method creates a full strength extension with redundancy at every part. It is best used for single pitch rappelling as it does not have a separate anchor extension and can be cumbersome to clip in during multi-pitch descents.


 The basketed offset overhand method shown below provides a longer extension for clipping into anchors while allowing the use of UHMWPE type materials. It also provides a redundant place to clip the rappel device which can be important for long and or multiple rappels due to the lower melting point of UHMWPE materials.


Sometimes it is nice to separate your tether from your rappel in this bottom example a locking draw extension is used to rappel and then you can choose what ever independent attachment to the anchor that you would like. This can allow for long extensions and more comfort at the anchors.


 Learning these extension methods will help you improve the efficiency and safety of your rappelling systems. 

Karsten Delap, AMGA Certified Rock and Alpine Guide


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Adrian Hurst
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Nature Deficit Disorder?

Posted on Saturday, 27 September 2014 in Guiding

Nature Deficit Disorder! Really? There has been so much great conversation in the press the last several years about the value of kids getting outside more often and I love the conversations it has sparked. Do I think we need another set of letters to throw around describing behaviors that worry us as parents? No, not really. I love taking people climbing, often for me those days are more rewarding than sending a new route from my personal tick list, I suppose that is one reason I enjoy my work with Fox Mountain Guides. The interactions between family members while out climbing are one of my favorite aspects of this work. Watching a child belay a parent and seeing the parent trust that child when they take a fall or get lowered down from a high ledge is inspiring for me. Siblings pushing one another and building each other up to tackle a harder climb or give the crux one more try are other moments  always grand to witness. When young people engage in climbing I believe that some amazing things can happen.

A concept in psychology that often gets discussed is Internal versus External Locus of Control. Being too rigidly entrenched on either side is likely bad for a person but in general we find that people who have a healthy sense of Internal Locus of Control handle life’s challenges a bit better.  This concept states that if I believe that my actions have meaning and consequences in a logical and predictable manner that I am more likely to make choices that lead to better outcomes. That may mean studying hard to pass a test, practicing driving skills, or having the confidence to ask that special person out on a date. In climbing we learn how to apply our bodies to gain height up a section of rock or ice and we discover that applying good technique leads to improved outcomes. Learning the craft of being a good belayer, anchor builder, or gear placement allows the individual to access increasingly greater challenges and rewards. The responsibility of holding the lifeline of another person is a visceral experience that can lead to tremendous gains in a person’s confidence.

adrianFor me climbing seems to accommodate a wide range of personality types, there is plenty of adrenaline out there for the high sensation seekers if that is what one gravitates toward. For the more calculating pensive types the experience of unlocking the puzzle of an intricate sequence of movements or crafting a svelte belay station can be fantastic rewards. Something else I like about climbing is that you do not have to be in great physical shape to start with it. As a child I was overweight from too little exercise and too much junk food. I was fortunate enough to have a coach in Judo pull me aside one day and tell me as much. I knew that he was not being mean or cruel or making fun of me, just expressing concern. I started running at a track near my house and changed my diet. Right around this same time I discovered climbing and as a result I believe I discovered my true self. Climbing allowed me to have a purpose for good health that I could be passionate about, making exercise an act of joy versus something I “had to do”.

Fall is upon us. This is the magic time for rock climbers when the cooler temps allow us to try hard projects and really go for it. I’m looking forward to watching many kids I know crush boulder problems that have long lingered on their tick list and get the red point on a lead climb they have been dreaming of all year. They will inspire me and I will train a little harder myself and maybe one or two of my goals will get checked off as well. All of this magic happens through climbing and these kids getting outside. I am so lucky to be a part of that. So if your child hasn’t tried climbing yet I certainly recommend you give it a try. Maybe they will love it or maybe it will just be a really cool experience that gives them a boost in confidence, either way I think you will find that getting outside together as a family can lead to some great memories and some great conversations. Be well and I hope to see you out on the rocks or trails.

Adrian Hurst

AMGA Single Pitch Instructor/ Nationally Certified School Psychologist

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Travis Weil
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Ice Climbing

Posted on Thursday, 28 August 2014 in Alpine and Ice
As the summer guiding season comes to an end, I finally have some time to write. Also my thoughts begin to wander towards what is to come. Most rock climbers are getting excited about the fall temps with drier air. Fiction will be plentiful and many projects will fall to those who have been training over the past few humid months. But for me, I am more excited about the cold temps that tend to follow the cool of the fall. I cannot wait for winter to get here.
I thoroughly enjoy climbing in the winter, particularly the ice climbing. I have been ice climbing since 2008 when I took a trip to Ouray, Colorado. There I was blown away at how much fun climbing frozen water can be. I loved it so much that upon my return to Illinois, I began scheming of ways to go back to Ouray. The plans were never put into action and I remained in Illinois for a few more years. During those years, I did begin to purchase boots, crampons, and ice tools. That same winter, the weather was cold enough to form some of the waterfalls at Jackson Falls into ice climbs.
The next winter I did my first ice leads in North Carolina and in New Hampshire. I was hooked. That next winter I did as much ice climbing as I could so that I would be able to take the ice instructor course.
This past winter I took the AMGA's Ice Instructor Course in Ouray, Colorado. It was nice to go back to the place where I started ice climbing to take this course which would giving me the training to more effectively guide waterfall ice terrain. Later that winter I went up to New Hampshire as we do every year at Fox Mountain Guides but this year was different; I would be guiding.
Every year we look forward to this trip. For us it gives us a change of scenery and some of the best ice climbing in the country in which to take our clients and have a bit of fun. This last year I had the privilege to co-teach two courses, the Ice 101 and the Advanced Ice Course which was brand new this year. 
The 101 course is exactly what it sounds like, it teaches you the basics. We begin with learning how to use crampons and ice tools and spend the next few days improving on the techniques involved in climbing ice. It is a great time where as an instructor I get to see our guests improve vastly in just a few days.
I also had the opportunity to co-teach the newest course for Fox which was the advanced ice course with Karsten. In this course we taught the students the techniques involved in leading ice and handling steeper terrain. On the second day of the course some students get on the sharp end and led their first ice climbs. One guest who did their first lead on the advanced course did their first ice climb only a week before in the 101 course.
People always ask me which I like better, rock climbing or ice climbing. Ice climb does seem like more of a treat. I am only able to climb ice for a short period every winter. Also, climbing on a medium that changes constantly fascinates me. Rock routes very rarely change over time but ice routes can change in a matter of hours and are different from one day to the next. I also like that the inherent risks are different than with rock climbing. Though there is a chance of rock fall and holds breaking while climbing on rock; on ice, this is a guarantee. This route will fall down at some point and ice will come off of it. Engaging this risk in a calculated manner makes ice climbing more interesting. 
This winter you can come join myself and the other guides at Fox Mountain Guides in New Hampshire for one or all of our winter courses. Check out the link below and the video with footage from last year's trip.
You can find out more information about our winter courses here on the Fox Mountain Guides Website.
Azissa Singh
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FMG Summer Camp 2014 Recap

Posted on Wednesday, 06 August 2014 in Guiding

Regular Camp A with Travis

Our first summer camp of the season was a great success! Campers started this exciting week with a quick session at the Nose Area of Looking Glass on arrival day, which prepared them for some serious crushing at the South Face on Monday. Taking a break from ropes, they pushed themselves on the boulders at Rumbling Bald Tuesday. Wednesday and Thursday campers covered hundreds of feet rock multi-pitch climbing at Looking Glass and Table Rock. Camper Cathy Kramer even got to lead the first pitch of the "Cave Route" at Table Rock! Camp ended with a fun day of top roping at Rumbling Bald on Friday where campers tried hard on climbs like "Frosted Flake."

Summer Camp 2014

Regular Camp A at the summit of Table Rock after a challenging day of climbing

Regular Camp B with Ron

Sunday started what would become a trend for the week- water soloing, or climbing ropeless on boulders overhanging swimming holes. Campers' incentive not to fall was the icy water below! Monday and Tuesday camp went top roping at the North Side of Looking Glass and at Cedar Rock. At Cedar Rock, camper Davis picked "Glass Dancer" for Ron's instructor challenge- an opportunity for campers to choose any route they want to see an instructor climb. Ron took the rope to the top and campers enjoyed the climb throughout the day. An excursion to the Grandmother boulders in Boone filled up Wednesday while Thursday was camp's "South Face Assault"- all 9 campers went up 5 whole pitches of climbing as a single group. Friday's rain couldn't stop the fun- camp went bouldering at Rumbling Bald and got muddy doing obstacles down the trail.

Summer Camp 2014 (@Grandmother)
Regular Camp B campers on top of a boulder at Grandmother in Boone, NC

Senior Camp with Travis

Climbers warmed up for their week on Sunday with some climbing at the Nose Area of Looking Glass. Unfortunately, a rainy Monday meant being sent indoors to the climbing gym but the campers made the most of it and put down some really fun lines. They also used the downtime to strengthen their technical skills with the resources of Fox's indoor classroom and Travis' instruction. Clearer weather on Tuesday meant some fun and challenging climbing at the North Side of Looking Glass on climbs like "The Seal," "Killer Whales" and "Invisible Airwaves." Some multi-pitch climbing at Table Rock on Wednesday prepped campers for the Thursday blitz of the "Nose"- 12 people up 4 pitches in 1:37:56! Even after this impressive feat, our campers were still psyched on Friday when they continued to push themselves at Rumbling Bald by doing mock leads on "Fruit Loops" and climbing challenging routes like "Shredded Wheat."

Summer Camp 2014Senior Camp at the summit of The Nose after their speed ascent

Delicious meals and great company throughout all the camps made it difficult to say goodbye but we hope to see some familiar faces next summer! Learn more about FMG Summer Camps.

Ron Funderburke
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AMGA SPI student Zach Silberman

Posted on Wednesday, 21 May 2014 in AMGA Courses

This Spring, on April 5-7, Zach Silberman participated in the AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Course with Fox Mountain Guides. Zach was a great student, and he documented much of his experience. Here is rare glimpse into the day to day insights and experiences of an aspiring single pitch instructor:

Day 1

Today we ventured to the base of Looking Glass, South Side. After a long but modest hike, we set up at the base of a slabbed out 5.10, a couple moderate crack climbs, and another climb that Ron selected to demonstrate the difference between leading a lead and instructing a lead.


Lesson 1: Organize the Locker Room

Ron gave us a quick rundown of professionalism at the crag and to make sure clients understand the process.

  • Why wear a helmet?
  • How and where do I poop?
  • How do I belay?
  • What is a back up belay?

After the quick chat, he laced up and talked us through the climb to point out key cruxes and demonstrated proper hand, foot, and cam placement.





Once setting up a top rope for us to climb, Ron led us through the history of belaying. Beginning with the elusive butt belay, then the Munter Hitch, followed by the Air Traffic Controller (ATC) and concluding with the GriGri.





After this enlightening discussion we all topped out the climb and set up camp about 100 feet off the ground. I wish I had brought my camera up. It was gorgeous. The exposure was amazing! Upon a ledge we practiced securely lowering our teammates down and belaying them back up using the Munter Hitch, ATC, and GriGri.

After a few trials, we all rappelled down off of an ATC and were given a quick lunch break.



After a satisfying meal at the crag, Ron got us back on our feet to practice some anchor building and knot tying. We started with the Bowline Knot, both tying-in and anchor building:




Bowline + Bowline with a Bight + Big Huge Knot (BHK) = Success (Given this Context)

After going over some basics, Derek Debruin met us out to go over some knots, friction hitches, and other basics, including the Double Figure-Eight (Bunny Ears), Prussik, Klemheist and Mule Knot on an ATC.





Day 2

Today we marched into Rumbing Bald. Passing by boulders, I was eager to strap up. That would have to wait. Today, we came to anchor build! I was not very well trained in this subject, so today was quite a challenge. I learned so much! From placing a cam well, to building anchors with natural objects, my mind was blown from moment to moment.


Cam Anchor


Utilizing trees and highpoints as an elevator. It makes going over the edge so much easier.

After spending a good bit of time on building proper anchors, I learned about governign concepts like redundancy, load distribution, strength, efficiency, and how a climbing instructor uses an anchor to manage explicit and implicit risks. With anchoring skills thoroughly explored, we moved to the base of the major face of the Bald. Here we practiced and honed our skills in lowering participants off ledges and recovering them if unable to ascend back up. Not only did we gain competence in the technical skills, but also the toolset of talking participants through differing challenges (going over the first ledge, bracing with feet, watching for features in the rock, etc)


After finishing Day 2. Derek and Ron introduced us to the best extracurricular activity; BOULDERING. Below are the rules

  • 43 Boulder Problems
  • V0-V7
  • No Pads
  • Only Approach Shoes
  • Two Attempts Each
  • Gold= Flash All Problems Silver= Send All Problems
  • Run to From Problem to Problem

This was sick. It was inspiring watching Ron and Derek crush hard lines in just their hiking shoes. Ron was able to get a Silver Medal, falling on only one problem!



Day 3

Today was the final day. And it was a tad rainy….

We trekked out to Looking Glass. This time, the North Side. Probably the most humbling piece of rock I had ever seen. It must have been 600+ Ft Tall, Steep, and Clean.

Ron and Derrick made quick work of setting up a top rope for us to practice Pick-Offs and Recoveries

After practicing some basics of the recovery procedure, we practiced teaching lessons. Derek gave us a sample lesson of movement that involved audio, visual, and tactile forms of learning. This holistic style of teaching was super insightful and I took a lot out of it.

We finished the day back at the base of Fox Mountain Guides with some more anchor building and debriefs.

I couldn’t have asked for a more thorough and expanding course for gaining competency in Single Pitch Instructing. Although I feel as though I have a lot more experience to gain before taking the exam, I am eager to hone my skills out at crags with my friends. Thanks again Fox Mountain, Ron, and Derek for an awesome weekend.

Zack S


Derek DeBruin
AMGA certified Rock Instructor Wilderness First Responder AIARE Level 1
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Book Review of Training for the New Alpinism by Steve House

Posted on Friday, 04 April 2014 in Gear Reviews

Recently, Patagonia Books published Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete by Steve House and Scott Johnston. Constantly seeking to better myself as a climber, I could not resist the title. I have read Mark Twight’s Extreme Alpinism: Climbing Light, Fast, and High cover-to-cover numerous times. At the time of publication, it was widely considered a template for cutting-edge alpinism involving structured physical training and unconventional techniques on next-level climbs. House and Johnston’s new book appeared to be a worthy successor to Twight’s title, and it certainly proved so on the first read.

The first thing I noticed when I got the book was its size; this thing is BIG. The author’s choice of the word “manual” for the title was clearly intentional. The book is textbook-sized and organized like one. Like any good textbook, though, the material is presented in an extremely accessible manner. The writing style utilizes clear, concise, and palatable word choice. It addresses complex topics in a way that allows for comprehension while avoiding oversimplification as well as unnecessary details. The text also features great full-color photographs to inspire and motivate, in addition to vignettes from some of alpinism’s finest. The list of guest-authors for these mini-articles reads like a who’s who of cutting edge alpine climbing from the 1970s to the present.

As for the content itself, the reader will find little that is groundbreaking from an exercise physiology or sports science perspective. Much of our knowledge of the unique sport of climbing is drawn from the vast annals of decades of research and experience in other well-studied pursuits such as running, cycling, and Olympic lifting. However, whereas much of this information is left scattered across a variety of texts to cobbled together piecemeal by the interested alpinist, House and Johnston’s valuable tome compiles the wealth of knowledge into a single location. Further, the extraneous information is winnowed from the climbing-specific knowledge, leaving the reader with a wonderfully dense amalgamation on­­­­­ the pursuit of alpine climbing as an athletic endeavor.

The text guides the reader through all the necessary fundamental lessons in physiology before addressing each phase of a well-designed training program, from recovery and transition, to base period and muscular endurance, to peak and tapering. Also included are specific treatments of altitude physiology and training, nutrition, and mental fitness. Finally, accompanying spreadsheets available for download aid the budding trainee in constructing an appropriate program and recording progress.

True to the nature of the alpine environment, the text pulls no punches in reminding the reader that training is difficult, self-discipline is demanded, and peaks in strength and ability only happen at the end of a long march through a challenging build-up of fitness. A few quotations prove telling and unapologetic: “You can’t coach desire.” “Eliminating all alcoholic beverages may be a good idea while training and climbing.” “The only good reason to climb is to improve yourself.” “No movies, no television, no gaming…reduce music…reduce internet and e-mail…avoid drama.” “Progress is simple: you must want who you might become more than who you are right now.” However, to the reader who can cope with these Spartan recommendations, the fruits of the labor are promised as literally “being in the best shape of your life.”

While the text is no doubt compelling, it does have its limitations. A few more typos and editing errors than normal provide occasional distractions to the reader and demand a bit more thorough line editing. This slight inconvenience aside, the book is quite clear in its target of alpine climbers. Those looking to improve their sport climbing game could certainly learn volumes about physiology, structured training plans, periodization, and nutrition, but they would likely be better served by the many books Eric Hörst has published specifically regarding training for technical rock climbing. There are prescriptions for gaining the cardiovascular fitness to move heavy loads uphill steadily and quickly, but none for maximizing your hangboard workout or sending that sick project at the Red River Gorge.

Training for the New Alpinism provides a wealth of knowledge and inspiration for both well-trained alpinists and those just entering the realm of structured, goal-directed exercise. The text unabashedly advocates a plan for becoming a better climber in the lofty realms of snow, rock, and ice guarded by tempestuous and hostile environs. Finally, it does this while extolling the virtues of disciplined training, exhorting readers to push their limits. It waits patiently, hoping to bear witness to the next generation of strong mountain athletes willing to follow its precepts, pushing the limits of human possibility ever-further.

Check out other book reviews on Derek's personal blog here.

Karsten Delap
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Ice Climbing: “A Leader’s Game”

Posted on Wednesday, 19 February 2014 in Guiding


Ice climbing is one of the essential tools for alpine climbing. Moving efficiently across mixed and ice terrain is a must to be efficient in the mountains. Ice climbing as a sport itself has exploded over the past ten years. There are now “ice fests” all across the country, and many folks attend these, take clinics, and try out all the new exciting gear.


This year in New Hampshire, I helped run the first ever Advanced Ice course that Fox Mountain Guides has offered, with the main focus on leading ice. In this course we talk about the seriousness of the leads and how ice climbing isn’t like rock climbing in that falling is not an accepted part of leading. We look at videos like this one (Dracula Fall) and this one (Kennedy Gully). We talk about what went wrong and how to avoid these problems.


By the time we put our guests on the sharp end, they tend to style WI3+/4-. The reason: they understand they can’t fall. We teach them to be very methodical and to move with the confidence of an unroped ascent. They understand what the risks are and accept them before they leave the ground. I can teach someone who is reasonably athletic to climb WI4 by the end of a day. As they follow me up a climb, they can use my pick holes and can trust less-than-marginal tool placements and have scrappy feet without the thought of falling and twisting an ankle...or worse.


Vince Anderson was speaking at the Adirondack Mountain Fest this year and pointed out that probably the top 10% of the crowd of climbers could get up the hardest ice lines in the world. He then went on to say that it would be unlikely that even 1% of us could lead them. I would have to agree with that. I will try anything on tope rope; put me on lead and my self-preservation starts to kick in. This is a no fall activity. Ice climbing is much more serious on the sharp end; it is in fact "a leader’s game.”  The mental fortitude it takes to lead a more serious ice line is out of the realm of most ice climbers. This is because we are pushing the line between soloing and having a rope on. If every rock climber had to start soloing instead of placing protection on lead, we would see a huge number of people who would only top rope most climbs (me included). Due to this, leading hard ice pitches puts you in a state of focus you can’t get when the rope is above you. It is a game I like to play!



For more info on Karsten check out his personal blog here:

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Derek DeBruin
AMGA certified Rock Instructor Wilderness First Responder AIARE Level 1
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Whiteside Mountain Ice Topo Map

Posted on Tuesday, 14 January 2014 in Alpine and Ice

With ice season in full swing here in North Carolina, I've been spending a lot of time sinking my picks into the frozen stuff at Whiteside Mountain.  With fickle ice conditions in the Southeast, it can be hard to know when the ice is in.  But with ice climbing beta so hard to come by, it can also be challenging to know where the ice is in.  I thought I would rectify this by producing the first complete, publicly available topo map of Whiteside Mountain, NC, where the ice is frequently great and there is plenty of it to choose from.  Single pitch or multipitch, moderate ice slabs or overhanging mixed projects--there's a little bit of everything at Whitesides.  If you'd like the personalized tour, book a day with one of our guides.  Or, if you've got a handle on southern ice but would like to try your hand at some crystalline waterfalls a bit further afield, check out our full bevvy of ice climbing programs in New Hampshire.


Tags: Ice Climbing
Derek DeBruin
AMGA certified Rock Instructor Wilderness First Responder AIARE Level 1
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Patagonia Trip Report

Posted on Monday, 23 December 2013 in The Guides' Climbing Adventures
In November 2013, Derek DeBruin, Kevin Shon, and Karsten Delap traveled to Argentina to attempt a new route on the east face of Cerro San Lorenzo. San Lorenzo is located in central Patagonia, north of Chaltén in the Santa Cruz province. Entrance to the southern reaches of the Argentine portion of the mountain is gained through Parque Nacional Perito Moreno.
East Face of Cerro San Lorenzo.
The trio began the trek via the Rio Lacteo Valley on November 15 with enough time and provisions for approximately 8 to 10 days while waiting for a weather window. After 5 days camped in the morainal talus near the head of Glaciar Lacteo, the group experienced only poor weather, predominantly freezing rain and snow with extreme winds.
Finally, a morning of fair skies led to a brief 12-hour weather window. This was not enough time to attempt a route on San Lorenzo’s approximately 5,000 foot east face, but did provide an opening for climbing on the agujas of nearby Cerro Penitentes. The team completed a first ascent of the northernmost pillar of Cerro Penitentes at an elevation of 2211 meters (7,254 feet). The pillar included approximately 80 feet of 5.7 climbing atop approximately 5 kilometers (approx. 3 miles) navigating snow and talus in the peak’s principle northern drainage near Lago Lacteo.
Northern aguja, Cerro Penitentes (courtesy of Kevin Shon).
The following evening saw the return of foul weather and a forecast for at least 3 additional days of high winds and heavy precipitation. Given the limited time and supplies remaining, the group elected to head north to sample the climbing near San Carlos de Bariloche in hopes of better weather. On the trek out, they passed the group of Bryan Gilmore, Mikey Schaefer, and Josh Wharton. This team was basecamping at Puesto San Lorenzo, also with aspirations on the East Face. They planned to stay for the rest of November and the first few weeks of December if necessary, allotting an entire month in hopes of an adequate weather window.
Once back in Bariloche, Derek, Kevin, and Karsten spent most of their time on Monte Tronador with a dash of limestone sport cragging thrown in for good measure. The team hopes to return to Cerro San Lorenzo in 2014 with more time for another attempt on the East Face. Full beta for the trip and a narrative blog series are coming soon!
This expedition was made possible in part by a grant from the American Alpine Club as well as support from Ibex OutdoorClothing, BlueWater Ropes, Goal ZERO, and Native Eyewear.
If you're interested in reading more, Derek will be posting weekly short stories from the expedition to his personal blog over the coming weeks.
Karsten Delap
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The Gigi (In response to Steph Davis)

Posted on Friday, 20 December 2013 in Guiding

I am writing this blog in response to Steph Davis’s blog on the Gigi. I think the device is a bit confusing to the general user, and it takes more knowledge to use than one might think. While I agree with Steph that the Gigi is a great peice of gear,  I think that there are some thing to consider.

One is weight. The Gigi is 2.4 oz; BD ATC-guide is 3.1 ; Petzl Reverso 4 is 2.1. So the Reverso IS lighter.

The Gigi does tend to wear out--maybe not as fast but I am on my 2nd one and I don’t use them as often as my Reverso. They will last longer than the Reverso or ATC though.

The Gigi is easier to pull rope through but this is also its downfall: it only accepts larger ropes as smaller (think twin or small doubles) can flip and the device not “auto-lock” any more. Rob (a fellow AMGA certified guide) shows in detail some specifics about this here:

Steph talks about needing a different device to belay the leader. She is correct in some ways, which means that now you need another device! You can actually belay a leader with the Gigi, and I believe the manual actually shows this. The key here is using 2 carabineers; which of course is more weight.

Steph says the Gigi is not made for lowering.  She is right in the fact that it is not made for lowering just as it isn’t made for lead belaying and/or rappelling. You can lower a climber with it just like you do with a redirected plate or atc, and this is very similar to rappelling. There is very little friction here, just like when rappelling. Here is a short video on flipping an ATC-guide.

I do agree with Steph's statements about the time savings and being able to take care of yourself at the belay while bringing up your partners. I also agree that whoever invented it was genius……for their time. I think we have far superior devices for everyday use. With that being said, I will use one when my tendonitis flairs up mid-season from belaying thousands of feet of rope a day, but I still won’t leave home without my Petzl Reverso 4!

Karsten Delap

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Derek DeBruin
AMGA certified Rock Instructor Wilderness First Responder AIARE Level 1
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Karsten becomes first AMGA Certified Alpine Guide in Southeast

Posted on Monday, 04 November 2013 in Guiding

Fox Mountain Guides strives to be on the pinnacle of the guiding profession. The founder of FMG, Adam Fox, came to Western North Carolina and saw a need for American Mountain Guides Association certified guides. Burton Moomaw and Bryan Haslam had become AMGA certified Level 1 Rock Guides (now Rock Instructor) in the 90’s and Adam decided he wanted to take the certification to the next level, the international standard. 

Setting the bar high, Adam became the first AMGA Certified Rock Guide in the Southeast in 2001. A few AMGA certified Rock Instructors popped up following Adam's lead: Ron Funderburke, Patrick Weaver, Karsten Delap, and Swis Stockton; three of whom were FMG employees at the time of certification. With the continued education that FMG presented to its employees, it was no surprise that Karsten Delap would become the next AMGA certified Rock Guide with Lindsay Fixmer and Ron Funderburke following closely behind. The bar had been raised to its peak for rock guiding certification.

In the alpine realm, only two individuals in Western North Carolina had pursued any training:  Stuart Cowles and Josh Whitmore, both taking the Alpine Guide Course.  Karsten, Ron, and Lindsay all followed suit, taking the Ice Instructor Course and the Alpine Guide Course.  Karsten, however, was on a learning rampage, also taking Avalanche I, II and III courses and the Advanced Alpine Guide Course.

This Fall, Karsten finished accumulating the prerequisites for, enrolled in, and passed the Alpine Guide Exam, becoming the first AMGA Certified Alpine Guide in the Southeast. Once again, Fox Mountain Guides has pushed the educational boundaries of its guides to new limits, raising the bar for training and certification in the guiding profession. Check out the video that Karsten made for his scholarship from the Doug Parker and Roger Baxter-Jones Memorial Fund.

1993:  Burton Moomaw becomes the first AMGA certified Rock Instructor in the Southeast

1998:  Bryan Haslam becomes an AMGA certified Rock Instructor

2001:  Adam Fox becomes the first AMGA certified Rock Guide in the Southeast

         Jim Taylor becomes an AMGA certified Rock Instructor

2002:  Swis Stockton becomes an AMGA certified Rock Instructor

2005:  Patrick Weaver becomes an AMGA certified Rock Instructor

2006:  Ron Funderburke becomes an AMGA certified Rock Instructor

2008:  Karsten Delap becomes an AMGA certified Rock Instructor

2009:  Kasten Delap becomes an AMGA certified Rock Guide

2010:  Ron Funderburke becomes an AMGA certified Rock Guide

2011:  Lindsay Fixmer becomes an AMGA certified Rock Guide

         Derek Debruin becomes an AMGA certified Rock Instructor

         Elaina Arenz becomes an AMGA certified Rock Instructor

         Tracy Martin becomes an AMGA certified Rock Instructor

2012:  Travis Weil becomes an AMGA certified Rock Instructor

          Wes Calkins becomes an AMGA certified Rock Instructor

2013:   Clay Kennedy becomes an AMGA certified Rock Instructor

2013:  Karsten Delap becomes the first AMGA certified Alpine Guide in the Southeast.






Check out Fox Mountain Guides Ice and Alpine programs in New Hampshire and North Carolina!



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Todd Mullenix
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Early Season Ice Gear Thoughts

Posted on Sunday, 27 October 2013 in Guiding


toddiceThank you nature, there's a chill in the air.  Sweaty season is over. I'm putting on a light jacket in the morning and that means ice season is on its way. 

What kind of gear should  you let dry by a fire after a great day of ice climbing?  I asked the Fox Mountain Guides and below is a summary of answers to some questions from a client joining us for the  upcoming New Hampshire ice trip.


Leashes,tethers, or nada?

Nada is the most common answer.  Leashes are handcuffs.   I admit to dropping a tool near my belaying son last year though and plan to get tethers for multi-pitch terrain where a tool loss would be a major problem.


Adzes, hammers, or nothing?

Hammers on both tools.  Less fear of severe face lacerations. A hammer to hammer pick setting can be good for the nerves when things get scary on lead. The answers from guides who visit alpine terrain remind us that an adze can be  handy for carving out steps,bollards and platforms.


Mono point or dual point?

Dual.   Mono points are well liked for the most technical ice but two point crampons were the most frequent answer.  Some serious efficiency was mentioned however by using mono points to select already prepared pick holes instead of another tiring kick.


Plastic or leather?

Leather boots provide the right combo of warmth and comfort for most settings.  Unless your goal is extreme conditions at extreme altitudes leather boots offer enough warmth and better performance.


Pants or bibs?

Pants. As much as I hate biting wind on the small of my back the feeling of bibs never appealed to me at all. They always seem to ride north when I reach. Go with good soft shell pants unless the weather gets nasty then have your hard shell.  The Patagonia guide pants have a wonderful feel. Tuck in a long shirt.


Gloves:Thin and manageable or thick and warm?

The consensus is just in the middle. Lined leather work gloves from Marmot smeared in mink oil are durable and grippy. A couple pair of fleece gloves  inside the jacket to switch in and out for warmth at the belay.


Oversized boots with extra socks?

No.  Let the quality of the boot provide the warmth.  Get them well fitting with your regular high quality medium weight hiking sock.  You will walk a while in these after some multi pitch adventures so comfort is important.


Who makes the best boots?

La Sportiva boots are super awesome and were the unanimous choice of the Fox Mountain Guides.   I bought otherwise a few years ago because of a killer price and bent the lace hooks during tightening.  Look at the Nepal EVO GTX.  You can tell they were made with love.


Hope you enjoyed the answers.  The first person to send me an email correctly stating which tiny  piece of imperative Ice climbing equipment I'm thinking of will receive one by mail.

 I hope to see you in New Hampshire where ice screws sink all the way down!



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Derek DeBruin
AMGA certified Rock Instructor Wilderness First Responder AIARE Level 1
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Photographic Memories: A High Sierra Adventure

Posted on Sunday, 08 September 2013 in The Guides' Climbing Adventures

The following story is cross-posted from Derek DeBruin's blog, featuring more short story style trip reports:  You can find more of Chad Guenther's photography at

Chad stumbled toward shore, shaking and shivering.  He groped for his pack towel lying on the rocks and looked toward me:  “Damn, that’s a cold-ass honky.”

I smirked at the quote from Macklemore and Ryan Lewis’ Thrift Shop, a song which had become a running theme on our little adventure.
“Put some clothes on,” I retorted.
Chad dried himself in the radiant warmth of the mid-morning California sunshine.  A Wisconsin-native, he had taken many a plunge in frigid waters, but never before in an alpine like at tree line, and certainly not without a hot tub nearby.
“I’m actually warming up pretty fast,” he observed.  “Turns out I don’t even need the hot tub.”


Chad immediately post-dip.

Chad dressed as I finished packing for our departure.  He had accomplished his mission of “bathing,” though we both agreed that one head-under plunge in a cold lake did not exactly qualify.  Chad’s emphasis on cleanliness left me pondering my own hygiene.  I examined the creases in my freshly washed hands and was slightly annoyed at the perma-dirt occupying each crack and fold in my skin.  I had opted out of the bathing experience entirely; I had cleansed myself in cold creeks and icy ponds plenty of times.  Chad’s “you only live once” justification for his little dip hardly seemed appropriate in my case.  Further, this was our fourth of five days in the mountains, and I did not think my personal hygiene would prove problematic over the course of such a short excursion.

Chad ready for hiking.

We soon shouldered our packs, Chad’s 80 liters of equipment humorously dwarfing his thin 140-pound frame.  Heavily laden, he peered out at me through his glasses beneath his floppy-brimmed round sunhat.  We began our slow descent from 11,000 feet, his magenta pack towel hanging from a belt loop nearly down to his knees, drying in the air as we walked. 
Shooting above Hungry Packer Lake.
We tread our way down the well-worn trail through the meadow beneath Hungry Packer Lake.  Our stay had been exceptional - three days and two nights in solitude, seeing no other people.  I cherished the peace and beauty of our setting, as did Chad.  This was his first time ever backpacking, and only his second significant foray into the wilderness.  We managed to inspire each other in our appreciation of grand vistas, the aquamarine of a lake, the rushing sound of wind, or stopping momentarily on the trail simply to be.  Everything was new for Chad, and he saw the beauty in all of it.
This experience was new for me as well.  Our trip’s purpose had been hatched a few years prior at dinner in Colorado Springs.  As an avid photographer, Chad was inspired by Galen Rowell.  In particular, he was excited to see the things Galen had seen and photograph the mountains he had called home in the eastern Sierra.
Typically, whether personal or professional, my forays into the mountains involved scaling peaks, but the focus of this excursion was to take stunning photographs.  My apprenticeship began with reading assignments on outdoor photography, learning not so much the ins-and-outs of things like polarizers, filters, f-stops, and apertures but instead merely that these things even existed.  Next on the list was figuring out how to cram lenses, bodies, and filters into our 75-liter packs in addition to all of the backpacking and climbing gear we were also carrying.  Most important was learning about light - the hardness and softness, harsh light, sidelight, flat light, alpenglow, shadowless overcast skies, direct light, reflected light.

Blue Lake, courtesy of Chad Guenther

Each day we woke before dawn and bedded down after dark, five straight days bearing witness to each and every sunrise and sunset.  I would stand in silence, watching Chad work, learning about HDR, ASA, long exposures, composition, and why clouds were always more interesting and desirable than blue bird skies.  This stood in direct contrast to my ingrained notions of risk management where clouds potentiate precipitation, storm, or lightning.

Hungry Pack Lake, courtesy of Chad Guenther

Slowly, I developed an eye for compelling photographs, picking and choosing from what I had read, what I had done with Chad, and what I saw around me.  Each night we would review the day’s captured images where I could start noting the subtleties separating the good photos from the better ones.  By the end of our second day (and hundreds of photographs), my eye had developed enough that I could offer Chad fresh perspective and potential shots of my own, pointing out good lighting or an interesting subject.  Beautiful shots of idyllic lakes, dramatic peaks, and captivating sunsets were merely a sideline to the trip’s principle object, though.  We were here for a ridgeline photograph of Mount Darwin and Evolution Lake.
We awoke on the third day of our trip to slightly hazy skies owing to wildfire smoke nearby in Yosemite.  This was soon followed by the arrival of a low-pressure system with mist and clouds hanging in the sky, swirling about peaks, sinuously snaking over saddles, tendrils winding through passes.  This made for excellent photographs per our normal morning routine.  This also made for an unsettled feeling in the pit of my stomach.
Our day’s plan was to travel from our camp at Hungry Packer Lake to the Evolution Ridge, just below peak 12,996.  The 3-mile 1500-foot ascent included about a mile along low 5th class ridge tops that we would be negotiating onsight.  While I knew my brother-in-law’s motivation and fitness made him more than capable, his confidence on exposed terrain and my confidence that the weather would hold remained two large unknowns in the equation for success churning through incessant iterations in the recesses of my consciousness.
We set out from camp relatively late for an alpine climb due to the morning’s photography prior to our departure.  Our 10:00am exit only added to my unease as we roped up to short-rope the first 3rd and 4th class slabs.  That the mists began spitting drops of rain on us within the first 30 minutes of climbing did nothing to settle my mind or allay my concerns.  I began prepping Chad for both the potential disappointment in not achieving our intended objective as well as a hasty retreat to safer ground should lightning present itself.
“But,” I added, “we can always put ourselves in a position to be lucky.  We should never rely on luck, but better to straggle into camp soaked from rain having tried than to turn back without knowing what the weather will do.”
“Okay, let’s do it,” Chad replied, somewhat hesitantly, but with a spark in his eyes.
With fire in our bellies, we flowed rhythmically over the semi-technical terrain, cruising along the ridgeline and its sub-peaks, short-roping slabs, short-pitching gullies, skirting along the great buttress’ contours, finally ascending a few pitches of 5.5 to the shoulder of what we called “Triangle Peak.”  We stopped momentarily so I could snap a few photos of Chad climbing, on the condition that we didn’t show any of them to his wife, Courtney.
Pausing for a snapshot break.

Chad had consistently impressed me over the preceding few days, and his performance here had been no different.  He proved an extremely quick study and quite resilient.  He first hoisted his 50-plus pound pack onto his sinewy shoulders with some trepidation, but now, after two days of grueling physical exertion, he seemed as fit and capable as ever.  Despite this fitness, he still found exposure and any vertical rock intimidating.  With each inch of upward progress, though, I could see Chad’s wariness transforming into confidence.
From our vantage on the shoulder of Triangle Peak we viewed the basins below, naming “Candy Cane Lake” and “Anvil Lake,” visible through the ever-mercurial weather.  Rapid progress across the talus and boulders near the lakes soon landed us below our final hurdle - 500 vertical feet of talus and scree leading up to the notch just north of Peak 12,996.  Steady pacing plodded us consistently upward, stepping and kicking for purchase in the frustratingly loose slope of cascading sand, gravel, and fist-sized rocks.  Almost without warning we emerged on the ridge top, staring out onto the west slope of the Sierra and down a chute to the lakes and meadows a few thousand feet below.
Mount Darwin and Evolution Lake, courtesy of Chad Guenther
“Is that Darwin?” Chad asked between pants.  “That’s Evolution Lake!” he exclaimed, a mixture of giddy excitement, joyful accomplishment, and dogged exhaustion in his voice.  “Okay, where do we set up?”
Carrying only small packs, we had eschewed the tripod in favor of finding a naturally stable place to position the camera.  We spent a few moments stacking rocks to create a stable platform from which to frame Evolution Lake between the hulking mass of Mount Darwin and the solid, sheer granite of Peak 12,996 immediately to our left.  A few landscapes and hero shots later, we contemplated the climb to the summit less than 100 feet above.  As ice pellets began assaulting our faces from menacing clouds threating to engulf all the nearby peaks, we prudently opted to descend.  As we skated down the scree slope into the basin, I could sense Chad’s growing comfort in this heretofore unfamiliar environment.  His wiry frame cruised effortlessly down slope, deftly riding the scree with precision and control.  I could hear him singing to himself as he went, “Ice on the fringe, so damn frosty…” We soon wound our way back to camp, gorged ourselves on burritos, and collapsed into our sleeping bags.
Exhausted after our climb to Evolution Ridge.

On our final night in the mountains, Chad set up the tripod atop a small abutment at Blue Lake to capture star trails against the skyline of a distant ridge.  As we waited on the 30-minute exposure, I bouldered on the slabs at the base, testing my crimp strength and my approach shoes on tiny edges.  I sat to rest for a moment.  To my surprise, Chad began scrambling up, demonstrating increasing poise on the vertical terrain that until this very moment he had described as regarding with intimidation.  He faltered momentarily near the top, second-guessing his move while ten feet off the deck.
“Push down with your right hand,” I instructed.
Chad palmed down with his right hand, pressed up on his right foot, and stood on the top-out ledge, exuding adrenalized glee through the faint light of our headlamps.
He came down.  “I shouldn’t have done that,” he stated flatly.
“Why not?” I asked.
“I - I don’t know.  I had to stop at the one move.  I got freaked out.  I didn’t know if I could do it.”
“But you did it.”
“Yeah, I needed your help.”
“You would have gotten it without me.”
“I would have.  It just would’ve taken me a little while, I guess.”
“Sure, but you could do it.  And you did.”
We resumed our sesh, Chad and I each selecting demanding eliminates for the other.  Absorbed by the climbing, we didn’t hear the shutter close.  We found the camera had powered itself down when we finally returned to it, breathless and with raw finger tips.
I awoke a few hours later at 3:30am and flicked on a red light, trying to shuffle noiselessly but futilely around the tent so as not to wake Chad.  The previous night I had debated an early morning climb of an unnamed peak near Blue Lake, eager for a summit but not wanting to sacrifice my energy or my sleep.  Chad’s bouldering performance had proven sufficiently inspirational that I was convinced.  I crawled out of the tent, packed, stuffed down a Builder’s Bar, and set out at 4:01am.  At 5:15, some 2 miles, 1380 feet, and a few 5th class moves later, I sat atop the summit block of Peak 11,784 that Chad and I had dubbed “Mount Congress” given its proximity to Baboon Lakes.  I sat a few moments huddled against the wind, exhilarated by a solo climb.  To the east, I saw the purple-orange glimmer of first light.  I took a deep breath, exhaled, and felt exceptionally at peace with the world.
First light from the summit of Peak 11,874.

Excited by my rapid ascent, I scrambled off the summit, scampered down the ridge, and ran back to camp to share a sunrise breakfast with my compatriot.  After we ate, Chad excitedly brought his pack over.  “Check it out,” he beamed, “perfectly packed and I didn’t even need your help!”
I smiled and eyed the sleeve of a fleece peeking out from under the brain of his bag.  “Is that your grandma’s coat?” I asked.  He laughed as we once again broke out into the chorus of Thrift Shop. 
The hike out had a casual air.  Our “light” packs, now empty of food, water, and fuel, coupled with descent from altitude to our car left us in good spirits.
“I call that gettin’ swindled and pimped,” I intoned, in my best rapper voice.
“I call that gettin’ tricked by bizzz-nuss,” Chad replied.  We chuckled as a day hiker moved past us up the trail.  We continued down.
“You know, it’s only maybe half physical,” Chad observed.  “The other half is mental.”
“How do you mean?” I asked.
“I mean, hiking with a pack, climbing to the ridge, all of it’s exhausting,” remarked the man who regularly put in 80-plus mile rides on a road bike.  “But, the thing is, you just have to keep going.  You just tell yourself to take one more step, just one more step.”
“Kinda cool how that works, isn’t it?”
“Seriously, this is literally the hardest thing I’ve ever done.  I’m not kidding - don’t let me try to tell Courtney it wasn’t that bad,” he implored.  “This is physically and mentally exhausting.  Everything out here is hard - cooking, eating, sleeping, cleaning - all of it.”
“Sure, but it’s simpler, too,” I offered.
“Yeah, I guess so,” said Chad.  “Everything I need is right here on my back.  Really, it shows you just what you truly need.  If I can do this, I can do anything.  It definitely puts a lot of the first-world problems in my life into perspective.”
I smiled inwardly, reflecting on how difficult I found the vagaries of modern American living sometimes, dreading the voicemails, emails, and text messages I knew awaited me upon our return to town.  Chad was absolutely right, though.
“Yeah, I guess so,” I replied simply.
We soon fell into the seats of the rental car, enjoying air conditioning, cushioned chairs, and Little Debbie Swiss Cake Rolls stashed for the occasion.  Winding our way down Highway 168 back to Bishop, Chad thanked me.  He and Courtney were in the process of adoption and he hoped any child they might adopt could do something similar with me.
“That would be pretty sweet,” I said sheepishly.  “I would be honored.”
“Courtney and I were talking about it,” he said, “and we were thinking of all the people we would want our child to meet - people who could show what it means to be a good person, have good relationships, be cool.  You and Susan were at the top of the list.”
I instantly missed my wife, felt horribly inadequate to the task, and not the least bit cool.  I thought for a moment and realized that maybe my chosen profession wasn’t so self-serving after all.  Chad had taught me a lot about photography and even more about what he had learned in the wilderness.  I felt grateful to have such as a blessing as a life called to be in the mountains.  I stared out the window at the passing boulders and managed a barely audible, “Thanks.”
As we lit off into the desert, I cranked up some music.  The song choice was obvious.  We shared a laugh and as we came to the chorus of Thrift Shop we sang in unison, “This is fucking awesome.”
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New Hampshire Ice Climbing 2014: Get It!

Posted on Sunday, 30 June 2013 in Guiding

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Coiling a Climbing Rope with Fox Mountain Guide Travis Weil

Posted on Wednesday, 26 June 2013 in Guiding

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Where's That Fox?

Posted on Tuesday, 11 June 2013 in Guiding


Congratulations to Karen Peress for correctly identifying The South Face of the Petit Grepon and winning a new Black Diamond X4!!


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Derek DeBruin
AMGA certified Rock Instructor Wilderness First Responder AIARE Level 1
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Nutrition for Alpine Climbing Part 2

Posted on Wednesday, 05 June 2013 in The Guides' Climbing Adventures

This post is a continuation of a previous post outlining my nutrition plan for the Tetons.  The previous post discusses the basics of nutrition while performing endurance exercise, while this posts offers my specific nutrition plan.

Ideal vs. Real

The reality of attempting to refuel while exerting is that you will always be in a deficit; you simply cannot replenish the fuel your body is using while you continue to use it.  While your body can absorb up to perhaps 400 calories per hour and 40 ounces of water while operating below about 70% VO2 max (about 80% max heart rate), when climbing you can burn up to 500 - 600 calories and lose 1 - 2 liters of fluid per hour.  Further, it may not always be practical to carry all the necessary water (and perhaps food) due to weight concerns.  Finally, while you should be consuming fluids and calories about every 10 - 15 minutes, that might not always be possible given the need to attend to such matters as belaying, scrambling, and other technical tasks that don’t combine well with eating.  Consequently, you will frequently operate at some kind of deficit during a long climb.

The other reality of climbing is that exertion and altitude can combine to make some foods very appealing and others not so much.  So, while I should probably be consuming an entirely liquid diet of the perfect blend of water, sugars, protein, and electrolytes, I will instead be consuming a few things that I like to eat because if I like to eat them, I will actually eat them.  Further, I’ve found through experience that when operating in the cold and/or on very long days, a bit of protein and fat on occasion can provide a real energy and morale boost.

I’ve planned to carry 2 to 3 liters of fluids at a time (we’ll melt snow to reload on water as we go) and have assumed we will complete the traverse in a speedy 18 hours.  If this proves to not be the case (which is entirely possible), the suffer quotient will go up considerably.  If that should happen, my hope is that by the time I run out of food we will be in the non-technical downhill hiking terrain with visions of pizza and beer relatively near at hand.

The stuff alpine climbs are made of.

My Nutrition Plan for a Long Alpine Climb

I plan to bring the following:

6 Clif bars (I prefer the white chocolate macadamia nut flavor)

10 Clif Shot Bloks

2 Clif Builder bars

3 Reese’s Fast Break bars

Gatorade powder for about 6 Nalgenes

I’ll be consuming about 300ml of water and 300ml of Gatorade each hour.  I will also have an entire Clif Shot Blok (6 blocks), a Clif bar, or a Builder bar every hour, which comes out to about 300-350 calories an hour.  When things get rough I’ll throw in a Fast Break.  My plan is to eat the whole foods at slow points of the day (ie. belaying) and have the Shot Bloks (which I prefer to GU) when we are moving quickly.  I will also be getting some caffeine from the Shot Bloks as well, alternating the caffeinated and non-caffeinated varieties.

Now to see how it actually goes…


This has been cross-posted to my personal blog: 


Derek DeBruin
AMGA certified Rock Instructor Wilderness First Responder AIARE Level 1
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Learning from Ultra-Running for Alpine Climbing Nutrition

Posted on Wednesday, 05 June 2013 in The Guides' Climbing Adventures

As I mentioned in my previous post on time control plans, our intended objective in the Tetons may require 20+ hours of sustained effort.  In order to fuel this effort, we will need a steady supply of calories, ample fluids, and a whole lot of psych.  Precisely how much of each of these ingredients is still a bit unknown, though, as there is not a whole lot of data out there on the nutrition appropriate for endurance alpine climbing.  However, there is ample data on other endurance events, particularly things like ultra-running and Ironman triathlons.  Both of these events last far longer than the typical marathon, and therefore require the athlete to push past their limits of stored glycogen, just as in alpine climbing.  Consequently, I have selected them as complements to the limited data that exists regarding climbing nutrition.  Using this data, I have formed a few conclusions about the best way to fuel while on the move.

Fueling Your Cells:  A Primer

I’ll start with a brief lesson on how your body fuels itself.  The body’s most readily available source of energy is glycogen, which is simply stored glucose (sugar).  The typical person has enough stored glycogen to fuel around 2 hours or so of sustained aerobic effort.  Once glycogen is depleted (the dreaded “bonk”), the body has to burn fat for energy.  Unfortunately, the conversion of fat into cellular fuel is a much slower process than that of converting glycogen into glucose.  Consequently, this energy pathway is only viable for moderate exertion, up to about 70% VO2 max or 80% max heart rate.  Surges of high exertion require glycogen.  This is why many endurance athletes “carbo-load” before their races and events, to maximize their stock of glycogen (carbohydrates are broken down into sugars and stored as glycogen).

This means that in order to sustain effort beyond the body’s stored glycogen supply, carbohydrates must be consumed during the activity to replenish the glycogen stores.  This comes with a caveat, however.  Digestion requires energy, but typically the athlete wants to devote as much energy as possible to the event, not digestion.  Therefore, there is an optimal threshold at which calories can be consumed, digested, and absorbed by the intestines without detrimentally impacting performance while still maximizing caloric intake.

When operating at steady-state moderate exertion, the current recommendations are to consume about 250 - 350 calories an hour.  Beyond that threshold energy must be dedicated to gastric motility instead of moving, and as an athlete on a mission in the mountains, you presumably want all power to the engines.  These calories should come in the form of carbohydrates, though there is some evidence to suggest that small amounts of protein may be beneficial as well, especially for activities like climbing.

Fluid Intake Requirements

In addition to these carbohydrates, water needs to be consumed at a rate of between 16oz and 40oz an hour, depending on temperature, sweat output, and body size.  Anywhere from 8 to 12oz of this water should be consumed in conjunction with the aforementioned carbohydrates.  In addition to water, 200-300mg of sodium an hour will replace the sodium lost in sweat as well as encourage both water and carbohydrate absorption in the small intestines.  Finally, small amounts of caffeine can help with alertness and increase athletic performance.

Although it is possible to intake fluids and calories at the appropriate rate, this does not guarantee that once ingested they will be emptied from the stomach rapidly or absorbed effectively by the small intestines.  The most effective means for ensuring rapid gastric emptying and maximal intestinal absorption is to consume the carbohydrates as a fluid in a solution with water. This is the premise behind most sports drinks and some sources even suggest that endurance athletes should perform on purely liquid diets.

The caloric drink consumed should be between a 6% and 8% solution of carbohydrates in water, depending on the particular carbohydrate(s) used for the beverage.  This solution mimics the make-up of fluid in the body (it is isotonic) and will result in the most efficient absorption.  Solutions that are less concentrated (hypotonic) slow absorption because the body must first add electrolytes to the fluid in the intestines.  Hypertonic solutions, or those with greater concentrations of carbohydrates, require the body to first add water to the solution before absorption, encouraging dehydration.  If solid food is ingested, it should always be taken with water to help combat the effect of a hypertonic substance entering the small intestines.

These are the basic principles behind nutrition while on the move.  In my next post I’ll discuss what this all means for my particular nutritional plan while in the Tetons.

Further Reading

Derek DeBruin
AMGA certified Rock Instructor Wilderness First Responder AIARE Level 1
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Time Control Plans for Long Climbs

Posted on Wednesday, 05 June 2013 in The Guides' Climbing Adventures

While we’re out here in the Tetons, one of the objectives I hope to attempt is the Cathedral Traverse, which involves successive climbs of Teewinot Mountain, Mount Owen, and the Grand Teton.  When undertaking such a large objective, it can be useful in the planning process to have some means of estimating the time required for the objective.  In guiding we call this the time control plan, and the Munter touring plan is one system commonly used for time control.

To use the Munter touring plan, the entire objective (approach, climb, descent) must first be broken down into “units,” where 1 unit is equivalent to either 1km of ground distance or 100m of vertical gain/loss.  After breaking the objective down into these units, the uphill or traversing units (ground distance and vertical gain) are divided by 4.  The downhill units are divided by 6 to 10, depending on the method of travel.  Divide by 6 for technical descent (rappelling, complex route finding, significant downclimbing), divide by 8 for straightforward descent (walking on a trail), divide by 10 for ski travel.  Total the units after dividing by the uphill/downhill factors.

From the resulting units, multiply by 60 to determine the travel time required in minutes.  For any pitched out, 5th class climbing, allow 45 minutes per pitch and do not count the vertical gain from the climbing with the other uphill units.  Add this to the total time.  Finally, add 10 minutes for every hour of travel to account for breaks.  The resulting time should be a pretty close estimate of how long you’ll be in the backcountry.

Our intended route on the Cathedral Traverse in blue with retreat options shown in red.

For example, on the Cathedral Traverse, we will cover about 5 “uphill” miles with 8800 feet of elevation change (some is downhill on traverses), 9 “downhill” miles with 6100 feet of elevation change, and about 14 pitches of climbing.  In metric, this is 8km/2667m up and 14.4km/1848m down and totals 8 + 26.67 = 34.67 units up and 14.4 + 18.48 = 32.88 units down.  34.67 / 4 = 8.6675 and 32.88 / 8 = 4.11, yielding 12.7775 total units.  12.7775 x 60 is approximately 767 minutes of travel, or 12:47.  14 pitches of climbing at 45 minutes each gives 10:30 for pitched climbing, or 23:17 total.  Adding breaks at 10 minutes per hour of travel brings adds another 230 minutes (3:50) to the time, for a grand total of time of 27 hours, 7 minutes.  As Ron and I are both fit, experienced climbers, we are hoping to shave a few hours from this estimate and complete the objective in one (very long) day.

This has been cross-posted from my personal blog: 


Derek DeBruin
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Recovery from Climbing Finger Pulley Tendon Injuries

Posted on Wednesday, 05 June 2013 in The Guides' Climbing Adventures

This has been cross-posted at my personal blog: 

I have spent most of the last 8 weeks training in preparation for a trip to the Tetons.  There has been a  lot of cardio-paced hour-long bouldering circuits, sport-specific exercises, endurance runs up and over mountains and rock faces here in North Carolina, and interval weight lifting cross training.

Unfortunately, my training plans were significantly derailed on May 7 when I injured my left middle finger during one of the aforementioned bouldering circuits.  After an initial evening of forlorn spectatorship as I spotted my friends while they bouldered, I realized that I had two very positive things going for me.  The first was the timing.  May 7 was almost exactly 4 weeks before we were scheduled to leave.  Had the injury happened any later, I might not have been in the best climbing shape.  Second, as this was my third finger injury, I had a pretty good idea of how best to help it heal quickly.  I thought others might also benefit from this knowledge.

A Quick Anatomy Lesson

By far the most common finger injury in rock climbing is a hyper-flexion of the distal inter-phalangeal (DIP) joint or the proximal inter-phalangeal (PIP) joint resulting in the partial or complete tear of the A2 and/or A4 pulley tendon(s), commonly in the ring or middle fingers, but also possible in the index finger and little finger.  This injury is usually caused by the climber adopting a “full crimp” grip or a one- or two-finger “pocket” grip.

In less technical terms, the PIP and the DIP are the finger joints closest and furthest from the hand, respectively.  On the palm-side of each finger is a tendon that basically runs from the end of the finger, along the finger, through the hand, and into the muscles of the forearms.  When the muscle flexes, it pulls on this tendon, which allows the hand to close.  Since the tendon attaches to the end of the finger, other assistive tendons called “pulleys” wrap around the individual finger bones to help hold the tendon in place.  When a climber crimps on a tiny hold, it is possible for these assistive pulleys to tear.

A tendon tear is more commonly referred to as a “sprain” or “strain,” but a tendon tear may be more thoroughly described as either a partial or full tear.  In general, climbing pulley injuries are partial tears.  The injury is frequently associated with a “popping” sound while pulling on a crimper or pocket, painful touch sensitivity to the affected area, pain when moving through the affected range of motion, and possibly swelling.



I am not a doctor, physical therapist, or anything else that might come with a degree, certificate, or license to be dispensing medical advice.  However, I have injured 5 pulleys now and have researched the matter pretty thoroughly.  Use this information at your own risk.

How to heal as quickly as possible

The good news is that most partial pulley tears will heal on their own if given enough time.  (Full tears may require surgery - see a doctor).  The bad news is that since the fingers don’t receive much circulation, they tend to heal relatively slowly.  For minor injuries, 2 - 3 weeks might be sufficient, but serious or multiple tears may not fully heal for months.  That being said, here is what I have had success with:

1.  STOP CLIMBING.  This will likely be easily initially due to the pain, but may take greater resolve as time advances.  I usually try to take 2 whole weeks off from any climbing if possible (though my line of work does not always allow this).  This should give time for the swelling to reduce and healing to take place enough that other therapy is effective.

2.  Start cryotherpay.  This is a fancy way of saying put ice on it.  Apply ice to the affected finger for 20 - 30 minutes 4 or 5 times a day.  This will help reduce swelling, alleviate pain, and encourage circulation as the finger re-warms.  Icing can be started the day of the injury and continued for a few weeks as long as it is effective.

3.  Deep friction massage can be effective after the injury has had 1 to 2 weeks to heal on its own. Apply heavy pressure and massage the finger down its length in the affected area.  A few minutes 3 or 4 times a day may be helpful in increasing circulation.

4.  Stretching and range of motion exercises are helpful once the injury has had a few weeks to heal.  These activities may cause some pain, but there should be no sharp or acute pain associated with them.  If there is, wait a few more days so the finger has more time to heal before starting.  A few times a day, work the finger through its full range of motion, bending and straightening it and doing a few circles.  Finish with hyperextension stretching, straightening the finger and pulling it back with the opposite hand.  I typically combine all three of these into one “therapy session,” starting with icing, than massaging, then stretching.

5.  For those who truly need to climb as soon as possible, some evidence suggests that a moderate open-hand grip hangboard session a few times a week can speed healing by increasing circulation and serving a similar function as range of motion exercise.  However, this comes with the risk of causing further injury to the finger and also demands great discipline to not accidentally aggravate the injury.  I would not recommend this unless you’re competing in the world cup or it’s imperative that you send your next V12 project tomorrow.  Of course, if that’s the case, you probably already know how to treat pulley injuries.

6.  Taping can have some beneficial effect in preventing re-injury when you finally resume climbing.  I usually give it about 4 weeks post-injury before any serious attempts to climb again.  Tape needs to be applied quite tightly to be effective and should be applied just behind both finger joints.  If the tape is too tight it will restrict circulation to the finger tip, so I usually wrap the tape quite snugly on the underside of the finger and more loosely on top.  This seems to work well.  After about 2 weeks of climbing with tape, you can begin tentative forays into tape-free climbing until you feel 100% recovered.

A few other notes:  I personally avoid taking NSAIDs therapeutically unless they are needed for pain maintenance.  There is some evidence to suggest that long-term use of NSAIDs may have detrimental effects on joints and may actually slow the healing process.  Also, while taping can be useful for rehabilitation post-injury, the evidence does not seem to support the notion that taping has any injury preventing effects.

Further Reading