Gearing Up for Alaska

Grivel and Beal athlete Alan Rousseau shares his thoughts on the gear necessary for a successful climbing trip to Alaska.

This spring over the course of seven weeks I did three trips into the Alaska Range.  Two of these trips I was working as a mountain guide, and one was a personal trip.  Starting in mid April I guided the Ham and Eggs route on the Moose’s Tooth in the Ruth Gorge.  Late April I had a second client for another trip up Ham and Eggs followed by an ascent of the SW ridge of peak 11,300 (a mountain named by its elevation located in the West Fork of the Ruth Gorge).  

A look up the Moonflower

In May I met a friend of mine from Salt Lake and we made several attempts on the North buttress of Mount Hunter.  With this much climbing planned on a diversity of objectives my gear quiver was quite extensive.  For which I am thankful for Liberty Mountain’s support.  The focus of the following article will be on equipment I used for these various objectives and why they are suited well for climbing in the Alaska Range.  

Scoping the Mooses Tooth

Mid April in Alaska can be a pretty cold time, however, with spring arriving earlier and earlier I advised my clients that although it can be cold; it’s better to be cold on an ice climb than show up and have it melted out! I used warm double boots for all my trips into the range this year.  The boots I used fit well to both the Grivel G20 and G22 crampons.  For the Moose’s Tooth and Peak 11,300 I used the G22 crampon.  For long moderate routes the dual front-point reduces calf and ankle fatigue while providing a more solid platform.  

Rapelling Ham and Eggs

The North Machines made for an excellent ice tool on “Ham and Eggs” and Peak 11,300.  The swing weight is spot on, and the pick angle works really well on the lower angle ice (60-75 degrees) encountered on both of these routes.  The Hammer and adze are also both the “real deal”. There has been a trend lately with tools to make the adze and hammer smaller and smaller.  I feel on most tools out there the hammer is too small to actually place a piton or picket, and the adze is not large enough to really move some snow or chop a good bollard.  For big alpine routes it’s a huge advantage to not have to carry an actual wall hammer to place a solid piton.  Grivel tools are the only ones I feel like I can actually hammer with. 

Sorting ropes on Peak 11,300

Using ropes as insulation

When it comes to ropes there are endless options for routes like these, all have their merits.  For the Moose’s tooth, I used two, Beal Gullys (7.3mmx70m).  They are super light weight, and ultra water resistant.  It is important to have two ropes for the descent, and I feel fine about going with such a thin line since there is little rock encountered on the route and therefore few sharp edges.  Most of the pitches are full rope lengths on this route so it’s nice to have less rope weight.  For the SW ridge of 11,300 I opted to carry a Beal Gully on my back and for simplicity of handling the rope I used a single Beal Opera (8.5mm).  Guiding a route like the SW ridge the rope technique is changed often from long pitches, to simul climbing, to short roping, and short pitching.  Being able to have one rope instead of two can shave hours off your time at the end of guiding a big route.  For the descent it was nice to have a light twin rope to use on the rappels.  Some people prefer to use a 6mm cord for a tag line rappelling, however in cold windy places I find the 6mm tangles up a bit too much.  Although the 7.3 Gully is a little heavier it tangles less, and if a rope gets stuck it’s nice to know both ropes in your system are designed to take falls (should you have to lead up to retrieve a stuck line). 

Bollard on Ham and Eggs

Cornice at the top of peak 11,300

For the North buttress of Hunter, which has more difficult technical climbing a “sendier” set up is nice.  I changed my tools up to the Tech Machines, which was nice to have a solid match point for the harder mixed sections.  The tool’s pick angle is designed more for vertical to overhanging terrain.  The G20 crampon was my choice for this objective.  This lightweight crampon helps reduce fatigue, and using a mono point in rock terrain is much more comfortable for me.  A mono point allows the climber to pivot ones foot on small edges without levering off the hold.  I was happy to have it while freeing the Prow pitch, which used to have an A2 rating, and is now generally referred to as M7-.  

Moonflower pitch 9

For the Moonflower our rope set up also changed to a Beal joker (9.1mm) and a Beal gully.  For the harder pitches and pendulums on the route I prefer to have a rope over 9mm.  The last thing I want to be thinking about in the crux is if my rope is on a sharp edge.  I like climbing on skinny ropes, but there is a time and place for it.  Ask yourself what benefits you will gain by using a real skinny cord, and see if any apply to the climb you have at hand.  If its likely the leader or second will fall in rock terrain, or if jugging lines is a possibility think hard about if the skinniest rope is the right choice. 

The pieces of gear that I used for all of these objectives were the Grivel Stealth helmet, Grivel Sigma K8g and plume twin gate carabiners, Beal Mirage Harness, Cypher mydas draws and dyneema slings, and a Cilo Gear 34B pack.  The stealth helmet is super light and surprisingly durable.  The adjustment systems are simple and unlike most helmets with a “turn knob adjustment” the stealth’s adjustments will not freeze on you.  The Grivel twin gate carabiners have been a game changer for me, especially in cold environments.  I was so tired of having lockers freeze on me I began belaying with non-lockers on big cold alpine routes.  These twin gates have little surface area to freeze and once you get the hang of them they are easy to operate one handed with gloves on.  

Bivy on the descent of Peak 11,300

The Beal Mirage harness packs small, is lightweight, and has enough surface area to help keep circulation to your legs.  Weight savings is key with all the gear you have to bring up on these routes, the cypher mydas carabiners helped out a lot in this department.  I used four mydas sport draws and 6 mydas alpine draws with dyneema slings on the moonflower.  The last piece of gear I‘ll talk about is the Cilo gear 34B pack.  This bag has been with me for several years, hundreds of days of use, and the dyneema keeps on givin’ er.  It is small enough to still climb well, but if you go light you can fit a few days of kit in it.  Check out Cilo gear’s line of packs all handmade in the USA.

Cook tent at the base of Mooses Tooth

Ham and Eggs

I hope this has been helpful to see what equipment allows me to work and climb personal objectives in Alaska.  Now it’s time to pack for the next two months of guiding in the Alps, immediately followed by a personal climbing expedition on the India Pakistan border supported by the Mugs Stump Grant.  See you in October North America!     

-Alan Rousseau


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Jackson Marvell Athlete Bio

Jackson Marvell is the newest member of the Liberty Mountain athlete teams. He has joined as an athlete for Edelweiss, Grivel, and Cypher. We interviewed Jackson to find out a bit more about where his passion for climbing started and what his goals are moving forward.

Tell us about where you grew up -

I was born in Orem, Utah and lived in Provo till I was three. That's also where I dug the biggest hole ever in my parents garden. Then we moved to Lindon where I now live when I'm not on a climbing trip or expedition.

What was your first experience climbing?

When I was 16 I begged an older girl that I worked with to take me out climbing with her on a Saturday after work. She eventually conceded and took me up to Rock Canyon. That day I was able to lead a couple sport pitches and learn the basics, that night I bought a rope, harness, draws, and set of stoppers. Because it became an addiction, I began recruiting kids to skip school with me to go climbing as often as I could. The trips to Moab then started soon after and my weekend norm became climbing there. Moab is where I really cut my teeth climbing.

What is your favorite type of climbing?

Climbing to me is all about the adventure. That being said, I naturally gravitate towards trad, big wall, alpine and ice. There is nothing quite like topping out a wild desert tower though, so if I had to choose one as my favorite I guess I would have to go with that.

Any style of climbing that you particularly dislike?

Sport climbing and bouldering are both fairly boring.

Jackson on Gold Bar Tower
Where are your favorite areas to climb?

I've spent a lot of time over the years exploring the Colorado Plateau, when I'm home that is my go to climbing destination. The past two years I've spent time in Alaska and have really enjoyed the experiences I have had there. It's really cool to disconnect from the rest of the world for a month.

Tell us about your all-time favorite climb –

Hmm. My all time favorite climb… that's a hard one. One of the most standout days in my memory would have to be when my friend and climbing partner, Pat Kingsbury and I got the first free ascent of the east face of Texas Tower Onsight. That was a pretty rad day of climbing.

Why do you climb?

You know that's a good question. I think about that when I’m especially tired at work, or when I’m broke as a joke trying to scrounge up money for another trip. The only answer I’ve been able to come up with is because life should have moments of adventure. Who doesn't dream about wandering the desert, or standing on top of a snowy summit in a far away place. I certainly did when I was a kid and now that dream has become somewhat of a reality.

Jackson climbing Shotgun Wedding
Photo: Tim Thompson

Can you talk about your project to climb 100 desert towers? What was your motivation, and what were logistics and planning like?

A couple months after I turned 20 I decided I wanted to climb 100 desert towers before I turned 21. There were a couple of reasons I decided I wanted to do this, 1) I would be the youngest person to do it by several years, and 2) I wanted to go to areas of the desert that I would otherwise never have had the chance to explore. Logistics and planning was simple, climb towers at every possible chance. Obstacles on the other hand were another story, one thing that comes to mind when I think of obstacles would be when I totaled my truck on a Friday night one weekend out on a dirt road in Canyonlands. I was pretty stressed that night thinking about what I was going to have to do to get a new rig and get back on the road, but I woke up the next morning and said screw it and drove the totaled truck the rest of the weekend ticking off 5 towers. I then drove home Sunday night, test drove 12 Tacomas on Monday, got a loan on Tuesday and bought a new truck. On Wednesday I was back out enjoying my month long road trip.

PS some fun facts for my little project, it took 29,160' vertical feet of climbing, 27,500 miles driven, $3,437 spent on gas, 83 milkshakes from Milts, and 1 totaled Tacoma. What did I get in return? Countless priceless memories with many of my friends.

After being stuck in a storm for a week and a half this spring in Alaska, there was a brief 5 hour window that Jackson and his climbing partner Paul Robertson took full advantage of. They ran for the hill closest to base camp and enjoyed some much needed sun while getting some exercise climbing 6 pitches of fun alpine ridge. That night the weather closed back in for another 4 days.  Photo: Paul Robertson

What other hobbies/interests or passions do you have?

To be honest I usually don't have time for much besides work, planning climbing trips and going on climbing trips. If I did have more time I'd probably spend it in my grandpa's shop working on becoming a better welder or reading books.

What or who inspires you?

There are several people who have inspired me over the years, My grandpa and dad have always been a huge inspiration to me. They both work harder than anyone I know and they instilled that work ethic in me when I was young. I am always trying to incorporate that into my climbing. Another huge inspiration to me was Scott Adamson, he embodied everything I thought climbers were supposed to be.

Favorite post-send meal –

Would definitely have to say a nice big guac bacon burger with some fries.

What are your long-term climbing goals?

I have a lot of climbing goals. Some upcoming ones would be to free this line called “Hell Bitch” on a really rad tower deep in the desert. I’m also heading to Kyrgyzstan for two months to do some big wall climbing and exploring this summer so pretty stoked about that.

Anything else that you think your fans should know?


Follow Jackson's adventures on Instagram @jacksonmarvell


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Climbers Partner with LDS Church on Stewardship of Little Cottonwood Canyon Climbing

Photo: Nathan Smith
June 1st, 2017, Salt Lake City, Utah – The Salt Lake Climbers Alliance (SLCA), the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church), and Access Fund announce the signing of an unprecedented lease for 140 acres in Little Cottonwood Canyon (LCC). The parcel, known as the Gate Buttress, is about one mile up LCC canyon and has been popular with generations of climbers because of its world-class granite.

The agreement secures legitimate access to approximately 588 routes and 138 boulder problems at the Gate Buttress for rock climbers, who will be active stewards of the property. The
recreational lease is the result of several years of negotiations between LDS Church leaders
and the local climbing community.

A lease signing ceremony will be held to commemorate this historic event, which coincides with National Trails Day. Media are invited to join us.

Photo: Andrew Burr

What: Lease signing ceremony for climbing access to the Gate Buttress parcel in Little
Cottonwood Canyon.

Who: Scott Trotter, Presiding Bishopric of the LDS Church and Julia Geisler, Executive Director
of the Salt Lake Climbers Alliance. The Access Fund Conservation Team, Chip Powell and
Lindsay Anderson, will be facilitating an environmental stewardship Adopt a Crag event for
volunteers on site.

When: Saturday, June 3rd, 9 a.m.

Where: Parking lot of the Gate Buttress, one mile up Little Cottonwood Canyon. (Signage will be
present marking the site)

The leased area can be seen in the highlighted area here

The first recorded climbing route in LCC was established in 1961 by former Salt Lake City
Mayor, Ted Wilson and Bob Stout. Over the years, Wilson worked with Rick Reese, Allen
Sanderson, and other local climbers, in conjunction with the LDS Church to assure recreationalists, predominantly rock climbers, access to the Gate Buttress parcel. However, no
formal agreement had ever been established to allow climbing and land improvements. This
lease is an evolution of this relationship.

“The LDS Church has always been gracious to climbers regarding climbing access,” says
Wilson. “The Church, Salt Lake Climbers Alliance, and Access Fund now, by the agreement,
take this relationship to a whole new level. Because of the agreement, the canyon will have
needed environmental improvements to continue to enhance a wonderful recreational site open
to individuals and families.”

“Agreements like this lease benefit climbers and landowners alike,” says Access Fund
Executive Director Brady Robinson. “By teaming up, Access Fund and SLCA can ensure a
lasting partnership with the LDS Church.”

The SLCA and Access Fund are preparing a stewardship plan that will incorporate climbing
area improvements, erosion mitigation, and more. This stewardship work will replicate
successful efforts that SLCA is spearheading at the lower Little Cottonwood hiking and climbing
access trail network. In addition to hosting climbing, the property is also part of the Salt Lake
City watershed system that provides drinking water to more than 400,000 Salt Lake County

Photo: Nathan Smith

“The Gate Buttress is a world-class climbing resource that is near and dear to many climbers’
hearts both here in the Wasatch and across the nation,” says SLCA Executive Director Julia
Geisler. “The climbing community is deeply committed to the environmental stewardship of the
property. This lease not only secures access for climbing at the property, but also allows the
community to be better stewards of the places we love to play. The SLCA is actively planning
for recreation infrastructure improvements to begin in 2018, including trail and staging area work
that will reduce erosion and impacts on the Salt Lake City watershed.”

Stay tuned to SaltLakeClimbers.org for volunteer environmental stewardship opportunities at
upcoming Adopt a Crag events. The SLCA will also be responsible for funding recreation
infrastructure at the Gate Buttress parcel and will have fundraising events that the public is
encouraged to attend, including one on June 8th at Black Diamond Equipment. For tickets, visit
Photo: Nathan Smith

About Salt Lake Climbers Alliance

The Salt Lake Climbers Alliance (SLCA) exists to provide a unified voice for climbers in the
Wasatch through stewardship, advocacy, community, and education. The SLCA is Utah’s
leading voice for climbing access and stewardship: uniting, educating, and inspiring climbers of
all disciplines to serve their local climbing community since 2002.
For more information, visit saltlakeclimbers.org.

About the LDS Church

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is a global faith with nearly 16 million members
worldwide. The Church’s teachings include a belief that we have a responsibility to work with
others to care for God’s creations. For more information, visit our page on Environmental

About Access Fund

Access Fund is the national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and
conserves the climbing environment. Founded in 1991, Access Fund supports and represents
millions of climbers nationwide in all forms of climbing: rock climbing, ice climbing,
mountaineering, and bouldering. Six core programs support the mission on national and local
levels: climbing management policy, stewardship and conservation, local support and
mobilization, land acquisition and protection, risk management and landowner support, and
education. For more information, visit accessfund.org.


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Chulilla Spain Travel Tips


Beal Athlete Anne Struble recently returned from a climbing trip to Chulilla, Spain, a small town near the eastern coast of the country. Here are her tips and suggestions for planning your own trip to Chulilla and getting the most out of your time there.

Getting There
Probably the easiest and most direct way to get to Chulilla is to fly to Valencia. It is about 40 min from Chulilla to the Valencia airport. It is also possible to fly into either Madrid or Barcelona and drive from those cities, both of which are under 4 hours away.

If you are staying in the village of Chulilla itself, one important thing to note is that while cars are “allowed” on the side streets, most of them are extremely narrow, steep and winding and you may end up in a dead end forcing you to go uphill in reverse in the dark. To get to most locations in town, visitors leave their cars in the large public lot on the North end of town.

It is also possible to leave your car for short periods of time in the main plaza for loading/unloading/ purposes.

Rental Cars
I usually just use Kayak to find my rental cars and go with whatever is cheapest. Gold Car is usually a good cheap option. They have a super coverage that will theoretically make your life easy if you have any sort of damage to the car or need any roadside assistance. However, you will have to pay quite a bit more for it. Additionally, if you don’t get the super coverage, when you arrive to pick up your car they might give you a really hard upsale.

Airbnb is probably your best bet for finding lodging. Chulilla is pretty touristy and there are many options. There are a couple of B&Bs that you might also be able to get dinner at and there are a large number of apartments with full kitchens (and often a washing machine as well). Chulilla is very cute, scenic and convenient but it also works to stay in La Ermita (very close only around 1-2km), Losa del Obispo (only a 5-10 min drive to the climbing parking), or Villar del Arzobispo (a bit further, but it is bigger with a full grocery store and some restaurants).

The little stores in Chulilla actually have an impressively wide selection given their size, so it’s not actually necessary to go to a bigger grocery store, but depending upon how much cooking you plan to do you still might want to visit one.  Paniza which is right on Chulilla’s center square has daily fresh bread, empanadas and other treats. The woman who works there is very friendly and you can also get a wide variety of other items. If you venture a bit further from the town center there is another bakery and other stores which offer meats and cheeses. There is also a weekly market on Sundays which has a larger range of fresh produce and some snack items.

Goscanos - the climber’s hangout and offers breakfast and dinner, but is often closed in the middle of the day. They are very friendly and offer reasonable prices and good food.
Restaurante Hoces Del Turia - A nice little restaurant right on the main drag through town. You can also just get a drink or coffee.
There are also other restaurants around town, but I didn’t sample any of them. The best restaurants that I experienced were in Valencia on rest days (see the rest days section).


The guidebook can be picked up at the Bar El Canton, or the tobacco shop just next door to it, both are located right on the center square. It’s also likely that Goscano’s sells them. For gear, you could probably get away with a 70m rope, but I’d recommend bringing a longer one. There are a few routes that an 80m is necessary for, but in general it will just make your life easier. For draws, I’d recommend bringing 25, or 40 if you want to leave draws on anything for more than a day. Most routes are between 12 and 16 bolts (plus anchors), but there are the occasional longer (and less run out) ones that might need 20 or 22.

The best areas to climb at will really be dependent on the temps and what grades you are looking for.

For shady climbing I’d hit these areas first:
5.11s: Oasis, Chorreras and Master
5.12s: Chorreras, Oasis, Algarrobo (but stay away from the one star 7b+s at Algarabbo)
5.13s: Balconcito, Algarrobo, Pared Blanca, El Balcon, Chorreras

For sunny climbing:
Pared De Enfrente
For the 5.13s check out the El Ramellar sector for sure. It also goes into the shade in the afternoon and is good enough that it is worth checking out even if it’s a bit warmer.

There is also a climbing gear shop in Chulilla, where there was a decent selection of gear and chalk available.

Rest Days

For rest days, visiting Valencia and eating Paella was our favorite activity. If you just want Paella, I’d recommend Yuso. It’s right in the old town area which is great to explore after a huge satisfying meal. Our favorite restaurant, which also had fantastic paella, but other dishes as well, was Navarro, wonderful food and service. It’s an especially good place to go if you don’t speak much Spanish as they will explain their menu in English and make recommendations. They really want you to enjoy your visit.

We just enjoyed wandering around the old town and seeing the sites, but the Valencia Cathedral is definitely worth a visit. In addition to seeing the interior of the cathedral and walking through the small museum inside, I’d recommend climbing to the top of tower, which on a clear day will give you a great view of the area.

The beach on the northside of Valencia is also quite scenic with a long boardwalk with restaurants, cafes and ice cream.

There are also many great trails around Chulilla for hiking or trail running.


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