Pageviews past week

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing
Showing posts with label gear weight. Show all posts
Showing posts with label gear weight. Show all posts

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Real world weight comparisons?

I wanted to make an actual comparison of gear weights and see what the real world differences are on a  team with very similar gear set ups and how small choices might or might not effect us.

We are suited up for a long one day of climb that is realistically rated a Grade V but generally done in a day. Although with perfect conditions I have done the climb in 5 hrs while roped to a partner.  Iin early January's short days, in fairly cold conditions it easily lives up to the overall Grade V label.

The brothers Grimm masquerading as "Team Arcteryx LT" for this discussion.... ;-)

This is the list of weights I keep on the blog:

What we used that was the same with slight weight differences noted below

Vertical front point crampons
Atom Lt Hoody
Arcteryx pants
Hoody pile pull over shirts
under shirt
long johns
CCW packs
EB down jackets

What we used that was different:

inner boot 5 oz / 9 oz.
harnesses 10 oz / 12.2 oz.
carabiners 10 @ 10 oz / 10 @ 25 oz
crampons 39 oz / 45 oz
packs 25oz / 38 oz
helmet 8oz / 16oz
water bottles/water 34 oz / 68 oz
hooded/unhooded  down 13.8 oz / 13.2 oz
gloves 7oz gauntlet/ 6.5 oz x 2  with short cuff (13 oz)
pants 19 oz / 17 oz
long johns 6 oz / 6 ox x 2 (13 oz)
________ _______

177 oz  verses  265.8 oz  =  88.8 oz or a ............ 5.5 lbs difference.

What does 5.5# mean to you?

Most of that weight difference is in the actual packs weight  we used (same Cold Cold World basic designs, different material, one stripped, one not ) and the decision on the amount of  extra water carried.   The helmets stand out as well.  Interesting with that the same manufactures helmets, that the heavier hard shell helmet broke when hit by a dinner plate and the lighter, foam core one did not with a similar hit.  We were out 10 hrs total and both of us brought water back to the car.

Low temps were -30C or -22 F at the beginning and end of the climb.

Light is always right

It doesn't matter if you are sport climbing at your local crag or in the greater ranges, light is always right if you want to push the limits of what you are capable of.

Every trip out reinforces that mantra to me.   It doesn't matter if the object under discussion is a super light weight forged wire gate carabiner, your climbing pack, the helmet or clothes you choose.  All of them add up to significant weight as a whole.  How you decide to climb, be it unroped, scantily protected or lacing it up matters as well.  Are your skills up to the task and your chosen style?

How fast you climb will define what you bring for food and water.  How you dress will define that equation as well.  Too warm and you'll need more water and your body won't work as efficiently.  Too warm and you'll climb slower. 

Going light means speed in the mtns.    And speed in the mtns is all in the details which include staying aware and alert top to bottom.  Are the ropes organized?  Did you bring enough gear but not too much gear?   Will the climb push you or will you push on the climb?

The picture is a scan from the 1984 Wild Things catalog.  It is worth a dbl click to read or reread. 

In April of 2010 I published a "weight list"  here on the blog.  I didn't do it for anyone but myself.   I update it it as needed and refer to it myself all the time.  If you don't write it down and keep track of the info you'll never know what you carry or how much it weights.  And what it weights matters if you what to push yourself.  It is a habit worth developing.

My list:

If you are reading this blog then likely you are aware of the amazing climbs getting done in the alpine.  If you aspire to those sorts of climbs it also pays to look at the gear and systems the major players are using.

There are few Willo Walzenbach's going off on their bicycles and using wool over coats to climb the big north faces these days.

There is how ever a ton of technology available to us today.  All of the most recent hard climbs have depended on that same technology to some extent.  Saying  that takes nothing away from the climbers involved.    It has always been that way.   Modern gear and the resulting technology has just allowed us to push the envelope farther.   Just as it has previous.   Take a look at your "favorite flavor".   I've mentioned or posted pictures of mine on the blog any number of times or just check the other links.   The same guys that are generally pushing hard and going extremely light.  

You don't have to climb at a professional level or in distant mountains to take advantage of what I am suggesting here.   And to get good at it you need to do it in small doses, locally first.

Gear doesn't climb mountains, men do.    

Alpine climbing (or any climbing) is a thinking man's game.

Smart climbers think about what gear they use, what it weights, the tactics they will try to use on the climb and why.  If you aren't doing all of that, you are missing well over half the game.

Monday, December 27, 2010

The Climbing Sweater?

The German-Austrian expedition in the best kit of the day on Nanga Parbat, 1934.

One of the things I have recently realised is there is a big difference between a belay jacket and a bivy jacket designed specifically for climbing. It has only been with in the last couple of seasons that I have actually seen jackets that I consider real belay jackets. The difference to me is a belay jacket is something light enough that you can really climb hard technical ground in after freezing your ass off on a cold belay and NOT get way over heated and "fried" by the end of the pitch.

I still own a bivy jacket. The kind of jacket you would use with a half bag to bivy in ( or bivy in just the jacket) or on Denali for extra warmth with a light bag. But something you'd only climb in on the type of days you really shouldn't be out at all. Windy and cold summit days on Denali or Rainier in winter type of days. I have never used a jacket of that weight any where else.

A belay jacket you'll put on earlier and take off later and then realise you can use it to dry things out as you climb and still not over heat. Your own heat management will be more efficient because of it, if the design and materials are up to the task.

Using my terms, once you start climbing in a true belay jacket, the "bivy" jacket won't see much use. I wouldn't take a jacket that heavy to Denali now. And for many things you might start thinking 1/2 pound of well designed stretchy synthetic insulation might well be be really useful to climb in during some really cold weather...say alpine stuff in Canada's winter.

Kinda a heavy weight hoody (using the benchmark Patagonia R1 Hoody as a reference) with wind protection....more like a belay sweater? To coin a new label.

But really just a climbing specific, sweater.  By definition a very breathable and windproof garment with enough warmth to avoid adding a belay jacket for climbing generally.

I've not seen a garment to match that description till just recently. Although Ueli Steck mentioned a similar garment that he used when soloing the McIntyre/Colton last winter. While a great piece for climbing, Mountain Hardwear's original answer was the "Compressor Hoody". But the commercial version wasn't as light weight as what I was looking for. The Compressor Hoody makes a good outer layer and a great belay jacket, just a little too warm to climb in all the time.

The more I climb the more I go back to clothing ideas that have been used for the last 75 years or more.  The "climbing sweater" is one of them.  If you are trying to get to the bare essentials for weight and warmth hard to beat a thin base layer, a insulated layer, wind shell and finally your last bit of insulation, the belay jacket,  when it is required.

I generally us a R1 hoody or a lwt Merino wool sweater as a base layer but if it is cold enough I'll had a light weight layer of wool or synthetic under that.

The insulated layer for warmth  can be the original soft shell, a simple wool sweater.  Or it might be a boiled wool Dachstein sweater as pictured in the 1934 picture above.

More likely today it will be some sort of pile in the thickness, wind resistance and breath ability you require,  a wind shell combo with pile or a  lightly insulated soft shell.   I've use a similar systems myself until recently.

In the last few years I have almost totally stopped using pile insulation and soft shells in the mtns as an insulation layer.

I am back to using light weight wools sweaters or instead of a heavy wool sweater or pile I have switched to either a down or a synthetic layer that I would consider "sweater" weight.  By the looks of what is available today it seems I am not the only one.

Arcteryx Atom Lt used in cold (-20/-25C) climbing conditions.
As a comparison here is what the weights are of several pieces of clothing I use all the time for winter climbing.  Could be a day ice cragging in Bozeman or a full on winter day in the Icefields's at 10K feet or higher.

Belay sweater, insulated shell or just a sweater, your call and your label.

Arcteryx Squamish pullover XL 5.6oz  (pure wind shell)

Modern technical sweaters:

Patagonia Nano Puff  sweater 1/2 zip  large 11.5oz •60 gm/m² prima loft 1 insulation

Patagonia Nano Puff  Hooded sweater large 13.5oz •60 gm/m² prima loft 1 insulation

Arcteryx Atom LT Hoody large 14.3 oz •60 gm/m² Coreloft™ insulation

Arcteryx Atom Hoody LT XL  15.6 oz •60 gm/m² Coreloft™ insulation

Patagonia Down Sweater Hoody XL 15.6 800 fill

Patagonia Down Sweater XL 14.6 800 fill

EB 1st Ascent  Downlight Sweater XL 14.4 800 down fill

EB 1st Ascent Downlight Hoodie 1/2 zip XL 15.4 800 down fill

light weight insulated jackets as a comparison
Mtn Hardware Compressor Hoody 19.8oz (Primaloft)
Arcteryx Atom hoody SV 19.0oz
Patagonia  micro puff  Hoody 22 oz  (Primaloft)
Arcteryx Gamma MX Hoody XL 24oz (Polartec Power Shield soft shell)

I've been using an Arcteryx Atom LT Sweater now for a couple of seasons.  It is  10oz lighter than a soft shell MX Hoody and more water resistant from my experience.  Big plus is it also breathes better.  This winter simply because of the comfort and warmth of down clothing I have started using the Eddie Bauer Downlight series of sweaters and the Patagonia Hooded Down Sweater.   The use of down insulated clothing while ice and alpine climbing as base layers is clearly questionable.  And generally they are not very durable.

Some quick photos to see the sweaters used in combos.  Below: Here in -20C temps, no wind, with a Atom LT and a Compressor Hoody used at a belay stance.

Below: Colin Haley using the Patagonia Nano high on Denali while soloing the Cassin.
Below:Atom LT again in -20 temps and windy conditions.  Atom Lt over a R1 Hoody and a  Arcteryx Squamish pullover.  Just enough insulation if I kept moving.
Below: Same set up again but climbing slowly and cold shaded belays.  Perfect combo with the hood down for the temps which were around -10C.

Below: R1 Hoody here with a Polartec Power Shield Arcteryx Gamma MX Hoody, temps again a balmy -10/-15C with the hoods going up and down as I climbed.  No question the Gamma MX is the most durable of the "sweaters" under discussion.   It also weights in at 10oz more.

Below: This a combo for really cold weather (-15/-20C) I used for climbing a couple of years ago. On top of a R1 hoody again is  a med weight hooded  pile pull over jacket, and a Patagonia "Puff" pullover over that.  What I am using now is as warm but again half the weight.  By the time I retired my Puff  it was mostly held together by duct tape.  Warm, but not all that durable.

I would never recommend any of these sweaters in a down version for serious climbing.  Although I have to say I am using mine there on more and more occasions knowing full well just how worthless they are when wet from the environment or just as likely from perspiration while working hard.  Poking holes in a synthetic  sweater is bad enough.  Even worse with down gear.  It will happen if you are using them for ice or alpine.  Plan ahead. 

A synthetic belay jacket can dry a down sweater out pretty quickly with body heat alone but it still a huge hassle.   Best to know what will work or won't for your own use/project before getting into these too deep..

Besides Patagonia and Eddie Bauer, Mtn Hardware, Rab and Arcteryx are making similar products made with down or synthetic insulation.
If nothing else the "sweater" in any insulation material is another option you'll want to be fully aware of in your winter clothing system.

The following are comparison pictures and comments of the current sweaters I am using.  Most of it relates to the down versions with a few comments and pictures for the Arcteryz Atom LT.


Above: Blue jacket in this picture is the Patagonia Down Hoody,  the gold Jacket a Eddie Bauer Downlight Sweater.  Cuffs are virtually the same.

Above:  Again Pata and EB..pocket comparisons.  Same/same.

Above:  First major difference.  Both down versions are simple sewn through baffles. The Patagonia version (red) has a full front lining that adds some warmth and wind proofness.  The EB front lining (tan) only covers the lower torso behind the pockets.
 Above: Another small difference is the Patagonia version has a draw string at the waist.  EB version elastic only.

Above: Sewing quality is same/same form what I can see.
 Above: Patagonia's hooded version in blue.
 Above: Eddie Bauer's sweater collar in gold.
Above:  Eddie Bauer's Hooded version in a dark blue.

Above:  Arcteryx's Atom LT hood in lt blue with a red zipper pull.
 Above: Atom LT's (in blue) •Polartec® Power Stretch® with Hardface® Technology in the
stretch side panel vents in the side of the jacket.  High tech climbing gear here imo.  I really like it for my own use.  It is a bit of technology that can be down right nippy in a cold wind though.   The Atom SV is a very similar jacket but warmer and heavier with 100g fill (instead of 60g)  without the very breathable stretch side panels.  But it is very breathable in the under arm area with less insulation there.  More of a full blown jacket than  sweater though.   It is a bit warmer than the Atom LT but doesn't breath as well because of it.    Look for a update and comparison on the Atom SV and Atom LT in the near future.
Above:  Cuffs, L to R, from the EB, Pata, Arcteryx.  Again the Atom LT does it a bit better imo.
Above:  For those that wonder...between Patagonia and Eddie Bauer..800 fill down.  It is the good stuff.  Virtually the same weight jackets but the Eddie Bauer jackets show a lot more loft when measured side by side...almost twice the loft.  Which at best is still only 2 inches!   Patagonia Nano much less.  EB has 25% more down fill in any size sweater.  3oz for Patagonia to 4oz in the Eddie Bauer in a medium size men's.

Above:  The baffles size on the Patagonia garment are also smaller, so more sewn through seams and over all less insulation because of it.  Patagonia really needs that full front lining to be in the same category for warmth as the Eddie Bauer versions.
Finally, while I like the pull overs and they are very warm for their weight it limits their use a bit.  For example I use any insulation over my light weight sleeping bags when required.  I generally try not to sleep in every piece of clothing I own because it gets to confining.  A full zip sweater can add some insulation over the top of my bag.   While a pull over sweater can be used in the same manner it is much less likely to stay in place.
All of these patterns are very simple and easy to reconfigure.  If anyone at Eddie Bauer is listening...I'd like a full zip hoodie asap !

Retail on the Patagonia Down Hoodie is $250
Retail on the Patagonia Down Sweater is $200.

Retail on the Eddie Bauer Downlight Hoody is $189
Retail on the Eddie Bauer Downlight Sweater is $169

Sale prices?  Patagonia is difficult to find on sale.
Eddie Bauer is almost easy to buy at a factory story discount. 

-30 and snowing.. less than 16oz.....Jan 2011

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Double boot, Inner Boots, molding, fitting, styles and options

Spantik with the factory inner (yellow and black) and a Baruntse inner boot (all black)

This commentary will cover some ideas on La Sportiva's Spantik, Baruntse double boots and the newest Scarpa 6000 double boot and tips on the inner boot care and feeding.

Let me start with the Spantik. La Sportiva's literature that comes in the hang tag attached to the boot reads: "INNER BOOT: Micro-perforated thermo-formable PE/ Water-repellent Lorica® with Antiacqua™ external coating INSOLE".

I have been trying to get the information and directions from La Sportiva Italy and La Sportiva NA since the fall of '07 on how exactly you are supposed to "thermo-form" a pair of Spantik inners.

I still haven't gotten an answer from either source.

Luckily I found another source. Thank you James! This was left in one of the blog comments:

From James:
" After months of struggling with the fit on my Spantiks, I just heat formed the inner boots in my home oven. It has greatly improved the fit! The liners are no longer sloppy on my low-volume foot, and the heel lift that I couldn't get rid of is now reduced to negligible levels even when "front pointing" (in my kitchen).

I basically treated them like Intuition liners. I heated my oven to 250F (use convection setting if you have it). I put the liners in the oven (sans insoles) and kept a close eye on them. After about 7 minutes they became very soft--almost a toasted marshmallow consistency to the foam areas. I suspect this is key--if you don't get them hot/soft enough, they won't mold.

Once they attained the slightly alarming marshmallow consistency described above, I pulled them out, stuck my custom insoles in them, put them on my feet, laced them up, put the shells on, and laced those to a moderate tension (i.e., less than would be applied in actual use).

Note that, before putting on the liners, I put spacers between some of my toes (folded-up paper towels), put on toe caps made of old, thick wool socks, and covered it all with a thin liner sock.

After standing in the boots for about 15 minutes, I took them off. The liners are now firmer/stiffer and fit my foot much better. Overall, the boots feel snug and secure but not tight, exactly as they should. Since I have not yet climbed in them, I can't say for certain what the effect on performance will be or how the molded liner will resist pack-out. But given the improvement in fit and how they feel tip-toeing around the house, I expect good things. If they pack out or stretch I will try molding them again. It's also possible that the fit could be further improved with additional molding, use of heat gun, etc., but I'm not inclined to mess with them unless the field performance is less than satisfactory.

I don't know why La Sportiva is so reticent about providing directions for molding these liners--it totally transforms the boot and is an essential step to get the most out of these (very expensive) boots, in my opinion. The lack of information on how to do this made me nervous and kept me from trying it for quite a while, but in the end it was easy. I hope this helps a few other climbers--but please don't blame me if something goes wrong."

OK, so here is my update. After the last failed attempt to mold my own Baruntse liners with the sparse La Sportiva directions with James' info in hand as back up I went to our local master boot fitter, Zach Volmer, at Sturtevant's in Bellevue. (having been a boot fitter in the past, my caution is don't do this at home kids) They have custom fit my ski and most importantly my climbing boots for the past 5 years. But neither of us was brave enough to trash a pair of new Spantik inner boots until today. Luckily again...nothing was hurt, no small animals died as a sacrifice and finally the Spantik can live up to the claim of "thermo formable".

Here are the numbers we used in a boot fitters hot air oven, 225 degrees @ 10 minutes. But a caution if you are doing this at home. It is at the least a two man job and you'll need the proper set of 2 pairs of toe caps, good thin stretch sock and some big plastic bags.

This is what Zach and I did today that actually worked.

10 minutes in the oven until the inner boot's foam "attained the slightly alarmingly marshmallow consistency".

While that is happening. With bare feet add a toe cap while standing on what ever insole you will have in the inner boot. I used both, the flat silver foam insole and the La Sportive "orthodic" insole layered on top. Add a second toe cap that now captures the insoles as well as your toes. Put a tight, light weight sock over all of that to hold it in place.

Pull the fully heated inner boots out of the oven. Quickly...but very carefully.... insert your now stocking feet and toe capped foot and insoles into the hot inner boot. I first did a couple of dry runs before we heated the inner boot to see just how tight my toe capped foot would be in the inner. It helped during actual forming. Lace the inner boot is super soft and you could easily wreck your inner boots at this stage by pulling out a lace eyelet. Add a plastic bag to help the inner boot slide into the shell. Adjust top cuff and tongue and lace the outer boot...again loosely. Wrinkles here in the outer boot will give you hot spots on the inner boot later. Now Kick both heel into pocket and toe into front of boot. For the best fit, once all that is done, get a good flat stance and hold in a slightly bent knee position for a few minutes. At 5 minutes walk them till the inner is cold. 10minutes more should do. And you are done.

I got a good custom fit in the Spantik inner boot using this method. Down side? There isn't a lot of foam to move around in the Spantik inner and the ankle hinge area is an obvious week spot in the inner boot design. It is obvious this inner boot won't last for ever. But La Sportiva will sell you a spare set.

Another seemingly down side to the Spantik inner is durability. Eyelets and hooks coming off or breaking plagued the first issue Spantiks. It was so bad I went through three pair before I had climbed three pitches in them.

The hard foam of this inner does not like to flex. If a eyelet or lace fails on the inner boot, having a good fit and good heel hold down is almost impossible. To solve that obvious problem Daniel's pictures show what he did to keep his inner boot working if the lace failed while on a big trip. Call it preventive maintenance.

Spantik shell and a La Sportiva Baruntse inner boot

Next up is the Baruntse inner boot. This time the numbers are 225 degrees at 8 minutes in the same oven. The Baruntse liner will shrink up a full size after being heated so you might want to order it one full size up if you are going to use a Baruntse liner in a Spantik. There are no true half sizes in the Baruntse liner. A 44.5 and the 45 are the same. 43.5 and 44 are the same size.

Better to have this inner too big than too small to start off with if my experience shows anything.
Make sure you don't over tighten the inner or outer shell when lacing this inner boot up when it is still warm and just out of the oven. It is also mandatory that you adjust the inner boot tops and tongue. Work fast but be precise.

Lots of foam in the Baruntse inner. Given the right inner boot size...meaning you want more inner boot than less, the Baruntse inn boot will give any one a great fit if the work is done by a good boot fitter with the proper accessories to do it right.

The final inner boot shown in this picture is from the Scarpa 6000. It is both thin and fragile.
Worse yet it is difficult to get off and on even sitting at home. None of the things that makes me want to trust my ten little piggys to them. But with a little luck the Baruntse linner will also fit in your 6000s if you decide a better inner boot is in order. Mine do.

The best of the current inner boots that I have seen is a foam inner that is nylon lined on both the inside and out and made by Palau in France.

Lucky La Sportiva decided to use the Palau liners for the Baruntse. I've used the Palau/Baruntse liner in my Spantiks and now again in the Scarpa Phantom 6000s. I think the Baruntse liner is better/warmer that either The Spantik's or 6000's original liner. I know it is lighter. The Palau liner is warm, but not overly thick. It is very easy to dry out, easier than the Spantik's from my and others experience, as there isn't much nylon to absorb water. The lace system will allow you to easily sleep in them on a bivy with both warm and dry feet. They are easy to heat form by any good ski boot fitter and even easier to lace up. They are the lightest inner boot I have weighted including the Intuition or 6000's liner. Spantik's liner is 250g, the Baruntse-Palau is 150g. The nylon lining on the inside and outside of the Baruntse inner boot makes them easy on and off in the mountains and durable compared to an all foam inner boot. The Baruntse linner will also soften up the cuff and flex of a pair of Spaniks a bit. Makes them easier to walk and climb in. If you want a ski boot the Intuition liners in a Spantik will make them stiffer in the ankle. The Baruntse inner, on the other hand, stiffen up a pair of Scarpa 6000 boots enough to make them a better endurance ice boot of long bouts of moderate angled alpine ice.

Purchased directly from La Sportiva NA they are $120 a pair plus shipping. A direct comparison to everything else easily available on the winter boot market shows no down side that I can see, including the retail price.

Spare Baruntse liners were not available last season. In limited numbers and sizes they are available now. If they don't have your size you can also get a pair put on back order by calling Rebecca.

"Oct. 6, 2010
Dear Dane
We are in the process of updating our website and currently do have the Baruntse liners in stock. The cost is $120 plus shipping. I would be happy to place an email/phone order for the Baruntse liners. Let me know what you would like to do.
Rebecca Carroll
Customer Service Representative
La Sportiva N.A., Inc.
3850 Frontier Ave - Suite 100
Boulder CO 80301
303.443.8710 ext 13

Finally in late 2011...La Sportiva chimes in:

Heat Moldable Liner Important Instructions:

La Sportiva recommends that you read the following instructions carefully before proceeding to heat mold your boot. The company does not accept any responsibility for damage caused to third parties due to incorrect use of product. La Sportiva recommends that heat molding is carried our at a specialist shop.

Steps to follow for the correct adaptation of the shoe to your foot:

1) Turn on the oven and set to the ideal temperature of 130 degrees C.

2) Put the La Sportiva liner in the oven and leave to warm up for 10/12 minutes.

3) Make sure the external boot shell is completely open and that it is kept at room temperature.

4) Insert the foot bed into the liner to determine the "top-cap" height within the boot. Use a sock to help the foot slide easily into position.

5) Remove the liner from the oven and insert your foot. Make sure that the underfoot seams present are not deformed. Proceed as quickly as possible so that the lining does not cool down thus losing its properties.

6) Fasten the liner tightly.

7) Allow the foot to slip within the liner and the liner shell, keeping the gaiter open. Be careful not to damage the liner in any way.

8) Make sure the heel is well positioned towards the back of the liner.

9) Buckle the external shell with just sufficient adjustment in tension and set the boot aside until completely dry (about 10 minute)

After Care:

•Remove the liner after every outing
•Allow the boot to dry naturally, never by a heat source
•Avoid over heating the liners. Store in a cool dry place during the summer months
•The liners can be hand washed in cold water


Monday, November 29, 2010

Ice, Snice and a good Screw...

Here is another recycled bit from 2/1/10 early last winter.

I wrote the following on 2/28/08

"Ice screws? If you are not currently climbing with the newest generation of Grivel screws you are wasting energy. I’ve tried EVERY new screw design currently on the market, in almost every snow and ice condition you can think of. With all due respect to Black Diamond, and with no hype, no bs, there is no other manufacture even close to Grivel's current production. The Grivel screws are as revolutionary to ice climbing as Jardine's Friends were 30 years ago. Big statement I know. But placing good gear, easily, where you want it instead of were you could makes climbing much, much easier and a lot safer."

"To support my comments I have the newest Grivels (360s and Helix) and both models of the newest BD screws on my rack now. I'll stand by my original comments as the Helix being the best of the bunch the majority of time. Although the 360 is good may be even a toss up with the BDs..although the BDs rack/stack and deploy much easier. The BDs just don't start or cut ice as easily. I am not a big fan of the 360, wacky hanger design, although the 360 does have an advantage over all of them in tight placements."

"Sitting here at the key board I see that the BD screw has longer initial teeth and a thinner tube profile. Both of which should be an advantage over the Grivel chewing into ice. Grivel threads start a bit shallower at the teeth (by 1/10s of an inch). Which technically means it will start a bit quicker but it isn't much. The thread designs are totally different from Grivel to BD. Grivel's finish is obviously smoother. All issues which will make a difference +/- in performance.

I'll easily admit both Companies offer good products and everyone develops there own preferences."

In the past two years, I have learned a lot about ice screw manufacture. The level of nickel plating, the weight of ice screws, the differences in thread, tooth and tube profiles and the inside diameter of the tubes. I've looked at the hanger designs and how that effects racking and initial placement.

In design and manufacture I would have thought that the newest BD screws would have been the best available. I've seen a multitude of in house tests that show all sorts of info why the BD or the Grivel tubes are the "best".

I am a big believer in numbers so the other day I pulled out a few more brand new BD Express screws to make up for the other half of my Helix rack I would leave at home. Off I went, fat, dumb and happy to the local ice crag.

Mind you the climbing wasn't hard...WI4 and good feet but really bad ice. Ice was covered with snow in many places, terribly chandelier and thin. Scary enough for me that many times I was placing two screws at a time hoping to get at least one solid screw if I wasn't hitting rock. Not a technique I would normally use or recommend so you can get an idea on my mind set. In 130 feet I placed 9 screws as pro. 6 of them were placed as 3 pairs.

Once again I got a clear picture of the actual physical differences between BD and Grivel screw placement. I then spent part of the afternoon today, resharpening the same batch of screws, both BD and Grivel.

Some of my observations I found interesting while doing the sharpening. The BD screws remind me of a fine honed razor knife. Really sharp but something that won't hold an edge for long or be very durable. Cuts well till it gets dull. But the thinner side walls and razor edge dulls quickly in my experience. The Grivel on the other hand have more of what I would call a "combat edge", that stays sharp even with some abuse. Both take some effort to resharpen to factory spec.

I don't particularly like the 360. I find the crank and hanger too cumbersome in use. So I generally don't use it. The Helix marginally better. But enough better that I prefer its down sides over the additional effort to place a BD Express. I have no loyalty to any gear manufacture be it BD or Grivel. My loyalty is guaranteed by what works.

So I used the Helix on water ice almost exclusively. But because of the huge weight savings over any other steel screw I take the BD Turbos into the alpine...for water ice or snice. There is so little "real" difference in use between the two brands. But the weight difference is a "big" thing. 20g or close to 1 oz in a 6 oz screw.

Last winter a BD Express literally saved my live while being lowered off a thin lead and one of my two screws popped out of marginal snice. Another place where I had set a pair of screws hoping for the best. A pair of BD Express this time and the only gear 60 feet out, set in a tiny patch of "hope and a prayer" snice, 10" apart. The first screw popped within milliseconds after taking full body weight! The second took the dynamic load and then held, thankfully. My guardian angel had to work over time for a few months last year :)

Screws are really expensive these days. BD Express or the Grivel Helix can be had for $55/60.
I pay retail for mine and it is painful. I'd suggest you "try before you buy" if it is possible.

A comment from a buddy I trust, Doug Shepard, doing a BD Turbo Express review in Dec of '07.

"How is real world performance? These things rock!

They start easier than my old BD screws. At least as fast to start and place as the Grivel 360 screws in my opinion, which I thought was the fastest screw on the market to place. Combined with the multiple clip-in points, this screw takes what is great about the Petzl Laser (ease of use), the Grivel 360 (extremely easy to start), and the old Turbo Express (durability and ease of racking) and duplicates or improves on each idea.

Multiple partners have all commented on how much easier the new Turbo Express screws are to start, place, and remove. They are an all-around improvement over the old model. Only time and extended use will tell how durable they are compared to the old model and competing products."

Bottom line? You can get too anal about some things :) I am about ice screws for sure. To some extent it is personal preference and what you are most used to climbing with. Between the BD and Grivel the difference is little. Obviously I have a preference and I am sure the BD crew cringes and roll their eyes, rightfully so, when I post something like this, while Gioachino @ Grivel rubs his hands in glee.

The newest generation of ice screws are amazing. In many ways they have opened up much of the new mixed terrain and allowed the old "classics" to be done faster and much safer. There are no losers here.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Winter Layers?

This is a post from Feb of '10 . But as the season is just getting started for '10/'11, thought it worth re posting again as nothing has changed besides more manufacturers offering similar garments this winter.

(or in this case lack of layers)

I was lucky enough to spend the last week ice climbing around Banff and on the Icefield's Parkway in Alberta Canada. Places I have climbed and skied in most winters for years.

Besides the obvious high quality ice climbing I was really looking forward to field testing some new (for me anyway) pieces of clothing and ideas on cold weather use.

But before I get to what I used on this trip and the results, let me back up a bit and tell you what I have used in years previously and have been happy with generally.

The coldest temps we would actually climb in hover around -25/-30C (-22F). Anything colder and I retreat to a shelter, hot springs and good food. Not uncommon to see
+10C (50F) on calm days in the sun on sheltered ice climbs.

Base layers?
Generally Merino wool or Capilene, two piece set ups and one piece union suits depending on the temperatures. Some times even those would get layered.

Mid layer/insulation ?
Pile. Pick your weight and material but generally some sort of pile gear. Pile pants and pile shirts or sweaters.

Outer layer/ protection?
Early on it was nylon shells, then Goretex and then Shoeller style soft shells of wool/spandex (25 years ago) and more recently synthetics (Shoeller and its copies) with real 4 way stretch.

Boots were singles and dbls. Often times with Supergators on the singles and even the dbls when required.


Old stand-bys were boiled wool Dachsteins with/without over mitts. My favorite were Dachsteins and Helly Hansen over mitts and when required a foam pad between the layers to keep your hands from getting too beat up with straight shafted tools. Dachstein gloves had their place as well...but generally considered a luxury. Goretex shelled gauntlet gloves with thick pile liner came next and have remained a standard with leashed tools.

Leashed tools? Leashless tools? Here is where much of the info I am relating splits. True leashless tools like the newest BD Cobra and Fusion or the Petzl Nomic and Quarks have in many ways redefined what we use for clothing on ice/mixed climbs. Gear that easily works leashless will NOT be warm enough, in my experience, for leashed climbing.

OK..back to the clothing systems.

An old saying I heard as a kid was, "Eskimos never sweat." The thought behind that? It was just too cold in an Arctic environment to ever risk getting wet, soaking your insulation and then having that insulation freeze. Makes sense, but how do you ever get anything done and not sweat if you are working hard and trying to climb fast?

(I'm about to repeat info now that can be better understood by reading Mark Twight's and Will Gadd's ice climbing/technique books)

Obviously you'll sweat on the approach unless you really back off the pace. I don't do approaches longer than just a few minutes in my climbing upper layer. I dress really lightly on the top layer for the walk in and then dry off and change to dry clothes at the base of the climbing.

To stay dry I use a belay sweater/jacket (depending on insulation required by the temps) to let my body heat dry me off and keep me warm while drying out at the belay if I have broken a sweat climbing. Better yet climb with a light enough and breathable enough set of clothing that you don't wet your body or gear on anything but the hardest leads. It is a tough balancing act.

Light enough...breathable enough?

Four words that are saying a lot! You need to push the definition of both imo.

I switched a few years ago to all Shoeller style clothing. But unbelieving in just how far I really needed to go I bought all the gear in a insulated form. To be specific Arteryx Gamma MX hoody and pants. I have worn out a set of both over time. And I still love both of them for climbing. But for everything but the very coldest weather (below -20C) I find that material (Polartec Power Shield in the Gamma MX line) to be too much now.

Why too much? Too heavy physically, too warm and not breathable enough.

OK, you ask, "WTF, Dane?" "That is a $400 piece of kit (Gamma MX Hoody) you encouraged me to buy last year and now you are telling me it is rubbish?...too warm?...too heavy?"

Last year I thought the Gamma MX hoody would be the one piece of clothing I would always take on alpine/ice routes. Now I am saying it is too much? Yes....but don't throw it away just yet :)

You need to go back to the idea that "cool muscles work more efficiently".

Mind you it might take you a bit of effort to find out just how "cool" you are willing to work at to make this all work. That might include a trip where you dress too light and freeze your ass off to find out just how "cool" you'll want to be :) I'd suggest you make that trip, a low risk, high energy event. If you blow it bad on the clothing combos at least movement will generally keep you warm. You need to iron out your system in a fairly controlled environment.

The rewards are worth the risk imo. But to be sure, blow these combinations in a big way and cold injury is almost certain or even death will be the end result. I have used the system at a fine edge half a dozen times now and I had significant performance and recovery break through each time. I also look back and thank my lucky stars that there was no "incident" on those climbs that could have easily precipitated a disaster. An unplanned night out in bad weather while cutting it close on gear can be more than just uncomfortable.

The results of 24 unplanned hrs out in 10F temps? A full year of recovery.

Here are my current thoughts on winter clothing systems. Limit the layers. Yes, limit the layers! The first picture in this post is me climbing early in my career in mostly wool, with temps rapidly going to -40 as the sun went down. It was pretty miserable at the time and to be honest a little scary. I had never been in such temps and that exposed before.

But a couple of things made a big difference. I was mobile, light layers made that possible. I was dry internally because the clothing breathed well and so I stayed warm if I kept moving. Funny now because I realised as I typed this morning that the clothing pictured there (circa 1973) would be a perfect set up for leashless climbing now in very cold temps...say -20C but not at
-40C :)

So limit the layers and stay mobile. Easy to do now with modern clothing.

Layer ONE:

I am using a R1 Hoody inner layer. MEC makes R1 tops and bottoms for something like $60 retail. Or you can buy Patagonia's for $150. Same exact material and in several ways the MEC clothing is better designed imo. Now there is a easy decision?!

Yep, just the R1 and nothing between it and my skin. Although my lowers are actually Costco longs...almost expedition weight but some brand name called "Paradox". The R1 seems to be just a bit much on my legs and I lose some mobility compared to the Paradox lowers which seem to slide in the outer shell pants I am using easier.

Layer TWO:

That depends on the outside temps and the level of aerobic action I expect. My current choices going warm to colder temps are:

Eddie Bauer Front Point is a combo hard shell and soft shell . Very water resistant (my top was dry in a soaking waterfall that went straight through my pants and filled my boots to the brim) and very breathable. I am highly impressed with the details of this garment and the combo of materials used. A surprising and almost immediate favorite for cold technical climbing. But there are other lwt shells that will fit this catagory.


Arcteryx Atom Lt Hoody....lightly insulated shell with stretch vented sides and under the arms. Again a surprise, water resistant as well but not tested to any extreme yet. Very warm for its weight and thickness but useful in the right temps (cold) for hard climbing because the stretch side panels and insulated body breath so well.

Worth noting that I have now cut one full layer from the previous suggestions from even last year's system. Insulation is used as required in the base layer and in the outer layer. And most manufactures are now making something similar..Patagonia's Nano series is another example. Mtn Hardware has one as well. But there is no seperate insulation layer short of the belay jacket. The real insulation is in layer THREE where the insulation can EASILY be added or just as likely removed to keep you dry and mobile.

For my pants I have been using the Arcteryx Gamma Lt. for two winters now. I did add a set of grommets to use them as a pant gaiter. And no one more surprised than me that a set of generic long johns and a Gamma Lt. would be good enough to keep me warm and toasty from -20C to well above freezing and still breath enough on the "death marches" while toiling amd dripping in in sweat. Only disadvantages I see are they aren't very durable and the lower left leg could be more tapered if my crampon "wear" is any indication.

Layer THREE:

A Belay jacket chosen for the degree of warmth required and how much drying will be required.

Listed in amount of warmth is required. Warm temps to cold and how much moisture I expect:

Mountain Hardware Compressor Hoody (Primaloft 1)
*shown here in combo with the Atom Lt @ -20C in the shade* (lots of other high qulaity jackets in this catagory now)

Narrona Hooded Down

MEC Tango Belay Jacket (Primaloft 1)

Eddie Bauer XV

As a system that is it...THREE... layers total. And one generally will be in the pack.

Gloves and boots?

Maintaining your mobility, cutting down on weight by doing so allows you to move faster. You can then use lighter weight boots and gloves and still stay equally as warm or warmer while moving faster with less effort! Add the advantages of leashless tools and the differences of what you can get away with for a glove system while still being comfortable is simply...amazing.

You have to remember it is a SYSTEM. If required I could carry and use both layer TWO pieces together for extra warmth. I'll do another post and describe the boot and glove systems I am using with this clothing combo. Scarpa and La Sportiva for boots and Outdoor Research and Mtn Hardware for gloves cover the brand names here for me.

Bottom line on the field testing? Climbed harder and faster with less effort and less clothes and in more comfort than ever before in Canada. Huge success for me.

An after note..

A long time climbing buddy who on rare occasion reads the blog busted on me for listing all the brand names I use. I search out the best gear for my own use and buy it at retail. No one giving this stuff to me. But that doesn't make it the best gear for your use. I list the manufacturers simply so you can make direct comparison for your own benefit.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Scarpa Phantom Ultra and Scarpa Phantom Guide updates

I got an email pointing out a mistake I made identifying the "Phantom Ultra" as a "prototype Phantom 6000" in Jon Griffith's photo of Steck on le Droites. Thanks for the heads up Will!

Way beyond the sales hype. Jonathan Griffith's photo of Ueli Steck soloing the Ginat on Le Droites early in 2010 in the super lwt version of the Phantom single, the "Ultra". Weight is down around 1600g in weight per pair for a 42, where the Guide is 1800g and the 6000 is 2000g in that size.

This boot is not currently available in North American but is in Europe and England. The over all weight is getting down to an ounce or so of the more traditional, bench mark, fabric "silver bullet" boot, La Sportiva's Trango Extreme Evo Gortex. With a full boot gaiter and better insulation the Ultra offers much more protection in nasty, wet, cold conditions. And most importantly once wet, dries faster than the Trango in my experience. The Ultra, by the numbers is 3.5 oz lighter in my size 45 and $30/40 LESS expensive than the Phantom Guide if you can find it. 3.5 ounces per boot in a size 45. Or another 7 ounces or 198g for the pair.

Part of the weight savings is using the thinner and lighter sole/mid sole system also used on the Phantom 6000 and noted in that review earlier. Lacing inside the Ultra is the same system that is used in the Guide. Slightly different material on the Ultra's inner boot for insulation and a different gaiter material for reinforcement and durability with crampons than the Guide. I get a better fit in my Ultra than my Phantom Guides. That could simply be the difference in specific boots though not boot models. The Ultra seems to dry faster as well. Again could be a subjective call but the inner boot materials are different between the two very similar Scarpa Phantom boots.
While making inquiries about these boots, Scarpa NA and several retailers who stock the Ultra in
England gave similar replies:
"Re: The Ultra,
Boot is less stiff and less warm than the Guide. Sole is very fragile. Sole is not as durable as the Guide. Only the Guide is available in 1/2 sizes."
Me thinks they protest too much. As neither "less stiff or less warm" is true from my experience. No retailer wants to carry such a specialised alpine climbing boot in a full size run which would sell directly against the Phantom Guide even if the Ultra is $40. less expensive. I might even swallow the "less durable" issue with the boot soles as they are a lwt version also used on the Phantom 6000. Not a boot I'd use on a lot of rock but might well be a nice advantage to drop another half pound off your feet on alpine ice and mixed routes where you'd be wearing 'pons anyway.
But the sole issue is important. The Ultra and the 6000 come with a new super low profile and I think sticky rubber sole. At least they seem as sticky as the La Sportiva sticky rubber available on some of the Trango series. Which is saying a lot. And it wears quickly. Has to be sticky the way I can walk boulder fields with them. The Vibram® Mulaz outsole, has an edging platform in the toe area and is the newest, super sticky, "Supertrek Rubber". The rear sole profile of these two boots is a vast improvement over the Spantik sole where you can collapse the foam mid sole when you flip up your crampon lever locks if you get carried away on how tight you want your crampons. "No can do" on the Ultra or 6000. Well done Scarpa! But the front of the sole is a super low profile toe area. I have yet to manage a perfect front crampon bail fit (and am using Petzl bails) to keep the crampon in one place. It isn't dangerous mind you just annoying. But don't let anyone tell you it is a great fit, it isn't without some real effort. My 'pons end up off center from French technique and a decent gap on the inside of the toe bale. If anyone has an answer to that let me know will you? And it is something the crampon manufactures will need to address sooner than later because the new low profile Scarpa sole profile is a really good improvement over all I think. The lighter weight sole profile boots (Ultra and 6000) are much easier to walk in than even the Guide. Of the 3 boots by far the Ultra fits my feet the best and is the easiest to lace for a good fit. Even though all three boots use a similar lace system and the Guide/Ultra system is exactly the same.

BTW, both the Ultra and 6000 boots I got this year came with Primaloft and a Outdry tag. There may be the reason they seem to dry faster and get less wet than my Guides but I am only guessing. Too limited on data to go any further. By the Spring of 2011 all three are suppose to be all lined with "Outdry" at Steck's suggestion, replacing the time proven Gortex liner.

Here is Scarpa's 12/20 response on a reader's 6000 query:

"Many thanks for your email. The Phantom 6000 has never been manufactured with a goretex lining so there will be no change in the way that this is produced over the foreseeable future. Check out the product review:

The waterproof membrane that it refers to is Outdry."
Not a huge amount of added info but I use the Mtn Hardware gloves that if believed are again Steck's designs and lined with Outdry all of last winter and was happy with them. Obviously someone knew a bit about climbing in the design process. I've not seen Goretex in a glove system do as well. OutDry seems to work exceptionally well. I have intentionally totally soaked Mtn Hardware gloves and only got the leather palms wet (which take forever to dry) and my hands have stayed bone dry inside the glove.
If the boots only do so well.
The gaiter? Between the La Sportiva Batura and the Phantom gaiter surprisingly the La Sportiva gaiter is better imo. It breathes better and is easier to fit with pants tucked inside. I found the Guides gaiter beginning to fully iced up internally and begining to give me cold wet feet as the c mlted lower in the boot in th cold windy conditions (-7C and lower) in the Canadian Icefields last week. Moisture from my perspiration wasn't getting out of the boot fast enough. In the same place and temps the Batura was solid, warm and dry for the most part. Easy fix is just wear the pants over the boot (Steck photo above) which keeps everything unfrozen and the boot breathing better. But I liked the Batura's option of doing either pant in or out. That option removes material from the bottom of the leg. Less chit to snag a 'pon on.

Iced up inner gaiter on a Guide that is now soaking my sox.
I have not seen a lot of feedback on these boots and used them just a bit myself so take my comments with a grain of salt here.
This boot has been out a full year on climber's feet. Scarpa's professionals I the very least some very good climbers, most all European and British bad asses. I try a lot of different boots and don't always climb in what I really like because of it. My feet are difficult to fit as well. But I actually buy my own boots so this isn't some hype I am spewing for a "gift". And in this case it took a buddy making a big effort to actually get me a pair from Europe because they were unavailable to me in any easy manner here.
I have one pair of Guides and one pair of Ultras so the comparison may simply be between different boots not between different models. The Ultra seems to have a bigger toe box and a narrower heel fit. The inner boot materials are different. A closer and more comfortable fit for me with the Ultra. Out of the box they walk well and climb well on steep water ice. More than enough ankle support for long bouts of alpine ice. I hardly noted the boot on my foot which is a good indicator to me just how much better they fit than the Guide and the difference the new mid sole makes walking.
I don't have a huge experience base in the guide or the Ultra...way too early for that but I do have enough boot experience to make these comments. I was having a huge case of buyer's remorse on the Ultra as even I can't justify $500 for a 7 oz difference over a pair of Guides that are easy to procure and try on locally. But it only took me a few minutes just trying the Ultra on indoors to know there was a difference enough for my foot and worth the effort Will went through to get them to me...Thanks again Will!
Walking and climbing in them just reinforced that first over all impression.

A caution. Few modern mtn boots can be laced as tightly and securely as the newest Phantom line....all three of them. It is easy to have operator error and over tighten the boots on the lower or upper and cut off circulation. For me to want to mention that fact in a boot review should give you an idea of how easy it is to do. This boot series is exceptional but like any gear you will need to learn what works and what doesn't for you. The Dyneema laces, btw, are nice. You won't be breaking them...ever.... I suspect.

"SCARPA announced they have teamed up with OutDry in order to make my all time favorite technical mountaineering boots even better. OutDry's waterproof breathable technology will appear in SCARPA's Phantom Collection for Spring 2011.

Both SCARPA and OutDry worked with renowned alpinist and speed-climber Ueli Steck on the design of the new Phantom Collection. Steck wanted a technical mountaineering boot with improved waterproofness that would cut down on the boot's "wet weight" while climbing in wet snow conditions.

OutDry is currently used in gloves from Mountain Hardwear and footwear from Lafuma among others. OutDry uses a three-dimensional laminating technology to adhere a windproof and waterproof breathable membrane to the inside of the outer most layer of shoes, boots and gloves. The permanent membrane bond creates a flawless fit with no folds, seams or the requirement for seam-sealing tape.

The waterproof breathable membrane will be laminated directly to the inner side of the K-tech boot upper on the SCARPA Phantom technical mountaineering boots. The use of OutDry in the boots also allows the addition of Primaloft for increased insulation qualities.

OutDry will be featured in all the new SCARPA Phantom styles including the Phantom 6000, Phantom Guide and the Phantom Ultra."

By the numbers:
Multilayer uppers:

S-Tech outer fabric

Waterproof membrane

3D Mesh insulation

Felt reinforcement

Wicking mesh lliner

Dyneema Laces with Fast Lock


Lightweight TPU crampon inserts allowing full crampon use

PU shock absorbing inserts in the heel and forefoot for added comfort

Vibrams Mulaz Outsole

High density microporous midsole

Pro Fibre XT insole provides proven stiffness with enough flex to ensure approach comfort




1600g pair of 42

Sizes: 37-48

Multilayer uppers:

S-Tech outer fabric

Waterproof membrane

Eva + Aluminium support and reinforcement

Felt reinforcement


Dyneema Laces with Fast Lock


Lightweight TPU Midsole with variable thickness for walking comfort

PU shock absorbing inserts in the heel and forefoot

Vibrams Total Traction sole

Pro Fibre insole provides proven flex characteristics




1800g pair of 42

Size: 37-48 including half sizes

Colour: Orange

Read more and make your own comparisons:

Will's photos: