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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Low Impact Training?

FYI..I am not a coach and don't pretend to be.  I'm going to share some training observations here that work for me related to climbing.  They may or may not work for you.  The  fitness comments I make are just the tiny tip of the iceberg on training.  To train and get stronger you really need to educate yourself on the subject and all that it incorporates.   Or do both and climb!  Climb a lot!    Because I don't "climb a lot", I train.  I typically train to my weaknesses, endurance and physical strength.  You have to know what you want from the training first, to get what you need out of the training.

For most who will read this with some interest it is likely because "high impact" training hurt or has injured you previous.

I have never been a big runner.  But I have ran and I do run now.  But for most running on pavement will tear you up given enough miles.  Running on pavement is rough on everything from joints to tendons.  Well it at least tears me up, has in the beginning as a teenager and does now in middle age.  Hilly trail running (which can be a lot more "dangerous") for me is a lot softer impact sport.  I am forced into a forefoot strike instead of a heel strike and the surface is generally a lot more forgiving.  Not to say it isn't easier to trip and bust your ass or an ankle running trails instead of you local high school track, paved trails or the side streets.  And you can run with a forefoot strike anywhere once you learn (relearn?) the skill.

Foot strike is important.
more here on foot strike:

But running is not a low impact sport.  Generally you learn early on if you can run.  You either don't get injured running or you do and it becomes a problem trying to keep running.  I am good up to 1/2 marathon distances both for racing and training.  At full marathon distances my body is telling me the mileage and the race efforts are just too much.   I don't have a runner's body at 200# and 6'1" so no surprise.  But even at 180# marathon distances still hurt and take a long time to fully recover from.  Too long if I want to climb during the summer and the risk of injury training, just too great.

So I limit how much running I do.  But there are two low impact sports I try to do a lot of.  I really like them both simply because I have been doing them for as long as I can remember.  Swimming and riding a bike.

And in a controlled environment I don't have to worry about dying doing either.  Both are mindless activities the majority of time for me.  But not always if you up the environmental hazards.  And with even a tiny bit of care neither will hurt you significantly physically even during hardest work outs.

And the fourth sport is Skiing.  Downhill on the lifts, back country and side country on 3 pin gear and Skimo gear.  It is all skiing to me.  And like the bike or swimming something I have been doing a long time.

Here is where I start to define what I want from my training. If you don't know what you want from your exercise efforts you'll likely never get what you want from your exercise efforts.

Running Goals?  (running is always training for the mtns eventually)
Olympic and Sprint Tri racing
1/2 IM race finishes
trail running for endurance
uphill running to simulate and strengthen my climbing

Bike goals? (biking is always training for something)
200+ mile days (road bike)
Tri and TT racing
endurance days in the mtns = endurance days on the bike

Swimming goals? (swimming is generally training for swimming/tris)
IM distance swims
Sprint and Oly distance races

Skiing goals (skiing is generally for fun but sometimes it is to better my skills or training for endurance)
technical or steep skiing
endurance days in the mtns

And then there is number FIVE which is also low impact
Rock/Ice climbing or crag climbing goals?
get stronger physically as a climber for the mtns or to just up my abilities on tech terrain

Back to the "Principle of Specificity"
But I know why and how I train.  Do you?

You can never be too strong, too rich or too pretty :)    Which is why others advocate the benefits of a crossfit or similar strength training programs.  I don't generally partake but I suggest others do for the obvious benefits to be gained.

Monday, April 23, 2012


One of the most personally satisfying things I get to see from Cold Thistle is the guys/gals out climbing every day taking some of the ideas I write about and making them their own.  No greater compliment to me.  I am thrilled that anything I write or suggest actually gets rethought and used.

Here is one that popped up on my blog radar this morning.  Very cool pack Ryan had made up :)   And a great blog!

barefoot running?

I often get emails asking what I do to get fit and/or stay fit.  As I work on my own recovery and try to get to a level of fitness I now find acceptable I have to ask myself that same question.   This will be the first in a long series of blog posts that will answer some of that question for the readers here and what I find of interest (but may or may not agree with) for my own training.  The easy answer is always the best, pick your own poison and then just go climbing!

It is called the "Principle of Specificity".
More here:

Not everyone gets to climb every day.

The Truth about Barefoot Running

Why barefoot running is not suited for the average runner.

By G.S.Seltzer

Perhaps you are familiar with the barefoot running craze, started by the book Born to Run by Author Christopher McDougall. Perhaps you have been thinking about giving barefoot running a try. Many run and triathlon coaches recommend running barefoot to some degree on a soft surface, such as grass, to help improve your running mechanics. Most experts agree however, that running barefoot most of the time is neither safe nor practical.

Reality Check

Although great in theory, running barefoot is not for everyone. Raise your hand if you came across any barefoot runners in any race you ran in the last year. The good news is that the running shoe industry is taking note of the interest in barefoot running and minimalist shoes. Minimalist shoes, or minis, are lightweight because they have few bells and whistles, such as built up heels that many experts claim make our legs and feet weaker, causing injury. Shoes like Vibrams provide a barefoot ride and feel, while providing some protection against puncture wounds from debris and road rash.

The Reality

Running barefoot is dangerous for the vast majority of runners for two main reasons. First, rocks, twigs, glass, and other debris will likely cause injury at some point. Second, the muscles and joints of the legs and feet typically are weak because we wear shoes continuously. Some runners attempt to eradicate this, running a few miles each week barefoot, performing foot and leg strengthening exercises, and walking barefoot in and around the house. Running stride drills barefoot on grass, the track, or at the beach are good examples. Strong feet provide a solid platform for the body to ride upon – weak feet do not. Start out slow focusing on your form will help you prevent injury.

Barefoot Running Does Have its Place

If you are determined to take barefoot running to the road here are a few considerations. Start slowly until your calves, arches, and Achilles tendons adjust. Increase the distance slightly each week, and listen to your body if you experience aches or pains as mentioned above. Run on a smooth, soft surface. When transitioning to hard surfaces, such as the road, try using minimalist shoes, which are low to the ground, lightweight, and provide the feel of being barefoot. Vibram, New Balance, Nike, and Newton Running make some of the better-known minimalist shoes.

Final Thoughts

If you are prone to injury using running shoes, running barefoot is not likely to change that; if you do not get injured often in running shoes, than why change? Trade in your heavy, clunky shoes with the anti-sway this, and the heavily cushioned that for a pair of minimalist shoes. Trade your heel strike for a mid-foot strike and rejoice at the results. Allow for a proper transition, and seek a qualified run or triathlon coach for assistance. The time and resources invested will be well worth it in the end.


Gregg Seltzer is a certified USA Cycling and Triathlon coach, as well as strength and conditioning trainer. Gregg owns Triability Coaching, based in Southern California. Contact Gregg via email at or phone at 800.884.2194.
The photos below are of my HRM  on a short hilly run intentionally done right at my lactate threshold pace.   Like weighing your climbing gear it is hard to know where you are really at unless you measure it.  In this case the easy way to measure performance (and performance changes) is with a heart rate monitor (HRM).

Sunday, April 22, 2012

It is officially Spring here!

My buddy Sol on some fun local rock.  Enjoy!

Simple solutions, leash, sock and picks

When I start thinking I know what I am doing I usually get a lesson in humility.

Umbilicals?  To connect the umbilical to the tools we have mini lockers, flat steel wire gates and a host of do-it-yourself solutions with all offer varying amounts of success.  How hard does it really need to be?  Not very it seems.  For the home made ones just tie a big loop in the end and do the same.  Easy on and off for the alpine where you may want to remove the umbilical all together.  Thanks Jim for pointing out that obvious solution to my my overly jaded imagination.

Boots that don't fit perfectly?  Feet a little different in size?  Not unusual for most folks.

How about using different thickness sock on each foot?   It might just be the simple fix you require to get a better fit.  Not one I have needed but so simple when it was pointed out to me I had to say, "duuuu, of course!" It is at least worth a try.  Thanks for that idea!

Another one that seemed to escape me and most of my climbing mates.  Sharpening tools?  For most things including vertical ice and the majority of alpine mixed a razor sharp pick isn't required. In fact it is just a waste of good steel (and your hard earned cash) to always be sharpening and resharpening your picks.

I know, BTDT myself on numerous occasions.  And until now I am generally loath to go on anything I think is difficult without a set of "properly sharpened" picks.  This spring I decided to see just how much difference it really makes.  Short of super cold  or old hard and brittle ice I suspect it doesn't matter much.  Now I intentionally sharpen my picks differently.

I think the ability to hook the tools easily is equally important as getting the initial stick.
With the best of the new tools hooking is easy and secure.  Which allows us to worry less about the condition of the pick's tip.  Much as we want to think it really does and I have been convinced it does for years.

Pick at the left is now 3.3mm and the newer one on the right is 3.1mm 

The difference in how the picks actually climb in the majority of terrain I use them on is nil.

To make a point the two  sets of picks below started out new and got some use.

The pair above was used on the first ascent of  Dracula,  Mt Foraker.

This pair was used on a solo ascent of the Cassin, Denali

As I said unless it is really hard and cold or  just old ice the pick can be pretty well worn and still very usable.  More so than you might first think.  Certainly on a lot of the mixed we do by simply hooking you don't need a razor's edge on your pick.  The first time you miss judge a placement and slam the pick into rock you'll end up with a dull edge anyway.  The cutting edge of a splitting maul will last a lot longer than that of a scalpel.  Each has their own place in the tool box.  Best to know which you need for your specific job.

I still have picks I haven't touched with a file that get used on fat Canadian ice.  Going a full season there without intentionally hitting rock is not unusual.   They start out sharp from the factory and stay that way if I pay attention.   I also have the pair of picks I climbed on in Chamonix last winter.  Down into the teeth on those simply from wear on the hard granite and old black gully ice there.   One is the rounded and shortened pick seen in the first picture.  The pair look remarkably the same.

I used that pair of picks on several pure ice climbs this spring including the scariest lead I have been on in a while.  Sticks are easy in the spring time slush :)   The shape of my picks never once entered my mind.

The Eiger

Friday, April 20, 2012

The "word" is getting around..."Neoshell" soft shell

New skis? New turns!

The La Sportiva Batura 2.0

To my amazement the most often read blog entry on Cold Thistle is the Phantom Guide/Batura boot comparison.  The page reads on that one post more than double the next most popular blog.   The comparison was first posted in April of 2010.  Almost two full years later and the same blog entry still gets the highest number of reads month after month.

First generation Batura on M6

While I have always had great hopes for the "super gaiter" style single boots I had no idea just how popular they obviously have become.   I still think the technology could be bettered with a light weight and low profile double boot.   The boot manufactures and the buying public seem to disagree with my theory.

Ok, so call me cynical.

I wasn't impressed with the Batura 2.0's name.  I mean how different could the "2.0" be from the previous 2 or 3 variations or generations of the Batura?  Or for that matter from the Phantom Guide or one of my favorites the Phantom Ultra?

I understand keeping the name " Batura" attached to this model.  The "2.0" was kinda a joke to me on first impression.  How different could the boot really be?  In this case a lot different.  It isn't the same boot really, or even a variation of the old Batura, if you look closely.  If you are like me, I first coughed and muttered BS under my breath when I first heard the rumors of "a much better boot".  But I have changed my opinion on that, it is in fact a much better boot..

That was easy to figure out once the newest 2.0 showed up on FED EX.

Just pulling the boots from the box was a wake up call.

For any one who has climbed in a double boot...any double boot and also climbed in a super light Fruit boot you have to wonder why the two technologies haven't merged over the last decade with better effect.

My idea of a  mountain boot these days is the weight and technical ability of a fruit boot like the incredible Boreal Ice Mutant.  More realistically a Scarpa Ultra with some additional warmth and lighter yet in weight?  The support on ice and warmth of a Spantik or Baruntse would be a bonus.  And the over all profile of the Trango series.    The Scarpa 6000 comes pretty close to that idea but lacks the support on endurance ice in comparison to the La Sportiva models.  And its volume is getting up there in comparison to the Ultra for instance.  After all it generally takes more volume in a boot to offer more warmth, right?

But  if I make that call on the Phantom 6000 then the Batura comes up lacking on endurance ice as well.  A real fruit boot on similar terrain?  Pity the fool!   But a really light weight boot given the right support is such a pleasure to move in on most terrain.

Like the choices made in steel for ice tools, every decision you make in design and materials limits the over all use of any product.  So you first define the product.

Obviously the Batura is no fruit boot but neither is it a double boot.

La Sportiva NA president, Jonathon Lantz calls is a true "1.5 boot".  Half way between the best single boot and the best double boot for warmth.

The Batura has just been defined for warmth.

For difficult technical cold weather ice, mixed and alpine climbing we all know you need a few things incorporated in the design.  Low profile and small volume over all.  Think fruit boot here to be take every advantage of the terrain.  The flip side for technical ground is an awkward and big in volume, ski boot.  Which I assume we all want to avoid.  Make the sole rigid but no so rigid you can't walk in them.  Make that midsole durable so the boots never change in flex.   It is a climbing boot so you want a flexible ankle with enough support for endurance ice when required but enough flexibility for hard technical ground with and without crampons.

It is quite a wish list when you write it all down.

If this were easy we wouldn't have dozens of pairs of boots from many different manufactures trying to attain the same goal with varying levels of success.

The Batura has been successful as a "1.5".  Nothing new here as the basic design has gotten better every year since 2007 from my personal perspective.  There is so much potential yet in this boot style.   The same basic technology can be easily traced back to the early 1970s and Peter Carmen's Super Gator.  And it has worked well in the field ever since.   I am thrilled La Sportiva and now Gore has continue to evolve this style of boot.

So what exactly is different from the Batura Evo?
To continue the evolution of the Batura,  a second Gore-Tex membrane was added .  Now both the outer gaiter and in the inner boot have a Gore-tex layer for more complete protection.

The plastic zipper has also been scrapped in favour of a simple zipper with a Velcro hook and loop closure on the gaiter.  I only which they had added another inch or two to the gaiter.

Otherwise, construction appears to be the same as last year’s model, and the boot continues to be built on a Nepal last (i.e. if Nepal EVOs fit you, these should have the same fit).  The 2.0s feel seriously light. I mean three-season alpine boot light!

Actual weight on my scale?

1130g one 43 Batura Evo 2011
890g one 43 Batura 2.0 2012

Best thing I can do is make a side by side comparison,  Batura Evo to Batura 2.0.

Height of gaiter - same

materials used - lighter in weight for the 2.0

dbl layer Goretex - new to the 2.0

lower profile boot/toe - new to the 2.0

Left to right, new 2.0, last year's Evo and a Ultra

Below, carbon mid sole - new to the 2.0 on the right....earlier Evo version on the left.  Thinner for better feel but also warmer.

Above, the additional sole rocker and carbon fiber midsole of the 2.0 is shown on the right.
On the left is the previous generation Batura EVO.

foot closer to the rock/ice - by design in the 2.0

zipper and Velcro closer on gaiter - new to the 2.0

lace lock
ankle padding and stiffness
tongue bellows
fit and lacing
lighter in weight

Below, 30mm toe rocker on the Ultra,  38mm toe rocker Batura 2.  Making the Batura 2 easier to walk in.  Much like the rocker profile on the Spanik.

Note the differences in sole thickness with La Sportiva on the left and Scarpa on the right, where you attach the front crampon bail.  The Batura sole profile is a much easier fit to any current crampons

The first thing I noticed is the boot's weight. That you notice right out of the box. In a size 43 the 2.0 is a full 240g lighter per boot than the previous Batura Evo.

240 grams = 8.5 ounces per boot

That is a savings of 17oz per pair in a size 43 over the current boot.. You'll save more weight as the boots get bigger.   Lack of the boot's tongue and the new carbon fiber mid sole will show there.

Interesting that they new Baturas are so light. A good bit of the weight savings was done by using a super thin, honey comb, carbon fiber mid sole. Carbon is being used in the Olympus Mons, the Spantik and the Mega ice, oh and the Stratos AT boot. My take is the Batura has been bumped into a totally difference class of boot by La Sportva simply because of the manufacturing techniques and costs associated with the new Batura 2.0 design and manufacturing effort.
The new mid sole is now lighter, warmer because of the added air spaces in the honey comb and more consistent in flex.  Jonathon Lantz says, "this mid sole is slightly softer in flex but will never get softer,  as the previous 9mm Ibi-Thermo mid sole material did in use".    You couldn't tell that by my samples. The sole is rigid on these!

The thickness of the insulation has changed. For the moment at least Mr. Lantz wasn't offering anything very specific on the insulation. "Lighter and warmer" was the definition :)

No surprise I like a rigid soled boots and a stiff cuff. Generally I like my boots more rigid than most fabric ankle boots are capable of. Good news here. You have to look close to feel it but the actual boot that supports your foot is now made of a slightly stiffer Cordura fabric. Point is the added stiffness in the ankle was intentional and a good addition imo. Make no mistake though, it isn't a fabric version of the Nepal Evo by any means. And I would still be hard pressed to say the 2.0 is any stiffer than a pair of Trango Extreme Evos. Plenty of support but not so much as it limits your technical climbing ability. The Batura 2.0 still incorporates, "The 3D Flex™ ankle hinge allows side to side movement for better footwork while still providing longitudinal lockout when front pointing."

It doesn't appear the stiffer Cordura material will change the fit. But the super streamlined new bellows tongue design, new insulation material and two layers of Goretx will. That is complete coverage by one 3 layer Gortex on the exterior gaiter and another complete sock liner of 2 layer Goretx on the inside. of the boot.

"To stay warm you must stay dry."

If you have followed the previous blog posts on winter clothing you already know staying dry is the key to staying warm in a cold climate. One of the distractions for me in the older Baturas is they held moisture. You had to be very careful on how you manages the sweat from your feet and if out over night how you kept you boot dry internally long term. I have used both Seal Skinz socks and Mitchums antiperspirant to lower the moisture coming from my feet in an effort to keep the insulation in the Baturas working at its best.

Boot soles?  Lighter weight?  One word, traction.
The Vibram Mulaz sole climbs better on technical rock.  But the LaSportiva / Vibram claim the Impact Brake System sole is better for long approaches and big days in the mountains.

I'd rather see an additional drop in weight and the Vibram Mulaz sole used on the new 2.0.

Each boot takes 34 days to put together, most of that glue-drying time, and they continue to be handmade in Italy which makes me feel a bit better about the suggested $650 price tag.

We seldom get a view behind the curtain when it comes to research and development from any European manufacture. (Or the U.S. for that matter)   But in this case I did get a glimpse of the testing that La Sportiva and surprisingly Gore in Italy did on the newest Batura.

Last year to develop the new technology for the 2.0 version, Gore Italy and La Sportiva did some innovative  testing that I have never heard of being done for a mountain boot prototype.  Over several weeks in the Slovenian Alps, Gore scientists and La Sportiva boot makers collected the data from heat and moisture sensors and the personal feedback from 40 pairs of tester's boots and the testers themselves.  That data was down loaded twice a day for weeks.  I am impressed!

So when you ask yourself why La Sportiva uses a Gore product in their boots it should be obvious. Both Gore and La Sportiva  have developed a mutual trust and both are willing to go to the extra effort to  push the technologies available for our benefit.

These are comments from others already using the Batura 2.0:

"the new version with GoreTex Gaiter and GoreTex boot"

"They give a snug fit while letting the toes enough spare place to move which I really like for avoiding
cold feet and kicking hard ice."

"Although if wet, for example if you sweat in them too much while
an approach in warm temperatures they are still hard to dry."

"In general I think the made a good trade of concerning the insulation.
The are thin enough, so that you can wear them in the alps in the summer
time without excessively sweating in them, further more they are warm
enough for ice climbing on cold winter days. But I have to admit that it
can get a bit chilly in them on really cold belay days.

I've had cold feet in them while ice climbing on a day with -17°C."

"The Baturas have indeed changed a lot, the ankle is a lot more forgiving than the old version and I think I could live with them I that respect. The last however has changed unless I’m mistaken. They used to feel like a (slightly) roomier Nepal Evo. Now they feel like a Trango. I get a slight toe crush as I do with my Trango Evo which is not good for a warm boot. The heel has also gone the way of the Trangos, I now get considerable lift which I never got before.  I would also add that we're stiffer
than pretty much any other fabric boot I've seen."

■A six layer fully synthetic boot specifically designed for winter mountaineering.
■Board lasted construction.
- Exceptionally resilient nylon.
- Insulated anti-dragging felt.
- Insulated polyethylene (PE).
- Insulating aluminum layer.
- Elastic Cordura® provides waterproof protection, while allowing ventilation for a comfortable environment.
- Schoeller® - Dynamic™ with water repellent membrane.
- Vibram® rubber rand.
- Elastic nylon with impermeable insulating layer.
- Asymmetrical, waterproof zipper for easy, on the go access.
- Polyamide Thermic layer for extra warmth.
- Durable mesh layer extends wear and ensures moisture is transferred away from the skin.
Insulating Ibi-Thermo 9mm.
- 8-9mm TPU.
- PU Inserts.
- SBR Aircushion.
- 8-9mm TPU.
- PU Inserts.

Previous Evo version with a plastic mid sole and simple gaiter zipper

The newest Batura 2.0 with carbon fiber mid sole and a Velcro closed zipper on the gaiter.

new Batura 2.0 and the new Salewa Pro Gaiter both in a Euro size 42

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Hopefully my final comment on BD stainless

Is it just me or is it really hard to get a simple and straight forward answer in any public forum?

I posed this question on the BD website (and on the Super Topo thread) and added the bold insert here on the "recall":

Dane Burns @ Cold Thistle
17 Apr 2012, 11:52PM
"In the Fall of '10 or early winter of '11 BD obviously made an inline change and added 30% or more material to the front point area on the frame of the Sabers where they have been breaking.

 We have been calling them Gen I and Gen II for clarity's sake.

As late as last Fall (2011) you could still buy Gen I Sabers at retailers online and in person.

Was there ever a recall internally of the Gen I crampons and replacement with Gen IIs. (the answer is yes in at least one retailer's case)   If you own Gen Is will BD replace them with Gen IIs prior to a failure? Thanks for the reply."

The BD answer is here:

and reprinted here:

18 Apr 2012, 4:04PM
"@Dane Burns As previously stated in our QC Lab post on the Black Diamond Journal and in Peter Metcalf's post on, our designers and engineers always look for opportunities to improve designs through in-line adjustments. These iterative design tweaks are part of any BD product, be it a carabiner, crampon, ski boot, headlamp or trekking pole. And, as stated previously as well, we stand behind all of our products, including all stainless steel crampons."

Looks to me like they are standing behind the crampons.  Swapping Gen Is for Gen IIs should be easy as BD really does stand behind the product.  Here is their warranty info:

North America:

Black Diamond Warranty and Repair
2084 East 3900 South
Salt Lake City, Utah 84124

The EU:
Black Diamond Equipment AG
Christoph Merian Ring 7

4153 Reinach, Switzerland
p: +41/61 564 33 23
f: +41/61 564 33 24

Here is how you tell the difference:

"Interesting observation from a picture. 2nd gen Saber on the left and 1st generation Saber on the right. Serac's look to have added the same amount of material to the forward rails. Difference across the flat, in the same area as the breaks above, has gone from .53" to .70". Or if my numbers are correct, a 38% increase in material to the rails. The center bar on the front points went from .50" to .62" or 24%."

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Sunday, April 15, 2012

April Give away? Melissa, Gordon and Kelly!

I've been out climbing and forgot about the April give away. Ya gotta be a member to win.  A Blue Ice chalk bag, a Boa leash and one other piece of fun climber's kit will be given away.  Three chances to win!

OK then!

The free gear?

The Blue Ice chalk bag?  One of the very few in North America I suspect!
It goes to: Melissa Harms

The Blue Ice Boa Leash?   
It goes to: Gordon Green

And an amazing assortment of MOJO Cliff bars goes to : Kelly
Hurry with that email because they are a pretty good snack!

Send me an way or another and I'll get your prize mailed out to you.  Till then there is always the next drawing ;)

Light weight kit?

This from a blog reader today,

"Sorry to go off topic, but from looking at your pack contents photo, there were a few pieces of kit that could be substituted to lower the weight/bulk.Swap the GSI cookset, Snowpeak stove and MSR canister for a Jetboil Sol Ti cook system plusa 100g gas canister. Swap your BD krabs for DMM i-beam versions, eg Spectre 2 or Alpha Trad? Finally you could swap the friends for the new 'Helium' version, the Reverso 3 for the 4, and maybe even the harness for an Arc'teryx M270. All 
together I think you would be saving over a pound in weight. What are your 

Thoughts?  Good idea :)  I thought it worth weighing the suggestion, Jon :) 

1. Jetboil stove 258g
   100g fuel can 196g (110g fuel)

   Snow Peak stove 128g
   GSI cook kit 162g
   MSR can 374g (227g fuel)

My kit is 32g heavier (fuel cell sizes change depending on the project) 
But bigger fuel cells are slightly more efficient for what you carry in fuel
My Snow Peak stove and cook kit are way smaller/less bulk over all than a Jetboil

2. DMM Spectra 2 biner 32g
   DMM Alpha Trad biner 34g

   BD OZ biner 28g
   Trango Super Fly 30g

with 25 biners my kit is 100g lighter or more

3. Helium Friend  [1] 3.35 oz [2] 3.84 oz [3] 5.11 oz 

   Rigid stem Friend [1] 3.1 oz; [2] 3.80 oz; [3] 5.00 oz (sewn Spectra slings)

Carry only five cams and I am at least 25g lighter 

4. Reverso 4 56g  (edit of correct weights on my scale)
   Reverso 3 78g

same here

5. Petzl Hirundos 315g in a large
   Arcteryx M270  310g in a large

5g heavier here

Total difference in weight between the suggested kit and mine?

I am 63g lighter if not more from Jon's suggestions.  Or 2.2 oz :)
I don't doubt the Jetboil is a better stove than the Snow Peak but I normally usea MSR Reactor if I want a "real" stove.  I like the Snow Peak because of the verysmall volume it takes up in my pack. A full pound savings was being very optimistic on Jon's part. But you never know so I took the time to weigh what I have hereand make a side by side comparison. I have both Helium and older rigid stem Friends and already knew what the result would be there. Take the time to weigh and know what you have in your own pack. Jon, thanks again for the suggestion!

The Black Diamond Crampon report

"A piece of climbing gear you don't trust 100%  is probably best retired  or simply destroyed.  eBay is not a good answer here."

Dane Burns @ Cold Thistle

The full BD report is well worth the effort and the read imo.
QC LAB: Gear Doesn’t Last Forever – CRAMPONS

Bottom line from Black Diamond

• Vertically oriented front points are best for climbing water ice and/or heavy climbers, and tend to do better in cyclic fatigue.
• Horizontal front points are best used for the alpine.
• Flexible center bars can increase the lifespan of your crampons, but at a cost of performance.
• Boots aren’t as rigid as they used to be and break down/wear in quicker.
• Use flexible center bars with truly non-rigid boots.
• Gear doesn’t last forever. 

My take from the report is there is still a lot of guess work as to what is really reliable and what is not for boot and crampon combos at BD.  I tend to want my own gear to be 100% reliable without having to second guess every little decision.  And I'd like to enjoy what I consider the highest performance currently available from both boot and crampon.  That combo for my own needs would seem to be labeled as "unreliable" by BD.  Anecdotal evidence would seem to back up that conclusion.

A crampon and boot combination I really like on steep water ice.  But not a combo either I or BD recommends.

While I don't agree with every conclusion or all the numbers as they have been presented I think the newest BD report does go a long ways in telling us how Black Diamond has decided to answer the problems they have experienced with stainless crampons.  Any answer is a good answer imo when it comes to climbing gear.

From BD's own data:
Sabre Pro SS
Average Cycles to failure: 12,312 +/- 3,047

Sabre Pro CrMo
Average Cycles to failure: 15,079 +/- 2454

In summary, the CrMo fails after completing 23% more cycles than the SS.

A rather esoteric boot here in North America, the Scarpa Phantom Ultra.
Previuous masthead photo...dbl click for full effect
Because of this year long discussion, my current crampon choice, with a rigid center bar and this boot is obvious in the masthead photo and below, Petzl Dartwins.   While not perfect imo they and the Dart have no significant history of failure that I know of with any boot combo.

" Flexible center bars can increase the lifespan of your crampons, but at a cost of performance" BD QC 


Saturday, April 14, 2012

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Dru Couloir Direct!

Great video from Jon Griffith, at Alpine Exposures.  Enjoy!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It isn't climbing but it is life

I recently have had a hard time keeping  much of my private life out of the blog.  No one but me interested anyway.  I would rather write about and concentrate on new gear and amazing climbs and  spectacular skiing..

Today for the first time in months I was able to get a run in.  Hard to not celebrate that!  So I look back to see just how much I do have to celebrate.  It is a lot.

But there is a dark side that needs to be looked at aired out and retold as well.  Not a picture I would ever look at if I wasn't painting it.  But now I think we all should,  I am the lucky one.  But there are thousands who aren't so lucky.

Maybe this will help just one.  Even if it is just me.  But I had to put it some where just to keep me sane!

The picture below is the artist's  proof of a print I am having made up for my Oncology Dept.  No question the eventual poster and leading this climb have been part of my healing process.


It aint winter! But it is pretty cool!

Monday, April 9, 2012

The on going soft shell test @ CT

I promised this soft shell review/comparison last fall.   Several things got in the way from getting it done.

The trivial excuses don't really matter.  But what does matter and what has influenced this comparison the most is the newest fabrics that have been incorporated into these garments.  Both Gortex and Polartec are represented here.  As climbers we have never had it so good.

There are so many really great fabrics available that you have to really work hard to get a bad one.

But the best fabrics simply point out no matter how good the fabric is the fit and patterns of these soft shells are what really make or break them.

As far as function in concerned you would be hard pressed to better the original Dachstein sweater for breathability, stretch, warmth and being weather proof in wind, rain and snow.

Weight and bulk it is easy enough to better however in a big boiled wool sweater.   But as hard as it might be to believe, when it comes to soft shell comparisons the Dachstein is not a bad place to start.

I look for a couple of very specific attributes for a soft shell fabric and the garment's pattern cut.  The first is how "soft" is it?  I want my soft shells to stretch and be comfortable from the inside out.  Ideally they will stretch a lot.  That means a garment I can fit pretty tightly but never have it bind on difficult gymnastic style climbing.  And a soft interior that keep them from feeling clammy when I am working hard.

Generally I'll want to tuck my soft shell jacket's tail into my harness and never have it pull out while climbing.  That means a preference for longer than normal hem line and hopefully a sophisticated pattern the keeps the hem down when my arms go up.  Up?  As in swing an ice tool or making that long reach to clip a fixed pin.   When you have to stretch to your max it is also nice to not pull your cuff over the glove and break the seal there.  I want to keep the seal tight there and not have a gap for wind, water or snow sneaking in.  That with  a long gauntlet glove and shorter gloves as well.  It is a tall order.

I ski in my soft shells on occasion, walk the dog and may be even ride my bike or trail run in them if the weather is bad enough.  But I have better clothing for all those activities than a soft shell generally.  So my likes and dislikes and how I judge a soft shell is based on what I like about them for climbing.  If you read the last bit on climbing packs or "climbing sacs" in part three of that commentary you will get the idea of just how climbing specific my own uses are and because of that bias how my own judgement calls are attained.  Pays to remember while I live in the rainy and wet PNW I seldom climb in the rain and I really like cold weather climbing.  So while water proof protection is nice I don't typically require it.  But what I do require is the best breathability any of the newest fabrics has to offer

I'll take breathability over water resistance every time.  I haven't used a soft shell for a couple of seasons now until this Spring.  I've been lucky enough to try some of the best new fabrics in several different garments and I am still testing them.  As much as a fabric will define the performance of a garment, the design of the garment will also define in part just how well a fabric will perform.  It is a synergistic combination of fabric and pattern.  As my comparison and reviews will point out you have to have both the best pattern  and the best fabrics to compete these days.

I am really happy that I have gone back and given the current crop of soft shells a try.  Because things have changed for the better with these garments...all of them... in just a few seasons..   As much as I like the Arcteryx Atom LT as my main outer garment for the light weight and warmth I have never been happy with its durability on anything but pure ice routes.   Heaven forbid you ever run one up against the rocks or actually have to climb anything mixed and get it dirty.  You would likely shred the Atom quickly on Canadian limestone or Chamonix granite on a climb like the one pictured below.

The newest soft shells breath better, are more water resistant, can be lighter and can in the right material offer more protection from the typical climbers abuse of mixed rock and sharp tools..

The blog is acting up a bit so composing a new review has been slowed way down.  I will get it done and published in the next few weeks.  Just wanted to give you a heads up. .

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Climbing packs part 3

"I have a seam ripper, a pair of professional sewing scissors, a hand awl and a Swiss Army knife. Generally the tools required to turn a production pack into a "alpine climbing" pack that I can live with."  db

That was a thought I have had on a regular basis from the '70s on.  Same thought that occasionally runs through my mind today on occasion.  I know better now (and have a deeper set of pockets) so instead I prefer to sit down and design a pack that I don't have to cut up.  Trick then is getting a skilled set of hands to make the thought a reality.

© rif, Aug 1969
Climbers: Rob Ferguson (photo by Pete Cartwright)
The basic kit for alpine climbing hasn't really changed in the last 50 years.  The smart guys getting things done, haven't carried more than 20% of their body weight.  As time has passed the gear has gotten more durable, warmer and much, much lighter.

What I used on Deltaform's Super Coulior in 1976 isn't any different than what I pack today for A-Strain.  Sure the gear has changed but the basic items, rope, tools, boots, hardware haven't.  We can climb faster (even old guys like me) and do harder technical routes with ease because of the new gear.  But the human powering the effort up hill hasn't changed much.  Smarter may be from the experience of generations before us but certainly no better than the guys suffering it out on the European North faces during the '30s.

Jack with a simple pack sans lid and his typical smile, 2009.

The reason I want to go down memory lane here is this blog series discusses climbing packs accessories.   What I am about to suggest as a  climbing pack and show you is not the norm.  Every climbing partner I have was at first extremely reluctant to steadfastly against using this style of pack.  They aren't for everyone and they aren't for every trip.

But with a little imagination and some thought you might find this is the best pack style you have ever used for actual technical climbing.

Canadian ice, 1978, no lid on Chouinard's Baltoro pack.

Below from Dow Williams, April 2012 on the Mnt. Project forums,

"hmmm, been climbing a bit...full time for the past 15 years, guiding, alpine V and VI routes, ice, rock, you name it....can't say I own a "leader" this something dead bird came up with to sell a new expensive pack that is suppose to make one climb better?

In any regard, keep in mind, you are only as fast as your second....don't load him/her down with a non-"leader" pack, whatever that might be and expect to move any faster because you have a cool "leader" pack on...a classic route where you need to use low profile packs is Beckey Chouinard in the Bugaboos...I have guided this route...and can assure you...that if your partner is not experienced enough to swap leads and is going to serve as a 2nd for the entire better make sure his/her pack is no more cumbersome to climb with than whatever this "leader" pack business is....or you won't make the route in a day which is much preferred....unless of course you want to carry a bigger (I presume non-"leader") pack and bivy."

Climbing is..."a thinking man's sport."  Dow has much of the details already covered above.

Remember the 20% rule.   There are no leader's packs because you carry a climbing sac that first, fits you.  The pack size is defined by your body size and what kind of weight you can actually climb difficult technical ground with.  You should build or pick out a pack that fits YOUR body size perfectly first.  Then you can climb with it loaded with as little as required or as much as you can realistically carry. 

This from my 'friend" Tom Ripley over on the UKC web sit last month.

"These days do you actually use any gear enough to wear it out though?
Or just buy the next gimmick when you got bored? "

Kinda a funny question coming from a 20 year old kid. (and no offense to 20 year old kids) So we will give Tom a little slack here. In my climbing career I don't think I have ever tolerated a "gimmick" and I am never bored. Most of my gear from the '70s I still own. Including my Chouinard FISH pack I still used when very long in tooth and well past needing to be replaced. There is a reason for that. Some gear is hard to come by and difficult to replace with anything remotely usable.

The original Karrimore Grimpeur in the first picture of this blog was used, abused and never replaced. Just as my FISH pack was used, abused and only recently replaced with the same. (or damn close anyway) As I said really good kit is hard to fine. Gimmicks..they come and go without hesitation or afterthought. Our young Mr. Ripley will given enough time in the sport eventually figure that out.

More here on the story of the very first Karrimore Grimpeur:
If you are not into really basic climbing sacks or want to learn about what I think is a better climbing sac stop here. The sizing and fit for a true climbing sack have been covered. The rest is again personal opinion. Likely $150 or so will get you a duplicate of the pack I use. IMO it is a good bet that it will be the best climbing sac you'll ever own. But there isn't much to them. And they don't climb by themselves.
But if you aspire to emulate this style of climbing in the mountains..... read on.

John Bouchard climbing on the Grands Charmoz, August 1975 photo by Steve Zajchowski.
The pack is a Karrimore.

"A rope, a rack, and the pack on your back, is Alpinism!"

To the uneducated eye the climbing sacks I use are really simple.  As I have said previous, simple sacs but complicated designs.   The packs show above are all the same basic design,  A single daisy chain stitched up the front to ease the strain of hauling the pack.  The pack is uncluttered so it hauls well.  The down side (if there actually is one) is everything needs to go in the pack and not hung from the outside.  Minimalistic indeed.  The lid is detachable on these particular packs.  There are two pockets in the lid plus strap on patches sewn to the top.  The main pocket in the lid will hold two, 1 liter water bottles.  The smaller bottom pocket it a typical map or guide book size.  The single lid attachment buckle on the outside is covered to protect it if you need to haul the sac.  The dbl Fastex buckles above the shoulder straps that latch on the lid from behind are not covered.  Velcro seals the lid between the shoulder straps in the "short" position.  The lid snugs down tightly above the Velcro in the extended position on an overly full sac.   I will interchange the terms *sac* and *pack* a lot from here on out.  A proper climbing pack to me is a "climbing sac".

All good to this point right?  And likely what is pictured above is as stripped a pack as most will ever want.  But it is not the pack I climb with generally.  This little internal pocket opened a lot of options and ideas for me to use a even simpler pack.  Funny how this all works. A tiny bit of design effort changed how even I looked at this decades old design.  And it changed the packs I climb with and has made them even more useful to me and simpler yet.

My ID, the car keys, the camera if it isn't in my jacket, some extra GU and a headlamp go in this pocket.  Spare socks or gloves sometimes and a hat as well when I think about it.  Basically anything I don't want "lost" and rolling around in the bottom pack.  The pocket is big enough...but not that BIG.

2 liters of water is most easily replaced with a stove.   Or just as easily carried in a hydration bladder internally.   So the importance of having a top pocket can be easily forgotten...then left behind all together.

So here is my current climbing sac.  Not to every one's taste for sure.  But something to think about when you decide a new "climbing sac" is required.   Built right you'll own it a long, long make sure it is a design you can live with.

Full of ropes the pack weights in at 25#.  A full compliment of actual alpine climbing kit?  Right at 30#.  Just under my 20% self imposed 38# limit.

It should be no secret here at Cold Thistle that the majority of what I write is simply me slogging through the piles of gear I have an interest in and by doing so hopefully it enables me to make the best decisions and selections for my own use.

This three part series started because I was appalled at the pack fit and quality of some of my partner's packs.  Enough so that I have bought and given away packs.  It pays to remember that if you aren't soloing, your partner and his gear are actually a part of "your kit".

What I learned from this exercise it I want a really basic pack  Since it is what I use the majority of time anyway.  So last week I placed another order for a pack sans lid or any way to add a lid.   It is very similar to the pack pictured above just no Velcro or the extra set of straps to latch the lid down.  The daisy chain and lid tie down is simply bar tacked at the packs opening.   But other than that it is really the same basic alpine sac I have been using for 30+ years. Just a more complicated design.   Old habits die hard I guess.

Here is my new build sheet from Randy @ CCW:

Pack 1 OZONE 210d Spectra (Dane)

1. Custom sizing 21" back (+2.5")
2. Fish bottom pattern
3. No lid or attachments of any kind
   (-front daisy but without top strap)
4. pull down shoulder straps instead of "pull up"
5. main bag has a zippered "guide book" pocket...with a little clip for
6. thicker shoulder straps foam- 2" longer
7. Perlon haul loop
8. dbl rope straps across the top of the pack
9. half length extension with draw string
10. no double bottom

And the specs for my original CCW alpine sacs:

Custom sizing, 21"
FISH bottom pattern
2 liter+ water bottle size top pocket
2nd zippered pocket in bottom of the lid with key holder
Zippers reversed on the pockets for use on hanging belays
pull down shoulder straps instead of "pull up"
main bag has a zippered "guide book" pocket
covered lid buckle which protects it while being hauled
removable foam pad
oversize/thickness on the shoulder straps
Perlon haul loop which is easier to clip on and off the anchor in difficult stances
dbl strap patches on lid
dbl rope straps across the top of the pack
dbl bottom
10" extension with draw string
lid is extendable and removable
bar tacked daisy chain on the bottom of the lid strap

Finally for those interested.   I took my pack and loaded it with the typical gear I would take waterfall cragging or alpine climbing in Canada.  Loaded it a bit heavy @ what ended up being 35# even to make a point.  Typically I don't carry all the hardware and the rope.  Or this much hardware very often.  Everything pictured is gear that was sitting waiting to be put away from out last trip to Canada so not unrealistic either.    Helmet or rope and may be both could just as easily go inside the pack.

ready to close it up and strap on my 1/2 twin ropes and helmet

above and below:
Not my best pack job but easy enough to carry

Here is what went into the loaded  pack pictured above:

13 food and GU packs
2 dozen Advil
Metolius gear sling
12 Grivel Helix short and med screws and one 22cm in a cover and with caps intact
8 sewn QDs and 16 biners
Locker and Reverso
6 cams various sizes form 1" to 3"
4 Large stoppers
5 pins, knife blade to 3/4" baby angle
Petzl harness
Grivel Umbilicals
2 ?
2 head lamps
2 spare battery packs
3 lighters
Snow Peak stove
med MSR fuel canister
GSI cook kit
spare scarf and Buff
2 spare gloves
one 60m Beal Ice Twin
Patagonia Knifeblade pullover
Patagonia Nano Puff pullover
RAB Generator Alpine Jacket
1 liter Nalgene bottle
a pair of Petzl Dartwins
a pair of Petzl Nomics

James Blench on the hourglass of Deltaform, early '80s.
Gregg Cronn photo