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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Sunday, September 30, 2012

La Sportiva Olympus Mons, dbl boots part 4

The last of the blogs on currently easy to acquire (at least in North America) dbl boots.

But if you are here best to take a look at the other 3 contenders as well.  Also worth typing "double boots" or your specific model of interest (like "Spantik" or "Baruntse" or "Scarpa 6000") into the search engine on the blog.  There is more on every boot and some inner boot and fitting tips for all of them.

OK, the details?  First you will want to know that the SHELL of the "Oly Mon" is 90g or 3.17 oz @ 1230g heavier than the  Spantik SHELL @  1230g in my size 45s.  The fit of both boots is similar but not exactly the same.  The Oly Mans is a loose fit in the front of the boot.  It is not a snug technical fit.  But it will still climb anything most will want to use this boot on and much more imo.  If you have wide feet it just might be a good answer for really cold weather boots.  The Spantik on the other hand is a ratehr tight and technical fit on my size 12 and very narrow feet.  I find the Oly Mon actually more comfortable and easier to walk in.  Your foot also sets closer to the ground in the Oly Mons compared to the Spantik which is part of that.  I weighed only the shells here because I will use a Baruntse Palau liner in both boots for the best fit, more durable and easiest to use inner boot.

Even with the very thin lug soles on the Oly Mons sole (the reason you are closer to the ground) I have to wonder what that does for the warmth of the boot?

The lace system on the Oly Man is at least as easy to use than the Spantik.  Which is great for the conditions you would want to use this boot.  No flies there on either boot.  The Oly Mons is a VERY warm boot and has the volume to convince you of that fact.  The Oly Mons is 6.5" around the instep where my Spantik measures 5" in the same place.  Another 1.5" of insulation.   Sole length is virtually the same @ 13.25" on my 45s though so they aren't longer just more volume on the top of the boot to keep your feet insulated and warm.

Hard to visualize but the Oly Mans is likely 25% bigger or more by volume (which is what will keep you warm everything else being equal) over the Spantik.

Hard to believe the Spantik is a "little' boot when compared to the Oly Mons.   But it really is.

In his excellent article on Alaska climbing and gear my Brit friend Jon Griffith suggested, "If you want to climb technical routes then, for me, it's really it's just a choice between the Scarpa 6000 and La Sportiva Spantik. If you are going to be moving a bit slower then you'll really want to look into the big selection of high altitude boots available."

One of the few things Jon and I might disagree on.   No surprise as others might disagree with me  as well.   At least for alpine climbing on routes of moderate difficulty by today's standards like the Cassin and other routes in Alaska where is really is as "cold as it gets" nothing wrong with having the warmest boot you can fine.  If you aren't paying a huge weigh penalty to use them. With the Oly Mons there is little or no weight penalty compared to what you are getting.  I have not played with the others in the "big selection of high altitude boots available".  But by any account the Olympus Mons Evo  (Oly Mon) is one of the high altitude boots Jon is writing about above.

Easiest boot for me to compare the Oly Mon to is the Spantik.  The lacing in the Oly Mon is easier for me than even the Spantik (simple Velcro tab) to and get a great fit.  You don't have to really crank it down all that hard.  Which I do on the Spantik to get as good of fit.  But you can snug the Oly Mons down when required.  The foam and fabric "outer" boot seems to form around the inner easier (either inner) and give very good support for technical climbing for a boot this size.  And I still have good toe room which will equate to extra warm.   The gaiter is a little funky. (and nothing should be "funky" on a $1000 boot for crimney sake)   To actually use mine any where the warmth would be required would also mean a trip to the cobbler to have the gaiter taken in first on the the lower leg in for a more snug and tapered fit.  If for no other reason than to keep the snow out.  Easy, but really?  Why do I NEED to do this on a $1000 boot?

The gaiter's zipper and Velcro closure is good.  The top closure not so good and not adjustable.  Even when I had a couple of more inches in my calves prior to chemo the elastic top was only snug with something akin to a down suit on.  But the the gaiter is slim enough for even a klutz like me to generally keep my crampons out of the gaiter.  The gaiter's  closure needs some work and I'd rather have an even more tapered gaiter or something that I could adjust the gaiter width with.

The gaiter will also had an immense amount of warmth to these boots if you have to break trail or just wallow in the cold Alaskan powder behind your partner.  But no over boot to fuss with and nothing to add.  It is a simple system really.  This boot is also one I would look at using a basket front attachment for crampons.  Much easier to use in really cold conditions and very secure.  Not required but worth thinking about.

Make no mistake the Oly Mon is a very specialized boot.  Perfectly suited for Everest or Denali's Cassin or West Butt in April and May.    Some compromises have been made to up the warmth and keep the weight down.   The sole rubber is made of very soft and a very sticky rubber toe cap.  This boot is made to use on snow and with crampons.  Use them on a gravel trail or a rubble field and you'll quickly wear them out.

But if you need to do some reasonably technical mixed and you know the sticky rubber and good feel will be there if required.  

Good review of what this boot will do on technical ground that mortals can make comparisons to here:

I really like this boot.  I don't like the price tag (*$990 retail) but then Porsches and Cervelos are in a similar market niche.  The best you can get and not for everyone or every use.  For most I think it is a better boot than the other three listed previous for any climb on Denali or above 6000m in the coldest  ranges.  Others will disagree.  I've never used a boot even remotely this warm or this light in 8 trips to the Alaska range.  But I would like to once I get the gaiter sorted out.

I always found you could go pretty light up high if your feet are going to stay warm.

To be honest if I could only afford one pair of dbl boots the price point and my budget would likely  decide for me which boot I would use on Denali the next time.  For the harder technical lines if I were quick I'd take the Spantik or 6000.  For a 3 or 4 or day climb of the Cassin or a casual trip up the West But?  The Oly Mons would be my boot of choice above 10K.   If I were going to Denali and had room on the credit card I'd likely order all four of the boots mentioned in the dbl reviews from Backcountry or Zappos (someone with easy returns) and try them all on and THEN decide.  Once you have made your own choice send the rest back for the credit.

The La Sportiva company line?

This super lightweight double boot has a PE thermal insulating inner boot that is coupled with a thermo-reflective outer boot with an integrated gaiter.
We used a super insulating lightweight PE outsole to keep the weight down and the TPU midsole is excellent for crampon compatibility and stability on steep terrain.
IDEAL TERRIAN: High altitude 8000 meter peaks

WEIGHT: 39.86 oz • 1130 g
LAST: Olympus Mons
OUTER BOOT: Cordura® upper lined with dual-density PE micro-cellular thermal insulating closed cell foam and thermo-reflective aluminium facing/ Insulated removable footbed/ Vibram® rubber rand
INNER BOOT: Water repellant breathable upper with polyamide external layer/ Dual-density PE thermal insulating micro-perforated ventilated foam/ Tri-dimensional structured polyester lining combined with pile
GAITER: Breathable Cordura®/ Kevlar anti-perforation fabric/ Riri Storm® zipper (UV resistant & waterproof)
INSOLE: 5mm Carbon Fiber + 2.5mm PE micro-cellular thermal insulating closed cell foam topped with a thermo-reflective aluminum layer reinforced with perforated hydrophobic non-woven facing
SOLE: Insulating Vibram® PE w/ rubber toe inserts
COLOR: Yellow/Black
SIZES: 39 - 47 (half sizes)

Owner's handbook and  MUST READ about this boot.

(same inner as the Spantik BTW)

Heat Moldable Liner Important Instructions:
La Sportiva recommends that you read the following instructions carefully before proceeding to heat mold your boot. The company does not accept any responsibility for damage caused to third parties due to incorrect use of product. La Sportiva recommends that heat molding is carried our at a specialist shop.
Steps to follow for the correct adaptation of the shoe to your foot:
1) Turn on the oven and set to the ideal temperature of 130 degrees C.
2) Put the La Sportiva liner in the oven and leave to warm up for 10/12 minutes.
3) Make sure the external boot shell is completely open and that it is kept at room temperature.
4) Insert the foot bed into the liner to determine the "top-cap" height within the boot. Use a sock to help the foot slide easily into position.
5) Remove the liner from the oven and insert your foot. Make sure that the underfoot seams present are not deformed. Proceed as quickly as possible so that the lining does not cool down thus losing its properties.
6) Fasten the liner tightly.
7) Allow the foot to slip within the liner and the liner shell, keeping the gaiter open. Be careful not to damage the liner in any way.
8) Make sure the heel is well positioned towards the back of the liner.
9) Buckle the external shell with just sufficient adjustment in tension and set the boot aside until completely dry (about 10 minute)
After Care:
  • Remove the liner after every outing
  • Allow the boot to dry naturally, never by a heat source
  • Avoid over heating the liners. Store in a cool dry place during the summer months
  • The liners can be hand washed in cold water

    Friday, September 28, 2012

    Climbing fitness?

    Yes, that warm up really was 18 pull ups!    I searched out and talked with John a couple years ago knowing he had over come the same injury I had at the time, which was complete distal detachment of both bicep.  IIRC his advice was something like, "after surgery, suck it up and get back out there!"  I think he was in his mid 60s at the time and already back doing what you see here after those injuries.  Inspirational video.

    Thursday, September 27, 2012

    AAR on Manaslu from Glenn Plake

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    EpicTV Weekly 22: Manaslu Avalanche: Glen Plake's Story from EpicTVAdventure on Vimeo.

    Sunday, September 23, 2012

    Avalanche on Manaslu

    Avalanche on Manaslu: Glen Plake is Alive, Rémy Lécluse, Greg Costa and many others are still Missing.

    More here:

    Saturday, September 22, 2012


    I spend a lot of time measuring things.  I measure my work in steel to .0001" or better.  I get a consistent body weight every morning at a certain time to .1 of a pound.   I want to know how hard I can climb on rock to the letter grade or how fast I run a 5 K to the second.

    I want to know if I am in the black on a target.  Is it in the X ring or just a 10.  I want to know how many pull ups and sit ups I can do and my blood pressure and resting HR every morning.  My Max HR on the bike and on a run.  And I want to know what my dbl boots and my bikes weigh to the gram.

    I measure because I want to do better.  If you aren't measuring how do you know if you are doing better?   The fact is you don't.   The flip side of that is if you aren't getting better you are getting worse.  If you don't measure you don't know what is better or what is worse.  There is nothing that takes any kind of physical skill that stays the same for long.  Use it or loose it.  Measuring it will help you keep it or better yet get better at it.

    Cancer, Climbing and Endurance Sports.

    Bald as a cue ball but thrilled @ my first day out in the mtns last spring

    Cancer is a discussion I would have avoided like the plague a year ago.  Even with family members dying from it I was intentionally in denial when the subject came up.  Just didn't want to go there for any reason.

    When I was diagnosed the two things that scared me the most I was going to get through the treatment and how I would rebuild after the treatment.  Yep, admittedly, it became all about me from day one.

    From day one my Doctors told me that I would loose 25% of my body mass in 7 weeks.  Once I got my head around that number and figured out just what it would mean I was worried.  And they were spot on at the end result.  The current crop of oncologists know how to kill cancer.  Keeping the patient alive while still being able to enjoy life after the "CURE" is the real issue after the fact is my thought, then and now.  That at least from my admittedly limited experience.  They (the Docs) have little clue on how to deal with the aftermath.  On the recovery end of things I am healthy now in spite of my Oncology staff not because of them.

    I am alive today, but without treatment, last year's prognosis was I would be dead by now.  I had asked....back in Sept of '11.

    As I always say...what works for me may not work for you.  

    So I am using this forum and the traffic generated here to make Internet searches easier for those like myself that were/are looking for a info about treatment and the aftermath experience of  "Cancer, Climbing and Endurance Sports."  Not that I am an expert on any of that.  But *ANY* info is hard to find.  Good info from those that have BTDT even harder if my experience is any example.

    I know several guys with a wealth of experience in training all sorts of athletes, endurance athletes in particular.  Some with world wide reputations doing so.   To my surprise none of them had any worth while experience with cancer or cancer patients.   Every CANCER is different as is every treatment protocol.  So it is no wonder they came up empty handed.

    There are several million women who have benefited from the Danskin Series.

    More yet from Livestrong both men and women.

    I looked at both.  And my wife and I spent hours on the Internet looking for useful info  and talking with sources that  many sent me too.  (Thanks Brian ;-)  The biggest help by far?  My nursing staff.  Make sure you ask yours the questions that are nagging you.

    This week as I was doing my 2nd PET scan another climber and cancer survivor (Rusty) sent me an email.  Both of those events made me rethink writing more on

    That blog is now an open forum, anyone can post or ask questions.  There are no filters.

    It is a bit of a mess at the moment but I will start adding climbing and endurance sport related comments as I have time.  Guest blogs from those that have BTDT are welcome!  I am hoping it will become a good resource so no one has to go through the same dark tunnel I did.

    Friday, September 21, 2012

    Typical day in the Alps?!

    May be for the "Machine" ;-)

    Thursday, September 13, 2012

    Sun glasses part One?

    There was, once upon a time, an era in gear where you could have bit of kit that could do most everything well.   Or so it seemed.

    Funny when you look into the minutia how things have changed.  Sunglass innovations over the last 50 years being no different than anything else we climb with today.

    Let me start with another preamble.  What works for me may not work for you!  I leave on the wet side, in the foot hills of the Cascades...a short drive from Seattle.  When we do get bright sun light here it is surrounded by green.  A sea of green in fact.  So even bright sun light here is tempered by the lush green surrounds that are easy on the eyes.   That is good for me as I have very blue/gray eyes.  Blue eyes are no the best in bright light.  I typically don sun glasses earlier and leave them on longer than friends with a darker eye color.  

    On snow or water I want a pretty dark lens.  On days when others might not notice the sun I'll still want some protection from the sun.

    What I got in the past was a glacier glass that was either generally too dark, like the Varnet Cat Eyes in the picture above at 11K on Denali's West Butt.  More likely I would use  a lens that was some what lighter in shade that wasn't great mid day but could be used dawn to dusk.

    Galiber Glacier glasses on the left with light colored lens used spring bc skiing.

    The same Galiber Makalu glasses on the summit of Liberty Cap.

    At least for me in the mountains, the Varnet, no matter how fashionable, the lens was nearly always just a bit too dark.  The Galiber lens generally too light in bright mid day sun.   Both were glass lens.  But the Galibier would fold flat, had a very durable metal frame that packed into a no frills aluminum case.  I used those glasses for years of climbing.  Finally selling them recently on Ebay for $300 to a mountaineering paraphernalia collector.  The same glasses that sold in the mid '70s for $38.00.  Galiber's "best" version, The Everest,  was photo sensitive and sold for $50 when a Chouinard piolet sold for $35.    Sold knowing full well, today I could do better  for eye protection.

    I've used (and still do) various models of Oakley sunglasses since the companies inception.  The shooting sports were the first place I saw polycarbonate lens quickly take over the market for eye protection.  Oakleys have literally saved my eyes more than one while shooting.   There you take the "protection" seriously if you want to keep your eye sight.

    But as good as the early Oakleys were for eye protection while shooting I never found them particularly suitable in the mountains.  They were bulky, fragile and just didn't offer the protection I needed on snow.   I haven't seen that change enough to convince me look at Oakley again for mountain glasses.  And at their current price points for what you are getting...I have left the brand behind for my own use cycling, triathalon or running glasses as well.   There are better glasses in my opinion for every use and much better values to be had.

    But let's look back a bit before looking forward to what is easily available now.

    Glass lenses?  You would be hard pressed to find a glass lenses these days.  Varnet and Maui Jim being two exceptions.  And both lens worth the effort and money imo.  I have glasses from both that are now 20 years or older and still in perfect condition.


    Here's are some advantages to certain colors and the best sports for each color:
    Sunglass Lens Tint Color

    Yellow or orange
    Provide less overall brightness protection, but excel in moderate-to-low level light conditions. They provide excellent depth perception, which makes them perfect for skiing, snowboarding and other snow sports. They also enhance contrasts in tricky, flat-light conditions.cycling (yellow is excellent for seeing better in fog); indoor basketball; handball; hunting; racquetball; shooting; snow sports: skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling; tennis.

    Amber, rose or red
    Makes the world seem brighter. They provide excellent low-light visibility and enhance contrast (perfect for skiing and snowboarding in cloudy conditions). They also enhance the visibility of objects against blue and green backgrounds, which makes them ideal for driving or exploring in forested areas.cycling; fishing (amber lenses for when you can see the bottom of the lake or stream); hunting; shooting; snow sports: skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling; water sports.

    Dark amber, copper or brown
    Blocks high amounts of blue light to heighten contrast and visual acuity. Particularly useful to improve contrast on grass and against blue; cycling; fishing (especially in waters with grassy bottoms); golf; hunting; skiing; water sports.

    Heightens contrast (mildly) while preserving color; golf.

    Color-neutral, which means they cut down on overall brightness without distorting colors. These darker shades are intended primarily to cut through the glare and reduce eyestrain in moderate-to-bright conditions.all outdoor sports in bright sunny conditions.

    Ya, I find this kind of stuff  funto know when you are going to drop over $100 on glasses.  More yet for a comparison.

    "Lens Color
    Lenses can vary, based on function, style and purpose, and the color you choose can affect more than just your fashion. While fashion is a huge reason people choose styles of sunglasses, picking the right lens will make a tremendous difference in functionality. Additionally, polarized lenses will make as much of a difference as color in terms of reducing glare and optimizing vision. Depending on the sport and the sun conditions, the right lens color will change your vision dramatically.

    Gray and Green – Gray and green colored lenses maintain true colors when looking around and are considered neutral lens options. They are best for bright sunshine.

    Brown - Brown lenses cause minor color distortion, but they also increase contrast. Brown lenses are best for overcast days or flatter light when the sun is still shining.

    Copper – Copper colored lenses are great for medium and high-light because they enhance contrast without creating significant color distortions. Many fishermen choose copper lenses because copper helps bring out the contrasts while keeping the colors real.

    Orange (Vermillion) and Yellow – Orange and yellow lenses are perfect for pilots, fishermen, hunters, marksmen and boaters because they increase contrast and depth perception. They do increase color distortion, so they are not right if you need to see colors clearly. Orange and yellow lenses are best for low-light scenarios (dawn, dusk, or storm days), when you still want some protection from the sun, but your main objective is to add contrast to the surrounding scenery.

    Rose: Great for low-light conditions, rose-colored lenses keep the colors relatively neutral, but they add a bit of contrast in flat light.

    Blue and Purple – Blue and purple colored lenses do not function to enhance vision and are mainly used for fashion purposes. Enough said.

    Clear: While they may seem to serve no purpose, since they don’t in fact block any sun, clear lenses are perfect for night sports. Many night skiers and evening cyclists, as well as night fishermen choose to wear clear lenses. They help keep your eyes from watering and they keep bugs and dust out of your eyes letting you focus on the task at hand."

    I use sun glasses for several activities including, driving, on the bike, running, climbing, shooting and simple eye protection. (ice climbing or shooting)

    So not every sun glass I use works all that well for every use I have.   What works for my blue eyes didn't work at all for my climbing partner of Japanese decent with brown eyes.   In part 2 of  "Sun glasses" I will discuss my observations on glasses new and old from Varnet, Bolle, Cebe, Native, Optic Nerve, Oakley, Maui Jim, Julbo and Bausch & Lomb.  No surprise that I have some favorites from that list.  You might also find my experience with what the various companies have offered for warranties interesting.

    Double boots part 3, The Scarpa 6000

    The Eiger, photo courtesy of Dave Searle collection

    Here is how the current and easily available double boots add up.

    weight of one size 45 boot.

    Scarpa Phantom 6000 with Baruntse liner 2# 8oz /  1134g

    Scarpa Phantom 6000 new 2010 model 2# 10oz / 1190g

    La Sportiva Spantik with Baruntse liner 2# 14oz / 1247g

    La Sportiva Spantik standard liner 3# 1.5oz / 1362g

    La Sportiva Baruntse 3#4oz / 1470g

    La Sportiva Olympus Mons 3#6oz/ 1530g

    No surprise Dave Searle and I are both fans of the 6000.  The intimate details are covered here:

    As are Mark Westman and Jesse Huey

    Friends Jon Giffith and Will Sim are fans as well.

    Jon sez:
    "I suspect that the 6000 is going to be a more pleasurable boot for technical ascents and for cold ice climbing areas but for big mountain routes the Spantiks gains the upper edge for warmth and with extra foot support for big ice fields (think about being on your front points for hours on end and you get the idea). This was especially brought home to me on the Colton Macintyre on the Grandes Jorasses last week when my partner's calves and achilles were screaming and mine were fine. This is by no means a complete comparison between the two but merely an overview as this will no doubt be of interest. However the key thing here is that really they aren't the same boot: if you want something light and technical then the 6000 is the better choice but if you want a more robust boot for the big mountains with a bit more support for romping up ice fields and skiing in then the Spantik would be the winner."

    I've owned and climbed in both Spantiks and 6000.  I would be climbing in the 6000 now if they were offered in true half size. (ya, dream on there)  I just had to make the decision again while replacing boots this fall.  When you have to decide between a bigger shell size (which is significantly larger) instead of a true half size I went back to the Spantik knowing I would have to dick around with the fit again in a smaller shell.  But for me dbls are difficult enough to climb hard technical ground in.   Making an big boot even bigger with a less than perfect fit is no help at all. Given the added weight of a size 46 6000 and dropping weight by using the Baruntse inner in a 45 Spantik,  the weight seemed a wash to me.  Advantage to a proper fit or at least the best fit (making them easier to climb in) on the Spantik.

    Plus I like the fact I have a more durable, warmer and easier to use inner boot with the addition of the Baruntse liner inside the Spantik.  Not happy about the 1/2# in gained weight over the 6000.  It wasn't an easy decision to come to on my part.  I settled for the best fit, for my crampons and my feet.

    If there are any other worth while comments or reviews on either of these two boots I haven't seen them.  If you know of any please forward them will you and I'll add links?

    All these boots are expensive and generally a major expense if your winter climbing demands them.  It is frustrating to me as a consumer to not be able to find more info on them.

    Part 4 is on the the Oly Mons coming shortly. 

    Wednesday, September 12, 2012

    Mt. Alberta...

    Worth the click!