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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Nice ice!


The Weight On Your Feet


TLT 5 Performance 1050g

carbon Dy.N.A. Evo 685g
Above are the Dynafit Dy.N.A. Evo and TLT 5 Performance boots tested in Eric's repost below.  

The guest author of this blog is Eric Carter.   Eric was part of the team to set a new C2C record on Rainier this week.  Check out the comments here and the entire teams blogging efforts in previous posts.

Eric and I had several short conversations this winter then I lost track of him.  Life got in the way this Spring.  But I had intended to republish this article after Vertfest.

Eric is as he describes it, "as a science nerd I don't have a whole lot of faith in single data points".  He is also the Head Coach – University of British Columbia Varsity Nordic Ski Team.

I wrote this back in 2010.  That post references some of the back ground Eric based his assumption on.  The original military sponsored study of a 7 :1 ration of weight on your feet to weight on your back.

Much of this blog's content has been driven by my large size 46/12 feet that I had as a 12 year old kid.  The size and the fact that I have always had a problem with cold feet has driven me to  look and look again at my own foot wear.  Intentionally adding 3 full pounds to my footwear earlier in the week brought this conversation back to the top of my slightly addled brain.  Thanks Eric for allowing me to repost this.  It is good data to add to our base of info.

Gear- Foot Weight

by Eric Carter 
The ISMF had an interesting statistic in their Skimo World Championships Preview document released earlier this season. They claim 1 gram lost from feet is like losing 7 from the pack in terms of energy cost. I can’t find any data to support this but do have some thoughts as I try to cut my foot weight.
A recent study by researchers in Colorado examined the energy cost of barefoot vs. shod running. They calculated a 1% increase in VO2 per 100g weight per foot. With an approx. 540g decrease in weight per foot I should expect my VO2 to be 5.4% lower at a given speed. That's not huge but definitely a significant improvement. Cadence will also have an effect on this; as cadence increase, the cost to move the weight will go up as shown by the scientists at the Army’s environmental and exercise research lab – USARIEM.
Dynafit’s top of the line skimo race boot is the Dy.N.A. Evo. With a carbon fiber cuff and a Grilamid shell the Evo is exceptionally light. In weight, think of it more in terms with a nordic ski boot rather than an alpine boot. A rather unscientific analysis of some race and interval data does a good job of illustrating just how light it is.
The figure below has HR on the x-axis and vertical speed on the y-axis. Blue circles are climbs with the TLT5 boots and red squares are climbs with the Evo boots (both using Dynafit PDG skis). Each has a trendline to show the average. (TLT data are from the races in Jackson Wy earlier this season and a more recent interval workout. Evo data are from Vertfest climbs and an interval workout)

While other factors definitely affect this relationship (skins, snow conditions, fitness, other racers, track angle, etc…), there is clearly a trend. For any given HR, I am climbing significantly faster wearing the Evos. At a vertical speed of 16m/min for example, with the TLTs my HR would be around 180. With the Evos at the same speed, HR is around 145.
Now that I am running more efficiently, not working as hard on climbs, the logical next step is to climb faster maintaining the same high heart rate with an even higher speed. I have found this difficult however. Technical skinning does require skill and leg strength and while I am working less hard, I find it hard to increase my speed without slipping. I also find it hard to maintain the necessary cadence at increased speeds. I am hoping that slightly easier angled skin tracks will make the next few races more to my suiting than the steep mogul climbs from the last few races.
An interesting research project would be to examine the effects of foot weight at different cadence and track angles found in skimo racing.

Eric's blog and his contact info can be found here:

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

The Flow?

"Want to be truly happy? Submerse yourself in something. Anything. As it turns out, we are happiest when we are focused. In the zone, going with the flow, in the moment, call it what you will. But when you are so focused that nothing else can intrude, then you find happiness.

It’s that simple."

And I might agree.  Miles of easy turns in perfect spring snow reminded me of that yesterday.

More below in the link from an interesting and unexpected blog I found today working on another project.  Still not sure how I ended up there.  But hopefully you'll find it as interesting as I did.    Enjoy!

Dynafit Huascaran Ski.....take 2


Ya, after my exposure to Jason and Eric, back to my reality now :-)

Funny how I can write a blog and have all these great ideas in my head about training and nutrition.  And weigh out my gear to the gram.  Then on a 2am start at the last moment ditch the plan (THE PLAN) and grab totally different gear for a specific reason.    Which may or may not be even remotely reasonable.  I never do that climbing.

Classic example of that this morning.  We took Sunday off to get some rest and prepare for a ski on Rainier. At the last moment I intentionally and mindlessly grabbed my 177cm Huascaran instead of my 168cm GTR La Sportiva.   Which added 3+ pounds to my kit.  Instead of my typical 1 liter bladder I grabbed a full 100 fluid oz or 3 liters of water.  6.6 pounds of water weight instead of 2.2 pounds.    Up 7.4 pounds before I even left the house!

How to plan defeat?  Jerry and I were both tired.  Him from driving 10 hrs and a day of skiing in trying conditions.  Me?  From a late night social dinner and not enough sleep.  Few ever call me social.

The last time I had skied the Nisqually chutes the one thing that kept popping into my mind was how bad the snow was (it had been exceptionally warm that day) and how good the skiing might have been on a fat ski.  When we left the house late for the two hour drive and then missed a crucial turn and added another 45 minutes I didn't care about what skis I'd picked up or the additional water.

When Eric, Stano and Nick blew by me on the Muir snowfield I was feeling like a dolt. (see )   I could hear their skins ripping off the skin tracks from a long ways down the mtn.  I'd just stopped for a bite to eat to cheer myself up.  Jerry a full 30 minutes ahead of me by now.

I had promised myself not to rethink the extra liters of water or the fat skis for this trip.  "Make a choice and live with it" was to be my motto that day.  My mind kept returning to this picture on the Muir snowfield a month ago.

A short day trip where I not only caught everyone I saw on ski or on foot but passed them all with little fan fare and no extra effort.  Something that literally never happens to me these days.  I was pretty stoked.  But Marker Dukes, downhill boots, long fat ski, big packs by comparison and a helmet didn't make passing them all much of a challenge either.

Yesterday I was all too aware, I was seemingly "them".  And while happy to be out.......I know the difference between "us" and "them".  And it aint the Lycra.  My "skinny" skis and boots were a big part of the fun previous.  Stripped to long johns and a minuscule race pack helped.   And the gear isn't even "light" versions oif the skis or boots by comparison to what is easily available.  I have never been disappointed in the light choice of gear in the mountains.

Ok, that said how were the Huascarans skiing down from Muir yesterday?  Well we abandoned the summit attempt after being totally demoralised in no small part by the Canadians running by and the lack of motivation earlier in the morning.

This is how I found Jerry @ Muir ;-)   Wrapped snugly in his Mont Bell Mirage jacket (review coming soon) and his favorite Patagonia Mixed Guide pant, sound asleep on his skis.  "I told you I was tired".  Unusual for Jerry as he's been the energizer bunny for the 40+ years I've skied and climbed with him.

Our fate now sealed, thankfully as Jerry naps ;)

Despite what Eric said in his blog about their speed ascent, "It was warm and windless so light gloves and race suit were hot!"  more here:

After a quick food and water break I found the Muir snow field both a little chilly and breezy just after sunrise just below where Eric and crew skinned past.  Hood up and puffy on.  The difference in effort involved obviously.   Jerry and I both had warm gloves and puffies on for the first part of our ski decent from Muir.

But as I said Jerry is usually full of energy.  So we aint waiting long for softer snow.  I'm game!  I brought full on "mountain" skis, and my TLT Performance boots, tongue and my innovative power strap add on to solve any skiing problem I might have imagined from the summit.  The upper hard pack and the Nisqually chutes are going to be kid's play after the GTRs in the wind crust and slush of the last time out here.

For those interested I'm using Voile straps for the TLTs in either version.  Makes the boot skin easier without the bolted on version and easy to add or remove.  I also like the progressive support they add differing from a typical Velcro power strap.  

Jerry was in a pair of TLT Mountain (no tongue or power strap) and short (166) Kilowats.  Jerry is likely capable of skiing any terrian, on any gear.  When we first met he was on 220s and a PSIA instructor.  He's 5' 9" and 150# on a good day and skiing prior to kindergarten.  Now he patrols in Montana after his last decade old gig as a full cert race coach.  I always believe I know how to ski,  until I ski with JJ again.

Jerry dropping off the Muir Snowfield yesterday

So the upper Muir snow field was some pretty hard snow.  If it were at a ski area it would no doubt simply be called ICE.   We skied it anyway.  Not a edge mark to show our passing for the first 2000'.  Hard and almost baby ass smooth terrain.  Fun skiing.  Sort of.   Jerry's feet and my knees were taking a beating from the hard conditions.  For the first time ever, I admit we are well worn.   Hard snow on fat skis and soft boots will do that.  And I had the advantage in every way with the Huascarans and carbon cuffed boots here. (tongue and power strap in place)

We took a short break to see if the sun would soften the snow enough to be really pleasurable.  Because it was pretty good skiing even being that hard.  30 minutes and things were starting to rock.  The right aspect and my Huascarans were cutting a razor's edge on the snow surface.  Just barely noticeable.  We both were getting huge grins and admiring the grand scale of the terrain on the mountain.

Note the distinct lack of Jerry's ski track in the dragon skin.  The tracks that do show are from the previous day's much  warmer snow conditions.

Yes, "GRAND", would be a good descriptor here!

So the Huascarans had skied a couple thousand feet of ice and now we are switching to some amazing corn snow for another 3000' and we'll end in 1000 vert feet of wet snow, almost slush.  Not terribly bad conditions any where and something any ski can handle easy enough.  But few skis will give you the kind of pleasure a mid fat, 113mm under foot,  rockered tip and a shaped pin tail will with a decent side cut, in ANY snow condition.  I have 3 such skis in my quiver.  All coming in at progressively more weight.  All of them amazing skis.  But only the Huascaran am I willing to pack up to Camp Muir or the summit of Rainier.  Because at least for me it is never "all about the down".   A quick (for me) three hour hike to Muir gets you a casually paced ski to the Nisqually bridge in 2 hours, even if some boulder hiking is thrown in.

The bridge just 10 minutes away

I had promised myself early on yesterday to "make a choice and live with it".   There wasn't a single turn I made yesterday (and I made a lot of them) except that missed turn on the drive over where I regretted my choice in skis.  I savored every single one of those turns.  I earned them after all.

The extra 2.5 liters of water?   I gave that away at Camp Muir to some needy climbers suffering through a bad night.

Jerry was gone 30 minutes hitching a ride and fetching the truck.  I took a nap in the bright sunshine .  "I told you I was tired".  Falling asleep staring at our route off the mountain and thinking just how much fun I had just had.....much of it due to my choice of boots and the Huascarans.  As I dosed off  I promised myself to take a few lessons and learn to ski more like Jerry for next year.  And rethink how much water I really need to carry  ;-)
Better to think  of your own efforts along the lines of Stano, Nick and Eric than "them other guys"  You'll likely enjoy the outdoors more more.
For anyone interested in my previous thoughts on the Dynafit Huascaran look here:

I have yet to do a proper review of this ski.  I have the 177cm that I've talked about a couple of times now.  I was so impressed with the 177s I bought a pair of  196cm Huascaran's as well.  This review turned into a short story of our day out as much as it did a review of the Huascaran.  I can't say enough good things about this ski.  But I'll try again in a proper review of both the 177cm and the 196cm version shortly.  Bottom line imo?  I own four really, really good, mid fat, 115+/-mm under foot skis.  The Huascaran is the lightest version.  If weight is important to you buy a pair of Huascarans on sale this summer and get ready to rip next winter! 

Trevor seems to agree.  And he actually does RIP!


Monday, May 20, 2013

New speed ski record on Rainier!

Eric on his way to get some from the Muir snowfield.

Eric Carter Stano Faban and Nick Elson all from Vancouver BC currently,  did the throw down this morning on Rainier.  *Edit* A time of 4:19:12 on DC!  C2C @ Paradise.  The full  details and the pictures below came from  from Eric's web site this morning.

Check out Stano's web site now as well as his TR is up.

photos courtesy of Eric's write up and web site this morning

Hopefully their own web site write ups will clarify the actual details of their ascent.  I saw literally only a few seconds of them coming and going.  Of all the races I have been in or witnessed only the  professional peloton going by is anything I have to compare.  And it was only three guys!   In person they were all very casual about the whole thing.  I course I had to bring up the SLC pace as a comparison.  They wouldn't have, while knowing it to the second.

We could hear their skins coming from a few hundred yards away on the perfect snow conditions as they literally blew past us.  And Nick not even in Lycra or fully race kitted out for the style bonus points of the day ;-)  Very fun for me to see it all unfold as they went up and then came ripping down.

Eric and Nick making it hard for me to even get a picture!

Dbl click on this one.  Left to right, Stano , Eric and Nick 10 minutes or less from Muir.....and another hour for me!

Congrads guys!  That is smokin!  

Hello?  Is this SLC?  Mr. Dorias please?  Either is fine, thank you.  Hello? Hello!  :-)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

La Sportiva GTR and the Dynafit Broad Peak

Skimo or "Edged Alpinism" gear?

For many who enjoy ski mountaineering and are concerned about performance verses weight the Dynafit Broad Peak ski is a known quantity.

Nate covers the high points well here:

Total review at Wild Snow:
"Dynafit’s other new ski, the Broad Peak (112/74/96 in 167 cm), is Stoke’s opposite. Built for edge hold when you encounter conditions such as white ice during ski descents of big peaks, the ski is still said to handle varied conditions, as a board of this sort would have to.  My take is that the Broad Peak is a quiver ski. You’d own it if you want something that’ll help you survive steep icy terrain you might encounter during spring ski descents and that sort of thing — or if you’re heading out for a quick blast up and down Broad Peak before your morning espresso."

Broad Peak Spec sheet:

Dimensions:112 / 74 / 96 mm
Turn Radius:(dual radius) [167cm] 17.7 / 17.1m
Profile:traditional camber
Core:paulownia, beech and bamboo stringers, carbon reinforcement
Base:sintered graphite
weight per pair  
1142g/ 5lb
Weight *per ski* with a Dynafit Low Tech Race (Ti heel spring) 1300g/ 2# 13.5oz
the pair with bindings = 5# 12oz

The La Sportiva GTR Spec sheet:

Size(cm):   168cm
Radius(m):   22
Dimensions:114 / 82 / 104 mm

Camber(mm):        7

Tip Rocker(mm):   192

Weight(g): 1230g per ski (verified)

3lb 1oz per ski with TRAB low tech race binding, (steel heel spring)

Weight *per ski* with a TRAB low tech race (steel heel spring) 1389g/ 3# 1oz
The pair with bindings = 6# 2oz

Dynafi LowTech Race binding comes in at  234g/8.3oz
Trab Race binding comes in at 282g/9.9oz

Dynafit Low Tech Race heel on the Broad Peak ski

Broad Peak ready to ski 5# 12oz
GTR ready to ski 6# 2oz

bindings? 1.6 oz difference for the pair.

Most already know how good the Broad Peak is.   Great ski on hard snow and ice.  Light weight and easy to carry.  I've skied them a lot of places and in every snow condition I can imagine.  It is better on hard snow obviously than in knee deep powder.  But the BP will ski anything you are capable of skiing is my take on it.  The steepest skiing and the longest tours I have done were all on my pair of Broad Peaks. 

But one too many rides over the handle bars on the Broad Peak in deep soft snow made me think that a little more modern and wider ski design, if I could keep the weight down, might be a worthy investment.

*pause for station identification*
I need to pause here for just a moment.  I've been getting lazy and have not kept up on reviews of the gear I am using this winter and spring.  I mentioned this ski to Brian over at :

So he soon had a pair in his capable hands as well. Brian skis more in a week than I likely do in a season.  The only race where I will beat Brian is to this review and the comparison of these two skis.  We are both getting a chance to ski on the newest Dynafit Nanga Parbat and Cho Oyu shortly.  So more to come on technical skis like the two described here.  Be sure to watch Brian's blog in the near future for his reviews of all these ski.    

Back to the comparison/review.

The GTR has a very modern, slightly rockered tip, good camber under foot and I think most importantly a little more width than the Broad Peak.  While it will float a tiny bit better and makes manky snow a little easier to ski, the down side is it is a little softer under foot and not as good on really hard surfaces IMO.  But so far in really poor snow conditions this has be a workman like ski.   Which means I have nothing bad to say about it.  That may not mean a lot but the conditions I have skied to date with the GTR have been dismal.  More side stepping and kick turns than I care to recount.  Nice that the ski will turn once you have he opportunity to get it done.

My custom cut narrow skins used on the GTR weigh in at exactly what my BP skis do.  But the Broad Peak factory Speed Skin is full coverage.  Both climb well.    Edge to the Broad Peak there.

To be honest I had thought my entire package of either ski and skin was closer than the 6oz on the scale shows.  6 oz means so little on a full day tour.  It is less than a full cup of water. 

Half dozen of one  6 of the other.

The question remains..."which ski do you think is better?"

The first comment I think needs addressing is, I don't think either of these skis is a quiver skis.  Bare with me for a moment on my reasoning here.

Skimo or "Edged Alpinism" gear?

I do have a quiver of skis.  I also have a "quiver" of ice tools.  But in actuality I don't have as big of quiver of either as one might first think.

For technical tools these days I have Nomics.  One technical tool that serves many different types of terrain.  Of course I have other axes/tools.  But one technical tool that I use.

Same with skis pretty much.  I have one ski that I consider a really technical tool.  That is the Broad Peak.  And now the recent purchase of the GTR make it two.

Either ski could easily replace the other IMO.   But *THE* technical ski is one I will not easily be without.  If you practice "Edged Alpinism" I'd suspect you have a ski that is similar to one of these two TOOLS.  Two is not much of a quiver. 

A few of the best SkiMo or "Edged Alpinism" web sites?  At some point it isn't "just" skiing any more.

If I  dared ski some of the stuff shown on these web sites, I would pull out a technical tool.  That would be one or another ski of this type that I own at the moment.  Both of these skis are good tools.  But I don't look at them as ski as much as I look at them as just another piece of alpine climbing kit.  Just as I view an axe or crampon or a harness, these are simply tools.

I think part of this selection of gear is matching boots to skis.  Obviously I am using the lightest binding I can get to save weight.  I and others trust these lwt bindings every where in and out of the "no fall zone".  They are a given now for  "edged alpinism".

I use both the TLT5 Performance and the Mtn version of the same boot.  But there are other, lighter, high performance boots in several versions including those from Scarpa.   You can save a tiny bit of weight by ditching the tongue and power strap on the TLT and even more by using a lighter, full on (exensive)  race boot with little loss of performance on these technical skis.    The original Palau liner of the Performance or the  Intuition Pro Tour Liner will save some weight as well in the TLT.

I really like the more progressive flex of the TLT Mountain compared to the carbon cuffed TLT Performance.  Something to thing about if you are looking for new LWT boots.

My point is you don't need mondo ski and boots for this kind of stuff.  And a poor selection of heavy gear and the wrong clothing choices will drastically cut your likelihood of success on many projects.

It is easy to say, "boots" are your most important piece of gear."  And they might well be.  But it is the system of technical ski, lwt boot and race bindings that really make this system so efficient and a joy to use in the mountains.  Doesn't matter if you are doing "edged alpinism" of skiing some super fun, summer snow field with your dog.

As an example of a "heavier" but very similar system my 177cm Huascaran (113mm @ the boot) and a slightly heavier "race" Dynafirt Speed Superlight binding weights in at 8# 12oz for the pair and another 5oz for their skis.   A full three more pounds of the pair of ski, binding  and skins.  That is a lot of extra weight on a skin track.

These light technical skis are both stellar skis to get it done on.  At the moment I am swayed by the slightly wider GTR for my fun.  And the tiny bit more lift and ease on the turns that the width and rocker brings.   But I have the BP in the back of my mind every time I have to ski or side slip through a nasty patch of ice and wonder if the BP might have well allowed me a little more security there.

TRAB,  Atomic, Elan, Hagan and a host of other rando and rando race skis brands are out there.  Check out the other blogs if this kind of ski interests you.  See if you can mate up your own system for best effect.   I have little interest in true rando race skis.  But one or two steps up from the 65mm under foot race ski does interst me.

snowing and spitting rain here yesterday @ 6000'


Some amazing terrain.

Arctic Heli Skiing Iceland from Bergmenn Mountain Guides on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

It is a tough Spring.......

Photo courtesy of Ben Tibbetts  (permission pending)

First Jon and crew on Everest.

Then Ally decides to scare the chit out of everyone.
Just when I had convinced myself skiing was a much safer sport.
Ally takes up swimming and cliff diving.
Read Ally's post this will all eventually make sense.

Check Ally's most recent blog post:

Shoot! Score! Patagonia!

Patagonia Knifeblade pullover and the Patagonia Alpine Guide pant.

The original Knifeblade pullover was made from Polartec® Power Shield PRO®.  The Alpine Guide pants are made from Polartec® Power Shield®.  Great pants for dh skiing.   Love them!  My current favorite down hill skiing pant.  But not as water resistant/proof as the Power Shield PRO® fabric.    The pull over Knifeblade top is one of my all time favorite climbing shells.  Good warm weather ski shell as well.

If the video linked below is correct the newest Knifeblade jacket and pants are both unlined Polartec® Power Shield PRO®.  Even better I think for skiing or nasty, wet weather climbing. Undecided yet on the climbing end.  Not because of the Power Shield PRO® fabric mind you.  It is amazing.  The cuff design is what worries me.  Although the insulated Northwall pants of Polartec® Power Shield PRO® have been good in really cold, wet weather for skiing.  Too much faff in the cuff for me as a climbing pant.  Too bad as the insulated material is perfect for cold weather climbing I think.

Certainly a good alternative to the few Neoshell options available.  Very happy to see someone take advantage of the fabric is the right context and now in an insulated (if you can still find them as the NW pant/jacket has been discontinued)  and uninsulated version. 

The entire line of Patagonia alpine climbing clothing has take a huge step forward in materials and patterns the last two seasons.  These two look to bump the bar higher yet.   Bravo!

Not been a huge fan of Patagonia in the recent past.  Had been a fan a few decades ago and  they are back going gangbusters with their newest alpine clothing.  It may not be the best in every category. But as a long time Arcteryx fan it took a lot to bring me back and get me into Patagonia clothing. And Patagonia has indeed done very well across the board in the Alpine line from what I own and have used..

Patagonia Mixed Guide Hoody

Colin Haley's recent comments:

"My motivation is simple and selfish. Often the very best Patagonia alpine products are discontinued after only one year on the market because they don't sell well enough. This is why some pieces which are now a cherished staple, such as the RI Hoody, were once discontinued."

I have more  Patagonia in my gear closet currently that is being used than any other brand by a fair margin.  That says a lot to me.

The pieces I really like for anything from down hill skiing to backcountry skiing and ice/alpine climbing.  Mix and match as required.  It is quite a collection for the intended purposes.  And I haven't used everything available just what is listed here.

Capilene 2
Micro D pullover
R1 hoody
Piton hoody
Nano Puff pullover
Knife blade pull over
Mixed Guide hoody
Mixed Guide pant
Alpine Guide Pant
Northwall Jacket
NorthWall Pant

(edit:  I had incorrectly listed the pant I really like and use as a lot, as the BC Guide Pant.  When in fact I have been skiing all winter in the Alpine Guide pant....  Sorry about the confusion and I have edited the original content to reflect the reality of the Alpine Guide instead of what I had only imagined I was using ;)   Thanks for the clarification and corrections Travis!)

The Patagonia Simple Guide garments have to be one of the best clothing deals on the market for what we all do.

The newest Knifeblade garments here:

and another new one I think will be a big hit, the Nano Puff Hybrid.

It is that time of year here and this aint good....

LymeLight - The Story Of Professional Freeskier Angeli VanLaanen Living With Lyme Disease from NEU PRODUCTIONS on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Praxis Skis!

One of the many fun things about writing this blog is getting to meet the great people who enjoy what I enjoy.   Hard to believe from reading here and the pictures (ad nauseam) but I  am not really a very social person.

So meeting folks from all over the world in weird places, be it skiing or climbing is always a thrill to me.

The blog also points me in some weird directions for gear.  Which in turn I like to relate to the blogosphere.   

If you haven't noticed I like bespoke clothing and boots, Randy's CCW packs made to order and gear of that quality and attention to detail.  That attention to detail is what makes the best...really the BEST.

Same thing with skiing.  Narrow your own focus and wants in ski gear and you run into similar minds.

Enter Keith Keith O'Meara and his company, Praxis Ski.

"Praxis Skis are “Handcrafted in the Sierra Nevada Mountains.” Our factory is located on the North Shore of Lake Tahoe, where the mountains are our backyard. Our skis are constructed by inspired skiers who take pride in producing the perfect ride for a variety of individual needs and styles. By designing skis that work for you, we aim to elevate the experience of skiing by reducing fatigue and increasing the amount of time you’re on the hill."

I look at the forums and blogs as much as anyone.  And the name Praxis kept/keeps coming up when you are talking skis with hard core users.  Annoying at first, then enough chatter to make me look around again. 

Didn't hurt that Drew Tabke won the World Freestyle Championships on "his" Praxis ski, the GPO,  this year.  I wasn''t  the only one late to the party and now taking notice.   Notes below from 2011.

But seriously, I like to ski and I aint hucking *anything*.  So what I am looking for may not be what Praxis is selling or what you are looking for.

Gotta love the top sheet colors though!  And seemingly a model for ever use.  Sound familiar?

Then the term..."TOUGH"....keeps coming up, along with "durable and incredible build quality".  Come on?  How long can you ignore that kind of stuff?  I have a friend who destroys numerous brand name skis per season and he'd be lucky to weight in at a buck and a half soaking wet!  He too now wants to get on Praxis.

"As some of you have already heard, Praxis has decided to offer incredible customization options to our entire 2012-2013 lineup. In our continual pursuit to progress the sport of free skiing by providing the most progressive and well-built, handcrafted skis out there, we want to offer folks a custom ski experience like no other."

*Ok, that got my attention!*

"A Guide to Praxis Customization:

*** The ski specifics shown and references to weight and flex are for the standard “stock” models. Depending on chosen custom options, specifics may change.

How to Order your Praxis Custom Skis:

Step 1: Choose your model and length. Please feel free to contact us with any question or for advice on what model is best for you.
Step 2:Decide what topsheet option you would like. We have 4 options available.
A) You can order the ski as shown on the website
B) You can pick any graphic from our graphic library at no extra cost. Choose “graphic from library” on order form and add one of the graphic options from the library to your shopping cart. If you have more than 1 pair of skis on an order simply make a note on the order form what graphic goes with what ski.
C) You can create and submit a custom graphic! Give your ski a one-of-a-kind look that you created. Click here for more info on how to create a graphic to fit your ski. This option has an additional cost of $175.
D) Top your ski with a real-wood veneer. We have 2 different types of wood veneers available; Birdseye Maple and Bubinga. This option has an additional cost of $250. Testing over the past couple years with these wood veneer tops has gone really well as they are probably the most durable topskin option we have used and in our opinion look the best. To order a wood veneer topsheet select “wood veneer” from the top sheet design drop-down menu on the order form, and make a note on the order form what type of veneer you would like.
Step 3: Choose your preferred flex. Please feel free to contact us for advice on the best flex for you. You have the option from 4 different ski flexes. See below to our number flex system in reference to the soft, medium, medium/stiff, and stiff options.
Soft = 5 – 6 Medium = 6 – 7 Medium/stiff = 7 -8 Stiff = 8 +
We recently used our flex testing machine to test the flex of some common industry skis, here’s what we found."

Yep, I am a sucker for "custom" even when I don't know exactly what I do need, I often know what I don't.   Add in good customer service.  And the fact that I'm very much in tune with my Scotch heritage.  Praxis allows a 50% down and 30 days to settle the bill, makes buying a custom ski even easier than lay away at your local brick and mortar store.   I have two pair coming.  Hard to squeeze a nickle out of me.  Few companies can manage that.  But those that have...actually earned it.

More to come shortly on my personal choices in custom Praxis skis.

Skis and more skis.....

A ski for every need.  These are the keepers to date.  A couple not in the picture and  few more to add to the quiver yet.  And a few skis to be retired once that happens.  I'm obviously partial to lwt skis with a BC leaning.   But by no means am I only interested in ski mountaineering and "edged alpinism".  I like being lifted served as well as I do having the ability to easily travel any where in the mountains.  So you will see some extremes in my favorites.  Eventually everything pictured and listed will get a full review.  But if it is pictured or listed here...I think the performance within its genre is any where from above average to simply spectacular by comparison.

Current quiver list:

Dynafit Broad Peak 167cm x 74mm
*Dynafit Nanga Parbat 171cm x 80mm (not shown)
La Sportiva GTR 168cm x 82mm
*Dynafit Cho Oyu 174cm x 88mm (not shown)
La Sportiva Lo5 178cm x 95mm
*DPS 99 Pure 178 x 99mm (not shown)
Dynafit Huascara 177cm x 112mm
La Sportiva Hang5 178cm x 117mm
*Praxis GPO 182 x 116mm (not shown)
DPS 112 RPC 192cm x 115mm
Dynafit Huascaran 196cm x 115mm
*Praxis Protest 187cm x 128mm (not shown)
*DPS 138 Pure  192cm x 138mm (not shown)

Boots?  If your feet hurt skiing isn't all that much fun.   All these boots fit me well.  But some better than others to be sure.

Scarpa Maestrale RS
Dynafit One
Dynafit TLT 5 Performance
Dynafi TLT 5 Mountian
*Scarpa Alien 1.0 (not shown)
*Dynafit DyNA PDG (not shown)

Bindings?  From my perspective..the lighter the better on any tech bindings.
Dynafit, Plum and Trab mounted on my skis.  B&D top plates as well.(only Plum is not pictued here)

It has taken me 3 years to sort through  my skiing gear and come up with "everything" I wanted.  And three years to try and then reject a bunch of gear I didn't like for what ever reason.  More to come as to the why and the why not.

Aig Blanche ski descent

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Will Eaton 1974-2013

Will Eaton 1974-2013

"Some people are so passionate about what they do, so in love with their chosen way of life that it seems impossible not to follow them. Will Eaton was one of those people. I was always amazed that Will could have come across anyone in life and not convinced them to go skiing, such was his enthusiasm. It didn't matter how you felt, whether you were hungover or how tired you were - Will wanted to ski and you were going with him. When you did get out he was encouraging, fun, and he made it so obvious that he was enjoying himself and really happy just to be with you."

The current mast head photo is of Will, courtesy of Charlie's blog.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013


OVERVIEW from Planetary Collective on Vimeo.

More alpine goodness.....

Beyond G&E with a little less ice.


Everyone's read about it by now.

One I think is telling.
A recent interview with Steck here:

Jon's previous comments here:


and another, seemingly less innocent, version here:

a more  recent comment on the personality situation:

and a comment I made in Jan 2011, hinting at the obvious realities of climbing in Nepal.


A follow up on those painful ski boots?

Recently had a few guys tell me I was nuts for suggesting you fit a ski boot so that it is actually comfortable to walk and climb in.  "It will never ski well!"  "Wait till the liner packs out and you are so screwed!"

Ya, I'm not convinced.   In late July I'll just be finishing up my 2nd full season on a set of Palau liners used in both pairs of my TLTs. (skipped last season)   Not the steepest skiing in the world or the worst snow conditions. As much fun as it was I'd still hate to make a mistake here.  Those Fir trees get pretty hard mid winter.  Even a helmet isn't going to do you a lot of good if you blow it badly in there.  Same boots (TLT Mountains) that I climb water and alpine ice in and drive my truck as required :)

Just is possible.  If I really intended to go skiing I'd likely have bigger boards and heavier, tighter boots on.  If I intend to hike, I want less.  This set up will easily hike, climb or ski anything I can.

My first use of a GoPro, first time skiing in a helmet and first edit,  So be gentle!

Boots are:

Skiis are 177cm:

Bindings are:

Goggles are:

Helmet is:

Pants are:

Jacket is:

socks are from Lorpen:

Gloves are from:
Yoko's Seal Outdry Glove

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Huntingtoin's Phantom Wall?

May 3, 2013.

"I just climbed the southwest face of Mount Huntington in the Alaska Range with Clint Helander. Call it what you want: the third ascent of the Phantom Wall, a new variation, or a new bail, whatever--it was incredible!

Here's the skinny on our climb of the Southwest Face of Huntington. We repeated the crux pitches of the Phantom, but missed the summit due to very bad weather. So call it whatever--I'm calling it a fun adventure up an incredibly beautiful mountain.

Clint and I left our camp on the Tokositna Glacier at 4:30AM on May 2 under perfect weather and snow conditions. The "Death Valley" used by Jay Smith and Paul Teare looked, well, deadly and we agreed to not submit ourselves to this needless objective danger. So, the plan was to gain the technical climbing on the southwest face (the crux pitches of the Phantom Wall) via a snowfield that cuts across the face from the Upper Park on the Harvard Route. We simuled up the Harvard, arriving
below the Spiral in about four hours. A short downclimb and traverse led to the middle part of the face. From here, we climbed about six pitches of technical terrain (75 degrees, M6R, A2) along the right edge of a steep diamond shaped wall to gain the lower angle terrain above. We had some beta from Jared Vilhauer that was crucial to moving quickly over this ground. The weather started to break down (the first time the forecast was right in a week!) as we simuled up the middle of the face above. We soon lost visibility as winds picked up to 30mph and snow started to fall. We couldn't see the summit, so we kept going straight up. This landed us in the middle of the summit ridge, where we conceded to the weather and turned tail, deciding that our fingers were worth more than any summit. The descent down the West Face Couloir (Nettle-Quirk) was awash with spindrift, often reducing our visibility to less than a few feet in the darkness, but it went surprisingly quickly at right around five hours. For a final bit of excitement, I poked into the bergschrund and another crevasse in the course of ten minutes, eventually stumbling back into our camp at 3AM on May 3rd for a 22.5 hour roundtrip."

Kurt Hicks

Kurt's guiding web site:

Mark Westman's photo from the face last year
Congrads gentlemen and well done!

Avi terrain?

It looks like this for us mortals.

But a few scenes in these films should get your attention.  Including the human ping pong ball!  Which looks like it might have hurt some.  Check out 2:15 or so in the 2nd clip.

Contour POV 2013 from KC Deane on Vimeo.

Voleurz Resurrection from Voleurz on Vimeo.

More here on the datails:

Monday, May 6, 2013

Ouch! That hurts! Ski boot fit?

I think it takes some effort to wrap your head around how a BC ski boot should fit.  If you are looking at an ski boot fit specifically to climb in you may (should) think differently than the guy who wants a BC boot specifically to *just* ski in.

My take from the experience of seeing so many unhappy BC skiers (from ski guides to clients mind you) is most would be better served to simply forget the whole idea of a "ski boot" fit in an AT boot.   

All this would seem rather obvious one would think.   But from skiing with various partners this winter nothing could be farther from the truth.

It would seem that there are a lot of skiers that try every thing possible to get the smallest shell size  that will fit their feet.  Then they go to great extremes to heat mold the liner or change liners and punch the shell to every bump and nuance that their specific foot needs require.

Done it myself.  Likely the end result a perfect fit for skiing.  Likely not the perfect fit if you want to climb or walk in those same boots any length of time.


A two minute search on the Internet will show you variations of this: "Boot liners are very cushy at first, but they will conform to your foot in 10-15 minutes, and after several ski days, they can really pack down. What feels so perfect in the store often feels sloppy and uncontrollable on the hill. The correct boot should feel snug all over without pressure points.  If it feels too tight initially, almost enough to make your eyes bulge, it's probably about the right size."

"Eyes bulge?"  Ya, likely not the right size you are  looking for even when heat molding your boots.

Might be a nice fitting ski boot.  But think about that for a minute.....or more realistically way more than just a minute.  Because you will have a lot of time to think  about it when walking 8 hours or so on your next day tour?!   The local professional ski boot fitter may not be the guy you want fitting your back country boots.  If you are going to be climbing in your ski boots...and your boot fitter has no clue what climbing or a full day in the back country entails......he or she likely NOT the guy you want fitting your BC boots.

Typical ski boot fit for down hill rentals and the inexperienced:

"You see it more and more in rentals — “What’s your shoe size?” They tell me 10, I’ll give them a 28 boot, which is a size too big, being conservative because they’re rentals. The customer will open it up, put their foot in, and without buckling it, they’ll say, “Oh, I need the next size up.” Then you have a choice to make, because there’s a line of people waiting. You could do the right thing and say, “Listen, I know it feels a little short. You want to buckle it up. When you stand in the boot with a buckle, your heel is nowhere near the back, so your toes are jammed in the front.” Depending on the day and the mood I’m in, I might just say, “Here’s a 30, try that.”

More typical BC ski boot fit by the experienced:

Pick the correct shell size for back country skiing by placing bare foot in shell, touching end with toes, then seeing how many stacked fingers you can fit behind your heel. Any more than a 2 finger stack and the back country skiing boot shell is too big. Less than one-and-one-half fingers and it’s probably too small. In some cases (as in mine) you’ll be between shell sizes. If that happens try fitting the smaller shell first, but remember it’ll probably be colder and you may have problems with getting enough length for your toes. The larger shell will be warmer and easier to get comfortable for touring, but you may have problems getting the fit tight enough for downhill skiing.

The reason I bring all this up?

"tight enough for downhill skiing"  There in lies the rub here.

We now have boots that ski very well that you can climb difficult technical ground in and not be at a disadvantage.   But if you fit those same boots as tight as you might have fit your typical down hill ski boot the amount of time you'll want to spend in them is likely going to be limited.  And you'll pay for that mistake in either pain or a new pair of boots in a larger size eventually.

This would seem to be a North American problem.  Not a Euro problem as they have been climbing long and difficult technical ground while in ski boots for a while now.  Pretty common there actually.   I don't have to mention their long, hut to hut, ski tours.  Here just the the thought of a full day out, on a up and down ski tour, seems to put most feet into some serious pain.

I intentionally thought of my TLTs as "climbing boots" and fit them accordingly.  I use a 29 shell.  My "ski boots" are generally a 28 shell.  And I wear a size 12 street shoe!   None of  the 28 shells do I want for a lot of walking.  But no question the 28s do ski great.

Still, I've had some of my best days skiing in the, "big" TLTs.  I've also spent some time walking, climbing  or drive my truck's manual transmission in them with little complaint.  And some times those were  some lonnnnggg walks.

Always worth the effort of getting a custom insole/orthotic made to support your foot in any of these boots.  A totally rigid boot sole is not a great thing for your matter the use.  An properly fit orthotic can make the difference between a great fit and a painful ski boot.

A custom orthotic allows me to comfortably use a TLT 5 with a very narrow last.  Without my orthotic in the boot my feet collapse enough that over time the boot is painful on the outside toes.  With the orthotic my foot is supported enough that there is no pain or boot pressure.  I don't require a orthotic in my mountain boots or running shoes.  But in my ski boots it makes a big difference on how long I can stay in them comfortably.

We use a different and appropriate fit for our running shoes,  rock shoes (trad and sport?) and our mountain boots.  Probably time for some to look at how to fit their BC ski boots as compared to their down hill ski boots.

Because if it really is "all about the down" in your ski boots, likely your feet are going to suffer....a lot.

Done right the same boot can serve both purposes easy enough.

Get it wrong and it is a pleasure to simply get them off your feet!
Bottom line?  I am not sure (almost positive) that a ski boot you'd want to climb in,  is the ski boot you'll want to take to the local lifted served area and ski all day on your fat skis.   Several years ago I thought  you could have one boot that would do both.   Now I own two types of boots.  Ski boots and BC boots.  The boot model might well be the same today....but the boot fit is definitely not the same.

I can ski the same amount of ski under foot and generally the same length ski till I get around 115mm in a 29.  Same boot I ice climb in.    And am pretty happy with.    At 115mm under foot with my ski I start looking for a size 28 "ski boot".    It is not so much that the support/design of the boot changes but how the boots fit, does.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Patagonia Sun Hoody


Photo courtesy of Atomic
The skier?

One of the really fun things about winter alpine climbing is the amount of gear it takes. OK, one of the really annoying things about winter alpine climbing is how much gear it takes.

Because of that I am always looking for gear to make my fun..more fun.

By the time spring roles around, things lighten up gear wise.  Nothing better than being on the snow skiing or climbing and not having to be bundled up.

Once in a while you come across something that is a total surprise and you wonder how you ever got along without it. Patagonia's R1 Hoody comes to mind. Patagonia's Sun Hoody is the easy to wear mid/outer layer that is lighter yet than the R1 Hoody.  Tech shirt in weight but enough insulation for spring skiing, a chilly run or just casual wear.

Seldom do I find a useful piece of climbing clothing that I want on every spring and summer climb and ski, rock or snow.  But also a piece of clothing I want to wear every day...24 hrs a day. And this one I do. I really do. Admittedly I look like a dork in it but I LOVE this hoody! Wearing one as I type this as matter of fact. Yes, it is SICK...but these things rock!

But nothing better skiing in bright sun light on brilliant snow while dressed in a "white" set of clothing.  Helps with hydration and helps you keep a more stable body temp.  Take a hint from Jilain Jornet above.  Nice to have a hood and not have  your ears burnt off as well.

I've owned a couple of the sun hoodies since I wrote this up first in 2010.  Just picked up another one in a new color.  $59 @ full retail last week.  Easy enough to find at half that price in the off season.   I had seen only two colors until recently white/silver and the ninja color, olive drab. Gotta love the military contracts.  Now they are coming in a couple of pastel colors. 

I have a couple of versions.  One with a small zipper pocket on the hem, now the pocket is on the chest and there is another version with a kangaroo pocket.  The latest/newest chest pocket version seems to be the most practical for my own use.

I say the Sun hoody rocks!

Patagonia sez:

Men's Lightweight Sun Hoody $59 msrp
Breathable, fast-drying hooded top with 30 UPF sun protection for next-to-skin use.

A highly evolved second skin designed to maximize your time on the water. For simultaneous air conditioning and tough 30 UPF sun protection, the super breathable, fast drying Sun Hoody is made of lightweight polyester jersey. A 3 panel hood protects your head, a hip closure pocket keeps keys, wax and hand lines sorted, and we've added thumb loops at the cuffs for added coverage. Recyclable through the Common Threads Recycling Program.

•Soft and supple polyester fabric with sun protection
•3-panel, self-fabric hood provides airy, ventilated sun protection
•Thumb loops at cuffs for added coverage and sun protection
•Zippered pocket at hip
•Flat seams reduce chafe
•4.3-oz 100% polyester jersey with 30-UPF sun protection. Recyclable through the Common Threads Recycling Program
•246 g (8.7 oz)
•Made in Vietnam.


The UV protection offered by this garment is rated “very good.” *

* When tested in accordance with Australian/New Zealand test methods AS/NZS 4399 or AATCC
183/ASTM6603/ASTM D6544.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Ah yes, the smell of Spring in the mountains!

Fresh avi debris today.  And terrible ski conditions.  Ya'll be careful out there!  Double click for the full effect.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Photo ops?

As many of you might have noticed my photos have recently (may be always) been pretty dismal.

I like the mast head photo here at Cold Thistle to inspire and peak your imagination.  So it never has a photo credit or a description.  It might well be a road cut in Montana or the North face of the Eiger.  Your guess!

If any of you have a photo that you think should be on the mast head for a  week or two...and it gets you excited about being back in the mountains send it along via email to in jpeg format.  I'll add it to the collection.  At some point you will likely see it show cased here.

Photos like the one below simply get me stoked and off my chair!  Where skiing meets climbing!  Be sure to double click on this one for full effect.

Photo courtesy of Trevor Hunt and