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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Monday, January 31, 2011

Careful with those hangers!

A reader sent me this today. Thought it worth posting.

Photo from the new Outdoor Reasearch catalog sent to me by Pat Valade

Preview of the Fall 2011 Black Diamond "Stinger Crampon"

I will focused on a Cyborg/Stinger comparison but might as well get this out of the way first.

Most obvious comparison for similar performance is the Petzl Dart at 840g per pair.   The BD Stinger is 910g per pair on my scale.

For the 70g (2.5 oz) you get a easy replaceable and inexpensive front point, (likely the best improvement over the Dart) a pair of mini secondary front points (that are suppose to grow in the production version),  full antibots front and back, mid sole traction of sorts for hard ice and stainless.  The foot print is very close in size (virtually the same) on the Dart and Stinger.  And I have accused  the Dart and Dartwin as being "roller skates" on moderate ice.   I don't like either there and would expect the Stinger to be just as dismal on that kind of terrain.  The Stinger seems to "cut" a little better from my own use.  The secondary points will allow me to use them on more ice routes than limiting them to just mixed where I would use the Darts now.   None of these are a "beginner crampons" or something I'd suggest as your only crampon..   It is the right direction, but still a generation or two to go before I'll be totally happy :)  

Before you read any further this pair of pre-production BD Stingers are the 1st piece of gear to be reviewed here on Cold Thistle that I have been loaned. So YMMV, but by all means, "Caveat emptor".

I don't write about kit that I don't like so obviously I like these new Black Diamond crampons.  And again no matter who's blog...if they are given the sheet...beware of the review...even mine.  Caveat emptor!

It should be obvious if you read the blog that I am none to happy with the state of modern boots and crampons.  Twight says and rightfully so, "you can't get around in the mountains without crampons".
And I say in the last 30 years the boots and crampons haven't improved much.   That might be a little over stated as both crampons and boots have improved a lot...but I bitch and push for even better gear where it is so easy to improve.  Crampons are easy to improve.

I'd bet it is no surprise that in my spare time I write what I hope are constructive comments to folks at Petzl,  BD or La Sportiva for example hoping that small things might get changed.   I suspect the company receiving them round files the comments and just might refer to them as "nasty grams".   Even though I am always  polite.

I figure why not...I have nothing to loose from a suggestion. 

I am an equal opportunity crampon guy.  I like them all.  Darts, Dartwins, G12s, M10s, Sabertooth or Cyborg, they all climb well.  Just that few of them climb pure ice as good as the last version of the Chouinard/Salewa or SMC rigid.   Kind of an old and sad secret really.

Only thing still resembling a Footfang is the current Grivel Rambo.

1978 Haderer single leather boots, Chouinard Zero, a Terrordactyl an SMC rigids...Canadian Rockies ice.

1980 North Buttress of Mt Hunter, Kolfach Ultras and SMC rigids again.

And more recent Dartwins, on Curtain Call, Feb 2010

Grivel G12s on a WI5+

BD Serac on WI4, in the Ghost, Nov 2010

Just an idea of how impressed I am with any one crampon or brand of crampons.   They all seem to work.
But all of them could also be better.

This is a want list I recently sent to BD after spending a few days climbing on Cyborgs again.  And I think the BD Cyborgs is a very good crampon although on the heavy side of what is available.

"I figure somewhere there @ BD you have a plan to update the Cyborg. My thoughts on the Cyborg if so. I'd tighten up the connecting bar interface as you have the Sabertooth and the Serac. I'd go even tighter and make it a .0005" +/- over. Hard to move and adjust but added rigidity to the crampons worth while I think and you still have the option of a spring bar if they aren't using rigid boots..easy to cover in the brochures. Since you are already doing a second connecting'll have some options. But I wouldn't go to a thinner stock on your new bail. I've been rethinking that. Problem with the thin Petzl bail is reliability and  work hardening in the stainless as we suspect. I would not go to a thinner bail but a much "thinner width" bail on a thinner width crampon forefoot. A more narrow bail would solve many of the actual fit problems. I know you haven't missed what Grivel has done on the G20 and G22 bails and forefoot. It won't take much in width. Then you can use the weight savings there to add a bit of length to the forfoot piece. As much as you think you can get away with and still fit tiny boots. But the size of the forefoot *foot print* seems way too small currently. I think it needs to be longer. But that is going to take a new computer drawing of the forefoot. It won't take much to make a big difference. The older wider bails will still fit the dbl boots like the Spantik and over boots as required. The one thing that really shows on the Cyborg trying to fit the newer boots (classic example is the Spantik's rocker and I'd bet the Nepals as well) is the lack of rocker on the Cyborg. You could easily dbl the amount of rocker in the Serac and Sabertooth which is good and really helps the over all fit and be fine on most any boot I suspect.  And they would fit so much better over all on others. I think you would be better off on a technical crampon to reduce the size of the first two verticals and move the second pair back a bit more like a Sabertooth front than what you are running now on the Cyborg. Equal length points are easier to mix climb in. And you aren't going to loose anything on technical ice with your forged front points. Just mate the first pair of points up and have them hit a the surface when sitting on a flat. I am not explaining this well. Easy to see if you set a Serac, Saber and Cyborg front piece on a flat. Take a Serac, add the 3rd set of full size teeth from the saber (1st vertical pair supporting the front) narrow up the forefoot a bit and add Cyborg fronts. Then build a narrow forefoot bail of the same material you are using now. Then just do a aggressive lightening job with aggressive profiling on the teeth sides. Easy enough when you cut them out of the plate. I'd bet from looking at it you could do all that and drop some significant weight on the Cyborg."

OK!  What am I asking for...short version?  Bails that fit the new boots, a bigger foot print on the bottom of your boot, and more rocker in the forefoot.  A more rigid inner face between front and rear crampon parts..more rigid.  Smaller main points on the crampon, easier to climb mixed and easier to walk in.   What I wasn't interested in was a technical crampon that was mono point specific.

Hopefull ythe back ground will all make more sense in a minute.  Dare to read on. 

The new Black Diamond Stinger

The one thing that I really miss on the newest crampons is a "cutting edge".  By that I mean a set of side points  (front to back) that easily allow you to kick a step on hard ice to splay your feet out and get off your calves.  In the old days with a straight shafted tool you could do it with one or two swings, pick or adze.  Even the original carbon fiber Cobra could handle that job adroitly.  Current Cobra will do it if you don't stick the pick...but an adze is pretty useless in a reversed grip.   Quark is OK.  Nomic?Fusion ?  Not so much.   Ergo...ha, ha,  hhhaaaaa!  And I like my Ergos :)

Here is what I mean by a good "cutting edge".   The last generation Chouinard/Salewa clip on crampons.  You can do some serious step cutting with the point design on these guys. Nothing I would have thought to ask for but gotta say I am more than pleased to see this change in forefoot design on the new Stingers.

New Stinger goes a little retro on the third set of down points and you get a slightly bigger foot print from what the Cyborg has done previous as the comparison shows.  Count the lugs on the sole and look where the yellow mid sole meets up with the down points as a reference.

Stinger and Cyborg side by side.  The Stinger mono point is slightly off set of center to the inside of the foot intentionally closer to the big toe.  The Stinger is a mono specific crampon, andno question the design is specifically intended for hard, modern mixed climbing.  BD  offers other less technical crampons for pure ice that climb very well.   As a "more general" crampon, if you can put a any mono specific crampon in that catagory,  these have some advantages over the usual suspects imo.

Cyborg forefoot shown below.   Stinger is giving almost a full lug more of coverage on my 45.5 size Spantiks shown here. A good thing I think.   The new design  (really not new at all) might be a little sketchy on the down hill though with the loss of  2 "braking" points on the forefoot.   I am more worried about getting up than getting down so I like the change.  Never seemed to have a problem before on the older gear and no bots at that!

It gets better.  As the heel piece is just a tiny bit longer as well.  Again more over all foot print.  At this point I am thinking BD is staffed by brilliant engineers and we were thinking along the exact same lines.  Just that they were 2 years ahead of me and my "round file" letter.

Heels.  Check out the heel lever placement.  The longer set is the Stinger.

 Cyborg..again check the position of the boot sole lugs.   Stinger has the longer foot print.
One of the things that has really bugged me on two piece crampon design.  If you are going to fook up a perfectly good crampon design by cutting it in half and making it semi rigid...which generally just means flexible, why not at least add some working bits to the empty space between your 2 parts?    If you have ever stepped up on a piece of cauliflower ice to find nothing under your foot is biting, you'll know why this one can really irk a climber.

Grivel is doing something similar on the G20 and G 22......but have to say I think the BD version is a better solution for that issue.

This is the current Cyborg, kinda half assed into the idea

Grivel G22 a totally different way to address the same problem of traction mid foot.

This is the new Stinger which is the best solution I  have seen to date on a two piece 'pon..

And a classic example why the new cuts under neath the forefoot is a good thing imo.  It makes a difference

So what do I think over all?  The Stinger is going to ship from the factory with a flex connecting bar.  I have tried both the flex and the rigid bar.  No surprise what I think works better.  I like the rigid bars but I also like options.    The connecting bar slot is cut very tight...almost but not quite a rigid crampon with the solid bar in place.  Will they be reliable?...who knows at this point but I suspect they will.  BD typically over builds everything for durability.  Fit?  Remember these a pre-production crampons..proto types really.  A third or forth round of new bails are in the works.  I've seen that bail and fit it to my Ultras.   I believe they will be just as good of fit as I have now, with Petzl bails clicked in.  With my Petzl bails in the crampons these are the first pair of crampons to fit my Scarpa Ultras (which a super thin bitch to fit) and my La Sportiva Spantiks (which are about as big as I will get in boot soles).   The added rocker on the forefoot of the crampon makes a huge difference on fit.  Any crampon that actually fits my boots I am THRILLED spitless to climb in, free or not!

Weight?  BD has dropped 6.5 oz per pair compared to the Cyborg with the lighter weight Stinger.  Stinger is 900g or 32oz even per pair with the bot and heel strap.  Good bit of that loss is just in loosing the one front point though.  But we have also gained a bigger foot print and a better ability to cut a step with a bigger "cutting edge" and better placed down points to accomplish it.

Not a big mono fan myself,  but the two secondary front points are being enlarged on the production model which gives me hope.  More coining is being added to make the forefoot even more rigid.  The down points may be shortened a tiny bit more to make them even more rigid.  No question I like having the chance to replace a worn set of front points with forged replacement parts that are cheap to replace.   Over all I like the Stinger crampon a lot.   Things I really like...more rocker in the crampon, more rigid crampon by design and a much, much better fit on all my boots.   Down side is they are monos (which may be OK if the production version's secondary front points  are long enough to give some real additional support)  This is a pair of crampons I will likely buy next fall when they become available in final form.

Gotta say, " thank you" to Black Diamond for allowing me to introduce the Stinger to the world on Cold Thistle.

WI5, SLC, Jan 2011

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Umbilical attachment points again?

In the last umbilical thread I suggested that instead of clipping into the specifically built attachment points of a tool like the Black Diamond Cobra and Fusion that one might want to rethink that idea and add a cord loop to better keep the "attachment" biner of the various commercial Umbilicals attached.

One of the things I do on occasion is post a link to a thread in other forums where I think others might find the info interesting and more importantly where I'll get some feed back.  I did that with the Umbilical "loop" post.  You get all sorts of experience levels when you do such things and even more interesting how the terrain of a specific area defines the gear that gets used and is popular as well.  All of which I find interesting.

Look here:;sb=post_latest_reply;so=ASC;forum_view=forum_view_collapsed;page=unread#unread

I've been using one form of umbilical or another virtually since day one  in my own ice climbing.  Just seemed like the reasonable thing to do.  Chouinard alpine hammers (or big wall hammers) were likely the first commercially.

My thought, and until recently when I changed to a commercial set up, was the umbilical should be able to take "full weight loads"  or something like 2000 pounds in my mind.

I've played around a lot with umbilicals over the years.  Here is a comment I made in March of 2010, here:

"4mm is rated to 900#. (which is what I currently use to tie my umbilicals in with) I took a full length fall onto my BD tethers this winter. My first. By full length I mean tool below chest level and that tool catching me at full extension on the other umbilical. As close as I want to get to a 6 or 7 foot, factor 1 fall. I am no fly weight so the load was pretty high I suspect.

Not a tether yet made that will hold a true factor 1 Fall let alone a 2.

But people have already been asking for them. You'll want to rely on good gear and a rated climbing rope for that with a 8 or 9' fall possible on umbilicals/tethers.

Mine you the other tool was placed higher and ripped through the slush causing the fall. The tool that caught me also ripped through a good 12" or more of bad ice before finally catching the fall. Ripping through the ice worked as a natural "screamer" absorbing energy and the fall did "blow" the 4mm enough to easily see it needed to be changed out. But no core showing yet

From an earlier BD email exchange this winter when I asked about the issue of the small BD biner (worried about the sharp edged proto types that I was using. The new Production stuff has much better and rounded edges) on 4 and 5mm cord laced to Nomics with a BD Spinner umbilical.

Black Diamond said:

"Just tested this to 800lbs (single leg). No damage to the 4mm cord or our steel clip (production quality with more tumbling to the part); the bungee webbing breaks first. Then pull tested our steel biner clipped to 5mm cord, this went to 1600lbs before the cord broke."

Not like I want to use 4mm! I would also make sure to use a knot like a dbl Fisherman's in drop form instead of an Over Hand which is typical and much weaker (30% less or more?) in this application. And something like half of the original tensile strength of the rope! Easy bet the cord broke at the knot no matter what knot he was using. But worth hedging your bets here for several reasons. But 4mm seems a good compromise for size (getting it under the pommel or in your hand) and strength. Hanging on a tool is not a dynamic load. Fall far enough and require static cord and webbing to take the dynamic impact load and you'll blow through 5mm or the webbing easily.

More on the dbl fisherman's knot and knot strength.'s_knot

More on fall factors

If you filter through the posts it seems pretty clear what is available currently on a commercial basis could easily be improved upon.  Many have done just that already.  It doesn't really matter how the companies think the umbilicals should be used...climbers are going to use the umbilical how they see fit or make their own.   But we all need to be careful.  Getting smacked in the head/face/hand with a biner on the end of a  sling shotted umbilical is going to be a serious injury.  And it has happened already.

My point?  Know your own system.  Know how strong it is and what your intended use is.  I want my umbilicals to be strong enough with some reserve to catch a slip soloing if required...and retain my tools 110% of the time.  YMMV

Scotland again

Hans Hornberger photo

Interview with Ian Parnell from Hans Hornberger on Vimeo.

I can't embed this one but worth a look.

The game?

It is all here.  Check out the ride @ 3:21

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Black Diamond Express Ice Screws?

Jeff Shapiro climbing hard, fully kitted in BD with a rack of Express screws

I have a couple of drafts started in the blog about eating my words on gear.  Hadn't finished any of them of course because it is really hard for me to convince ME, I am ever wrong :)  Weak, I know, but here is the first.

Few that don't know me can understand the time I have spent at my desk or at the work bench in the shop measuring, sharpening or just examining ice screws.  A couple of my climbing partners have seen me wind in dual screws at placements on climbs and wondered just how  much of a knuckle head I was going to be that day.  And if I could just get on with it!    If I am placing dual screws it is generally because I am scared but I can go with the gear testing story when pushed.

But, with all the playing around I at least *think* I know something about ice screws.

When you understand what makes the teeth bite and how much each screw weights and why there isn't much else to understand.   Simple pieces of gear really...well pretty simple anyway.

So you have to understand that I know Black Diamond has a better set of teeth than most anyone making screws.  And no question the Black Diamond Express screws will take a "set" faster than anything else I use. By taking a "set", what I mean by that is the screw will generally catch the threads with a a single full turn at the wrist and stick in the ice so you can now employ the hanger's crank knob.

True, the Black Diamond screw is faster than the Grivel Helix on the "set".

But in a perfect world you have several steps to placing an ice screw, the "set", the wind and finally the clip.

If we have a "set", then the wind and finally the clip to each screw placement then each step is equally important to me.  On difficult climbing how long it takes me to fully place a screw defines how many screws I will place.   I can decide to place screws in several ways.  The first is by the difficulty of the climbing.   I place screws often because I am likely to fall off at any given moment.   That is not how I like to climb on ice.  Umbilicals are my first line of defense so my preferred way is to place fewer screws.  It is an old habit I have from the days when screws were extremely hard to place.  None of the screws available now have that unenviable reputation. So the screws I do place better be bomber and take as little time as possible to get in.   Time is a factor because if the climbing is difficult and steep, endurance and strength is always in question.   I want to end the pitch strong enough to finish with a reserve.  I don't want to ever fall on ice.

So from my own observations I think that the BD Express is the first screw to "set".    If it only ended there the conversation would be over.  Next up is the wind.  So your screw is set and there is little fear of it launching into space unattended.  You can now grab your winding knob and sink the screw to the hilt.  Done.    Almost finished here...snap a QD or sling biner on.  Then grab your rope to make the final clip.  And now you are off again climbing or just as likely, relieved, taking a mental break and shaking your arms with no risk of catching big air.

Whaaaoooo!   Not quite that fast.  There are a couple of steps we missed here.  You likely are a smart climber so you racked all your Express screws with the winding knob up and open right?   Well I don't.  So I "set",  then turn my winding knob up, (good place to kick a "free" screw loose into space), then I start to wind.  Sink the screw, clip the screw, then clip the rope and finally flip the knob down.   Gotta remember to flip that knob down.   ( can't wait to hear how everyone else muddles through this better than me, as obviously many do:)

So easy to see my dilemma with a fast "bite" as oppose to a fast screw placement.  I like the Express and own  a rack of them specifically for hard alpine ice.  They are lighter than anything available and they 'set" amazingly fast.  But they don't place fast enough to be my preferred screw on water fall climbing.

*Since I am looking at the details here I had forgotten this one.  I think the offset hanger on the BD screws encourages you to start the wind off center to the axis of the screw.  So you get a wobbly start if you are not very careful.  Obviously you can over come this with practice.  But for the newbie or gumbie like myself it is annoying.  The hand position on the Helix (at least for my XL size hands)  naturally encourages you to be more centered to the axis of the screw on your *set*.  That alone almost makes up for the better design on the BD teeth imo.  And in practice makes the *set* on the Helix almost as fast, if not as fast,  as the BD screw for me.

What I would like to see is the BD tube and teeth with a totally new hanger.  No knob to futz with, but a big winder, a hanger that naturally centers your hand for a straight drive on the *set* and keep the BD weight advantage.  Easy enough to do.  BD has the technology in house right now for a hanger as I described it.  I had come to the same conclusion last winter just got there from a totally different train of thought.   Not likely to happen any time soon though :)   No one convinced it is needed except me.*

Damn, just wish my own screw of choice "set" that fast though......gotta think some more on this :)

Jeff again, on the 5th pitch, STH, Provo Canyon

More here on the BD Express screw:

Friday, January 28, 2011

January 29 2010

At the suggestion and impetus of another gear geek working in the climbing industry, exactly one year ago today I made my first blog entry.

I had just returned for my first OR show in over two decades and  was again very excited about being a part of something bigger and not just the climbing, which I obviously love.

A year ago I had no clue how register a blog,  let alone write a blog.  I'm at least registered now ;)  And I am learning to use the spell checker.  During the month of January 2011 alone we had over 65K page reads from virtually every country in the world on the north or south side of the Equator.  CRAZY that!

Today I have 99 members following the news and editorial content here .  I am getting more involved in the industry daily.  I've designed and had Randy Rackliff @ CCW build 3 of my my own pack designs now.  At least as exciting is the work I am doing with Bill Amos at NWAlpine to build a clothing system that really works,  specifically for, cold weather technical alpine climbing.   No high fashion ski gear on my list!   I haven't seen gear done this well or this specific for the use.. ...since Wild Things was all in back in the early '80s.

We have been working on super durable picks for Black Diamond tools for several years now and the end result while frighteningly expensive is by far the best pick ever made for a ice tool...and that by the actual measurement of the Black Diamond testing of our product!  There is a reason Colin Haley used them on his solo of the Cassin and his and Bjørn-Eivind Årtun's new route on Foraker, "Dracula".   Same reason Bjørn-Eivind Årtun used our Nomic hammers from  as his weapon of choice on his Nomics on the same climb with Colin.

Climbing with my own hammer design on the Nomic is a pure point of genuine pride. They work for my own climbing which is all I cared about!

So it has been an amazing year for me!  Thank you all for making it possible and so enjoyable for me to be able to share some of my experiences with you and your adventures with me!  Hopefully you have gotten something out of this blog.  I  know I have and it is making me a better climber while generally keeping me entertained as well.   If nothing else for the great videos that are so easily found on the Internet these days.

Although it is genereally my voice this isn't "my blog".  It truly is every alpine climber's blog that whats to share their stories and insights.  I've been blessed to have guys like Gregg Cronn, Ken Glover, Jesse Huey, Mark Westman, Gwian Oka, Ed Cooper share some of their stories and comments here.  Bjørn-Eivind Årtun, Colin Haley, Ken Glover and Jon Griffith have allowed me to republish their photos over and over again.  Without them the content here would get pretty boring.  Thank you once more gentlemen for that help and encouragement.   Hopefully others will join in during the next year and we'll all gain something more from other's experiences.  It you want to publish anything alpine climbing related feel free to send me an email and likely we can make that happen  A big THANK YOU to all that have added content by the questions and comments in every blog.

Black Diamond, Petzl, La Sportiva, Cold Cold World, NW Alpine and Arcteryx have all supported my efforts here in one way or another even while they might have thought I was a total lunatic.  

So happy 1st birth day to Cold Thistle!   Cheers to all of you!!

 My primary goal for the Spring? 

Easy answer, but  not so easy to get done!   More to come on this one.  Photo courtesy of Colin Haley

Sherpas, some random thoughts and "Sherpa Adventure Gear"...

Photo courtesy of Mtn. of Travel web site

In the spring of 1977 John Roskelly and I left Spokane WA to attempt the West Pillar of Makalu with the first permission for a two person attempt on a Nepalese 8K meter peak.  Luckily for both of us in retrospect,  John became severely ill on the walk in and our trip ended as a complete failure, still days from the mountain.

A 4 person Spokane team, again including John, returned to Makalu in 1980.  John summitted alone on that trip but with the support of our friends Jim States, Chris Kopczyski and Kim Momb.  The climb was made without Sherpa support.

But John's and my short walk was a life changing event for me.

I had just started guiding in the NW a few years earlier and knew some of the the hazards even small peaks offer.  The size, elevation and remoteness of the big Himalayan peaks was truly awe inspiring in 1977 and continue to be so now.

I was not comfortable in 1977 even paying porters to carry my gear into the mountains.  I could not in good conscious ask anyone to climb a mountain with me simply for a salary.  Even if that was likely the only salary available.  I did not like the economic realities of the relationship and did not want to be a part of it.

I have no clue how it is now but there was a pretty stark difference between the standard of living we enjoyed in the USA and the gear we would use compared to what the standard of living was in Nepal and the gear (which would be part of their salary) we would offer our porters or climbing Sherpas.    I have not gone back to climb in Nepal but even in 1977 I was uncomfortable asking anyone else to risk their life to come out and "play with me".

Enter Joe Puryear decades later.  I admired Joe's Alaska climbs and we exchanged a few emails on routes he had done there. (there were few he hadn't)  Joe was always gracious and gave freely of his time to complete strangers like myself.

Photo courtesy of  Joe Puryear
You couldn't help but also notice on Joe's web site his climbing in Nepal and his obvious involvement in the Sherpa community.

I am sure there were others previous to Joe's and David's trips doing something similar but they certainly inspired me by their actions.  They seemed to be involved in Nepal and the people not  just just taking advantage of  situation economically and getting to "climb on some one else's back".   I liked what I saw and admired them for it.

If you look at Joe's web pages one of his sponsors is a company called Sherpa Adventure Gear.

To be honest until yesterday I thought Sherpa Adventure Gear was a small company, based in Nepal.  Likely Kathmandu, and  making the odd piece of funky wool bits.  Joe's trade mark hats for example :)    I figured Joe was just supporting a local cause for the best of reasons.    Nothing could have been farther from the truth on the "funky wool bits".   But I have no doubt Joe was "supporting a good cause for the best of reasons", just as Sherpa Adventure Gear was supporting Joe's avocation.   By all accounts it was a close and supportive relationship from both sides.

Here is the company line:

"Sherpa Adventure Gear was inspired by the many unsung Sherpa heroes of Everest. From the start, our goal has been to create outstanding outdoor clothing and gear you can depend on. But more than this, we want to show you a glimpse of the Sherpa culture and way of life. And at the same time support our Sherpa community back home. Whether you are looking for gear on your next adventure, or just want to learn more about the Sherpa people, you can discover all this in our website."

Tashi Sherpa
Founder and President

More here:

Surprisingly Sherpa Adventure Gear is actually based in Renton Wa.  Owned and staffed by Sherpa family members for the most part.  But make no mistake this isn't a simple "mom and pop" operation.   They have a national and international dealer network as well as several successful retail stores in Nepal.  Sherpa Adventure Gear is serious player in active outdoor wear world wide.  The majority of their products are sewn in Nepal with a smaller percentage in China at the moment.  Mr. Tashi Sherpa and his immediate family are the driving force here and in Nepal.

As a small manufacture myself I have begun to look at what I make, how that effects others, the products useful life span and how my products are recycled.

It makes me more aware of what others are doing in their own communities and why.

The climbing community, especially the alpine climbing community is very small.  And it hasn't changed much in the decades I have been involved with it..  We are in fact a large family.   Death is a fact in alpine climbing.  Joe Puryear's death last year effected many climbers, locally and Internationally.    It will happen again...and again.  It is part of our game.

This is a hard blog to write.  Too many serious issues that most (including myself) would rather ignore.  So I'll stop there.

I wouldn't have brought up Sherpa Adventure Gear here if I didn't think they were making some incredible products for hard alpine climbing, no matter what their politics were.  But their politics stood out to me.  I was introduced to the company yesterday and bought a couple of their pieces for my own use that I will review in the blog.  Just wanted to give a heads up for a business and business model I admire in many ways.


Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Umbilicals...something to think about and it aint good.

Photo courtey of

Like may of us I suspect, I have thought that factory umbilical attachments were best done in a steel or aluminum "loop" that could be directly clipped with your umbilical biner of choice.   Having climbed a bunch on Cobras, the newest Fusions, new Ergos and Nomics (old and new) and the original Quark I am rethinking that idea.

photo courtesy of

I really rely on my umbilicals.  As much as they are a moving belay for me I also have come to rely on them to retain my tools while climbing leashless.  On the occasions I do climb without umbilicals I am very careful to watch where my tools are all the time and that they are securely placed.   And I don't worry about my partners kicking or bumping them off the climb.  May be I should be more concerned all the time..

I've notice that those that don't choose to use umbilicals aren't always very careful on where they leave their own tools.  To the point of a couple of winters ago we picked up several sets of tools left behind simply because the climbers who owned the tool forgot them at a rap station or even just left them on the ground at the base of a climb. (hard to blame that on umbilicals I guess :)  Or just as bad, set them somewhere they could easily be knocked off (by the owner, their partner or rock and ice fall) at a belay station.

But the issue that just became readily apparent to me is clipping carabiners to a metal umbilical attachment points has a huge disadvantage.  That is, the wire gate biners tripping themselves open and dropping the tools in use.  You can't just ignore where the tool is and what is happening when it is a metal to metal contact between umbilical and tool.  None of the carabiner based umbilicals have any advantage here..."no matter how strong the the biner gate is" as one manufacturer's rep told me.

Rope tie on points won't solve the entire issue.  But they will help make the umbilical biners less likely to pop off the tool.  Tonight, as good as the BD tool design work is, I added perlon loops to both my Fusions and Cobras all the while negating the full strength metal attachment points on both tools.  The reason?  I'd rather have a less than full strength umbilical attachment point than loose a tool because the umbilical biner ever so easily snapped off the tool by accident.

photo courtesy of

Pays to always think and rethink your own systems.

Glove tech!

My buddy and uber hardman, Jon Jugenheimer, has a good idea I hadn't seen before for improving on our climbing gloves.  I'm a big OutDry fan but worth a look here to see what Jon and his friends have been doing.

Will's at it again :)

Will Gadd is always up to some generally crazy shit.  "Spray On", on spray ice is no different.  Wild stuff even if he does like them funky fruit boots :)

More here if you missed it on the blog list I follow:

Slovenian ice?

Bjørn-Eivind Årtun  is one of the strongest guys out there playing the game.  And a great guy as well.
I saw this blog post and thought it worth passing on.  Fun pictures as well.

"Norrøna ambassador Bjørn-Eivind Årtun got invited by the Alpine Club in UK to an ice climbing gathering in Slovenia this month", here a report and some photos from B-E:

Made in China?

Having just spent the week in SLC at the OR show it is obvious just how much stuff is made over seas.

You have to wonder and some of us did while we were out climbing why on the Karma scale we were born in the US and not in Beijing.

This is a interesting blog about BD's China operation by Steve Ramero on Teton-AT.

Monday, January 24, 2011


Every time I am lucky enough to visit SLC I get a terrible urge and want to move there. If you wonder is always sunny when visit and you can ice climb, ski and ride your road bike all in the same day if you were really ambitious. (well every time I've been here anyway ;)  And there are a few locals that actually such things.

A bunch have asked I document some of the ice climbing here. I'm stuck in the airport with time to kill so here ya go. This is Stairway to Heaven in easy conditions and light for the grade right now on the first 5 pitches.(thankfully!)

Here is a quick look at what the locals do before going to or after work...the bastards!  Make sure to dbl click to get some perspective.  And this is just the "junk" ice around the city.  Cool thing about OR?  There are plenty of rope guns running  around you can put to work ;)

10 min approach with the highway below and up to 10 pitches later in the winter.

Yep, they are the chit..BD's new, "Stinger" monopoint.
More coming on them shortly.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Outdoor Retailer Show SLC 2011

I'm back in SLC. Hopefully for a few days of climbing and to see the newest toys. I'll update this blog post as often as possible over the next few days as I explore the show. Check back when you have time to see what I think are going to be the cool new toys for next fall.

If there is anything specific you want to see, let me know and I'll try to track it down.

The new Batura!  New zipper, should be a big improvement, which is not the TZip I first saw.  Most importantly to me an totally new lace system.  That should add some stiffness to the cuff and again be a big improvment on the new boot .  I'll know more soon on this one.  But it looks very good.  I've had a love-hate relationship with this boot.  But the basic design is literally time proven so I know it can be done very well.

Previous comments on the 1st gen. Batura;

The new BD mono...lwt 900g and very cool.  Still in prototype form and not being shown at this OR.   But very close to production and should be available early next winter.   Buuuutt!  I' ll be climbing on these while I am here in SLC and in Chamonix next month .  Very exciting.

First crampon I have actually seen that does fits the Scarpa Ultra.   Obviously some serious thought went into these guys.

Just a couple of the new things I saw today.  I'll get much more content up in the morning.

Grivel, La Sportiva, Wild Things, Brooks Range, Westcomb, Arcyeryx, Boreal, Black Diamond, OutDry, Kuhl, Petzl were the players today. 

I'm really excited to see Wild Things back and into hard core alpine climbing again, clothing and packs!

The clothings lines for us as climbers are going to be a signifigant change.

I was one of the first into Gortex back in '76/'77.  If it does really work as well as they say, POLARTEC Neoshell, is going to make an even bigger impression than Goretex did originally.
I have a buddies that have been climbing for a full year in Neoshell now and they are impressed.
"The answer."

Neoshell  is a super lwt,  4 x stretchy softshell that is water proof and more breathable than any thing pevious by a good amount.

Wild Things Guide pack

New  Camp tools...can you say Ergo?

Super lwt touring crampon from Camp...very cool.

Boreal Fruit boot with Black Diamond Raptor....which will now a stainless version BTW.
Carbon fiber mid sole....more to come on these as well.

Brooks Range which has a ton of neat things I'll be writing about and using...two man bivy sack here.

New tools by Grivel :)  $700 retail for the all carbon version $500 for these.  Nice tool but a little pricey!

The Ueli Steck Wagner knife is pretty slick as expected...more coming.

  Official word from Petzl this Quarks are shipping.  Extra picks aren't going to be available until March.  New  Nomic and Ergo won't be available again until fall of 2011 for a new release of "improved" version.

Brooks Range's new clothings line 

Petzl's new helmet colors

Trango's new ice tool.....which I seriously think will be pretty good in comparison to the "big boys"!

Zamberlan Mtn Boots....again another one I really think could do well in any comparison
Always nice to see someone building stiff boots again.

More to come when I get home! 

New Black Diamond Half Dome helmets and a bunch of new glove designs I really liked.