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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Petzl Lynx crampon part deux

This review started with a request by a popular and very commercial UK web site asking me to review the new Petzl Lynx.  "Commercial" in that they take loads of free gear, then write editorial comments on that free gear (and support that opinion in the forums to the uneducated) and sell commecial ads to support their website and staff from that content.  We had a few earlier discussions on how Cold Thistle benefited their customer base (my view) and how I was stealing traffic from their web site (their view).    I had written for them in the past and thought, "hey why not again?"

Then more recently when I asked I made a rather bland comment on one of the newest soft shells coming to the market.  Likely the Editor on their web site and I got or preseason samples from the same place.  I was shall we say, "less impressed" than their gear editor.  Who came back to my comment with nothing but glowing reviews of the same jacket.   Same piece of kit but two totally different opinions on the details.   I didn't bother with a second response. 

Last I did a full mental check (30 minutes ago) there is not a single bit of kit I own or have owned that I didn't think needed "fix'in" in one way or another.  Even my all time favorites, the Nomic, the Scarpa Ultra or the Atom LT could easily be improved.  Even stuff I helped design from the very beginning is not immune and generally takes a rethink once or twice to get right.  CT hammers and the NWA Salopette I dearly love fall into that category.

Bottom line if you tell me all the good things about a product and never mention the down sides...either you are a DOLT or you think I am.

If you are looking for good info to make a purchase from the writer who doesn't mention the down side is simply a thief or an idiot.  Harsh but there you are.  Simply bad info imo.

Some times I will intentionally leave off the minor down sides on a product I think so good it isn't worth mentioning.  And others rightfully so have disagreed.   Atom lt for example?  No zipper stop, no two way main zipper, no draw cord on the hood.  Yet it is still the best in category imo.   Even with those (minor to me) faults I still wear it on almost every winter climb.

That is a long way of saying verify and trust no one when it comes to reviews.   Best to know who pays the author and how.   No one pays me for my content.  You get what I think is important to me...and just a climber.   Not because some one gave me the gear and they do now and again.  But the Lynx I bought with my own cash so take what I say here with that under consideration.   I have other crampons I like.   There was a distinct reason I bought the newest Petzl offering having already owned just about every easily available crampon on the US market.

A couple of weeks ago I hosted a discussion with the local Mountaineering club on ice climbing and the gear we use to climb it with.  One of the things that was made clear to me in the discussion is that crampon fit is generally the defining factor of your own crampon of choice.  (or at least should be imo)

For those that have followed the CT blog I would guess that is no surprise.  I've only lost a crampon once, with almost fatal results, how I fit my own crampons is a serious matter to me.

I talk to climbers on a regular basis that have lost crampons from a poor fit.  How people aren't more seriously injured in those incidents I have no clue.

Last winter after all my gear was on the way to Cham I got in a pissing match with my contacts at Black Diamond about the reliability of the crampons I wanted to use.   I had Sabertooth Pros, Cyborgs and the new Stinger in my kit.   The Sabertooth was my crampon of choice.  And it was breaking last winter in first gen. form.  The Stingers were a virtual copy of the Petzl Dart and my second choice for climbing in the Alps.  The Cyborgs, heavy but proven reliability in comparison to the other two.  When asked by Black Diamond to return my Stingers for my public comments on the broken Sabertooths that were appearing on the Internet, I balked.  I didn't care about "losing" the the Stingers.  They were easy it replace with a Grivel G20 or the original Dart.  But at that point I was no longer interested in climbing on any BD crampon.  The fact I would have to buy a pair of crampons in Chamonix at retail, that I had duplicates of hanging n the gear wall at home irritated me. Annoying like a tick annoys you on a day out climbing.  Trivial but annoying if you continue the relationship.
I had Dartwins and Darts at home as well as Grivel G12s.  Any of the three fit my boots very well.
But I ended up walking in Snell's and buying a new pair of Dartwins.  Later I picked up a pair of the G22s to try out as well.

But it was the Petzl Dartwins that fit my boots, Phantom Ultras and Spantiks,  the best without any modifications.  So that is what I ended up climbing on during the trip.  Not that I thought they were the best crampon.  I actually like the G22 better and I still really like the design of the Sabertooth.

But fit and reliability is what defined what I would climb on.

Which is a long winded way to introduce you to a new crampon that really impresses me, the Petzl Lynx.

There are a lot of things I really like about the Lynx.  But I think the most important is the one I first over looked.  We are back to how a crampon fits.

This from an ice climbing friend, Debbie Sand who is still climbing in the early yellow Trango Extremes, size 38.5.

"Last year when I got the Cyborg Pros I was super excited to get out, but when I climbed the boot would shift and there was nothing I could do to stop it. Thinking it was just me not knowing the finer points of how to adjust them, I got help from friends, then Pro Mountain Sports, and even a guide in Canmore to help me adjust them, but they still moved around. The shifting made it feel like I wasn't stable when I was using a feature, and when I kicked in I was not getting in the way I had in the past. All of a sudden I couldn't rely on my feet - and I'm definitely a finesse climber-so I was burning all kinds of energy trying to kick in harder, and also using my arms more to compensate. This nightmare combo led to losing my
confidence and eventually my lead head.  Reading Cold Thistle on crampon fit last year, I was beginning to get the picture of what was going on. On a women's discussion group, I posted and found lots of women having problems with crampon fit to smaller boots. A friend had gotten a pair of Darts that looked promising boot fit-wise, and I was really thinking about those, but wanted the versatility of more
points underneath. Then Pro Mountain Sports posted a link to the Lynx video that promised it would fit any boot. Brands? Sure, but smaller boots? I went in to try them. We took my boots, my Cyborgs, and my measuring tape. When the Lynx was on my boot, the difference in how the front wire contacted the boot was striking- much more contact. We measured the width of the Lynx front wire, which is narrower, but you could see it just looking at them side by side. The front of the crampon is also angled, which follows the curve of my boot much better.

I had only planned to look- but this difference seemed to be the grail I was looking for in crampons for smaller boots, and last year had been demoralizing, so home they came. I was hopeful this would make at least some difference. Well, it turned out to make all the difference. Climbing on the seracs on hard ice days, I was able to kick in with no movement. My feet are solid again, and I can count on them to stay where I kick without shifting. I put them where I want them with relative ease, and they stay where I put them. I can keep my weight on my feet and not have to think about them. Seriously, Lynx gave me my footwork and my confidence in my feet back. I'm super stoked about the season now! FYI, an experienced gal friend with a one size smaller, newer model La Sportiva boot than mine tried them too, and found them really well fitting and solid.

And a guy friend with a bigger boot tried them and wants to dump his Cyborgs.
I think this is his boot, Kayland Apex XT I think. 8.5 for sure."

The obvious distinction of the Lynx is it comes with both a wire bail for the front attachment and a "basket" that is currently the most popular crampon attachment in the world.

When Alexis Vallet  from Grivel talked Carlos and I through the Grivel line last year at OR and dropped the sales numbers for "basket" crampons Carlos and I were both in disbelief.  With one notable exception neither of us knew anyone who climbed serious ice in North America with a basket style crampon binding.  But take a look around Chamonix in winter and they are pretty common.

Vince Anderson, on their new route, North Face of Mt Alberta, photo courtesy of Steve House

The numbers don't lie.  And it is obvious that basket style crampons do work in even the most difficult climbing and conditions.  House also used a similar Grivel set up on the first ascent of the Rupal Face on Nanga Parbat.

The Petzl Lynx comes with both binding options which gives you the opportunity to fit your smallest single boots and your warmest cold weather double boots with ease.

At $245 USD or £190.00 in the UK the Lynx is not a cheap crampon.   Besides the two attachment systems there are other advantages that might make up part of the financial hit if you require them.

This from a friend
"I've also been playing with the new Lynx crampon and have noticed there's absolutely
no need for a assym bar any more. The front portion is shaped in such a way that the
back of the front section is not parallel with the front points, true left and right
crampons. These should make me climb harder for sure."
William 11/1/11

It goes back to fit really.  Petzl used some innovative engineering here to make one pair of  Lynx fit a majority of boots commercially available.  And trust me, just being able to fit 50% of the boots available is a major accomplishment.  With the Lynx, I think Petzl made it well past the 50% grade.  Not sure any recently manufactured crampon can claim anything remotely similar.

Let's look at the numbers?

Number of points: 14

Boot sizes: 35 to 45 with M linking bar (included), optional L linking bar fits boots sizes 40 to 50 (T20850)


2 x 540 g = 1080 g (configuration with two points and ANTISNOW)

2 x 455 g = 910 g (configuration with one point, no ANTISNOW)

One of the reasons I like the Sabertooth design so much is that it also has 14 working points.   The 2 extra down points really do add to your security on moderate terrain.   Security you easily find missing on the Stinger, Dart or G20/G22 style crampons.  Although the Grivel design work has tried to minimise that lack of security with the Patented MONO-RAIL technology.

The ability to move the front points horizontally side to side and front to back allows a multitude of positions, no other Crampon offers.  I am a big guy at 180# and I don't like how monopoints shear though for me on waterfall ice.  But there are advantages in a monopoint on ice and mixed.  So sometimes I compromise.  With all the options the Lynx offers I can use a Mono point that is supported by a shorter  but second front point.  In really rotten ice I can adjust them for really deep penetration.

A lot of options on the front points.  But even more important to me is the actual size of the forefoot foot print on the Lynx.  The Lynx is lighter than a pair of stainless Cyborgs but the added coverage under foot is beginning to rival the older crampons (several generations back)  and duplicates or slightly betters the the G12 for instance and betters by a huge margin the Dart, Dartwin, G20/G22  or the Sabertooth.  The difference is a huge increase of security with this crampon on moderate terrain.  Something everyone should be cheering even with the marginal added weight gain.

Options?  I like the options.

Down sides?  The heel lever could still be better.  The retaining strap really needs to go through the top of the lever, not the bottom to actually keep the strap on the boot.  Come on guys time to change that one through out the entire Petzl line.  Petzl's anti bots?  Decent now but still lacking.  They work but others (BD and Grivel) both have better bots.  They beat duct tape though which is what I will use as required on my Darts.

Past that I really don't have much to bitch about.  It is a short list.  And like the Atom Lt hardly worth mentioning.  I still don't get a perfect fit on my Ultras but out of the box they are a perfect fit on my Spantiks (and TLTs) .  Having all the options for front point set ups makes me a happy camper.

At the moment and until something better comes along....I haven't see it yet.....the Lynx will be my go to crampon every where.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

A "short" field test of the Arc'teryx Zenta AR gloves :)

Some times things just don't go as planned.  So you punt.  When I first heard part of this story last week I could hear the pain from my stalwart field tester Dave Searle through the trans Atlantic email.  If you climb you'll likely recognise the pain.

Dave on one of the ramps of the Desmaison/Gouseault on the Grandes Jorasses

All photos courtey of Ally Swinton

Dave's story:

"Gloves are quite literally the bane of my existence.....

They are expensive and they always break........ if they make it that far, i.e you don't knock them off a Bivi ledge.

When I got a pair of Arc'teryx Zenta AR gloves off Dane I was totally psyched. On first impressions they looked really well made with excellent features. They fitted my hand really well and I was really impressed by how dexterous they felt for a glove of its size and levels of insulation and protection. I would never normally climb in a glove that had goretex and primaloft in it as I would ordinarily find them too thick to feel anything but when I first tried on the Zenta I knew that they would probably be a lot better than other because they are really well shaped and moulded to your hand.

Just call me Lefty :)

Gloves have a lot of expectations placed upon them. We expect them to be warm, light, strong, dexterous, neat fitting, waterproof, breathable and easy to get on and off.......oh yeah and well priced. I really like that Arc'teryx hasn't conformed to the normal regime of making cheap gloves. They have put more money into the technology and precision manufacture and passed the cost onto you and me - the fussy climbers. So often manufacturers build cheaper gloves that inevitably fall apart after a few routes or never really fit well from the start. I like that these gloves are out there filling the upper end of the market. Having said this though, as a climbing bum, I would really struggle to justify purchasing a pair of these gloves. They will get trashed at some point and any which way you look at it 160 euros is a lot for a pair of gloves that might only last for a few routes.

My last foray into the mountains was for the Desmaison/Gouseault on the Grandes Jorasses. This route is a long and sustained mixed route following a series of steep ramp lines and tricky compact rock sections that require some rock climbing and modern mixed climbing to make progress.

many meters of ice

It seemed to be the perfect time to try out these new gloves so they came along for the ride along with a pair of thinner gauntlets and a super thin pair for harder, drier pitches. I was so impressed by the dexterity of these gloves. I really thought that having primaloft on the palm was going to seriously affect their feel on my tools (petzl Nomics) but I found that it was only a minor issue and I could second all of the pitches easily with the Zenta's on as well as taking on some less technical leads. One thing that I did notice is that I can't fit all of my fingers on the handle which means that I have to push my index finger up onto the trigger to get a better grip to stop my fingers from getting crushed and cold. Not a major issue but it's something to think about when you're trying on gloves in the shop. I have my griprest to the medium setting nearly always as I would rather have more support when I'm using smaller gloves but this means that I can't get bigger gloves like these onto the handle.

Bit of M6 high on the wall between mixed ice ramps 

We had a good day out climbing on the Desmaison/Gouseault but it wasn't meant to be. Lots of spindrift slowed our progress down from the start and our heavy packs and lack of acclimatisation further slowed our progress up the face. When we eventually stopped for the night on the face (after 17 hours of climbing) we worked out that we were perhaps only a third of the way up the difficulties of the route and just under half of the way up the face. We realised that it was going to take a lot longer than we originally expected to climb the route and we knew we didn't have sufficient supplies (primarily gas) to make it viable. We found a good bivi site and settled down for some food and sleep. I managed to drop two things off the ledge that night. My Jetboil cup and the right hand of my Zenta AR gloves. Guess which one I found at the bergshrund the next day when we bailed off the route? I definitely would have preferred to have found the glove.

I was really angry at losing such a great glove as I had had a lot of fun climbing in them for the limited time they were with me. They kept my hands warm and snug and dried really quickly inside my jacket when I took them off. The draw cord is perfect, no other way of describing it, and I was surprised by how good they were for manipulating gear. If you're on the market for a super warm, waterproof glove then I would really recommend you take a look at these. If you're serious about your climbing then the extra money is very well spent and for what you get (probably the best designed and manufactured gloves of their type on the market) then they are a good deal. It's a shame that I didn't get to use them for longer to see how they would have lasted but c'est la vie. I suspected that they would have done pretty well as the left one (the one left) shows no signs of wear yet and they got a hammering on Jorasses. Oh and Arc'teryx perhaps some idiot loops might be a good idea but apart from that, nice work, I'm impressed!"

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ergo or Nomic?

Another gumby happy with his Ergos ;)

November 17, 2011 11:41 AM

Aaron said...

"Your (Ergo) articles, and some swinging at a demo, convinced me to go with the Ergo as my first set of tools.

I agree that they look radical when compared to other tools, but after a few laps I was a believer! The swing felt a little different when compared to other tools I've used, but those were all more "traditionally" shaped tools (quark, viper, old set of prophets). It didn't take long to adjust.

Some field testing results to back up your statement about these being good beginner tools:

I'm a gumby when it comes to ice, and while I'm working on fixing that, I feel that the Ergo will help greatly along the way. Sticks are easy to get and the orientation of the handle, more like a pullup bar, eases pump and lets me move my hand around into different positions while hanging. This gives me more time to work on proper foot and tool placements without pumping out. I've let a bunch of my other ice gumby friends try them and they really are a hit. Most of the beginners felt that they were easier to climb with than the other tools we had (viper/cobra and quarks)."

Photo courtesy of Jon Griffith @ Alpine Exposures
Ueli  Steck and his Ergos on Super Coulior Direct

And more on the Dru.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Blue Ice Warthogs are back in stock...

Photo courtesy of  Dave Searle collection

I have a good number of the Warthog packs back in stock.  Pre-orders were shipped today. 
If interested you can order one here:

Friday, November 11, 2011

Monday, November 7, 2011

Burning Turns!

My buddy Kevin sent me this one today after I begged him for the pictures and called him nasty names for getting in some awesome turns without me.

This may be worse than missing a good day on the ice.

 "Woke up at 3 am Friday morning to get up to heliotrope ridge trail head. We were the second car at the TH and followed a set of skin tracks up the mountain. Our original intention was to climb and ski the Coleman-Deming route on Baker. However upon reaching an area just before Colfax we
realized that our group progress was too slow - especially with breaking trail in all the new snow. Instead we ripped skins and enjoyed great turns down. We picked a point to drop off our glacier gear and ended up doing several laps on the face. Around 3pm we called it a day since one member of our group had to be back in Issaquah for work that night!"

Jealous?  Ya, damn right I am jealous!   But some nice turns in those TLTs Kevin :)  Be sure to dbl click every photo for full effect.

Photos and trip report courtesy of Kevin Oberholser

Jealousy?...all mine!

They even had someone setting track for them.  It is killing me!!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Part Two: the Soft Shell intro

Liberty Cap '78

Like most of us that lived through the wool, pile and polypro phase of climbing clothing I was thrilled to see the US versions of Sheoller fabric being produced and introduced in to 4 way stretch climbing garments.

We can all thank Polartec for that and more as climbers and skiers.

My last Shoeller specific garment was a pair of alpine bibs that was a wool and Lycra blend.  I bought them in Banff at Monods in '85 .   Amazing piece of clothing that I dearly loved and still have.  I used them ice climbing and for skiing.  But I never took them into the alpine.  Not enough stretch and the weight was more than I would have preferred.

Gortex and Polarguard @ 20K' in 1988

Enough good things about them to really like the idea and material used, but enough lacking in design and materials that I used them on a limited basis instead of full time.

Besides reasonable weather protection I wanted two things from my "soft" pants at the time which haven't changed over the years, light weight and good breathability.

Enter Polartec's Power Shield garments.  I used both a Gamma MX Hoody, the Gamma MX pant and the Gamma Salopettes a lot from 2003 to mid 2008.

I  had thought Polartec's Power Shield was the best climbing fabric I had used at the time.  It is still one of the best imo I just use it on a much more limited basis now.

Cold, dry and clear.  Perfect conditons for the MX and Power Shield.

In cold weather (-20C) in the Columbia Icefields I've used the a Gammx MX Hoody and Gamma Salopettes a number of times.  Generally with a R1 layer or stretch pile under both and been happy with the results.  In the Cascades I have used a lighter pant and the Gamma MX hoody in wet and barely freezing temps, until the jacket soaked through and I added a light weigh Primaloft belay jacket to get me dried out and keep me warm.

After spending more time in the Cascades one season than I did in Canada (what was I thinking) I came to the conclusion that Power Shield garments were too warm and too heavy.  The fact that you couldn't get them dried out in the field with out donning a Primaloft layer over them made me start looking for a Primaloft garment I could use as my only outer garment  and still climb in.  The end result of that search was the Atom Lt.  Not Primaloft of course but 60g Coreloft from Arcteryx it seems to work  just as well in a lwt garment like the Atom Lt.

The Atom Lt is a an incredible cold weather climbing garment with an RI hoody or something similar under it.  I've been in one for 3 seasons now and still impressed.  It is super light and warm without ever being too warm in winter conditions.  My friends are becoming converts to the Atom Lt and its mate the SV over layer as well.

The obvious Atom Lt vents

There are two down sides to the Atom Lt for climbing though.  First it isn't totally wind proof.  The stretch side panels which allow you to climb hard in the jacket also make it a little chilly in a good breeze.  So you still need wind protection and a puffy for when it gets cold or windy.  The other is the outer shell material is fragile compared to even some of the lack luster soft shells available.  You don't want to do a lot of rock or mixed climbing on limestone in an Atom Lt.

Nano Puff over and Atom Lt in the wind, great combo.

So what I am still looking for is the "holy grail" in climbing soft shells.  Hard to identify..but like porn you'll know it when you see it.

Here is my list of the "best" features of a soft shell.  Although I have yet to see one that will fill the bill.

Under 20oz in a large
Super breathable
totally water proof
4 way stretch...a lot of it
a few well placed pockets easily usable with a harness and pack
a helmet compatible hood
good wrist seals
athletic cut, but long enough to tuck into your harness
inner liner you can easily layer over wool or R1 style hoodies
warm enough to climb in mid winter with a single R1 weight layer under it.

The up coming soft shell review will hopefully tell us just how close the new Goretx and Primaloft fabrics are to my "holy grail" wish list.

They'll have a lot to live up to.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Grivel's G20 Monopoint

The crux of the Croz Spur, photos and content courtesy of Dave Searle

So I had a problem.... I had just bought a brand new pair of scarpa 6000's and I didn't have a crampon to fit on them. I prefer using Mono points for mixed climbing and I knew that if I wanted a super-light crampon I only really had two options. The Grivel G20 or the Petzl Dart.

I bought the G20's from a shop here in Chamonix over a year ago now and I have used them for nearly all my climbing. I have used them on the north face's of the Eiger, Droites and Grandes Jorasses. I used them water ice climbing and I have also used them mixed climbing in Scotland as well as using them as my dry-tooling crampon. Are they reaching the end of there life? I'd say so, but hey they have had a good innings.

I knew when I bought them that unlike a modular crampon like the G14 or M10 it would be expensive to change the front section when the front point became to short. I do a lot of climbing and I was willing to take that financial hit for saving the weight and having a more technical crampon. I really wanted a crampon with rear facing secondary points for dry tooling and steep mixed.

These crampons have worked really well in all but one area..... ridges. I know that they weren't designed for that and to be honest any climber who looked at them or used them would say the same thing. If your looking for a crampon that will cover classic alpine routes then look somewhere else. If your looking for a super-light mixed climbing mono then these baby's are well worth a look.

Why aren't they any good for ridge's I hear you ask. Well they are built around Grivels own “mono rail” concept which means that the front of the crampon is attached to the back by a single rail with four teeth along its length. It sits right underneath your foot so when you put your foot on any flat or rounded rock your balancing on one of the rail points which is isn't that stable.

I used these crampons when I climbed the Colton/Macintyre this year and they worked really well on the face, but after we topped out we continued straight into the traverse of the Jorrases, a long and precipitous ridge climb to get to the Canzio Bivi. It was quite hard work with these crampons on but I still managed it ok. I'm not saying you won't be able to climb ridges with them on, all I'm saying is if you want one crampon to rule it all then there are probably better designs out there.

What you loose in stability on that kind of terrain you gain in other area's. For example not having the 4th row of points on the side of your foot means that the 3rd, rear facing points are easier to use when drytooling or steep mixed climbing because there isn't anything in the way on the side of your foot. If you've ever properly used the 'rake' points for there intended purpose you'll know what I'm trying to say. Also having the points underneath your feet on the fixed bar means that if you ever kick your foot out or use it sideways around a icicle you can really get them in because they are so solid on the bottom of your foot.

As can be expected from Grivel these crampons are really well made and I have had no issues with the build quality. I'm not sure what to say about the longevity of them as I personally think they have lasted really well for the use I have given them but some of my friends who have used them as well don't feel the same way. Perhaps I'm better at hitting the ice rather than the rock when I'm mixed climbing?

One thing that Grivel have gone for over Petzl is three adjustments holes for the front bail. This means that you can have the front point super short for technical mixed climbing or super long for ice. Its useful to have that adjustment for when you've filed the front point down a bit as you can push it further forward to get better hold on softer ice or snow.

When I bought these crampons they did not come with the subsidiary horizontal front point that they now come with. I'm not sure how much this will help with grip in snow or soft ice but I haven't had any issues without it. They don't grip as well as a traditional crampon in snow but all you need to do is kick a bit harder up that snow cone before the fun really begins.

I thought that I was going to have some problems with balling up (when heavy wet snow collects under your crampons in a ball, which is heavy and annoying on the flat and pretty dangerous on a slope!). I can honestly say that I haven't had any issues with this with these crampons and that's not because I haven't encountered the right snow for it. I can recount a few times when partners that have been using the Darts have had a total mare of it when its been fine for me. You can buy an anti-balling plate for the front but I haven't felt the need for it yet.

There is only one thing I would change about these crampons. I would get rid of the first point on the mono rail (the furthest forward one). Why? Because I find when I stand on a large spike it takes me a bit fiddling to locate the front of my foot onto it securely. I think if this point wasn't there not only would it be a few grams lighter but it would be easier to nestle your foot on the top of that big granite block your eye-balling.

Pinocchio, Mont Blanc du Tacul

"All in all its a great technical crampon that excels on mixed terrain and water ice but also copes really well with big stuff and dry tooling."   Dave Searle

Pinocchio, Mont Blanc du Tacul from skigrandbec on Vimeo.

Sometimes you just wear gear out and it simply needs to be replaced

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Scarpa 6000 double boot review by Dave Searle

High in the Dru Coulior
all photos courtesy of Dave Searle

This is Dave's first gear review on Cold Thistle, but hopefully not the last.   Dave and a few other Brits are living and climbing hard in Cham.  Likely more good alpine climbing done in a typical weekend there than in all of the USA every winter.

I respect the opinions of climbers out there and actually doing things.   Ally, Jon, Will are a few I met in Cham last winter that are "doing it".   Dave is right in there as well.  His opinions are hard earned and worth the read.

You can read more about what Dave is up to here:

Scarpa 6000 review.

I have been using my Scarpa 6000 now for about a year and on the most part I have been really impressed with them.

Dave in his red chuck hut slippers, Spantik and 6000 at his side.

General Design and Features

When I was first on the market for a pair of winter boots (and this was my first pair) I was strongly recommend by lots of people to go for the La Sportiva Spantik. I tried them both on in the shop for hours, in different sizes and came to the conclusion that the 6000 fit me slightly better. This was perhaps the main reason I went for them in the end however I also prefered the design of the 6000 too. They seemed to be more nimble and precise and I prefer having a gaitered boot any day of the week as it keeps them drier when your wading through snow and it means that the laces aren't subject to any wear. The sole unit it thinner than on the Spantik which sacrifices warmth but gains precision.


I had a slight problem with heel lift after using them maybe three of four times. I didn't have this problem in the shop and it was strange that it developed over time. I have rectified that now with sticky back foam stuck to the liners around my heel and a heel raiser to lock my heel into the back of the boot. I would have probably had this problem in any boot as I do have particularly narrow heels. Now they fit like a dream. If your set on these boots then it is worth remembering that if you have a low volume foot like mine then they can be made to fit.


To start with I was a fan of the lacing system, it seemed easy to tighten up and easy to use with big gloves but I pretty soon realized that the locking cleat eventually works itself loose after a few hours of climbing or walking. I originally combated this problem by tying a normal shoe knot over the top of the cleat but now I have taken it off completely and now I just use a reef knot to fasten them. I never feel the need to adjust the laces when I'm climbing so now when I'm tying them in the hut or at the bivi I use a knot that won't come lose and this seems to be the best option for me. I think the lacing system could do with a rethink in my opinion as I have had other friends who have had similar problems with it. Perhaps a beefier cleat or thicker, less slick laces which are easier tie?


I have been really impressed with the warmth of these boots as well. I thought that they weren't going to be as warm as a Spantik but I have since realised it depemds entirely on your circulation and the fit as to whether or not you'll feel the cold. I have sat two nights out in them without a sleeping bag and I didn't have any major issues. The first and worst of the two was on the Colton/Macintyre on the Grandes Jorrasses. Me and my two buddies got benighted at about 4300m with only a two man man bothy shelter and half a karimat to share. It was November here in Cham and the ambient temperature was close to -15C and felt much more with windchill. Jim and Gav both had Spantiks and I was in my 6000ers and I was really worried about my feet but the only option was to sit and suffer.... which we did.... for 8 hours. The night passed slowly and I emerged with very minor nerve damage to my big toe (phew). Jim had the same and Gav was fine. I don't think the 6000ers are as warm as the Spantiks but if you have good circulation then these should be fine for what they are recommend for (winter alpinism and greater range climbing up to 6000m). I think my circulation is average and for most of the climbing I have done with them (alpine north faces in autumn and spring) they have been spot on. Light and dexterous enough for mixed climbing, warm enough for the kind of temperatures you encounter out here and stiff enough to plough up a 1000m of ice without your calves exploding out the back of your trousers.

Eiger N face


They haven't shown much sign of wear yet. I had a small nick in the orange fabric after their first days use scrambling over sharp granite boulders on my way up to the Carrington/Rouse on the north face of the Pelerins. I though that was going to set the tone for how they were going to fair but that is the only damage they have sustained in the year I have had them which I think is pretty impressive as I have done some long approaches on sharp granite moraine, mixed climbed in Scotland and they have been up six 1000m+ north face routes as well as a load of shorter mixed routes.

Crampon Compatabilty

One issue that I encountered with these boots was getting my crampons to fit. When I first got these boots I had a pair of plastic bailed G14 (older version). I strapped them on and started off up without really paying a huge amount of attention to how they fit. I felt pretty insecure on the first route and it was only on closed inspection when I looked at the set up that I realised the front points were only forward about 5mm or so from the front of the boot as supposed to 25-35mm as I would normally expect. I worked out that it was because the sole unit is really narrow at the front and it doesn't hold the crampon far enough forward. So back to the shop I went for a new pair of crampons (G20s). It was a hungry month after that! So be warned check your crampons on them first.

In an ideal world I would change two things about these boot.

1. I would make them tighter around the heel to combat heel lift. It might just be that I have really skinny heels but some other guy's I know who have them would say the same thing.

2. I would change the lacing system to something more reliable. Its pretty frustrating having your boots come undone on you when your ankle deep in snow, trying to hop about getting them done up again.

All in all they are really great boot, and have definitely become very popular out here in Chamonix and for good reason. After all Ueli Steck was the main man behind the design of these boots and he knows what to look for in a good boot! I'd change a few things like I've said but I'm really happy with them and if I was on market for a pair of winter boots again I'd make the same choice.

Colton/ Macintyre on the Grand Jorasses

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Eddie Bauer Peak XV jacket?

I have a long history of using Eddie Bauer gear.  Longer than I can remeber actually as one the first down bags was I used was Eddie Bauer that I borrowed from my Mother on early over night trips to the back yard!

So the brand name was a household word growing up in Washington and Idaho for me.

In 1977 there were better down garments available in Europe.  Moncler and Egge were two that were easily available in the US at the time.   I took my Monclear Teray jacket to Nepal the spring of  '77.   It was so obviously a better climbing jacket than the Eddie Bauer Karakorum we were supplied with.

The Terray, after a open bivy, high on Mt. Deborah, Alaska, May of'76

Eddie Bauer sponsored and supported John Roskelley and I in the spring of 1977 for a two man attempt on Makalu's West Pillar. (the first two man 8KM permit given in Nepal)  John got ill on the walk in thankfully, as the project even today would be serious challenge for the best two man team. Although it does perk one's imagination doesn't it!

My friends John, Chris Kopcynski, Jim States and Kim Momb went back to Makalu in 1980 and after a concerted effort with fixed camps were able to put John, alone, on the summit.

JR (back), Kop (center), Kim(right) and myself  on top of Takkakaw '82. 
Lots of down in the picture, none of it from Eddie Bauer

So while we all knew about Eddie Bauer and they did supply a lot of expedition support back in the day by the time I  was doing much all the EB gear was well dated.

In fact past the down sweaters I really wasn't interested in much of what Eddie Bauer was selling, until recently.

Funny story really.  Someone started complaining on an Internet forun (imagine that!) about the newest First Ascent Peak XV jacket.  And how they had washed it in a machine and the baffles had ripped apart. (imagine that!)   Even though the jacket had been given to him, shall we say "very well used" after an Everest trip and more.  Eddie Bauer's retail store honored the lifetime warrenty and gave him instore credit or a new jacket.  His choice.

Whittaker Mountaineering Gear Review: First Ascent Peak XV Down Parka from Whittaker Mountaineering on Vimeo.

I was impressed by the warrenty.  So next time I was in town I made a point of stopping by the local Eddie Bauer store.  And didn't expect much.  What I found shocked me.  The Peak VX was the best heavy weight, technical,  down jacket I had ever seen.  With a price point no one could match.  I ended up buying 2 that as a spare as I figured the price would never be equaled for what I was buying.    

A couple of years later and my mind hasn't changed.  The original Peak XV is still the best, heavy weight, technical down jacket I have seen or used.  The second version isn't bad either.  Lucky for us both versions are available.    The Peak XV is a good start.  Eddie Bauer now has all sorts of different clothing pieces that are exceptional values.  Mind you not all of the First Ascent gear is...but some are simply amazing, no matter the price point compared to value and design.  As I get the time I'll write up the gear from Eddie Bauer that has truly become "go to" climbing and skiing garments for me and my extended family.

If I were to go back to Makalu tomorrow this is the jacket I would take. But it is not a jacket most will have a use for.  It is simply too warm.
But it would work just fine in fall/winter on the north side of Rainer as well.  Ptarmigan in Oct. '75.

More here on my thoughts about some of the most popular belay jackets: