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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Conditions on les Droites, winter 2011

Amazing conditions on les Droites this past winter.

Jackson/Shea on les Droites, winter 2011

Richard Cranium Memorial Buttress, winter 2011.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Will as a voice of sanity? Who'd have thought ;-)

Good read...

Bottom line from my, train, recover and sleep.  Enjoy.  Repeat.

Train/exercise enough to burn what you eat.  Simple...when it comes to weight gain or loss.

Know the difference between training and exercise.

The Full Spectrum of Gloves?

When the rock does this to a set of picks in a few pitches...think what it will do to gloves?

                          How every alpine glove eventually ends up.

One of the topics that came up in the requests was more glove info.  Most of us are on a constant search for a better glove.  That might be a warmer, more durable, more water proof or easier to dry glove.  It depends on your need at that moment for that particular adventure.  If anything it is worth noting that few of us climb in the same gloves.  And there are a gazillion manufactures out there.  I am about as anal on my glove choices as I am on my boots always buyer and reader beware ;-)

Here are some examples of the glove styles I use constantly.
full leather gloves
glove liners, both wool and synthetic
wool gloves or mittens
all synthetic gloves
leather and synthetic combination gloves

                                                    Dave in his prefered BDs.               
(I own mittens but so seldom use them I'll leave them out of the conversation)

The brand names that I prefer at the moment are Outdoor Research and Mountain Hardware.  My partner's (all of them)  most commonly used glove is one form or another from Back Diamonds.  And I have used BD gloves myself.

The flip side to Matt's pair of BD gloves above.

And all better now ;-)

 It wouldn't have been my first choice but still good enough to get Matt up the Ginat last week in less than stellar weather.

The brand name gloves I have used a lot in the past are:
Helly Hensen
Black Diamond

Here is how I divide up my glove choices and there is some over lap generally.  But easy to get some cash  wrapped up in gloves.

Liners/approach gloves
leather/rap or bush whack (think 10' high slide alders or Devil's club)
XC ski
DH ski
tech climbing gloves
alpine climbing gloves
cold weather gloves

My first go to glove is the BD Polartec liners either Midweight or the Heavyweight.   And I generally loose them before I wear them out.  And I wear them out by melting them on a stove.  Awesome glove.  Works for approaches, XC skiing, spring DH skiing, as a lwt tech glove or a warm weather alpine glove or nasty bush wacking.  Many designs like them but these are the best I have used.

Leather? I use them in the alpine on bush wacks and  on nasty steep raps with 7mm twins  My favorites are a pair of thin steer hide I buy at Lowe's.  But they have to fit perfectly and they aren't cheap.  They generally last 4 or 5 years with consistent use with a chainsaw and around the yard.  I'm also partial to the Metolious full finger belay glove.  Although i never use them for belaying.  I like a glove you know isn't going to come apart in use.  This is the glove I use for the free rap off the Midi's bridge in cold winter temps.  It is awesome and cheap.  Mine are now 10 years old and just getting broken in.  Nice glove!

I use  my gloves for all sorts of stuff but the only skiing specific gloves I use are made  by these guys:

I generally have pretty warm hands and seldom suffer through the scream'in barfies even in pretty cold weather.  So a lwt XC glove often gets used for DH skiing.  I like Model ”S” 0103-00 for what it is worth.
These make a decent thin dry tooling glove as well.

Thomas Smiley photos:


Alpine climbing for me generally means winter.  In spring, summer and fall any combination of gloves on this list can and generally do get used.  But winter I have some old favorites.  Mtn Harware and OutDry are my favorites along with a couple of pair of the OR gloves.  You can read more on the Mtn Hardware Hydra and the OR Vert in earlier blogs.

I have found the OurDry to keep my hands dry even when the entire outer shell and insulation is soaking wet and frozen stiff.  Not the best situation but then my buddy's are often in some version of the Black Diamond Gortex or BDry and have wet hands and frozen gloves.  Some difference but not a lot.  OutDry seems more durable as it is harder to punch a hole in the water proof liner..."I think".  But nothing scientific here just anecdotal evidence. 

The one thing I have convinced myself of is that thin gloves like the Hydra work very well in some pretty cold conditions. When it gets colder I used to be convinced a removable liner was mandatory.  Not any more.  Truth is when it gets really cold and I need a warmer glove,  I really need more insulation.  Liner may or may not be useful depending on how good the glove is and how easy it is to use.  If it is that cold drying the glove out hasn't been a problem as the inner of the glove doesn't get very wet.

I used the Mtn Hardware Typhon this winter as my back up, warmer glover to the Hydra.  Dave was using the Mtn Hardware Jalapeno when he got cold or wet enough.  I thought the Jalapeno easier to use and just as warm as my wool lined Typhon.  Typhon's liner comes out, the Jalapeno's doesn't.

From  Mtn Hardware I now use the Minus One, the Hydra, the Torsion and the Typhon depending on temps, use and need..  I'll likely start using the Jalapeno next winter. 

I like a thinner glove with leashless tools so I don't have to remove my gloves for any reason.  But get cold enough and the thicker gloves require me to pull the gloves off more than I want.  Removeable liners that stay on when you pull the shells work well there. Big gloves, the Typhon and Jalapeno for example, are like good double boots, a pain in the ass to climb in...but without them you (me anyway) wouldn't still be climbing.  

One of the things I found interesting this winter is the gloves I can generally climb with in Canada just weren't warm enough in the Alps this winter.  That was a surprise.  Thankfully I took some warmer gloves along but I wasn't happy climbing in them generally.  It took so getting use to the thicker and stiffer gloves on technical ground and with my (tight) Nomic or Ergo handles.   I used the Quarks with a more open grip some specifically for that reason.  While I didn't have cold hands on that trip it was PP planning all around on my part. 
Look around and try what you think will work for you.  When you find some that do, be smart and buy 2 pair.  Gloves are like climbing footware you'll want the RIGHT pair for every occasion

Pray you don't end up with this glove collection!  And these are just the good ones ;-)

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

SPEED! Also known as being wired...

                                                  Ueli Steck on the Matterhorn
photo by Robert Boesch

GJ Blog:  "What speed ascent stands out? What are you most proud of?"

Steck:  "I think my climb on the Grandes Jorasses. It was an onsite climb.  I used my technique learned from the Eiger."

In this case coffee isn't going to help as much as having it wired instead of being wired.

I've spent a good portion of the blog talking about lwt gear and going fast.  Here is a well known and well used technique that is easily ignored or just over looked by those unaware.

For the vast majority of those reading the blog I suspect, like myself, most are all impressed by the speed ascents of hard alpine routes.

What I'd bet is most don't realise is speed comes from being wired.  Hard wired in fact.

Very few climbers will walk up to the Nose on El Cap and attempt a one day ascent.  Likely even fewer capable of doing it.   If you look at the records set on the Nose  the guys that trade that record back and forth have also climbed the Nose generally dozens of times or just as likely their partner has if they haven't.

But actually climb the Nose or Half Dome and it becomes obvious to many that a one day ascent might well be within your own abilities with a little extra effort after dropping some gear.  Not 2 hrs mind you but with in 24hr might seem more reasonable.  

I am not taking anything away for anyone here.  I've mentioned some awesome people and tremendous athletes   And the speed climbs are amazing athlete feats.  Very cool stuff all around.  Just thought it worth making the point for those that aspire to climbs like the Nose in a day or the Eiger in a day.  Or for that manner any route that you want to set a personal record on.   Be it Rainier or the Nut Cracker. When I gently remind one of my long time climbing partners just how much difference it makes in route finding,  gear selection and time  if even half the climbing team has been on the route at least one, it can make a huge difference.   Some timers he needs the reminder.   His common answer is "let it go". 

But you also have to possess the additional skill set to go faster with the additional  beta.  Point is most of us will need both (skill and knowledge) to go "fast" by today's standards.

But the reason I mention it here....besides the fact it will bug my partner, again, is that those that don't realise what is behind the speed curtain, should be aware of it.

Having a climb wired, be it a boulder problem of a long alpine route makes it easier.  We all know that.  Few of us haven't taken a buddy out and sand bagged them on a climb or had it done to us.   You or they knew where it went and how, we didn't.  Makes a difference on a 10 foot boulder problem and makes a  difference on 6000 foot face.

No surprise but soloing routes where others are climbing makes a huge physiological difference, just as repeating a route that you have done before lowers the emotional strain.  The mind controls the body. 

Think about style.  It doesn't take much to realise that solo, on sight, is good style.  Enough so that Steck points it out in an interview.  If you want to go fast the more you know about the climb the faster you can go.   TV Mtn videos, guide books, topos all help.  But knowing it up front is a good place to start as well. 
If you want to go faster...climb it first.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Reader's survey?

If you look at the top ten most read articles on the Cold Thistle blog they are:

•Petzl Nomic and Ergo.."danger danger will robinson"  (gear update)
•Scarpa Phantom Guide vs the La Sportiva Batura (gear review)
•Be attentive when placing ice screws!  (climbing technique)
•The Outdoor Retailer Show SLC 2011  (gear news)
•The Scarpa Phantom 6000 review (gear review)
•The Climbing Sweater? (gear review)
•My climbing pack?  (gear review)
•Ice climbing skills and techniques (climbing technique)
•Petzl Nomic Review..Old vs New (gear review)
•Design triumphs..the Norrøna Lyngen Down Belay jacket (gear review)

Gear reviews get the most over all traffic.  And I have more of those planned.  But many of the new ones will be on clothing not on hard goods.  The exception this spring will be BC skis, boots and bindings as I wade my way through to come up with gear that will work better for me next year.  We might be lucky enough to have Crystal Mtn stay open till late June or early July this year.  So I plan on skiing in the BC and on lifts until the majority of snow is gone.

I have a litany of reviews I am still working on from this winter season (another look at two previous boots, more crampons, something on ropes, a bit on rock gear, a test on stoves, but mainly more clothing) but what I really want to know is what would you like to see for content.

The Blog started as me just spewing about what ever interested me at the moment.  As the seasons change so do my interests.   Long easy alpine traverses, spring skiing, triathlons, rock and of course some alpine climbing is generally the mix.   My interests.  But I'm curious as to what yours are?

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The homeboys and girls!

                                Gwain above the difficut crack, Sept. '78.

Not really home...or even close.  But a great effort by some friends on the Eiger the last few weeks. All fast one day climbs!  Congrads to all six.  I suspect they (Colin and Nils already do) will all have some great photos up soon. Jon as always packed his huge SLR on route.  Check'um out.

Will Sim and Jon Griffith

                                            Nice hammer on that Nomic :-)

Caroline and Adam George...

Colin and Nils

                                                     Colin Haley Photo

Thursday, April 21, 2011


First time I went to Europe in '78 one of the things that really impressed me was how entrenched alpinism was in the society of France and Switzerland.  A Guide has the same respect in the community as a attorney or doctor here in the States.  Similar in Canada but even more so because the societies know more about them and are exposed to the professional guides even more than they are in NA.  Compare  that to the position a guide has in the US.

Here is a classic example.  Enjoy!  I did ;)   Your kids might as well ;)

Mark the Mountain Guide from Mark Seaton on Vimeo.

New record on the Eiger?

"Dani Arnold topped out the Eiger North-face in a mere 2h 28’. He climbed solo but surpassed some 20 teams on his way up the Heckmair route. Dani Arnold claims the fastest ever ascent – he was about 20 minutes faster than Ueli Steck in 2008. As opposed to Ueli, Dani did not freeclimb the Hinterstoisser traverse (Steck’s ascent was in wintertime, when that passage was freeclimbable)."

More here:

"Spring/Summer/Fall" (April 20 in this case)  and Winter (Feb 18 for Ueli's climb)  climbs are generally not thought comparible.

Ueli in one of the best videos on the Eiger done after his original solo.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011


Mt Huntington's, North face on the left, French Ridge aka NW Ridge center and the West face with the Harvard Route on the rib and just out of sight on the far right side, the Phantom Wall.  Phantom Wall was first climbed by Jay Smith and Paul Teare on their third attempt in 1991.  It has not had a second ascent despite a number of strong attempts.

More here:

Mark Westman kindly allowed me to post his hi-def picture of the right side of  the West face of Huntington.  The Harvard Route takes the left hand spur in this picture.  Phantom Wall is directly above the climbers.    "Jared Vilhauer and Tim Dittmann making an attempt on the Phantom Wall last Saturday".  Make sure you dbl click both photos for full effect.  Thanks Mark!


The last one for today....

I was finished then saw this one of Will...which I han't seen.

Classic study in good form on steep ice.  One I'll eventually watch a few more times myself.

Will Gadd Ice Climbing in Marble Canyon from ARC'TERYX on Vimeo.

Mt. Cromwell..Canadian Rockies

Mt. Cromwell Elzinga/Miller in a day from Joshua Lavigne on Vimeo.

Les Droites again...but different ;-)

Les Droites North Face from Jiří Šplíchal on Vimeo.

Climbing in Czecho-Slovakia

MATRIX RELOADED - climbing movie full version from BERNARTWOOD on Vimeo.

Typical Cham day out...thanks Charlie ;)

Capucin Couloir from Charlie Boscoe on Vimeo.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

More to come.....

News from Shisha Pangma on Ueli Steck...

18/04/2011 - by Planetmountain

"Ueli Steck top speed solo on Shisha Pangma

On 17/04/2011 Swissman Ueli Steck ascended Shisha Pangma (8027m), Tibet in record time.

After a month acclimatising in the Khumbu region, Ueli Steck has kicked off his Himalayan season with a bang: in a mere 10.5 hours the Swissman climbed

Shisha Pangma, at 8027m the 14th highest mountain in the world.

Making the most of the weather window Steck set off from ABC at 5800m at 22:30 on Saturday at 22:30, and climbed the SW Face in 10. 5 hours. 20 hours after departure he was already back in Base Camp. The blitz climb was carried out alone, after his partner Don Bowie's wise forfeit since he did not feel perfectly acclimatised.

Details here:

Shisha Pangma is Steck's third 8000er, after Gasherbrum II in July 2009 and Makalu in September that same year. The alpinists have now time to celebrate: they're already focused on the next objective, Cho Oyu (8201m). Naturally to be climbed in Ueli Steck style, i.e. in record time."

Notes from::

More on the peak and a previous solo of the Soulth Face by American, Chris Warner, on his 16:40 hour  summit climb.  See Chris' comments (comment section) which made me aware of his climb in 2001.   And the link to his trip report on Shared Summits.

Ueli Steck's Project Himalaya from Mountain Hardwear on Vimeo.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Mountain travel?

One thing that became glaringly obvious to me in Chamonix climb there in winter you need to ski.   And not just get by skiing but really ski.  Walk like you ski and ski like you walk kind of skiing.

I keep up on Colin's blog.  Paid attention to but didn't really clue in on the skiing.  I figured, "Chamonix...when I couldn't climb, I'd ski".  How bad can it be to be me ;-)

I've spent months at a time on skis, with a pack, a bomb or even a full size grain shovel.  But I haven't been into skiing for a while now.

This blog started with a totally different title.  I had intended the comments to high light some of the newest gear available for BC skiing.  But the truth is skiing is just another skill, like belaying or using an ice axe that anyone that really wants to climb mountains needs to know.  The Europeans have known that from the beginning.  Their environment demands it.   Two major dangers in the mountain snow pack, avalanche and crevasses.  Sure you can climb without skiing.  But you'll never be an Alpinist.

My first real AT boots were a pair of plastic Trappeurs with a Vibram sole.  Not the best sole for a decent release in a DH binding of that era.  (circa 1980)  My skis were 190cm Rossignol Alp 3000.  Fat, wide and short for the day.  Loved those skis. But not the panche or speed of the 207 SMs, just more fun generally. Only the AT binding set ups kept them from being a amazing bit of gear.  To be honest one of my reasons for the lack of excitement in skiing the last decade or so was the lack of gear that was up to the technology available.

I still hadn't seen anything to impress me for lwt mtn travel past Ned Gillete's Epoke 900s and 50mm bindings.  We used that gear up to 14K on Denali for over a decade.  Great for mileage...not so good on the down hill.  But still way better than walking.  Easier to carry the climbing boots than ski in them.

So after skiing for a month and then doing the high traverse off the GM and over to the  north face of le Droites in my Spantiks and a pair 180cm of BD Aspects I was well aware of the limitations of my skill and my gear that day.  Embarrassing so...and imo dangerous.

I am seldom intimidated on a pair of skis or by terrain.  Kinda goes with the the knucklehead idea of  "water hard can it be?"    That morning I came to the conclusion one could be easily killed just getting to a climb in Chamonix.  It as the first time that the thought had occurred to me after all the talk and previous incidents and the heartfelt discussions.   This while everyone else in the basin that morning whipped by me on AT boots and generally shorter skis.   By the time I got to the face any notion of actually climbing (it or anything else) was drained away by each patch of bare glacier ice traverse, one kick turn and each open crevasse at a time.  Places most sane people would be roped up on.  But no one ropes up in Chamonix for the "normal" runs.  And this is a ski run commonly skied by locals or guided for the tourists.  Tourists like me..

The thought of actually climbing in AT boots (which I have detested for several reasons) at that point seemed like a reasonable and much healthier option if you didn't first end up in the bottom of a crevasse just getting there. (to be fair way fewer rescues in the Argentiere than the Vallee Blanche it that is any consolation)

I had great beta and a plan for the climb.  Only the approach and decent were stopping me.  When I asked one of my acquaintances their suggestion after having just done the route again for the umpteenth time...the only suggestion offered was "take skis up and over".

Ya, I was fooked at that point.  Out of psyche, out of time and out of my league.  
I have never been stopped on a climb because of my gear selection.  But I have questioned my own choice in gear and what I could have done better while on route many times.  I prefer not to do that on climbs I suspect will be challenge enough with out extra weight on my back and some funky boots to climb in. 

More to come on this subject but now you know why I have been looking at the AT ski blogs more closely.
Right now I headed out to go bc skiing for the day.   A renewed passion.

Here is an idea of where I suspect to eventually be going. (and I'd bet the sport of climbing and skiing does as well)

Photo courtesy of Colin Haley @

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Bush wack!

I still have scars on my shins from two of last summer's adventures.

My plan was to stay on the snow and my skis as long as possible this year with the amazing NW snow pack.  Avoiding new scars was the thought.  Then I saw this.  Nice reminder.  Make sure to dbl click the picture.

If you are into REAL adventure skiing..plenty of it on these two great blogs.

SLC?  Who'd thought...the Chamonix of the USA?   But with bush wacking.  It is afterall an American tradition!

                Dbl click..amazing pictures.  All photo credits here to both the Sherpa and Samari blogs.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

So how much fun was it?

Some times it is the smallest things that make a person happy;-)
Some times it is the craziest things!
May be it is just getting out again...and again
Or just being there again, finally, with a lot of help!
Sometimes it is just being back.
Sometimes it is just sooooooooooo good even it it makes no sense.

Sometimes it is just seeing it!

I was thinking about it this afternoon.  There was some serious fun being had in France despite the ice or ice screws.  And much of it because of both!   Half of the usual suspects are still there.  The rest of us wish we still were.  It was THAT much fun!

A 2nd look at ice screws....

I had a chance to climb on some ice this winter that was unique.  Was to me anyway. 

I had thought I had seen hard black ice previous.  Uncomfortable but workable.  But some of the stuff we got on in Chamonix was damn near bullet proof.   And I actually know what real "bullet proof " is by USDOJ standards.  This was IIIA no problem.  Ceramic plate hard.   Going for a solid III or IV rating hard.   Hard, cold and dry.  Some times as much rock and sand, as ice.

I had thought over time I pretty much figured out how to get a decent belay on ice quickly.   Typically takes only a few minutes and I'm done.  Nothing fancy mind you.  Two screws, two tools to the hilt.  Clove the screws on a good day, clip a tool out of the loop may be and were are off to the races.  Nothing fancy.  I can do fancy just don't chose to generally.

Only once have I failed to get an anchor...that in the upper bowl on Slipstream.  Even in the old days when we already knew the screws we were using wouldn't work in some ice we'd just keep climbing in a similar situation.  Never have I spent an hour trying to get a belay on ice...until this winter.

Matt  (high middle of pic) above tied off screws and  well deserved rock pro....finally.

Likely obvious but alpine ice isn't waterfall ice.  I spent an hr we could ill afford trying to get two decent screws into the belay from where this picture is taken.  You might reasonably ask why not rock gear there?  And it would be a reasonable question.  We had just climbed 250m of hard, (like rocks are hard) north facing ice with a foot or so of fresh snow on it and my patience was wearing thin.   I actually climbed over to the rock thinking I'd be able to get something in where the picture is, easily. ( I seldom can't in a minute or less on rock)   It was prefect granite for chrimney's sake!   By the time I realised rock gear wasn't going to be easy I was determined to grovel, dig or full on excavate to get ice..any ice.

What ice that I could/should have gotten a screw into normally I was coming up dry.  I'd get a bite, a couple of 1/4 turns to a start.  Then the ice turned to the consistency of rice and the screw failed to bite as the tip, plugged up with ice.  Over and over again.  Clean the tip and try, clean the tip and try.  Nothing in the tube.

Six holes.....yes I counted.  And many failed ice screw placements later I gave up (i gave up!?) ...tied the two shitty screws off , covered them with snow, reset my tools, tied them off and said "climb".  Surely not not all that thrilled with the screws or the time wasted.  We should have just started climbing together so I would/could have found better ice.  Bad, really bad, judgement call on my part in several ways.

I had covered the anchors because I knew my partner was not going to be pleased.  With the gear or with me.   Hell! I wasn't pleased and at this point was feeling like a total failure.  WTF happened here?  A couple of things.

The ice was really old and hard.  It was shallow.  I dinged 3 screws trying, I know.   But and here it comes....the screws were all new (as in brand new) BD Express screws.  I had decided to make a real effort to use the BDs in the alpine on this trip.  Lighter by a few grams, rack easier and all.......
Even if the BD's are a bit harder to place, which has been my experience over time,  it is only alpine ice.  How hard can it be?  "It aint going to ever matter."

Ya, that was a dumb answer.  And this was a "easy" climb.  Just the fact that the ice wasn't being cooperative made it, well, not so easy.

A number of things stood out to me on this particular climb.  New snow on the approach and the easy angled ice, the cold temps and the ice quality.  It was hard to get takers for a trip  back to that set of gullies ;)

What I did fine when I made it back the next week was...similar snow conditions.  And the same ice conditions.  Likely a tiny bit warmer but that would be only a guess and if so not by much.

But I brought a majority of Grivel Helix screws this time.  Fool me twice and all.  Amazingly enough...every screw was sunk to the hilt first try.  Nothing tied off and no time wasted on bad anchors.

To be fair.   I knew where I was going, where there was good/better ice on route and where to avoid another dry hole.   But still......if I didn't think there was a difference...a big difference..I wouldn't be writing about it.    With a little help my partner was able to climb "the obvious line" that wasn't all that obvious first time around or for the locals that were following us that day.

I have a full rack of the newest BD and Grivel screws and no horse in the race..   YMMV but that is my 2 cents from this experience.

Looking down from that same belay....great snow ledge anyway :) 
Sadly, no, the beautiful and warm sunshine  never touched the belay.

"Climbing Stronger, Faster, Healthier: Beyond the Basics"

A few books I use as reference material for my own climbing skills and techniques.  Twight's, "EXTREME ALPINISM", and Gadd's. "ICE & MIXED CLIMBING"

You can add Mike Layton's new book to that list as well.

"Climbing Stronger, Faster Healthier: Beyond the Basics" by Michale Layton, D.C.

Obviously I am a gear guy.  I like playing with the toys.  And dressing up to go play in the snow.  That is about as far as it goes for me these days.  I like playing and I work hard in a office to get the time to do so.  Often at the expense of being in better shape.  My idea of training for climbing is the specificity of training.  I climb to be able to climb.  I ski to be able to ski.   Old school that and unless  you have a life style where you can climb or ski every day...honestly not very effective.  I am aware of that.  But I am not comfortable with that.

Mark Twight is Mr. Gym Jones these days.  No one more out there than Mark.  Always worth a look

Cross Fit is a good base.  Also worth looking at.

 If imitation is flattery we have the locals,  Gravity Jane:

My thought is three fold.  Burn it and you can eat what you want if it is in the right amounts and still stay healthy.  Recovery is underrated for anyone that generally over trains like most obsessions/compulsive climber types. And it is always better to train in the rain than indoors.

But I have no doubt that any one of the previous 3 gym programs can do a better job than I can if you are into it.

I also think the more that you know about fitness, training, nutrition and your own health the stronger you will be mentally and physically in the mountains, on rock, ice or your bike for that matter.  Endurance sports like bike racing and triathalons can teach you much of what your body needs to know to go long in the mountains.

Back to Mike's book.  I was at a presentation given by Colin Haley locally last winter.  After the presentation (which was great btw) small groups of climbers formed up and the discussion started on gear, climbers, routes and general climber bs.  One of the conversations I over heard went something like this, "Twight and Gadd are good but this guy in SLC has it dialed..better book, easier read and way more informative".  I though to,  pretty stellar recommendation what book is this?

SLC?  Chiropractor?  Never hear of the guy?   It has to be...Mike Layton!

Mike is a regular on so I knew his name.  He also offered early support for "Pay It Forward", which is  a charity cause for young climbers that I help out with.  So we had talked a time or two and met in person in SLC for a moment between appointments.

And I had read Mike's book as well.  So had friends of mine, Wayne Wallace, Mark Westman and Jim Nelson.  As had Fred Becky.  All to rave reviews.

Mike has tried to cover an immense amount of terrain in this book.  And it is not a gear book, thank goodness.  Unless of course you think about your body as the ultimate piece of gear...which it obviously is.
And that Mike obviously that dialed and better yet he has it squared away for the reader.

If I have any criticism it is the last chapter in his book on gear.  There are better sources for gear (not that this is a bad one)  and like all of them it will be dated quickly.  The flip side to that is the previous 4 chapters don't have an equal all in one text and will become dated at a much slower pace.  Mike is already planning a improved 2nd edition (see.. obsessions/compulsive climber type).  I'd like to see him expand the first 4 chapters and drop the gear all together.   Becasue he obviously has more to say in the 2nd Edition that will benefit us all.

If you want to get better and stronger  as a climber...just as Twight and Gadd have definitive texts on the subject,  Layton's new book will easily sit right along side them and become a long term references for the smart climber.

 "Climbing Stronger, Faster Healthier: Beyond the Basics" by Michale Layton, D.C.

can be purchased here:

Runs $20 to $25.00 on the Internet and worth every penny.

Also reviewed and available on and here:

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sauce and we aint talking Pizza!

Should be obvious that I never tire of looking at me ;-)  Really I need a better set of models or some friends because this is getting embarrassingly old.   I'm trying to get these three locals to model for me but haven't heard back yet.  May be it was the low pay or the obviously stolen photo?    I'll have to ask again.

                                                                Fred,  Saucy?

I am still trying to get organized and stuff put away and seeing what is missing from either being lost, stolen or just not delivered yet from this trip.

Couple of Buffs are gone, a bunch of climbing gear, some clothing and one favorite hat.  But thankfully not my Sauce!  Bought this thing in Bozeman @ Northern Lights  during the '11 Ice fest.  $30...not cheap but I liked the colors and the detailing.  No clue who the company was or where they were until a hour or so ago.

By the numbers:
Chill Toque,  $30.00
The Chill Toque is a fleece lined hat. Designed for warmth in cold weather, this is the warmest piece in the Sauce collection.

•Perfect for casual winter wear and low intensity winter activity
•The swirl closure, unique to Sauce Headwear, provides an escape for excess heat.
•The fleece lined headband, and double layer Meryl® upper will wick moisture and provide resistance to wind.

The Chill Toque is available in two sizes.
•Small/Medium for women with average or small heads and youth.
•Medium/Large for men or women who prefer a looser fit. 

I have climbed some in it and skied a bunch in it. 

Awesome colors, nice size, thickness and warmth.  Only down side is the black took a beating in the sun's UV over the last few months, Dec thru March.  But I liked the hat enough (and more than one person wanted it)  that I went looking for another.  Hard to find in the right color and size this time of year so I went to the source of Sauce, Shayla.  Got what I needed.  Another loud and  brightly colored print that won't fade in the sun is on the way.

Shayla is one of the poor Canadian immigrants trying to make her way in the cold commercial American outdoor industry.  She is one of us...a skier.    Cool hats.  Worth the coin and if you can keep your light fingered friends away from them should last a long time.  Couple of models available and they make freak'in head bands as well!      Everyone needs a new hat!

Hard to believe but I am just writing about gear I really liked and used a lot this winter.  The Sauce "Chill Toque" (Canadian for hat, knucklehead) was one of the few.

And yes, the new Ergos are sweet!

The Buff?

30 years ago half of the gear available off the rack in Snells couldn't be had in the US.  Half the climbing gear available in the US no one wanted. 

Things have changed.  Maybe 5% of the gear available in the US is hard to find in Europe and nothing in Snell's can't be had in the US these days.  And when you do find it, it is generally cheaper.  Although some of it might take a bit of searching.

So what does all this have to do with a Buff?  They are big, mean and generally like to be left alone.  Mess with them at your own peril.  The burnt and salted earth approach.

First I had heard of THE "Buff" was after a little apre ski at the apartment in Cham.  We meet a couple of the local live in  Brits just after lunch at the Requin hut on the VB as they skied by from simu soloing Laratoune.  They in turn cheerfully helped us through our stock of wine and beer back at the flat.  Couple days later someone wanted to know if they had left their "buff" behind.  I guessed, correctly it seems,  it was one of those retro '70s, lycra head band thangs that were so fashionable in Chamonix.

Figured it was "only" a Chamonix thing so I bought my buddies one each for grins before we left town.

I earned my retro '70s style.   Cotton bandanas, wool scarfs of assorted colors, leather head bands.  Used them all to good effect with a full head of hair.  Often times they required attire bitd. So not uncommon for me to turn up looking. as my wife describes it, like a "muffin head".  Which almost, but not quite, squishes my ego.   But not my now white, muffin head!  Admittedly only half cool with a buzz cut but workable.   Yes they work well under a helmet to keep your ears warm.  Yes there really are 12 ways to wear one.  Pirates, banditos and real men will use only 4.

The "Buff" is made in Barcelona, Spain, of 100% mirco fiber polyester (or Merino wool) and available in every color the rainbow and most patterns you cna imagine at your local REI of all places (or Technique Extreme) for 15 Euro or $20 US for the polyester versions.  The cheap knock offs will squish a grown man's head.  They do how ever make most of us look a bit like a urban camo'ed Buff and may be even a bit of a colorful muffin head. 

Get a little style!  And add a little color to you shady life style and your buddy's photos.  Get a Buff!  Hell, get two and mix it up!

Fook'um I earned my muffin head and liked lycra 30 years ago!   The colors may fade but a truly classic style, doesn't   ;-)

Now who is making a good knicker again and bell bottoms...ya, we need some Shoeller bell bottoms!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

The Power Nap..a cautionary tale

A couple of years ago in early winter we walked into a local peak, climbed it and walked back out.  With the nap I took walking out I was just over 24 hrs c2c.  My partner a few hrs less.

Nothing exceptional for time.  A bit of the climbing was spectacular.  The walk?   It was long enough.  Longer than I wanted it to be.   Shorter than it can be.

But this story has nothing to do with climbing or walks.  It is all about the Power Nap.

I love a good nap when I am tired or better yet when I am tired and warm.  Preferably with the sun shining on me in a protected, comfortable and safe place.

The power nap I spoke about above has a few of the elements.  I was tired.  Protected?  Not so much I just laid down on my pack off to the side of the trail and let the cold wake me up.

Here is the rest of that story and the end result.

Seems reasonable.  Wet and cold feet pounded in a few hrs of hard walking in, on and out.

So then I decided to take another power nap.  This time at 12K feet in the sun and it was AWESOME!  It felt amazingly great.  I was warm and cozy and comfortable out of the wind and soaking in the last bit of sunshine I knew would be the last I would see for awhile.   My feet weren't wet or cold this time.   Dry and warm as matter of fact.   The one thing that both naps did have in common was tightly laced single boots that I couldn't be bothered to unlace for a nap.  Dumb!  Really dumb in retrospect.

                                                     A great place for a power nap!

So??    The result of my second power nap?  Pretty much the same result as from my 1st power nap with wet and cold feet a couple of years previous...fooked up feet.

After both of these "power naps" I ended up walking for another hr or so each time after I woke up.  My feet felt a little weird but never thought they had been damaged.   More like they had fallen asleep a bit, not fully numb, but woke up with the additional milage.   Both times the resulting nerve damage came as a surprise a few days later.

Now before you pass me off as a nut case...,OK, may be that already has happened.  But in my defense I have spent a few nights out up high in the middle of the Canadian/Cascade winter and early spring in Alaska at much colder temps with little or no gear and not fooked up my feet.  The difference you ask?  Well I generally spent the majority of time on those trips bouncing around trying to keep warm.  I didn't lay down and take a power nap.  I was more worried about getting back to some place warm enough so I could take good nap and be sure to wake up again.

The lesson?  It might be obvious by now for any rational person ;-).   If you are prone to taking power naps, mid trip, take the time to unlace your boots early on.  You'll likely be happy you did.

Charlie's day out ;-)

Doesn't get much better than this..thanks Charlie!

Chamonix Climbing from Charlie Boscoe on Vimeo.


Reinhold Messner Exclusive Interview With the World's Greatest Climber from Rock & Ice on Vimeo.

This is one just for the 2011 Season...good luck guys and gals!

It is mid April..adventure time is here!

Alaska Denali start from Sam Van Brempt on Vimeo.

Too Late......

Late To Say I'm Sorry from Sam Van Brempt on Vimeo.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The continued discusssion................

A week or so ago a buddy of mine and his friends were caught in a slide.  Three of them were dragged a good ways, two of them seriously hurt.

More than a month previous on my first day in Chamonix two good friends were buried and went at least a 1/4 mile in the run out.  Both ended up on the surface, unhurt for the most part but not unscathed.  Scared the shit out of me watching as they went by and set the tone (likely a good thing) for the following six weeks in Chamonix.  All that literally a few hundred meters from the lift terminal and we were on foot!.

Look closely and you can still see the one meter crown from the slide just a few minutes before.

The list of my friends that have died in the mountains is highlighted by the deaths in avalanches.  Most have died in avalanches.   It bears repeating...most have died in avalanches.

My preference is simply to not ski in avalanche terrain these days.  Easier said than done if you want to b-c ski in the NW or Canada.  In Chamonix we skied heavily crevassed glacier terrain on a almost daily basis.  Same place the local mtn rescue was "averaging 10 people a day off the Vallee Blanche. Crevasse falls, breaks, fatigue."  All that "off piste".

I am not a big fan of skiing in crevassed terrain either.   I generally try to avoid that as well.

As you might imagine that instigated some serious discussion and disagreements.  Becasue if I wasn't climbing I was going to ski and do it up high on the glaciers in the Mtn Blanc Massif.   

My idea is "don't ski in places that you could easily die".  So knowing the terrain, be cautious and be aware and honest about your own skills are key.

My idea of what I "might die on."  May not agree with what, "you might die on".

I hadn't seriously skied in 10 years or so until this winter.  That after working on skis for 20+ years in my previous life.   But I have been thinking about it for a while now.   To be honest even with all the experience, miles on skis and avalanche schools and snow studies, snow still simply scares me.  I don't spend enough time out in the weather and snow these days and know much of what I don't know.  Which is why it scares me.   That got me thinking, "should keep my head buried in the sand" or actually organize my kit to ski in relative safety on questionable terrain and most importantly get out more and become aware of the situation in the field.

Depending on the scenario the kit would generally include combos of transcievers,  the Avalung, shovel, rope, harness, hardware, probe and a rescue sled.  I own a Brooks Range Eskimo Rescue sled these days as part of that kit.  And to date I haven't been required to used it, thankfully.  But more and more I am thinking the entire kit just might be better if you are going to ski in avi terrain or just simply out in the B-C skiing.

Be sure to dbl click the videos to watch them on a full screen.
More here:

Vertical or horizontal front point?

This winter's Ice climbing season started early. Nov. in the Ghost River area of Alberta in fact for me.

                                                                   The Ghost

 The super cold temps that would later invade Canada and Montana had yet to arrive.   Some where you generally have to pay the price for good early season climbing.  For me that was climbing on harder ice than I am generally use to for the majority of the season.  By Jan and -30C temps in Canada I was pretty much worn down and worn out with hard water ice.

In a typical winter I start climbing water ice in Canada after Christmas and continue through mid April.

This winter I had 4 trips north in before Christmas.

The 5th trip was to the Ice Fields Parkway at the first of the year.  Cold by any standard.  I took dbl boots and for once a pair of BD Cyborgs to easy the pain of pounding toes on hard ice.  It made a difference.

Generally I like climbing in horizontal front point crampons.  They offer marginally more support and resist shearing the front points in wet, soft ice.  I have found most of the cruxes in my own climbing to be sun rotted  vertical ice or just as likely what ice that is there sublimated or just out right melting off the wall.   Places that a set of single vertical front points just don't "cut" it for me.  I hate having my feet pop off on anything including steep or not so steep ice because of the specific tools I have decide to use.

Some huge advantages of a mono point on mixed but even there I will generally try to get away with a set of dual horizontal fronts unless I know it will be a mostly a rock climb with boots and tools required.  Not dry tooling per say but certainly "modern mixed".

I know for my size a set of dual horizontal fronts offer more support and that I am less likely to pop my feet.  Proven to my self over and over again.

But then there is hard ice....not the typical couple of days of hard freeze ice but weeks on end at -20 or less.  The stuff that breaks tools, crampons and dinner plates big enough to break helmets. an animal wanting to kill you.  Polar Circus was a good example in Jan.  Dbl boots and a set of vertical front pointed Cyborgs made it less effort, thankfully.

                                                   The Ice Field Parkway

Ha!  Funny now in retrospect as I have never been as cold as I was climbing in Chamonix this winter.  Shivering to the bone cold, on route.  Temps only -20C or so and with a good wind.  Likely most of it was me being less than fit and not acclimatised.  But no matter, I as cold. (reoccurring theme about that trip)

The cold I can deal with..even while bitching about it.  The ice was another matter all together.  The first bit of gully ice I found shattered on impact and was tough even to get enough purchase for a good hook let alone a solid stick.  That bit of ice was mid route on what is generally considered a "rock" route so I blew it off  to the 4 mm pick and my inabilities.  Boy was I mistaken.

The next bit of ice I encountered was at least half gravel and sand, frozen into the back of a corner.  Proper gully ice that.  Thankfully there were enough rocks sticking out of the ice that front points weren't an issue.  Getting a decent stick with my tools was however.  Nomics without pick weights or hammers this time.  My normal choice for Cascade or Rockies mixed and the seemingly hands down preference in the Alps I am bluntly told.  Nomics, Cascade picks and no weights.  Ya, well that choice didn't work so well for me.  And a set of sharp, vertical crampon points is likely the only thing that will consistently penetrate alpine winter ice, aka, Chamonix asphalt.  The ice may look great for climbing but the difference between Neve and old winter water ice is genuine and huge.

No more worrying about shearing a set of dual vertical front points or a mono for that matter through soft ice.  The ice was hard enough to support even my lard ass on a mono in every alpine gully I climbed and half the water falls I did this winter.

So while I am still a big fan of horizontal fronts I am also a huge fan of Monos when I can get away with it and even a bigger fan of dual verts.  And when it is cold...really cold.....I want VERTS.


There you go...another change of mind on my part for can happen on occasion ;-)