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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Blue Ice, the new Warthog alpine pack!

Finally back to some alpine climbing content!  It is almost August after all...skiing has to stop some time right?  Well for the moment anyway...I want another run from the top of Rainier before I am done skiing for the season!

If you have seen this:

You know I am into really basic climbing packs.  And I continue to use really simple climbing packs.  Once in awhile I get side tracked and try the newest options that interest me.  Of course I have used the older Blue Ice packs, the 45, the 30 and the Mono among others.  But I am pretty set in what I think works.

The Mono has kept my attention but I've been too lazy to get that review done.  Some how it seems a conflict of interest since I sell Blue Ice gear as well.   And the fact my wife has stolen my personal Mono.  Hard to write it up.  I'll work on that review when she is out of town and I have my hands on the Mono again.

But the new Warthog is hard to ignore (as you can see by the color).   No way anyone is sneaking this one off without me knowing.  So I am going to give you my take on it now before it happens.   

If you look at the custom CCW packs I have Randy make for myself (30L) you'll likely notice the similarities of the Blue Ice Warthog (27L) my custom packs and the original, stellar CCW Ozone.  First is they are very close in size, with the Warthog being the smallest of the bunch..  Second they are are really simple packs with very complicated and intricate patterns, which takes a high degree of  skill to sew.

I'd really like to take credit for some of the Warthogs design work.  But sadly I can't.  Not even a tiny bit.   I first saw the early prototypes of the Warthog at the Blue Ice offices last March.  I was impressed then because it is a pack I might have designed if given the chance.  More impressed now that I have one in hand.

I probably mentioned this once before.  Back in March one of my partners was looking in Snell's (all over Cham actually) for a new climbing pack.  Randy wasn't interested in more pia custom work.   So Matt was out of luck on a custom CCW piece.  Of the two walls full of new packs at Snells' only one Grivel and one Blue Ice offering interested him.  Which should tell you a lot about the currently  available climbing packs.  He made a trip to the Grivel factory first.  And his choice in packs was eventually found worthy on the Ginat among other climbs that winter and spring.

As good as the pack he has is, too bad he didn't get to see this one.

I try lots out a lot of gear.  But having a full set of made to order custom sacs kinda limits my interest in other climbing sacs.  It isn't easy to live up to my admittedly harsh and very critical standards for a climbing pack.  I have put a lot of thought and money into what best works for me.  There is no reason to take second best into the mtns.

Enter the newest, Blue Ice pack, the Warthog!

Love the color.  I Iike that the pack is small, light and simple.  It actually fills the "small pack" gap in my pack line up.  Same kind of sac both Randy and I like a lot but no one seems to be able to sell consistently.   Good shoulder straps on this one and a easily adjustable sternum strap on sliders.

the Sternum straps misaligned on purpose

Two different thicknesses on the foam used  in the shoulder strap.  The thicker stuff is set high in the strap where it can take the bulk of the load.    Straps are attached to the bag via small wings sewn to the pack body.  And sewn cord loops on the straps as well. Nice detail.  The narrow and unpadded waist belt is tape with a buckle and easily removable.  The perfect choice for this pack.  The bottom of the bag is reinforced but not dbl. layered.  All the tie in points are reinforced and ARE dbl layered.  Nice detailing.  I'll say that a lot in this review.  It is worth repeating.

reinforced sewing and taped seams

All the seams are taped internally.  Shoulder straps tighten by pulling them down. There is a full size (water bladder)  internal hydration pocket that has been pleated and bellowed.   It makes a full badder easy to fit.

Hydration pocket and more taped seams

Again nice detailing.  A Velcro hydration hose holder as well.
Thin foam pad is sewn into the pack.   Call it a bivy pad or just pack padding.  Either would be accurate.  But it is not removable.

The packs back has a definitive "S" cut to the back panel.  Huge advantage for fit on a simple climbing pack.
The rather pronounced S shaped bottom of the back panel from the side 

Single lid strap for hold down.  Lid is sewn on tightly to the pack's top hem.  And the straps are the right length.  Elastic keepers on every strap, shoulders, waist and lid.  Another great detail.  Lid is perfectly sized to cover a fully loaded pack with the skirt drawn tight.  None of this stuff is easy to do or more importantly, easy to do right.  There is a hole for your hydration hose through both pack and lid.  And a single rope strap that is fixed via a Fast Tex style nylon buckles made by Duraflex.  Pack is actually sewn in Vietnam under Blue Ice's and  Giovanni's personal supervision..  The lid has three (yes three) pockets all YKK zippers   Two of them are on the out side and one underneath the lid.

The small back pocket also holds a net of sorts that is easy to deploy or store back in the pocket when not in use.  It is made to attach your helmet easily to a full pack.  Helmets aren't the only item the net will hold, just the most obvious.  Jackets pants, skins or crampons can just as easily be stashed under the net  Slick design work on this one. Did I mention I like the color combo.  It is going to be great for pictures :)

The "hair net" on top of the pack

Crampons can go under the lid, with the rope strap holding them in place with the pack body offering some protection from sharp points.  There are two traditional ice axe holders on the pack..both with reinforced dbl layering sewn through attachments.  Easy enough to securely lash on a tool a little less traditional.   A small quick link in place of the mini biners would be even cleaner but I was going with a quick "green" solution.  A little imagination here will go far if you are using the newest technical tools.   Should be little worry on that one.

Wow!  Some sweet looking Nomic hammers there :)

The pack closes on a 3"  skirt with a single draw string closure.   The haul loop is flat 3/4" nylon tape that is folded in thirds and sewn to make an easier to manage haul loop which can be connected to the axe upper tabs as well for a 3 point lift.  Again a nice detail.  The back panel on my early production pack is a full 18".  Surprisingly, it is a size I can work with on this pack.  Long shoulder straps and a good pattern on the back panel allow it to fit my long back.

Short or tall most will be able to get a good fit with this pack.   It is a climbing pack, and there is plenty of head clearance while looking up with the helmet of your choice when the pack is fully loaded up.

Cost:  78 Euro
Directly from Blue Ice (it should be close to that here in the US)
Weight is 1# 10.4oz or 750g...on my digital scale.  Right on!
Pack material is Cordura, with a pack cloth externally and a smother material against your back and skin on the shoulders.
I can carry 20 to 25 lbs this one.  That is more than I want to climb with for weight.  Less is always better given the option.

Rope strap, hydration hose hole and short skirt

How big is 27 Liters?  The pack will just hold two 60m 10.5 ropes in the main bag.  With two ropes you can still get the cuff closed, if only barely.  A one liter water bottle, will fit in the top lid pocket with a tiny bit of space to spare for the odd packet of GU to keep you running or the odd bite to eat if you pack small.  Pull out the net for your helmet or other pieces of gear/clothing as required.

John Bouchard BITD with a Karrimore climbing a new mixed route on the Grands Charmoz,  August 1975 with Steve  Zajchowski.

I need to add a few words about Blue Ice.   I am pretty sure everyone in the office climbs.  Easy when you live and work in the best alpine climbing environment i nthe world!   Easy to see the influence by the design work, like the Boa, the Chouca and now the Warthog  that the designers know what they are looking for.  By my acocunt some serious energy and effort went into this pack.  It is the first off the shelf,  production, alpine pack I have seen in several decades that I will climb with.  For those that do remember the old Karrimore Joe Brown pack or a Chouinard Fish pack, the Warthog is better done than either and in modern materials but very similar for what they were designed for.   It is a simple sac.  And for those that actually know what it is to be used for (single push alpinism) it is simply a stellar design, with a great attention to detail and sewn very well.  It is obvious to me it comes from  a group of climbers serious about making good kit...not just any bit of kit.  Bravo to Blue Ice for the effort!

The party line?


720 gr.  (mine came out a bit more @ 750g)
■helmet holder
■top lid with external & internal pocket
■chest buckle with security whistle
■rope attachment under the lid
■dual ice axe holders
■removeable hipbelt
■safety pocket with key holder

■high quality Duraflex buckles
■durable YKK zipper

Main: 500 denier CORDURA®
Reinforced bottom: 1000 denier CORDURA®
Lining: Nylon ripstop 210D

To build a highly resistant pack we have chosen to work with CORDURA®. CORDURA® is one of the most durable nylon fabric manufactured to date and it is widely used for high end applications and for producing gear where tearing and abrasion resistance are crucial. Moreover, the CORDURA® we use, is certified by Blue Sign, which is an important factor for our philosophy of minimizing our impact on the environment. Read more about CORDURA® on our technologies page.

Product overview:Minimalist backpack for fast and demanding one day ascents.

Design & features:The Warthog 26L is a light, extremely resistant backpack with all the essential accessories you need and nothing more. This is the ideal backpack for light and fast one day climbs on technical routes: it is compact to allow freedom of movement and it is super resistant for the most demanding conditions.

As the larger Blue Ice packs the Warthog can hold two ice axes. The simple system of webbing loops and cord locks allows not only a quick attachment but also a steady hold. Additional features are rope holder, helmet holder, exit for hydration tube and a removable hip belt.

Thanks to its stability, shape, volume and comfort it has proven an excellent pack not only for climbing but also for back country days when skis are to be kept on the feet during the whole ascent.
Ideal uses: single day climbs, mountaineering

(Agreed 100% btw on that observation and bet you'll see some Cham ski guides using the Warthog next winter.  Might be a wise color choice if so ; )

No way it could be just this easy though to put ski on this pack...or could it?  My Se7en Summits strapped right on like the Warthog was made for them.   Next test is to see if the axe loops can haul a 6# ski set up.

And from the other side of the world?

Thinking of sticky shoes?  How would you like to introduce this guy to climbing,, or hell, why not bull fighting ??!!   :) 

Awesome anyway you look at it.

Boreal's new and...REALLY sticky rubber!

I have been a big fan of Boreal since day one in the USA.  Every first ascent I have done on rock but two and EVERY solo worth mentioning I did in Boreals.  You'll hear more about the Ice Mutant fruit boot I have been using later in the fall as the temps drop.  But here is a primer on the new rubber on my boots and on the newest rock shoes. Some pretty amazing stuff!.

Yuji Hirayama on Boreal - UKC/UKH at OutDoor 2011 from TV on Vimeo.

Tech Bindings? AKA "Dynafit bindings?"

This blog post should really be called, "tech bindings for dummies".  Much of what is quoted below is info I have filtered from Wildsnow, Teton Gravity and the posters there.  I have also read and reread the Dynafit manuals on the various versions of their bindings that I own and use on a regular basis.

But it has been only recently that I ever took the Dynafit style bindings seriously for anything but touring.  Now they are the only style of binding I am using skiing.  Differing models to match my perceived needs and gear.   I could be wrong on some of the details and others might well have a different experience or opinion.  Please let me know if you see something wrong ( which is why I have been looking for info) or want to add to the info.  Ski stuff is mind boggling these days.  This is written simply as part of the process to educate me.  If it helps other climber/skiers to figure out a new winter boot/binding combo even better.

Brian's blog is a great look at some of the tech bindings available currently.  Well worth the read.

I'll focus on bindings I actually use on my small quiver of skis.  Weight listed is ONE binding, not a pair.

Dynafit TLT Speed  335 grams

Dynafit TLT Speed w/ B&D top plates   269 grams

Dynafit  TLT VERTICAL ST  402grams  (no brake)

Dynafit Low Tech Race 124g with no screws (factory says 117 g)

La Sportiva RT 175 grams

So what does all those grams mean?  On my Hi5 skis the difference between the La Sportiva RT binding and the Dynafit TLT Vertical?  it is a SEVEN OZ. per foot!  The choice of the heavier TLT Vertical *might* be OK on a 188cm fat ski like the Hi5 that will see limited time with me pushing them up hill, (much as I love them going down) but it would not be a good choice imo on a shorter, lighter mountaineering ski used on technical ground going up and down..

So not all bindings are created equal.

The RT retails for: $749.95
*5-10 RV not DIN range 175 grams (no brake weight)

The TLT Vertical retails for:  $478.95 (price includes a ski brake)
*5-10 RV not DIN range 402grams (no brake weight)

Dynafit TLT Speed is the "original".  Now a classic, time tested and still as good as any of them imo.   At 335 grams each, still a light weight compared to traditional down hill bindings.  But heavy compared to a 135 gram race binding.  But what binding isn't?    The Speed also has all the *release options* that many prefer.

Say what?  Release options?  Like,  some have a release option and some don't?  Well, yes, now that you ask.  Some have a release option very similar to a typical downhill DIN rated ski binding and  SOME DON'T!

That doesn't sound good does it?!

Some where on the Vallee Blanche or at Grand Montets last winter after a second pre-lease from having snow and ice on my boot soles, my partner that day said, "you need to lock your bindings."   "Just pull up the toe piece lever."

It would have been better to just stop and clean off my boot in retrospect, which I did do.  But even better would to actually know how Dynafit style bindings should work!   

Hint..??!!   Locking the toes gives you something like a number of 17 DIN on the toe release of the tech style bindings.

This is an important tech tip for all these bindings, by Mtn. Guide Mike Bromberg, from his web site:

"I regularly will lock my toe pieces a few clicks to insure that the pins are properly seated in the tech fittings. Once I’m confident that they are properly engaged/ice free, I push the lever back down to ski mode. I’m confident that nearly 100% of pre-release issues involving tech bindings are related to inattention during this step, and this is a simple way to verify proper attachment. This process has been much easier with the PLUM guide’s and I’m finding that I rarely have to bend down to help facilitate this process."

More of Mike's Plum Guide binding review and a link to his website at teh bottom of this blog post.

There is an option to shed some of the weight from the Dynafit Speed by pulling off the original climbing plate and adding a pair of B&D Ski Gear top plates.  Elevators are 86g per pair (3oz), plates 20g (.7oz)pair.
That will drop around 66 grams per pair or 2.3 ounces.  It all adds up when you start counting ounces.  But it will also eliminate your high touring position.  Make sure your boots are up to the task before you make that change.

The real light weight in the bunch of bindings that I own is the Dynafit is the Low Tech Race Auto. This binding is self locking,,,so you get something clsoe to a 7 DIN in the heel release and a 17 DIN in the toe.  But I also  keep them on short skis.  I use them on two skis, a pair of 162cm and 167 cm skis.  Skis that I always ski in control and in places I'd rather not drop a ski for any reason.   At 124 grams per binding or right at 8.75 oz. per pair (screws not included).  Both sets of my mountaineering ski with the Low Tech Race bindings come in under 6 lb total.   Worth the trade off for me so  far.  No brakes of course.  But I do use leashes if I am not running brakes.

"■ Lou December 16th, 2009 9:21 pm
"a ton of people in EU tour on this stuff. It’s very popular, especially in social groups where racing and super fitness are practiced. I’ve tried touring on some lightweight rigs and really don’t like the lack of ski brakes, but it seems a lot of people don’t care one way or the other about brakes. Most of those folks are such good skiers they rarely fall and hardly ever release from a ski. Lot’s of them ski with the toes locked. It’s actually gotten pretty crazy. Reminds me of telemarking at its peak in North America, e.g., all sorts of innovation, and who cares about safety release or ski brakes? Yeah, safety lateral release is over rated.
BTW, remember that with a locked “tech” type binding you can still release vertically at the heel, so perhaps that mitigates some of the risk of skiing with the toe locked"
"■Euro Rob December 17th, 2009 4:15 am
"Apart from what Lou said about the race-style touring that’s increasingly common over here in Yurp (good skiers, lightweight gear and humans) it probably also makes a difference that virtually everyone with race bindings is on 150-164cm skis. They don’t get tangled as easily as longer ones when falling, so the risk of injuries is lower. Also people don’t go hucking cliffs with those sticks."

Here is another  comment on the short ski issue more to the point:
"Opinion: Skiier/Rider Issues
Subject: Skiboards and other skis without release bindings.
Any ski, short or long, without a release system is potentially dangerous.

A current practice with the potential to dramatically increase the incidence of lower leg injuries is the proliferation of short skis with non-releasable bindings. A study we presented earlier this year demonstrated that lower leg injuries were four times more likely when using such products, than with conventional rental equipment incorporating releasable bindings. Since short skis are also available in combination with releasable bindings, there seems to be no reason to sell or rent such a product. Any ski, short or long, without a release system should be considered potentially dangerous and should not be sold or rented without both parties recognizing the increased risk of lower leg injury associated with its use."

*Carl Ettlinger - Adjunct Asst. Professor, College of Medicine, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05405, and President, Vermont Safety Research, Underhill Ctr., VT 05490
**Dr. Jasper Shealy - Professor, Department of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering, Rochester Institute of Technology, Rochester, NY 14623

And is my own experience?
I have pre-leased from the Speeds set on really light weight settings.  Not paying attention to my boots soles was the issues.  Both easily solved.  No need to lock the toes if the binding is correctly adjusted and your boot soles and binding boot holes clean.

Now that I am paying attention to both settings and boot soles I have NOT had a pre-lease in the TLT, Speed, Race or the RT.  But I can also count on one hand the number of falls I took in 2011.  Not that I am such a good skier but that I make every effort to ski in control.

The current Low Tech Race?  I have been able to ski my steepest lines to date and had the most fun skiing and touring, ever, on the low tech bindings.  I have also been doing some limited side hill and lift skiing on the Low Tech Race binding as well as touring.   But that isn't a recommended use of that binding .   And no question a titanium heel piece, bolt/springs, have no business being used there.  It is simply a waste of good technology/titanium.  Better used on JUST race day imo.  At least till I get the steel replacement springs.  But then how do you know if  your bindings are reliable.  Catch 22 for me.  Steel is a better option there on my ski.   I am no fly weight at 200# fully kitted out in ski gear.   No pre-leases from any of these bindings,  But all four styles of the bindings have come off when required.  Even the Low Tech Race.  Admittedly the Race release was a little on the "nervous side".  Nervous because I was glad they DID release!

A interesting observation for me about using race gear.  If you are to take advantage of race technology you have to mimic much of the current race mind set.  The LowTech race has no "flat" setting on the heel.  You are either locked in for skiing or you have a mid height elevator lifting your heel.  Nothing in-between.   Seems like a engineering/design mistake to me not to have both a flat and a bump above for steeper skinning. Plum race binding heels are the same or a very similar set up BTW.   So everyone but me  seems to have the magic numbers on this.  A little research shows World Cup racers skating the it begins to make sense.  Once I started skating and herringboning mild inclines I didn't notice the need for a "flat boot" as much.  But with no down side or added weight involved to make a flat boot possible on the Low Tech Race I still call that one a design flaw.   Boot/foot angle not with standing.   I'm likely to use the same gear on Denali (Low tech race binding, TLT5 and a 167cm Hidden Peak ski) and I can't easily envision skating any where between the air strip and  11,000 feet.  So I would really like a flat boot some times.  But the point is, if you want to use the lightest and generally  most efficient gear, be it clothing, ski, bindings or poles be prepared to make adjustments in your technique and maybe learn new skills as well.   Fair trade...most of the time..... I think.

One thing that might make a difference that is not likely a race technique from what I have seen on videos.  With a low tech you'll want to stay in control and NOT fall.  Easier said than done. But if you choose a binding without full release values something to put in the back of your mind before it bites you,  hard.

Now that I know what a "locked toe" means I admit to being a little nervous myself.   But it is a road you'll likely not turn around on once you have carried and skied on a low tech binding.  The weight saving and simplicity are addictive.

Luckily there are several new bindings, the RT and Plum's offerings, that will give you full release values and a light weight binding as well.  So you can choose what is important to you.  I admit to finally balking at the prices.  The lightest low tech bindings did end up on some of my own gear.   But they are quiver skis.  The quiver allows me to choose what I ski and what binding I spend the most time going up hill on.  Low techs work there.  But hard for me not to I prefer a full lease binding now that the weights are coming down to rival the low techs.  Plum in particular seems to have done the tech bindings at a new level of quality that hadn't been seen.  More on the Plum bindings in the links below.

Three of the quiver with bindings that I think match my use of the ski.

I can't think of a sport where you pay this kind of $/per oz. ratio.  Even pro level road bike parts don't compare.  Race car parts and custom firearms aren't even in that kind of  price range.

But if the TLT5 Performance boot is any example the  race technology will eventually filter down to everyone and the consumer prices will drop as they do.

Although I have not skied on this binding yet, they are well worth a critical look if you are in the market.

Plum, the company, the bindings and order info here:

More on the Plum Race bindings here:

More on the Plum Guide by Guide Mike Broomberg here:

Here is a guy known for cranking his bindings to "full lock mode* and always being  in control  :)
DIN of 12 ya think?

                      "GLEN PLAKE skiis the PLUM "Guide"!

              Photo courtesy of Glenn Plank and the Plum web site.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


So why socks? Kinda goes with feet really. Boots, socks, insoles and feet right?

The thing that got me here though was Tracy sticking my best Merino wool ski socks in the drier. I'm thinking it was my best ski socks now fit Tracy, but they no longer fit me!

I get a little ahead of myself once in awhile looking for high tech stuff.

 Lorpen's Tri-Layer Medium Ski .  These rock!

38% primaloft eco polyester, 37% merino, 15% nylon, 10% lycra

OK, I am reaching.  Socks?  Come on!  I am not climbing much, skiing is winding down and I am trying to get some work done in the shop.

Socks play a crucial role in keeping you comfortable. Be it running, cycling, hiking, mountaineering or just spending a few hours walking, foot comfort is key.

Tri-Layer sock design is a combination of three layers that work together. These layers provide three benefits; better moisture management, more comfort and serious durability. The result is a sock that performs well over and over again.

Here's how they say Tri-Layer works:

Layer 1 (the layer that is next to your skin) is synthetic.
Synthetic fibres are better at wicking moisture away from your feet than natural yarns. Hydrophobic (non-absorbent) in nature, these fibres work quickly to move moisture away from your foot and into Layer 2.

Layer 2 (the middle layer) is natural.
Natural fibres are hydrophilic (absorbent) and actually suck the moisture away from Layer 1 spreading it out to speed up the evaporation process. The result is feet that stay dry for longer periods of time.

Layer 3 (the outer layer) is synthetic.
Nylon is knit as the outer layer to add durability to the sock and provide greater resistance in high friction areas. Commonly used for military applications, Nylon is renown for its excellent abrasion resistance. As the outer layer of our unique Tri-Layer system, it helps your socks to last longer and retain their comfort, even after many washes.

At almost $20 a pair for the ski socks you have to ask why?  Or at least I did.

"Trilayer design - synthetic next to the skin wicks moisture away to keep foot dry; middle layer is natural yarn that spreads out the moisture over a large surface; synthetic (nylon) is the outer layer for durability,
light cushion, over calf height, excellent moisture management, fast drying, mchine washable, tumble dry, no bleach, made in Mexico

"Over the calf height" is mandatory soem times, as I like to climb in a knicker length soft shell on occasion.   These days getting a sock long enough to cover the gap can be trying.
The company?
"Before Lorpen was founded in the early 1980's, our founders were disappointed with the socks they were using during their treks through the Pyrenees. The need for more comfort and durability drove them to start Lorpen.   Today we still rigorously field test all of our socks in the Pyrenees before they ever get near your feet. This ensures that you get the most technical, well crafted socks available today. And that means comfortable feet no matter what activity you choose to do.

Lorpen is a strong believer in giving to the community. Over the years, Lorpen has given many 1000's of pairs of new socks to organizations that support people and families in need."

I have a trail running version of this sock as well the, Tri-Layer Trail Light XTR.  Which is a different combination of materials, 36% Tencel®, 35% Coolmax®, 18% Nylon, 10% Lycra®, 1% Modal®.  Cost?  $14.00

I use it for trial running and on my bikes.  Down side it feels really slick internally to me.  But the obvious intention is to eliminate friction in the shoe.  Which it does.  On the bike my feet stay drier as well..

But it is the Merino wool combinations that I really like and will eventually purchase more of.   Socks for both my ski boots and my climbing boots.  And some of them will surely be mid calf height :)   The typical shin bite you get from being in tight ski boots all day is gone.  My AT boots seem to be the worst offenders.  TLT5s that go from a tight cuff to no cuff with the flip of a lever.  Back and forth yo/yo skiing them in the back country I get sore shins from my other merino wool socks..that cost anywhere between 10 and $20.

Noticeably less chafing from the Lopren's.    Interesting company, some great products...and now the best socks I own :) 

Like most reading this I'd bet the majority of socks I own come in bulk packages from places like Costco.  Good enough most days.  Socks I'll sometimes wear knowing that a hard day out will totally trash them.   Fair enough.  But there are days that the socks I wear will be an important part of my kit.  $20 a pair will be cheap in comparison to the time and effort involved.   Those are the days I'll likely be in a pair of Lopren's now. 

High tech socks..for Pete's sake!  Who would have thought? 

There have to be dozens of quality socks available....but not all are created equal. $20 plus seems to be the going price.   Pays to shop around.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Just for laughs!

My face book friends (all degenerate climbers of one sort or another) are always posting "who died this week"  or nasty videos of accidents between the hundreds of hard routes they seem to chew through like a starved coyote penned inside a hen house.

Some times it is sad, sometimes it is simply annoying.  When no one gets hurt it can be heart stopping entertainment.

This one I really enjoyed.  Some times it is the little pleasures in soloing hard, steep  rock in mtn boots :)

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Your feet!

This is likely one of the most important blogs I will write on Cold Thistle.

I figure if you are reading this blog you are into climbing.  All sorts of climbing, rock, ice and snow.  That means being out 12 months of the year on you feet besides just the climbing.

If you are like me, enough miles and you eventually get injured.  Major or minor injuries have a way of adding up.   Something I didn't really believe when i was 18 and now realise just how wrong I was on that myopic perspective.

"The human foot is one of the best-engineered parts of the body.

Each foot has 33 joints, eight arches, 26 bones, more than a hundred muscles, ligaments, and tendons that all work together to distribute body weight and allow movement. Unfortunately, many people pay no attention to their feet – until they start to hurt.

Foot disorders must be diagnosed and treated early, before they become very painful and incapacitating. In some cases, some painful foot abnormalities are already warning signs of even more serious ailments such as diabetes, circulatory disorders, and nerve problems.  Do a self-check while it’s early.."

It looks like this pair of feet will be loosing 5 out of 10 toe nails. Likely the result of a combination of running and climbing abuse?

Few things will really slow you down in the mountains.  Knees will.  But everyone who has had a bad blister on their foot will acknowledge just how disabled you can be when you feet start hurting.

Staying mobile will keep you climbing in one fashion or another.  There are other joints that will slow you down but the ones that seem to most easily effect us are the feet, and knees.

If you look the first set of feet with the taped toe, pictured above with the title, the thing most obvious is the over size joint at the ball of the foot, base of the big toe.  It is called a Bunion.  Sad as it seems , your feet change over time and generally get bigger. Bunions can be hereditary, but for climbers it can exacerbated by abuse of long walks, tight rock shoes, or rigid soled boots.

I replaced several pairs of perfectly good winter boots last year for just those reasons. Capsulitis of the second toe, Hallux Abducto Valgus (bunions) and a few other issues of simply wear, tear and age means bigger boots and prescription orthotics to slow the progression. If left unattended you will end up with some seriously damaged feet and a long term loss of mobility.  Below is a good sized bunion on the left foot and hammer toes on the right foot.. 

Here is a look at just a few of the common foot issues climbers (or anyone might) have.  Do your self a favor and take a look at your own feet.  Address the issues sooner than later.

"Plantar Fasciitis
When there is increased stress on the arch, microscopic tears can occur within the plantar fascia, usually at its attachment on the heel. This results in inflammation and pain with standing and walking and sometimes at rest. It usually causes pain and stiffness on the bottom of your heel.


An enlargement on the side of the foot near the base of the big toe (hallux). The enlargement is made up of a bursa (fluid filled sac) under the skin. The term bunion is also commonly used to describe a structural (bony) deformity called hallux abducto valgus (HAV). Bunions can be painful and can be aggravated by activity and wearing tight shoes.


In the foot, a neuroma is a nerve that becomes irritated and swells up. If the nerve stays irritated, it can become thickened which makes the nerve larger and causes more irritation. Pain from a neuroma is usually felt on the ball of your foot.

Corns & Callouses

Corns and callouses are areas of thick, hard skin. They usually develop due to rubbing or irritation over a boney prominence. The hard, thick skin is called a corn if it is on your toe and it is called a callous if it is somewhere else on your foot.

Toenail Fungus (onychomycosis)

Fungi like a warm, moist and dark environment (like inside a shoe). A fungal infection in your toenails may cause the nails to become discolored, thickened, crumbly or loose. There are different causes and it is difficult to treat due to the hardness of the toenail.

Ingrown Toenail (onychocryptosis)

An ingrown toenail can occur for various reasons. The sides or corners of the toenail usually curve down and put pressure on the skin. Sometimes the toenail pierces the skin and then continues to grow into the skin. This may cause redness, swelling, pain and sometimes infection.

Hammer Toes

A hammer toe is also sometimes referred to as a claw toe or mallet toe. It involves a deformity of the toe where there is an imbalance in the pull of the tendons. Either the tendon on top of the toe pulls harder or the tendon on the bottom of the toe pulls harder. This results in a curling up of the toe.

Plantar Warts (plantar verucca)

Plantar warts are caused by a virus. Plantar means bottom of the foot, but warts can occur other places on the foot and toes as well. Plantar warts can be painful depending on where they are located. Sometimes they are mistaken for callouses because layers of hard skin can build up on top of the wart.

Flat Feet (pes planus)

Just because you have flat feet does not mean you will have problems or pain. If you do have pain, there are various treatment options available. If you only have one foot that has a flat arch, it may be due to another problem and you should get it checked out.

Athlete's Foot (tinea pedis)

Athlete's foot is a common skin condition that can affect everyone, not just athletes. It is caused by a fungus. It may cause redness, itchiness, tiny bumps filled with fluid or peeling skin. It is most commonly located between the toes or on the bottom of the feet.

Achilles Tendonitis

Achilles tendonitis involves inflammation of the Achilles tendon. If the tendon stays inflamed long enough, it can lead to thickening of the tendon. Sometimes nodules or bumps can form in the tendon. Achilles tendonitis can become a long term problem or can lead to rupture of the tendon."

Capsulitis of the second toe, (or any toe)

 Hallux Abducto Valgus (bunions), hammer toe, onychocryptosis, and Plantar Fasciitis have all plague this pair of feet.  Much of the damage is a given from hereditary.   But much of the damage could have been mitigated by the use of a prescription orthotic early on ( or even a well fitted off the shelf orthodic) and more carefully picking the approach and climbing footwear to be used.

Foot injuries and broken bones from martial arts, accidents, cold injuries while working, skiing and climbing, the use of overly tight rock shoes, and rigid soled alpine boots all add to the long term damage.  And slow recovery.   But as much as anything your genes, your heredity, will have much to do with how your feet fair over time.  That is luck of the draw.   A good Podiatrist may be able to limit the damage or fix what you have been given. 

More here on what to look for and avoid:

Mountain boots?

I think there should be much more concern with several issues on mtn boots.  First is the low quality generally worthless, insoles boots are delivered with today.  I have $700 and $1000 production boots that come with insoles that sell for less than .10 cents a pair.   Come on!

The other concern in recent boots is a super rigid sole and a very flexible ankle.  Our feet don't work that way.  You are bound to have feet  issues with a bad insole and a dead rigid sole.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Great comments on lwt skiing....

Ski season is about over here....just a bit more to be had.

For another look inside the current cutting edge, from Brian's blog:

"It's no longer "all about the down" and I have addressed the issue of boot weight previously. The only thing I will say is that taking weight off your feet is one of the best "weighs" to get your motor running. Any of the offerings from Dynafit, La Sportiva and Scarpa involving carbon fiber will do the trick."
Next up...hopefully some sun in the NW, rock, road bikes, tris and the alpine.  August OR show coming up quickly as well.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Why the skiing is so good?

Great look at some of the better and more popular runs in Chamonix on a decent snow year.

Chamonix Steep Skiing Camp 2010 from Smart Guides on Vimeo.

And a worthy link....

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Car to Car on the Grand in 5:17!

At  the trailhead..sage advice  :-)
"Nice tights, you guys are idiots, I'm a guide, I know a lot." 

Congrads to all involved!

Jared had already done it in 7:21 last month climbing and skiing wth 2 companions that continued on the traverse.

Nathan Brown, was dropped it to 7:15:33…car-to-car. Nate went solo, used steel crampons and two ice tools, Dynafit TLT5 Performance boots, custom 160cm Igneous, and down-climbed the Chevy Couloir, as opposed to rappelling.

Then the batman team went at it.

And just to add to the fun, Ptarmigan was skied last month as well.

Amazing spring conditions we are having!