Entries By zeb blais
July 15, 2016
RMI Guide Zeb Blais led the Expedition Skills Seminar - Emmons to the summit of Mt. Rainier yesterday morning. The team enjoyed sunny breezy conditions during their climb. After celebrating on the summit, the team descended to Camp Schurman for their final night on the mountain.
Today the team will spend some time training as their descend to the White River Campground from Camp Schurman. We are excited to welcome them back to Ashford this afternoon.
Congrats team Texas!
Posted by: Josh H on 7/15/2016 at 9:18 am
July 7, 2016
The Four Day Summit Climb Team led by RMI Guides Tyler Reid and Zeb Blais reached the summit of Mt. Rainier early this morning. The team climbed in and out of the clouds this morning and were able to spend a short time on top. They have started their descent and will be back at Rainier Basecamp in Ashford early this afternoon.
Congratulations to today’s teams!
Great ascend fantastic experience responsible safe and enjoyable climb to the top, unsurprisingly spectacular crevice formations just below the summit, memorable experience Thank you Zeb, Tyler , JT Schmitt, Chris, Jordan, Steve for all fabulous work!
Posted by: Lauro Urbina on 7/9/2016 at 10:45 am
Congrats. I hope it was amazing.
Posted by: Mark Steranka on 7/8/2016 at 8:06 am
July 1, 2016
RMI Guide Steve Gately radioed in from the summit of Mt. Rainier this morning. The teams enjoyed a beautiful morning with light winds. At 7:00 am PT both Four Day Summit Climb teams June 28 - 1 July, 2016 were beginning their descent from the crater rim.
June 27, 2016
The Mt. Rainier Summit Climb teams, led by RMI Guides Brent Okita and Zeb Blais, reached the top this morning. Winds were in the 10-15 mph range and beautiful, sunny skies. After spending some time on the summit, the teams began their descent at 7:00 a.m.
I’m so proud of you guys, and I can’t wait to hear all about how you conquered the mountain!
Posted by: Addie on 6/28/2016 at 10:09 am
Well done Herndons! Congrats to you and everyone who made it ... this is truly fantastic. And I’m glad you’re back down off the mountain safely.
Posted by: Elisabeth on 6/27/2016 at 9:05 pm
June 20, 2016
Posted by: Zeb Blais
The Five Day Muir Summit Climb, led by Zeb Blais, was unable to summit today due to the avalanche danger on Mt. Rainier’s upper mountain. The team ascended to 12,300’ when the guides assessed it was no longer to safely continue upward. Everyone is back at Camp Muir, packing up, to begin their descent to Paradise.
What an absolutely priceless adventure! Thank you and the team Zeb for an unforgetable experience!! It was truly life changing! Cheers!
Posted by: Joseph Lewis on 6/21/2016 at 6:20 pm
June 12, 2016
The Four Day Summit Climb June 9 - 12 led by RMI Guides Mike Walter and Zeb Blais reached the summit of Mt. Rainier this morning around 8 am. Mike reported clear conditions with moderate winds as they were making their ascent above High Break. The teams were able to enjoy some time on the summit. They began their descent from the crater rim at 9:20 am. The teams will return to Camp Muir for a short break before continuing down to Paradise.
Congratulations to today’s Summit Climb Teams!
Alpine climbing requires a lot of different skills. Alpinists are constantly route finding, assessing hazards, protecting exposed areas, and moving efficiently in the terrain. If you’re climbing with a qualified guide, they’ll take care of the big picture and you’ll just need to focus on the movement skills. Moving efficiently in technical terrain is what makes climbing challenging and fun - there’s always something to learn and ways to improve. The better you move, the less energy a climb will take and the more you’ll be able to focus on what’s going on around you and enjoy the climb.
On classic alpine climbs, like Forbidden Peak’s West Ridge, Sahale’s Quien Sabe or Shuksan’s Fisher Chimneys, basic rock climbing skills are the key to moving efficiently on summit day. These skills only get better with practice, and adding some balance and rock movement skills to your training regime can give you a big leg up. With a few pointers and some practice, you can develop your rock movement skills so that you stay on your feet, use less energy and are more confident on rock before you arrive in the mountains.
Basic rock movement is similar to how you walk already, with a little more attention paid to the physics at your feet. Here are some techniques that you can use to effectively move on rock:
Climbing with your eyes
I constantly remind my clients to “climb with their eyes.” Look around the terrain, find the easiest path, and plan it out a few steps ahead of time. Finding the easiest way up takes a good deal of focus while you climb, but it’s a great way to stay engaged and it saves a great deal of energy over the course of a long day.
As you climb, look for features that resemble stairs – level platforms that you can get your entire boot on. This allows you to use a minimal amount of energy for balance and makes it easy to use a technique called the rest step. If you can find a natural staircase up the mountain it’s just walking!
When you can’t find large stair-like features in the rock, you have to lower your standards. Instead of using a perfect stair, you may be reduced to placing the edge of your boot onto a tiny feature. This is called edging. The smaller the features you are edging on, the more effort and balance it takes to keep from slipping off. Keep climbing with your eyes and look for the biggest features possible!
Edging allows you to climb very steep, relatively blank rock faces. It’s tougher physically and much less secure than stepping onto boot-sized platforms. With some practice you’ll be able to get up steep, technical rock and begin to feel comfortable on it. The more time you spend practicing on different sized edges and on different types of rock (granite, limestone, sandstone, basalt, etc) the more you’ll recognize how secure you are on those features.
Check out this video from Eastern Mountain Sports on edging skills!
Smearing uses the friction and adhesion between your boot soles and the rock grip surfaces that are too smooth or sloped to edge on. To get maximize your grip you need to do two things:
1. maximize the contact area between your soles and the rock
2. make sure the force you’re exerting is perpendicular to the rock surface.
This means putting the rubber to the road, or in this case, the boot sole to the slab. Articulate your knees and ankles so that the sole of your boot matches the angle of the rock. By putting as much rubber on the rock as you can, you increase the adhesion of the rubber soles to the rock and can grip some surprisingly steep slopes.
Make sure to apply your body weight as close to perpendicular to the rock as you can. This boils down to keeping your weight directly above your feet by keeping your posture upright. With your back straight and your head high, your weight will naturally rest directly above your feet. This keeps the normal force of your bodyweight pushing into the rock, which increases friction. The more friction, the better the grip and the more you can relax and look around to plan your next moves.
This body positioning is counter-intuitive for most people. Climbers that are unaware of their body position often lean forward, putting their body weight uphill of their boots, changing the direction of the normal force towards parallel with the rock, and reducing friction, resulting in a slip. It’s very common, especially when terrain gets steeper, to want to lean in toward the rock – resist the urge and climb strong!
Here’s another EMS video showing smearing skills.
With both edging and smearing, the more practice you get the more comfortable you’ll be on challenging rock. You’ll develop a more realistic assessment of how secure your foot placements are and that will make a huge difference in how efficient you are. Being more confident with your foot placements will allow you to relax on difficult terrain and you will save a ton of energy.
You can practice these techniques at home. Get started at your local climbing gym or sniff out small rock outcroppings if you don’t have access to a rock gym. Keep your practice low on the rocks so that you don’t get stuck on top of something- it’s always easier to climb up rock than it is to down climb!
Zeb Blais is a senior guide at RMI Expeditions. Zeb splits his time between the Sierras in California and the North Cascades of Washington. He guides worldwide for RMI, from Aconcagua to Mexico, Rainier to Alaska. A passionate skier, Zeb spends his free time pursuing personal adventures around the world, including an attempted traverse of the Fedchenko Glacier of Tajikistan.
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September 19, 2015
Posted by: Zeb Blais
After listening to rain hit our tent for most of the night, there was finally silence in the morning. We started our summit attempt of Mt. Baker via the Coleman Demining route with high cloud cover but fairly dry. When we were almost to the pumice ridge the clouds grew darker and precipitation in the form of rain began. The visibility dropped and I made the decision to descend. We are down safe and sound and enjoyed the climb despite the damp conditions.
Until next season!
RMI Guide Zeb Blais
We got back into cell service late last night after an exciting day of climbing on Mount Shuksan yesterday. New snow in the Fisher Chimneys made it prudent to wear our crampons all the way down to the talus field below the Chimneys. Our team had a great time descending this tough terrain and came away from the trip with an excellent experience. Fun climbing in this wild September weather!
Thanks for the inspiring attitudes everyone.
September 15, 2015
The guide team monitored weather conditions throughout the night, only to find snow and poor visibility each time we looked out of our tent. With our time frame and weather forecast, our plan for the day is to pack up camp and take as much time as we need to get down the Chimneys safely. We’ll send another dispatch from town.
RMI Guide Zeb Blais & Team