The Guide's Blog

Guiding

More Tools, Fewer Rules

November 3, 2016 fmg-adminAlpine & Ice Climbing Guiding Rock Climbing

It is easy to have an idea that is “black and white."  Concepts are easily digestible when there are rules to abide by.

“ALWAYS do it THIS way! NEVER do it THAT way!”

This is especially true given the mortal danger that is inherent in mountain sports. Rules often represent security to us thereby allowing us to relax a bit and enjoy the dance of climbing. These rules however, are concrete and we are not likely to rearrange or adapt them with changing contexts. Principles, however, can be sorted in different ways and allow us some flexibility when the environment throws us a curve ball. I tend to recommend a PRINCIPLE-based approach to climbing instead of one dominated by RULES.

There is a good reason why we learn anchoring fundamentals with acronyms such as NERDSS or ERNEST. They are systems of principles that should be met, and not a formula or prescribed method for the perfect anchor in all situations. The real world is not a laboratory, and no two environments are congruent. If you are only climbing single pitch routes using a sling shot top rope system, you will likely use a well built anchor on two bolts, trees ,or multiple we




Read MORE

The Flat Overhand, Not the EDK…

October 18, 2016 fmg-adminGuiding Rock Climbing

There has been much controversy over the flat overhand knot, otherwise know as EDK (Euro Death Knot) for rappelling in the media lately. Much of the controversy has to do with the “rolling” of the knot, and most of the time it is actually the flat figure eight that everyone is talking about. I have recently even seen the flat figure eight called the other version of the EDK, and now there is an article called “A Better EDK." These of course are published by well-known American climbing magazines.

So lets first get the names of the knots correct.

This is the Flat Overhand:

This is the Flat Figure Eight:

This is the EDK:

 

Notice there is no picture…

Because we should stop calling any knot a Euro Death Knot, but if you must, use that term to describe the flat figure eight knot.

This is the knot being referred to as a “A better EDK”:

It is really easy for me to give you instances of when and when not to use these knots for the weekend warrior climber.

Flat Figure 8 should be used, never.

“A better EDK,"  never.

 

Use a flat overhand when rappelling.

 

Since we onl




Read MORE

Rappel Extension Options

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminGuiding Rock Climbing

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.




Read MORE

Nature Deficit Disorder?

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminGuiding Rock Climbing

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




Read MORE

Ice Climbing

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminAlpine & Ice Climbing AMGA Courses Guiding

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




Read MORE

AMGA SPI student Zach Silberman

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminAMGA Courses Guiding Rock Climbing

his 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




Read MORE

Ice Climbing: “A Leader’s Game”

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminAlpine & Ice Climbing 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 cli




Read MORE

FMG Summer Camp 2014 Recap

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminGuiding Rock Climbing

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."

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 cl




Read MORE

Karsten becomes first AMGA Certified Alpine Guide in Southeast

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminAlpine & Ice Climbing AMGA Courses 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




Read MORE

Early Season Ice Gear Thoughts

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminAlpine & Ice Climbing Guiding

Thank 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




Read MORE

Where’s That Fox?

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminAlpine & Ice Climbing Guiding Rock Climbing The Guides' Climbing Adventures

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




Read MORE

Coiling a Climbing Rope with Fox Mountain Guide Travis Weil

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminAlpine & Ice Climbing Guiding Rock Climbing


Read MORE

The White Coast

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminGuiding Rock Climbing The Guides' Climbing Adventures

When you mix the world’s two largest features, the mountains and the sea, you can bet there will be breathtaking views with vast, dramatic landscapes and succulent food to round out the climbing experience.  The Costa Blanca region of Spain didn’t let me down.

If I ignored the setting and just had raw climbing, I would have still had fun. The steep limestone feeds the need for a pump while the larger formations give the enduro day its due. The area is mostly bolted with the longer routes needing supplemental gear. We climbed routes ranging from 3+ to 7a+ (5.6 to 5.12) and only tapped the surface. There is much unclimbed rock in the region for those FA adventure seekers.  Here are a few crags, restaurants, and sites one doesn’t want to miss:

The Climbing

Penon de lfach: The landmark of the Costa Blanca, this 332m tower perched above the Mediterranean Sea has multi pitch routes ranging from 5+ to 7b (5.10 to 5.12b).  We climbed a 6a+ variation of Via Valencianos, a route with quite a bit of loose rock and polished cruxes but with a view that is among the most spectacular in the world.

Olta:  Fantastic rock quality and bir




Read MORE

Ron Funderburke takes over as the AMGA Single Pitch Ins. Discipline Coordinator

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminAMGA Courses Guiding Rock Climbing

Fox Mountain Guides Head guide Ron Funderburke took over the American Mountain Guides Single Pitch Instructor Discipline Coordinator position on Monday. This position puts Ron in charge of the direction of the program as well as the training for all the AMGA SPI providers across the country. Ron's extensive experience instructing in single pitch terrain as well as his back ground in teaching helped him secure this position. Fox Mountain Guides is excited for Ron and as always values his leadership to keep us on the cutting edge of guiding and instuction in the United States and the world. Here is Ron's statement to the AMGA membership:

With utmost excitement, I am pleased to accept the post as Discipline Coordinator for the AMGA SPI Program. The program has enjoyed some unprecedented successes since it's inception in 2008, and that is a credit to the excellent students, instructors, providers, and trainers. My fervent hope is that everyone out there is still as invested as I am. The front lines of American climbing instruction have always been the single pitch crags, and single pitch instruction is the face of our guides association. That was




Read MORE

Locking Munter Hitch

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminAlpine & Ice Climbing Guiding Rock Climbing


Read MORE

Tyrollean Makes the Red River Gorge SPI Assessment a Go!

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminAMGA Courses Guiding Rock Climbing

The AMGA Single Pitch Instructor assessment that was just taught in the Red River Gorge was a full-conditions course. Karsten had to set a tyrollean over the river because there was so much rain on the first day that there were flash floods!

Find out More about our AMGA SPI instructor programs.




Read MORE

Where’s That Fox?

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminGuiding Rock Climbing The Guides' Climbing Adventures

Congratulations to Michael Morely for correctly identifying this route as "White Trash" (12a) at Smith Rock and winning a BlueWater 9.1 Icon rope.




Read MORE

Alpine Slideshow by FMG Guides!!!

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminAlpine & Ice Climbing Events and Slide Shows Guiding

 




Read MORE

New Hampshire Ice Trip Tops My List

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminAlpine & Ice Climbing Guiding

The annual Fox Mountain Guides New Hampshire Ice Trip is well underway and in fact coming to a close! As one of my favorite trips, it saddens me to see it come to a end every year! The ice climbing in New Hampshire is world class with short approaches and everything from easy, beginner level ice to hardman mixed climbing.

Our month up here starts off with our Ice Climbing 101 Course and the Mountain Washington Valley Ice Fest. I am always psyched to hang out and watch slideshows from some of the best climbers in NH and the world as well as help put on the clinics for this event. Our 101 guests join us in the fun as we cook every night in the chalet and play games and the occasional joke (or magic trick this year) on each other.

We head out to local crags every day and make sure no one goes home without a forearm pump! For those wanting to stay a little longer or pick up where they left off from the previous year, the Ice 201 Course brings an even bigger "pump." It culimnates with multi-pitch climbing for the all-around ice climbing experience!

Many clients come and book their favorite guide for a few days of climbing wher




Read MORE

Thinking About the Climbs We Guide

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminGuiding Rock Climbing

I love these climbs more than most. I know them like my children’s faces.  I love them on the hottest day.  I love them in accumulating snow.  I love them in the pouring rain.  And, I love when people meet the climbs I love.

Tonight, I can barely remember the first time I kissed my wife.  I remember the story of our first kiss, because I have told it many times.  But I don’t remember what I my own lips felt like back then, much less hers.  In the same manner, I do not remember when I first deciphered the Nose of Looking Glass Rock, or bashed my way to the top of Gumbie’s Rampage, or first dangling off the Tilted World.  Those climbs are so far into my past that the first time is no longer a feeling that I can remember.  They have become fluid, unpretentious, thoughtless motion.  Affectionate, but familiar, like kissing my wife.

That’s why I love when people meet the climbs that I love.  I can look into their faces, flash through the vortex of time, and experience, and hundreds of laps up these climbs, and revive my own past in that vicarious moment.

Sometimes, people do not love the climbs that I love.  My wife, f




Read MORE

A Quick Jaunt Up The Glass

July 21, 2016 foxmountain_adminGuiding Rock Climbing The Guides' Climbing Adventures

Nineteen years ago I came to North Carolina for the first season at Camp Blue Star as a climbing ‘specialist’ to work for the summer. Nineteen years later I am still proud to be affiliated with Camp Blue Star and serve in a staff hiring and training role for their climbing program. This year, sounding like the start to a cheesy joke the climbing team is an American, a New Zealander and two English guys. Trey is AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Certified and Callum is the UK equivalent (MLTE Single Pitch Award) but Blue Star is still putting him through the AMGA Single Pitch Instructor Course and Assessment. All four will also be taking the two day AMGA Climbing Wall Instructor Course this weekend and eight day Wilderness First Responder certification (as well as five days of climbing training with me later this month). For me this is what sets Blue Star apart from other summer camps, the comprehensive unparalleled staff training for their Outdoor Adventure Program Staff.

Even though we don’t technically start climbing staff training for another week I rounded them up the other night at the dining hall to take them on a quick trip up the ‘N




Read MORE