Pageviews past week

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Thursday, December 29, 2011

The Russell Moccasin Co. and minimalist running shoes?

The Munson Army Last has been around since 1912. -Named after its inventor, Edward Luman Munson, A.M., -M.D., Lt. Col. Medial Corps, United States Army, the Munson Army Last was adopted by the U.S. Army to enhance the fit and comfort of military boots issued to soldiers. The Munson Army Last was and is one of the few lasts that ever approached normal feet shape and contour.

It was the view and understanding of Dr. Munson, way back then, that  “Weakening of the foot muscles is one of the penalties of civilization,  as walking is less and less a factor in locomotion....the introduction of railroads, street cars and automobiles, has materially interfered with foot development.”

"I did an hour hike up and down a back-country ski trail the other day in a custom pair of minimalist shoes. Packed snow, nine degrees Fahrenheit, and my feet were toasty the whole way. They have no heel lift, no cushioning, an anatomically correct design, and are the only shoes I've found other than FiveFingers where I can actually splay my toes; they have excellent traction. No need for snow shoes, or Yaktrax.

A new start-up minimalist shoe company? Nope, this company has been making minimalist footwear for over 100 years. It's the Russell Moccasin Co. of Berlin, Wisconsin, and the shoe in question was produced for me as a prototype after a conversation with the 80-year old owner.

Like many of us, after starting to wear Vibrams on a regular basis, I realized that traditional shoes were no longer going to cut it. I'd been able to find decent, but not great, alternatives for office wear, but the one problem remaining was cold weather. How to get a boot that would be suitable for hiking in the winter in snow and on ice? After a good deal of research, I found that the Russell Moccasin Co. makes custom boots, and some of them sounded close to what I was looking for."

More here:

I suspect a few are now beginning to think I have lost my mind :)

I and my family have a long history with the Russel Moccasin Co.  So if you have ever wondered where my shoe fetish started, it was here while in the 2nd grade.

I could go on but I'll leave that for the Q&A session in the comments that are sure to follow. If you are a minimalist runner I suspect you'll like what Russel has been doing with shoes and boots for years.   For the rest of your it might take a bit of wrangling to wrap your head around the need let alone the actual shoes/boots Russel offers and their cost.

There isn't much footwear that gives Dane "happy feet".  A custom pair of Russels is one of my definitions of the term.  But until just the last few days I had never thought about actually just running in them.   I have used them for everything else and in conditions that would never makes sense if you didn't know more about the construction of Russel's entire line of footwear.

But "just running" in them makes a lot of sense if you are into a minimalist running shoe.  Which I have been, long before the Nike Free or Vibram 5 Finger.

If you ever wondered what tight rock shoes or rigid soled mountaineering boots were doing to your feet this is a good read. 
Dr. Edward Luman Munson's observations from 100 years ago:

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Hey I just liked the photo :)

Photo courtesy of Paul Clifford

Climber is Greg Vadasdi from the other side of the country, decked out in some sweet C-T gear suggestions.  Thanks guys!

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Croz Spur, courtesy of Ben O'Connor Croft

By Dave Searle

When the aim of the game in alpine climbing is to stay warm and dry it's no wonder that we all spend so much time agonizing over our shells without spending much time worrying about mid layers. “What's going to be best today? Softshell, hardshell, wind-shirt, or can I get away with just a mid-layer?” It's inevitable that we get it wrong at some point and will be cursing the Gods as we shiver out a long belay, get a good drenching or feel the sweat run down the small of our backs whilst our mouths dry up as we're sucking in that cold, dry air and remembering the measly amount of water that is left in our bag.....

Something that I have realized over the last few years is that most of our problems run deeper than the shell. Finding a mid-layer system that works well can often be overlooked by most climbers and skiers. My problem is I have slightly ridiculously long arms. This causes me all kinds of problems, things that I never thought about when I was starting out. First off having such long arms means that every time I reach up above my head (which strangely I do quite a lot whilst climbing) my sleeves start to creep up my forearms. Not a big problem you say, well actually it is a massive problem. Something that I have discovered (or maybe no one ever told me) is if my wrists get cold my hands are cold almost instantly afterwards, hardly surprising when you think where the blood that should be keeping your hands warm comes from. For me sleeves either have to be equally as ridiculously long or they need thumb loops. Ideally they should be both because if they aren't long enough but have thumb loops then you get another problem manifesting around the harness area. You'll know what I am talking about if you normally climb in trousers as opposed to salopettes. Being “un-tucked” around the waist can range from a slight draft to full blown harness-hip chaffing. I usually keep my climbers partners updated about this problem during a climb with a simple 1-10 scale. '1' being all tucked and correct, '2' being a slight draft/small patch of skin showing up to '10' being horrendous multiple layers out of the top of the harness with full lead-rack/harness-hip interface. Seriously though, I got my layering system wrong a few times in the last few years and ended up with some seriously rubbed hips to show for it.

There are many different types of mid-layers from the super sleek and thin fleeces such as the Patagonia R1 Hoody and the NWAlpine Spider Light Hoody (I have one of the latter and I'm super impressed with it so far, just need to get out there and give it a good test) all the way up to synthetic or down insulated offerings like the Arc'teryx Atom (a firm favourite of Dane's).  I am going to concentrate on the fleece type here as that's what I use most of the time in the Alps. I've only written a few up here but it should give you a good idea of what I look for in a mid layer and how important they are.

(edit by Dane:  Just to be clear I don't use the Atom LT as a mid layer as Dave implies here, but as my outer layer/action suit top. A R1 or the other tops Dave is discussing in this review I use as my base layer.  More here on how I layer.  )

During the day, before myself and Ally headed over over to Grindlewald to climb the '38 route on the north face of the Eiger, I was getting stressed out about what I was going to wear on the climb. All my kit was in order and I was tossing up what I was going to do about my top half insulation. I decided, to calm my nerves, I should take a trip to Snell sports in Chamonix to buy some more energy gels (as you can never have enough, Yum) and check out what was the latest offering was for a mid-layer. I spent some time trying on various brands and settled on one that I liked. I went for the Mammut Yukon hoody and shelled out half a week's wage buying one at full price, hours before we set off (and the other half on energy gels!). That was almost a year ago and I haven't regretted buying it for one minute and it has come with me on nearly every outing into the mountains in the last year.

Golden granite is on the Direct des Capucin courtesy of Gavin Pike

It has everything I was looking for. A light hood that can be worn under a helmet and is also stretchy enough to pull over the top at a belay. Thumb loops and long sleeves keep my wrists warm and hovering between 1-3 on the 'Un-tucked Scale'. The thumb loops are well thought out and comfortable next to the skin and stretchy enough to pull over the top of thin gloves. The main body material is slightly wind-proof without sacrificing any breath-ability and is also very stretchy and hard-wearing. The one small pocket on the chest is big enough for my camera and I like that it doesn't have 'handwarmer pockets' because I never need or use them. If I could change one thing about this I would get rid of the full length zip for a ½ length one to keep things simpler. Apart from this it really is the ideal mid layer fleece.

Like I said I am really looking forward to giving the NWAlpine Spider Light Hoody a run for its money when I get the chance.

It's more of a fitted mid layer that can be worn next to the skin and would be great for really fast paced alpine routes where you might just be wearing a wind-proof or light shell over the top. It's got a ½ length zip that curves to the side to eliminate the dreaded chest bulge that you can get when you raise your arms in some mid layers. The thumb loops feel good, the hood is great for going under a helmet, and it's got a chest pocket too. This is a proper dedicated climbing base/mid layer fleece. I can't imagine it would stand up to granite stemming in the same way that my Yukon did but it's designed to be used under a shell because they have used thinner, more breathable fabric.

When I was given a First Ascent Hangfire Hoody to test I really wanted to like it. I really did. It looked and felt great and seemed to be fairly similar in design and features to my beloved (now slightly worn out) Yukon Hoody.

The thing is that it's just not quite right. First of all I was puzzled as to why it hasn't got thumb loops. I know they probably cost a little extra to add to a jacket but for me it not worth having a jacket like this without them. The body fitted me really well and was almost better than my Yukon. Unfortunately the lack of thumb loops and much shorter sleeves on the Hangfire meant that they would ride a few inches up my forearms and pull the bottom out of my harness and the cut around the shoulders means that you get a large chest bulge with your hands above your head. Not ideal if you need to look for that next foothold. Also the hood on the Hangfire is neither stretchy enough to go over a helmet or thin enough to wear underneath, rendering itself slightly pointless. The main body material seems a lot tougher than that on my Yukon and it does shed light precipitation which is a plus on some approaches. This jacket hasn't found its way into my action range because it just not quite dedicated enough. I can see what they've done, I can spot it a mile off. It's a more casual, around town, going cragging hoody.... It's just not trying hard enough to come out with me on a big alpine face I'm afraid, so a Cragging/Pub hoody it will remain. I was hoping to use it as a skiing mid-layer this winter, of which I'm sure it would have been very well suited... unfortunately being British I still haven't learnt how to ski so I thought I would just give this winter a miss and sit about at my mum's house in the UK eating chocolate. :-)

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Salewa Pro Gaiter Mountain boot?

This is a boot Salewa first showed at the summer OR show in 2011.  It still hasn't hit the dealers shelves yet but thought it worth mentioning some of the things I know about it from the samples I have.

The most obvious it this little guy and flex adjustment for the sole.

And a closer look at the internals that make it possible

With my friend Eric  giving us a tour of the boot at OR this summer.

What is missing here and easy to not see with all the new technology is the last and human engineering that has gone into this boot.  To be honest most climbers are not into fluff.  And it might be easy to pass off Salewa's newest technology as fluff in a hardcore mtn boot.

What impressed me even more (and surprised me as well) was the last (actually two lasts) of the new Salewa.

In long email conversations with one of Salewa's and Dynafit's boot designers, Federico Sbrissa it became clear as to why.

I easily saw the design, last and fit similarities to the new TLT5 Dynafit ski boots and the new Pro Gaiter from Salewa.  The emails back and forth to Federico Sbrissa just confirmed that guess on my part.
What I have here is the performance fit.  It is tight and form fitting.  I really like the fit but would prefer what I think will be a warmer boot the INSULATED PLUS FIT in this boot.  Only because I know something of the Dynafit/Salewa design  collaboration and trust the end results.  Only time will tell if I am right.

But if I am correct the Pro Gaiter might well end up being a dominate player in full on technical boots just as the TLT has become in BC and touring boots.  The TLT has done that so thoroughly that few are even in the same game right now.   Salewa is betting a lot on this new technology.

The new Pro Gaiter isn't the lightest "super gaiter" style boot out there with even more to come from the major players, new and old.  But if a boot truly fits well I am willing to give up a lot of things.  And I suspect this boot is going to fit my foot exceptionally well.   A few ounces being one of the things I am willing to accept for a perfect fit.

I am really looking forward to giving this boot and several others a real test.

A close up look at just two of the newest boots that will be available by early summer of 2012. 

Mountain boots? I just don't get it?

If you look at any given climbing forum there is almost always a thread on going about what boot is suitable for what ever mtn you might imagine. 

The typical forum poster wants to be able to use the same boot on Whitney in summer and Everest in winter...or pretty close comparison anyway.

Hood, Rainier, Aconcagua and Denali are all lumped into one, all inclusive group.

Climbing has always been an elitiest and expensive sport.

19,000' on Aconcagua is not the same for cold as 19,000' on Denali given the same season.

Big difference in that last 3000' from the top of Hood to the top of Rainier.   The gear for a typical Rainier climb is simply just not good enough for an Aconcagua trip.   People need to recognise the facts.

You can pay now or eventually pay later once your luck runs out.
These are the toes of a friend after 24hrs out climbing in late Nov. @ 7000' in the Cascades.

There is no climbing boot made that costs anywhere near the bill here in money and time off.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

"Glaces"...a history of ice climbing and technique

Just one of the many historical photos in "Glaces",  Beyond Good and Evil., Mt. Blanc Range. 

I like to read.  I like to collect mountaineering books or at least have in the past.   Obviously one of my passions is ice climbing.  I come by that honestly having been lucky enough to have started waterfall climbing at the "golden" era of Canadian waterfall activity in the Rockies.

So I have autographed copies of Bill March's book, Chouinard's, Jeff Lowe's,  Twight's, Will Gadd's and most recently Steve House's.  All great books in their own way. I've talked about most of them here on the blog.  But always special to me to have autographed copies even from guys like Chouinard or House who I have never met.

Some I think are more important historically than others.  And some stand out for their influence on the English climbing community.

As a student of ice climbing history living in North America I have long known that Chouinard didn't invent the curved axe.  And that the curved axe didn't really make the huge leap in climbing difficulty that some have implied.  The climbers did generally and not all of them were from NA.

That was left to others living in the Mt. Blanc Massif and in Scotland and the gear they used or designed.

But that story, their story, has never been seen in one place that I know of, until recently...very recently in fact from what I have seen.

Leave it to my friends at Blue Ice to publish the most recent European tome on ice climbing, "Glaces: arts, experiences et techniques" by Jerome Banc-Gras and Manu Ibarra     

There is a lot here.  I could tell you more but my French is limited.  No English version yet but I know they are working on it.  It will be well received.

Short ummary of contents?

From Antiquity to 1908: Ice as an adversary
1908-1968 : La glace des faces nord 1908-1968: Ice faces north
1968-1998 : La glace des cascades 1968-1998: The ice cascades
1998 a nos jours: La glace sportive 1998 to Present: The ice sports
The gear
The gear progression
Safety equipment
Choosing the route
Choice of technical equipment
Selection of protection
Organization of gearaterial
Moving on the ice
Which route?
Analysis of the possibility of collapse

The historial accounts which I found most interesting by:
Walter Cecchinel
Ludger Simond
Bruno Sourzac
Will Gadd
Pavel Shabalin
Christophe Moulin
Ueli Steck
Fred Degoulet
Philippe Pellet
Jerome Blanc-Gras


"Glaces: arts, exp√©riences et techniques" by Jerome Banc-Gras and Manu Ibarra  is available from Blue Ice France now.  Send them an email encouraging them to do a English version!

Some more shots from the book that should give you an idea of how much a treat this one really is.

From ancient history to the most modern techniques, tools and climbers,  it is all here.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Brooks-Range Cirro Hoody

This is a jacket I should have written up a long time ago. 

It can be found here:

Last winter when us rookie Americans kept missing the last Midi tram off the mountain at the end of the day we had few options.  The Loo or the walk over to the Cosmic hut.  Being on a budget we  would stay in the Loo unless the tram crew kicked us out because of the bad weather and over crowding.

Even in the Loo it was a miserable night for the most part.  Not very comfortable with no gear and colder than I would have liked but not the typical -30C it was hitting outside either.

I think it was the second night up there that I started dropping the Cirrus in my ruck as my "last" layer.  And it did make a big difference in the grand scheme of things.  I was comfortable with that last layer when I hadn't been previous. Less than a pound and worth every penny.  I would have used it a lot more this summer and fall if my plans had worked out.  My only complaint was this particular one was in black.  Hard to get good pictures with a black jacket :)   More so if you only use it climbing at night or on an uncomfortable bivy.  When and where the jacket did get used is high praise though for a garment  designed just for those exact kind of instances.

Here is why it is so good:

It has a great hood, that does fit over a helmet, and a stand up collar in addition to that hood.  The fit is relaxed so  I could easily layer under it.  Slick as well so nothing to hang up when layered.   And it all stuffs into one of the side pockets easily for packing.  As good as it gets for materials and insulation when a lot of the 60g jackets have gone to Primaloft Eco, Brooks didn't dummie down this jacket.

•Insulation: Primaloft One®, 60g/m2
•Shell Fabric: 15 denier Pertex™
14.7 oz on my scale for a XL

No joke, layer six is a Brooks-Range Cirro.  The Midi upper station Loo, 2am, Feb 2011.
60g of Primaloft One and 2 layers of Pertex are enough to make a stark difference when it is cold.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

If you wear an men's XL upper...

And are looking for some new climbing clothing this may interest you:

There are some bits and pieces of hardware there as well.

The RAB Xenon jacket

Because I like and use the Atom LT so much and the Mtn Hardware Compressor before it I am always on the look out for first rate lightly insulated (60g) climbing jackets.

The Xenon first came to my attention and a few of my pals a couple of seasons ago.  I was pretty stoked...right up till I had a chance to try one on and found the side pockets had no zippers.  What was RAB thinking on that one?  I actually discussed that with one of the RAB reps earlier this fall.  I just figured someone made a huge mistake on that order to China.

But nope no zippers was intentional first time around to save weight.  Clearly stopped me and a couple of my friends from buying the Xenon though.

This year the Xenon does have zippers on the pockets, thankfully.  Makes them so they don't fill up with snow and you can actually store something in them with no worry of loosing what ever that happens to be.

The RAB party line:

"The Xenon Jacket is a super lightweight synthetic insulated jacket with a very light outer fabric.

The Xenon Synthetic insulated jacket is the culmination of several years hard work with fabric and synthetic insulation suppliers. We have taken Primaloft® synthetic fill and wrapped it up in the lightest Pertex® Quantum® GL 10 Denier fabric that is currently available.

You get a full length garment with a full length YKK zip, 2 hand warmer pockets and a chest pocket and all for just 340g/12oz!!! The whole jacket packs into its own chest pocket and is ideal as a superlight belay or over layer jacket, to be carried in a pack or clipped to a harness.

Ideal for Alpine Climbing, Mountain Marathon,Mountain Walking, Trek and travel and any fast and light activities. What more could you want?"

Sizes: S - XXL

Weight: 330g / 12oz

◦Pertex® Quantum® GL 10D ultra light rip stop nylon outer and lining

◦Light 60g Primaloft® One in body, sleeves and hood
◦Lycra bound hood fits snugly under a helmet.
◦1-way YKK front zip with internal insulated zip baffle and chin guard
◦2 YKK zipped hand warmer pockets and 1 YKK zipped chest pocket
◦Double exit hem drawcord
◦Packs away into chest pocket
◦Short cut

I am obviously not doing any climbing right now.  But I am using the Xenon almost every day.  I really like this jacket.  One of my projects has been to figure out where in my climbing clothing system I can use this one.

It would be a LOT easier if the hood fit over a helmet.  It doesn't.  Typically that would "kill" any climbing jacket for my ow use.  But the new Xenon (with pocket zips) is good enough that I have been  looking for places to use this jacket.   Here are the reasons I want to use this jacket.  First off the materials used, Primaloft One and Pertex® Quantum® make it a lwt package that is hard to ignore.  The nice detailing, zipper baffle, corner zipper reinforcements, and the fleece chin guard you notice.  Even the hood has a slick little retaining strap for when it is not in use.  The XL size is more like a comfy US large than a XL and it actually fits me very well after the chemo diet.  It might be the only jacket in the house that does come to think about it!

If I am not using the hood I don' want it full of snow...the hood retainer strap is a nice detail.

The Xenon tucked into it's own chest pocket with a loop for clipping it to your harness.  My XL (call it a roomy US large) weighs in at full 11.8OZ!  For once the "stuff" pocket is over size for the jacket and easily goes into this one.  The jacket would go into a smaller (more durable) stuff sack if the bulk is a concern on the harness.  Though you are on your own for that.

I may not get the winter use I had planned for the Xenon without a hood that will go over my helmet.  But this  will certainly be the jacket I throw in the pack for the rest of the year as required.  Yep, at under 12oz. I like it, a lot.    Really, who actually gives an honest garment weight these days..BRAVO, on that one RAB!

I like it enough that if they made the hood big enough to go over a helmet and kept the zippers on the side pockets I'd buy one of those too :)   After all how much weight is a bigger hood really going to add?

Here is a buying tip....if you find this jacket on sale via the Internet...make sure the version you are getting has the side pocket zips if you require them.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Holidays!

Winter Solstice from Uncage the Soul Productions on Vimeo.

Stay sharp...and stay alive this winter!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Winter Alpine and Ice Glove Choices: part 3

So I left the last glove comments with a tale of cold fingers and me using some pretty thick gloves in Chamonix last winter.  None of them the best fit inside a Nomic handle on technical terrain.

Common sense would have me climbing in a pair of wool Dachstein mitts again if I had a pair with me...which I didn't.  Dachsteins with a reasonable over shell are good down to any temp I want to climb in and warmer than anything else I have used...first time every time no matter the conditions.

But easy to use placing rock pro and screws they aren't.  They work but just barely compared to say a pair of Hydras.

Like double boots.... there is a fine line between what is fun to climb a pair of Phantom Ultras and what keeps my feet warm and happy like my Spantiks.

So a couple of gloves I looked at this fall that I wanted to see what all the fuss was about.

The first two were the Arc'teryx Zenta AR ($185 retail)  and the Alpha SV Gloves ($275 retail) and the third was the Outdoor Research Firebrand ($320. retail)

Dave's shorted lived review here on the Zenta.  They recieved high marks from Dave's comments.

Dave's Zenta's were a medium and I use a XL.  Good thing too as I was still on the hunt for a warmer glove than even the Zenta.

But get real at $300 for a pair of gloves I wasn't in too big of a hurry.  You can buy a state of the art ice tool (just one of course) or a Narrona down jacket or a damn good Feathered Friends down bag for $300 for chrimney sake!  In the right place at the right time $300 will get you a season pass.

The Zeta was impressive.  But I wanted a removable liner as well.  The Alpha SV and the Firebrand were the other two options and I wanted the warmer of the two.   Once you get your hands into a pair of each brand that is obviously going to be the Firebrand.

Simple to figure that out as the Firebrand ($320 retail) is the thickest glove intended as a cold weather technical glove that I have ever seen and with the most amount of dexterity.  Most of the insulation is on the back of the hand, fingers and thumb.  So you can actually use the  Firebrand for some pretty delicate work.  The fit on this glove for the insulation involved is simply amazing

But make no mistake this is a serious cost and where you will use it. 

While the  Alpha SV Gloves ($275 retail) is no doubt a nice glove and should be for the price, the OR Firebrand is in a totally different league and has a totally different intended use imo.  Think super charged, and armored Humvee verses a Ferrari here.  Both will do an amazing job if you know when and how to apply the technology.  Tough comparison...obvious differences and much the same like the great deterity in both.  


 But FMR...$300 for a pair of gloves?!   I still find that hard to fathom no matter how good the glove is.  May be I should just stay indoors more.

Yes, it is cold...even climbing quickly in a puffy and Typhons.

Winter Alpine and Ice Glove Choices: part 2

Yep, that is me in a pair of Mtn Hardware Hydras.  On a "warm" day last Feb. high on the Midi.

Obviously I am showing some brand loyalty on my glove choice here.  But as I mentioned briefly these are *NOT* the only gloves I have climbed in, bought or tried or seen fail on my partner's hands in the last few years.  Just what I like this year and have a history with the earlier versions.

So...the Mountain Hardware gloves?

The amazing Hydra


Minus One


There are four gloves from Mountain Hardware that I use a lot these days.  The Minus One, the Hydra, and the Typhon or Medusa.  Again Mtn Hardware also has a lot of good glove designs available for climbing.  These are what I like for my own climbing and not the only Mountain Hardware gloves I have used.

Funny thing about gloves. Until last winter I didn't think it got much colder than the Canadian Rockies.  I've spent some pretty cold days and nights out climbing on the Columbia Ice Fields mid winter.  So last winter when I headed to Chamonix for a couple of months of  winter climbing I wasn't expecting anything I hadn't done previous.  Or being any colder.  Silly me fior thinking that.

The Hydra, like the OR Alpine Alibi but a little warmer, seemed to be to be enough glove the majority of time for me climbing any where.  Well they were anyway until we rapped off the Midi Bridge and I then stuck my hands into some cold powder snow for the "hike" down to the  gullies we wanted to climb.  Didn't take long to figure out a Hydra weight glove wasn't going to cut it most of the time in the shade at 12K feet.  Hello?!  The only time I have had cold hands like that was soloing Shooting Gallery in too much snow, mid Jan.  It is the reason I now add tape for insulation on my tools for a high dagger position.

So I ended up in either a Medusa or a Typhon for most of that trip and a majority of the climbing.  And at times they weren't warm enough either if I wasn't moving quick enough.  A little shocking for me really.   Which brings me to Part 3 or my glove choices.

But in general here (Cascades and Canada) the Hydra/Alibi is warm enough.  The mixed thin technical glove, the Minus One (or a Vert)  is great if the temps are warm enough and the climbing hard enough to keep you warm.  I've used the Minus One and Vert on some cold windy days in the Icefields as well, as long as we kept moving.

All the Mtn Hardware gloves are lined with OutDry and water proof and well as breathable.  I like that technology a lot.

Winter Alpine and Ice Glove Choices: part 1

Doug in a pair of the new Alpine Alibis.

Last couple of years my winter alpine and ice glove selection has narrowed a lot.  I no longer go looking for all the "new gloves".  I found what I thought were some pretty good gloves over the past couple of winters.  From what I have seen on the show room racks I have no reason to make any big changes in brands or the current styles from what I am using with a few exceptions I'll get to later.

What follows is *not* the list of gloves I have tried over the last two or three winters but my list of the "best" gloves currently available for my own climbing, leashless in cold weather.  Generally I can get buy in relative comfort using a fairly lwt glove.   You might not so YMMV.  Nothing worse than cold hands or feet.  Try  the idea of lwt gloves before you buy into the idea too deaply.  Take something besides just the glove I suggest on a climb and see how it goes.  You might regret my suggestions ;)

Two manufactures that I think are worth looking at, Outdoor Research and Mountain Hardware.

Outdoor Research first, simply because I have been using them the longest.   Another blog coming on Mtn Hardware gloves shortly.   Outdoor reasearch has a long list of great gloves made specifically for alpine and ice. But not everything I use from OR was designed for cold weather climbing.  It says a lot for their products I think that even the Vert I use a a good bit of the time in winter as one of my main climbing gloves in the Cascades and almost as often in Canada.

I use the Vert, the Extravert, the Arete, the Alpine Albi and the pretty amazing Firebrand (more on it later) depending on the temps and what I am attempting to do.  

The Alpine Alibi is an exceptional glove now with heat pack pockets both front and back in this glove.  It allows a much more user friendly glove (read thin) to be use in colder weather.  They are awesome with a nice gautlet and leather palms.  It is now one of my go to gloves.

Almost all the OR gloves were redesigned and improved last year and the difference is stark.  The gloves were good before.  They are awesome imo now.  Best thing besides the performance offered I think is the range of retail prices OR offers.  Vert is $50 and a steal imo for a winter glove that will do anything.  Arete is $89. and will do anything, go anywhere for a Goretex winter climbing glove with a removable liner.  What is not to like?

The Vert, while inexpensive can be used on approaches, back country skiing and on the climb.  I've used the several times on Polar Circus in mild conditions and amazingly, couldn't have been happier even on the long raps.  The new Extravert is a bit warmer and better reinforced in the palm with a velcro closure.  It is an awsome glove for most winter activity if you can stay out of running water..

The Vert

The Extravert

The Arete

And the over the top OR Firebrand for the most extreme conditions
More on it in part 3

Lee in a pair of the OR Arete 

Monday, December 19, 2011

The new Petzl production light weight Nomic hammer?

Seen here, bottom of the page

Only took them 5 years after I gave them the original drawings to do it wrong, twice :)

This was in answer to the new Petzl hammer question from another forum.

"I have cut down the larger, current production, Petzl Nomic hammer, which is virtually what Petzl is doing for the LWT version from what I can tell by the drawings. The CT hammer isn't much of a hammer for pounding on things. The newest Petzl one even worse I suspect from my earlier efforts last year with the Petzl hammer. The bigger production hammer makes the Nomic unbalanced imo which is why there is a CT hammer. The Petzl LWT version will solve the balance problem but not be much of a hammer. For many a little "head protection" is all that will be required.

If that is all you require yes, the newest LWT Petzl "hammer" or cutting down the bigger Petzl production hammer will solve your problem I suspect.

But to be clear, the profile of the Petzl LWT version and Cold Thistle version are not similar in head coverage, head protection or hammer profile. Let alone their respective abilities as actual hammers.

What Petzl's hammers (any version) won't do is make it easy to change picks in the field.....ask those that have tried. Serious design flaw imo."

I'm out of CT hammers until or if I decide to build more.  That will depend on the future demand. 

New La Sportiva skis?

I'm always the last to hear :)

But some sweet new skis I suspect from La Sportiva at the OR show in Jan for Fall 2012 delivery.
I am obviously a big fan of the Hi5 already.  The new skis should be just as good.

"New skis will be at the OR on-snow demo. The Lo5 is the little brother to the Hi5 (95 underfoot and toned down rocker profile) and the Hang5 is the big fat uncle to the Hi5 (117 under foot, same rocker as Hi5 in the front with just a little rocker in the tail). "

Saturday, December 17, 2011

CT walking wounded ?

For those that might have missed it Dave Searle, our great new gear reviewer,  broke his knee at Grand Montets skiing last week.  Not like Dave to be crashing on piste :)

Here's hoping for a quick recovery, Dave!   New reviews from Dave might be a bit slow in coming though after a full week in the hospital putting his knee back together!

On the other hand, today was the first day of exercise for me that wasn't just puking in months.   So writing and climbing can't be far behind.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

CT Nomic hammers?

Fall 2011 preproduction orders on the CT Nomic hammers were shipped today.  Thanks for the support! 

I have a few left,  but won't be doing another run till fall of 2012.   Best to check on availability via email before you order.

If you are outside of the USA make sure to add ROW shipping and a verified shipping address or your order will be cancelled.