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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Friday, March 23, 2012

Polartec Neoshell "Soft"? The real game changer?

Out of the box and onto the ice.  The first Neoshell "Soft" garments from NWAlpine.
NWAlpinist Salopettes and a Big 4 climbing jacket.


Last fall we were having a discussion here about soft shells as I was trying to source garments for an up coming review.  I had used the Westcomb Polartec Neoshell Apoc hard shell jacket and had been impressed with the performance in every condition.  Other Neoshell "hard shell" garments followed.  All equally impressive for performance as a hard shell that had a little stretch added.  They did breath well.  No doubt about that!

The first I heard of the newest Neoshell "soft" was from a reader here at CT.  Not believing the comments actually I searched out the only two garments that were being produced at the time, one from Marmot and the other from Mammut. 

I seldom really try to get garments for review and tests.  But these two I REALLY did try to obtain but to no success.  No pro deals, no freebees or demo loans were going to happen.  And at $400 and $500 retail per garment I was stuck.  No money for this one!    I didn't have the money for that kind of test on something I really figured wasn't going to be all that impressive anyway.  Love the blog and finding new groovy gear for my on use but throwing down close to a grand in short order wasn't going to happen.

Little did I know. (which seems to happen on a regular basis writing a climbing gear blog)

After giving up on the usual suspects for getting any deal on the newest Neoshell I went to the source.  Polartec of course!   RA you know who you are and I want to sincerely "THANK YOU!" 
Best "new" product for 2011 imo.

In short order a couple of yards of the newest material, I like to call it Neoshell "Soft" was on the way to my "local tailor", Bill Amos the owner of NWAlpine.   No clue what this stuff is really called.
My reasoning behind my manic behavior (this time) was I wanted a warmer pair of NWAlpinist Salopettes.   Way more a "want" thing than a a "need" thing in this case.  And to be honest I wasn't expecting much.  I have lots of nice climbing pants.  And they reall yare warm enough.   What else was I going to get to play with?  MWA's climbing specific jacket called the "Big 4" was sew up with Neoshell SOFT at the same time.   In this case what I got was a total surprise!

Here is a short comment prior to a full review and comparison coming in April.

"Compared to the three versions of Arcteryx pant fabrics and the current NW Apline fabric the Neoshell SOFT is the warmest and most breathable but least stretchy.   But it is just stretchy enough for pants, salopettes or a shell top.  And as tough or tougher than most fabrics I have mentioned and not any heavier. May be not the best material for warmer weather use though from what I have witnessed so far.  But then again smart garment design work would solve that problem as well I suspect.

My NWA salopettes are 1# 6oz in the NWAlpine fabric which Arcteryx also uses. It is a lwt to mid weight very stretchy fabric which isn't very durable in the long run.   Same salopette is 1# 5oz in the Neoshell soft which is much warmer, water proof, very breathable and no question more durable.
And I find the Neo Soft more comfortable to wear.

I have both a NWA Big Four Jacket and the Alpinist Salopettes in the Neoshell SOFT and will be doing a full review and comparison on the blog in April after the next trip north.

Short version? The Neoshell SOFT garments are changing the way I dress for winter climbing and the physical comfort level while doing so. All while wearing less and being better protected from any weather.

And it was not easy to get me off that dime.

Big claims I know but true to date.  I have used a few of the current state of the art soft shell tops.  And 3 of the hard shell Neoshell garments and been impressed with all of them,   Currently I think the Neoshell SOFT is THE fabric that will change how we dress for cold weather climbing.

More to come in April.


NWAlpinist Salopettes in Neoshell "Soft" and lovin them 


Both versions of the NWAlpinist Salopettes on the walk in.



Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sobering or it should be anyway...

By Angus M. Thuermer Jr., Jackson Hole, Wyo.

March 21, 2012


The route two skiers chose during an excursion near Ranger Peak on March 7 was a key factor in them getting caught and killed in an avalanche, park rangers said Tuesday.

Steve Romeo and Chris Onufer died after being swept nearly 3,000 vertical feet. The two likely were headed to an unskied south-facing couloir above Waterfalls Canyon in Grand Teton National Park that Romeo had eyed over the years, rangers and a friend of Romeo’s said.

Romeo and Onufer’s ascending ski tracks led to that goal, rangers who investigated the avalanche deaths said. The route they chose took them from the edge of an avalanche path into its starting zone, which was the ideal steepness for slides, rangers said.

“They chose to go up a known avalanche path ascending into an avalanche starting zone,” Jenny Lake Ranger Rich Baerwald said.

The incident should spur backcountry skiers to learn about avalanches and reassess the way they make decisions about taking risks, he said. Skilled skiers and moderate danger can be a deadly combination, rangers said.

Many people who read Romeo’s popular TetonAT ski blog looked to him “as the subject-matter expert,” Ranger Chris Harder said.

While Romeo skied radical terrain with elan, he also posted several videos and wrote stories about getting caught in or nearly missed by avalanches.

“I don’t know if he was taking that to heart,” Harder said. “He had more [encounters] in the last few years than I’ve had in my lifetime,” the 30-year Teton veteran said.

“I feel pretty strongly a lot can be learned by this,” Harder said.

Neither skier told anybody of his exact plans, rangers believe.

“What their ultimate objective for the day was, we will never know,” Harder said.

Piecing together information from the ascent track and from friends Romeo and Onufer talked to before leaving, investigators put together a likely scenario for the accident.

Romeo and his sometimes ski partner Reed Finlay had talked about skiing a couloir west of the avalanche path — on a spur of 10,355-foot Ranger Peak.

“It’s a really nice line, a pencil-thin, straight shot.” Finlay said Tuesday. He and Romeo last saw it together Feb. 4 while on Eagles Rest Peak.

Finlay couldn’t return to the area. His wife, Rebecca, gave birth to firstborn Kershaw on Feb. 29.

The ill-fated skiers were scheduled to depart Colter Bay at 7 a.m., rangers said. Across the lake, the slope the two ascended was “a big avalanche path,” Baerwald said.

“It narrows down from a big basin to gullies chutes and rock bands — it’s hourglass-shaped,” Baerwald said.

Climbing the avalanche path with skins on their skis, Romeo and Onufer initially made the best of hostile country, Baerewald said.

They stuck to the climber’s right, near where cliffs form the edge of the slope.

At an elevation of about 9,700 feet, they made a critical decision.

“They start making their way away from the edge of the avalanche path on into the avalanche track and into the starting zone,” Baerwald said.

Added Harder, “If they were heading to that [pencil-thin] couloir, they probably short-cut over to it.”

An alternative would have been to continue up the right side of the slope, rangers said. This route was less steep and led to a ridge.

“The ridge would have been a safer route,” Baerwald said. Ridge safety is a basic concept, he said.

“The message with regard to route-finding is, it’s super important terrain be considered,” he said.

A rising traverse and switchback brought the pair to a slot between two triangle-shaped cliffs in the middle of the basin. Here the slope steepened to about 40 degrees, the classic angle for slab avalanches, rangers said.

It is likely this is where the two triggered the slide. The crown, up to 3 feet deep, indicated the avalanche entrained snow that had been falling and drifting from five days of storms. In that period, 28 inches fell in parts of the Tetons, the Bridger-Teton National Forest Avalanche Center reported.

Significant wind carried that snowfall to lee slopes, rangers said, including the fateful basin on Ranger Peak’s spur. Southeast facing, its orientation catches drifting snow carried by prevailing winds, they said.

Once the skiers provoked the slide, nothing could have saved them, rangers said. The avalanche ran a linear mile over cliffs and rocks.
It likely propelled them at speeds between 60 and 80 mph, rangers said. It ripped off one skier’s pack, another’s boot, all four skis.

Searchers found the base layers of one ski ripped from its top plate, its climbing skin still attached.

“The ski was completely delaminated, separated,” Harder said. “Speaking to force, that says a lot right there.”

The chaos likely tore Romeo’s helmet off his pack, and it “sustained a lot of damage,” Harder said.

Romeo had an Avalung pack — a device designed to allow avalanche victims to breathe if buried. Its mouthpiece was deployed, but rangers couldn’t tell whether he had it gripped in his teeth during the slide, they said.

Friends of the two have asked whether avalanche airbags could have saved them, rangers said. Airbags are stowed in backpacks and deploy instantly with the pull of a toggle. They help suspend a skier high in flowing snow and help prevent burial.

But neither skier was really buried, rangers said.

“Chris probably could have sat up,” had he been alert or alive, Harder said. “Steve probably could have wrestled an arm out.

The Teton County Coroner ruled the cause of death was blunt-force trauma.

Buffalo Fork Sub-District Ranger Rick Guerrieri said no gear could have helped.

“One piece of equipment wasn’t going to have any effect on injuries,” he said.

Added Harder, “The best tool they had with them, they weren’t using the most. That was their brain.”

Rangers discounted other skiers’ sentiments about the pair being in “the wrong place at the wrong time.” Such phrases are best reserved for victims of meteorite strikes, they said.

“This [event] had factors in it that [include] decision-making,” Harder said of the avalanche. Rangers are uncertain to what extent the pair took into account the snow and winds.

Avalanche forecasts from the center called the chance of a slide moderate. The predictions range only to 10,500 feet.

Search leader Guerrieri would not call the pair’s decisions a mistake.

“Different people are willing to accept different levels of risk,” he said. “I hate second-guessing people.”

Backcountry travelers need to ask themselves what the consequences of taking a risk might be, Harder said. In this instance, had the avalanche been witnessed from across the lake and a rescue mounted within 10 minutes, the outcome would have been the same.

“They died instantly, it’s pretty safe to say,” he said.

Even with working cellphones and helicopters at the ready, an injured skier would be lucky to get from the Tetons to a hospital within three hours, Harder said.

Decision-making is an increasing part of avalanche education, Baerwald said. A study widely cited in recent years indicates that skiers and snowboarders discard caution in the face of social considerations that range from the lure of untracked slopes to a commitment to reach a goal or even familiarity with a slope.

“Taking an avalanche course is critical, even late in the season,” Baerwald said. Education can help skiers understand what an avalanche forecast means and provide other lessons, he said.

“There was some decision making that factored into the accident,” Baerwald said. “Route choice — that’s the one that stands out the most.”

Post script by the editor @ Cold Thistle:

This statement from the article above should stand out to everyone imo:

“I don’t know if he was taking that to heart,” Harder said. “He had more [encounters] in the last few years than I’ve had in my lifetime,” the 30-year Teton veteran said.

In my 40 years of back country, area skiing and winter alpinism the VAST majority of friends I have lost had been in avalanches previous and then eventually died in avalanches.

It is NOT a numbers game.  It is a choice you make every time you venture into avi terrain.   Start disregarding your fear and you will make the wrong decisions.
None of my friends were total back country snow dummies.  All knew the risks we take.  But all made fatal errors...usually more than once and only survived the first few incidents because of pure, dumb luck.  Harsh?  Sure it is. But easier to tell you now than remind you at your own funeral. 
How many funerals do you need to attend before the point is driven home?

Snow safety is not  rocket science.

The next time you ski or walk into dangerous terrain ask yourself, "is it really worth the risk today?"    "Overs" in this game are hard to come by.  Gear will never replace the high tech shit between your ears.  Everyone has the same gear there but you have to be willing to actually use it.

Double click to enlarge the terrain photos of the accident area below.





Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Come on! Why aren't these still being made?



La Sportiva?  Dynafit? Scarpa?  Kolfach?   Come on guys it is about time someone reinvented the wheel here again !  I'd buy a pair in a heart beat!  This is the 2005 Dynafit Mtn LT Model.  Was it ever produced in any numbers?  Ever imported to the US?  Any of the readers here still have or used a pair?

I want a pair!  And I don't really care who makes them.  Just give me an inner boot I can heat mold and I am good to go.  2.5 # per boot please in a size 45/ US 12.

This would seem to be a no brainier for the boot makers.

Then and Now!

I thought this was  kinda fun!




                                                      Cascade Falls
Top of Cascade 1973


Top of Cascade 2012


Snivellling Gully

3rd pitch, Snivelling Gully 1977


3rd pitch, Snivelling Gully 2012
and at almost exactly the same place, just a lot more relaxed


With no helmets you always had a good reason for a big hat and wanted to be leading!



Professor's Falls



Ist pitch of Professor's 1978




Ist Pitch of Professor's 2012


Within just a few feet of the same position in each picture on each climb.
Just 39, 35 and 34 years  and a gazillion miles between them.

Life is indeed very good!

Monday, March 19, 2012

What does a Size 4 Avi look Like?

I'm climbing in Canada and the Cascades again this winter so paying attention is a priority. (just like it is every winter)

This from a past co-worker and one time climbing partner and now the Manager, Public Avalanche Warning Service. Canadian Avalanche Centre, Karl Klassen.

more here:
http://acmg.ca/mcr/default.asp


What does a Size 4 Look Like? March 18, 2012 - by Karl Klassen

I've posted some photos in the Avalanches 2011-2012 image gallery under the library tab that are illustrative of what a big slide looks like and the associated destructive potential. They show before and after a size 4 avalanche passed through a slide path in the central Selkirk Mountains just a few days ago. Local records indicate the last time something went this big here was 1972.

Data this morning suggests avalanche activity is slowing down and the weather forecast indicates we'll see bluer skies and sunnier conditions in the next couple of days, but this is not the time to assume avalanche conditions have improved. Better weather and sun may actually make things worse today and tomorrow and it certainly affects people's mood and decision making.

In my experience, the current snowpack and avalanche cycle typically goes into a low-probability/high-consequence cycle right about now. The likelihood of triggering goes down; that is the problem layers are less sensitive to triggers so it takes a bigger trigger (for example a cornice fall or small avalanche from above or a sled with rider) to start a slide. And/or or the number of places where you will trigger an avalanche with lighter loads (such as a skier) is reduced. As a result, we see fewer avalanches in general, but the ones that do occur, either from natural or human triggers, tend to be big. If you get mixed up with something like what's shown in the photos above, you will likely not survive.

It will take a while yet before we can determine if the existing snowpack conditions will stabilize or if the current avalanche cycle will turn into a long-term low-probability/high-consequence scenario.

In the meantime, past experience and research indicates sunny blue-sky days lead to people under-estimating lingering avalanche hazard and they tend to make more aggressive decisions and terrain choices on nice days than on stormy ones. This is absolutely the wrong thing to do right now. The next few days will test your resolve and discipline but it's essential that you not let good weather and pristine slopes change your approach to the mountains. My (and all the other professionals I talk to) spidey senses are tingling and I'm going to be working hard to keep my fun-meter in check and keep the smart-meter in control over the next few days.

before

after




Saturday, March 17, 2012

Umbilicals again?


Michael:  Petzl Quarks with my homemade tethers. Soloing the only hard winter route on Mt. Washington. Note the 4mm cord attached to the spike. I found that the tethers clipped directly to the tool took away from the feel of the swing. The sound interfered with my concentration, also.

all photos courtesy of Micheal Wejchert's collection



This is a guest blog from east coast climber, Michael Wejchert.  Hopefully it won't be his last.

More of Michael's writing and adventures can be found here:
http://www.farnorthclimbing.blogspot.com/


Me soloing the Last Gentleman with BD's,  Sketchy?






Umbilicals
By Michael Wejchert

"Alpinist 8 had the north face of north twin issue, which came out my sophomore year at college. I think this was the first time I saw anyone going leashless alpine climbing. A couple of years later we had all gone
leashless alpine climbing. I remember Nils Nielsen showing me his prototype BD tethers in Alaska and I modified my old vipers and new Nomics to accommodate. I prodealed the BD umbilicals a couple years ago. I remember feeling liberated alpine climbing but especially soloing. Finally I didn't have to carry leashes for fear of dropping a tool.

For two seasons I soloed up to W15 with BD umbilicals, used them alpine climbing, and dismissed them totally when ice climbing. Then, roped up with my father on a WI3 I soloed weekly, I dropped a Nomic: bumped my knee cruising as quickly as possible and realized that in a lot of other situations, such as runout M5 or so, dropping a tool, even roped up, could spell disaster. I began to look into tethers with more scrutiny.

Black Diamond tethers seemed to have their advantages: light weight, swivels to help avoid tangles, and somewhat strength-rated.

After a trip to Patagonia I also realized that almost all non BD athletes were climbing on homemade, strength rated tethers. Hmmm…

The first time I saw a Black Diamond tether come unclipped was my buddy Ryan Stefiuk’s on the classic cannon climb *Omega.* It wasn’t good timing—warm temperatures, ice coming down on a heady lead—not when you want a gear malfunction. Since then I have witnessed several BD tethers come unclipped on people’s Black Diamond ice tools. SO: a product that comes unclipped, isn’t strength rated (if you fall onto your tethers, they’ll probably break), and is 50 dollars retail? The thought of those little carabiners snapping was nestling deeper and deeper into my subconscious.


Soloing Polar Circus with BD tethers. 3 or 4 years ago now?



There is a massive difference between the demands of hard climbing and the demands of the casual user. Most people with disposable incomes are the latter, and oftentimes climbers have to finagle their own solutions to problems. I made my own tethers using strength rated webbing and Metolius mini-biners. No gimmicks, such as swivels, (which some people buy at the hardwear store), to get in the way. Alpine gear should always be absolutely necessary or have a dual purpose: I can clip my homemades in as daisy chains for rappelling, leave the mini ‘biners and cut up the webbing for bail cord if I have to. Another advantage. I made mine a little longer than arm-length to accomadate for twisting around on pitches. A good idea.


Soloing the mixed finish to Fafnir with a homemade tether attached toa modified Nomic. Great mod, BTW.


This season I’ve climbed almost exclusively on my homemade tethers. I’ve noticed that the swivel doesn’t make enough of a difference for me to miss it. Let’s face it: gear and ropes can and will get tangled in both. Ideally this doesn’t happen and takes some getting used to. On 1-3 pitch ice climbs, sport mixed climbing, and the like, I don’t usually climb with tethers at all. Most of this climbing is done where a screw can be put in at any time, I can rappel, or the terrain is rocky enough that having tools is almost superfluous. Soloing, alpine climbing, and on mulitpitch mixed route, my tools are clipped in, strength-rated, all the time.


Probable 2nd or 3rd ascent of "fat of the land" in Newfoundland withtethers. Ripped off of Ryan Stefiuk's blog:)





Many friends here in New England putting up new routes always scoffed at my setup when I took them out on Cannon cliff or somewhere but I’ve noticed that more and more, tethers are being used by one time cynics on roped terrain.

The last time I used my BD tethers was on an attempt at the Girdle Traverse of Cannon Cliff. I figured the swivel might help with all the sideways climbing, but found no advantages once the rope got caught in between the swivels. That week, I sold them. Do yourselves a favor and don’t get caught up in marketing hype. Making your own pair or getting a simple, strong pair like the Blue Ice boa is the way to go. That extra margin of safety can make all the difference. Climbers should always be wary of too many moving parts anyhow."

Editor's Note:
I've written several times here about the issues with umbilicals and there use,
More here from previous content but a Google search of Cold Thistle will give you even more..

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2011/01/ice-tool-umbilicals-repost.html


The simple umbilicals I use in the alpine

Beware here!  Any umbilical set up you make  is not going to be strong enough to take a fall on and not fail.  None of the commercial ones will take a a full weight fall and nothing you will make with climbing webbing will either.  You might get a tiny bt stronger than the commercial set ups but the margin for error here is slim to none!  DO NOT RELY ON UMBILCALS TO SAVE YOU IN A FALL.

Read Black Diamond's warnings here and pay attention.

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2010/04/bd-testswarning-on-umbilicals.html






How CT works?



These sticks I actually bought!

I post this kind of thing once every few months so the new readers get an idea of how Cold Thistle works.

At one time I bought everything I wrote about.  I now buy some of what I write about.  Black Diamond was the first gear company to give me gear.  It didn't "buy" them a review however.  Check out the stainless crampon threads to see how that relation worked out long term.   Nor will giving me gear now "buy" a review.  Not uncommon I am given gear I won't use (or write about) and will buy another brand I actually will use.

Free gear is actually pretty easy to find.  Good gear is much more difficult.  I find it easier (and cheaper in the long run) to buy good gear than waste time and energy dicking around with the...........lets say, "less than good gear".

But I also no longer keep track of what I buy and what is free.   I do try to mention the "freebees" in the reviews however.   As I remind some of my co-authors, nothing is ever free.  You have to use it.  Which is some times easier said than done.  You don't have to write about it.

What you get here is simply opinions.  Our opinions.   They may not match your opinions.  What works for me or any of the other authors may not work for you.  Pays to keep that in mind when reading our reviews.

I still use everything I write about.  I am pretty picky about the other authors that post here or do reviews.  All of them are climbers I'd climb with and I trust their judgement on gear.  But I may not always agree with them.  Some times I bite my tongue and don't comment.  Sometimes I'll disagree in public.   That is how it works here.  You need to make your own decisions based on your own experience level.  If you have little experience don't  be afraid to ask a question.  I'll certainly try to find you an answer that I would trust.

It is a blog people.  One I do for free and intentionally without ads to distract you.  My reviews are bad enough if ads annoy you. Ads annoy me!   Everyone has a voice if they want it on the Internet.  I've been climbing awhile now.  I don't like the institutional memory of our tribe to disappear piece by piece, body by body every year.  So I decided to make my own voice heard and hopefully others of the tribe.  But it is simply my voice in the end.

I enjoy writing and hopefully others get some enjoyment from the effort.  Either way thanks to all for dropping by.

If you want to know more about me or how I come to my opinions this may help a little:

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2010/01/where-did-i-come-from.html

If you need more just ask.

The freebee here is an old pair of Grivel umbilicals.
I generally find it easier to just buy what you actually trust for gear.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

March gear give away!

Only open to members here but I'll do one more drawing at the end of March for free gear.   You too could have this kind of smile on your face!  No clue yet what I'll give away but I should be able to find something suitable.

Love it! If you don't make the best..spin it!

BD has now determined their picks are good for a single season of climbing.  Seriously!

"Under normal use (20 to 50 days per year), the lifespan of a pick on a Type T ice axe is 1 year. More frequent use or extreme climbing can reduce the lifespan of your ice tool. Some activities that would reduce its lifespan are hitting rocks, twisting the axe and pick, and drytool climbing on rock."

I have never even heard of a broken Petzl pick...bent ones sure.  Broken?  Nadda and I ask.

Love the broken Astro pick in the front of the video.  Had some of my Cold Thistle picks broken on the 4 banger as well.  So I have an idea what BD is doing here besides the obvious sales spin.   Convince your customers that poor quality gear is acceptable and it shouldn't last?  That is a new one for me.


More here:

http://www.blackdiamondequipment.com/en-us/journal/climb/all/qc-lab-gear-doesnt-last-forever-part-i--ice-picks

We are promised a up coming crampon conversation as well.  That one will likely just "kill" us with the comedy and excuses.  And a year late.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The DPS 138 and Dynafit's Carbon Green Machine ZZero4




A perfect day on Snoqualmie Pass for the Lotus 138 if you made the cut off.  Pass is closed going east bound for hours while we burned turns in 30" of new snow which kept falling all day!




The story is longer than it needs to be.  But it is a part of my experience so I'll share it.  Like everything here at Cold Thistle it is my story in the end which may not relate to your story in any way.

After an amazing reintroduction to skiing in Chamonix last winter I skied through the summer.  No cragging and no alpine if I wasn't hauling skis around. My lift assisted ski season ended in July and I kept skiing until August.  Huge fun!

Last year was also my introduction to fat skis, rockered skis, fully rockered skis, early rise tips, super light skimo gear and ski specific racing ski packs.  I was the new kid in gear hog heaven!

By mid summer I decided in for a penny in for a pound.  My new La Sportiva Hi5s were so amazing to ski on.  I was in love. But I also figured if a 115mm waist was fun even bigger might also be even more fun.  Some rocker was good...huge rocker may be even better in the right snow and on the right ski.

The Hi5 has become one of my all time favorite skis and a go to back country ski here.  One I had planned on skiing a lot early season.




By late summer I had scraped together enough coin to jump in deep with DPS.  A pair of  Waller 112s and a pair of Lotus 138s both in Pure Carbon construction showed up in August. I was Sooooooo stoked!  I pictured myself cat skiing or if I won the local lottery heli skiing again.

http://www.dpsskis.com/ski/wailer112RP

http://www.dpsskis.com/ski/lotus138



I had mated the skis with Dynafit TLT Radical bindings (which were a easy choice ) and the most impressive (now that I have finally skied them)  Dynafit ZZero4 Carbon Green machine!

TLT Radical
http://www.dynafit.com/product/bindings/tlt-radical-ft-130mm-z12

What is there to say about Dynafit...they are super light, they work and never a pre-release.
Why would you bother to ski on anything but a tech binding?  Which Dynafit invented btw.
Green Machine
http://www.dynafit.com/product/shoes/zzero4-green-machine-tf

Every thing seemed right in my world last August.  Well almost everything.
I got a diagnosis of throat cancer and scheduled for surgery the next day totally out of the blue, the same week the skis arrived.  I was a little FREAKED truth be told!  Damn it!  I had more important things like SKIING on my mind.  Cancer was a little speed bump I hadn't planned on!

Skiing and climbing were on my mind but not on my radar for the near future.  After a radical neck dissection I took a week long road trip to rock climb.  No my best moment.   There is a reason they call them "radical".  I simply ignored the obvious and went climbing.  It all worked out anyway.  By the time I got home I had decided to start selling what ever gear I had that could easily be turned to cash and mailed out.

It was quick cash and all easily replaceable in the long run.  All but the DPS skis.  But then the DPS skis represented the largest amount of cash in just two pieces of gear.  At that point I wasn't really sure what the future held so on the block they went anyway.   I decided to put both pair up for sale and keep what ever pair didn't sell first.  It wasn't like there was a shortage of skis around the house.  The DPS skis were a pure luxury.  And as cancer treatment started it was obvious the road was going to be harder and longer than I expected.  I hate speed bumps.

Chemo was bad but after repeated emails and dicking around, finally shipping the Waller 112s to Germany was pretty painful as well :)  But I knew I still had my Hi5s so I wasn't being overly tortured in the "mid fat" ski category.  The REALLY FAT Lotus 138s just sat in the corner of my office as did the new ZZeros Carbons with a box of bindings just waiting for the right moment.  No way was I going to sell the boots.  Even though they had yet to be molded.  I am a big believer in the theory of "he who dies with the most toys, WINS".    I hate coming in second!  I kept the boots on that premise alone if for no other reason.  

A month or so ago, long before I could actually ski or get out yet I dropped the Lotus off at Pro Mtn Sports in North Bend and had them mounted.  One step closer.  I had a plan...small steps when you can breath.

Cancer and chemo I have learned are the gifts that keep on giving.  One week I am "fine".  The next sick as a dog again.  This week my hands and feet are numb.  From the ankles down on the feet, wrist forward on the hands.  Hard to stay warm when that is happening.  It comes and goes now so not a huge deal just annoying.  But not the symptoms you want to have while ice climbing either.

I've found you can ski at a so- so level, even ice climb at a so-so level.  I've always biked at a so-so level and with snow on the ground no biking going on anyway.  You can't build $5000 custom guns with a shaky hand at a so-so level.  That just won't do.   It will pass I am sure so for the moment I do what I can on that particular day.  And yesterday we had 5" of light and fluffy on my deck.  What else was I suppose, or could I do??! 

It has been snowing on and off here for two days.  Unusual as I am only at 763 feet in elevation.  Generally just below the snow line.  When 5" of light and fluffy snow had piled up my deck yesterday by 9am I started  thinking seriously about skiing!   Big "if", was just making it to the mountain.  Storms like that around here generally cut the power and shut the roads down for days.

What the hell...not like I was going to accomplish anything at home or in the shop anyway.  So I threw sand and a shovel in the truck with Marley, the wonder dog, and headed east to Alpental!

Amazingly enough it was straight shot out I-90 at mostly 70 mph right up to the turn off at the Summit.  I was on the lift minutes later.  Marley, totally frustrated, was still in the truck wondering why we weren't headed for the back country?  That would have been way more typical.


           Marley collecting some unnecessary good Karma


Everyone seems to wonder just how different a 138mm ski would be to ride.  These are 192cm.  DPS says, "Riding the Lotus 138 in deep snow is like an entirely new sport."  Seriously, I should have bought the 202s!

Sorry, easy to avoid the hype here as the skis don't make it a new sport no matter what size you buy.  I'll admit skating across the flat from where I clipped in to the quad chair was a little weird but then I hadn't been in a stiff pair of boots for a LONG time so that was weird as well.   Four turns off the chair and I was thinking this is pretty FFFFUUUUNNNN!.  By mid chair I had a huge grin on my face and actually cracked out a couple of laughs between the face shots.

In fact way fun, but not "a new sport".  Tight, quick linked short radius turns or huge screaming eagle GS turns were to be had in total control. And damn near zero effort all day long... as the snow continued to pile up. (although I am a little sore writing this so there was some effort going on ;)  Out running my own sluffs was so easy it is hardly worth mentioning.  But I had so seldom done that even in the old days it is worth mentioning.  The snow was deep and it was steep!



Yes, in fact I was feeling like a film star on this set up.  I always say the best gear is gear you never notice. Chopped pow, untracked pow, icy moguls or climbable water ice on the cliff bands, powder in the bumps?  Anything and everything I wanted to ski was simply EASY.  Water ice was a little iffy though!  Thoughtless for the most part and super fun.

So when I got asked...and it happened almost every ride up the lift..."how are they to ski?" my answer was "easy....super easy!"    Think a snow board for each foot here.   So, I shit you not, the video below could have just as easily been me yesterday!  Only I dress better than Steven Drake and must ski a little better I suspect :)   Anyone can ski that well on a pair of 138s in the soft stuff.   They really are that good!  And that easy to ski.  Don't be all that impressed by the video.  It is the skis...that make it look that easy.  And it really is that easy.  Don't be afraid of a rockered fat ski!  You'll love them...well....I do these anyway.   It is not a new sport but no question, with these guys the game has changed.



The boots and bindings?  Like the skis...I never noticed them while doing some of the best skiing I have done in a long time.   But after almost a year in the super light Dynafit Carbon TLT 5s if was really fun to add power steering and rip a bit.  And these do RIP!  I felt like I was cruising around on a rock solid 207cm GS out fit yesterday...unless of course I wanted to rip some tight turns on the tree line or down a powder filled set of steep bumps.  This rig makes all that easy to do as well.  The versatility of this set up on soft snow was simply amazing.  A heli ski trip......would likely be orgasmic.

"The new Green Machine is absolutely stiffer than the Zzero CT-F (last years Green machine). Most of the increase is in lateral stiffness, the kind that matters when driving a big ski at speed. Plus that increase comes with lighter overall weight and better cuff rotation for more comfortable touring."
Sandy Brown, Dynafit Rep


The Green Machine is a simple boot.  4 easy to work buckles, a nice burly power strap and a comfy heat moldable inner boot with a stiff tongue.   The inner boot is made by Palua for Dynafit.  IMO they are the best inner boots available for climbing and ski boots.  Others always want to argue but that is my take on it from having owned most of them.  I've written about Palua several times here.  It is worth checking them out.  They fit me really well with no fuss.  Just that simple.  They ski like a race boot and they are warm.  Strange combo there.  My feet are still talking nicely to me at the end of the day.   They may ski like a race boot but they  aren't a race boot.  This is  a full blown AT boot.  The buckles are easy to adjust for tour mode and easy to adjust for fit.  The latch and ankle/touring hinge easy to use.  And that is comparing them to my TLT5 C's.  Which are likely the easiest to use and best skiing touring boot made to date.

The Green Machine makes the TLT5 seem like a town car compared to a tight Porsche on a mountain road.  These green guys are a GT2 RSR.  There really isn't a comparison past they are both AT ski boots.  Don't read too much into that as I dearly love my TLT5 Performance Carbons!   But for a pair of 138s mid foot I wanted some real power.  The speed at which you can so easily ski the 138s made the decision of a beefy boot a wise choice.  This combo will ski pow at Mach 3 if you have the stones for it.  And cutting a set of skins for them is not yet out of the question.

A caveat though on the boots.  (Just realized this today..two day later)  I ended up skiing the first two days while in the Green Machine with the hinge latch in walk mode.  Never really noticed it actually as the boots are pretty stiff and even flexed while locked up or in walk mode.   I generally ski my TLT5s without a tongue and my previous BD Primes unlatched as well.  So I like a soft flexing boot generally.   Nice to have the option of latching them down and having a stiffer boot if you require it.)

My body is totally worn out of course because these boots and the ski/binding combo let me rip it up all day with ZERO complaints about gear.  They did what was asked and more with nearly a bobble.  And I seldom noticed them past unlatching a over tight buckle or two mid day.  Even more fun, it was my first day of skiing on them.  I have no doubt the boots as well as the entire package will only get better with use.

  
Hardest thing I did yesterday was getting a shot of the "DPS" logo in 3' of new snow :)

And having to leave Marley in the truck :(


From an up coming full review and comparison at http://blistergearreview.com/

"2011-2012 DPS Lotus 138, Pure, 192cm

Not so long ago, DPS was the new kid on the block, and the Lotus 138 was one of the freshest innovations in the world of powder skiing.

Now, the Lotus 138 is more like the grandfather of modern design. It’s been around for a while, and while DPS has continued to tweak the construction materials, sidecut profiles, and amount of splay, the ski maintains its unmistakable, iconic look.

For their 2012-2013 model, however, DPS completely rethought the Lotus 138 from the ground up, regarded nothing as sacred about its design, and after major deliberation…decided just to throw a snowflake on the top sheet.

So what’s the takeaway here? DPS believes that the Lotus 138 is dialed."

As do I.  Nice work DPS!

Post script:


                                         A happy DPS customer
                          photo courtesy of Sting @ http://thesnowtroopers.com/

I was able to ski another 3 foot of fresh snow today (three days after the original post) as the temps were  warming up.  So much of what I got was true Cascade Cement.  Short of pure hard pack the 138's are still a tool to be played with.  Even the hard pack was interesting but I wouldn't want to do a lot of it.  I keep hearing how hard these fat rockered skis are to manage.  I haven't found that to be the case.  I was even able to make some good turns in deep untracked heavy snow on a side hill.  Yes a side hill off camber slope.  I would have never tried that on a lesser ski.  Unheard of previous at my skill level.  Any little pocket or hidden stash of fluff I could find got shredded.

Not the best conditions for the 138s later in the day.  But where they were good they were exceptional.   Given a choice I would have switch out to a skinnier ski late in the day today.  The Hi5 would have been my preferred weapon for what was left of the mank.   Sting from Snowtroopers was on a pair of Hi5s today btw.   But don't let that scare you away from the 138s if you are lucky enough to live in an area that gets the big dumps like we do. 

I have a good sized quiver to pick from and the Lotus 138s are my all time favorite skis for big loads of fresh.



My Lotus 138 track.


Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Biodegradable wool?

As often as I tend to wash my base layers I have yet to decide if this is a good thing or not :)    Interesting none the less!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Double Boot Resource Info




I have distinct opinions on the use of double boots in cold weather and winter climbing.  But this winter with even more of a chance of a cold injury myself I am beginning to wonder if there aren't more factors involved that keep your feet warm and in good shape than I had previously suspected.

I'll get to that theory in an upcoming blog.  For now I'll stick to what I do know about in cold weather climbing.  Think multiple days out in winter in the Rockies or Alps, high on Denali or early spring in the Ruth Gorge.  Places that most experienced climbers will prefer a double boot.

To that end I wanted to give some more details so it is easier to make a good choice on your own foot wear and may be give you some options you might not been aware of previously.

Here is a quick review of most of the plastic versions:

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2011/09/double-boots.html

The other boots I mention, Baruntes, Spantik, and Phantom 6000 can be found by a search here or google by a "cold thistle spantik" search for example.  Just add the model you want more info on in place of "Spantik".  The Oly Mons info while new is long over due here.

All that info can now be found by a simple search.

Boots.. one boot .. (size 45)

Two of the lightest boots available and suitable for winter mountaineering in milder conditions:

La Sportiva Trango Evo Extreme GTX 2#3oz (35oz) / 992g
Scarpa Phantom Ultra new 2010 model 2#3.5oz (35.5oz) / 1006g

Both of these "1000g"  boots are a real pleasure to climb in because of their over all weight and sensitivity while climbing on steep ice or rock.

The lightest plastic double boot is a Scarpa Omega.  Which is lighter than many of the current state of the art single boots.

Omega 1110g or 39 oz. total 2# 7 oz
Omega's Intuition inner boot 140g



La Sportiva Batura 1st gen. 2#7oz / 1106g

La Sportiva Batura 2nd gen. 2#9oz / 1170g
La Sportiva Batura 2, 3rd gen 2#3oz /1000g
Scarpa Phantom Guide new 2010 model 2#7.5oz / 1120g



There are really only 4 boots that I recommend for really cold climbing.  La Sportiva dominates this catagory for good reason, it offers three great boots with differing and distinct features.  But no matter how good the boots are if they don't fit you well, stop, drop the boot and move on.  I use a Baruntse inner boot that has been heat molded to my feet in the Baruntse, Spantik and Oly Mons.  I've tried to do the same with a Intuition Denali liner with less successful results. The intuition liner stiffens the ankle flex in all the boots more than I would like and is a true VBL.  YMMV but you need to know there are options to the original inner boots.  I like the custom fit, added warmth and easy lacing system of the Baruntse linner.  But just as important is the over all weight.


In the upper Midi station 


The size 45 La Sportiva Spantik with a Baruntse liner comes in at 2# 12oz / 1247g.  In that form the Spantik is a warmer boot with more support than the Scarpa 6000 with only a 2oz total weight penalty per boot.  4oz per pair in a 45 or 2oz per boot.


On the Montenver's train

The Scarpa Phantom 6000 was new in 2010. A full dbl boot with intergal gaiter @ 1190g / 2# 10oz is the over all winner in the weight catagory.  It equals the Spantik and Baruntse in warmth right out of the box.  Only the "custom" Spantik with a Baruntse liner  is warmer as a technical boot of similar volume imo

The advantage to the 6000 at that point?  The 6000 is slightly more flexible in the sole and ankle and the 6000's integral gaiter is always a benefit in cold snowy weather.  And it is still the lightest of the "very warm doubles" but still not at the weight of the Scarpa Omega.  Missing by 6oz per pair in a size 45.  But the 6000 (or any of the better doubles) is a gazzillion times easier to lace up!

more here:
http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2010/08/its-back-scarpa-6000-dbl-boot-and-2.html

1/2 dozen of one 6 or the other between the two.  I like the extra support and volume of the Spantik a majority of time when I need that warm of boot.  But I have the option of the Baruntse liner to keep the weight down as well. 


Oly Mons 3# 5oz / 1500g
Oly Mons w/Baruntse liner 3# 1oz / 1390
La Sportiva Spantik 3#.05oz / 1362g
La Sportiva Spantik with a Baruntse liner 2# 12oz / 1247g
Scarpa Phantom 6000 with intergal gaiter @  2# 10oz / 1190g
La Sportiva Baruntse 3#2.5oz / 1503g
La Sportiva Baruntse w/inner and lwt sole 2# 15.5oz


More here on how to slightly improve the Baruntse:
http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2010/05/la-sportiva-baruntse-revisted.html

The Baruntse geenrally gets short shrift when the discussion gets to the best doubles.  I noticed recently a interesting article on Alaskan climbing, where the author noted the use of full down suits on Denali and no mention of the Baruntse...just the 6000 and the Spantik.  Seems to be the only quality double boots the author was aware of.  Down suits on the other hand haven't been used on Denali  by anyone able to buy a clue in a long while :)

Denali is cold in early May but not that cold!












Friday, March 9, 2012

Another look at Grivel and the G20

Dave did a good review of the G20 here earlier:

http://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2011/11/grivels-g20-monopoint.html

Dave's original crampons ended up at the factory after a more than "full use" imo and were replaced free of charge.  Although I would have assumed by the condition and the climbs they had been up that Dave had simply worn the G20s out.  In other words I was surprised they gave him a new pair to replace the is shattered pair. Nothing lasts forever at the high end of this sport.  Although Dave's G20s were certainly trying!

Dave's original crampon is on top here.  Grivel didn't simply dismiss the failure of  what I figured was simply a worn out crampon but spent some time, energy and money to find out why the connecting bar eventually failed and how to fix the problem so it would never happen again.  Now you get both styles of bars with your G20 or G22.

Contrast that to a year long debacle of broken crampons over at BD. Grivel not only recognised there was a problem but engineered a fix in less than 5 months.   Something to think about next time you need new gear.   I know it turns my head.   Click on both pictures to get a better idea of what went into the full story here.



Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Eddie Bauer BC MicroTherm Down Jacket

BC Micro Therm Down Jacket with a Patagonia Knifeblade soft shell and R1 under it @ -18C, Canada Rockies.

If you look at Eddie Bauer's advertising the First Ascent Hyalite Jacket gets some serious play as THE technical "climbing jacket" in their speciality line. On the other hand I couldn't wait to get rid of mine and exchange it for something I might actually use skiing and as a second thought climbing.   No stretch that I could discern in the FA Hyalite compared to a Gamma MX for example and no warmer.   I have any number of state of the art garments with synthetic and down insulation to chose from.   Getting me into an unproven garment to ice climb in is difficult.  Getting me into one made of down is even more difficult.

Adding a water proof and breathable shell to a  light weight down insulated piece makes a lot of sense.  Even more so if you value light weight warmth over the ability to get it dried out and usable again if you are going to be working hard in the same jacket.

I climbed some in Hyalite Canyon using a Patagonia Down full zip Hooded Sweater last winter and loved it right up till it really started snowing hard and I was breaking trail in 4 feet of snow.  I stayed warm but the jacket got wet and lost a lot of its insulation.  Lesson relearned for the umpteenth time.

I am not a sweat hog.  I don't sweat any more or any less than the rest of my climbing partners generally.   My adventures are best equipped with very breathable and really light weight upper body clothing for walking into winter climbs.  Being able to change out to at least a dry top and then layer up for the climbing in generally mandatory if I want to be comfortable.  The last layer will seldom get worn  but is generally some sort of "belay jacket".  It's warmth will depend on the temps and moisture involved.

Our last trip to Canada I reverted from my tried and true climbing garment combos and went backwards in some sense to the more durable "soft shell" uppers as an action suit top over and R1 or a Merino wool version of the same hoody and the required "belay jacket"  over all of it to keep me warm once I stopped.

The combo is really a little heavier than it needs to be.  But it is a well proven combo and is only three layers.

This trip one of the jackets I use exclusively for belay duty and climbing while cold was the BC Micro Therm.  I even used it on a couple of short approaches just to see how wet I could get it and still dry it out why climbing.  Much to my surprise I even liked climbing technical ground in the Micro Therm when I was pretty chilled.

The hood was one reason.  Its pattern is intentionally cut pretty big and easily fits over my helmet choices.  The other is the sleeve size/length and being able to pull the Velcro cuff tabs and pull the jacket sleeves up past my elbows. 




Not something that I could ever do previous to the chemo diet.  But the sleeves fit a lot better (bigger)  now and allow one to vent some serious heat if you can pull up the sleeves in your size.  The other feature I really like is both side pockets are vertical vents straight to the body's core.  Unzip the pockets...from the top or the bottom and you can work pretty hard in this jacket and still not over heat.  I really like the simple design features and how well they work.  Make sure you aren't going to dump your pocket contents though!

As far as I can tell the shell material, which is  water proof and breathable 2-LAYER SHELL called
WeatherEdge® Pro, 1.7 oz 12-denier fabric with StormRepel® DWR finish; rated to 20K/20K" really is water proof.  And no question it breathes very well from my testing as I could always get the down dried out on the belays from my own body heat.  The long sleeves, the hood and the pocket vents are easy to notice in use.  It is a very good mid weigh piece of insulation and physically lwt weight belay jacket.  My XL weighs in at 1# 5 oz.   May be even a better cold weather ski jacket on the lifts or side country compared to many others jackets available and easily the best of the EB ski specific jackets imo.

It also comes in a women's specific version which I hear gets high ranks on fit and warmth as well.
No question the women's colors options are better!

Here is more of the EB spiel:

WATERPROOF/BREATHABLE 2-LAYER SHELL

WeatherEdge® Pro, 1.7 oz 12-denier fabric with StormRepel® DWR finish; rated to 20K/20K

800 FILL PREMIUM EUROPEAN GOOSE DOWN
Down-packed micro-baffles keep you warm with minimal weight and bulk

DUAL-FUNCTION CHEST POCKETS
Provide storage and double as heat-dumping core vents

INTEGRATED HOOD
Fits easily over a ski or climbing helmet

WEATHER-SEALED ZIPPERS AND CORDED PULLS
Eliminate need for flaps; more durable, slide more smoothly and make it easier to grab with gloves on

ERGONOMIC POCKETS AND ARTICULATED ELBOWS
Harness and pack compatible; facilitate easy movement

LOW-PROFILE CUFFS AND 1 INCH LONGER
Adjust for snug fit; provides more coverage to keep you warmer

SIZED A BIT MORE GENEROUSLY
Looser fit provides more room for layering; works for a wider range of body types

CARE INSTRUCTIONS
Machine wash
100% nylon waterproof/breathable 20K/20K shell; 800-fill down insulation
Center back length: Reg. 29 1/2", Tall 31 1/2"
Weight: 1 lb., 3.54 oz.  (1 lb., 5oz. or 595g  and 2.5" of loft for my XL)


Louise Falls photo courtesy of  http://www.rafalandronowski.com/


After all I have a closet full of "real" mid weight climbing specific jackets.  This one is a good fine to add to that list.  A decent price (on sale) for a water proof and lightly insulated down jacket.  One that I have used a good bit now and will again.

EB sez:

"Combining the microchannel construction of the MicroTherm™ Down Shirt into the lining of this fully waterproof and breathable shell rated to 20K/20K, we’ve built a warm, insulated jacket that is lighter than many non-insulated shells on the market. This jacket is built to be the minimalist, lightweight piece that our First Ascent guide team requires in the most challenging environments where every ounce counts. Highly packable. Two large cross-body vents double as pockets. Harness friendly design. Now one inch longer and sized a bit larger through the torso to provide more room for layering and fit more body types. Across the board, this piece was the alpine guides’ personal favorite, hands down."

http://www.skinet.com/skiing/photo-gallery/shell-games

http://www.eddiebauer.com/catalog/product.jsp?ensembleId=40146&oessoa=6046151&cm_mmc=CSE-_-Google%20Product%20Search-_-First%20Ascent%7CMen%27s%20First%20Ascent%20Jackets_and_Vests-_-1020706&CAWELAID=941026515


The video covers it all again:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

More on mid weight down jackets comparisons and a surprise


I spend a lot of time looking at and testing gear obviously.  How much time I spend doing testing verses actually just using the gear is dependant on how much I like it.  If I like the gear I do a quick review and then use it and forget about it.  My perfect piece of gear is one I never notice while it is being used.

If I get confused on gear, and I do, I am amazed that other consumers actually get what they what from all the gear that is available.

Here is a classic example from Greg at Gear30, another blogger @

http://gearthirty.blogspot.com/

A comment Greg left here on the blog which opened my eyes a bit on RAB gear,
"Rab Jannu would be more in the Peak XV, Trollveggen range (30-35oz overall weight, baffled, etc). Neutrino Endurance is sewn-through, Neutrino Plus is baffled, two different jackets. Neutrino Endurance is about the same weight (22oz) as Lyngen, 29" back length (almost same as Lyngen), almost identical jackets.

All I meant by different applications was that I would take the Neutrino or Lyngen on a colder, longer trip than the infinity because there's more coverage. I'd take infinity when less weight and smaller pack is the priority."

And a current review

http://gearthirty.blogspot.com/2012/03/mountain-hardwear-nilas-jacket-review.html            

I get confused as I said.  So do others.   It is too easy and none of us agree all the time.   For down jackets I have here a Eddie Bauer Peak XV and BC Micro Therm, a Narrona Trollveggan and Lyngen, Rab Neutrino Plus Jacket and Infinity.  BC Micro Therm is in the next review.

                                             weight              insulation             construction
                                              XL                  at the shoulder       box wall/sewn through

Eddie Bauer Peak XV          1091g/ 38.5               5"                    box
Narrona Trollveggan            1063g/ 37.5               3"                    box
Rab Neutrino Plus                794g/ 28                    5"                    box
Arcteryx Duelly                    794g/28                    2.5"                  non laminated syn
Narrona Lyngen                   737g/ 26                    3"                    sewn + layer
Mont Bell   PermaFrost        694g/24.5                 4.5"                  box   
Rab Neutrino Endurance      650g/ 22.9                 3"                    sewn
Mtn H Nilas                          652g/ 23                   3.5"                  box/sewn thru arms
EB BC Micro Therm            590g/ 21                   2.5"                  sewn + layer
Mont Bell Mirage                 420g/ 14.7                3.5"                  box
Rab Infinity                          402g/ 14                   3"                     sewn




There is a sweet spot between design, use and weight.  Hard to define what will work best for you.  But for my own use generally the warmth to weight ration will cut through all the fog.  What works best for me has little to do with the quality of these jackets.  All are high quality, state of the art, down jackets.  Any one of them  will keep you warm on most occasions.  Each has a forte' and specific use worth searching for if you want to spend your money wisely.  Without having all these jackets at hand in front of me there is no way I could have made a educated decision on what was best for my own use.  And I continued to be surprised almost every time I start making these kinds of comparisons. 

Between the fully baffled Eddie Bauer Peak XV and the sew through Rab Infinity there is a lot of leeway, weight and warmth.

I had expected the Lyngen Trollveggan to be one of the ultimate down garments.  The Lyngen certainly is.

"Bjørn-Eivind Årtun soloing high on the Cassin in 2010, wearing a Norrona Trollveggen.  Colin Haley photo.

The Trollveggen had a distinct lack of loft compared to other jackets of similar weight.  It  was disappointing. As was the over all weight.   I actually left this one to air out for a week and ran it through the drier a bit to make sure I wasn't missing something on the down's loft.  I wasn't.


The Eddie Bauer Peak XV, Narrona Lyngen, Rab Infinity I've all reviewed in depth previous.  Some more than once.  A quick search here will dig those up.

On the Trollveggen I won't belabor the point.  I don't do written  reviews of gear I don't recommend.  Sadly I'll leave it at that and the numbers posted above.

In my last comparison the Narrona Lyngen came out ahead of the Rab Infinity.  But it was close.   Easy to have a preference for either depending on your priorities.  In this comparison the Trollveggen wasn't even in the same ball game as the excellent RAB  Neutrino Plus.  The Peak XV is.  But if forced to choose I'd take the Neutrino Plus over the Peak XV.   The loft and warmth are similar...the weigh isn't.
The RAB will save you 10.5 oz.  And that is enough to notice in a big down jacket.  And I like the RAB's fit better for technical climbing

I'll admit it.  In just a week this is now my favorite down jacket.  I've spent a good bit of the week's time in this jacket.  And like it more every day.  A number of reasons for that so please bare with me while I explain.  Because I feel like I am cheating on my previous favorite the Narrona Lyngen.   Make no mistake the Lyngen is still also a very nice down jacket.



Two pictures above are the Neutrino with and w/o helmet


These two are of the Lyngen with and w/o helmet



But it is hard to argue 5" of loft.  2 more full inches of loft than the Lyngen. And most importantly the  Neutrino Plus is not sewn through but fully baffled.  The hood is better on the Lyngen and the addition of the Primaloft in all the right places is a minor plus.  There are few, if any, better climbing hoods, than the Lyngen if you want to use a helmet.  The extra loft @ a full 5" is noticable when you are using the RAB as part of your sleeping system

You might sleep with the hood up but with big down jackets you don't always need or want a helmet.   What you'll always want when you pull one of these out of your pack is warmth.  One observation I had written previous is that true cold weather down climbing jackets were historically fully baffled.  That hasn't changed.  But true down "technical climbing" jackets are hard to fine in my experience these days.  Not all, but some of the best are listed in this blog post.


the Lyngen's hood actually being used at a belay

There are some exceptional sewn through down jackets mentioned here but given a choice I'd really rather have a fully baffled jacket.  Simple reason...they will always be warmer.
             
When a fully baffled jacket weighs in at the sewn through jacket's numbers or close we have a winner.

XL Narrona Lyngen  737g  or 26 oz

XL Rab Neutrino Plus  794g  or 28oz

The Neutrino Plus also has a 30" back measurement in a XL.   2" more than the Noronna all around.  It's hood doesn't fit a helmet as well but it does fit a helmet well enough.  But it also has a stand up collar that includes the hood with a velcro "latch".  The "latch" allows one to climb in the jacket with the hood buried and free of snow when it is not up.

Add articulated sleeves/elbows to that list and the Velcro and elastic wrist closures which work extremely well.  All in all you have a very sophisticated jacket from RAB here.  One that oozes warmth and comfort.  When wearing the Neutrino Plus all that is actually noticable.  I kid you not it surprises me just rotating jackets the obvious differences.



I love hoods for their added warmth and the little weight involved.  But I almost never climb in one.  Generally it is a hood up in belay mode and hood down, "I'm climbing!".   On big, cold routes where I might be climbing in a down jacket for a length of time on moderate ground I'd simply tuck the hood and latch the Velcro tab on the Neutrino Plus when the weather was dismal.  Easy enough to do and the jacket will stay drier for when you really need that hood.



the "latched hood" option which I like very much

the result is a huge stand up collar that offers a lot of protection and little chance of catching snow






The front and side zippers are all water resistant YKK.  Not the easiest zippers to manipulate but certainly more weather proof than some available.

The "hard warmer" pockets are interesting in that they have no internal insulation.  Smart design really as the pockets put your hand or gear directly against a single layer of nylon on the inside of the jacket, close to your body's heat.  All that makes the jacket more trim and less bulky around the harness/waist area.  And easier to dry out if required.   I like the design effort.

The shell is made of the very water-resistant Pertex Endurance fabric.   The fabric is almost waterproof.  Pertex Endurance is a reasonably breathable fabric, breathing nearly as well as popular waterproof-breathable fabrics with laminates, membranes, or microporous coatings.


RAB sez:

30D triple rip stop Pertex® Endurance

275g (L) of 800 fill power superior quality European goose down
Box wall construction
Long torso for better core-body insulation
Helmet compatible fixed hood, with wired peak and velcro tab adjustment
2 hand warmer pockets with YKK water resistant zips
1 internal mesh pocket, 1 internal zip pocket
2-way, water resistant YKK front zip and internal insulated zip baffle
Articulated elbows
Laminated velcro cuff tabs, and hem drawcord
Supplied with stuff sac

This video below is worth watching and likely better than my write up but doesn't really tell you just how good the Rab Neutrino Plus really is.  I like it enough to even keep the only XL I could get a hold of which was in the dark blue "Marin" color.   

Easy to find on sale currently and worth hunting down imo.



More on another RAB jacket the Neutrino Endurance, from my buddy in Chamonix, Dave Searle, as he gets back to it after a broken knee earlier this winter.


Neutrino Endurance is sew through and  about the same weight as Lyngen and the 29" back length (almost same as Lyngen) makes for a very similar jacket in many ways.  But the Lyngen is much higher tech in construction and the pattern cut.  You'll also want to dbl click the picture above for full effect :)







Rab Neutrino Endurance?
by Dave Searle
http://davesearle.me/

With a baffling array of different down belay jackets on the market it can be difficult to know what to go for. You could spend hours deliberating between pack size, weight, length, features, fill power, down quality or even colour……or you could buy a Rab Neutrino Endurance and get on with the important stuff.

The most popular down jacket in the world is the North Face Nuptse Jacket. A classic piece of kit
adored but the masses for its clean lines and high fashion appeal. This jacket is however as about as useful to a technical ice or mixed climber as a walking axe on a M6 and has no place in this article or even on this site.

The second most popular down jacket (I am talking on British shores) is the Rab Neutrino Endurance. This is bought and used by everyone who knows that a North Face Nupste is better suited to the Pub Crawl than the Cold Haul. Simple, clean, effective. Nothing much has changed on the Neutrino Endurance since its debut nearly a decade ago which is a very good example of……

"if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

If I had it my way I would change one thing about it. I would add a lightweight mesh pocket on the inside for gloves and gas canisters.  That’s it.

I’ve had mine for a few months now and it’s had a pretty boring life so far. My circumstances have dictated more Pub crawling than cold hauling but despite this my Neutrino Endurance still got out and about with me dog walking and the such. I’ve worn it in the traditional UK weather of “light rain, light wind, sort of cold….. but not really” I was impressed with its ability to stand up to a light shower which bodes well for Ice Climbing on the slightly warmer, “drippy” days.

The first week I was back in Chamonix after two months in the UK I was greeted with -20C temps. At
these sort of temperatures my mind and body start to shut down and I was more than grateful for my Rab NE on those long waits for the bus in Cham or the 500m dash to the next drinking establishment.  Without it I probably would have died of exposure on numerous occasions but thankfully 225g of 800Eu fill down staved off any such tragedy. If it was any colder I would have needed something
more but for most of the temperatures that are encountered out here I think this jacket is pretty spot on for warmth.   I like the cuffs, they work brilliantly for sealing in the warmth and I like the design of the hood too which is slightly on the small side for going over a helmet, but only slightly. "

There is a trend here..might pay to take note of it :)

weight for a Large is: 625g (22oz)


RAB sez:

◦30 Denier large ripstop Pertex® Endurance, soft Pertex® Quantum inner
◦225g (L) of 800 fill power superior quality European goose down
◦Stitch-through baffle construction
◦Fixed down filled hood with wired peak
◦2 hand warmer pockets with YKK water resistant zips
◦1 internal security pocket
◦2-way water resistant YKK front zip and internal down-filled zip baffle
◦Adjustable velcro cuffs and hem drawcord
◦Supplied with stuff sac
◦Medium cut