Saturday, May 30, 2009
I'm not going to rant about it again, this unit is well worth it and I am not being paid by the company to promote it. I have seen and used it and have had great success with it as well as peace of mind. Whether you buy yours from North Wash Outfitters or any other retailer, it is an investment that is worth it.
Right now SPOT is offering the unit for free or at a reduced price through rebates depending on the service contract you sign up for. This offer is valid 6/1/09 through 8/3/09.
Friday, May 29, 2009
The Totem is by far going to be one of your favorite pieces of Canyoneering / Climbing / Rescue gear. This rappelling and rigging device was designed by Rich Carlson from the American Canyoneering Association and is going to fast become one of those devices that you can't leave home without. No it doesn't have a bottle opener built into it but this device is multi functional and can carry the rigging load of many of your other / older / outdated devices. It functions like a figure eight, sticht plate and gigi all in one. It will do everything each of these devices will do, plus a few things unique to The Totem. Use it to rappel on single or double strands of rope from 7.5mm to 10.5mm. Easy to add friction on the fly. Simple to lock off.
Other uses include: rigging releasable eight, joker and stone eight; anchor rigging plate; as a "trolley" for guided rappels, guided hauls and lowers; and much much more.
Check out below some of the different ways to rig this amazing device.
The Totem on YouTube
The Totem on YouTube (Rough Cut)
PDF download show different Anchor Rigging Options which can be done with the Totem.
PDF download show different ways to rig Rappelling Options with the Totem.
The Totem sells for $45.00
Saturday, May 16, 2009
March 5 - 7, 2009 (Course Full)
March 19 - 21, 2009 (Course Full)
April 2 - 4, 2009
April 30 - May 2, 2009
May 28 - 30, 2009 (Course Full)
March 27 - 28, 2009 (Course Full)
April 10 - 11, 2009 ( Course Full)
April 17 - 18, 2009
May 15 - 16, 2009 (Course Full)
As always we expect the courses to fill up quickly. Go to the individual course descriptions (www.northwashoutfitters.com/courses.htm) to see what the courses entail and to click on the registration link and fill out the registration information. You can e-mail us to check availability or for any questions you may have about the courses. Courses are filled on a first come - first registered - first paid basis.
For those who have taken the Technical Canyoneering Course you will remember our discussion Flash Floods and Meteorology and how the roles of the canyon and area topography relate to the potential for flash floods. As we have hit that time of year here on the Colorado Plateau for our flash flood awareness to be on heightened alert, a college from Zion Adventure Company in Springdale Utah, Dave Buckingham, wrote up an excellent piece on Flash Floods. Being right next to the Canyoneering hot spot, Zion National Park, Dave has surely witnessed what the power of a good rainstorm is. This article is an excellent reminder of the dangers posed to those venturing into the slot canyons. What are some of the things that we should consider before going, and what are some things to look at and think about when we find ourselves in imminent danger of being swept away:
I feel like surviving a flash flood comes down to 3 things:
1. realizing that there is nothing any of us can do to eliminate the
2. preparing / learning / studying as much as you can in advance to
help you manage the risks while you are in the canyon / drainage
3. being highly aware of everything around you during the trip, and
taking prompt action to escape floods
What is flood water like? Imagine a torrent of water, loaded
with sediment, sticks and debris that feels more like concrete, than
water. Flood waters easily move hundreds of pounds of dead logs.
They have been known to move houses off foundations, and carry cars
hundreds of yards, and even miles.
1. How does flood risk change with respect to month, week, season
for your destination?
2. How many square miles, acres, etc. does the canyon drain?
3. To what degree can precipitation be absorbed by the watershed
area? (is the canyon rim made of rock? are there plants / grasses
that will absorb some of the falling rain)? In a canyon surrounded
only by rocky, low-water-absorption terrain, there is often a
significant problem with water running down the walls and the
complications this creates by adding more volume to the flood
water,complicating escape routes, making use of escape routes
more difficult, washing rocks in on top of hikers off the rim.
4. To what degree has it rained there recently? In the sandstone
areas, a lack of rain in May, June and July causes the sandstone to
become baked like clay, and not able to absorb falling rain in the
summer like it does when precipitation falls more frequently, in
smaller amounts in the winter.
5. How committing is the drainage? Is the whole hike in the
canyon? Does the canyon have wider, open sections, or is it narrow
and slotted the entire time? Where is the most committing, least
escapable section? Can you identify escape routes on the map? Can
you determine if there are escape routes by reading guidebooks, or
talking to people who have been before, can you get info from
internet canyon groups? What are the logistics / skill sets
involved in these escapes? Can you and your group pull them off, or
do they involve equipment and skills you do not or will not have?
6. Make sure you allow an appropriate amount of time for your group
to complete the trip. Building in extra time can be very helpful.
Just because you read in a book that "the author completed the hike
in 7 hours" does not guarantee that you won't need 10 hours.
7.Choose a starting time for your event that helps you best manage
rain risk and being seriously committed. Often, in the Southwest
Desert, the period between July 15-September 1 brings the
possibility of a heavy, isolated thunderstorm each day. Starting
early, and finishing the trip by 2-3PM helps hikers avoid being in
drainages during the time of day when the storm risk is highest.
8. Learn how high the water does / can get in the canyon/drainage
during a flood.
9. Consult experts, Gather information, and set a personal threshold
for a forecast that you consider"more dangerous" than acceptable in
advance. This helps you avoid minimizing real risk, succumbing
financial, peer, or logistical pressure and convincing yourself "i'm
sure it will be ok" when the forecast is truly marginal or
unfavorable. Prepare yourself and your group for the possibility
that weather can cancel the event at any point.
10. Check the forecast as close to departure as possible.
11. Understand signs of flooding. These could be:
-water starting to flow
-flowing water becoming discolored: red, brown, black, muddy as it
fills with sediment
-debris being washed down the drainage: trees, logs, sticks, leaves,
-sometimes folks hear a rumbling, thunderous sound as flood water
approaches. I can tell you that people are often unsettled when
they hear jet airplanes above them, while being in canyons,
as they think this could be the sound of flood water.
While you are in the canyon:
1. Continue to evaluate weather at all times.
2. Look for signs of how high the water reached in past floods to
help you understand how high you would need to climb to be above
flood water (wedged logs, sticks, grasses and dead plants wrapped
around things in the direction water travels).
3. Keep all group members informed. Discuss what you might have to
do to escape a flood before you need to do it.
4. As you travel, look for possible escape routes, store them in the
back of your mind. Retreat back to a place you have been is
sometimes better, especially if there is a known, useful escape.
Heading further into in the canyon into territory you haven't seen
often brings no guarantees. If you travel past major obstacles that
eliminate your ability to retreat back to an escape route, keep this
5. Look for signs of flooding described above. Take action
promptly if you feel like a flood is developing. Avoid a "well,
that is only one of many signs of flooding we are seeing, let's just
wait and see" approach. Work together with group members.
Sometimes climbing a few feet makes a major difference.
6. Wait out the flood on the high ground. This can take several
hours, and occasionally, even days.
Hope this helps,
Take the Best of Care
Zion Adventure Company
Thanks to Dave for permission to re-post this article here.
The first big issue is always tell someone where you are going, when you plan to return and I add in there, who you will be with and what you will be driving so this can help assist in finding you if the unfortunate should happen. If you have been in Canyoneering long enough and have heard some of the horror stories you are quite familiar with the story of Aron Rahlston. He went into Blue John Canyon by himself, which is not a terrible thing, but he ended up pulling a boulder on top of his arm pinning it to the wall of the canyon. The bad thing is now he is stuck, and he didn't tell anyone where he was. No one ever found him in the canyon, he amputated his own arm and finished the canyon before he found the searchers himself. He had been stuck of about a week and the searchers had no idea where he was at becuase he told no one.
Of course I am a big fan of the SPOT Satellite messengerand you can read about this in another entry here in our Blog. The SPOT has been a great device to have and carry, and I have seen KSL do another story during the winter with the device featured also. This device is starting to prove it's worth. It has only been on the market since November 2007 and already has a couple of saves to its record. I use my device all the time I am out in the canyons. I also take it on road trips, and send it with my wife to the grocery store. Since we live in an area where cell service is sketchy at best, it is great to know that the SPOT can summon help not only in an emergency, but also for a blown tire, dead battery, blown engine and everything else. The KSL story also shows an ACR Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) which is also a great device, but they are only used to summon the Search and Recsue for life saving situations. The SPOT does require a $100 a year service contract like a cell phone might, the PLB does not. The SPOT retails in the $150.00 range the PLB in the $600.00 range. Once you purchase the units, they are yours, only the SPOT will have a continued service fee, but it is well worth the fee for the extra services that it buys.
Another unit that is mentioned in the story is a simple GPS unit. Although these can't summon for help, they can help in many instances to keep you from getting lost. They are great for marking the location of your vehicle, camp etc. so you can find the way back to it. They are also great for marking way points, or points of interest along your hiking route. This can also be done with the SPOT messenger and sent to your computer. GPS units are much more affordable and have no yearly service to use them.
Something that was not mentioned in the story but that is also great to have a long is a first aid kit. You do not need to have a huge one, depending on the types of activities you are doing and your first aid knowledge, you can get by many times with something simple. The main key is to know what you have in the kit and how to use it. Also make sure that you are carrying it with you. It does no one any good if it is left in the car that you can't find again becuase you don't have a GPS with you.
I carry my first aid kits in Nalgene water bottles. It helps to keep them air tight and water proof should I take a spill into some water. Some items that I like to have with me are: Bandaids, Ointment Cream (Climb ON!), individual servings of Ibuprofen, Blister Treatment, Allergy medications, Spray on Bandage w/ antisceptic, Super Glue for cuts, Duct tape for splints (I have a bit of duct tape wrapped around a lighter for storage), and a lighter for emergency fire (or matches in waterproof container).
Also something to never leave behind is water. Take some extra water, and some snacks. If something happens out there and you may be gone longer than expected, it is nice to have some extra supplies with you. Some things that I keep on hand also that are small enough to fit anywhere and will come in handy in an emergency are: Headlamp, Emergency Blanket(Space Blanket), Emergency Water Filter, Hand Warmers, and a plastic rain poncho. Also for the food and hydration area some Electrolyte supplements.
Whatever you do this summer. Be safe and have fun out there. This is a great country that we live in and we have a lot of area to get out and explore.
This spring, I decided to get into the Black Hole on a free day and see how it was. Due to scheduling this year I was unable to attend the annual Freeze Fest trip of the Black Hole, taking place on January 1st. The weather had been decent and was starting to warm up, this lent to a hope that the day would be nice for a trip through the Black Hole. The day chosen was March 7th, having time off and the freedom to be able to go through was chosen. Unfortunately the day chosen wasn't as free as I had thought. It happened to be my oldest daughter's Birthday, and there was a party planned for 3:00 that I was supposed to be there for. This required an earlier than planned start, fortunately Bluff isn't too far from the Black Hole.
I left Bluff at 7:00 am and picked up Dave Black in Blanding and leaving Blanding by 8:00 we headed out to the Hole. Arriving around 9:00 we, suited up and headed down the trail into White Canyon. I think I'll let the pictures do most of the talking from here. The trip was fun. I didn't want to put my wetsuit on until absolutely necessary, and managed to hold off putting it on until just before the "Hole" itself. This was accomplished with a lot of stemming, and a bit of wading. We did encounter some ice in a few of the holes. Once to the "Hole" it was tip top full with long swims as usual. Needless to say the water was frigid as expected. We got through it, and hit the sun as quick as we could. We finished the trip around 1:00 and then headed for the cars. Walking back to the car park took about 45 min. and we headed out. I managed to make it home just before 4:00 and my daughter's party was waiting for me to get there to start. A fun trip, a great canyon with some cooooold water.
Wetsuits are sometimes referred to as a necessary evil of canyoneering. With the potential for hypothermia due to cold water encounters, wetsuits have become necessary to keep the Canyoneer warmer. On the flip side, they are sometimes bulky and awkward to move and climb in, and they are frequently damaged from the canyon walls scraping them up during slides, stems, and swims. A novice Canyoneer knows that the wetsuit will need to be replaced on a regular basis, and usually for someone that is out a lot, at least once a season.
There are many types of wetsuits on the market. Some of these are good and some are better. Things to think about when looking at a wetsuit are going to be: fit, size, thickness, length, construction, and cost.
Fit: You need to be comfortable in the suit. You need to be able to maneuver and function in the suit. Often times a suit that has been designed for Scuba Diving is often too tight. Suits that are built a little looser, usually for sports requiring movement such as surfing, are much better to use in canyoneering. They are also made in Men's and Women's. Men's sizes account for broader shoulder's where womens account for a potentially larger hip and chest area.
Size: Again with movement and Fit, size is important. A suit too tight will will be hard to move in, a suit too loose will be awkward and chafe.
Thickness: The time of year and type of canyon you are going in to will dictate the thickness of wetsuit you should be looking at. A canyon trip during the colder months will require a much thicker wetsuit than a canyon trip during the summer. Another consideration is the amount of exposure you expect to encounter. Exposure time refers to how long or how much time you are going to be spending in the water in a canyon. Some canyons have only poos or pot holes where other canyons such as the Black Hole have large lengths of swimming. Canyons by nature are deep and narrow and therefore the sun has a hard time hitting the water or is only on it for a short period of time. This causes the water to stay a constant cold temperature without chance of getting heated. Another factor created by the layout of canyons and the amount of sun exposure is how much sun you are going to be able to be in. Some canyons allow you time to get in the water and then have a place to get in the sun and warm up. Other canyons have no possibility at all for sun exposure. Each persons body type is going to be different. You need to know what your body type is and how much protection you need. If a wetsuit is not enough protection for you, you may need to look into a dry suit. Common thicknesses of wetsuits range from 2mm to 7mm. They are often times listed in dual numbers i.e. 4/3mm. This means that the part of the wetsuit covering the torso will be 4mm thick and the part of the suit covering the extremities is 3mm thick.
Length: There are two basic lengths, but also several other options to add on. Each one is a consideration again based on your exposure and your bodies tolerance to cold. The two most common lengths are "full length" and "shorty." Full length simply means that it covers the entire body except the head and neck, hands, and feet. Shorty is going to be much "shorter." It is a short sleeve on the arms and short legs, just above the knee. Other options are a "Farmer John" or Farmer Jane." These are full length legs w/ a sleeveless top. Most wetsuits are built as one piece suits, but can be purchased in two pieces. Add ons are also available in the form of hoods, vests or a combination of both.
Construction: Some canyoneers don't consider construction of the suit to be a huge determining factor when purchasing the suit. When talking about construction usually the best thing to look at is the sewing and the seams. A well made suit is going to have good sewn seams and those seams are going to also be glued. Having the seams glued allows less water exchange to take place between the inside and the outside. Wetsuits keep you warm by trapping a thin layer of water between the suit and your body. Your body then heats up that water layer keeping you warm. If you have loose sewing or unglued seams it allows this warm water to leave the suit and the cold water to enter more often. This does not help to keep you warm when your body is constantly being required to re-heat new water.
Cost: Unfortunately most people consider cost as the determining factor in purchasing a wetsuit for canyoneering. As mentioned wetsuits get beaten up in the normal course of use and therefore a hugely expensive suit seems kind of overkill to be replacing all the time. A cheap wetsuit will be less painful to the pocket book when it needs to be regularly replaced. Also by cheap I refer to the construction. A less expensive suit is going to be on the lower end of the quality spectrum. A suit that is a bit more expensive may be a bit harder to swallow when it comes time to replace, but it may last longer with a better quality of construction. Wetsuits are going to range in price from $50.00 to $130.00 for the most commonly used types depending on lengths and construction and with out any add ons.
A wetsuit can make or break your Canyoneering day. If you don't have the proper equipment it could not only make your trip uncomfortable, it could turn your trip into a disaster. Many people have had to be rescued from canyons when they ended up developing hypothermia because they were unprepared with enough wetsuit protection. Check your canyons, check the weather, and know your body type so that you can have the proper thermal protection to make your next trip an enjoyable one.
North Wash Outfitters is also looking for used wetsuits. When most Canyoneers wear out their wetsuits they throw them away. There are so many holes in them that they become practically useless. We want them instead of having them end up in the dumpster. We are offering a $15.00 credit towards a new wetsuit or equipment for each used wetsuit mailed in to us. All you need to do is fill out our Wetsuit Rebate Form and mail it along with the used wetsuit(s).
We have for the last year been selling a Personal Locater Beacon or PLB. This past year though in August I was walking along the beach during the Outdoor Retailer (OR) Show's Outdoor demo event when I stumbled on to the booth for the SPOT satellite messenger. I stood there and listened to the sales pitch and a light just clicked on, no a light exploded in my brain realizing the immense impact that this device could offer to not only Canyoneer's, but to anyone who frequents the outdoors. I was so impressed in fact that I didn't get much sleep that night. The next morning I returned to the OR Show and immediately sought out the booth for the SPOT. I sat down with a sales rep and placed an order for the device right there on the SPOT! (Pun intended).
If you look at a comparison between the SPOT and older versions of PLB's the immediate difference may only be seen in price and service plans. Most people get stuck here without comparing functionality. Originally PLB's have one function, to call for emergency help. Push the button and Search and Rescue (SAR) is sent out. The older unit we sold cost around $650.00 to purchase and had no annual fee after that.
The SPOT has this same feature of pushing a button and having SAR teams respond to your location. The Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) is $165.00 for the SPOT. Quite a bit lower than the traditional PLB's. However SPOT does have an annual service fee of $99.00 or on a monthly basis of $9.99. You can also add on a $50.00 per year tracking service and a $7.99 a year insurance fee. Here is where some people compare prices and don't like the idea of having to pay a fee every year. Hopefully as more user's come on line the service fee's will drop, but for now this is still a GREAT price to consider for you safety. I want to explain why before you get fixated on price alone.
Where older PLB's have the one function, SPOT has this function as well, but it also has so much more. This is where the traditional PLB's stop and SPOT continues on and earns it's "Messenger" title. SPOT has the ability to communicate with your friends and family advising them of your location and your status. Now it's not a telephone, cell phone, or SAT phone, but it does use a similar network as a SAT phone and is actually designed and marketed as a side company of Global Star Satellite Phone company.
If you take a look at the button functions of the SPOT you will notice it has a "help", "ON/OFF", "OK", and "911" buttons.
These functions are what gave me that sleepless night the first time I saw the device.
The "Help" button is used for non-emergency/non-life threatening situations. This is for when you don't need the National Guard or SAR teams called in. Say you lock your keys in your car, or get stuck in the mud, or even have an injury that is obviously not life threatening.
The "ON/OFF" button I hope is self explanatory.
The "OK" button is what really intrigued me to lose sleep. You push the button and your friends and family know that you are OK. What does this mean, and why did I lose sleep because of it? In Canyoneering 99% of the time we are away from any phone service at all. What we have done (if we are smart) is left information about where we are going, what we are doing, and when we will check in with friends of family members. What happens though, is that we spend a little more time in the canyon taking pictures, or we take a longer rest, or a rope gets stuck and we take more time pulling it. There is a myriad of things that cause us to be a little late, but nothing serious. We have now missed our check in time and we still have 1-2+ hrs of drive time to get to phone service to call. Our family has now called the local SAR because we haven't checked in and they are pacing the floor. With the "OK" button all we have to do is periodically push the button and a message is sent to our contacts informing them that we are just fine. There is no need to have them pace the floor or contact SAR. This feature itself is worth the expense. How much do you pay per month for your cell phone, and they don't work in the outdoors. You break down the cost on a per month basis, once the unit is purchased, the cost is $8.25 a month for the annual service.
The last button is the "911" button. This one is your emergency button used to summon SAR and the National Guard. When you push it, a signal is sent to the GEOS satellite system and transferred to the Air Force in Houston, TX. They then receive the information and contact the nearest SAR teams to your location.
A little more about how the unit operates and how information is received. Once you purchase the unit and activate it you have access to a web based information form. Each time you go out on a trip you can log into this site. Enter information about your trip. You also choose up to five contacts. You enter either an e-mail address or a cell phone number for those contacts. These contacts are placed under either "Help" or "OK". You also enter a pre-determined text in these two fields. In the "OK" field I would enter something like, "This is Jared checking in and letting you know we are OK." Under the "Help" field I would enter something like, "We have had a situation and need some help, please contact the local authorities to my location."
Once you have entered this information you are ready to go on your trip. Now what happens when you push these buttons? When you push either the "Help" or the "OK" button your pre-entered text is sent to your contacts cell phone as a text message or their e-mail inbox, depending on what you entered. Along with you pre-entered text, a link is sent directing your contacts to a Google embedded map showing you location along with the Lat/Long GPS coordinates of your location. These features are indispensable in the outdoors where cell phone service is few and far between if at all.
A few more words about the cost. The unit from our store costs $159.00. Your yearly service fee to the company, not us, is $99.00 per year (broken down to $8.25 a month). Or a monthly fee basis of $9.99 a month. I anticipate that you pay more than this for you cell phone which won't work in most outdoor environments.
I mentioned earlier the optional $50.00 tracking fee. This is an add on feature. If you opt for this it gives you the option to activate your unit for a 24 hr. period and it will automatically send out a notice to your contacts every ten minutes instead of having you activate it. This function is optional and can be added at any time. Once activated it will track your progress through the day.
The $7.99 per year insurance fee is something I would highly recommend. For $7.99 per year it gives you $100,000 of insurance ($50,000 per incident). This covers helicopter evacs and such. This feature is what you need to have rescue service outside of the continental United States. If you are planning on traveling the world with this unit, you will want this insurance. One other thing with this insurance is it is optional also, however it is only $7.99 per year if you sign up for it when first activating the unit. If you sign up later it is somewhere around $120 - $150 per year.
Our companies focus is on currently on the Canyoneering community, however this device is not limited to only Canyoneering use. The SPOT Satellite Messenger is perfect for anyone in the outdoors. Hikers, Hunters, Rock Climbers, Campers, ATV'ers, Fisherman, Boaters, Sailor's, Snowmobiler's, Skiers, etc. It is also a great unit to keep in the glove box of a vehicle while traveling. You never know when your car is going to break down out of cell phone service. This past Christmas this unit was our number one seller which gives me great hope that we are going to have more people in the outdoors better prepared to receive emergency help. I would entertain any questions about the unit as well as feedback on the unit from current customers.
We will also be opening up units to be used as rentals as needed. If you would like to try one out contact us for rental information. $20.00 per day.
After a couple of years it was time for our website to under go a little bit of a face lift. For those of you who are new to our company, and this site, we have just added a new photo header and modified the background color. We have also added this blog to be able to offer updates and information that is continually changing such as photos from our courses, sales events, and new course listings. I am in the process of trying to modify this blog layout a little more to my liking, but I hope that it will still share some good information for you. For those of you who are returning to our site, we welcome you back and hope that you like the changes. Let me know what you think.
A little history on this picture. Or better yet, how about a contest then I will share the history later.
Can you name the canyon in which this picture was taken? $20.00 NWO Store coupon to the winner.
(Rules: My family , employees, and the person who took the picture is ineligible. Sorry need to make this as fair as possible). Post your guess. Happy guessing.
North Wash Outfitters LLP.
Jared Hillhouse - North Wash Outfitters LLP.