Seven Beginner-Friendly Climbing Crags

first_imgClimbers use a universal number system to rate the difficulty of each climbing route, called the Yosemite Decimal System. Beginner rock climbs are in the 5.1 to 5.6 range, 5.7-5.10 are intermediate to advanced, and 5.11 and above are reserved for professional climbers. The hardest routes being climbed today are 5.15b. The letter at the end of the grade indicates the difficulty of that particular climb within the 5.15 range (“a” being the easiest 5.15 and “d” being the hardest).LITTLE STONY MAN Shenandoah National Park, Va.This cliff band sits off Skyline Drive at 3,500 feet in elevation. The routes are long (nothing less than 80 feet) and most have a convenient ledge halfway through that offers stellar views of the valley below. Trails (including the A.T.) run above and below the cliffs, offering easy access and plenty of top rope anchor possibilities. All the routes are singlepitch, but they’re long, so bring a long rope and some endurance.Best Beginner Routes: Chimney Cricket (5.3), Head First (5.6), Chimney in a Chimney (5.6) TABLE ROCK MOUNTAINPisgah National Forest, N.C.Table Rock sits on the east rim of the Linville Gorge, offering routes on quartzite faces that stretch for 600 feet. There are a few top rope routes to be found on Table Rock, but the majority are mixed trad and sport. The need for placing gear can be a barrier for beginners, but go with a paid guide or experienced mentor and this could be the mountain that takes you from top roping newbie to multi-pitch fanatic.Best Beginner Routes: Jim Dandy (5.5), My Route (5.6), The Cave Route (5.5)CROWDERS MOUNTAINCrowders Mountain State Park, N.C.Sure, climbers have dubbed this popular rock “Crowded Mountain,” but there’s a reason why so many people love to climb here. More than 100 routes traverse Crowders, which sticks out from the surrounding piedmont flats like a hippie at a country club. The mountain peaks around 1,600 feet, but you feel like you’re climbing on top of a 6,000-footer. Quartzite fins stick out of the summit, creating a mecca of super-featured climbs that are easily rigged for top roping, thanks to an access trail traversing the summit.Best Beginner Routes: Gastonia Crack (5.4), Big Crack (5.5), The Bear (5.7)SUNSET ROCKChickamauga and Chattanooga National Military Park, Tenn.Few crags are as storied as Sunset, an 80-foot tall cliff band that stretches for a mile on the western rim of Lookout Mountain. The cliffs played a pivotal role in the Civil War as well as a pivotal role in southern rock climbing–Sunset is often considered the birthplace of sandstone. Climbers have been sending this cliff for sport since at least the 1940s, making it one of the oldest recognized crags below the Mason Dixon.Best Beginner Routes: One-Ten (5.6), Airbrush (5.6), Blonde Ambition (5.7)URBAN CRAGSThese urban crags offer stellar climbing with a fraction of the commute.MANCHESTER WALLRichmond, Va. This is actually a 60-foot tall railroad pier made from massive granite blocks cut from the Belle Isle quarry, but local climbers have turned it into a sport-route training ground and established dozens of climbs ranging from 5.3 to 5.10. A lot of local climbers use the wall as a massive bouldering traverse (the base is 150 feet wide), while newbies often tick off their first sport lead here.Best Beginner Route: Hooked on a Feeling (5.7)BOAT ROCKAtlanta, Ga. Boat Rock consists of a half-mile of massive granite boulders sitting in the middle of an Atlanta suburb near the Chattahoochee River. The Southeastern Climbers Coalition saved the area from development by purchasing the crag. A number of easier problems are scattered throughout the field, which has become a haven for Atlanta-locked climbers.Best Beginner Route: Easy Crack (5.1)MARYLAND HEIGHTSHarpers Ferry, W.Va. Maryland Heights is a 100-foot cliff band overlooking downtown Harpers Ferry, just across from the Potomac. Most of the established routes are in the 5.2 to 5.8 range, so the area is perfect for beginners, as long as you’re climbing with someone experienced in leading trad. The cliff sits inside Harpers Ferry National Historic Park, so be sure to register at the visitor’s center, and local climbers would appreciate it if you left your bolts and chalk at home.Best Beginner Climb: Hard Up (5.7)last_img read more


The Beauty of Cross-Training

first_imgPhoto: Lee TimmonsI have always been a very focused individual.  When I have a goal, I search for the most direct and efficient path to reach it.  This tunnel vision approach has been an asset to me throughout my high school and university careers… I learned how to work smart, and as a result didn’t have to study nearly as much as many of my peers.While this laser-focused mentality can come in useful in other aspects of life, it holds no water in athletics.Growing up as a competitive whitewater kayaker, I was always under the impression that I should strengthen only those muscles that I needed for my sport.  All others could fade away for all I cared; they were nothing but dead weight for that sport.  My workouts were focused on the upper body at all times, and did not involve very much flexibility or joint mobility work.  They were also very repetitive, since I thought that I had effectively targeted all of the most important muscles that I used when paddling.I operated under this mentality for a long time, but struggled with tendonitis and a myriad other injuries.  I also could not quite reach the results that I knew I was capable of.  There was something missing there, and I knew it.A few years ago, I took it upon myself to pick the brains of some of the most knowledgeable exercise sciences individuals that I knew.  These people included UNCA strength coaches, CrossFit Asheville coaches, and Olympic paddlesports coaches. They finally hammered into my stubborn brain the fact that the human body is one holistic and incredibly intertwined machine.  We cannot strengthen only a part of it and expect it to continue to operate efficiently.In response to this revelation, I applied a new workout regime… variety!  I started adapting my gym workouts, swimming, running, mountain biking, skiing, doing yoga, and basically just trying to step out of my comfort zone as much as possible.  I tried to keep my body confused, and never allow it to have a repetitive comfort zone.  Not only was this new way of thinking making me a stronger and more balanced athlete, it was way more fun!  Every athlete struggles with burnout on occasion, but by having a mixture of different training activities to choose from that still benefit your end goals, it is much easier to keep the morale up.Since I made that switch, I can absolutely tell a difference in my athletic work capacity.  I used to run cross-country in high school and put in 20+ mile weeks training for that.  In spite of my lack of time in my running shoes, I was able to achieve a PR time in the Parsec Prize 5k, a great charity event that occurred on October 15th.  I am also very proud of a 6th place finish in the Whitewater Grand Prix this May against some of the best paddlers in the world.But what is the number one advantage of applying this big picture cross-training program?It’s just more fun!last_img read more


Women’s Earth Alliance

first_imgThe Women’s Earth Alliance helps women around the world secure their rights and safety and remove barriers to full participation in society by supporting them in addressing the environmental issues impacting their lives. Pictured: A female farmer in India. Photo credit: iStockPhoto/ThinkstockEarthTalk®E – The Environmental MagazineDear EarthTalk: I heard about a group called the Women’s Earth Alliance that works on environmental projects in many parts of the world. What kinds of projects?  — Judy Stack, Barre, VTThe Women’s Earth Alliance (WEA) supports community groups around the world that work at the intersection of women’s rights and the environment. A project of the Berkeley, California-based David Brower Center, WEA partners with local women-led community groups engaged in finding solutions to vexing environmental problems. WEA helps women secure their rights and safety and remove barriers to full participation in society by supporting them in addressing the environmental issues impacting their lives. By bringing women’s leadership to these critical environmental issues, WEA helps bring vital voices, perspectives and participation to addressing the greatest and most basic challenges of our time.The idea for WEA emerged from a 2006 meeting in Mexico City where 30 women leaders from 26 countries gathered to address how women can do more to address today’s environmental challenges. WEA offers training and resources around issues of water, land, food and climate change, operating on the guiding principle that “when women thrive, communities, the environment and future generations thrive.”Of utmost importance to WEA is securing women’s access to basic resources (food, land and water) so they can enjoy economic, social and political security. Since women in many societies are responsible for the management of food and water, the group reports, they can “experience both the unequal burden of work to secure and prepare the family’s food and water as well as the vulnerability which results from traditional gender roles at home and gender discrimination in society.” Women also tend to be particularly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, says WEA: “Women in underserved communities find themselves on the front lines of climate impacts, often witnessing their water sources and traditional land bases shift or disappear because of a dangerous mix of changing temperatures and structural inequalities.”Currently WEA focuses on three geographic areas: India, North America and Africa. Its India Program supports small and emerging women’s groups that are promoting food sovereignty, traditional knowledge and advocating for the rights of women farmers. The group’s trainings, advocacy and movement building have enabled thousands of poor Indian women to become environmental leaders in their communities.In North America, WEA links pro bono legal, policy and business advocates across the continent with Indigenous women leading environmental campaigns. “Through rapid response advocacy, long-term policy working groups, trainings and delegations, WEA’s innovative advocacy partnerships protect sacred sites, promote energy justice, and ensure environmental health on Indigenous lands,” the group reports.And in Africa, WEA partnered with Crabgrass, a California-based human rights group, to create the Global Women’s Water Initiative (GWWI) that provides training to help people implement water related strategies to improve their communities’ health, self reliance and resilience to climate change. With GWWI, WEA and Crabgrass are building a cadre of advanced female trainers skilled in applying holistic solutions with appropriate technology to environmental problems regarding water, sanitation and hygiene.CONTACTS: WEA,; Crabgrass,® is written and edited by Roddy Scheer and Doug Moss and is a registered trademark of E – The Environmental Magazine ( Send questions to: Subscribe: Free Trial Issue: read more


Trail Mix – May 2015

first_img Griggstown The Grahams Oklahoma singer/songwriter John Moreland digs deep on his latest release.Some tunes are just hell on my solar plexus.“You Don’t Care For Me Enough To Cry,” the first tune I heard from High On Tulsa Heat, the brand new record from Oklahoma singer/songwriter John Moreland, is one of those tunes. Moreland, with his hacksaw growl, subtle guitar work, and knack for lyrics that pummel my midriff, has had me fascinated for days. I can’t get enough of the new record, and each spin brings to the forefront another turn of phrase that floors me. With comparisons to the likes of Jason Isbell and Guy Clark, don’t be surprised when John Moreland is on the lips of Americana fans everywhere talking about the next great songwriter.Another newly discovered favorite showcased this month is “3 Shots,” from Hollis Brown. This NYC outfit was recently given the daunting challenge – and incredible honor – of finishing a Bo Diddley tune by The Bo Diddley Estate. The end result of their efforts was “Rain Dance,” which is featured on 3 Shots, which releases this week.A couple months ago, I mentioned here in a blog post that I have rediscovered vinyl and have begun accumulating records at an obsessive pace. One of the jazz greats that I have discovered is Wes Montgomery. This month, Resonance Records is releasing a two disc retrospective, In The Beginning, featuring recordings from 1949 through 1958. Trail Mix has “A Night In Tunisia” featured this month . . . . and while it sounds fantastic on disc, you can bet that I can’t wait to hear it on vinyl.Also featured this month are some old favorites. Trail Mix is happy to welcome back Jimbo Mathus, Otis Taylor, and Ray Wylie Hubbard.Be sure to check out brand new tunes from The Lonesome Band, Major & The Monbacks, Todd Grebe & Cold Country, Torres, Whitewash, The Deer Run Drifters, Ancient River, Leaf Rapids, Jimmy Lafave, and stay tuned to the Trail Mix blog. I have chats with Charlie Parr, The London Souls, Corbin Hayslett, and Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers queued up for your perusal.Share the word about Trail Mix. Give us a tweet. Take a picture of yourself groovin’ to a new tune and drop it on Instagram. And, as always, make sure you get out and buy some of these records. Help support these great artists who let us share their music through Trail Mix. 4:45 Ran Ran Run Pavo Pavo Eighteen Fifty-Five Heather Maloney 4:15 4:45 Air Running Backwards Chandler Travis, the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, & Three-O, the Incredible Casuals, the Catbirds, and Rabbit Rabbit When I’m with You The London Souls Reflections Django Django 3 Shots Hollis Brown 3:55 3:18 4:24 Restless Youth The Deer Run Drifters Heart Is a Muscle Used to Play the Blues Otis Taylor 5:18 2:55 3:57 Copy and paste this code to your site to embed. 3:32 Chick Singer, Badass Rockin’ Ray Wylie Hubbard 4:22 You Don’t Care For Me Enough To Cry John Moreland 3:43 Audio PlayerChandler Travis, the Chandler Travis Philharmonic, & Three-O, the Incredible Casuals, the Catbirds, and Rabbit RabbitAir Running BackwardsUse Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.00:000:00 / 3:55 3:13 3:41 4:25 3:39 My Love, My Love Nneka Ain’t That Fine Todd Grebe & Cold Country Somedays Major And The Monbacks 3:15 3:32 Dust Bowl Okies Jimmy Lafave 4:38 Holy People Dana Sipos 2:57 Night In Tunisia Wes Montgomery & The Motgomery – Johnson Quintet 3:25 Waiting On Love Nicki Bluhm & The Gramblers 2:49 Together Ryan Montbleau Band Member Whitewash Galaxie 500 Leaf Rapids Make ‘Em Dance The Lonesome Band 3:32 I’m An Idiot Dustin Lovelis 4:08 Shoot Out The Lights (Shoot Out The Lights) Jimbo Mathus 4:20 This Is The Time Ancient River Embed 3:47 Sprinter Torreslast_img read more


How To: Damascus, VA

first_imgDamascus is unlike any town you’ll ever visit. Its unique characters and close proximity to some of the best outdoor opportunities on the East Coast make it stand out above all other Appalachian towns. Steep, lush mountains tower above pristine creeks and rivers that hold some of the most rare and biodiverse creatures on earth. Damascus is a quiet mountain town where one visits to escape the hustle-bustle of everyday life. You will feel warm and welcomed when you visit. The mountains surrounding the town call to people like the Sirens in the Odyssey with a similar captivating lure. If you visit Damascus, Virginia be warned, part of you will always remain there.img_6319dsc_0573PlayThere’s a reason Damascus is known as “Trail Town USA.” The Appalachian Trail, Iron Mountain Trail, and the Virginia Creeper Trail can all be accessed from Main Street. The Appalachian Trail literally is the centerpiece of town, though the VA Creeper Trail probably draws the most attention. This 38-mile rail-trail connects Whitetop Mountain to the town of Abingdon, VA, by way of a well-maintained gravel superhighway (human-powered traffic only). You can even get a shuttle from one of the many shuttle services in town that will hook you up with a bike and a lift to whichever trailhead you wish to ride from.If you are a boater, Damascus is the place to be. The South Fork of the Holston River runs right through town and is fed by Beaver Dam Creek, Whitetop Laurel Creek, and Tennessee Laurel Creek which are all excellent to paddle when the water is here. The South Fork of the Holston has reliable flow almost year round with the exception of late summer when the levels usually drop below 200 cfs. Within two hours from town you can access some of the best whitewater in the Southeast, including Watauga River, Russell Fork River, Nolichucky, French Broad, Guest River, New River, Doe River, and Wilson Creek.dsc_0745-2 dsc_0747-2If you are a climber you won’t have to look far either. About a five-minute car ride from town, just over the Tennessee/ Virginia border, sits Backbone Rock. There are a few lines to top rope here, so for the most part this area serves well as a place to learn anchor building and basic climbing techniques.Hidden Valley, however, is about 40 minutes from town, but offers excellent sandstone climbing on a wide range of bolted sport routes. The climbing here seems almost too good to be true given its close proximity to Abingdon and Damascus. Hidden Valley is beautifully positioned and a resource folks in this region are lucky to have._mg_6261Grayson Highlands State Park is about 45 minutes from Damascus and offers world-class bouldering. The quality of problems is complimented wonderfully by their exposure and setting amongst the Grayson Highlands backdrop. You can spend months here and never have to climb the same problem.img_0417StayDamascus is visited by a lot of people just passing through. There are multiple bed and breakfasts, hostels, and camp spots around town. The Lazy Fox Inn, the Old Mill Inn, and the Hiker’s Inn are all nice, quaint accommodations right in town. There are camping spots north or south on the AT about a mile either way. There are car camping spots up 58 next to Whitetop Laurel Creek and dispersed camping along the Virginia Creeper Trail (any place that isn’t marked with a No Trespassing sign, of course). You will quickly learn that everyone in town is extremely laid back and if you plan to camp, please do so responsibly so that resources last. EatMojo’s Trailside Café has great coffee and breakfast options and recently started serving gourmet dinners Thursday thru Sunday. It has a comfortable, cozy feel and is on the AT (so don’t be surprised to see a crowd of thru-hikers when you go). Bobo McFarland’s is an Irish-style pub with pizza, salads, burgers, and beer, also situated directly on the AT. Damascus also has its own brewery, aptly named The Damascus Brewery. The taproom is always packed with people, and live music echoes into the streets.last_img read more


Come To Richmond For The Only Event Worth Hiking For!

first_imgCelebrate some of the best urban trails in the country this Fall by hiking for a good cause with Blue Sky Fund along the James River Park System in Richmond, VA! Transport yourself from downtown to a wild world in a matter of seconds by hopping on the trail and swapping the whirring of honking cars for a wooded oasis and rushing water. Let the cool crisp air fill your lungs as a kaleidoscope of red, yellow and orange floods your field of vision and the river roars nearby. Leaves crunching beneath your feet as you hit the open trail, with not a care in the world except the path ahead. Ah, the sweet sensation of hiking in the Fall.What if this little walk in the woods could also make a BIG impact?Join hundreds of hikers on Saturday, October 27th for the only event worth hiking for this Fall – Hike For Kids – as you challenge yourself to a 3-, 8- or 14-mile loop around the James River and know that with each step you’re helping to connect more kids in need with nature. Toast to your success on the trail at the post-hike party with Väsen beer, Boka tacos, live entertainment and a chance to win awesome outdoor gear prizes!We believe that the outdoors should be a part of every child’s life, and Blue Sky Fund makes it possible for kids living in Richmond’s poorest neighborhoods to experience the joys of the Great Outdoors. Imagine living just a mile from the giant James River, and never visiting it or knowing that it was a place that you were welcome. With both in-school and after-school programming starting in elementary school all the way through high school, Blue Sky Fund provides transformative experiences in nature to over 2,000 students each year. All of the proceeds from Hike For Kids directly supports this outdoor education programming for Richmond’s urban youth.Blue Sky Fund leads school-based, after-school, weekend, and summer programs. Elementary school students can explore the great outdoors through the Explorers program, which helps students engage in their core science requirements through hands-on, field trip experiences in nature. Outdoor Adventure Clubs for middle school students builds character as students are immersed in outdoor activities such as rock climbing, hiking, backpacking, canoeing, kayaking, and camping. Through the organization’s Outdoor Leadership Institute, a diverse set of high school students bond together to meet the challenges of a week-long wilderness trip and year-round community service opportunities as a team.Hike For Kids is made possible by community sponsors, including Capital One, Dominion Energy, the Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU, Blakemore Construction, Blue Ridge Outdoors, One Digital, Riverside Outfitters, Väsen Brewing Company, Health Warrior, Magellan Health, REI Co-Op (Richmond store), and Walkabout Outfitters.last_img read more


Friends of the Smokies: Great Smoky Mountains Association to Reopen Park Visitor Centers for MLK Jr. Weekend

first_img “We are incredibly grateful for Friends’ contribution,” Laurel Rematore, Chief Executive Officer of Great Smoky Mountains Association, added. “We appreciate every chance we have to help park visitors learn more about this park’s resources through sales of our ranger-approved merchandise.”At the direction of the National Park Service last week, revenue generated by recreation fees is currently being used to clean and maintain restrooms at Newfound Gap, Cable Mill in Cades Cove, Smokemont Campground and Deep Creek Picnic Area. This federal funding also allowed the reopening of Cades Cove Campground and Picnic Area, including restrooms, and maintenance of Little River Road between Metcalf Bottoms Picnic Area and the Townsend Wye and Foothills Parkway East. The visitor center at Cable Mill in Cades Cove is currently open 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. using this federal funding with staffing provided by GSMA.Friends of the Smokies-is an official nonprofit partner of Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has raised $62 million to support critical park programs in North Carolina and Tennessee. Discover and donate at its inception in 1953, Great Smoky Mountains Association has supported the preservation of Great Smoky Mountains National Park by promoting greater public understanding and appreciation through education, interpretation, and research. A non-profit organization, GSMA has provided more than $42 million to the park during its 65-year history. For more information, visit KODAK, Tenn. – Friends of the Smokies announced Thursday that it will temporarily fund the reopening of Sugarlands Visitor Center near Gatlinburg, Tenn., and Oconaluftee Visitor Center near Cherokee, N.C., from Friday through Monday, Jan. 18-21.Visitation to the park is expected to increase during these dates due to the Martin Luther King, Jr. federal holiday. Both visitor centers will be open Friday from 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and Saturday, Sunday and Monday from 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Following the closure Monday evening, the two visitor centers will again close until federal funding is restored and the park fully reopens.“We are proud to commit funding for the visitor centers and restrooms to reopen during the holiday weekend in order for rangers to provide a safe and enjoyable visitor experience,” Friends of the Smokies Executive Director Tim Chandler said.“Any opportunity to work with our partners to preserve and protect America’s most-visited national park is a welcomed one, and Friends of the Smokies stands at the ready to provide further support.”FundingFriends of the Smokies will provide funds for park rangers in the Resource Education division to reopen the visitor centers and provide information services to park visitors. Additional funds from Friends of the Smokies will be used for park employees to clean, reopen and maintain the restroom facilities at these two locations during the temporary opening. Employees of Great Smoky Mountains Association will staff park stores at both locations. All GSMA sales support Great Smoky Mountains National Park.last_img read more


Chayanne Returns To The Music Scene With Intensive Activity For Haitian And Chilean Victims

first_imgBy Dialogo March 08, 2010 Puerto Rican singer and dancer “Chayanne” is returning to the music scene, following a three-year absence, with intensive activity to support the victims of the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile, the artist announced in Mexico City, where he lived through the earthquake of 1985. As a demonstration of his understanding of earthquake victims, the Boricuan artist recalled in a press conference that he experienced the earthquake that struck Mexico City in 1985 and left ten thousand dead, according to official figures. “We lived through the 1985 earthquake together; it was terribly sad,” said Chayanne, who this week reached first place on Billboard’s Latin Albums chart with his recent disc No hay imposibles [There are no impossible things], which he is promoting in Mexico. The singer declared himself satisfied with the “very beautiful” Spanish version of “We Are the World,” recorded by various Spanish-speaking artists to benefit the Haitian victims. With regard to Chile, he indicated, looking forward, that “there will be many shows to help the communities” affected by the recent earthquake. On the morning of 19 September 1985, Chayanne was at Mexico City’s international airport, on board his plane and about to take off, when the 8.1-magnitude earthquake began that leveled a large part of the Mexican capital’s heart.last_img read more


Brazil Will Have Reactor For Nuclear Submarine In 2014

first_imgBy Dialogo May 25, 2010 A good Uranium enrichment program, for the development of the Brazilian nation, but they should also begin thinking about the plant and reactor’s residues as they are dangerous to the environment and humans. I believe in the BRAZILIAN potential and we are on the right path, congratulations to the Navy, Aeronautics, Brazilian Army, and lastly, to the Honorable COMMANDERS of our ARMIES Brazil will complete the first reactor for its nuclear submarine in 2014, the coordinator of the Brazilian navy’s Nuclear Propulsion Program, André Luis Ferreira Marques, announced in an interview with state news agency Agencia Brasil. The Brazilian reactor will function initially with uranium enriched to 5% and later to 20%, he explained. He also said that this reactor will be a model for those used in future nuclear plants. The military official likewise explained that the Brazilian navy will inaugurate this year the Hexafluoreto de Urânio (Usexa) industrial plant, which will commence operation in 2011 and will produce the fuel (enriched uranium) for the submarine. Brazil began to produce uranium enriched to an industrial level in 2009, and its production is at a very early stage, for which reason it still buys abroad a good part of the uranium enriched to 4% that it needs for its nuclear plants. The Brazilians expect to attain self-sufficiency in nuclear fuel in 2014, a spokesperson for the state-owned nuclear firm Indústrias Nucleares do Brasil recently explained to AFP. Currently, according to the Brazilians, only six countries control the complete uranium cycle: France, Russia, Canada, the United States, Brazil, and Iran. Brazil will start construction of its first nuclear submarine in 2016 and finish it in 2021, adapting the conventional Scorpene it acquired from France in a seven-figure deal.last_img read more


Combined Strategies, Technologies Help IED Fight

first_img As the number of improvised explosive device attacks rises in Afghanistan, a combination of strategies and technologies are being used to halt the harm they cause to troops and civilians, Army Lt. Gen. Michael L. Oates said. Oates, director of the Joint IED Defeat Organization, known as JIEDDO, spoke with reporters during a Dec. 6 briefing at the Foreign Press Center in Washington. “We are essentially attempting to find a fertilizer-based bomb, so it has very low or no metallic content, and it is buried in an unimproved road, in the dirt,” Oates said. Military-grade munitions are harder to come by in Afghanistan than they are in Iraq, he said, and an abundance of fertilizer is available for use in homemade explosives. “It’s easier and it works,” Oates said, “so there’s no particular reason to change that model.” But detecting fertilizer-based devices “requires a very sophisticated combination of factors,” he added. Metal detectors don’t work against these crude but efficient devices, which have risen from only a few in the first seven years of the war in Afghanistan to 1,300 to 1,400 events a month over the past 18 months, as the number of coalition troops has surged there. Instead, Oates said, coalition forces have had some success in detecting the residue of homemade explosives before they are buried underground. “Dogs are very successful at locating most forms of explosives, and so we have increased the number of explosive-detection dogs in theater,” he said. There are more unmanned aerial vehicles in Afghanistan now than there ever were in Iraq, Oates said, noting the “significant volume of UAVs” in the air there with remote-sensing capability. Airborne platforms also can help detect disturbances in the earth that may give clues about the locations of IEDs, he said. For example, if a command wire is used in the IED detonator, that may be detected from the air. Ground-penetrating radar also offers an ability to see things buried beneath the surface. “We still have more work to go on that technology,” Oates said, “but it is providing some useful help.” A range of other radars also are being explored to look for devices buried underground. “What was new in Afghanistan this year was the introduction of what we call persistent ground surveillance, PGS, and persistent threat detection [system], PTDS,” Oates said. Persistent surveillance includes a range of functions, but the newest capabilities, he said, include a blimp that can rise to a height of about 3,000 feet with a long-range camera that watches the roads day and night through most weather conditions. Cameras mounted on towers do the same thing. “We’ve put almost 50 of these systems into theater and we have more coming,” Oates said. “All of these things are either currently in theater or moving there as soon as we can get them there,” he added. But Oates said he doesn’t want to oversell the ability of technology alone to detect IEDs. “This is a very difficult bomb to detect using technology. We find that well-trained soldiers armed with dogs tend to be the most effective in finding IEDs, but they are facilitated with other forms of technology,” he said. “The airborne platforms allow you to understand what is going on within the enemy network and that’s helpful to understanding where to look for the bomb. Our other intelligence capabilities allow us to do the same,” he said. “But unless you employ all of these capabilities, it is very, very difficult to find these explosives,” Oates said. By Dialogo December 10, 2010last_img read more