Scramble Up Steep Rock
Time to tap into your Spidey senses. First, take deep belly breaths to calm your mind for exposed climbing. Then test each hold by knocking on it (a hollow thump signals looseness) and pulling on it. With handholds, save strength by locking off (hands in a completed chinup position) or locking out (straight arm so that your bones, not your muscles, are holding your mass). Focus on finding good footholds or (on smooth slabs) smearing your entire foot on the rock for greater friction. Always maintain three points of contact. Though people always say, “Keep your hips in,” you actually want your weight over your feet. Unless the cliff is vertical, this will mean sticking your butt out a bit.
“No matter how big the rocks in a boulder field, test them before skipping across,” says Rocky Mountain Editor Steve Howe (“When Disaster Strikes!,” 10/08), a tip gleaned from famed Tetons climbing ranger Renny Jackson. “If the wrong one shifts, you could break your leg.” To ascend, zigzag up; gather your group at the end of each switchback in case of rockfall. Kick your toe into dirt or side-edge into the slope. Descending, plunge-step with your heels.
Bushwhack Through Dense Forest
Get to a highpoint and plot your course through the least-vegetated area (e.g., game trails, ridges, a south-facing slope). Wear durable, full-coverage clothes and sunglasses (pointy branches tend to zero-in on vulnerable eyeballs). “If you have to punch through an occasional wall of brush, back through pack-first to save your face,” advises John Harlin in his June 2001 “Bushwhacking” guide. Cinch down all pack straps and store any dangling items inside, to prevent snags. Another tip: Sometimes splashing along a mellow creek is easier than battling dense thickets.
To avoid altitude sickness, average 1,500 feet of net elevation gain per day. The motto: Hike high, sleep low. Drink and eat often, and pressure breathe: Exhale as if blowing out a candle. Descend if headaches or nausea develop.
“When mounting virgin 20,000-foot peaks, I’ll take every lift I can get.”
—John Harlin (6/02), on Viagra’s aid with altitude acclimatization