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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Monday, January 30, 2012

Grivel? ...What is happening there?

A few friends have climbed on these and everyone seemed to like them dry tooling.  My buddy Jack Roberts was pretty excited switching from a Petzl sponsorship to Grivel this winter.  I know from our recent conversations that he liked climbing on the new tools as well.

I see Will Simms is now on the Grivel line up.  His buddy Jon Griffith off Petzl and on BDs.

"Never the arrow always the Indian."

Anyone climbing on any of the Grivel versions of this one here in North America?

"Grivel has for nearly 200 years led the development of Ice Climbing equipment, but to move ahead in this rapidly changing “fast &furious” new age of technology and materials, we decided to make a radical improvement in our approach to development. This is the reason we decided to create a new dept. a real Laboratory for Development, a place where we can explore the possible and beyond. With all these recent changes in materials and design we chose to invest in this bright future, brought about by mixed climbing, competition and rising standards. To head this new department we have brought in a new face, Stefano Azzali a man devoted to climbing and climbing equipment, no stranger to high tech radical materials. Stefano’s work in this field of new technologies and avantgarde design qualifies him to lead “Grivel’s Racing Development”. (Grivel Reparto Corse) It’s almost second nature to a man coming from Modena, the home of design, engineering and above all “Speed”. We look forward to the future as we are proud of our past."


New DMM ice tools..this week

Looks like a lot of lessons learned from Petzl by this picture.  Hopefully they can up the game again.  And I can't get much from the video but the new tools are coming.  New tools are always fun!

Thanks for the additional link guys!

Even more here:  Not so impressive if you are on Petzls already,  But the Raptor is very cool and old school.

Gear giveaway?

I decided tonight as a celebration of C-T's 2nd "birthday" I'd give some gear away.  The only way to *win* is to be one of the members here and on the published list.  More to come....good time to sign up at Cold Thistle. :)

I'll pull the first winning member the first of March.  That prize will be the winner's choice between the two Blue Ice packs, the Warthog or the Octopus.    The second drawing will come shortly after that.  No clue yet what that prize will be. 

From Will's blog....MORE climbing!

It is easy to miss the current link updates on the side bar!  DON'T!!

The Gathering, VIII 9, Second Ascent from Jenny Crook on Vimeo.

Happy Birthday! Two years gone by!

C-T as of Jan 29 is now just 2 years old.  Overall a million plus page reads with 80K+ hits in just Jan of 2012 alone.  Most views in one day?  3541!   Somewhere over 800 comments from readers and 700 answers.   As of today 259 members.  Truly unbelievable to me.

Thank you to everyone who drops by for a look see or asks a question or adds a comment!   A special thanks to those guys who offered guest blogs this winter when I wasn't writing.   Even more so to all the suppliers/manufacturers who trusted me to show case their products in the last two years.  It has been great fun!

Here is last year's birthday comment:

Sunday, January 29, 2012

1+1 doesn't always make 2 aka "Climbing Insulation"

60g  Nano Puff  pullover as the outer layer, mid winter, 12K feet

"Rainier this summer...then Orizaba, Kili, Aconcagua and Denali!"

That is a common hit list for the aspiring alpinist wanting to get in some altitude.
So it is just as common to answer questions about the gear required to make that dream come true.

I had to walk down to my gear room and count the synthetic and down jackets I own specifically to climb in.  The count is split 50/50 between Primaloft One and Down in the 850 fill range.

The reason I mention the 50/50 split and not the numbers (besides embarrassing myself as a clothes hog) is to hopefully show I am not biased one way or the other for insulation.  The only thing I care about is "will it work for my own use".

In the last few years the one item of clothing that has impressed me way beyond any other is a 60g weight Primaloft or Coreloft layer.  Most easily identified as the Arcteryx Atom Lt or the Patagonia Nano Puff series are 60g.  But almost everyone makes one these days.

I first saw full zip and hooded prototype samples from Mtn Hardware (which eventually became the Compressor with 100g layer Primaloft and then changed again).   The RAB Xenon is very close at 60g to the original prototype and one of my current lwt. favorites.  And then Patagonia Nano Puff pullovers started showing up in places I never thought reasonable.  Pictures of one or the other from the top of the Grand Jorasses in winter and summit of Denali early Spring for example.  Not as inner layering pieces mind you but as the outer insulated shells.  All 60g of that Primaloft One being used to the fullest.

I have Down sweaters that are every bit as long as you can keep them dry.  As mid weight insulation and your outer climbing layer Down doesn't stand a chance if you are working hard unless the sun is out and it is cold and dry.  When the moon and stars align Down will work fine.  The rest of the time given the chance, Primaloft is what I'll bet on.  And more importantly if I'll be working hard and know I'll eventually need the insulation I am wearing, Primaloft is a better bet to still be working at full value when it is required.

But lets face it is you can get by with only 60gs of Primaloft it isn't very cold outside.  Even mid winter at 12K feet.   OR  you must be working pretty hard!  Some time back I was laughed at for saying I sweated and got my insulation wet on lead.  Work hard enough on technical ground or go fast enough on easy ground and you'll sweat.  How you are able to manage that moisture in your insulation is key.

Soak it out and replace it is an option for approaches.  But that won't work on the actual climb generally past your gloves.  So having clothing that will dry out in use and most importantly keep you dry while moving is always going to be important if you are working hard enough.

Back to the layers?  As I continued to pay attention to other climbers kit I started noticing a few guys using two 60g layers.  That is 120g plus the 4 layers of nylon in some even colder places.  100g jackets are common enough as light weight belay jackets.  How about layering a 60g jacket and a 100g jacket?  The Arcteryx Atom SV and Patagonia Micro Puff are 100g jackets.  The Patagonia DAS 170g.

With two lessor layers of insulation but more versatile garments you are now bettering a DAS' insulation  with the two additional layers of nylon shell.  

I find it humorous that people still want to argue which insulation (down or synthetic) is the better one for the outdoors.  For many that might be Down.  But anyone who really has to rely on the insulation they climb in will generally bring a synthetic jacket and a down bag.  I saw plenty of Down jackets on skiers last winter.  None on the climbers in the huts or on the lifts fwiw.

Here is a more varied discussion on the same basic topic:

Last winter I had down and synthetic jackets with me.  When I skied I too used Down.  It was also clear and sunny every time we skied.    When I climbed I used synthetics.  Much of the time it was with several layers intentionally.

There are some good down jackets available.  Some of the better ones I have seen were reviewed here. on the blog.

I have a good many choices in the closet and find myself actually using 2 layers of 60g. a lot.   Or a 60g layer and a 100g layer.   When it is really cold I'll add two 60g layers and the 100g piece as the third layer.

Remember the idea is to stay dry, to stay warm.  Layers allow you to regulate your heat output and just as important how much heat you conserve.  And how mobile you are as well.    Options in the mountain are always a good thing if you don't have to pay a premium for them.  If you gain mobility it is a win!

Layering synthetics (or even a combination of down/down or down/synthetics for that matter) is just another option to think about.  And one way to avoid ever buying that heavy weight belay jacket that you likely will never use and just as likely never want to carry.

Layered up for the -30 temps and a bivy
4 layers of Synthetic, top down, 60/100/60 and 60.

Two previous posts that you might find interesting on down/synthetics

Friday, January 27, 2012

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Jack Roberts, climber, 1952-2012

Jack Roberts 1952-2012

Jack was a friend.  In the end a lot of things go through my mind about Jack.  Too many stories to remember and tell.  I was always impressed with Jack's climbs.  How could you not be!?  Jack wasn't perfect but he almost always had a smile  to share and he never uttered a bad word about anyone.  Both things I find hard to emulate. Those are also the things I find most  important to remember about Jack Roberts.  

Jack could tell his own story best I think.

"Life Training"
Thursday, May 12, 2011

By Jack Roberts

Here I am again running up the Mesa Trail in the early morning light with my dog Pisco, training for another South American climbing trip.

Pisco, with a smile on his face as well.  Here is why:

I’ve been watching my pulse, feeling my breath, counting the calories, the carbs and especially the fat content of all that I eat. I’m lifting weights on odd numbered days and climbing on all the others. That’s when I’m not guiding for a living as well. I’m trying to do the right things that make me stronger and more successful in the mountains - whatever that means. The training always changes. Sometimes I need to run more for endurance so I can fly like the wind on long, alpine routes. For other climbing trips I need to climb indoors and lift weights so I develop explosive strength for those steep, long free climbs that are always on my hit list. But one thing I do notice is that I am always training for something. What? And more importantly, why?

Mainly I’ve found that training for climbing helps keep my life simple. And in this day and age with instant meals, instant travel, instant information and instant gratification, life gets complicated. It’s not easy living a simple, uncluttered life. It takes work. Effort. Just like running, or climbing, or lifting weights. For me it’s important to not own a TV and to read a lot of books and to write. It’s important to cook my own meals and have friends to share those meals and wine with. It’s important to go outdoors often and return after a day out hungry, dirty, tired and sore. That always puts a smile of my face and makes me feel alive. It’s the simple pleasures that give meaning to my life.

Climbing for over 40 years has instilled values in me that go deep. The lifestyle that has evolved around climbing has now become more important than the actual physical sensation of moving on stone or ice. More important than reaching summits is living an examined life, making every action count.

Climbing has trained me well for life separate from the cliffs and mountains I play on. Climbing has taught me how to overcome fear, hesitation, self-doubt, sickness, hunger, fatigue and more. It has shown me the necessity of being alone occasionally, that being afraid is normal and that being in wild places where no one has gone before is a good thing. Climbing has taught me how to leave security behind in order to lead a more fulfilling life. It has taught me to conserve energy, and save money, time and resources. This lifestyle has given me everything. Whatever I can’t carry on my back has to be left behind, not only in alpine climbing but also in life.

This is what I m really training for as I run the trails or solo the Third Flatiron. A better life. It isn’t the physicality of the body that I am training for so much as it is to sharpen and hone the mind’s ability to let go of all the stuff in life that doesn’t matter. It is a constant reminder to keep my life uncluttered, simple and pure."

Name: Jack Roberts
born: May 29, 1952
Height: 5’ 10”
Weight: 170lbs

Best Rock Band: Rolling Stones

Favorite pastime: climbing

Married or single: married

Jack and Pam

Kids: no way! (Jack would have been great with kids as his students and clients all knew)

Claim to fame: Wearing a Victoria’s Secret dress in a La Sportiva ad  (seriously, he did that)

Favorite motto: “You might not find what you want but you might just get what you need”.

Favorite curse word: Piss Off!

Biggest turn-off: Lazy, fat people  (I often wondered why we ever got along)

Favorite climbing area: Tuolumne Meadows Why?: Perfect rock, perfect climbs, perfect weather.

How long have you been climbing?: 37 years

Favorite beer: Guinness

Current job: Professional climber/author/guide

Jack guiding in Cham 2011

Nominee for Coolest Song Ever: Marvin Gaye, “What’s Going On”?

Number of US States visited: 38

Most famous person you’ve ever met: Ricardo Cassin

Place of birth: Los Angeles, California

Best movie ever: Apocalypse Now

Who’s #1 on your speed-dial? Tra-Ling’s Asian Café.

Favorite fruit: Banana

Most memorable outdoor accomplishment: Having established 1st ascent SW Face Denali

Something nobody knows about you: I secretly listen to Neil Diamond songs, WAIT, no I don’t!

Dog or cat person?: Dog of course…….Golden Retrievers ROCK!

Most inspiring person in history: Mahatma Gandhi

Most recently-finished book: “Marley and Me”, by John Grogan

Other Sponsors: La Sportiva, Bluewater, Mammut, Osprey, Bibler, GU, Sports Street Marketing

More questions for Jack Roberts:

Do you clip bolts, plug cams, stack pads, or crush ice?

Yes, I dominate all forms of rock and ice!!

Jack doing what he has done from the beginning and making it look easy.

How long have you been an athlete with La Sportiva?

Approximately 16 years...

What are some of your lifetime climbing goals?

To continue to climb to my maximum potential in rock, ice and alpine climbs. To establish alpine FAs until I drop.

Do you have a claim to fame?

The reputation of the shape and condition of my toes and feet have made me infamous. Even Reinhold Messner wanted to see them! Also, I'm the only male Sportiva athlete to appear in a dress in any ad.

Do you have any vices?

Yes, but too many to list here........

One of the real pleasures in in Cham with Jack

What makes you tick as a climber and in the real world?

Climbing stops the voices in my head from gaining control. If I stopped climbing I'd become dangerous.

What drives you to climb? The money? The groupies? The fame? What?

Alaska in '78

Definitely the fame. Groupies are over-rated. Money is....what was the question again? Seriously, the freedom of moving in the mountains either solo or with good friends feeds my psyche and makes me feel alive.

What is your favorite movie?

Apocalypse Now.

Do you have any nicknames? Explain:

Many old friends call me JACQUES rather than Jack. These friends felt that I had more style than the name "Jack" . implies.. The nickname stuck.

What’s the longest you’ve gone without sleep? Why?

Four days. On a new route on Denali. Altitude and stress kept both my partner and I awake. We spent that time in a Bibler tent waiting out a big storm.

If you had to be named after one of the 50 states, which would it be?

Alaska. Because I've spent over 20 seasons climbing up there and know those mountains to be the most beautiful.

What did you have for lunch yesterday?

Sushi. A Rainbow roll along with some salmon and tuna sashimi.

If you could hook up a thought monitor to your head, would you see pictures, hear words or would music be playing?

A visual of someone climbing vertical ice to the Rolling Stones song......Fancy Man's Blues....the lyrics appear in a bubble above the climber's head.

What really scares you about climbing?

It's very easy to mistake the sensation of feeling omnipresence for omnipotence and get severely hurt trying to understand the difference.

If your life was made into a movie, what would it be called?

The Unsolved Mystery of Alpine 3D version.

Where would you live if it could be anywhere in the world?

Mexico. Food is tasty, Tequila is the world's best alcohol, Surfing is the perfect compliment to climbing and the beach life down there doesn't get much better...

Have no food or have no gasoline?

Got beer and two sticks to rub together for my fire...... Why ask for more?

Do you wish you had sexier feet?

No one has sexier feet than I have. Didn't we have this discussion earlier?

Jack's feet, while working in the spring of 2011 before surgery.

More about Jack here:

God's speed my friend.  I wish I could do more.

Canadian ice in 2009

"Yesterday, January 15, Jack Roberts was climbing Bridalveil Falls, an almost 400-foot-high (150-meters) Grade 5 ice route up one of Colorado's biggest waterfalls. Jack, in his guidebook Colorado Ice, which details most of the state's ice climbs, calls Bridalveil Falls, "A climb of legendary stature and beauty" and "A Colorado and indeed an American classic."

Jack was leading the second pitch, a long steep pitch up a pillar on the right side of the falls, when he fell 60 feet about 12:20 p.m. His belayer was able to signal hikers below, who summoned the San Miguel County Search and Rescue group. While waiting for rescue, Jack suffered a cardiac arrest and died. The 18 rescuers were able to evacuate Jack, who had a broken hip, off the falls but their CPR efforts were unable to resuscitate him."

Photographs and quoted content are courtesy of Jack and a number of known and unknown Internet sources not credited directly.  I hope no one minds.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I found this frightening........

Every year it seems someone dies locally in a tree well. They are usually found in late spring or summer as the snow cover melts off.   My local area, Crystal Mtn., sadly had a fatality in a tree well last year.  I have to wonder if the new boards and rockered skis make the possibility even more common place because of what gets skied so easily these days.  

Either way this video showed me just how fast it happens, how screwed you really are if it does and that 4 minutes is a very long time to hold your breath.   Carry a shovel, ski with a partner (who has a clue and a shovel) and make your turns just a a little bit wider.  This is a danger in the mountains you can actually control your exposure to.

"The body of a skier who went missing at Washington's Crystal Mountain ski area in early March was found Wednesday, according to Crystal's director of ski patrol Paul Baughner. The remains were recovered in a tree well.

Paul Melby, 40, of Lakewood, Wash., was last seen toward the end of the day on March 1 in Rabbit Ears Chute under High Campbell lift. Ski patrol initiated a search for him that night and the search efforts lasted a week with no results, covering over 2,000 acres of terrain with help from 130 volunteers.

The week after Melby disappeared, Crystal Mountain received more than 20 inches of new snow and the search was suspended. Ski patrol resumed the search in early June when the snow began to melt.

According to Baughner, the cause of death was likely suffocation. An employee found the remains while skiing through some dense trees in an area called Mine Shaft, to the skier's left of Middle Ferk's run. "We did multiple passes through that area, even though it wasn't an area of highest probability based on the workup we did," Baughner said. "But after he went missing, there was heavy snowfall and our chances of finding him grew less and less."

Melby was a former ski patroller at Crystal, who switched to driving snowcats in recent years so he could get more skiing in during the day, according to his friend and fellow Crystal Mountain ski patroller Kim Kircher.

"Paul was a fixture at Crystal," Kircher told ESPN. "He was a local, expert skier that everyone knew and liked. He could be found in line at the bottom of the ski area on a powder day. He was soulful and kind, quiet and smiling."

Kircher said the search was hard for many patrollers. "As the season progressed, it was especially difficult to know he was still out there, right under our nose, and there was nothing we could do about it," she said. "Paul Melby was one of us, and that made it all the more trying."

Melby's death is the ninth tree well fatality at a U.S. ski area this year. This type of incident makes up roughly 20 percent of all ski area fatalities."

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Millet Davai alpine boots...

Millet has been very successful in the 8K meter boot business a while now. 

photo courtesy of Valerio Massimo

The newest "Davai" single boot, designed for hard technical climbing,  is one I am really looking forward to testing and reviewing.

Vibram® outsole
EVA midsole provides shock-damping support.
Compatible with all crampon
Semi-rigid Cordura® upper.
Quick, efficient lacing.
Superfabric® reinforcements.
High-thermicity PrimaLoft® lining
Stretch gaiter / waterproof, breathable PTFE membrane.
Waterproof flapped zip closure.

"4,000M / ED. 1,000M.
First Ascent: 1955, DAVAILLE & CORNUAU.
For a mountaineer, scaling the north face of Les Droites is a tremendous achievement: 1,000 metres in wintry conditions of snow and ice, with an ED (extremely difficult) rating. With this committed, expert-only route in mind, Millet is launching as part of its 2012-2013 winter collection a technical winter mountaineering boot, a lightweight three-layer Gore-Tex jacket with a radical design, and a pair of warm, precise gloves for holding iceaxes. These three exclusive Millet products bear the name Davaï
– a nod to the route’s inaugural masters: Davaille and Cornuau."

DPS Spoon?

I am a big fan of the carbon DPS 138.

But the "Spoon" is another step on the wild side.  With OR coming next week it is fun to look back at what was shown last year and still isn't available yet.  I got on the list anyway.

"this design has been in the works for a year and a half, and its really cool to see a skiable example of it. stoked to test it in the next bit, once the tradeshow circuit slows down.

the ski is designed to really promote super high edge angle powder skiing with out seeing drag and reduced speeds from snow contact on your leg from loosing the plane. when a flat-base ski gets higher and higher edge angle , the amouint of float gets lower and lower. this spoon shape starts to engage at the point that a normal flat ski starts to dive. and then keeps going... so like really from dragging your hip in pow super powerful GS type deal.

aside from that, the goal was to open up a totally news style of drifting into and railing/carving super cleanly out of turns and terrain features.

the cleats were added to enabe the ski to be somewhat controlable on runouts. it is pretty different from magnetraction where you are trying to gain edge grip by undulating in and out. the cleats go down to add a small level of stability and edge so a fully convex base will change direction and slow down etc on 2dimensional snow. as it is now, you will not be carving turns. if there were no cleats, the ski would be in essance a death trap. ~20deg base effective bevel otherwise.

this ski shape is based around a lotus 138 + 12mm. full rocker (reverse camber). 192cm. his particular ski was built in eden utah in the engineers garage. it is not ready for retail production, but the tech will see trickle down in the future, is the goal. once the amount of base convexity and positioning and amount of cleats and height of cleats etc is finalized.

base prep out of the mold is a pain, but once that is done, tuning is straight forward actually. far easier to wax etc than i thought they might be. hand prep the base. really no biggie. flat enough to mount bindings without issue upderfoot.

stephan sees this as being the future of powder skiing, based on his testing of it the past 2 days, and well... going by how it looks in my hand, i am inclined to agree... but i have not skied them yet. these skis literally came out of the mold 4-5 days ago."

Last edited by marshalolson; 01-27-2011 at 08:51 PM.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

For the's a PARTY in North Bend!

My favorite low key, local, ski shop is having a party!  Free beer and the newest Dynafit gear to play with and drool has to be fun!  Be sure to check out Mike Yost's hand made, “SHOT 5 SKIS” while you are in the shop as well.  These guys are obvious serious about skiing!

"Backcountry Ski Party and FREE Trip Giveaway!

January 16, 2012
Pro Ski and Guiding North Bend, WA,

In celebration of a solid ski touring season we're inviting all our friends to come party with us! The snow pack has been building, coverage is great and storms are lining up off the coast. We're looking forward to a night of hanging out with all our 'ski bum' friends!

Write down the date: Monday January 16th 6-9 PM!

Everyone who comes to the party will be entered to win one of four spots on a free ski tour on Dynafit Demo gear with one of our guides! We'll have the Dynafit Rep here with some goodies to give away along with Ortovox, and tons of backcountry gear to play with!

We'll also be supplying some adult beverages so show up early and enjoy a beer with us!"

Thursday, January 12, 2012

More details on the newest La Sportiva ski line up for next year, 2012-13

La Sportiva Skis 2012-13 from Skiing Business on Vimeo.

Boulder, Colo.) –La Sportiva North America, makers of the world’s finest mountain products, introduces three new skis and a redesigned line of ski boots for the 2012-13 winter season. La Sportiva will debut its new skis and boots at the 2012 OR Winter Market, SIA Snowshow and ISPO tradeshows.

“Ski mountaineering continues to grow in North America and we’re excited to add more innovative products to our award-winning lineup,” states Colin Lantz, winter sports director at La Sportiva. “Our RT Binding and Hi5 ski were well received last year and now we’ve expanded the line to accommodate powder chasers with the Hang5 ski and deliver all-mountain versatility with the Lo5 ski. In addition, our full line of ski mountaineering boots will provide demanding ski mountaineers with the performance that La Sportiva's customers have come to expect from our technical footwear.”

In the ski line, three new ultra-lightweight skis are debuting that are all made with paulownia wood cores and high tech carbon fiber laminates. The Hi5’s little brother, the new Lo5 ski is an all-mountain ripper that has enough rocker to comfortably handle a variety of snow conditions. With measurements of 125-95-115, the Lo5 is available in 168, 178, and 188cm lengths, and weighs 1695g in the 178cm length to keep it light while providing ample downhill performance. At 145-117-135, the new Hang5 is the big daddy to the Hi5 and a pure powder machine that is at home in soft snow. Available in 178 and 188cm lengths and tipping the scales at 1885g in the 178cm length, the Hang5 is still light enough to be comfortable for long, demanding tours. The GTR is a touring-friendly ski that measures 114-82-104, is available in 158, 168, and 178cm lengths and weighs just 1245g in the 168cm length so that it goes up as well as it goes down.

Friday, January 6, 2012

THE System....

Ueli Steck's Custom Outerwear System from Mountain Hardwear on Vimeo.

Hadn't seen this in awhile..always good motivation.

Ueli Steck Speed Soloing the Ginat on the Droites from Jonathan Griffith on Vimeo.

*Alpine Mentors* and Steve House?

The American alpinist Steve House - © archive Steve House

"Alpine Mentors promotes alpinism by encouraging, coaching and climbing with technically proficient young alpinists who aspire to climb the worldʼs greatest mountains in a lightweight, low-impact style."

I think this is a GREAT idea!

But it aint a give away either.

This is one of the questions on the application.

"You are climbing the 1938 route on the north face of the Eiger. The first day you manage to get to Death bivouac, half way up the route. That night a storm comes in and you are pinned down for 3 days. You started with three days of food and fuel, but by being careful, you have saved a small amount of both. You have a partner of equal experience, 6 cams, 4 pitons, 6 nuts, 4 ice screws, and 2 60 meter ropes. You have no radio or cell phone and no chance for outside help. It is 10 degrees F and has snowed 12" in the past 24 hours. What is going through your mind and what would you do?"

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Gotta love TURF sticks!

The really fun stuff starts at around 25 minutes in.

Alpine Cragging At Ptarmigan Peak, Alaska from Ephay on Vimeo.

Bjørn-Eivind Årtun interview with Rolando Garibotti

"We need to allow ourselves room to be more daring. Too often by over-analysing and over-intellectualising climbs we confuse fear for real danger. It is important to learn to distinguish one from the other. There is a big difference between getting intimidated by the steepness, difficulty or length of a climb, and real dangers such as avalanches, rock-fall, limited options of retreat, cold, etc. Venas Azules is a good example, an intimidating line that is reasonably safe, with little objective danger. Being brave and open minded without compromising your safety is the fine line we walk in our hunger for adventure."

Bjørn-Eivind Årtun

Great interview with one of the leading alpinists in the world today.  More here:

And the online guide book with more info here:

Torre Egger, Patagonia Photo by archivio Bjørn-Eivind Årtun

Venas Azules, Torre Egger, Patagonia.

Torre Egger, Patagonia Photo by Rolando Garibotti

The south face of Torre Egger in Patagonia and the line of the route established by the Norwegians Bjørn-Eivind Aartun and Ole Lied in December 2011.

Thanks to Bruno for the heads up on this one!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Feathered Friends sleeping bags?

Lee out in LaLa-land, snuggled into a Feathered Friends Hummingbird.

It is kinda funny when you look at all your gear and it is so easy to miss the really important stuff.  Not the biners or hardware or the newest ice tool or a pair of boots.  But the really important stuff like sleeping pads, the bags and the tents. 

I'd guess part of it is I hate having to carry any of them.  So until required I try to ignore all of them.   The when I am forced to sue them I generally take the smallest and the lightest of all three.  It has made for some uncomfortable nights.  But it is never the gears fault.  It is an issue with faulty decision making.  To be specific my faulty decision making.

In the old days I carried a pack like this pretty much every where I went and spent half the year or more living out of a sleeping bag.

Now I am more likely to measure a climb by how much can I get done in 24hrs or less and how much do I  REALLY have to carry.   This size  pack is about as much as I want on my back these days.

As you might imagine that has cut down on a LOT of gear including the size and more importantly the comfort range of my sleeping bag.

I suspect there are a few sleeping bag companies that make good bags.  Western Mountaineering seems to be well liked by friends over the years.  A quick search turned up this:

I've owned a few bags.  My first down bag, which was second hand, I resold at some point.  My second, a synthetic, was stolen off my clothes line, where it sat drying one too many days and nights, after a minor epic in the Canadian Rockies.  The third the same brand of synthetic I eventually wore out and gave away.

My fourth and first really nice down bag I bought in 1976, a Trailwise Chevron, which still own.  I thought it had about died on me till I had Feathered Friends cleaned it for me a few years ago.  It was always a good bag but they worked wonders on it.

That wasn't my first experience with Feathered Friends however.  In 1980 I had them build a custom Peregrine.  Black VBL inner shell and a bright green Gortex outer.  Loved that bag.  I remember waking up at 17K on the west butt one morning with chilled feet.  Thinking sheet...not enough bag.  Until I reached for the stove pot and it singed my hand it was so cold.  That is really cold!  Wonderful bag!  17K was the first time I had actually zipped up that bag on Denali.

I sold that I didn't want to be anywhere that cold again.  That was a mistake as I did 2 more Alaska trips after that and never could afford to have another one built.

With Feathered Friends virtually willing to build you any bag you could imagine in the next 20 years I did have them build several more custom bags though.  All over filled, all with something extra I figured I needed and all of the bags truly spectacular.

I still have them.   One of each, a Humingbird, a Widgeon which I had them build to my specs.  And most recently a Vireo that I returned after using it for a couple of years to have it modified as well.

Feathered Friends makes some amazing bags you can buy off  the shelf.  But when you ask them to do some thing special....look out 'cuz you'll get more than you ever expected.  It is kinda like they appreciate the request and what to make the very best just for you.

So back to my last bag from Feathered Friends to finish up these comments.  I had my Vireo over stuffed to the max (5 oz in the body of the bag, most of it on the upper half) and a collar added.  They did quiz me on the collar...."you want what?"   "Really?"  "Ya, can you do that for me?"  "Sure?"  Price was right.  Now I have this dinky little lwt sleeping bag I can get into my dinky little packs for when I don't make those 24hr estimates.  And I'll sleep a good bit warmer in this one for the added 1/2 pound. :)  The Vireo has truly been transformed from a summer bag to a decent 3 season bag for me now.

How cool is that?

I have some brand loyalty again.  Feathered Friends has never told me "no" when asked for something  special on a custom bag.  And they are local for me.  The cost and wait has always been more than worth the end result.  Few pieces of gear get my unqualified support.  Feathered  Friends earned that support 20 years ago and continues to today.