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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Arc’teryx Alph FL Review

"The abseil off the Aiguille Du Midi Bridge into the Cunningham Couloir"
Nice Toque there Dave!

Arc’teryx Alph FL Review by Dave Searle.

I’m not really a huge fan of waterproofs for climbing being as most of the time I don’t climb in the rain.  As Mark Twight eloquently put it in Extreme Alpinism “if its raining in the mountains, you should just go home”.   I agree.  However summer alpinism isn’t that predictable and more times than I can count I have had a good drenching on the walk out.

When I first laid my hands on the Alpha FL I knew it was going to be a winner and is probably going to accompany me on lots of my alpine adventures.   I have been using it for a few months now ski touring and steep skiing and it’s worked really well.  It really is no frills. No pit zips, only one generous chest pocket, no wired hood and even the zip pulls are just  bit of coloured dental floss!  It doesn’t even have a zip gutter on the main zip because the zip itself is waterproof enough.  I was a bit worried that the zip might not stand up to serious windy wet weather but to be honest I don’t really care.  Wind is one thing and rain is another but together and you wouldn’t see me leaving the house for much more than a dash to the shops.  If, however, I was climbing in Scotland and I knew it was going to be grim (which it normally is) then I might pack something a bit more bombproof but that’s not what this jacket is trying to achieve.  Even then I still think I would grab the Alpha FL because it has a good balance of being burly without all that extra useless stuff….like hand warmer pockets.   Who needs hand warmer pockets when either climbing or belaying? I don’t and I think if you ask yourself then you’ll probably agree you don’t either.  Extra unnecessary weight for sure.  Ueli agrees…..

Three layer Goretex in it's own stuff sack.

Active shell is gore’s most breathable fabric and it hasn’t let me down so far.  I’ve yet to reach the point of thinking “I wish I had pit zips” without just whipping it off and shoving it in the tiny stuff sack provided.  The outer fabric on the Alpha Fl seems pretty sturdy to.  Not a mark on it after tree skiing and scrabbling about on granite for a few months, the two things which are guaranteed to end the life of a lightweight waterproof prematurely. 

The hood is good and it of course fits over a helmet well and reduces down on a bare head neatly. The chin piece isn’t as high as some other jackets I’ve seen but it still covers enough.  As I said it doesn’t have a wired peak but it is stiff enough for that not to matter.   The arm articulation is great, the sleeves don’t ride up my arms at all and the hem stays put.  Exposed waist and wrists is a common problem I face with jackets due to my disproportionately long arms.

So it’s not the lightest waterproof jacket in the world at 295g but it isn’t that far behind either!  I defy any sub 250g jacket to withstand half of what I have put this jacket through in two months.  A little extra weight can go a long way in durability for sure.  Definite thumbs up from me here.   Oh and purple is the new green I have been informed. J

Dave using the Alpha FL in the Cunningham Couloir 

Vince Anderson Interview?

From Morten Johansen.  You can listen to it here:

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

The Access Fund?

Please excuse the weird formatting here.  For the life of me I couldn't get this letter to appear correctly on the blog.  Message is good though and worth a look. cheers, Dane

"Dear Climbers,

I’ve had the opportunity and pleasure to climb freely in the Red River Gorge. 
This beautiful area boasts a plethora of world-class climbs from easier moderatesto top-notch challenges, including one of my latest achievements—Pure Imagination5.14d.

Whether you’re climbing 5.6 or 5.14, the Access Fund needs the help of climbers 
like us to ensure that there are always places available for us to push our 
limits and to enjoy the great outdoors.

I am writing to encourage you to join the Access Fund—the national advocacy organization that keeps climbing areas open and conserves the climbing environment. Today the Access Fund has over 10,000 members (climbers just like you and me) and affiliates whose support helps protect America’s climbing. This year, they’ll host more than 160 climbing trail and crag cleanup days, and lobby on federal, state, and locallevels to ensure continued access to climbing on public lands. They will also work with private landowners to preserve access to the areas we all love to climb—like the Red River Gorge.
*But there’s more to do.* Become a member of the Access Fund today and be a part ofthe largest climbing advocacy movement in America. For $35, you’ll join the ranks of climbers who respect the land, and our sport. And, thanks to the generous 
support of my sponsor, Petzl, you’ll get a FREE Attache locking carabiner, while 
supplies last! Just enter *Promo Code PETZL04.

The Access Fund exists for you. 

And your membership makes all the difference. Please join today.

Thanks in advance for your support, and welcome!"

See you out

Sasha DiGiulian
Access Fund Member & Sponsored Athlete

P.S. Enter *Promo Code PETZL04* to receive your FREE locking biner!

How is your French?

Monday, May 14, 2012

Climbing pack in Cham?

With the recent Cold Thistle theme being centred around climbing packs I thought I’d put in a word or to as well. 

Last year and the year before my climbing pack was the Black Diamond RPM 26.  It was more or less the ideal Chamonix climbing pack and served me well on many good days out from big north faces to sunny rock climbing and hauling 25litres of water on training runs.  Its simple clean design, low weight and smart features where a real winner.  The material is good, tough enough to withstand granite chimneys (cheese graters) without being too heavy.  With two side pockets and a small lid pocket stashing gloves and snacks is easy and with a simple yet effective draw cord compression on the front shedding a layer is easy to.  It was however difficult to carry a rope on the outside (necessary if your packing bivy stuff) and the zip top closure was slightly worrying.  I never had any problems but when the teeth start to sit funny it’s pretty scary to think it could burst open at any time landing you in deep trouble. 

I have recently replaced the BD with a Blue Ice Warthog 26.  26 litres seems to me to be the perfect size for a climbing pack out here in Chamonix.  If you need anything bigger you’re either doing something wrong or something very hard!  The only time I needed a bag bigger last year was on my failed attempt on the Desmaison/Gouseault with would have required two bivi’s on the North Face of the Grandes Jorasses.

I much prefer the lid system on the Warthog which makes carrying a rope a breeze with the separate strap and the helmet carrier is a great idea to, something that the RPM was missing . The Ice ace loops are simple but work really well.  I have even jerry rigged the Rope carrying strap combined with a ski strap through the lower Ice Axe loop to make a rudimentary but effective ski carrying system.  It worked fine with my 108 waisted ski’s and held the ski’s in the perfect cross carry position for bootpacking. 

The material on the Warthog is tougher and a lot more durable so it should last longer than my RPM and also would take the odd hauling session if required.   The removable light waist belt is good to (the same as the RPM).  I never climb with a waist belt but it is good to have one for those long slogs up to the bottom of the Jorasses. 

The quality of Warthog is superb too.  It’s still going strong after half a season of use and abuse without any signs of wear.  I’m looking forward to giving it as much use and seeing how it fairs!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Climbing Packs part 4

Steve House on the N. Face of Alberta, April of 2008
Custom CCW pack made to order.  photo courtesy of Vince Anderson

Screen snap shot from a video featuring Colin Haley in the Spring of 2011, Chamonix,
Patagonia prototype pack, no lid.  Same pack Colin and Mikey Shaefer used on Devil's Thumb.  And the pack Colin used in lectures for show and tell here in Seattle.

This is the last blog in a 4 part series on climbing packs.  It really isn't fair of me to emphasize the fact of just how good basic packs are with pictures of Steve House, Colin Haley, Vince Anderson and Mikey Schaefer all using similar type packs for their own climbing.  There are dozens of other pack manufactures out there and lots of extremely good alpinists using much more complicated packs.  I have nothing to gain from promoting these simple pack ideas.  And the same pack ideas were around when I started climbing, long before Twight, House or Haley began their own adventures.   

But these guys are picky about their own gear and can use or have anything they want made.  Which for me means it is likely worth paying attention from time to time to what they are using.

You need to look close in the left hand margins of this picture but Vince Anderson's pack on Alberta is there as well.

Steve with the lid on while on Alberta.

photos courtesy of Vince Anderson

But the pack style isn't just for the super stars.  Here is another set of packs I mentioned previous.  Stock CCW Ozone on the left in red ballistics cloth and a custom CCW climbing pack on the right in the Spectra grid.  Good side by side size comparison for volume. 

packs and photo courtesy of Ryan@bfmgs

More here:

And finally two more custom CCWs.  My stripped version that weights in at 22oz.    My point here is don't believe the ad hype.  When you start looking at climbing pack weights  make sure you actually weigh your choices or go to someone you can trust to give you the weights.  I have listed most of the major players in the blog at some point.  

Five, 60 meter ropes in this one and 30#

Even at 22oz my custom version is a amazingly tough in Spectra and not a tiny pack.

Nastia's  new, custom version of the Ozone with a 17" back sewn up in Spectra ripstop with compression straps, crampon patch and straps with a lid attached on the left.   It weighs in at 28oz with the lid, removable foam back pad and all.   Nastia's  custom Ozone is a much smaller pack than my 21"  backed custom CCW.  Which makes perfect sense as I am 6'1" and she is 5'4".

In the alpine, where this style of pack excels. 
Photo courtesy of OlegV

Michael Wejchert's  custom Cold Cold World Ozone loaded for late-season ice climbing.  "Inside are boots, extra layers, two water bottles, and my puffy. Under the lid are my crampons and helmet. I love how the lid stretches to accommodate a helmet or rope." 

Lid in the pack..easy. 

The tool attachment system: shock cord, essentially. Four bar-tacked tabs give some options for ice tools or a foam pad for single-push climbs and the like. Randy made sure the tabs were big enough for carabiners also. Totally removable for summertime rock climbing.

More here on Michael's custom version:

Monday, May 7, 2012