That was a thought I have had on a regular basis from the '70s on. Same thought that occasionally runs through my mind today on occasion. I know better now (and have a deeper set of pockets) so instead I prefer to sit down and design a pack that I don't have to cut up. Trick then is getting a skilled set of hands to make the thought a reality.
© rif, Aug 1969
Climbers: Rob Ferguson (photo by Pete Cartwright)The basic kit for alpine climbing hasn't really changed in the last 50 years. The smart guys getting things done, haven't carried more than 20% of their body weight. As time has passed the gear has gotten more durable, warmer and much, much lighter.
What I used on Deltaform's Super Coulior in 1976 isn't any different than what I pack today for A-Strain. Sure the gear has changed but the basic items, rope, tools, boots, hardware haven't. We can climb faster (even old guys like me) and do harder technical routes with ease because of the new gear. But the human powering the effort up hill hasn't changed much. Smarter may be from the experience of generations before us but certainly no better than the guys suffering it out on the European North faces during the '30s.
Jack with a simple pack sans lid and his typical smile, 2009.
But with a little imagination and some thought you might find this is the best pack style you have ever used for actual technical climbing.
Canadian ice, 1978, no lid on Chouinard's Baltoro pack.
Below from Dow Williams, April 2012 on the Mnt. Project forums,
"hmmm, been climbing a bit...full time for the past 15 years, guiding, alpine V and VI routes, ice, rock, you name it....can't say I own a "leader" pack...is this something dead bird came up with to sell a new expensive pack that is suppose to make one climb better?
In any regard, keep in mind, you are only as fast as your second....don't load him/her down with a non-"leader" pack, whatever that might be and expect to move any faster because you have a cool "leader" pack on...a classic route where you need to use low profile packs is Beckey Chouinard in the Bugaboos...I have guided this route...and can assure you...that if your partner is not experienced enough to swap leads and is going to serve as a 2nd for the entire trip...you better make sure his/her pack is no more cumbersome to climb with than whatever this "leader" pack business is....or you won't make the route in a day which is much preferred....unless of course you want to carry a bigger (I presume non-"leader") pack and bivy."
Climbing is..."a thinking man's sport." Dow has much of the details already covered above.
Remember the 20% rule. There are no leader's packs because you carry a climbing sac that first, fits you. The pack size is defined by your body size and what kind of weight you can actually climb difficult technical ground with. You should build or pick out a pack that fits YOUR body size perfectly first. Then you can climb with it loaded with as little as required or as much as you can realistically carry.
This from my 'friend" Tom Ripley over on the UKC web sit last month.
"These days do you actually use any gear enough to wear it out though?
Or just buy the next gimmick when you got bored? "
Kinda a funny question coming from a 20 year old kid. (and no offense to 20 year old kids) So we will give Tom a little slack here. In my climbing career I don't think I have ever tolerated a "gimmick" and I am never bored. Most of my gear from the '70s I still own. Including my Chouinard FISH pack I still used when very long in tooth and well past needing to be replaced. There is a reason for that. Some gear is hard to come by and difficult to replace with anything remotely usable.
The original Karrimore Grimpeur in the first picture of this blog was used, abused and never replaced. Just as my FISH pack was used, abused and only recently replaced with the same. (or damn close anyway) As I said really good kit is hard to fine. Gimmicks..they come and go without hesitation or afterthought. Our young Mr. Ripley will given enough time in the sport eventually figure that out.
More here on the story of the very first Karrimore Grimpeur:
If you are not into really basic climbing sacks or want to learn about what I think is a better climbing sac stop here. The sizing and fit for a true climbing sack have been covered. The rest is again personal opinion. Likely $150 or so will get you a duplicate of the pack I use. IMO it is a good bet that it will be the best climbing sac you'll ever own. But there isn't much to them. And they don't climb by themselves.
But if you aspire to emulate this style of climbing in the mountains..... read on.
John Bouchard climbing on the Grands Charmoz, August 1975 photo by Steve Zajchowski.
The pack is a Karrimore.
"A rope, a rack, and the pack on your back, is Alpinism!"
To the uneducated eye the climbing sacks I use are really simple. As I have said previous, simple sacs but complicated designs. The packs show above are all the same basic design, A single daisy chain stitched up the front to ease the strain of hauling the pack. The pack is uncluttered so it hauls well. The down side (if there actually is one) is everything needs to go in the pack and not hung from the outside. Minimalistic indeed. The lid is detachable on these particular packs. There are two pockets in the lid plus strap on patches sewn to the top. The main pocket in the lid will hold two, 1 liter water bottles. The smaller bottom pocket it a typical map or guide book size. The single lid attachment buckle on the outside is covered to protect it if you need to haul the sac. The dbl Fastex buckles above the shoulder straps that latch on the lid from behind are not covered. Velcro seals the lid between the shoulder straps in the "short" position. The lid snugs down tightly above the Velcro in the extended position on an overly full sac. I will interchange the terms *sac* and *pack* a lot from here on out. A proper climbing pack to me is a "climbing sac".
All good to this point right? And likely what is pictured above is as stripped a pack as most will ever want. But it is not the pack I climb with generally. This little internal pocket opened a lot of options and ideas for me to use a even simpler pack. Funny how this all works. A tiny bit of design effort changed how even I looked at this decades old design. And it changed the packs I climb with and has made them even more useful to me and simpler yet.
My ID, the car keys, the camera if it isn't in my jacket, some extra GU and a headlamp go in this pocket. Spare socks or gloves sometimes and a hat as well when I think about it. Basically anything I don't want "lost" and rolling around in the bottom pack. The pocket is big enough...but not that BIG.
2 liters of water is most easily replaced with a stove. Or just as easily carried in a hydration bladder internally. So the importance of having a top pocket can be easily forgotten...then left behind all together.
So here is my current climbing sac. Not to every one's taste for sure. But something to think about when you decide a new "climbing sac" is required. Built right you'll own it a long, long time..so make sure it is a design you can live with.
Full of ropes the pack weights in at 25#. A full compliment of actual alpine climbing kit? Right at 30#. Just under my 20% self imposed 38# limit.
It should be no secret here at Cold Thistle that the majority of what I write is simply me slogging through the piles of gear I have an interest in and by doing so hopefully it enables me to make the best decisions and selections for my own use.
This three part series started because I was appalled at the pack fit and quality of some of my partner's packs. Enough so that I have bought and given away packs. It pays to remember that if you aren't soloing, your partner and his gear are actually a part of "your kit".
What I learned from this exercise it I want a really basic pack Since it is what I use the majority of time anyway. So last week I placed another order for a pack sans lid or any way to add a lid. It is very similar to the pack pictured above just no Velcro or the extra set of straps to latch the lid down. The daisy chain and lid tie down is simply bar tacked at the packs opening. But other than that it is really the same basic alpine sac I have been using for 30+ years. Just a more complicated design. Old habits die hard I guess.
Here is my new build sheet from Randy @ CCW:
Pack 1 OZONE 210d Spectra (Dane)
1. Custom sizing 21" back (+2.5")
2. Fish bottom pattern
3. No lid or attachments of any kind
(-front daisy but without top strap)
4. pull down shoulder straps instead of "pull up"
5. main bag has a zippered "guide book" pocket...with a little clip for
6. thicker shoulder straps foam- 2" longer
7. Perlon haul loop
8. dbl rope straps across the top of the pack
9. half length extension with draw string
10. no double bottom
And the specs for my original CCW alpine sacs:
Custom sizing, 21"
FISH bottom pattern
2 liter+ water bottle size top pocket
2nd zippered pocket in bottom of the lid with key holder
Zippers reversed on the pockets for use on hanging belays
pull down shoulder straps instead of "pull up"
main bag has a zippered "guide book" pocket
covered lid buckle which protects it while being hauled
removable foam pad
oversize/thickness on the shoulder straps
Perlon haul loop which is easier to clip on and off the anchor in difficult stances
dbl strap patches on lid
dbl rope straps across the top of the pack
10" extension with draw string
lid is extendable and removable
bar tacked daisy chain on the bottom of the lid strap
Finally for those interested. I took my pack and loaded it with the typical gear I would take waterfall cragging or alpine climbing in Canada. Loaded it a bit heavy @ what ended up being 35# even to make a point. Typically I don't carry all the hardware and the rope. Or this much hardware very often. Everything pictured is gear that was sitting waiting to be put away from out last trip to Canada so not unrealistic either. Helmet or rope and may be both could just as easily go inside the pack.
ready to close it up and strap on my 1/2 twin ropes and helmet
above and below:
Not my best pack job but easy enough to carry
Here is what went into the loaded pack pictured above:
2 dozen Advil
Metolius gear sling
12 Grivel Helix short and med screws and one 22cm in a cover and with caps intact
8 sewn QDs and 16 biners
Locker and Reverso
6 cams various sizes form 1" to 3"
4 Large stoppers
5 pins, knife blade to 3/4" baby angle
2 head lamps
2 spare battery packs
Snow Peak stove
med MSR fuel canister
GSI cook kit
spare scarf and Buff
2 spare gloves
one 60m Beal Ice Twin
Patagonia Knifeblade pullover
Patagonia Nano Puff pullover
RAB Generator Alpine Jacket
1 liter Nalgene bottle
a pair of Petzl Dartwins
a pair of Petzl Nomics