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The cold world of alpine climbing.

The cold world of alpine climbing.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Chamonix '11?


Day 3 in Chamonix.  No avalanches, Police stations, Emergency rooms, Doctor's offices or lost gear today.  And thankfully no one died.   We seem to be on a roll now.  Of course going from sea level to 11K feet has a few draw backs but that is easy (although painful) to fix.

The climbers above are on the the NW face of the Midi and is taken from the station walk way.  (Goulotte Profit / Perroux III 4, M5  I think?) A short  climb I hope to get on by next week when I can actually breath and climb at 3800m / 11k.   Today it was hard enough just skiing down.


Sunset from the Midi station after doing the Cosmic Arete with 20cm of new snow and a cold wind @ -18C.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Hammers for the Petzl Quark?

Having climbed on the Nomics for so long now,  my favorite ice tool from just a few years ago, the Quark has been ignored as of late.

In fact the last pair of Quarks I did climb on had been chopped up pretty dramatically to take advantage of the best of everything I thought Petzl offered at the time.

Details here from the Spring of 2009:

http://www.supertopo.com/climbers-forum/850659/How-to-trash-a-300-ice-tool

The end result?  Awesome Alpine tool!
These two were eventually passed on via "Pay it Forward" along with thousands of dollars in new and used gear that was donated on CCcom.   Fun project that!

http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/923346/1


Same tools spent the past season in Patagonia.  By the looks of it they were put to good use.

http://jensholsten.blogspot.com/2011/01/jardines-japoneses-new-route-on-mermoz.html

http://colinhaley.blogspot.com/2011/01/jardines-japoneses.html



So I guess it comes as no surprise that I really like the newest Quark based on the original Nomic's head.  I was never a big fan of the head shape or hammer and adze combo on the old Quark.  So I put my money where my mouth was and made both a lwt weight hammer and a light weight adze for a Nomic 2 years ago.  (Just the one adze, mine, sorry!)

Very cool that Petzl decided last winter that what I was doing,  was what they also wanted to do.  Great minds think alike and all ;-)

So now you can buy the production version of a design I thought was a great ice tool several years ago.  Big improvement on the old Quark I think.  But the one place I still think Petzl missed the boat on the new Quark is in the hammer and adze.  So it is really fun that the hammer I designed for the Nomic fits the new Quark perfectly.  The lwt weight Cold Thistle hammer makes a much better balanced and super sweet alpine ice tool. 

This version of the Quark is one of my main alpine tools.  Petzl delivers the best production picks on the market.   What is not to like on this tool?    Nothing!

Production runs sell out quickly.   If you are off to Alaska this spring.  It is time to get your order in now.

The Cold Thistle hammers can be purchased here:



Pictured are my personal set of new Quarks.


Friday, February 18, 2011

It just aint fair.....

As you'll see :-)

Sharpening picks specifically for mixed?

I don't agree with everything shown here but then I don't climb a lot of hard modern mixed either.
If you do or just aspire to, Mark is likely a good voice to listen to.



Check out Mark's web site and blog. 

http://www.beverlymountainguides.com/

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Nomic, Quark and Ergo low profile Hammers?





"Colin Haley photo of Bjørn-Eivind Årtun on their new route, Dracula, Mt Foraker, June 2010."

Finally!

At Bjørn-Eivind Årtun's suggestion after his successful '10 Alaskan season, we have redesigned the C-T Nomic hammer to make it even lighter with a 4mm hammer face instead of the previous 7mm face. The new hammer will also fit the newest Petzl Nomic, Quark or Ero tool heads and the newest picks cut for a hammer or adze.   The hammer face is thinner to shave some weight and balance better but the hammer still gives complete coverage to the back of the Nomic.

We are FINALLY shipping them AGAIN!













This hamemr will fit the previous and current production Nomic, the new Quark and the new Ergo.
With the 7mm hammer I preferred a one hammer set up. The newest 4mm hammers have changed  that.    The balance is better with the 4mm hammers.  A technical tool like the Nomic will never be ideal for pounding pins (that won't change) because of their large clearance of the handle shape, but our smaller profile hammers certainly make it a lot easier and save the head of the tools from damage. They are easy to attach with perfect fit and finish.

The C-T makes the newst Quark an even better (sweet!) tool for all technical climbing.

For long committing alpine climbs they are a minimalistic option that works.   On the scrappy mixed route where you need to pound the occasional pin or your own tool, they work.

Our current 4mm hammers *easily* fit the newest picks from Petzl. They are CNC machined from bar stock chromoly steel and then heat treated to hammer hardness and hand finished in our shop.

Not all Petzl heads are created equally.  I have found a few that require very minor hand fitting the pick and hammer with a file.  It won't take much  and is easy to do.  If you can sharpen a pick any fitting required will be easy.  The new Petzl picks require cutting the back off  the hammer interface from .15" to .04" on the bolt hole.  Again easily done with a hand file.  Just cut enough material to  line up the bolt hole on hammer and pick.   You want to be just shy of the bolt hole when done.  Way easier than it  looks or sounds.




Hammers are $60 ea.   These will fit the current production picks and is now even lighter with a 4mm hammer face...@ 30g per hammer and much easier to fit than the Petzl offering

Buy them now while I have them in stock and ready to ship.  We do four production runs a year and generally sell every run out before the next.

More here:

http://coldthistletools.blogspot.com/2010/08/ice-climbing-gear.html




Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Scrappy, Scary and hard...

Me like :)


Endangered Species from Bayard Russell on Vimeo.


http://cathedralstyle.blogspot.com/

Polartec NeoShell ?

I am expecting the Polartec NeoShell to live up to the pre production media hype.  Enough so that I am about to spend a good bit of the next 6 weeks climbing and skiing in a Westcomb's newest Apoc jacket made of NeoShell material.  One of the original testers is a buddy of mine and when pressed called NeoShell, "the missing link".   And he is someone that might actually recognise the "missing link"  if he saw it.  (or was wearing it)  High praise indeed from someone I trust on gear.    We'll see just how well it does in the real world shortly. 

Till then the video is entertaining!




http://www.polartec.com/shelter/polartec-neoshell/

http://www.westcomb.com/product/3/jackets-vests.html

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Climbing Salopettes (bibs) and the "NWAlpinist Salopette"



The idea of a bibbed pant is so old to me now that I am a not sure sure how I came to it. 

Some where between a hike out Marble canyon from Deltaform in June of 1975 or coming down the cow path after doing Ptarmigan Ridge in single boots and the resulting frozen feet that fall certainly had something to do with the thought process.

I do remember finally taking my wool knickers off  and walking in my shorts as my thighs were bleeding by the end of the wet 25k hike out from Deltaform.  My feet?  Still an issue with cold today.

I've no doubt that the winter gear suggestions of British Alpinists Joe Tasker and Dick Renshaw in MOUNTAIN LIFE, August/September 1975 had a big impact on us after Ptarmigan Ridge.

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2011/02/joe-tasker-and-dick-renshaw-english.html

Gwain, three days out, after a harried retreat down through the ice fall on the north side of Mt Deborah.
By the spring of 1976 we were kitted in lightly insulated, nylon shelled,  ski salopettes with minor modifications to make them climbing friendly.   They worked great.  Warmer than a normal pant set up while generally enabling you to drop a layer and on long trips and a distinct lack of another "waist".  The harness is more than enough there.

By the early '80s many of  the professionals working in the mtns around Banff were using a Swiss made wool/nylon blend salopette with cotton canvas reinforcements.  The canvas dried slowly and wore quickly so just as common to cut the knee and butt reinforcements off pretty quickly.  But the wonderful and warm wool stretch material they used, the chest pocket, internal gaiter (which many just cut out as well) and side zip were a glimpse as the future in technical mountain pants.  It was the '80s so even my shoe laces matched but these saloppetes really rocked!  Now way to get lost in a white out either so big bonus points there for pictures.







Take it to the extreme and you get something like our friend Kim wore on the 1st ascent of the East Face of Everest in '83.  And he was back on Kanchenjunga with them in 1985.  Shown here.  Fully insulated and Gortex salopettes by Wilderness Experience.  Gregg Cronn photo of Kim on Kanchenjunga. "It's a magical thing with me. It's tough to stay in Kansas when you've been to Oz."  (Kim Momb, 1956-1986)


As you might imagine a good pair of salopettes aren't what you would generally see on a day out cragging in Hyalite Canyon for example.  The additional warmth and comfort of a pair of salopettes aren't a high priority when some actually put their crampons on at in the parking lot.


The result of the "sport climbing" community in the ice climbing environment is much of the gear and clothing gets dummied down (and I know people will just LOVE that) to fit the much bigger customer base.  No longer a need for double boots, salopettes, or a small, super light weight climbing pack if you are top roping or leading 50m climbs as the ultimate expression of the sport.

One of the main reasons I write the blog is to make others aware of what is out there for specialised gear and may be even reintroduce some old technology that has gone by the way side. that clearly should not have IMO.

Which is why I beat the "light is right" campaign, double boots, specialised climbing sacs, better crampon fit/designs and now I am going to get deep into the clothing discussion in a number of up coming blogs posts.

One of the reasons those old red salopettes were so functional is that they were wool, they were a bit stretchy and they breathed well.  Sounds pretty modern now for a piece of 30 year old kit doesn't it?

20 years on (2002) and leave it to Alteryx to come up with a better version.   Those in the "know" searched them out promptly and bought the Alteryx Gamma Saloppete and proceeded to love them to death.   Known butts I have seen well worn Arcteryx saloppetes on are Cosmin Andron, Steve Swenson, Wayne Wallace, Michael Layton and Bill Belcourt...and trust me I don't make a habit of looking at men's butts!   I suspect there are more salopettes out there stashed away for that next "big" project. This was the last time I pulled mine out. 





GCC photos below are courtesy of Ken Glover


But the great thing about a correctly designed and sewn set of salopettes is they can be used for cold weather cragging just as easily as on any big north face..







The Arcteryx Salopette reviewed by John Graham @ http://www.trailspace.com/gear/arcteryx/gamma-salopette/#reviews
January 1, 2002

"This one-piece sleeveless suit has power shield on the lower half and Schoeller fabric on the top, with nylon facing on the upper front. It zips all the way down the front and up the legs. It has removable knee pads that really save the arthritic knees. I wear this instead of bibs and it really comes into its own when exposed to the wind. It can get a little hot climbing steeply below treeline, but vents very well. I wear it with mid weight polypro bottoms and a power stretch top. When I hit treeline, I pair it with the Gamma SV and a balaclava and I'm good to go. Every detail is well thought out and of course the Arc'Tyrex fit is perfect, as usual."

John's comments are pretty much as I found my own pair of Gamma Saloppetes.


Arcteryx Gamma Salopettes design details:
Designed for mountaineering applications, this breathable garment sheds snow and provides liberating stretch. Special features include removable kneepads and through-the-crotch WaterTight zips.

Features:
Adjustable cuff shock cord
Breathable, wind and water resistant
Four way polyester stretch upper
Internal knee pad pockets
Keprotec instep patches
Removable molded EVA foam kneepads
Stretch woven lower
Two chest pockets with laminated zips
WaterTight side and through-the-crotch zips

Materials:
Polartec Power Shield
Rentex Lofted Lycra
Schoeller Keprotec

It doesn't take much imagination to see that salopettes are a pretty specialised piece of kit and not the best in warm weather.  Additionally if you are using a soft shell material like my original  wool blend Swiss salopettes or the more recent Arcteryx Gamma how warm do you want to make them, at the risk of making them too warm?

With all the new wonder fabrics and some good design work one would think you could make an almost perfect climbing salopette these days.  Likely the biggest *trick* to that would be getting someone that was willing to design with no compromise.   No fufu ski fashions or snow board shredders needed here.  How about for once just a honest to GOD climbing salopette?    Just as Tasker and Renshaw first envisioned them 35 years ago while climbing the hardest North faces in the Alps, mid winter?

I'd pony up some cash  for a couple pair of those! 

Enter Bill Almos and his start up climbing clothing company NWAlpine.   http://nwalpine.com/
Bill is, if nothing else, an alpine climber himself.  And willing to take risks.

So when we first talked about light weight pile hoodies and Shoeller style alpine climbing pants we were talking mostly the same language.  I'm old so I am not sure what he thought of a "new" old pant idea as a NWAlpine offering.  But he didn't say no.  So I boxed my last two remaining pair of salopettes up and off to Portland they went.    Having never met Bill or owned any NWAlpine clothing (I own several now items now) I wondered for a moment or two if I would ever actually see my original and much loved salopettes again.   Similar things have happened in the past.  Same situation and sadly, most unreliable people.

Not so this time!

So Bill and I began brain storming via emails, what would we do to make a better *alpine climbing* specific bib?  It was a short storm.  I wanted a bib that would be warm enough, if a little cool for Alaska in the spring.  Hopefully they would be fine for most things if you could move quickly in the Rockies or Alps in winter.  And a plenty warm pant for anything in the lower 48.  Again, specifically for winter or cold alpine climbs.  Ptarmigan Ridge on Rainier or anything in the Columbia Icefields in Oct or Feb was the environment I envisioned.

I am doing much of my own climbing in a pair of Arcteyx Gamma LT pants these days and s single pair of mid weight Costco long johns.  I won't kid anyone, at times it is just barely enough when the temps drop below -10C or a nasty cold wind picks up.  But going on the theory that cool muscles work more efficiently..so far it has been enough.   But for a new pair of Saloppetes I wanted just a bit more.  Not as much as the last Arcteryx Gamma MX salopettes mind you.  They were more akin to the current Gamma MX pants (Polartec® Power Shield®) which is lightly insulated.  But I wanted these to be some where just short of that extra insulation and lighter in over all weight. MUCH, much lighter, and way less complicated.  Less zippers, less pockets for sure, but still a usable.  The idea was a lwt climbing pant where just the additional bib will add some warmth by design without adding weight.  One less belt at the waist line and more comfort was the goal.

Weight comparisons?

ARC Gamma Lt large 12.4 oz
H. Ridge Runner 3/4 16oz
ARC Gamma MX large 19oz
NWAlpine salopettes large 21.6oz
ARC Gamma MX salopettes large 30.4oz

I have to admit "formal", as in basic black, climbing pants is getting old.


"My" salopettes need to be warm, wind proof,  extremely breathable on the upper bib portion, breathable enough in the leg and waist and all made of a 4 way stretch fabric.  No  baggy legs to snag crampons on, hardcore and durable patches of some type on the lower inside of the calf for when you will eventually snag a crampon. Turned over double hemmed cuffs for "gaiter" durability.  Simple eyelets for elastic cord to snug down your "pant gaiter". Simple. Succinct. Specific.

Reinforced inside of the leg for crampons and simple gaiter grommets




Cuffed hems to reinforce the bungee gaiter strap and seal the leg's gaiter, which were designed up front to take a big dbl boot like the La Sportiva Spantik.


A THREE slider, chest and crotch, water resistant zipper.  For the call of nature, ventilation and getting in and out of the garment.   Easiest  pee portal in the world with a harness on.  Easy for me and I suspect even better for a woman. 



Hey, no laughing here!  This is a hard photo to post in public let alone take by yourself!  Zipper runs from sternum to tailbone.


NWAlpinist Salopette details:
Suggested Retail is $250  sizes XS through XL
The first production run will be presold. via the NWAlpine web site
http://nwalpine.com/


Everyone in the industry these days is using either a proprietary material or something from Polartec and/or Shoeller.  almost no one is sewing in the USA.  These bibs are proudly sewn in Portland Oregon.
The pant material  currently in the NWAlpinist Saloppetes is a proprietary material.  Bill is already prepared to change the material and still keep the quality if the original supply can't keep up with demand after the first production run.  Currently the pant is made of a a high quality four-way stretch, woven, breathable softshell fabric with a abrasion resistant face with DWR coating. The usual suspects use exactly the same material at the moment.  Your imagination won't have to roam far to imagine this material. 




The upper fabric of the bib  is a "micro denier fleece back lycra".  My thought is, it is perfect for the job.  And I am really picky here because the upper material has to breath extremely well to make the salopette idea work like it needs to.  (SAG's) Merino wool hoody shown in the photo as well.  More on it lower down the page.



Trust me, this light weight bib top is breathable.  It is likely the first thing you'll notice if you try to use these Salopettes without enough insulation on your upper body as I did.  You'll likely not make that mistake twice.

How the upper body fits in the shoulders, arms and around the neck defines how salopettes fit in many ways...these are exceptional on me.





There is a couple of things that become glaringly obvious when you are 50+ and modeling a one piece lycra suit.  The first, much to my surprise you know, is I obviously aint a flat bellied stallion no more...no more :)  No hiding that one from a camera.  But being shaped more like a Pear (as in fruit) also tells me a lot about how well these salopettes might fit,  shall we say, a more athletic proportioned climber.  They should fit normal climbers exceptionally well.  I have a 21" back which is pretty long for my height @ 6'1".  So the typical issues and where you will have a problem, of not having enough length in the body and having  "crotch bite"  or baggy pants, shouldn't be a problem for most with this pattern.   Mine are a "Large" and me fit perfectly..well close, if I suck in the Pear anyway.

This is how I see myself......a long lean climbing machine.  It is what I can't see that may be a problem with that glorified self image :)


"A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing to add but when there is nothing left to take away"    Antoine de Saint-Exupery



Wind, Sand and Stars (French title:Terre des hommes (Land of Men)) by Antoine de Saint Exupéry published in 1939

I suspect the next question is how do you layer under and over salopettes.   No question it is a learned skill.  The first pictures of this blog show Gwain in the mid '70s with several light layers inside and a wool shirt on the out side.  These days most of our mid layers have snug hems.  You don't need to tuck everything in and you'll stay warmer in many cases by not doing so with Salopettes.  So nothing has really changed.  Just the upper insulation garments have gotten even better and easier to use with Salopettes.  My current "go to pieces" for the upper body (with salopettes or pants) are the super light weight Sherpa Adventure Gear (SAG) Merino wool hoody shown in the pictures above, called the "Khushi" (it is a must have).  Or the NWAlpine LT Hoody (another must have).  Next up is the RI Hoody or the SAG "Tchimi" hoody or again the NWAlpine Black Spider Hoody.

All light weight hoodies suggested here with only the amount of insulation and how well they breath changes for the project, the level of effort involved and temps.

Next up?  Lots of mid layer pile pieces to choose from but one I am thrilled with, especially if you are using salopettes, is the Sherpa Adventure Gear sweater made of of Merino wool arms and Primaloft One body.  It is called the  "Mantra".

It a different piece and you'll likely need to figure out if it will work for your system.  I really like light to mid weight Merino wool sweaters with full or half zip for climbings.  I buy them at Men's Warehouse on sale and literally wear them untill I have holes in them.  So the Matra fits right in and adds some extra warmth with less weight in the Primaloft 1 body.  But more importantly the Primaloft One is much easier to dry out than wool and  looses only a tiny bit of its insulation values when wet.   A hood would make the men's Mantra much more user friendly for hard climbing.  It is a truly dapper casual, around town, garment that I use climbing without a hood.  But I'd really like to have both as an option!  If you think so too let Sherpa Adventure Gear know!   I'll buy the first.

I am a big hoody fan.  If you are a woman the Mantra comes with a hood in the women's verion.  I can't imagine a better winter climbing system than a pair of NWAlpinist salopettes and the "Kushi" mated up with Mantra hoody and one or both of the Arcteryx's Atom LT and Atom SV jackets.  San's that hood it is my current system.   And damn..I'll be looking simply dapper in the Chamonix bar scene in that black (hid the spare tire) Mantra!  The woman's Mantra is good enough I bought my wife one...and she is NEVER going to alpine climb.  She calls me a "girl" quite a lot so may be I do know something about women's clothing :)

I'll have to ask.

I have another blog started on hoodies, light and mid weights, and how they fit into my systems along with my pant and base layer choices.  But I wanted to give the basics of what I use with salopettes as many have likely never used a pair climbing.

http://www.sherpaadventuregear.com/index.php

http://nwalpine.com/

http://www.arcteryx.com/?EN

And if you wondered?  I have no financial connection to NWAlpine but I did come up with the name NWAlpinist Salopettes but only after getting my originals back!

Broken Black Diamond Crampons..the soft shoe shuffle?

June 1 2011

I have rewritten this blog to make it more current and in my opinion more accurate from the details I have been able to gather from the climbing community in the last 4 months.    Black Diamond has offered no new public information since the third pair of broken stainless crampons became public knowledge in mid Feb of 2011.


Since then I have been made aware of several more pairs of  cracked or broken crampons by their owners.  Crampons that the owners only identified because of  Rafal's original blog post on the subject. 


Until recently I have been a big fan of the Black Diamond horizontal crampons for most conditions. Sabertooth to be exact. But I have also used the Serac. They both climb exceptionally well. Big fan until they started breaking. BD has yet to acknowledge they have a problem. To the opposite in fact, they have publically denied any problems. Despite continuing to quietly replace PRODUCTION crampons as they crack or break and are returned to BD.

I will no longer climb in mine.

I have personally verified early versions of both Sabertooth and Serac Pro and Clip models failing.  All have had a similar failure and position on the front of the crampon.  Thankfully the only broken crampons I have seen are the earlier versions before BD added material to the failure area.   Those same crampons can still be found on Black Diamond's  dealer's shelves.

I first noticed that added material and design change in the early fall of  2010.

snip from a comment by Bill Belcourt of Black Diamond on Gravsport:

"these changes would improve the life of the crampon in the failure mode that Rafal saw"

The original comment here:

http://www.gravsports-ice.com/icethreads/ubbthreads.php?ubb=showflat&Number=8972&page=4





The heads up and photos courtesy of Rafal.  More here:
http://rafalandronowski.wordpress.com/2011/02/15/broke-my-crampons/

In email conversations with the owner of these Sabertooth Pros said they were used only with a Nepal Evo.  The Evo is a pretty rigid boot by today's standards.  I do not believe these crampons, which were sold at retail and not prototypes, were abused in any way.

BD disagrees:

http://cascadeclimbers.com/forum/ubbthreads.php/topics/1004766/1








1st gen Sabertooth is on the right in the picture above.  2nd gen version is on the left. At the area of the break BD went from approx. .53" to .70". across the flat or a 38% increase.    The cross bar between front points gained 24% in a similar fashion, . 50" to .62"

Major New Route on Les Droites - Ecaille épique

Great photos and a interesting route.  Worth a look.  Thanks for the heads up Jamie!

http://www.ukclimbing.com/news/item.php?id=60339




Seb Ratel on mixd ground on the third day

© Sébastien Ratel

Monday, February 14, 2011

La Sportiva Batura

The NEW 2011 La Sportiva Batura!

It may look the same, but trust me, it aint!

Above:  Jack Roberts in the 1st generation Batura climbing Curtain Call in 2010.     

La Sportiva makes two of the most popular and highly technical  alpine single boots on the market, the Nepal Evo and the Trango Extreme ExLt GTX .  Both are truly benchmarks in current technical alpine/ice footwear.  I and many others get an exceptional fit and performance in either of these La Sportiva boots.   The Batura is a bit heavier and a good bit warmer than the Trango Extreme.  And now a bit heavier  and still a bit warmer than the Nepal Evo.   So the Batura is in heady company here.  It is easily slotted into the La Sportiva mountain boot line, between traditional single boots and heavier double boots.




La Sportiva Spantik 3#.05oz / 1362g
La La Sportiva Baruntse 3#2.5oz / 53oz 1502g
La Sportiva Batura 1st gen. 2#7oz / 39oz, 1105g
La Sportiva Batura 2nd gen 2#11/ 43oz 1219gm
La Sportiva Nepal Evo 2#10.5oz / 42.5oz/ 1205g
La Sportiva Trango Evo Extreme GTX 2#3oz (35oz) / 992g

More here on weights
http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2010/04/weights.html


The Batura is state of the art technology in a stiff soled, flexible upper cuff and warm mountain boot.  What is not to like here?

Before I answer that question, a couple of comments before I get in to the gist of this Batura review.

I think the Batura style boots (boot with a built in insulated gaiter) have the most potential in cold weather alpine climbing of all the boot designs currently available.  The "best design" might well evolve into a super thin dbl boot or new technology (OutDry for example) might allow the single boot design to finally live up to the task of multiple days out with no worry of accumulated moisture.in the boot.  I don't know.  But I do think the boot manufactures are on the right track.  La Sportiva, Zamberlan, Scarpa and Kayand all have similar styled boots available now.  

The new 2011 Batura

At the moment my two favorites are the current version of the La Sportiva Batura and the Scarpa Ultra. And while close to being prefect for my needs, neither are perfect, as of yet.  So you are about to read a detailed and very specific commentary on my thoughts of the Batura.   It was and is a very good boot.  The potential is so  great I think it worth the effort in being very specific in my critic and comments.   My comments to follow might sound harsh out of context.  So think about the next sentence before you decide just how good or bad  the Batura is.

High praise?  The Cold Thistle blog's opening picture is a pair of  Batura on my feet for the 2nd ascent of Blue Moon, IV WI4 R M6 5.8    At the time the climb was a good challenge for me.  It was no accident I chose to climb in the the Batura on "Blue Moon".





I started climbing in the original La Sportiva Batura in 2007.   I used the same pair of boots off and on until I sold them last winter (2009/2010) while they were still in decent shape and lots of life left in them.  They had held up well and no issues on the zipper or boot for that matter.   But I have not been kind in my previous reviews of the Batura.  All the while having specifically chosen the Batura for some of my best winter climbs in the last couple of years.  Some quite cold, where a double boot would have been more appropriate,  And not even a hint of a cold injury in the Batura let alone cold feet.

I had hoped La Sportiva would have done it better for fit and comfort the first Batura go around.  The previous Trango Ice series of boots certainly gave La Sportiva the back ground and insight to get it right on the Batura.   I bet my $550 cash on La Sportiva getting it right the first time in fact.

I wouldn't have made the effort to get another pair of Baturas recently or do this review if  La Sportiva had not chosen to make a few significant changes to the 2011 Batura     Changes for the better, imo.  Having spent the last  6 months in the 3 Scarpa, Phantom series of boots,  the Ultra, the Guide and the 6000, I can make some easy comparisons.

Worth stopping here for a moment I think and discussing design in general.  Often times I look at several products from differing companies built for a singular purpose.  It might be boots or crampons or ice tools for example.  Three different categories of gear and all very specific and highly technical.  Making direct comparisons of similar items makes it is easy to see things that get missed.  Sometimes it is durability.  Some times it is fit.   Some times you just have to wonder why they stopped "there" instead of finishing the project.  Or may be they thought the project was finished.  It might be a pair of boots, a crampon design,  ice tool, or a pair of pants.

Classic example?  I looked at a British's climbing company's new lwt belay jacket the other day.  Amazing jacket.  Primaloft 1, Pertex shell, nice long arms, perfect cuffs and a generous helmet compatible hood.  One internal zippered pocket and two unlined outside pockets.  Unlined to be lighter and absorb less moisture.  Beautiful jacket that I'll never buy.  Why?   No zippers and no other way to close those two outside pockets.  What were they thinking?       

It happens a lot on anything you want to look at and compare in detail.  Even boots.

Back on task.  Here are the previous Batura reviews and comments:

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2010/04/la-sportivas-batura.html

The comparison post below is rated 2nd for all time hits on the Cold Thistle blog!  A comparison I don't believe is valid now with the newest model is now available.

Comparison here:

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2010/04/scarpa-phantom-guide-vs-la-sportiva.html

While still an issue just not as much, thankfully.  One way to address the soft ankle support issue.

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2011/01/added-support-for-la-sportivas-soft.html

If you are buying new boots now, make sure you don't get just  the new zipper and the old boot internally!
Which is exactly what the boots shown in the picture below are, a new zipper and the old boot.  There is a BIG difference between that boot and what I am now reviewing.




The main reasons I think the Batura is worth another look?
The new zipper is nice, incredibly so compared to the previous yellow YKK toothed version.  This one looks to be a small, continuous coil, YKK that has taped seams on the inside and a decent seal on the outside.  But it is only water resistant.  Water proof maybe in perfect laboratory conditions where nothing flexs the zipper. No where close to being water proof once you move the zipper around a bit..  Great over size slider and pull strap though.  At least the zipper moves up and down very easily.  That should no longer be a zipper failure point.  The Scarpa TZip is pushing the definition and seems fairly "water prof".  The TZip has been what everyone seems to have measured reliability by to date..  I've never felt a zipper "ooze quality".  This new zipper on the Batura does.  It remains to be seen just how reliable it really is.  The small coils worry me.   But I would expect a distinct improvement on durability and water resistance over the original YKK.  Why La Sportiva didn't just buy the T Zip for this project still baffles me.  But that isn't the reason, the zipper is trivial in my mind.  I didn't have any issue with the first one but almost everyone else certainly seemed to.

I think the change making the Batura worthy of another look and detailed review is the major redesign of the lace system, heel pocket and a totally new boot tongue.  All three of which greatly improve the over all fit.  Heel lift is totally eliminated now even with my funky feet and super skinny ankle volume.  I had to come back and add this part because I hadn't yet stuck my hand inside the boot and felt around.  These boots have the biggest, specifically built heel pocket I have ever seen in a mtn boot.  And I have seen a lot of mtn boots!   The pronounced heel pocket is comfortable on my foot so far.   No track record on the heel pocket  but gotta say it sure impresses me.  The fit, because of the new heel pocket, is incredible.  The tongue is noticeably thicker, better articulated at the ankle and much more comfortable.  The old wear pattern on the sides of the  previous boot's tongue is also reinforced now.

La Sportiva says the Batura is built on the Nepal last.  It may be true but you couldn't prove it by me.  I find th Batura much tighter in the heel now and much bigger in the toe box than the Nepal Evo.  I found the original Batura had a bigger toe box as well.   The bigger toe box makes for a warmer boot I think.  I certainly have room to roll my toes and wiggle them around to keep them warm or warm them if chilled.
More room in the toe box is a big advantage over the Nepal Evo I think.   It feels like the Batura was designed specifically for cold weather climbing......with the appropriate attention to detail and build quality.

The more I wear and use this boot the more impressed I become.  I am not easily swayed because of my experience with the first generation of Batura.

.  





The fit is really important to me.  This version of the Batura really delivers there.  The Batura has also gained a bit of ankle support on the forward flex by adding the extra and well spaced eyelets.  Which were really needed imo.

The advantages the Batura has over the Scarpa Phantom Guides/Ultra are worth listing;
Not all are obvious to first inspection let alone 1st use.  It took 6 months to come to these conclusions. 

Batura advantages:
Much better crampon fit (and it is a biggy as almost anything snaps on perfectly)
Better and slightly taller gaiter
More comfortable top gaiter closure
slightly better Achilles ergonomics on the cuff design 
Much stiffer mid sole
Laces that stay tight first try
A stronger and reinforced toe box
Better boot/ankle protection from crampons
Slightly larger external volume should mean a warmer boot

But the Batura is at least 3oz (7.5oz on the Ultra) per boot heavier than the Guide.
And it is built like a truck. It can afford to be "better".

Above:  Check out the new positions of  the five cuff  "eyelet" on the ankle and upper cuff compared to the previous version pictured on the right below.  Basically 4 eyelets where there were only 2. before.  And they are all better positioned and more comfortable on my skinny ankles and shin.


The previous picture is the newest Batura.  In the picture above compare how the lock lace has been moved down, another lace eyelet added above it.  The metal speed lace on the original Batura have been replaced with a lower profile and less intrusive fabric "eyelets".  The actual lock lace eyelet is lower profile and way less likely to bite my (your?) ankle in use.  As the previous one did occasionally on my foot.

You might wonder why, if I like the Scarpa Ultra and the Scarpa Guide so much, why would I bother playing the Batura again.  Easy answer.  The first being, crampon fit.  Yes you can get a crampon to fit the Guide but it takes some effort.  The Ultra and 6000 take more than a little effort and some serious desire with a bit of trickery thrown in to get a perfect fit.   The Batura has a more rigid sole that the Scarpa Phantom boots....any of the Phantom boots.   Another major advantage on steep ice.  From my experience with both brands of boots I also prefer the gaiter on the Batura.   That is not an opinion easy to come by.    The Batura gaiter seems to breath better in really cold conditions and is easier on the back of your calf and Achilles tendon once tightened.  The Batura cuff  is ergonomically better cut for Achilles tendon relief.  Seemingly trivial but I also find the Batura gaiter easier to tuck my pants into instead of using a pant leg over them as a gaiter.  Not so trivial if you want a smaller profile on yo r lower leg.   And lastly the reinforced toe box on the past Batura seems much more durable and reliable than the Scarpa toe box.  The Scarpa Guide toe box is rapidly gaining a  reputation for collapsing on water ice from the pounding they take.
 
Tucking your pants into the Phantom line almost guarantees wet feet as the tight elastic gaiter stops evaporation from the boots cuffs.  For me the condensation and freezing only gets worse in really cold weather.


 
By the numbers you can see the Batura is 99g or  3.5 oz heavier per boot than the Scarpa Guide.  More than a fair trade for a slightly stiffer boot sole, toe box and a softer cuff if they fit your feet.  3.5 oz heavier than the Scarpa Guide or 7oz heavier per pair.  As I mentioned the volume is slightly larger than the Guide.  And the boot is a bit heavier (115g or 4.2oz)  than the 1st generation design.  I would expect the Batura to be a slightly warmer boot than the Scarpa Guide simply by volume alone.
 
What I am looking at is over all weight and thickness of the mid sole on the La Sportivas as a comparison..  "MIDSOLE: 8-9mm "

By the numbers?
 
TRANGO EXTREME GORETEX

WEIGHT: 35oz- 992g - Gore-Tex® Insulated Comfort Footwear INSOLE: 9mm insulating Ibi-Thermo MIDSOLE: 6-7mm HP3 SOLE: Vibram® Lavaredo (Sticky Supertrek Rubber)

NEPAL

WEIGHT: 42oz 1205g - leather with high-abrasion resistant fabric/ Vibram® rubber rands LINING: Gore-Tex® Insulated Comfort Footwear INSOLE: Insulating Ibi-Thermo 9mm MIDSOLE: 8-9mm TPU/ PU inserts/ SBR Aircushionion resistant fabric/ Vibram® rubber rands LINING: Gore-Tex® Insulated Comfort Footwear INSOLE: Insulating Ibi-Thermo 9mm MIDSOLE: 8-9mm TPU/ PU inserts/ SBR Aircushion SOLE: Vibram® with Impact Brake System

BATURA EVO

WEIGHT: 39oz 1106g - Elastic Corduraynamic™ with water repellant membrane UPPER: High tenacity nylon/ Insulated anti-dragging felt/ Insulated PE/ Insulating aluminum layer LINING: Polyamide Thermic layer/ Mesh INSOLE: Insulating Ibi-Thermo 9mm MIDSOLE: 8-9mm TPU/ PU Inserts/ SBR Aircushion SOLE: 8-9mm TPU/ PU Inserts/ SBR Aircushion


The real numbers on weight?

La Sportiva Batura original version 2#7oz / 39oz, 1105g
La Sportiva Batura 2nd gen 2#11/ 43oz 1219gm
La Sportiva Nepal Evo 2#10.5oz / 42.5oz/ 1205g
La Sportiva Trango Evo Extreme GTX 2#3oz (35oz) / 992g

SCARPA Phantom ULTRA new 2010 model 2#3.5oz (35.5oz) 1006g
SCARPA Phantom GUIDE new 2010 model 2#7.5oz (39.5oz) 1120g

The Batura is going on 5 years old this winter.  That is a long time to leave any technical boot in today's market place unchanged.  Obviously La Sportiva has sold thousands of them world wide.  That isn't luck.  The Batura is a  good boot...just not yet a great boot.  It is a good step closer though imo.   But I'm glad La Sportiva is still invested in the idea and continues to improve upon it.  The technology and basic design have huge potential.

Here is some of what I have learned in those 5 years on the Batura.   The old zipper wasn't very reliable and certainly wasn't water proof.  Both of those issues the new water resistant YKK zipper should have solved.   The original Batura had a reputation of  "eating your feet".  Foot cramps were a common complaint.   I suspect that was because of the fairly rigid sole, not enough rocker (although La Sportiva did try on the rocker) and the really soft ankles.  The soft ankle will let us walk a long ways in some pretty stiff soled boots.   I suspect the soft ankle is making your foot do things it normally would not be doing.  My theory anyway.   Lots of ankle flex and a virtually rigid sole makes a great mixed boot.  But if La Sportiva would only add a little additional ankle support, you would have have a great alpine boot as well with little loss on hard mixed.  

The Batura excels in this kind of mixed terrain.
photo courtesy of Daniel Harro

If the mixed is going to be very difficult (as in modern mixed and bolts)  most will have a fruit boot or a lighter pair of mtn boots like the Trango Extreme on anyway. 

Durability is always an issue with fabric boots.  La Sportiva 's Batura answer for crampon durability, lots of heavy rubber reinforcement on the fabric at the instep of the boots.



For what ever reason, four of us stopped using the Batura after the onset of some serious foot issues last fall.  Which happened to co inside with the NA release of the new Scarpa Guides, thankfully.  Used Batura were turning up in numbers on Ebay.  The foot issues were not something any of us had ever experienced before.  Neuromas and bone spurs were common with this boot on my and other Batura owner's feet.   I have not had the same issue with the Scarpas.  My foot issues have almost totally disappeared while climbing in the Scarpa Ultras.  May be it is just the better insole that Scarpa provides but I would hate to think it was something that simple.  Insoles are easy to replace.

I am not a biomechanical kinesiologist.  But my guess is the extra flexibility of the mid sole and the added ankle support of the Scarpa Guide and Ultra is what saves your feet. Again only my guess here but something is defiantly happening with these only slightly different combos of stiffness, sole rocker and support between the Scarpa boots and the La Sportiva boots.    The flex in the Scarpa sole allows your foot to more in a more natural way when walking.  I suspect the extra support in the ankle limits the stress on the foot as well.   Down side to that is I would rather climb on a rigid sole for ice and  alpine.  I don't  have huge concerns on how well a climbing boot "walks".     With any 45/46 size boot all have a little flex.  Some just less than others.

The new Batura has substantially more rocker in the sole than the original version.  I noticed it immediately in the few few steps I took once in the boots.

While my photos with the yard stick shows 1 1/8" for rocker on the Batura and  1 1/ 4"on the Scarpa Ultra,  the soles are enough different that the extra 1/4" of rocker and how I measured it is questionable.  But even then that is only 1/16" per foot.    The Batura actually feels like it has more rocker than the Ultra.  All the while the Batura is stiffer in the sole by a good bit and about the same now compared to the Scarpa Guides for ankle support. 

Batura shows 1 1/8" rocker.

Ultra shows 1 1/4" rocker.




Scarpa Ultra, super thin (and light weight) lugs on the left, the Batura with full depth lugs on the right.
Scarpa Ultra's uber sticky and low profile Vibram® MULAZ sole on the left.   On the right the Batura's  IBS is a sole born from the collaboration between La Sportiva and Vibram. The sole presents a new treading system, the IBS or Impact Brake System which was designed by La Sportiva and developed by Vibram to reduce impact on hard terrain.   I am thinking, a lwt weight and super sticky rubber may have been a better answer :)


The old plastic Kolfach Ultras double boots were totally rigid boots with a good amount of rocker built into  the sole and some reasonable ankle support front to back.   I spent some time in my old Koflachs recently just as a comparison.  I have walked may miles in those boots and never had foot issues.  Shin bang...sure.  But my feet were generally happy.  The Kolflachs climbed rock and ice well enough.   And we all like "happy feet".

The next couple of months of climbing should give me an idea if any of the internal changes have made the Batura a more comfortable boot on my feet.   But I already know they are a much better boot for me than the previous generation.   Have to say I am pretty stoked at the end result.   The test will be my opinion 90 days from now.  I'll report back my findings here..   But so cool to have multiple pairs of perfectly fitting crampons again!

More details of the Batura and a Scarpa Ultras as a comparison.   What you don't get from the pictures is the obvious better build quality of the La Sportiva.   Which to be honest, surprised me.



 The toe's sole profile is the reason crampons fit the Batura so much better than the Ultra.