Case Study: Frostbite on Denali

With incoming winter temps and atmospheric rivers heading back to California I thought it was a good time to review a case study on prevention and treatment of cold injuries.  If you are looking to learn more about hypothermia you can view last year’s January treatment of hypothermia article.


This case study is based on an incident on Mt Denali- but keep in mind frostbite is a risk factor even in California.

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What is Success – and is it Healthy?

It occurred to me on a recent climbing trip that I may not have the healthiest relationship with success. You see, I view success as reaching the absolute endpoint. But I do not view the process as a stepping stone to success. By this, I mean that when I am focused on a big-picture goal I get down on myself when it doesn’t come easily or quickly.


To put it simply, I don’t allow myself to celebrate or feel accomplishment and pride until I reach my end goal, even though I am accomplishing smaller goals as I work through the process. Such a narrow view of success denies a lot of potential positivity and risks frustration when things don’t happen quickly.  


I work a lot with other highly motivated individuals and if this is a trap I’m falling into, it’s likely others are as well. So, let’s break down success, and how to have a healthier relationship with it. 



Defining Success



Success: the accomplishment of an aim or purpose.

Accomplishment: something that has been achieved successfully


First off one should note that success and accomplishment are intertwined. As the definition of each contains the other. Secondly, when you read these two words, note the way they make you feel. Just seeing these words sparks joy in me. It’s easy to see how we can become focused on this.


Yet as of late, that focus has been making me feel anything but sparks of joy and warmth. Instead, I’ve found myself in a negative cycle. One that involves frustration and negative self-talk. This is because I haven’t accomplished my big goals (yet). Have I made progress towards them – absolutely. However, I have not viewed this progress as positive because my main goals haven’t been accomplished.  



We Define Our Own Success



What’s so funny is that we create the definition of success and accomplishment. It’s literally whatever we want it to be. This means it is up to us to decide when to feel successful based on how we judge our own accomplishments. It all comes down to what we choose to believe. Of course, there are times when external influence may try to define what success looks like. In these cases, we can choose to accept those external forces or societal norms – or not.  We still get to decide. 


It all comes down to our tendencies. I have always to saved my gold stars and rewards for ‘BIG’ accomplishments. Lately, this has been extremely clear in my rock-climbing. 



My Success Journey

female rock climber in Mexico



Over the past 6 months, I’ve become motivated to climb harder grades. I’ve had a few years of hiatus where life, work, and home ownership have taken all my energy, but now I find myself motivated to push myself physically. It has felt great, and terrible. I’ve been inspired, and oh so frustrated.


A single pitch of hard rock climbing isn’t attainable first go. In fact, falling off repeatedly is the norm. I don’t know how to move my body right on the first go and have to hang and try all sorts of options. It takes me multiple tries, often over multiple days to climb the route ‘successfully’. I struggle with negative feelings through this process. 


Why? Because even if I get closer each day by falling less or nailing a sequence of movements, I don’t view these incremental steps as accomplishments. Only sending the whole route will do! It starts to feel so tortuous, especially because I realize I’m the one creating the torture.  


Is any of this ringing true for you? Noticing this for me has made me realize that I am experiencing this in my climbing as well as other aspects of my life.



Success Recommendations

rock climber in the happy boulders



Here are some recommendations that I have found helpful when dealing with accomplishing goals: 


  • Take any big goals you have and break them down into small steps to attain those goals

  • Celebrate each action towards each one of those steps

  • Feel grateful for the opportunity to chase goals

  • Start a gratitude journal practice 

  • Consider falling or failing as learning (learning what not to do is still progress)

  • When the above isn’t working ask a trusted friend to help reframe things


To some extent, we are all driven to accomplishment and success. With the above outline, you are sure to bring more gratitude and joy back to your success journey. Even if you already have a healthy relationship with success, these strategies can still enhance and accelerate that journey.  When something is fun and rewarding, we tend to pour more time and energy into it.


TRIP REPORT: South Lake Peaks Traverse

This was a fun ridge traverse of 4 peaks based out of the South Lakes trailhead in Bishop. I’ve also heard it called Hurd to Johnson Traverse. The route sticks to mostly 3rd class with long sections of 2nd class, plus some 4th and low 5th class (especially if you stick to the ridge). 


Difficulty: 5th Class, Grade IV

Distance: 11 miles (~2 miles of Ridgeline)

Elevation Gain: 4,850 feet


Overview of the route (view from on top of hurd)


We opted to start at Mt Johnson and make our way back to Hurd due to snow conditions (this is the opposite of how it’s described in other trip reports). We took the Bishop Pass trailhead and then turned right on the Treasure Lakes trail. Many snow and high water crossings slowed us down a bit, but in a regular summer season, it would be quick going. At the back side of the lakes, we continued on snow towards Mt. Johnson. 


moving above Treasure Lakes towards Mt. Johnson



Due to the unique snow conditions in this record year (July 2023), a component of the technical part was the snow to gain the ridge. The northwest ridge of Mt. Johnson had signs of wet avalanches and rather large bergschrunds. Between that and the early clouds, we opted to gain the ridge beyond the summit. Crampons and an ice axe were needed, as gaining the snow in this cirque was probably steeper than it would have been on the main peak. 

From here we were able to pick up speed and quickly hit the top of Trapezoid peak. Little did I know this was the 1st of 3 times I would summit that particular peak in 10 days. The views toward Mt Goode are spectacular.


Looking at the top of Trapezoid. To the right in shadow is a slab decent to a notch and then fun 3rd class ridge climbing.


From the top of Trapezoid Peak, you need to downclimb some exposed 3rd class to a notch and then continue on exposed 3/4th for a bit until it eases off. This was some of the more enjoyable parts. 


Eventually, you will make your way to the notch between Peak 12,192 and Trapezoid Peak. This is where the route officially feels like a slog as it was sandy class 2 most of the way to the top of Peak 12,192. Perhaps this is a good reason to do the route from Hurd to Mt Johnson. Then you can walk quickly down the sand!


A view of the saddle between Trapezoids long ridge and peak 12,192


From the summit of peak 12,192, you begin to climb 4th and 3rd class towards Hurd. If you stick to the ridge in the final section, you will be in solid 5th-class terrain for a bit. I found this really enjoyable, but you could try to descend off the true crest to make it less technical. 



Once on top of Hurd, you have many options for decent. Sticking to the ridge would be the most technical. Most people descend sandy slopes west to Treasure Lakes or east to Long Lake. We opted for Long Lake hoping to avoid the cold-water crossings. After crossing Long Lake, you are officially on a trail again with a short hike back to the car.

It did rain on us for part of the hike out.


Snow and ice at Long Lake looking towards Mt. Goode


We had an ice axe

crampons helmet

a small rack

a rope  

The ice axe and crampons were absolutely necessary for the snow approach. We never used the rope. While I think there are sections where it could be nice (close to Hurd), it never felt necessary. Keep in mind that both my partner and I have a climbing background and are good with exposure. With lower snow, it could be possible to avoid any extra gear, and just wear approach shoes. 


Wanna Try?

This felt like a reasonable outing for those experienced with backcountry navigation who also have some background in rock movement. If you choose to do it early season or on big snow years I would also add snow movement in terrain up to 40-50 degrees. 

You can read other details at Mountain Project. 





The summit of Trapezoid celebratory handstand

How Dangerous are Rattlesnakes?


The sun is out and so are the snakes – but just how worried should you be about rattlesnake bites?


North America is home to several species of venomous snakes. Thankfully, none of these are very deadly. The most common venomous snakes are known as pit vipers. These fascinating creatures include rattlesnakes, copperheads, and cottonmouths. They have a unique feature known as heat-sensing pits located between their eyes and nostrils. Coral snakes (elapids) are slightly more poisonous, but bites are so rare they are not a considerable concern. In this blog post, we will explore how to identify pit vipers, discuss the characteristics of specific venomous species, and debunk common myths associated with bites and treatments.


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Students practice a litter carry during a WFR course.

What is a Wilderness First Responder (WFR) Course?

The goal of a WFR is to make sure you have the knowledge to take helpful action, no matter what situation you find yourself in.


So, what is a WFR course?

A Wilderness First Responder course (WFR) is much more than just a course about first aid, CPR, or even emergencies. This course teaches you how to think critically, allowing you to apply your knowledge to unique situations that go far beyond typical backcountry-based trips.

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The Best Exercises for the Mountain Athlete

Mountain climbing is a physically demanding sport that requires a high level of endurance, strength, and agility. Strength training is crucial for mountain climbers as it helps to build the necessary strength and endurance required to tackle steep hills and challenging terrain. In this article, we will focus on the best strength exercises for mountain climbers.


Summit of Norman Clyde Peak

Tag more summits with intentional strength training!

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 5 Lessons Learned the Hard Way as an Outdoorsy Woman

I’m sharing these five lessons that I have learned in my 20+ years working as an outdoor guide, educator, risk manger, search and rescue team member, park ranger and wilderness medicine course provider.  Suffice it to say that I’ve been around the block.  Working the desirable and undesirable jobs.  Always along side men, rarely with any others. I always wished I could have had a female mentor. I’ve learned a lot, the hard way.  Let me spare you some challenges with these key lessons:







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