I admit to having at one time or another wanting to be one of the "Guys". Living in a mountain town or just hanging with your climbing buddies some times you want to look the part. At some point most everyone does.
Dachstein sweaters or Francital jackets come to mind from my past. But a good puffy down sweater seems to be the status symbol these days. Fashion? It comes and it goes only to return....like a nice mullet :)
So you have to imagine when I meet one of our NW gear reps what my thought is about the "climbing" clothing he is describing to me. His side of the conversation was something like this. " Merino wool sweater with a Primaloft 1 body, nice stand up collar and thumb holes on the sleeves. Super, technical piece. Beautifully tailored, athletic fit. You can just image, someone really cool, getting out of their fancy Porsche in this one!"
I'd heard of, but knew zip about this particular company that Kurt represented. In for a penny, in for a pound I thought as I had already spent most of my day meeting with Kurt and discussing another company he represented in the US, Boreal.
So when Kurt described, "someone really cool" I already had someone in mind :)
"cool guy" winning the Bogus Hill climb in his Porsche.
But come on...throwing a light weight, high powered Porsche around is fun but nothing compares to sinker sticks on really steep neve. Even tossing a 2200#, 300hp Porsche around aint that much fun!.
So while I can grudgingly settle into old age driving a Porsche...doing it right in the USA means you either do it on a track or risk going to jail. I find neither appealing even while wearing stylish clothing.
As one might imagine Kurt was now going to have his hands full if he was going to impress me with a "highly technical sweater". But I do get the lingo. Let me back up just a bit. I am now down to the last couple of weeks before leaving on a trip. Things are hectic and I am tight on cash. The last thing I need right now is to be buying gear I don't need for this particular trip. Even the time away from my work bench is more expensive that usual. So looking at a new product line I know virtually nothing about isn't high on my priority list.
Once through the doors of the Sherpa Adventure Gear headquarters in Renton, WA, Kurt and I quickly get down to business. The first item he shows me is the "stylistic and highly technical sweater". It is called the "Mantra sweater". Damn it! I want one. Even a black one. Although flaming hot RED would have been a better color. Or really bright blue. I can't decide if it was the ever so subtle "Porsche" sales pitch or that I really like the sweater. Likely a little of both. Do they some how know I designed and built/rebuilt my own Porsche? Am I overly paranoid? (yes...they say in unison) I REALLY don't want to spend any cash today. Worse yet he shows me the women's model. Screw the Porsche fashion connection. This is the version I want for myself. The purple is HOT! I should have painted my car THAT color. Same set up as men's Mantra but with a hood. My lovely wife is no ice climber but she wears a hoody or two almost everywhere when she isn't working in a suit. I know I have to buy this one for her. I'll likely not get another chance at wholesale pricing. Damn it! Like a fool, I blurt out..."Can I buy this for my wife?" "Of course...." "This guy is a total tool", I am sure Kurt is thinking.
We go through the majority of the SAG line, much of it designed for alpine climbing. A couple of things I have not seen else where I decide I'll have to buy as well. Thankfully Kurt and SAG decide I might be worth *giving* a couple of samples for testing, including my very own Mantra, in "cool guy" black. I get to avoid the perils of an "athletic fit" that way :) But out the door, I am still a few hundred down on cash. I am just too damn easy! No control..zip...de nada....Damn it!
I know what I want in my own climbing gear. The hood or even just that huge stand up collar pattern...I want. Besides her favorite purple, here is what I could see of Tracy's Mantra hoody.
I've already used my Mantra version over a Patagonia Sun hoody and under a EB down hoody on ice, depending on the conditions. The use of Merino wool in the sleeves and the body insulation, in vest form, of Primaloft 1 is brilliant. As I expected, it should be one of my main layers climbing ice in the up coming trip. I admit I did wear it to dinner yesterday. And Tracy gracefully commented, "You look so handsome". Damn it! The problem now is I'll need another one to wear while hanging out in the local Chamonix bistros and not smell like a goat.
And maybe a third one to keep clean and nice for the occasional dinner and the Porcshe track days when the Nomex isn't required......damn it! ;-)
Ya, lucky for me, I now know the Sherpa Rep....Damn it!
Chamonix By Irene Munguia
2 weeks ago