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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Friday, November 30, 2012

Torre Egger?

Yesterday via Face book.  Korra Pesce and Manu Cordova on Torre Egger.  "Hier avec Manu on a eu une journé bien remplie Torre Egger en 23h aller retour de Niponino"

Chapeau !

My bing translation?

Yesterday via Face book. Korra Pesce and Manu Cordova are Torre Egger. "Yesterday with Manu we had a busy day, Torre Egger in 23 h go back Niponino"

Hats off to both of you!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012


If you have read any of my insulated garment reviews and wondered why I bitch so much about what is used by the garment's designers  this may help.  Know what you are buying!  There is a distinct difference in the field and it is EASILY noticeable between the Primaloft insulations.  NO one that is using Primaloft for climbing should accept anything but Primaloft 1.  If you do you are simply getting RIPPED off by cost cutting. If it isn't Primaloft 1 it is less efficient and most importantly in this case less EXPENSIVE insulation for the garment's manufacture. 

It would be nice to see independent tests of the insulation other's use as well.  Arcteryx Coreloft (which I think are very good btw) comes to mind.  Hard data would be better than what I *think* how ever.

"Clo is used by insulation companies as a standard measurement of warmth. Like most imperial measurements such as the yard, foot, or inch, the origins of a clo value are quite curious. At its origins, one "clo" represent the amount of insulation required to keep a man in a business suit comfortable in an indoor room at 70 degrees F. Not very specific, right?
In the modern world, one “clo” is the comfortable temperature of a clothed resting person in a room at 70 degrees F. The clo value is mathematically related to the R-value, so there is no longer an overarching generality for the measurement. "

Primaloft One 0.92 dry / .90 wet, clo/oz

Primaloft Sport  0.79 dry /.72 wet, clo/oz

Synergy .73 dry / .61 wet, clo/oz

ECO .68 dry/ .60 wet, clo/oz

800 fill down having a clo/oz of about 1.1.

-800+ fill power down is 1.68 clo/oz at the density used in most UL manufactures products

PrimaLoft ONE®
 .92 clo/oz./yd2 (test data by Hoehnstein Testing Labs in Germany)
 · Available weights: 40g, 60g, 100g, 133g, 170g, 200g (grams per square meter)

Q: Is PrimaLoft close to being the equivalent of down?
A: You can get anywhere from 450-fill-power down to 900-fill-power down. Look at pinnacle (superior) down products—900 at the top of the pyramid, 450 and 500 along the bottom. Then look at the pinnacle synthetics, and PrimaLoft One is the best synthetic insulation you can buy. The pinnacle synthetic only crosses over to the down chart near the bottom end of the down pyramid. We usually equate PrimaLoft One as the equivalent of down in the 500 to 550 range. (others say more like 450)  You could not replace a 900-filll-power down garment with PrimaLoft One and expect to get the same performance in dry conditions. However, wet down doesn't even come close to the bottom end of the synthetic pyramid in regard to thermal performance. As soon as you get down wet, you lose a lot of its thermal properties.

More here:

Gear for Sale

I'll be adding more gear, clothing and boots and deleting the items that have sold on a daily basis for the next week or so.  Happy to ship Internationally if you are willing to pay the postage.

More here if interested:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Petzl hammers, one last time!

Seen on some of the most experienced Petzl tools in the world.  And much more still to come this season.  A truly classic and well tested design worthy of the Nomic.  

Summit ice slopes, N. Face of the Eiger and CT hammers.

The current production run of CT hammers is not ready yet.  But will be sent for heat treat mid December 2012.  Likely the last batch I will produce.  Certainly the last batch till at least fall of 2013.  They are another generation better and even more user friendly!   No dicking around on the fit. Simply bolt them on with the current Petzl picks. A new stronger and more durable design. These will fit perfectly on the old or new Noimcs.  They will also fit on the new Quarks and new Ergo with the current production picks.  Milled one at a time from tool steel and then heat treated to specific hammer hardness. Full head coverage, 4mm thick and only 32g per hammer with little effect on the tools balance and swing weight.

NOTE! October 22, 2012 the last batch  was being mailed out.....inventory lasted  till  Nov. 9. 

No longer in production, sorry.

"THE" belay jacket?

Eddie Bauer  BC Micro Therm Down Parka, Canadian Rockies
Down insulation with a water proof shell in really cold temps.  Perfect!
The guys I have climbed with a long time have seldom seen me in a belay jacket.  And until recently (the last decade)  you wouldn't find one in my pack generally.   The first time I heard of a "belay specific" jacket was in Twight's "EXTREME ALPINISM".  Oh sure I carried a big down parka on occasion but I can could easily count the times I used one actually climbing on one hand.   
The majority of time I used those jackets to sleep in or add extra insulation to my sleeping bag by draping it over the top of me in the tent.  Climb in them...not a chance.  Too warm.  Belay in them?  On and off again?  In and out of the pack?  Going to have to be pretty cold for me to just  takes too much time. 
 Arcteryx Atom Hoody, Feb., Chamonix, France, 100g of Coreloft
I likely have a picture of every time I have ever donned a insulated jacket to climb in.  All but one are recent.  And all were in pretty cold (-15C or better).  And funny enough none of those jackets are what I would consider even mid weights.  More like "hooded light weights."    Not having a bigger jacket simply means you have to keep moving to stay warm.  You end up carrying less that way.  My partners and I have generally been able to do that even in the short days mid winter of Dec. and Jan.  
Mt. Snoqualmie, Dec.,WA Cascades, 100g of Primaloft 1
Multiple layers, 100g Primaloft One, MH Compressor Hoody with a
Arcteryx Atom LT mid layer, belaying  @ -20C in Jan.
My point to all of this is, you don't need much.
What you do need is simple.  Really good insulation first.  Primaloft 1 is a good place to start if you like synthetics.  Which I do.  Makes no sense to me to put on a down jacket when you are soaking wet from sweat and expect the down to stay dry.  I save down for the really cold and dry days.  The ones where I don't plan on sweating out my base layers.  I will work at it to make sure I do not and stay dry. 
Don't believe the sales pitch that Primaloft Eco is a great buy.  It isn't as efficient an insulator as Primaloft 1 and it a lot less money for the manufacturer.  Arcteryx's Coreloft or soem of their own insulations are excellent as are a number of other brand specific insulation's.  Again check out the details on the insulation you might be surprised. 
Any combo of 60g to 100g insulation should do the trick for usable warmth.  Full 100g through out or a body of 100g and a hood and sleeves of 60 is nice as well.  Either way check out the insulation combos.  Some really smart designs out there. 
A decent hood that easily covers your choice in helmets and a matching collar that zips up around your neck to protect you when you are sealed in.  Always nice to have a soft chin guard there as well.
Pockets?  I like two hand warmers with zips but no fu-fu please just a nylon liner.  Outside chest pocket or pockets and internal pockets big enough to dry gloves and ideally a smaller one with a zip closure for the small stuff is always nice.
A simple elastic cuff is what I prefer or a more complicated Velcro closure will work on the wrists.
Outer shell material?  Nice if it is durable, breathable and water proof. And a fit that will allow you to keep climbing while the jacket goes over everything you have on.  Throw in a two way front zipper to work around the harness.
RAB Generator Alpine jacket punches most all of those tickets as a LWT jacket.  


  • 30D triple rip stop Pertex® Endurance outer
  • Pertex® Quantum 20D rip stop lining
  • Warm 100g Primaloft® One in body
  • Light 60g Primaloft® One in arms and hood

Need a bit more warmth @ a similar weight? The BC Micro Therm does a great job as well with down insulation.  Jackets that will do everything I have listed here are hard to find.  Harder yet in the 100g insulation weight that I think are the most useful for actual "climbing jackets".   These will make a decent belay jacket that won't have to come out and go back into the pack at ever stance. 


Monday, November 26, 2012

Quality, price and value?

You decide for yourself which ones are important to you.   Just make sure none of them are the monkey on your back.

Cold Thistle is about the alpine stoke.  But it is easy to get stuck on gear.  I have failed on a lot of climbs and actually succeeded on a few as well.   Still, way more failures.    But I have NEVER failed because of a lack of or the wrong choice in gear.  Weather maybe?  But generally it was simply a mental error some where along the line from planning to a lack of will in the final execution.

Only takes one real shitfest in the mountains to realise what ever the bad choices you made they weren't worth the time and money you saved.

Newbies can learn.  Just takes an open mind.  The ones that already know all the answers seem to get stuck more often than not.  Or get even less done.

I found this comment several weeks ago on an Internet forum.

The first comment,
"I never pay full retail, preferring to trade hungry climbers food money for their used gear."

An observation was made:
"So not only do you buy used but generally from climbers who don't have the funds or may be the experience to buy the best or the most useful in the first place?"

Q: Do you plan on climbing in it?

A: "Maybe, very rarely..."

Q: If the jacket is only going to get used occasionally or sit in your pack then things like collar height, type of wrist closure, pocket orientation, or some new down treatment will make no difference to you

A: "Indeed- none of those things matter..."

There are times when the only real concern is the price you pay.  That kind of economy never seems to end well in the long run.  Applied to alpine climbing it might well be painful.

Climbing (especially alpine climbing) is a thinking man's game if you are to be successful.   Nothing that you use or put on is more important than what is between your ears.  Nothing.   A reality check on that particular space is a good place to start when sorting gear, getting in the car and again when you lace up your boots.  Because the reality of it is "everything matters." 

Friday, November 23, 2012

Light weight Mtn boots


Some good ideas just seem to get reinvented on a regular basis.   Back in the day (bitd)  there were real mtn boots you used on snow and ice.  Then there were lwt "rock" boots you use on rock.....if there was a lot of rock like on El Cap a good pair of shoes could make your life easier.  They still can.

But for most (that rock climb now) rock climbing has changed and a "big shoe" has no place in their closet.  More like a rubber soled slipper is more common backed up by a pair of sticky rubber approach shoes.

La Sportiva Mythos on a alpine rock climb in moderate conditions

I use the same system (approach shoe/rock shoe) myself a lot of the time.  But it hasn't always been so.   So another trip down memory lane for those that don't know what what "rock boots" really are.  It might just be worth your time.

Actually what I would prefer to use would be a single pair of shoes car to car.  But if you look at our  "typical" summer routes here in the Cascades  it makes no sense to me.  It hasn't in decades.   So it is generally runners, rock shoes and maybe even a lwt boot depending on the route and distance to be traveled.
 worth a click to see the goat playing in the rocks in this one
Here we might easily have a 10 mile walk on anything from a decent trail to a talus field miles long.  That can easily be followed by a 2000' technical rock climb or more than likely a mixture of crevassed glacier travel, snow fields and maybe a dirty ice gully that is hardly worth taking a tool for but nasty in just a pair of runners.  Much better at times is a decent boot that will take a crampon.
But this is a boot style I have intentionally ignored for years.  I'd rather just wear a lwt runner for anything that requires serious mileage.  Not many boots I want to wear on a 10 mile hike if a decent pair of runners will do. 
But if your climb includes technical rock a step or two down from the limits of your skill level, some snow and may be even some moderate ice this is a boot genre worth looking at.  Summer mixed routes in the Canadian Rockies come to mind as do late season climbs on many of the bigger routes in the Cascades.  The best of these boots are easily up to a quick ascent of all the NW volcanos.  As long as you keep them dry with a good gaiter.
These are the boots in this catagory I have used:
Scarpa Rebel Carbon GTX
One boot, size 45 1# 11.5oz - 782g
North Face Verto S4K GTX
One boot, size 45  1# 15 oz - 879g

Salewa Raven Combi GTX
 One boot, size 45  1# 14 oz - 852g

La Sportiva Trango S EVO GTX
One boot, size 45 1#13oz  - 822g
 The soles are likely the best available for rock climbing in boots. It is the Vibram® MULAZ. Same sole on my beloved Scarpa Ultras ice boots and half a dozen other pairs of mountain boots like the Trango Extreme Evo. All the soles are closely trimmed and the low profile toes lace low to take every advantage the some what soft and  sticky rubber of the MULAZ.

Worth noting that all the boots here are lined with Gortex as well.  This style of boot is so popular in Europe that virtually every serious boot maker has a model that is similar.  Add Goretex, the Mulaz Vibram sole and give the boot a ledge on the back for crampons and seemingly you are in business.

I like the Scarpa because of the weight (but only 3.5oz between them all or 7oz for a pair)  and the extremely low profile fit on my foot.  IMO it is the best @  climbing difficult rock.  But the Trango is by far the most proven of these boots and hard to beat on any terrain the others are useful in.   I also like the Raven because I think it is a bit warmer. It is also the biggest boot by volume.

 The North Face version only slightly smaller.   I hadn't climbed Liberty Ridge in a while and took the Salewa there last summer.  I failed but not because of my choice in footware.   DC was an easy hike C2C in the Salewa and I had warm, dry feet the entire day.  Nice to be comfy in lwt kicks at the end of the day.  I couldn't complain about the fit in any of these boots.  All are comfortable on my foot.  Which is unusual.  How quickly the soles will break in and start to flex too much?  Anyone's guess.  Although the Rebel does have the only carbon mid sole in the bunch.

All are warm enough for a "dry" summer ascent of Rainier imo.  And stiff enough to climb snow with out crampons if required.   But they were designed for climbs that will be a mixture of moderate technical rock and moderate snow and ice, not glacial slogs.  It doesn't really matter what I like of the selection here.  teh boots are useless unless they fit YOUR feet.  So if you like the idea of this style of boot, look around.  I suspect one of them will fit you.  If not there are others that are very similar to choose from.

The last pair of boots similar to these I had used were the old blue Galibier Robbin's boots from the '70s and then a Vasque Shoenard.   Any of these are a big step up from those boots and a lot more useful long term I think.  But none of them will rock climb as well either.  But the Scarpa Rebel isn't far off because of the fit, the last of the boot and the carbon mid sole. 

Either way any of them add some warmth and comfort on long days and wet conditons in the mountains..

Trying to dry out the gear...including the camera this time.  A beautiful day out on alpine rock but wet and snowy conditions on the route.  Perfect conditions for any of these boots.

Mera Peak and the Scarpa Phantom 6000

"Mera Peak is a mountain which lies in the Himalayas, in the Sagarmatha region of Nepal. At 6,476 metres (21,247 ft) it is classified as a trekking peak. It contains three main summits: Mera North, 6,476 metres (21,247 ft); Mera Central, 6,461 metres (21,198 ft); and Mera South, 6,065 metres (19,898 ft)."

"Nov. 23, 2012

Hi Dane,

I wrote to your blog a few times to figure out if I should get Phantom 6000 or Spantik for going up Mera Peak. You were very gracious and made all kinds of recommendations. Well, here I am in K-du after a successful summit - in Scarpa Phantom 6000. I'm particularly pleased b/c my feet stayed warm throughout the whole climb (while some other expedition members in Spantiks complained about feeling a little cold). On one occasion, my feet felt the chill but I just wiggled my toes and I never felt anything remotely chilly again.

I really want to thank you because these Scarpas are GOLD. It took all of 30 seconds to get my feet into both of them; lacing up took all of 3 seconds, there was no fussing with laces on the inner boot (very warm!) and I believe I summited with ease b/c I didn't have lead bullets on my feet - just sleek, warm double boots that took zero time to put on and off. Here's a shot of these beauties, loaded with Grivel Cramp-o-Matics (fit like gloves). No blisters, no heel lift, toe bang, nothing, nothing, just awesomeness in size 41 with double socks.

Thank you again for the help!



Congradulations to Xtine!  Well done!

Stuff like this is why I take the time to write the bog,  thanks!

More here on the Phantom 6000 with 3 more detailed reviews:

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Early sliding in Cham..

They are getting on things early...but then that little strip of ice at 1:23 looks pretty good as well :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Reality check?!!

Heads up....there is incoming on target!

I try to remind readers every couple of months that I write this blog for my own pleasure.  What you read here may not be anything helpful to you or your own gear needs.  The blog posts are simply my own observations on gear based on my own needs, observations and experience.  Gear gets donated for reviews. I buy some of it with my own money on sale and I pro deal the rest.  The donated and obvious excess gear gets resold, after I write a review, to help finance another gear purchase or  just gas money for the next climbing trip.  Way better deal for the buyer than the seller generally.  I don't review gear that doesn't interest me.  So you don't see junk here.  It might get a bad comment or two.  But it won't be junk or I wouldn't bother writing it up.  If I take the time to write about it, that means I thought enough of it up front to use it climbing, trial running or on my road bike.  If it is climbing gear (and most of it is) you can bet I looked at it with a critical eye long before stuffing it into my climbing sack.  Pays to remember that when I make lengthy comparisons. 

The previous Julbo sun glass comments are a classic example.  Took me a year before I finally decided I would pay retail for a pair at REI.  Money well spent when I finally did.  I like those kinds of surprises.

I have distinct tastes in gear usually developed over time and from using gear I might actually have consider shite...for a while previously.  Or it might just be my climbing style and lack of committment and strength.

I've made some folks unhappy in the hard goods industry by calling an ice tool or crampon a "spade" when they were less than what I thought they could be.  Better safe than sorry on gear, imo.  Likely getting myself in trouble for doing similar things with boots and clothing now.  If not I will eventually anyway and will again on the hard goods.  I simply try to report what I see and think.  What ever value that may have I am comfortable with.  The blog isn't a job for me.  Although it is often way too much work!  I try to take what I do write, seriously.   So no pulled punches but not elaborate bs either.  I don't get into every detail, just what I find interesting and important to me.  It is how I entertain myself.  No one paying me to do this.

So feel free to disagree or ignore the blog.  I disagree with reviews I read all the time. 

Like it or not you always get what you pay for here :)
So make sure you don't take it all too seriously!

Sunglasses Part 2

Part One is here:

When I sit down and decide to look at any piece of gear critically it is not always clear to me how I use that piece of gear. Sunglasses were no different and may be even more complicated than I first thought they might be. Gear can get pretty specific in its use. Look far enough and you'll find that specific piece of gear's limitations.

So if you are the guy who is happy with a pair of $20 sunglasses you bought at the corner gas station for all your outdoor activities, and nothing wrong with that,  by all means feel free to ignore the rest of this blog post.

I use sun glasses for a few specific sports, running, bike riding, rock climbing and mountaineering. In each of those sports I have differing requirements. Some of my requirements over lap. But given the opportunity to try out a lot of sun glasses over the last few months and thinking about them as  a blog post allowed me to more clearly see the differences and more clearly define my own preferences. You may or may not agree.  From this experience I've better identified what I want in a pair of sun glasses and where I'll spend my money when it comes time to replace what I have.

Frames and lens styles first:

Running? I like a lwt pair of glasses for this, with good ventilation.

Older pair of M Frame Oakleys.   I bought these in 1995 and have used them for shooting, running and on my bikes.  Weight is  24g.

Anti fog lenses and a "sticky" nose pieces are a bonus, as are "sticky" ear pieces.

The current Julbo Trek, weight is 34g. with out the side shields or head band.  Excellent ear piece, and nose piece design.  I found the removable foam lined brow sweat band exceptional and very useful on the bike.  The best attention to design detail of all the glasses I looked at.

Great "sticky" ear pieces on the Bolle Diablo.  With a flexible nose piece to match. Interesting screen side shields for a glass intended specifically for the mountains.  And really pleasant lens to use.  Retail is $160.  But no question Bolle had some of the best lens offered here if my eyes can tell me anything.

So even with the jarring movements and pounding of running the glasses stay in place on your face. The only need to survive a ride on my face or pushed back on the top of my head.

The bike? This is for my road bike so your mileage may vary. Same requirements as running for the most part. But in addition I want a full wrap around lens, ballistic protection from road debris and am not nearly as concerned about the over all weight. Although lighter in weight is always better imo to increase comfort. Because of the controlled environment I am also less concerned about the durability of my riding glasses. They go on when I leave the house and seldom come off again until I am putting the bike away and taking off my shoes. They are expected to survive the occasional ride on the bike helmet or in a jersey pocket.

4 pair of "Optic Nerve" glasses.  Exceptional buys IMO at the Optic Nerve price points.
I first starting using their glasses unknowingly with bike glasses relabeled by  the Performance Bike, chain stores bought on sale.

 Climbing? For a day out bouldering or cragging most any pair of glasses will do. But I have used a simple "cat eye" pair with a neck cord here a lot. The glass lens will last a lot longer than any synthetic lens in a dusty and dirty environment imo. For cragging I like something simple that will fold flat and go in a pocket. No side shields so I have full vision in use and a simple neck cord so I can drop the glasses and let them hang and keep climbing.

I still use the now very retro Vuarnet cat eyes.  The only glass lens that I still use on a regular basis.
They have a pretty dark lens and frames are tough.  There are a few options now on the lens tint.   The original lens (or mine anyway) were the Skilynx.  If you take care of them a pair will last a long time.   On a bright sunny day on brilliant granite still a hard one to beat for eye protection.

You can still buy them for around  $100/$150 directly from France.  Just for the level of sun protection and their durability a "best buy" I think.  Not for everyone I am sure.  Mine are on their third frame in 30 years of tough use!  Likely the only piece of kit that old I still use on a regular basis.  To me that says a lot.  Being able to get replacement frames on a style over 50 years old now should tell you just how good these glasses and the lens technology are I think.  Retro?  You bet!

In the 1960 Winter Olympic games in Squaw Valley, Jean Vuarnet won the gold medal for the downhill. He had also won the bronze in the same event in the Skiing World Championships. 
Vuarnet Sunglasses came into being from the meeting of two great opticians Roger Pouilloux and Joseph Hatchiguian who invented the Skylinx lens in 1957. They then made a proposal with Jean Vuarnet have their sunglasses bear his name during the 1960 Winter Olympics.

The original glass version weighs 30g.  A plastic lens version is 22g.  A similar cat eye framed Maui Jim with a glass lens is 42g. 

Next up are the mountaineering glasses:

Julbo Trek with the Zebra / Cat. 2-4

Mountaineering? First and foremost I want eye protection here. So a wrap around lens and side shields are mandatory. But the side shields need to be easily removable. Really good venting will help here as well.  Through the lens or through the frame.  Whistles and bells like multiple head band types, easily removable side shields, removeable brow sweat bands,  goggle like shields, adjustable ear pieces, photo sensitive lens and all the other toys will be seen here.  All for a cost and extra weight to be sure. Light over all weight is useful but keeping the glasses on my head even more so. They need to be durable and easy to pack. A neck cord is mandatory as well. Here is where I start using the term "goggle" as what I prefer now is a lot more it seems than a simple "sun glass".  

The Julbo, Bivouak, mountain model.   Built into the frame nose pieces and detachable magnetic side shields.   Not as detailed or as comfortable as the Trek.  Likely a bit more durable.  The excellent Zebra lens are photochromic and vented through the sides as well.  The ear pieces are easily adjustable by hand to any shape required.   Retail is $160.  Weight is 36g with side shields.

Optic Nerve, "Roger That" model,  mountain glasses with easily removable side shields and a retail of  $69 retail.  Yes, Sixty Nine American dollars.   Weight is 24g without side shields 28g with.  And a "best buy" imo.

OK here is what I got out of all this.   First off I really like the photo sensitive lens.   Even in the brightest sunlight here in the NW in the city or on a glacier mid day I liked what every maker I tested offered.  Be it the price point photochromic lens from Optic Nerve that  we now use as driving glasses or the really nice and really expensive (even on a pro deal) Julbos with the Zebra lens for most other things.   The lwt and well vented Cebe Eyemax photochromic lens became our (three of us testing here) favorite running and around town glasses.

The Cebe Eyemax with an excellent frame and well vented lens.  Weight is 20g.  Retail is $59.00
Cebe also offers some really nice mountain glasses.  I didn't get a chance to sue any of them though.  But worth a look if you can find a dealer who carries them in them locally.   I really liked what I saw but wasn't able to get hold of a pair when I wanted to get started with the review.

It is still hard to beat a pair of M Frames on the bike for pure protection and good visibility.   Hard to justify the costs of Oakley these days imo no matter how good they are.   Optic Nerve does it pretty well in several models and at a better price point.  I use a clear lens often as not on the bike so nice to have the ability to easily and reliably change from a tinted lens of your choice to a clear lens.  Optic Nerve has that covered for under $80.   But they have lots of choices in the single lens, $40 range as well.

No question I totally geeked out on the two pair of  Julbos I bought.   Which was a huge surprise on my part.   It took me over a year to finally make this purchase.  Even then I bought the first pair at REI just to make sure I thought they were worth the money.  If not I could return them for a full refund.    I like them in the mountains and ended up using the Trek model on my bike a lot in the mid-summer heat.  I really liked the sweat band feature.  Something I first though nothing more than a gimmick.  In the mountains on snow mid summer they were the most comfortable "goggles" on my eyes I have ever used.  And they seem pretty tough with great ventilation and wind protection all at teh same time.   My only complaint is they aren't easy to pack.  They take a big case.  If you are sleeping with them around your neck, like I am prone to do on trips the frames might very easily get broken.  So a case at night is almost mandatory for my own use.  The eye comfort during the day makes the extra effort worth it imo though.   The Julbos are as complicated and fragile as the Vuarnets are simple and durable.  And imo, for actual mountain use, The Julbo's were worth twice the money.
What I learned in all of this is that there are plenty of good sun glasses out there.  A few of them I have used a good bit but haven't bother to mention.  Customer service is important to me.  None of these things are cheap and nothing worse than having a problem no one is willing to own up to.   I have a pair of those now from Native Eyeware that I have spent 6 months simply trying to get the lens I paid for to fit the frames they say  are the correct match.   More than annoying.   Price may have little to do with the quality of the lens or frames.   Finding out what is important to you using the glasses may not be all that easy without some serious comparison shopping.  It pays to be a smart shopper and spend your money wisely. 
For those that need the info this should help:
"On the glasses post. You might mention the alternative for those of us that are
blind. I order glasses from a place in Boulder called Opticus
All they do is prescription sunglasses (and retail regular). Did it all over the
phone. They also have a program where you order 2-3 frames and then apply the
deposit to the purchase. I’m actually thinking of ordering a pair with triifocals
since I can’t read easily without. The limiting factor for satisfaction is having a
base 4 (sometimes a base 6 works) or less curve to the lens, most recreational
glasses are base 8. Opticus also routes the lens for a tight fit to the frame –
something more manufacturers should do but it is expensive."
FWIW for my own prescriptions I found a reasonable (fairly flat lens) Cebe frame a couple of years ago at REI and had my local guy just make dark lens for the adding a mirror coating and anti reflection coating.  Expensive when all said and done!  I also had a pair of prescriptions done on Maui Jim Titanium's for driving..again expensive.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Frozen Love!

More Reader's shell comments..

This from my friend Ed @ 

I think it worth a blog of its own.  Food for thought and worth the read.   Typical of the Industry not everything is a step forward although we are lead to believe that is always so.  Boots come to my mind here.

"Lessons from the future.

Every now and then a piece of the system comes along that advances about 10 things
in the one garment. Rather than spread it across an entire range, for some reason
the producers decide to put the whole into one unit and see where it goes.
In this vein the MHW Quark is exceptional, excelling in so many fields its like it
slipped thru from the future, and all done so effortlessly it makes you wonder what
comes next.

The quark weights 285gms/10oz and is a FULL spec jacket. Full as in full zip, pit
zips, hand pockets and an inner pocket. The hood easily goes over any helmet, the
cuffs have adjusters, the seams are taped and it even has a hang loop, stiffened
brim and micro-fleece to protect you from the zip. There is nothing missing – it’s a
full weather shell.
There are windshells with next to nothing in them that weigh similar.

Futuristic elements include z-weld seams that have the strength of sewn seams but no
actual sewing. The zips are incredibly thin and water resistant, but remain
The fabric breathes. Known as conduit ‘Incite’, the MHW design spec was ‘water
resistant bug mesh’ and they got it. It also stretches well. Its tough. Its not
annoyingly tacky on moist skin and it crumples small and silently. The only problem
is its not available in any colour except Dr Who silver, with a slight high tech
texture that’s more graphitey than shiny – you can actually feel the bug mesh
quality. In a metallic orange or green it would be beautiful in a butterflys wing
kind of way.

I will testify on this jacket. Ive worn it for autumn ultras, dozens of climbing
trips including attempts on k2. Its been trashed in slips on rock and thrashed from
being strapped onto the outside off packs. I still wear it regularly and wonder at
it every time.
As a windshell its light and venting enough, and as a sun layer it actually reflects
a degree of heat. The cut is enough to go over every layer you have. In other words
for high alpine climbing its as good as it gets.

Problems: where are the pants to match it? Fabric and construction this amazing
deserves an entire suit – even a 1 piece for high altitude trips. It would look like
something from x-men, but who cares?

As it goes, the Quark came and went barely noticed from the market in 2006….

It retailed at about $200 so it wasn’t too radical in price, and was the same era
when people raved about Paclite and XCR. Despite all its innovations amazingly
little has trickled down – where did the fabric, seam construction and design specs
go? Why have those same elements never made it into a single garment at that weight
and function again? Years on and we still ooh and ahh at sub-300gm jackets, thinking
anything that light must be stripped of all that makes it work, pushing it to rely
on wonder-fabrics for functions that, really, are still better achieved by design.

In the years since ive used other jackets but the Quark is still the one I hold the
rest against – and intend to for more time to come. Ive actually take in into
development meetings to put before designers as the standard they need to meet or
exceed for multiple factors, not all pertaining to textiles and construction.
In all truth, it’s the jacket I used until I replaced it with designs with my own
input – many of which came from the Quark. Half a decade on and it is still a hard
design to beat.

To me this jacket says more about the industry than anything else – it shows whats
out there and how receptive climbers really are. Incredible innovations can be sat
before the market but invisible due to outdated expectations. Was it simply the
weird colour that made it fail?
Reviews of the time were very positive, the only constant negative being that it was
considered too light – for heavy packing trips in the Pac NW or scratching up
chimneys in a Scottish winter.
What would happen if this jacket was released today? Who would buy it? What would
the reviews be like?

I raise this because the same expectations still plague our humble sport (but not so
humble consumerism). Innovations await that take things a step or more into the next
phase, but conservatism by consumers holds it back – we want the latest, but only if
it’s the same as what we already know.
What does ‘The Quark Experiment’ tell the producers about the sector – is it worth
putting highly innovative products out there? Or better to bleed the new stuff out
over several seasons?
Are climbers really being exploited with trickle-out marketing or are they simply
too conservative a consumer base to be worth taking risks on?
If the market curtains were dropped and the designs for the true lightest and most
breathable shell was put before us, who would step forward?

The People's Choice on shells!

A couple of weeks ago I had asked for your favorite shells and why.  Here is some of what I
got.    Please bare with the email cut and pastes.  No clue how to fix that.  But the feedback is great.  Thanks to all who took the time and contributed.  Enjoy!

For ice climbing in Colorado, I am pretty happy with this:

1 - Eddy Bauer Accelerant jacket layered over a thin base layer.  It
is surprisingly warm, very lightweight, and has an excellent athletic
fit with long arms.  I sometimes use the thumbholes on the sleeves.
This jacket solves the annoying problem of hood wars.  I like one hood
under the helmet (this jacket provides that) and one hood over the
helmet (the next jacket provides that).  For fast moving in coldish
conditions it breathes adequately and seems reasonably durable.  The
Arcteryx equivalent of the Accelerant is probably just as good, but
more expensive and I do tend to trash these little lightweight
jackets.  Also I really like the thumbholes and lightweight hood of
the Accelerant.
2 - When it gets colder, or for belays, I add a Wild Things lightly
insulated jacket.  That one is compact enough I am happy wearing it
while climbing.  It breathes ok, is windproof and very water resistant
and durable.  It has a good over the helmet hood.  It could be warmer
for belays, but I don't like carrying a garment just for belays.  When
I am instructing and standing around a lot I take an old OR synthetic
puffy instead which is heavier, but toasty.
3 - Whenever I can get my hands on one of the waterproof/breathable
non-woven Dyneema jackets I'll throw one in the pack for hideous

Bob Culp


I'm Matti from Finland and I'm pretty active all round climber, skier and hiker. And with ski I mean telemark, cross country and Nordic touring. The weather is normally pretty severe here in northern Finland, Sweden and Norway where I do most of my winter activities. -20C is pretty standard day during the Jan - Mar. My coldest ice climbing week had average of -32C. I'm not very good at ice stuff, but I can lead WI 4-5 so it serves as "feelgood" activity during winter where I mostly climb multipitch WI3 in Norway and Sweden. My main focus is in summer stuff (7c+ in both sport and boulder and (well protected) trad up to ~7a). Anyho I get around 200 outdoor days (I also include after work stuff) per year. My absolutely favourite is old 'Ryx Gamma MX hoody(polartec version). It works in everything (as long as the weather is below zero degrees) and awesomely. Put thick merino underwear under it and perhaps light down west (like Patagucci down west) if it's real cold. You stay warm and dry even if you get totally soaked during climb and it's -20C. First the stuff might freeze, but in few moments of high wattage action and you are dry again. And unlike real hardshell the shit really breaths. You can see the difference as huge cloud of steam :). This is very important fe in Nordic touring, cross country skiing or when I'm skinning as you sweat up to 12 hours a day. I must say that I sweat like a pig, but So Far (tm) I haven't tried a HS material that would actually keep me dry even in dry if I'm active. And in really cold the water just stays inside the HS jacket. Also they tend to rip. Also the stretch cuffs are pretty much second best feature in the jacket. Combine them with gloves (like those stupendously expensive 'Ryx leather gloves) you can tuck in and you've got seal that's totally water and snow proof. No matter what you do it doesn't open up. Also it' really robust. Velcros just break down. I know it's probably not so much of an problem with you as you guys change to new apparel more often than I change my underwear, but with us regular joe's we really appreciate garment that lasts. I've gotten 7 years of active use out of my Gamma and now it's totally destroyed. Also the cut is fantastic. I love just how the garment fits just so and doesn't leave any extra material to block my view to harness. Also at the same time it allows good range of motion. Regarding most of the stuff above I'm in a bit of a dilemma. New Gamma MX doesn't just float my boat way old one did. Cut is more average consumer orientated, material isn't as wind resistant (old one was spot on for my tastes) and seems somehow less sturdy. This brings the problem that there really isn't any other jackets with: 1. Good cut and quality 2. same cuffs 3. Powershield 4. Good hood 5. Wouldn't mind if it also looked good. Ideas? We've got custom shop here in my hometown (Oulu) that makes tailored outdoot gear (;>), but polartec powershield isn't available unless one gets few hundreds of meters of it -> they do not stock it. -Matti Sillanpää-

Bruno Schull said...
My choice for a softshell jacket is the Marmot tempo hoody. This is an inexpensive non-lined softshel. Mot importantly, it fits me really well in XL. I am tall with long arms, and I find it extremely difficult to find a jacket that works for climbing. The Tempo has a long back and arms, and is one of the very few jackets that I can tuck under a harness, and will not pull out when I raise my arms over my head. The hood works well over a helmet. The cuff closures are simple and effective. The pockets are located above the harness and out of the way of pack straps. No pit zips. Simple and clean. It is not as waterproof nor as wind resistant as some of the lined shells, but it makes up for that by being extremely breathable; the inside stays dry and your body stays warm. Great, simple, effective, inexpensive jacket. Also comes in some offensive florescent colors for Dane! All the best.
Daniel Harro said...

Arcteryx Gamma SL hybrid is a nice jacket as well as being truly light weight at 13 oz.

I personally think "uninsulated shells" should clock in well under 14 ounces, anything heavier is too much. My Alpha LT hardshell is 13.5 oz.

 Blogger brian said...
Great discussion as always Dane. What about the Acto MX Hoody? I switched last year after climbing in Gamma MX Hoody's and the first gen of the Venta MX for many years. I find the Acto breathes much better than any other softshell, and when it gets real nippy, i throw the Atom LT over it. No complaints other than the "trim fit" versus the "athletic fit" on the mx line.

Andy said...
Hey Dane - totally second the comment by Brian about the Acto MX Hoody. I agree it's perhaps best to call it a hardfleece rather than a soft shell. But in terms of the fabrics properties and performance I find it similar to something like the Rab Scimitar you reviewed above. But better. Very breathable, very water resistant, amazingly durable, though not very wind resistant. Not too different from most stretch woven fabrics though I reckon. I too was a long time Gamma MX Hoody user, I find the Acto way better all things considered and it's the best hardfleece/soft shell I've ever used.

Ian said...
In my mind the best hardshell is the one that never leaves my backpack. I have yet to wear a hardshell I actually liked. I have a very lightweight Rab shell but I've only ever worn it once.
First Place for me: Patagonia Supercell Jacket. Gore-tex paclite material,
weighs 13.5 oz. Great fit (for me - 5' 11'' 180 pounds size large). As
breathable as traditional hard shell gore tex gets in my opinion. Super
minimal design and great hood. This is my new go to shell for just about
any adventure in the mountains but especially for ice climbing. My favorite
shell is the one that stays in my pack until I really need it. In this
case, the supercell performs great, packs up into its hood, provides great
waterproof protection and breaths pretty damn well (vents still needed when
really working hard).

Zach Lees
Until last winter I was
using some lighweight hardshells from Mountain Hardwear and TNF.  Neither
of them were really Alpine specific.  The MH was too long and always
interfered with ropes and harness access.  The TNF jacket was a nice
shorter cut and very packable, but more geared for warmer weather and I
never fully trusted its ability to keep me warm and dry in nasty
conditions.  Last winter my goal became to find a high quality, high-value
alpine shell with Goretex Proshell, or equivalent.  I ended up going with
the Outdoor Research Mentor
I think the suggested retail price is very fair for a pro shell jacket, and
OR gear always seems to end up on sale or clearance.  I scored my Mentor
for about half off.  While I have yet to test it in any real nasty weather,
my initial impressions are strong.  Seems to be of high quality
construction, and fit and style suit me well.  It also feels pretty bomber
and will hold up to the New England granite and whatever else I put it
through.  Here is a picture of me on Mt. Osceola (New Hampshire) last
winter.  I think OR will be a good source of high-value outerwear for the
next few years as its clothing line expands ahead of its reputation.  I
think they have always been well respected for their gaitors, gloves, hats,
etc. and I think their outerwear will follow suit.  I am about to spring
for last season's OR Maestro down jacket which is on clearance on several
websites.  At least on paper it stacks up to most of the 800-fill power,
quantum pertex shelled down belay jackets.

For a soft shell I wear a Rab Baltoro.  I picked it up on clearance as
well.  Does ship to Canada?  While I haven't used any
others, I can say that I really enjoy the Rab.  Originally a soft shell
skeptic, it won me over.  For soft shell pants, I am in love with my Wild
Things Mountain Guide pants.  On one of my first winter overnights I
experienced some layering errors and ended up sweating into and soaking
much of my insulating layers.  Those mountain guide pants wicked and
evaporated everything and stayed dry as a bone.  My Rab jacket froze into a
solid lump when I swapped it out for my down hoody and hard shell on the
wind-blown summit.

My weapon of choice is the Haglöfs fang. Sadly as far as I can tell it is
discontinued. I will just give you a short list of features I really liked, the
material, weight, etc. are on the web anyway.

+A huge hood, a meteor 3 fits nicely, is 4 way adujstable
+pit zips for dumbing heat ( I tend to sweat like a pig)
+the most durable softshell I had so far

Not much of a review but worth a look if you see one on sale, I'm 190cm and 78kg
and have L, if you want to wear some extra layers XL is fine too.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Fair Means!

Game ON!

Skiing, but be sure to crank the volume ;)

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Solvak 2012

I like this NF sponsored version a little better when compared to their BD version.  One of the best films I have seen of climbing in the mtns.  Well worth a look I think..