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The cold world of alpine climbing.

The cold world of alpine climbing.

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Petzl Reverso III and the Black Diamond ATC-Guide


I am a big fan of the auto-block belay devices.  The Petzl Reverso III and the Black Diamond ATC-Guide are the two I have used a lot.

I have bought my own Reverso IIIs and older Reversos before that. And bought as well as been given the newest Black Diamond ATC-Guide.   It is not unusual for me to give skinny rope belay devices to my partners.  Not everyone climbs on or likes 7.7 twin ropes.  Since they are belaying me, I think giving away a high quality belay device it is a good investment.   Generally I have given away ATC Guides because, I have been given several in turn, and the Petzl is more expensive and harder to find.

Hard climbs and skinny ropes in the future?   I'll make a point to loan my partner a Petzl Reverso III ;-)

Rapping the Pencil or the Midi bridge makes you a believer.





I generally use either a a 9.1 Beal Joker as a single rope or a set of 7.7mm Beal Ice Twins.  So a belay device that will work in auto-block mode, rapping and regular belay  mode with thin ropes is important to me.  For my use on the thinner ropes I think the Reverso works better than the ACT Guide when belaying off the anchor.

The direction of the clip in point is different.  I find the Perzl much more user friendly.  Bd's version clip in point is at right angles to the Petzl.

If you are using a rope fatter than a 10mm get the ATC guide.  The Reverso gets sticky in auto mode as the ropes get bigger.  10mm seem to be the auto block limit on the Reverso III.

Neither company's belay device is very durable.  If they actually anodize the aluminum it has to be the worse anodizing job in the world.  As both companies belay devices wear quickly on the surface.  So toss up there.  Also don't buy the silver colored (clear anodizing)  versions.  The directions (if you ever need them) on the belay device disappear within days of first using the clear version.

Other belay device reviews that are worth a moment to read and a lot more comparisons on Supertopo gear reviews.  More rock gear reviewed  there than I will ever see, let alone use.  FWIW they are reviews I trust to be accurate.

http://www.supertopo.com/review/Black-Diamond-ATC-Guide

http://www.supertopo.com/review/Petzl-Reverso-3

weights of the newest version by both companies

Petzl Reverso III weighs in at 76g.
BD ATC Guide (new version) weights in at 90g.


Reverso3 - the ultimate belay/rappel device for... by Petzl-crew


REVERSO - How to belay & rappel by Petzl-crew

The base layer Hoodies!


The lwt climbing hoody?  Patagonia made them popular and then dropped them from production.  Popular demand resurrected them again.  May be?  Patagonia is certainly offering some wild color choices in the R1 today.  No more basic black?

Quickly Copied by MEC @ half price?  Certainly ;-)

I wrote this winter of '07/'08:

"You might want to think about putting some wool next to your body and a light synthetic layer/s over it. Add hoods that will go under and over your a helmet. The “R” series Patagonia hoody or the really simple Nike hoody (which I like even better for cold weather) works well. (Nike version I had is unavailable now)

Headbands under the helmet regulate heat better with helmet and layers of hoods than a hat will. The head band will also add to your warmth if pulled down to your neckline and nothing to drop. I no longer carry a hat. But I pull on or off any one the layers of hoods over my helmet at belays or while climbing. Try that with a hat while climbing a hard pitch!"

I wear and change my hoodies like I do foot wear for climbing.

I have dbl boots and Croc sandals.  And generally a hoody I would chose for each.  No kidding.

Why a hoody?

More here as to why you want to be able to add head and neck protection quickly:

http://wildernessmedicinenewsletter.wordpress.com/2007/02/14/heat-loss-through-the-head-and-hypothermia/

There are literally dozens of hoodies available now suitable for outdoor use and serious climbing.  Take a look around.  You might find one that suits your own  needs.


A quick look at the hoodies I own and where I use them. 

Climbing specific versions first.

My first 1st base layer in cold weather?  Wool!   Two reasons.  I think it insulates better in the cold where you aren't so worried about moisure transportation and it doesn't instantly reek of BO.

The ultimate lwt wool hoody.  Sherpa Adventure Gear's luxurious merino wool.  I love this thing.  I use this one as a base layer with the option of layering other hoodies over it.  It is a must have for me.   They will be available in store this fall.  Ask your retailer. Super thin and lwt.  Comfy to wear next to your skin.  Hood goes in the helmet




Next up and the one I generally wear with Salopettes as it is a tiny bit lighter weight and breathes better than the Patagonia version imo.  I also like the hood coverage on these.  It is a very similar cut as the merino wool SAG version.  A bit less coverage than the Patagonia version on the hood.  It also has a chest pocket and thumb holes similar to the R1.  Half the price of the R1 and excellent quality.  I actually like the hood and pattern better than the R1.   Hood will go in or over a helmet.



Patagonia's R1 Hoody.  Everyone seems to have one.  I use it as a breathable but heavy weight base layer.  Sometimes it is both my base and mid layer.  Best used that way I think, as a single layer.   Others use it as a lwt mid layer.  Nice chest pocket and thumb holes.   I own two because I use this one a lot.  One is generally in the laundry all winter.  Very long tails and works perfectly with climbing pants.   Hood will go in or over a helmet.  Hood could be better fitted or may be it is just been used over my helmet too much.


Hoodies seem to me to be defined by material used (and how breathable the material is) and the amount of coverage the hoody offers on the face.  A second version from SAG that rules in both areas.  Super stretch pile.  So it feels awesome on.  I'd love to see this pattern is a grid pile version and in the lwt Merino wool SAG is using on the hoody above.   I think Sherpa Adveture Gear would own the market on Hoodies if they offered those three versions.  Hood on this one is best used in a helmet I think.




Three hoodies I use a lot climbing that are not climbing specific.  The kangaroo pockets mean you won't be tucking them into pants.  Only the Patagonia Sun Hoody has a tapered athletic fit of this bunch.

Merino wool from Patagonia.  This thing I use every where.  Pajama top?  Around the house?  Cool day rock climbing?  Perfect.  Merino wool pile.  Expensive but bought on sale and worth that price in retrospect.  Kangaroo pocket no zippers.



Another Patagonis piece but a synthetic this time....another of my go to pieces at home and in the mtns.
The Sun hoody.  Super lwt weight.  I have used it as a base layer in winter and as a "shell" ski touring.  Super comfortable.  Likely to wear it in the office as I am in the mtns.  Great sun protection.  Pockets depend on the version you buy.  This one has a tiny zippered pocket for keys.  Others have a kangaroo pocket and no zipper.



And finally the North Face synthetic hoody.....my rock climbing and cragging "sweater".  Cheap, useful and super durable.  I used it on several long, dawn to O dark thirty, alpine traverses last summer.  The thing simply rocks.  Kangaroo pocket no zipper.



No sorry, 9ine, says his glasses are not for sale ;-)

Monday, May 30, 2011

Recall on the newest GriGri 2

Recall for replacement: GRIGRI 2

More here:
http://www.petzl.com/en/outdoor/recall-replacement-grigri-2




This is info passed on to me by a Spanish reader.

If you are using the GriGri 2 it is worth a look at the issue and Petzl's answer.  The article is in Spanish so you'll need to translate it.    There are two different articles, one the issue and the second Petzl's response.

And there are some good pictures to help explain what the magazine found using their GG2.

From experience I have come to trust Petzl's technical staff  to have the correct answer.

grigri2:

http://www.petzl.com/files/all/product-experience/SPORT/GRIGRI2/PE_D14-GRIGRI%202_EN.pdf

(thank you Giacomo)



But it never hurts to beware of  any new gear issues.

More here:

http://www.campobase.es/

Diet and sport? The best words I have read......

and I have seen a lot of words and read more than one book on the subject.

Common sense and a good education will go a long ways. 

I get so tired of reading forums and seeing the same questions over and over again.  The best?  How many pull ups can you do, must you do, to climb?

My answer...ZERO.  No question upper body strength will help.  But I can tell you from personal experience you can climb and not be able to do a pull up.  The obvious answer is "none and more".

My blog is generally about gear.   Simple reason.  People like to read about gear.  I like playing with it. 
Will's comments are more important than gear.

From Will Gadd's blog:

Consuming unsustainable and downright puritanical diets will not ultimately lead to better long-term performance. For the vast, vast majority of athletes (and the general public) simply training/exercising hard regularly and eating more simple food and less processed junk is the solution, just as it always has been. Some times the truth is really boring.

The full read is here:

http://gravsports.blogspot.com/2011/05/response-to-anon.html

Friday, May 27, 2011

How good are ya kid ;-)

FEAR!


If you climb and likely because you climb you know what fear is.

Much of what we do in life is motivated by fear.  Fear of losing a loved one, losing a job, losing you favorite bit of kit or losing your life.

Few things in our life are as powerful as words.

Words can excite you, depress you or even kill you.  They can kill a business or start one.

I was once told that the Cold Thistle blog "was a weapon of mass destruction". I have come to realise that the proclamation came from a base in fear. 

Fear of failure?.  Fear of having limitations pointed out?  Fear of job loss or product dismissal?

Smart people (or a compamy) won't find much to fear in life.  They may run the ragged edge but they stay in control.  What is there to fear?   There are always other jobs.  Failure is part of success.  Few reading this will ever go hungry or lack a roof over their head intentionally.  The best seldom worry about being the best.  They worry more about how to better themselves or their business.

Yoda said, "Either do or do not. There is no try."

Simple enough.  But WTF has this to do with an alpine climbing blog?

It first needs repeating:

from Jan 2011:

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2011/01/gear-smear.html

"Remember what works for me may not work for you. Always take my comments with a grain of salt and trust your own observations. I can only write what I see or experience. I don't pretend to know much, let alone know everything. Do your own research...learn through your own experience when you can what works for you. Then compare notes with anyone you can find that has similar interests, experiences or goals. Type it into Google. And always consider the original source."

I had no idea a "list of the best" would be a target.  No big deal as rounds can just as easily go out as be incoming.  Ammo is plentiful ;-)

It is worth looking at the blog.  Intentionally there is no advertising on the surface or behind the scenes.  And I could very easily do both.   I don't like ads.  I really don't like being involved with advertisers.  Most of them actually want something for their money.  Imagine that?   My opinion is they simply clutter the web site and any worth while content .   I hate ads.  They suck.  The only thing worse is the multiple pictures of me.   Once I figure out how to make money at this I'll hire models and buy THEM gear I really like to take pictures of.    But the bastards will have to work for free!

Ah, but the companies that live in FEAR...they are the most demanding of all and have the most to lose.

It doesn't take much to figure out who in the outdoor industry owns the limited brain trust for research and development.  R&D as opposed to just cost cutting veiled as a technological improvement.  Easy reference is look at where they manufacture.  Is it at home or off shore?   Anyone making the effort to manufacture in their home country is paying a price to do so.  Ever wonder why someone would do that?  Running it out on your own and trusting your skill set?   I can admire that.  And who are the guys out there that simply make copies of good ideas?   Sadly, I have yet to see a copy that is as good as the original.  I have however seen improvements on original designs.  One is not the other in most cases, but the rare exception.

Lots of decent gear being made.  Pick and choose, then support the ones you think deserve your hard earned coin.

The good companies don't live in FEAR.  They easily make changes in public, admit mistakes, fix them and move on.  Same decisions most of us have to make everyday.  Look at the corporate cultures.  How do they deal with the public.  How about the retailers?  The manufactures?   Even the blogs and forums.    What are they into "it" for.

If you have ever had a pissing match trying to return a piece of gear or bought an item that you found truly a POS compared to the advertising hype or went looking for honest, no BS, opinions of a end user, I suspect some of this will ring true to you.

The gear I mention on Cold Thistle is what I think is the very best.  Most of the time it could be better.  I don't mind pointing that out as it is generally pretty obvious to everyone.   Either way it is gear I paid my own money for and actually use.  Sometimes but not often betting my own life on the results.   Those suggestions may change over time for various reasons.   You may disagree and  I love to hear about the mistakes you think I have made.  But no one paying me to write about what I like and use.  

Believe it or not I write this blog simply for fun!  But it is also "serious business" to me.

The Best Gear of 2010/2011



I am lucky enough to see a lot of new gear.   The "new" generally gets started at the Outdoor Retailer show in January where products are shown for Fall delivery of that year,  9 or 10 months later.   But that is only half the story as many of the European manufactures don't import everything in their production lines (or show them at the Outdoor Retailer Show in Salt Lake City) into North America or sometimes just not into the USA.  You have to keep up on the Web sites or make a visit to Chamonix to see what is really being used and collecting a buzz..

For the first time and not the last here is my list of the best gear of 2010/2011.  My season is generally broken up by the Fall delivery of new ice gear so I'll try to do update the list every year just as summer gets started.

But unlike the yearly picks of some of the magazines once you make the list it is going to take a new and most importantly, a better piece of kit. "in my opinion" to get knocked off THE list.

My list here is gear I actually choose to use over all the gear I have available to me.  Nothing listed here that I don't have multiple choices of and have tried or still use some of those other options.  But when pushed what I have listed is the "best of the best" for my own use.  Once in a while price point helps make that decision but not often.  But it has on this list so it is worth mentioning.  What is listed here is what I would cut my gear room down to if I have to make the hard choices choices or just own one.   No surprise if some of this stuff isn't on your own list.  That is what makes a horse race and keeps every one in business.  Feel free to share your list as well in the comments or tell me why I missed the mark.  Some categories are still missing, stoves, tents and sleeping bags for instance.  And some times I have just skipped categories as it gets really confusing even to me.  If there is not category listed I have yet to make up my mind or haven't used the gear enough to make a knowledgeable comment..   At some point I'll get to those as well but in a blog effort first before adding them to the list.

If you haven't read this blog first for context, you should:

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2011/01/gear-smear.html

"Remember what works for me may not work for you. Always take my comments with a grain of salt and trust your own observations. I can only write what I see or experience. I don't pretend to know much, let alone know everything. Do your own research...learn through your own experience when you can what works for you. Then compare notes with anyone you can find that has similar interests, experiences or goals. Type it into Google. And always consider the original source."

If you have read much of the blog...few of these will come as any surprise.
What I have reviewed on the blog is marked  (reviewed).  You should be able to find those reviews with the search function.



CLOTHING (the outstanding pieces)

long under wear bottoms (available again fall '11)
Costco Paradox
http://www.costcoconnection.com/connection/200909/?pg=51#pg51

base layer top
Mountain Hardware Integral Long Sleeve Crew

http://www.mountainhardwear.com/mens-clothing/mens,default,sc.html

lt hoody (reviewed)
Sherpa Adventure Gear Khushi Merino wool hoody (available fall '11)
http://www.sherpaadventuregear.com/

med hoody (reviewed)
Patagonia R1 Hoody
http://www.patagonia.com/

pants
Arcteryx Gamma Lt
http://www.arcteryx.com/?EN

Bibs
NW Alpine Alpinist bib (reviewed)
http://nwalpine.com/

Sweater (reviewed)
Arcteryx Atom Lt Hoody
http://www.arcteryx.com/?EN

Insulated jacket (reviewed)
Arcteryx Atom SV
http://www.arcteryx.com/?EN

Down sweater (reviewed)
EB hooded sweater
http://www.eddiebauer.com/home.jsp?siteId=2

Down Jacket (reviewed)
Norrona Lyngen
http://www.backcountry.com/mens-down-jackets
http://www.norrona.com/

Shell
Westcomb Epoc in Neoshell (available Fall '10) (reviewed)
http://www.westcomb.com/

glove liners
Black Diamond Med weight Liner
http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en-us/

gloves
Mountain Hardware Hydra (reviewed)

http://www.mountainhardwear.com/mens-clothing/mens,default,sc.html

Head gear (reviewed)
Sauce
http://www.sauceheadwear.com/main.php

Eye Wear
Smith goggles
http://www.smithoptics.com/products/#/Snow+Goggles/

Native glasses
http://www.nativeyewear.com/

Socks
Wigwam
http://www.wigwam.com/



BOOTS
single boots
Scarpa Phantom Ultra (reviewed)

http://it.scarpa.net/prodotti/high-altitude/

double boots
La Sportiva Spantik (reviewed)

http://www.sportiva.com/products



TECHNICAL GEAR

Biner (reviewed)
Trango Super Fly wire gate
http://www.trango.com/carabiners_draws/SuperFly-carabiners

Locking biner (reviewed)
Trango Super Fly
http://www.trango.com/carabiners_draws/SuperFly-carabiners

Belay biner (reviewed)
Black Diamond Gridlock
http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en-us/

Belay device (reviewed)
Petzl Reverso 3
http://www.petzl.com/us/outdoor

Brass Stoppers (hard to find in the USA)
RPs
http://www.climbinganchors.com.au/products/RP%27s-Brass-Nuts-Individual-Nuts.html?utm_source=getprice&utm_medium=cpc

http://rockandice.com/articles/how-to-climb/article/1129-the-guy-whose-nuts-revolutionized-climbing-rp

Stoppers
Wild Country Rocks
http://www.wildcountry.co.uk/

Cams
Wild Country Helium Friends
http://www.wildcountry.co.uk/

dbl ropes
Beal Ice Twins
http://www.beal-planet.com/sport/anglais/index.php

Single rope
Beal Joker
http://www.beal-planet.com/sport/anglais/index.php

Pitons
Black Dianmond Bugaboos
http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en-us/

Ice tools
Petzl Ergo (reviewed)
http://www.petzl.com/us/outdoor

Crampons
Petzl  Dartwin (reviewed)
http://www.petzl.com/us/outdoor

Ice Screws
Grivel Helix (reviewed)
http://www.grivel.com/

Umbilical
Blue Ice Boa (reviewed)
http://www.blueice.com/en

Accessory
Cold Thistle Hammer (totally biased opinion)
http://coldthistletools.blogspot.com/2010/08/ice-climbing-gear.html

Helmet
Petzl Meterior III
http://www.petzl.com/us/outdoor

Harness
Petzl HIRUNDOS
http://www.petzl.com/us/outdoor

Gear sling
Metolius (reviewed)
http://www.metoliusclimbing.com/

Dynamic sling
Mammut Shock Absorber Dyneema
http://www.mammut.ch/#

Tech watch
Polar
http://www.polarusa.com/us-en/

Small Pack
Cold Cold World Ozone (reviewed)
http://www.coldcoldworldpacks.com/

MOUNTAINEERING SKI GEAR
Boot
TLT 5 Mountain TX  (version not currently available in North America but two other TLT 5s are)
http://www.dynafit.com/products-winter/boots.html

Hard snow ski
Dynafit Se7en Summit SL
http://www.dynafit.com/products-winter/skis-skins.html

Soft snow ski
La Sportiva Hi5
http://www.sportiva.com/products (availalble Fall '10)

Bindings
Non DIN
Dynafit Low Tech Race
http://www.dynafit.com/products-winter/bindings.html

DIN (well not DIN but releasable)
La Sportiva RT
http://www.sportiva.com/products

Best piece of retro gear
Dachstien Mitts
http://www.ortovox.com/classic-wool

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Dachstein Wool



Don't hate me because I still have an original ;-)  They made two versions, a "standard" as shown and a Lwt version.  Significant price difference back in the day between the two.  I first bought the Lwt version telling myself it was "thinner" and more useful.  Both were stout versions of a "sweater".  But not moth proof which was my sweater's demise.  I now think I made a mistake on the thin version as being more useful. 



Funny thing about the Dachstein's.  I first saw the mitts in the local climbing shop and the early '70s GPIW catalog.  Likely the only way to keep your hand warm in really cold weather back then.  I went through half a dozen pairs over the years.  And I later used them in combination with other mitts (generally Helly Hanson pile lined shells) up till the early '80s.




Dachstein mitts and the luxurious gloves (not the GPIW Walker wool gloves mind you) were the bomb back in the day.  Still are if you have a use for them.  Fun to see Andy Turner climb with Dave MacLeod while using Dachstein mitts and Nomics..







Mil Spec version above.

Mitts "shrink to fit with use".


My size Euro sized 52 Dachstein weighs in at 3# 4 oz.   So it is no light weight.  A jacket of comparable performance (well sort of comparable anyway)  is the Arcteryx Atom Lt @ a just over 14.4 oz.  Well less than a 1/3 in weight.

But it isn't just the numbers that tell the story here.  The Dachstein sweater can be a decent rain jacket, an amazingly good wind shell, a stretchable and extremely breathable layer all in one.  Some of the weight just gets ignored.  But no question you notice you have something on!  Stuck out side for an unplanned over night?  The Dachstein is the garment I'd choose.    May be not for all the time use but it is fun once in a while in the right conditions.  Cold, dry and windy?

Herman Buhl used one.



Michael Kennedy did as well.  Here after the night out, on the 1st ascent of the Ames Ice Hose.


Photo courtesy of the "Lou Dawson, Steve Shea, and Michael Kennedy" collection found online.





I dumped mine for the first Patagonia red pile.  Now   I have all sorts of climbing sweaters I really like.  The SherpaAGear, Mantra is one, the E. Bauer Hooded Down Pullover another along with the Arcteryx Atom Lt.  All different weights and materials but all useable.

But none of the "sweaters" named besides the Dachstein will I throw over a synthetic t shirt (don't believe anyone who tells you boiled wool doesn't itch.  It does.) and wear sidehill skiing in marginal NW spring weather as my only piece of clothing on my upper body.

And be happy doing it! 

Well happy till it is totally full of water anyway ;-)  Not sure I could pack the 50# around of a totally soaked Dachstein..  Better used where it won't rain all day on you I suspect.  But this sweater is the "original soft shell".  It will still do most of what we required and do it better than even the best of the new versions of "climbing sweater".  Not everywhere mind you.  But not the worn out old war horse to be abandoned either.
Mountain 33 (March 1974.) No photo credit given.
More here on that story:





The retro kool factor can not be denied.  Like how many guys do you know that have actually even seen a Dachstein sweater let alone worn one?  EBs in Bard's "hopeful" hands BITD in case you wondered.

All is not lost.  The Austrian Army contracted to have manufactured both pull over and zip front Dachstein sweaters for years.  Also known as the "GUIDE" version.   Those can be had on the after market for reasonable prices these days.  ORTOVOX now sells the gloves and mitts of boiled wool.  And they are nice.  But they aren't of the same quality as the originals imo.  But they are close!




Places to find the "Dachstein" versions still available?  Often times a Google search for "Austrian Military wool sweater" will bring surplus military sweaters up as well..  These things rock as the ultimate wool sweater.  $40 plus shipping seems to be the going price as I write this on Ebay and online for the surplus version, used and new.  Last made in the early '80s I believe.  Likely the best $40 you'll ever spend for  usable but some what funky climbing clothing
Current sources for Dachstein style wool items:

http://cgi.ebay.com/ws/eBayISAPI.dll?ViewItem&item=280657136079

http://www.ortovox.com/classic-wool

http://www.bradleyalpinist.com/dachstein.html


MEN'S sizing conversions off the Internet which seems to fit my 52 Dachstein / 42 US conversion

Suits and overcoats

European 46 48 50 52 54 56 58

UK 36 38 40 42 44 46 48

USA 36 38 40 42 44 46 48

size 52 is:
63" wrist to wrist
24" arm pit to arm pit
19" at the waist

The military surplus siz large I just bought but haven't seen yet is:
62"
22.5"
19"

Close enough to a size 42 to work for me.

A Dachstein sweater won't replace anything I own or get very used often but they are a fun bit of quality kit that isn't easy available today.

A short history of the Dachstein area:

http://www.ramsau.com/en/information/history.html


More on the modern sweater versions here:

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2010/12/climbing-sweater.html

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2011/04/patagonia-nano-puff-pull-over.html

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2011/02/arcteryx-atom-lt-hoodyjust-how-good-is.html

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

Spring skiing?

Listen carefully to the commentary and remember we have skiing right now in the NW every bit as good  ;)  Go get some!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

More footage from Jeff Lowe's Metanoia, Eiger movie!


Josh Wharton & Daniel Mader climb sections of Jeff Lowe's unrepeated route, Metanoia on the Eiger North Face from Jeff Lowe on Vimeo.


Jeff Lowe's Pack Retrieved from Eiger North Face from Jeff Lowe on Vimeo.

Steck and Bowie summit Cho Oyu!

Two down....this one "in a mere 10.5 hrs push"

details here:

http://www.himalayaspeed.com/

http://donbowie.com/?p=1255



"Don and Ueli at 7000m on the descent from summit."





"All the way Ueli and I continued to remind ourselves that our main objective was not the summit of Cho Oyu – but to acclimatize for projects ahead. Never-the-less, we did summit, and by yesterday afternoon we were back in base camp, basking in the sun and drinking tea, smiling at our accomplishment."






Himalaya Speed PART 1: Khumbu Training from Mountain Hardwear on Vimeo.

Polartec NeoShell update


Sunset from the Midi










I started this review with three videos.  I think it is important enough to get a look at the technology that even the Polartec videos are worth a second look.

Don Bowie's comments mirror my own experience with the Westcomb Apoc and NeoShell..














It has taken me a while to get enough experience with the NeoShell to think I could write a worth while  review.  I was leery because I had hunted down this jacket and begged for it from Polartec.  Actually it was a tour through Wetscomb's gear at the OR show in Jan. that turned me on to NeoShell.   Gabriel Cote had nothing but good things ot say about NeoShell and was excited to be using it in his cutting edge garments.  I had used the original prototype Goretex garments back in 1976  from Sierra Designs and Lowe so I really did wonder just how much of a "missing link" the new NeoShell would be.  35 years of technology should be an improvement right?

I am pretty easy to please when it comes to shell garments these days.  I have almost totally given up on Goretex because in typical use I wanted something more breathable than hard shells offered.  Easy to please because I so seldom use a hard shell now..

When the wind is blowing and it is -20C and the sun is out a layer of down and a good wind shell pretty much does the trick.  The shell is not required to do much.  A lot of my skiing and climbing in the Alps were in those kind of  conditions, cold and windy. 

So I knew NeoShell was wind proof.  Most shell materials are to one level or another.  But how many stretch?  NoeShell does. One of the things I really look for on any review is how much I notice what I am trying to review.  Good boots?  If  I never notice the boot I am wearing they are likely GREAT boots!  Ice tools or other climbing gear?  If they do what is required and I never notice a lack of performance it is likely an exceptional bit of kit.  If they allow me to do some thing new...then I know I have a winner.

A hard shell that stretches!
Mind you NeoShell doesn't stretch a lot but it does enough so that the garment never binds while wearing it.
But I also noticed I never had a moisture build up.  Not when skiing/climbing and working hard.  Even in conditions I thought I might or would normally.  I also noticed NeoShell had to be the warmest single layer water proof shell I had ever used.  But just fleeting thoughts as I wasn't making side by side comparisons to any GTX products.  Just my observations at that moment.

I had to wait till I got home to the Cascades to check out the rest of the story.  Rain...inches of rain have been typical this spring.  So now I know the NeoShell is water proof and it still stretches.   It obvious breaths well but just how well was the question.  My Goretex stuff breathes too.  

The most impressive test for me sounds like the most simple.  Right at freezing all day between 4000' and 7000'  and not a cloud in the sky.    You could  almost wear a sweater to ski in but you would be chilled on the ski lift or on the ridge tops if you weren't working hard.  A sweater and a wind proof vest were almost ideal.

Same place typically a Gortex shell would have been too warm for me and worse yet sweaty and wet.

Just for fun I stripped to a tech short sleeved T shirt and added the Neo Shell over it.   I figured we would soon see just how warm, wind proof and breathable NeoShell really was.

To my surprise I stayed warmer ( remember I originally thought NeoShell was exceptionally warm)  all the way up and all the way down in the Apoca NeoShell than in my sweater and vest combo.  And even more impressive I stayed dry..actually drier than the sweater/vest combo with no noticeable moisture build up on my back during the long runs down the hill.

Obviously no great insights here.  But may be that is the point.  NeoShell offers a water proof hard shell that breathes extremely well, and stretches.  What is not to like?   The Apoc has become my only shell jacket.  It is that good.  When I do notice something while using the Apoc it I'll get back to you.   

I have not used all the current water proof and breathable materials available.  But I have used a few of them.  The new generation of stretchable, waterproof and breathable garments might well be the"missing link".   The Apoc with NeoShell is the most versatile outdoor garment I currently own or have used.  That surprised me.   

My priority now is to see how a pair of NeoShell pants work out. Pants generally need to stretch a good bit more than a jacket.  Maybe I won't notice it.






Friday, May 6, 2011

Dynafit's TLT 5 Boot?

Dynafit's Dy.N.A race boot--old 950g and below, the new Evo @ sub 700g / 24.7oz.!
The lightest alpine ice boot I use is a La Sportiva Trango Evo Extreme GTX @ 2#3oz (35oz) / 992g








photo courtesy of Jared @ http://slc-samurai.blogspot.com/





And yes, they are climbing in Dynafit boots...the upper pair in this picture is the Dy.N.A. and  the lightest commercial ski boot in the world.







I saw these boots at OR in Jan of 2011.  And choked on the $750 and $1000 retail.  Let alone the $1500 retail for the race boots.  But a couple of months in the alps and skiing a lot with a pair of the newest BD Primes (retail is $570.00) makes the obvious advantages of a boot you can climb and ski in exceptionally  attractive.  At that point two pair of  boots (adding up to the $1000/1500 range) seems less attractive.
I've never been a big fan of AT boots for technical climbing.  Too heavy and too bulky let alone the other major disadvantages like they generally sucked as real ski boots as well.

I am slow to the party but have been playing with the TLT 5 Mountain, in the both the TF-X and the surprising TF version and the TLT 5 Peformance.  A more detailed review coming asap.

Until then think....skiing and climbing in ONE pair of boots when it is beneficial.  

La Sportiva Spantik 3#.05oz / 1362g
La Sportiva Batura 1st gen. 2#7oz / 1106g
La Sportiva Nepal Evo 2#10.5oz / 1205g

Scarpa Phantom Guide new 2010 model 2#7.5oz / 1120g
Scarpa Phantom 6000 new 2010 model 2#10oz  / 1190g

TLT 5 Mountain TF 42.5oz./ 1200g (no tongue) 1290g with
TLT 5 Mountain TFX 48oz/1360g - 50.5/1440g

Black Diamond Prime 28.5 mono 62.5oz/1720 (Palau liner dropped 100g)


TLT 5 Performance TF  42.5oz./ 1200g (no tongue)  which is a stiffer boot than the Prime which  has a over lapping  tongue.  Or 1290g with the tongue.

No compromise ski boots (REALLY, as all three skis better than the Prime) and a decent (not perfect mind you but decent)  ice climbing boot at the same weight but warmer than a pair of Nepal Evos!  AT boots will "likely" never completely replace climbing boots but there is some amazing technology here that could be used to create a better climbing boot that also skis exceptionally well.

I have thought for a while now that a Spantik with a Dynafit binding system in them would be a godsend.  Now I am thinking with  a little tweaking on the TLT design and we might well have a better all around climbing boot. 

More details and how they ski and most importantly CLIMB coming asap.  I'd love to hear from anyone intentionally climbing technical ground  in the Dynafits and your experience, pros and cons.


    Photo courtesy of Colin Haley http://colinhaley.blogspot.com/





Photo courtesy of Andy Sherpa http://slcsherpa.blogspot.com/

  If these boots interest you...take a look around to see what the Internet pricing currently is.  You might well be surprised and most retailers will match pricing.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Dynafit Speed Skins? Help!?

I'm a little desperate here.  I just bought a pair of Se7ev Summit Dynafit skis and figured getting the Dynafit skins would be easy.  Seems there are none to be had in the US through normal channels.  Anyone know where I can get a pair?  Do they ever go on sell in Chamonix?   I'm looking for a pair in 163cm.

Huge "THANK YOU!" to everyone that offered sources and advice on the skin search.  
With everyone's help I was able to find a pair of Speed Skins for my new boards this morning!  Seemingly the last pair still available in the US ;-)   Truely pure chance but both skis and skins came from REI

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Some of the best films of 2011!

The 2011 5 Point Film Festival 5pointfilm.org in Carbondale, Colorado just wrapped up a mind blowing weekend. Watch the video for the nominees and winners, which are:


Dbl click and turn up the volume!



2011 5 POINT FILM FESTIVAL AWARDS from Anson Fogel on Vimeo.

Monday, May 2, 2011

The lowly Gear Sling.....

If you climb eventually you drop gear.  Accept that fact and move on.


Jack with a "useful" amount of water fall gear on his harness.

Once you know you'll lose gear it is time to figure out a plan on how not to lose gear.  I think this topic is as important as any I have written about here to date.

I've never liked hauling around big racks so I tend to not take a lot of gear.  What I do take on the climb I expect to have at the end of the climb.


Ice climbing again and a LOT more gear on the harness. 

So I have two priorities, keep what I have for gear and just as importantly be able to manage the gear change overs safely, effortless and quickly.  I want to do this on longer rock climbs as well as on alpine climbs.

Everyone rock and crag climbs these days.  A 6 pitch rock climb even in the alpine isn't alpine climbing.  What works in the gym might well work on a short alpine rock climb.  But what works in the gym likely won't work worth a shit on an alpine climb all bundled up in several layers of clothing, big gloves and big boots and cold hands.



Clipping bolts on a short mixed climb...prefect use of the harness gear loops.


With the ability of most every one to climb water ice next to the road and "rock climb" right out of the parking lot...it is no wonder that the details get missed.

I've climbed with a number of guys that are new to the alpine.  The more someone has sport climbed generally means the more they will want to rack gear on their harness.   That might work...if you have tried it out previously with similar gear and in similar conditions.  But you are just as likely to find your harness spits gear off the harness loops on a regular basis when you are wallowing in steep snow.



                            Ejection proof techniques for alpine climbing


I generally climb everything short of WI5 with 8 or less ice screws.  Twice I have ended up at a belay with 5 ice screws.  My comment to that has been..."lose another and YOU lead EVERYTHING!"  May be it is my tone.

I generally rack my ice screws on plastic racking biners in my harness for steep ice.  On alpine stuff I may use the plastic racking biners for screws but I also always use a racking sling for the quick draws and rock gear.   If I am only carrying a few short screws they may go on the sling as well.  The harness gear loops I keep for my personal gear like prusiks, a locker or two, my belay plate or even a lwt shell..  Same stuff I will not be trading back and forth with my partner.

To be efficient, safe (as in less likely to drop) and fast, a gear sling makes sense.  

I typically find the guys who are most adamant about using their harness gear loops, because they hate gear slings, are the ones that "never drop" anything.  And the same ones that shed gear on route like it was free booty.

Hard free climbing at your limit might well take advantage of  your harness' gear loops.  Although it never did for me.  Not likely many will be able to take advantage of that tiny performance edge if there is one while climbing alpine routes.  I found it much better to be well organised with the right gear available, at the right time, on hard rock.   I suspect moving faster and keeping the gear you started with will make a bigger difference in the alpine.  Commercial gear slings with winter clothing are comfortable as is a full size runner that does double duty as a gear sling.

When I am handing over gear at the belay, I do it one piece at a time.  I make my partner do the same.  I don't want a fist full of wired stoppers or 3 pitons at once.  I rack most pices one to a biner, wires and pitons the rare exception. Keeping it simple and structured for myself and my partner keeps the gear at hand.  That keeps us both honest and our rack intact.  Better yet I just have my partner hand  the entire rack on the gear sling or I take what is left of his gear sling rack (and throw it over my shoulder)  sort it while on the sling and keep climbing depending on the leading plan.





Besides the full size runners I like to use the Metolius gear sling.  I have two and will loan my partners the second when required.  It is adjustable but I don't adjust it even while using it in summer.  Set it and for get it is my theory.

http://www.metoliusclimbing.com/adjustable_gear_sling.html




Mark Twight offers some good advice on racking gear in "Extreme Alpinism on page 175.

If you don't use a gear sling you should.  It is faster, more efficient and the best way to keep your rack intact on alpine climbs.  Seems to work well on trad rock too ;)



More here:

http://climbing.about.com/od/speedclimbing/a/SpeedTip9.htm


"To climb faster and save time at belay changeovers, rack all your climbing gear on a shoulder gear sling. The second climber coming up a pitch can easily rack the gear he cleans onto the gear sling rather than clipping it onto gear loops on his harness. When he reaches the belay anchor, all he has to do is take the gear sling off and hand it to the leader. There’s no time involved, it’s just a pure and simple hand-off like the passing of a baton in a relay race.


If you don’t do this, it takes lots of extra time to unclip each piece of gear from his harness and then hand it to the leader, who in turn has to re-rack it on his harness. By having it all racked together on a gear sling, you also avoid the possibility of dropping cams, nuts, and quickdraws during the hand-off. If there’s a difference in body size between your partner and you, then it’s a good idea to use an adjustable gear sling. Just make sure it’s easy and quick to adjust and that it won’t come apart, otherwise you’re screwed."


Adjustable sling?  Better yet just make sure it fits the biggest body before you launch......adjusting a gear sling just adds another cluster to the equation.