Climbing Essentials: The American Alpine Club

We’ve all seen the logo; opening our local slideshows, adorning gym posters and slapped on our partners’ helmets — maybe you’re a member yourself. The truth is that if you’re a climber, the American Alpine Club is the hub of your community. Membership costs about as much as a cam, and while it can’t exactly catch you when you fall, it’s just as useful to have in your pack.


The AAC has helped save members thousands of dollars in hundreds of rescues over the last twenty years, thanks to its complimentary member insurance, which includes $5,000 domestic accident insurance and $5,000 global rescue service. If you’re still trying to figure out Obamacare, AAC membership also provides access to deals on climber-friendly health and trip insurance.

Mountain Rescue Helicopter


Need a guide book for your next trip? AAC will send it to you for 28 days– all you have to pay is return-shipping back to their library in Golden. In addition, every year they’ll send you the American Alpine Journal, which is full of inspiration from the forefront of the sport, and Accidents in North American Mountaineering, which is a great way to learn what not to do. (Knot those rope-ends. Seriously.)



When that ratty jacket with the singe marks and duct-tape finally coughs up its last puff of down, rest easy knowing your AAC membership means discounts on some of your favorite brands (including 20% off Brooks-Range gear). It also means deals on magazines like Alpinist and Rock and Ice, lodging at the Grand Teton Climbers’ Ranch, and certain day guide services. So splurge a little and get some peanut butter to go with that ramen.



Maybe you’re ready to put together your first big expedition, or maybe you want to replace all the old anchors at your favorite crag. Maybe you’ve got a burning question you need to go research. The AAC gives out over $80,000 annually in grants to support our climbing adventures, wherever they might lead. They also devote more than $100,000 annually to help conserve and protect our favorite climbing areas across the globe. That means that the dues you pay come right back to you and the community you love.

Woman hiker walking in Himalaya Mountains, Nepal

We all know that no matter how simply we live, chasing our dreams can get expensive. The American Alpine Club exists to share knowledge, support development and encourage lives lived in the mountains. If you’re not already a member, have a look at their website and give it a thought– it’s a great community to be a part of.

For a little more from the folks at the AAC, watch their Campaign for Climbers video:

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A Life Serrated: Brooks-Range Pro Grade Scientist Line Snow Saws

The more time you spend traveling the snowy hills, the more time you’re going to spend it in the snow as well as touring on top of it. That’s because backcountry pros, glacier travelers, mountain guides and avalanche forecasters all share a common bond in the snow saw. After the holy trinity of backcountry rescue gear—beacon, shovel, probe—the next tool for gaining information from the snowpack is the esteemed snow saw. Light, efficient and invaluable in a snow pit, the snow saw is the quiet underdog that helps answer the deeper questions.

pyramid peak and maroon bells

Whether you consider yourself a snow scientist or merely a pit nerd, Brooks-Range has signature serrated tools down cold. The Scientist Saw line is everything an aspiring pit investigator wants, as well as what the venerable snow kook needs. With four saws in the series, we’re able to cater to any and every snow pit need.

All BR Scientist Saws are built from stainless steel for enhanced strength and durability in the field. For additional efficiency and pit tool management, they come with imperial and metric rulers etched on either side of the blade, along with snow crystal identification grids in 1mm, 2mm, and 3mm patterns for added ease of use and accuracy. Two ski straps can affix the saw to a shovel shaft or ski pole for a longer-reaching tool when isolating larger snow columns (like an Extended Column Test or Propagation Saw Test), cutting small cornices, or establishing an igloo quarry.

Scientist 35 Folding Snow Saw

The profile of Scientist snow saws feature a thin kerf on the teeth that leaves a smooth finish. What’s created is a professional work environment that aspirant and professional snow scientists alike can better observe the subtle signs and differences that tend to accompany snow pit studies.

Depending on the user’s needs, BR has built a straight 35cm saw, as well as a collapsible version that folds from 18 inches to 10 inches for maximizing compatibility. Newcomers will appreciate the ease of use when isolating columns for shovel shear tests and compression tests. There’s also a collapsible 70 cm saw for more ambitious workloads.

Scientist 100 Folding Snow Saw

Finally, Brooks-Range has partnered with the American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) on developing the Scientist 100 Folding Snow Saw. Over a meter long when extended (44”), the 100 folds down to only 18” (45 cm) for maximum portability in the field. The extended saw was made in response to researchers and educators who needed a longer but efficient tool for more in depth tests and trials in the field. However much time you spend in the proverbial snow bank, Brooks-Range professional grade saws blend maximum efficiency with durable longevity.

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6 Tips for Handling Whiteout Conditions

You’re enjoying another good long day in the mountains when you realize that those friendly clouds on the horizon are getting a little too close for comfort. Before you know it, you’re enveloped in thick fog; a whiteout. Do you know what to do?

Every situation is different, but following these six tips for handling sudden whiteout conditions can help you get through the worst of it.

lost 3

1.  Stay Calm

It’s easy to panic when the sky and snow merge. Especially if you have lots of ground to cover, it can feel eerie and disorienting. You may be worried, but as with most things in the mountains it’s essential to pause, take a deep breath, and take stock of your situation.

2.  Never take Visibility for Granted

Once you’ve calmed down, you’ll remember that (thank goodness) you’ve been keeping track of landmarks all day. You know you were moving towards that fin of rock or that saddle when the storm hit, and you know what you passed along the way. Keep a running tally of landmarks and hazards, such as crevasses or terrain traps; this is your first line of defense should you lose visibility.

3.  Know your Navigation Tools

Along with landmarks, it’s a good idea to quiz yourself periodically on your cardinal directions, even in good weather. Have a good look at your map before you start moving, and store a mental snapshot of your route. Knowing your general orientation at all times makes navigating with your compass much easier, should the need arise. The topo maps app is great for phones (but be cautious of battery life), and tools like the Adventure Racing Plotter Pro can help simplify traditional map navigation.

4.  Track Your Rate of Progress

If you’ve got an altimeter watch or GPS, it can be used to track how fast you travel over different types of terrain. If you know it takes you 25 minutes to skin a mile ascending at altitude, then you can estimate how long it will take you to make it to certain landmarks, which is a good way to make sure you’re heading the way you think you are. Keep in mind that if your altimeter works on barometric pressure, it may be thrown off by an approaching low pressure storm cycle.

5.  Use Flags

If there aren’t any landmarks, you can always make some. Particularly in glacier travel or in situations where low visibility is expected, you might need to be prepared to flag your route. Maybe you’ve just got a bushel of sticks or something more formal- the point is to mark where you’ve been so you can spot the safe route for return.

6.  Be Prepared to Wait it Out

Sometimes it’s just not wise to keep moving. Maybe the terrain is too hazardous to risk getting off route, or maybe you’re running low on supplies. If you know you’re going to be in a remote enough place that a bivy might be necessary, especially one in bad weather, be sure to have emergency supplies like a lightweight stove and the Ultralite Alpini Shelter.

Whiteouts can be serious, so pay attention, be prepared, and go safely.


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