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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Patagonia Sun Hoody

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.

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, base layer that is lighter yet than the R1 Hoody. And I am not a big fan of Patagonia clothing. Generally is is over priced imo and not very well tailored for the price point they ask.

But not the case on this one. Seldom do I find a useful piece of climbing clothing that I want on every climb winter or summer, rock or ice, 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!

I now own three of them and would own more if I could find them.
$65 @ full retail and so far I have only seen two white/silver and the ninja color, olive drab. Gotta love the military contracts!

Patagonia sez:

Men's Lightweight Sun Hoody $65 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.


"Ratings can be all over the map on this one, WI 5R, M5, 3 to 5 pitches can be had, or it can be WI6-R and no M rating or if you are lucky casual WI4 and no rock. It is a water ice climb in an alpine environment so it is all about conditions. Today they were good."

A few years ago a buddy of mine was telling me how his ridiculously hard first ascent of a mixed alpine line, had now been down graded, without ever have been repeated. Part of it he blamed on the French. Part of the discussion, and his real point, I failed to fully understand at the time.

The French climbers who had recently repeated the route, did so in conditions the first ascent party only dreamed of. The Anglo/Saxon team had hard mixed, dry tooling, little pro and less ice. The French had neve' inches thick and yards wide, a tiny bit of mixed in comparison and climbed the majority of the same line as a pure ice climb with single swing, bomber sticks.

The two teams on the same stellar line obviously did not have the "same" experience.

So my friend was right. "His" climb has yet to be repeated. But that has always been the nature of alpine climbing and even more so with the most modern alpine mixed routes.

Before modern ice gear, the greatest alpine ice routes were generally only climbed when they were perfect snow or neve'. Anything that showed bare ice was considered too dry and out of condition. Now we search out those dry "real ice" conditions and quickly front point through easy alpine neve'.

Ice runnels that offer stellar M climbs are there and climbable one day and gone the next in the Cascades or Alps. Good example was a line I climbed last winter following a party from the previous day. Then two days later that runnel was bare rock and the ice gone. Subsequent parties that winter by passed the crux (because it simply was no longer there) of "our" route by climbing easy snow well right of our original line. Discussion of the route between a dozen of us who had been there left us wondering just what "climb" we were actually on?! M5 or easy snow? You wouldn't think that would be much a discussion. But it took pictures taken during "our" climbs actually showing "our" conditions to sort it all out.

What have learned from all this? Climb when you can, enjoy what the conditions are while you are there and then forget about it :-)

The two pictures are the same climb almost exactly a year to date ('09/'10) separated in time. The pitch you are looking up in both pictures is a over-hanging rock corner, and typically fills in with ice formed from melt water coming down from high on the peak. Enough ice generally to climb as a WI5 to WI6- with an R rating. How over-hanging the climbing is depends on how much ice has formed. It can build enough ice to be a WI4- route. The initial quote at the beginning of this blog and the photos are from the classic Cascade ice route on Snoqualmie Pass, "Flow Reversal".

My peference for any WI6R route? Wait till it is FAT!
Late spring WI4 condition.

And another photo of the same line a few years previous. Roger Strong photo

Friday, January 29, 2010

Where did I come from?

If you are going to be reading the blog seems like a fair question that deserves an answer. Not every summit is listed here or every climb pictured here a success.  But simply where I have been.   And looking back some of what seems important to me today.

Canadian water ice, winter1972/73
On the top of Cascade waterfall here.

Deltaform, Canadian Rockies in 1975
This Mtn is still a passion of mine.  The N. Glacier and shortly after the 2nd ascent on Super Coulior.

North side of Deborah, Alaska range, May, 1976
with help from the AAC

FA, Central Pillar, N Face Temple July 1976 with Mike Eastburn, 16 hrs.

Early morning on the Eiger, Oct 1978
Prior to bailing later in the day

Polar Circus, Canadian Rockies 1980
a year later the 2nd one day ascent.
Now most do it rather casually in 5 hrs or less
from the road to the chains.

FA Yahoody, trad, .11b 1980  A big step for me in EBs and a swami belt.

Slipstream, 2nd ascent and 1st one day, in 7hrs. Canadian Rockies Jan 1981
with Gary Silver, RIP

My line on the 2nd solo of Edith Cavel after Royal Robbins, August 1981
7 hrs car to summit.

FA, Tsunami, trad 5.11b R,  the Selkirks 1986

1987 Solo Illusions/ FF combo, 5.11a, 4 pitches

FA Lingerie, trad, .12b 1987

FA UNI, trad .12b 1988
Which I had rated .11+

2006 solo of Polar Circus, seemingly a perennial classic for me.

Fun winter mixed in the Cascades, 2008

Curtain Call, WI6, Canadian Rockies 2009
with Jack Roberts, RIP

2nd Ascent, Blue Moon vair. on Pineapple Express.
IV, AI3, M6, 5.9
Mtn. Snoqualmie, 2009  

The Alps, Winter/Spring, 2011

Fall and Winter of 2011
Stage IV Cancer survivor

Canadian Rockies, Winter/Spring of 2012,  

Rt Hand WW
Winter/Spring 2013

March thru May, Spring 2014, '15, '16  back in Chamonix again skiing and climbing.

PC 1980

It is a low priority, work in progress, but more here:

"Cold Cold World" climbing sacks

I went looking for a new larger volume climbing sack a few weeks ago. Of course anything I wanted would have to be sewed up to my size and a special order. I have lots of packs but the only company I own several of and continue to use every where, is the CCW stuff.

One of the best things that I have "seen" while at the Outdoor Retailer show in SLC is the pack shown below...that Randy shipped on Thursday for me. So I have yet to actually see it.

Built mainly from a black "spider web" Spectra rip stop, Choas in size, leashless tool attach and crampon bag included. A more detailed review to follow when I get home. But I am expecting a lot and CCW/Randy has never dissappointed.

Worth noting CCW retails (and still amazing to me) are less for a totally custom pack than others are for a production pack. And Randy's personal experience, actually out using the gear as intendeded, is second to none in the business. (3rd complete of Moonflower and 1st of Reality Bath come to mind...early solos of Slipstream..Tear Drop ect.) So if you need a guy who really understands your needs as a climber, he is THE go to guy imo.

Few times are the cutting edge practioners involved so directly with product design, manufacturing and development. When they are it shows.

Totally custom pack to my specs, with select materials, harness and accessories with the Chaos' volume. $245 and $10 shipping from the East coast to Issaqauh WA. And amazingly, a week after the order was placed it was shipped out to me. Freak'in stellar customer service!

Not the best know fact...but Twight, Belcourt, House and dozens of others have used "COLD COLD WORLD" packs off and on for years.

The one shown is a size Large with a 19.5 back.
Postal scale says 2# 4oz stripped (lid and foam off)
Tri folded 9mm Foam 3 or 4 oz (3/4 size and 22"x37")
mongo size...Lid another 8 oz

Just under 3# all added up and 4000+ cu in. for a size large. Extension is at least another 1500ci. 4000 in³ = 65.5482 L

Big enough to be used as a half bag if required and strong enough to stand in while hanging on the haul loops. Material is 500 denier nylon with a Spectra carbon fiber ripstop reinforcement woven into the fabric. So the pack could be made lighter using lighter weight materials. I was looking for something lwt weight, would look good in photos and tough, all without dropping a gazzillion $.

He's even sewn up a few "white" ones you've seen in the Patagonia catalog that another company just loves to take credit for :)

If you are looking for something really special for your own climbing you should make the effort to discuss your project with Randy @ CCW 603 383 9021

2010 Scarpa Phantom Alpine Boots

Check out the complete reviews of both the Phantom Guide and Phantom 6000 posted on the blog in April '10 (Guide) August '10 (6000).

April 2010 update.....late this month before we'll see the Phantom Guide...late August before we'll see the 6000.

Last issue of R&I has a good write up by DR on the new Scarpa single boot, Phantom Guide. They look and feel even better in person. The newest Phantom 6000 dbl isn't on the web page last I checked. So thought some might want to see it as well.

The two boots in the new Phantom series so far are REALLY low profile and lwt boots. Hopefully I'll be using a pair of the dbls shortly and can give more feedback and a detailed review and comparison to my Sportiva Baruntse (incredible boot btw) and the Spantik.

My take from playing with them @ the OR show is they will be as big a jump in mtn boots technology as the Sportiva Batura and Spantik were a couple of years ago. Crampon fit might be a bit of an issue though with the extremely low profile toe and soles. But the same will make them climb really well I suspect. We'll have to wait and see. The boots should be out to retailers in a month or so. Check Amazon and Backcountry on delivery dates if you are interested. Plenty of time I am hoping for the spring Alaska season. Amazing just how good the gear is getting!

The last generation Scarpa Phantom Lt had already won the enviable reputation of being a more durable boot than the Batura on the long Chamonix mixed routes. I am hoping they continue to live up to their reputation with the newest boots.

Feb 5 update:

Going to be March before we see any of the new boots in the US. In a size 42 the Guide weights 1# 15oz, the 6000 is 2# 3oz. Sizing is better in these boots compared to the older model Scarpas. Instead of a full size smaller they are running a Euro 1/2 smaller than American sizing.

The Guide will be imported in a full 1/2 size run. SADLY.....Scarpa USA has again decided to bring the Phantom 6000 in only in full sizes. Bummer that one as I really need a 45.5 to get the best advantage from the boot. Better I guess than Sportiva who only makes full size shells on their dbl boots. At least I could buy a true 45.5 if I am in Europe or possibly Canada.

Phantom Guide, single boot with attached super gaiter.

New Phantom 6000, looks to be one of the lowest profile and lowest volume dbl boots on the market. I suspect it will be a big hit for some of us.. For my own use I have thought what was really needed was a bit less volume than the newest huge dbls and all the current technology to come up with a boot that was warm enough for most winter stuff and would still climb very well.

I suspect the 6000 has answered some of that request.

The new Scarpa 6000 dbl boot

Ice tool umbilicals

The Joke Slinger, on the BD Spinner leash, Jan. 2010, the Cascades.

With the invention and popularity of leashless climbing, a once condemmed and decades old climbing tool has come back. While they are not mandatory, they are in vogue. It has been over 35 years since I saw the first pair of umbilicals in use.

Author's umbilicals of 9/16" webbing being used on a quick ascent of Polar Circus in the winter of 1979.

Gregg Cronn photo

Back in the late '70s and into the early '80s umbilicals were looked upon as a weak man's crutch. Mostly thought of as something the Canadians used (but never really did much) to aid sections of rotten, cold and really steep ice. We can blame all that on Bugs McKeith inventing the idea of ice aid while putting up some of today's modern classics, like Nemisis and Polar Circus. Just two among his many, many difficult ice climbs. Most visiting American climbers thought they were way ahead of the game by not using umbilicals while running up the first "free" ascents of the Canadian test pieces. Few outside Canada really made the "first free" ascents many claimed. Canadians had already been there on most of them and didn't fight back the cat calls.

No Internet back in the day so info was often sketchy and incomplete or just a fubar rumor. It was hard to keep track. Of course not every one used umbilicals even back then. But a few did. 1st and 2nd ascents of Slipstream did.

Jim Elzinga photo of John Lauchlan on the 1st ascent of Slipstream

They were not used for aid or for hanging to place screws. Although when required you could do either. The real use was to save your ass if you happen to fall. Hopefully an umbilical would keep you on the ice. BITD leads were long and run out. Ice screws could be hard, difficult or just plain impossible to get in, depending on the ice and out side temps. Weighting your umbilicals is a way to save the 2nd's strength while pulling screws if you can deal with that idea ethically today.No one sane thought the idea of falling with tools and crampons OK. Falling on the old gear generally required a hospital stay or worse.

Once I switched from Chouinard curved tools to a set of Terrodactyls for technical ice I seldom climbed without at least one umbilical attached to my harness or swami. As the tools changed the old umbilicals generally went straight on the new tools. Big jumps from Terros, Clog, Chacal, Pulsar.Pretty simple change as mine were just a set of tied 9/16" nylon tube webbing.

The first manufactured umbilicals I saw..years later ('05) ... where done up by Grivel. The "Grivel, Double Sping Leash" with a mini wire gate "biner" specifically designed for the task. While leashless tools really hadn't caught up with the possibilities yet, Grivel umbilicals were seen on some pretty amazing climbs often used by climbers sponsored by competing tool companies. The umbilical had finally "arrived". But no one outside a tiny circle of hardcore alpine climbers really knew it yet. A quick Goggle Images search will get you photos of Steve House, Marko Prezelj, Raphael Slawinski and a host of others using both the Grivel and BD umbilicals on hard alpine climbs all through the new millenium.

I worry more about dropping a leashless tool, than I do falling off. But when you can protect yourself from both mistakes it makes sense to ante up and use that protection. More than one really good climber has poked fun at me because of my support of umbilicals. More climbs and climbers I admire used umbilicals and have been suggesting you do as well.

Ueli Steck, Grand Jorasses, record speed solo, Jan '09. Jon Griffin photos

Easiest way to get yourself a pair of umbilicals is by reading Dave's web site and making your own. Good stuff!!
Alpine Dave photo

The second way is buy a pair of the commercially made ones.

Grivel offers several versions and Black Diamond offers their "Spinner" unit.
For what it costs to make a "good" pair of umbilicals both Black Diamond and Grivel offer real value imo.

Here is some detail on what I use and my observations.

Grivel was my first commercial set. I was lucky enough to get the original Grivel 3KN mini biner version with a girth hitch atatchment. Not a big fan of the mini locking version out now. Or a biner attachment to the harness. Good elastic and webbing that attaches to the harness by a girth hitch (small loop is passed through harness belay loop and tails are feed back through and out the small loop cinching tight on the belay loop) Very simple. Length is shorter than some seem to like but if I sit down on the leashes (6'1 and normal ape index) at full extention for both tools the Grivel leash will allow my tools to be out of reach. Just barely so, but still out of reach. It is durable.

Black Diamond had dozens of Spinner Leash prototypes out the last couple of years for real world testing and feedback. Again I was lucky enough to get a pair of those and used them a lot. Better yet for good feedback, I let all my partners use them.

Only thing I can see that has changed in the Spinner leash is the over all length has been shortened on the current version. I've seen current reviews commenting that the BD Spinner leash set up is now too short. Trust me? The Spinner IS NOT too short for anyone under 6'8" and a huge ape index that I know! The "too short" comment doesn't make sense unless the reviewer is mistakenly writing about a short early prototype? Mine on full extention are a full 2 feet past what I can reach.
If you happen to fall on the Spinner you'll have some work cut out for you getting back to your tools. The Grivel set up is managable but only just. The Spinner will make you work for a living it you weight it unprepared. But if you are using the most modern ice climbing techniques you should be stacking your tools on top of each other which should help. You'll need the extra reach to accomplish that and still have only a short fall for your Spinner to catch. It is a tough balancing act to get the right umbilical length and still get it to do everything required of it.
If you need to weight your tools intentionally, you had better stack them or you'll not be able to reach a tool using either brand name.While I like simple and wasn't impressed with the swivel of the Spinner originally, everyone else that used mine was. I bought and had a chance to use a pair of the Blue Ice Boa leashes while I was here in Chamonix.   Liked them enough I have set my old Grivel's aside and am using the Boa now full time.
I like they pull test @ 550 daN or 1236 lbf.  No one else committing to over 800 lbs.   BD says 800# but the UIAA test is 450#  which is what the BD and Grivel is rated at,  so why bother?  Because in climbing gear, more weight, "more better" (strength wise) generally.

More info here:
Now available in NA here:

I try to climb smart and if a technical ice tool goes in my pack so does a umbilical system. See ya out there!

Steve House on the top of the Italian Route, Taulliraju (5830m), first free ascent, three-day roundtrip, with Marko Prezel 2005 (Prezel photo)