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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Friday, September 30, 2011

Gearing up?

For the guys that are really good at alpine climbing I doubt they spend as much time at sorting gear as I do.  But with less time to climb and generally more time to think about it I admit to putting in some serious overtime sorting and deciding on the gear I'll use on alpine trip with a planned bivy.

The guy pictured above might be the exception to that general rule.    But Mark still climbed more than he wrote or ever talked.  So may be all the "real" guys just talk about it less but obsess obout it behind the door of their own gear closet.

As I was about to finish this blog piece I got a hearty laugh.  Thank God I am not selling anything as this is actually the ultimate ad for what Dane thinks is the cool shit :)   Take the choices with a grain of salt here.  Simply my/our choices for the moment.  Things continue to change.....and I am swayed by things like cost as well as function just like everyone else.  But from all the choices available to me (and the choices are truly unlimited) this is what we are using for this trip.
Everything else being equal (and it never really is) and I have the chance, I look at the numbers first.  How much does it weigh?  

If you look at the shell test we are about to do (which is the reason I came up with blog entry) there are shells there that weigh from 5.6oz to 22.9oz.  You can bet which one I will start off in when I need a shell.   But if you kick out the highs and lows there the better shells for what I had intended to test will run between 13oz.  and 19 oz. Which makes much more sense "everything else being equal".

I've had cold injuries this time of the year on Rainier's North' side.  The option of dbl boots or the Batura is open to all of us.  Doug and Lee will be in Baturas because they are easier to walk in and lighter than the best off the shelf doubles.  I am tempted myself to take Baturas.  Warmer than my Ultras but heavier as well.

Easier to climb in though than my Spantiks by volume and easier to walk in.  The walk in is easy which we'll do in runners.  That means I'll pack my boots from the car to 10K.  When I weigh my Baturas and my Spantiks (customised with Baruntse inner boots) the difference is less than 2.5 oz per boot...or 5oz for the pair.  So the marginal addition of extra weight is worth the warmth and dry boots with a planed 2 days above 10K.

Nod at the moment goes to my Spantiks this time.   I'll sleep better for the decision...but cuss the final 1000' of elevation gain on the walk up to Liberty Cap and over to Columbia Crest I suspect.

Crampons?  I have a few choices but with heavy boots and a easier route,  a combo of the stainless Sabertooth front and a aluminum Neve heel seems appropriate for this climb.  10oz less a pair than the standard Saber so they are light.  Because of the time of year for snow conditions (read cold and dry hopefully) and my questions about the durability/reliability of the stainless Sabertooth I have stripped the bots so I can more easily inspect the crampon for cracks.  The other crampons being used are Doug's Petzl Dartwins and Lee's Grivels G22s. 

I'm also taking along a lwt axe to supplement my Nomics (one CT hammer, new serrated pommel, ICE picks and no pick weights)  on the easier snow climbing so even with out crampons I figure I could cut steps if a crampon failed.  Doug has the New Quarks with  CT accessories of course.  Lee is using older Nomics, no hammers or pick weights.  And we all have trekking poles. 

At the moment with three of us in a stripepd Nemo Tenshi Tent a Feathered Friends Vireo seems like a good idea. 

Two of us taking them.   Lee is playing it smart and is taking a 2# Swallow.   With Cascades Designs newest, high tech and super light prototype NeoAir XTherm mattresses and the tight quarters of the Nemo Tenshi we should be warm enough. 

With all my gear hopefully stuffed into an admittedly small, 25L Blue Ice Wart Hog pack.

Gloves between the three of us seem to be an equal split between Mountain Hardware and Outdoor Research with the odd pair from Arc'teryx thrown in.  I'll get more specific on gloves later as it will consume an entire blog post.  But Lee wants to take only one pair of gloves.  I'll likely take three of differing weights.  No sure what Doug will do.   But those choices should be of interest with all the new models we have available from the three companies mentioned.

Doug and Lee will be in NWAlpine pants and Salopettes.  I will either use NWAlpine Salopettes or the new Patagonia North Wall pant..depending on the temps forecast between 10 and 14K and what I think will be required under them for longs.

Speaking of longs I am excited to try some of the newest technology (again a Polartec concept) in Cabela's E.C.W.C.S.   It is a Thermal Zone® Polartec® Power Dry® and might be much better than simply dbl layering my longs as I have done in the past to gain warmth in really cold conditions.   Guess we'll find out soon enough with all three of us using the Thermal Zone technology.  I had heard a  rumor that Mr. Twight was involved in the early design work on these. 

The NWAlpine hoodies are a given for all of us as a base or mid layer.   We have RAB Infinity Endurance 800 fill down jackets coming for a insulation layer.

I am hoping we can use the RAB high quality down garments under/over these test shells and have the newest technology there WOW us with the performance.

Nastia climbing high on our current objective. (photo courtesy of  N. B.)


Anonymous said...


How is the Blue Ice packs review going ? I'm particularly interested in sizing, being 6'2'' one size packs tend to be uncomfortable. Is the NW Alpine Hoodie better than R1 ?


Dane said...

Hi Alex. I really like the Blue Ice Warthog. It is a simple climbing pack wih some cool features for my own the helmet net. I have a 21" back and it fits me ...just barely but it does fit which is unusual. NWAlpine Hoody? Every bit as good at the Pata piece and some features of both I really like. But the price point on the NWAlpine ( $90 retail) one beats Patagonia ($150 retail) by $60!

Hard for me to justify the R1 at retail.

Both are good bets to decide which one is better for you. I own both and use them in slightly different environments because of the differences in hood shape. Most would never notice let alone care.

Anonymous said...

Going with softshell, seriously?
I wouldn't even think about it!
Even if its supposed to be dry conditions a hardshell provides a margin in case something goes wrong. ... must be incredibly cold & dry conditions over there.

Dane said...

You must mean the soft shell pants? Ya short of a full blown storm we'll all be in soft shell pants of one type or another. That technology is well proven in some pretty nasty temps in winter and at altitude by all of us including while on Denali.

One of the things I noticed in Cham last winter is no one besides those of us from NA were climbing in soft shell pants. And there were two storms that I had wished for my hard shell bibs but it all worked out. I think the stretch and extra breathability of a soft shell pant is worth it on technical ground if you aren't freezing the entire time. Almost freezing is just about right if you are still moving.

This trip is built around a "shell test" after all so the upper body will have some sort of high tech shell....may be not what you are use to because it not really a hard shell or a soft shell.

But pants will be a combo of your NWAlpine standard soft shells and long underwear.

Worth mentioning again use your own judgement and think about your project don't just mimic our choices in gear. You might wonder about your own choices if you think our choices are crazy.

Anonymous said...

Hi Dane, Even though you seem to have moved away from traditional hard shells (Gortex, Event, etc). Under the right application are hardshells still handy to have around ( like winter climbing in the north cascades).

Dane said...

I was looking over the newest hard and soft shells I have here now for the up coming review and wondering the same thing.

In the last 5 years of winter climbing I have used a shell in a very limited fashion. And then only on intentionally fast alpine ascents. Those climbs were all done in a Eddie Bauer Frontopoint. Exceptional garment for my own use on those climbs. And there are a few in this test that might well be even better on the same climbs. The only other shell I used intentionally is a super lwt wind shell, the Arcteryx SQUAMISH. Last winter and spring I used the Westcomb Apoc and the Marmot's HYPER simply to test the new technology.

And I liked them for limited applications. How any of these shells will fit into my own clothing selection now is still to be determined.

Frankly? I think I could get by without a shell specific garment for all of my own climbing.

I am and continue to be a huge fan of the Atom Lt in their place if you can stay out of the rain.

The real goal of the up coming Rainier trip is to convince me other wise. But it is going to be a hard sell...when you compare a better garment for my own use @ 14oz. And the shells generally weight in at +/-20oz. Only one is down to 14oz. with no insulation and limited breathability.

It will be interesting (for me as well) to see the comments from the three of us when we are done.

I am trying to keep an open mind...but the closer I look the harder it becomes.

Alistair said...

Hey Dane,

Do the new serrated Nomic pommels fit on the older generation Nomics? If so do you know where I can order a pair? Also will you ever be making super-sweet cold thistle picks to fit the Nomics with your CT hammers(which are awesome by the way)? Thanks


Dane said...

Hey Al, good to hear from you. Some really nice stuff yu have been getting done!

No more picks. Petzl is likely the best of the bunch either way so no need to dulpicate their efforts. The last gen pommels will fit on the older tools. But you run the risk of totally trashing your shaft by using them. If you are cautious...and I know your tools lad :) Best not!

The newest pommels I will know more about this week but have yet to see them so really just don't know yet. I post about what I do find asap. But either way Snell's or any of the local Petzl guys should be able to order any of those bit for you.

Ya just gotta convince Dave he needs some CT hammers!

NotMessner said...

Dane, you said: "And then only on intentionally fast alpine ascents. Those climbs were all done in a Eddie Bauer Frontpoint." What exactly did you wear underneath? Did you bring along an Atom Lt?

Dane said...

I wore a Patagonia R1 and nothing else under the Frontpoint on one climb. On the other climb a mid weight Merino wool sweater and a fishnet short sleeve T shirt.

Climbing "cold" which I have also written about I set personal records on both climbs which were all ice and mid winter.

I didn't take any additional insulation on either climb. If something had gone wrong it would have been bad.

The first climb was here in the Cascades:


thought I had written up the other but can't seem to find it but was a week later in the Canadian Icefields. Both times I was well under 6 hrs C2C on trips that normally take a long day.

Ian said...

I rarely use hard shells anymore with the exception being hardshell pants when riding chairs at a ski resort. Unless rain is in the forecast I don't see the benefit.

Dane said...

Interesting because the one place I have no doubt a hard shell top is usefull is while riding a chair lift :) And I seldom use a hard shell pant skiing but will in bad weatehr climbing.

The newest shell fabrics have literally redefinded the use and the garment.

Ian said...

My softshell pants got soaked after sitting on snowy/wet lift chairs regardless of the temps.

I'm excited to use some of the new materials. I have too many jackets, I'd love to get rid of most of them.

Dane said...

You mean a wet ass doesn't have to be a part of lift skiing?


Jon Rhoderick said...

Hey Dane
Can you say a little bit about your Feathered Friends Vireo (you might have misspelled it Vario). What length do you have and how far up does it get? Being 5'10 the 68' and 72' have extreme promise of Feathered Friends quality on a cheaper budget.

Dane said...

Yes of course the Vireo, thanks. I have a long and have used it a bunch. I'm 6'1" and can crawl totally inside it and pull the draw string tight over my head.

If you can deal with the typical suffering that goes along with using a super light bag in cold weather the ONE pound total weight of a Vireo can make things sorta fun.