THE SHARP END
A podcast from Accidents in North American Climbing
Presented by Mammut
Each month, the Sharp End brings to life stories from the pages of Accidents in North American Climbing, the annual publication of the American Alpine Club (AAC). Host Ashley Saupe interviews the climbers and rescuers involved in life-threatening incidents and shares their lessons, helping all of us become safer climbers. Join the more than 20,000 climbers who listen to the Sharp End by following along on iTunes, Soundcloud, Google Play or Stitcher. New episodes are shared the 1st of each month!
Would you like to be interviewed for the Sharp End? Ashley is always looking for people with interesting stories to share.
Accidents in North American Climbing is published each August and delivered free to AAC members (Join the AAC). Not a member? You can order the Accidents publication and/or get it on your Kindle. The Sharp End's "Play Hard & Be Smart" T-shirts are available here.
Ashley Saupe, creator and host of the Sharp End podcast, grew up in Alaska and now she's a nomad climber, snowboarder, and surfer, moving with the seasons.
In the spring she dispatches for a heli-ski company, living in a bus heated by a woodstove, 35 miles outside of Haines, Alaska. During the summer, she’s an instructor, proctor, course director, and staff trainer for the Outward Bound School in Colorado and Alaska, “changing lives through challenge and discovery.” The rest of the year it’s all travel, climbing, snowboarding, and surfing, living mostly out of her van White Fang.
Ashley came to the AAC in November 2015 with her idea for the Sharp End podcast. As a longtime outdoor educator, she was already involved in accident prevention and was fascinated by the stories in Accidents in North American Climbing. And as someone who lives on the road, she craved high-quality audio for those endless drives.
“I read Accidents religiously, I love those books,” she says. “But you know, what I really appreciate more than a good book is a good conversation. I really love hearing my guests’ perspectives on a personal level. Other than the actual technical lessons I learn and share, I think the biggest thing is compassion and empathy. I mean, what some of these folks have had to deal with is mind-blowing.”
Share your own story: Email Ashley to get started.
EXPLORE RECENT EPISODES
EPISODE 29: BROKEN BACK ON HALF DOME
It was October 2017, and Alex Doria and Jonathan Wachtel were starting up a dream climb: the Regular Northwest Face of Half Dome, high over Yosemite Valley. Alex was in the lead on the third pitch, and he felt good. Too good, as it turned out. He ran it out a long way between protection, and just as he was getting ready to place his next piece, he lost his balance and fell. Alex, Jonathan, and Ashley discuss what happened next and the lessons they learned.
This episode is co-sponsored by:
EPISODE 28: GROUND FALL aT CALICO BASIN
Greg Smith was 10 feet above his last piece of protection on a moderate climb in Calico Basin, outside Las Vegas, when he fell unexpectedly. His only piece pulled out and he hit the ground. At least that's what his climbing partner tells him, because he has very little memory of the day. In this episode, Greg and Ashley talk through the accident and the painful aftermath.
EPISODE 27: THE RUSHED RAPPEL
Ryan Bowie, 34, was ice climbing with a friend in the remote backcountry near their home in Tumbler Ridge, British Columbia. When Ryan set up a rappel from the top of a vertical ice wall, the highly experienced climber made a series of bad judgments, resulting in a terrifying plunge that could have ended a lot worse. In this episode, Ryan reflects on what went wrong that day.
EPISODE 26: LIVE WITH QUINN BRETT
In October 2017, well-known climber Quinn Brett fell over 100 feet while attempting a speed ascent of the Nose of El Capitan. She now lives with paralysis. For this very special episode of the Sharp End, Quinn spoke with Ashley about her climbing, the accident in Yosemite Valley, and the painful aftermath in front of a live audience at the American Alpine Club's Annual Benefit Dinner in February.
EPISODE 25: THE DEADLY HOLE ON AASGARD PASS
Steve Smith was glissading down from Aasgard Pass, gateway to the Enchantments in Washington State, when he plunged into a deep hole caused by a waterfall of melting snow. This was a dangerous mistake: Several hikers and climbers have died falling into this same hole. Steve is now the climbing education manager for the Mountaineers and owner of Experiential Consulting, a risk-management consulting firm for outdoor programs. In this riveting episode, he shares the many lessons from that day on Aasgard Pass.
EPISODE 24: GROUND FALL IN ELDORADO CANYON
Japhy Dhungana, a Nepal-born, Colorado-based climbing guide, aspired to lead Evictor, a notorious 5.12 climb at the Rincon Wall in Eldorado Canyon. After rehearsing the route on top-rope and practicing the critical gear placements, Japhy made a lead attempt at the end of the day last March. When he let go near the top, Japhy expected take a long but safe fall. But that's not what happened.
EPISODE 23: AVALANCHE!
Tyler Smoker and friends were out for an early season tour near Hatcher Pass, Alaska, in November. He let down his guard for a moment and took a terrifying ride. Ashley and Tyler use their deep knowledge of backcountry snow safety to discuss what mistakes were made.
EPISODE 22: tHE THREE ESSENTIALS, LESSONS FROM A MOUNTAIN RANGER
Flight medic and Denali mountaineering ranger Dave Weber returns to the Sharp End to discuss the common themes he's heard in the first 20 episodes of this podcast. As he tells Ashley, there are three simple but profoundly effective lessons for preventing and surviving climbing accidents.
Find this episode at iTunes, Soundcloud, or wherever you listen to podcasts. You can hear Dave's previous appearance on the Sharp End (Ep. 4) here: The_sharp_end – Denali-ranger-dave-weber-a-day-in-the-life.
EPISODE 21: UPSIDE DOWN ON HUMMINGBIRD SPIRE
Craig Gorder, 28, and Kelsey Brasseur were attempting to climb all seven towers of the Bridger Jack formation in Utah in a single day. In midafternoon, as Craig started up the second pitch of Hummingbird Spire, their fifth tower of the day, he pulled off a huge sandstone block that crushed his body and cut his rope, leaving him dangling below Kelsey. In this episode, Craig describes the accident and the incredible rescue that followed.
EPISODE 20: 140-FOOT FALL IN ELDORADO CANYON
Bill Wright and Tom Karpeichik were attempting a bold challenge in Colorado's Eldorado Canyon: Climb 100 guidebook pitches in a single day. To cover all that ground, they planned to simul-climb most of the way. Early that morning, four pitches up a 5.8+ route, Tom broke a hold on 5.5 or 5.6 terrain and fell, 50 feet above his last piece of protection. In this episode, Wright describes the monster, unbelayed fall that followed, how they both survived, and the lessons he took home.
Read the original Accidents in North American Climbing report: publications.americanalpineclub.org/article…te-Park. Find this episode at iTunes, Soundcloud, or wherever you listen to podcasts.
EPISODE 19: GRAND TRAVERSE GONE BAD
Matt Olsen and Ty Guarino were attempting the Grand Traverse, a difficult linkup of the Tetons' seven central summits, with many miles of scrambling and technical climbing. Soon after leaving the summit of Teewinot, the first peak of the traverse, they had to make a couple of rappels into a notch. As he was rappelling, Guarino's rope pulled off a huge block that shattered around him. A chunk of rock hit him on the forehead and caused him to lose control of the rappel. Ashley speaks with the two men about the accident, their impressive self-rescue, and the lessons they learned.
EPISODE 18: EPIC IN YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK
By late April, Marcus Mazzaferri had already hiked nearly 1,000 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. He was just about to stop for the day near Tuolumne Meadows, high in Yosemite National Park, when he came across a swollen creek. He decided to cross it before setting up camp. What happened next left Marcus all alone, with no gear, 15 miles from the nearest road. His story will make you wonder: What would I have done?
ePISODE 17: THE SURVIVOR
In this special episode of the Sharp End, Ashley speaks with Ryan Montoya, a 23-year-old student who had the strength, skill, and fortitude to survive a terrible mountaineering accident on March 15, 2017. Just below the summit of 14,018-foot Pyramid Peak in Colorado, during a solo winter ascent, Montoya fell more than 1,500 feet down the remote east face, then made his way back toward the road over the next three days, despite serious injuries. We've given extra time to this episode to let Ryan tell his amazing story in full detail.
ePISODE 16: THE RED GULLY
Experienced mountaineers Jen Staufer and Adam Vonnahme were descending 14,294-foot Crestone Peak in Colorado when Jen slipped on an unexpected patch of ice and careened about 150 feet down the Red Gully, sustaining multiple injuries. Right before the climb, Jen had told her friend Adam that she was 10 weeks pregnant. In this episode, Ashley chats with Jen and Adam about the climb, the accident, and the dramatic nighttime rescue that followed.
This incicdent was documented in the 2016 edition of Accidents in North American Climbing: publications.americanalpineclub.org/article…1214127. Find this episode at iTunes, Soundcloud, Google Play, and many other podcast services.
ePISODE 15: WATER IN THE HOLE!
Skander Spies, a volunteer with Denali National Park's climbing rangers, had just headed out on patrol on the Kahiltna Glacier. Although they didn't know it yet, the rangers would record eleven separate crevasse falls that day. One of these was Skander's, and his incident was scarier than most. Spies landed in a deep pool of ice meltwater at the bottom of the slot, facing extreme risk of hypothermia as well as the usual difficulties of crevasse rescue.
EPISODE 14: A RESCUER NEEDS A RESCUE
In this story from the mountains near Steamboat Springs, Colorado, a nighttime search for two lost skiers takes a dramatic turn when one of the rescuers is caught in an avalanche. Amazingly, the team from Routt County SAR not only bring their injured teammate home, they also bring out the lost skiers. Rescuer Jay Bowman, who badly broke his arm in the incident, talks with Ashley about what went wrong—and what went right!
EPISODE 13: TWO SCREWS, TWO ANKLES
Raf Andronowski is a highly skilled ice climber, photographer, and gear reviewer (thealpinestart.com) who lives in the Canadian Rockies. However, as we learn in this episode, even the most experienced climbers may have a lapse in judgment...with painful consequences!
Partway through Episode 13, Raf and Ashley discuss an informative blog post by the well-known ice climber Will Gadd. Here's the link.
EPISODE 12: SHOCK IN JOSHUA TREE
On November 12, David had just finished a two-pitch climb outside of Joshua Tree National Park in California. From the top, he lowered his partner to a big ledge so she could walk off. He then decided to downclimb to the ledge without a belay. In this episode, David describes the accident that followed with remarkable self-awareness and good humor.
Listen to the episode on Soundcloud.
EPISODE 11: A SNAKE DIKE TRAGEDY
Around sunset on November 7, 2015, Angela Uys (26) was at an anchor partway up Snake Dike on Half Dome, preparing to rappel. Her tether system was not effectively clipped to the anchor, and when she weighted the system it failed. She fell approximately 500 feet to her death. In this episode, Ashley speaks with Yosemite climbing ranger Jesse McGahey, who responded to and investigated this tragedy.
EPISODE 10: THE 69th SUMMIT
Climber and backcountry skier Steven Lozano summited Mount St. Helens with a friend on a beautiful April day. Two climbers soon joined them on top, and one of them, who was making his 69th ascent of the mountain, asked Steven to take a photo of him with Mt. Rainier in the background. What happened next will be seared into Lozano's memory forever.
EXPLORE PAST EPISODES
Click on the photos to listen to previous episodes!
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