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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

2013 Summer OR...

The journey began today.  I don't hope for much from Summer OR and alpine climbing/winter climbing.  But I usually get a few surprises.

One of the coolest things from the outdoor demo were a slick little emergency knife.  Chops 11mm rope and any webbing with ease.  First time I've seen a knife I'd actually take climbing.  And trust me I've seen a few.  Slick.......and super easy to carry.  Cutting winter rap tat just got easier.  Easy enough to take one trad climbing mid summer.

Cord cut at the show this morning in just an hour or two!
It is a awesome piece of kit for what we do in the mtns.

More to come on this little guy.

For the gadget/handyman guys out there some "silly putty" that hardens into shape and stays flexible
Clothing and pack repairs..cracked water bottles...or a pair of boots that need a field fix?

This stuff might well be the chit we need. 

More to come.  As I said slim pickings at Summer OR but some cool ideas I'll use summer and winter.

These are good as well :)

Tomorrow I'll tour the hard goods and see what is new.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Arcteryx Duelly and Hooded Solo Fall 2013

Arc'teryx - Fall 2013


Why a double boot?

With reviews of the most popular double boots on the blog and more coming of similar models I think the use of double boots might need some explanation again.

The majority of my alpine climbing has been done in the Canadian Rockies in winter or in the Alaska Range in spring.

In both places a good single boot and decent gaiter will get you by, generally, in perfect conditions. The problems arise not in the perfect conditions but in the exceptions both in the weather conditions and temperatures. As important or maybe more import is the physical condition of the climber.

Open bivy high on the North side of Deborah May '76

Frostbite is not generally a cold issue believe it or not but simply a physical exhaustion and dehydration issue of climbers strung out in difficult conditions. Double boots are a reasonable insurance policy to avoid a cold injury when you are dehydrated and exhausted and still having to keep moving. Sounds pretty much like any worthwhile alpine climb doesn't it?

While expensive, quality double boots are nothing compared to the price of what even a short stint in the hospital from frostbite and the resulting down time will cost you long term. Not to mention the resulting cold sensitivity that will follow you well into the future. The result of a serious case of frostbite is you'll either stop climbing in cold weather or you'll buy double boots after the first incident. My suggestion is buy the double boots up-front and save yourself the worry and pain.

With all the new climbers able to get out and crag climb long before they jump on difficult alpine climbs single boots are the norm. The single boots generally climb better and are cheaper. The same single boots are generally over kill for most things, including Rainier in summer. So, of course we all want to use those same single boots...that aren't cheap either....all winter and on every climb.

A good percentage of the time you'll get away with it. In Canada these days most climbers won't go out if the temps drop below -15C. That is up from the old norm of -30C as the temps we generally called it off. One of the reasons is most boots are not comfortable climbing below -15C unless they are double boots.

Galiber Makalu dbl boots, late '70s.

The other important reason to invest in double boots is the amount of time you can comfortably spend out in a cold, harsh environment. No they aren't fun to walk in or climb difficult mixed terrain in. But both can be done adroitly with a little practice. You might find they climb ice better than your single boots in fact. On moderate, long, ice routes, most will appreciate the added support and calf relief of a good double boot. The most important reason to look at a double boot is the ability to keep the liners unthawed and warm over night and if required dry the inner out in your sleeping bag. If things really go to shit and you have an open bivy the fastest way to thrash your feet is to be laced into a tight pair of single boots. Better yet on a open bivy you can loosen a dbl boot a bit, gain some warmth usually by doing so, and still keep your 'pons bolted on the boot and not worry about loosing gear. It is a big advantage if actually required.  Getting your steel crampons off your boots or better yet your boots off your feet is alwasy a better and warmer over all option.

The advantages of a double boot are significant to keeping your toes and feet in good health. The down side is first the expense, and then the ability to climb difficult ground in them. That can be over come with time, by climbing more in your dbl boots. Lastly the bulk and weight. The newest boots are getting better.  The Scarpa 6000 and La Sportiva Spantik are both warm, light and climb well.  Worth the added effort to climb in doubles unless you feel like the risk of damaged feet is lower than I do.

On frozen feet after an open bivy at 13,800 in Nov.

Some will wonder about the Batura and Phantom Guide style of boots (single boots with attached "supergators") as a less expensive (if  $500+ is less expensive) option to a true double boot. This style of boot has two design features that limit their use in similar conditions. They are both very difficult to dry out and keep unthawed on over night or longer trips. And the ankles are generally a lot softer and more flexible than a true double boot. So you lose the extra ankle and calf support as well. My take having used a Batura for a few years is they are good one day boots on cold days but I would never take them out over night intentionally. Each style of boot has a place. Just don't trust the advertising to help you decide when and what is right for you.

Times haven't changed much. Good (read winter technical boot) double boots would/do cost a lot more than a good (read winter technical boot) pair of single boots. That changed for 20 plus years as plastic double boots dominated the market place. No matter your skill or experience level plastic double boots were common on almost every mountaineer's feet. And for good reason..they would keep your feet warm and dry in just about any condition...some times too warm. For years you could easily assume that anyone who did technical ice climbing or went out in winter would own a pair of plastic double boots.

Not so today. And because of it I am seeing and hearing of frost bite injuries again outside of the greater ranges....which had been, until just very recently, a thing of the past.
One of my litmus tests for winter climbing partners, 30 years ago and again now is, "do they own double boots?" It doesn't mean that you use double boots on every winter climb.
But if they do, I can generally count on the fact they take their own survival and climbing seriously. That is usually because of hard won experience in really cold weather conditions. So I can worry less about them getting a cold injury and both of us staying healthy on our adventures. And just as often the owner of a pair of double boots is likely to value his partner more than some one with less experience would. Surprised? You shouldn't be. It is all in the details.

If you plan to go BIG and go LIGHT....the place not to short yourself on gear is your boots...go BIG there first!

More on the end result of "minor" frostbite.

A pair of Herman Buhl's cold weather boots.

By comparison a light weight double boot for their time.  Something the first Kolflachs were.  And the recent TLT5 hinted at  prior to the full blown ski boot with the introduction of  TLT6.

The climbing world still waits for the super light technical double boot to catch up with the modern technology available.

Hermann Buhl (September 21, 1924 – June 27, 1957) is considered one of the best post-World War II Austrian climbers and one of the best climbers of all time. He was particularly innovative in applying alpine style to Himalayan climbing. His accomplishments include:

1953 First ascent of Nanga Parbat, 8,126 metres (26,660 ft) (solo and without bottled oxygen).
1957 First ascent of Broad Peak, 8,051 metres (26,414 ft).
Before his successful Nanga Parbat expedition, 31 people had died trying to make the first ascent.

Buhl is the only mountaineer to have made the first ascent of an eight-thousander solo. Just a few weeks after the successful first ascent of Broad Peak (with Fritz Wintersteller and Marcus Schmuck), Buhl and Kurt Diemberger made an attempt on nearby, unclimbed Chogolisa peak (7654 m) in alpine style. Buhl died when he fell through a cornice on the southeast ridge near the summit of Chogolisa. His body was never found.

"Buhl was very lucky on Nanga Parbat, escaping with just a few frostbitten toes. This story reflects Buhl's style of climbing; totally focused and by taking enormous risks he often succeeded where others failed."

Buhl on Nanga Parbat 1953

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

La Sportiva Nepal Cube?

Nepal is one of the very best all around boots from La Spotiva.  And it just keeps getting better.

This is a quick look the newest CUBE version.  Carbon honey comb mid sole like the Batura 2.0 and a new toe cap as well.  The Batura 2.0 was a total revamp of the Batura.  I'd expect the same make over with the Nepal.  More than first meets the eye generally from La Sportiva.   Available  Fall of 2013.


Sorenson-Eastman ice

Summer OR? And some winter stoke!

Outdoor Retail Summer Market at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, UT
(July 30 - August 3)

Vendors for out door gear from all over the world display their newest products and write orders for the Spring 2014 delivery of goods at Summer OR in SLC.

A winter version does the same, for product delivery in the Fall of the following year.
You don't walk out of OR with the newest and best gear.  At best you walk out with a picture and the specs of the newest and best gear coming and available in 6 to 9 months from the show's date.

The Trade shows are not open to the public but only vendors "wholesalers",  the retail store owners there to buy for the next season, working press.  And every person in the free world looking for sponsorship, a freebie or some other way to sell themselves.

Me?  I go to look at the newest toys.  Simple as that.   Some of them I'll eventually write about here.

Attending the shows twice a year is one way I stay up on the newest gear  being released and keep track of the newest technology that I have an interest in.   Not uncommon for me to find "new" things that I find interesting as well.

For the retailers it is a stressful and super busy week.  Generally all work, no play and spending a LOT of money based on their sales projections  for the following season...6 months down the road.

For the wholesalers they are writing a full 6 months of production of their products.  Made in France, China or the USA doesn't matter.  They are selling gear that has yet to be made.  Sales generally based on one off prototypes.  Talk about stressful!

Add to the economics a trade show (small by comparison to the Euro shows btw) convention that big enough it is almost impossible to see every vendor on the floor and every new piece of gear that is displayed.  And you have some idea of what an OR show become for those working them.

Summer OR is usually slim pickings for alpine and winter climbing.  But hopefully I'll have a few new and interesting bits of gear to report on shortly.

Till then, how about some winter stoke?

Three new custom Praxis skis.

Praxis is unique in that they only sell via the Internet.  Pricing is better because of that and but it isn't the only difference from other ski companies.  Quality of production is amazing.  "From your mind and their hands comes a custom pair of skis made specifically for you".  If you want to take the time.

What is shown above on the left is a standard pair of GPOs in a 182cm,  medium /stiff flex.  The yellow ski is a custom Medium+ flex and "Sun" top skin, 192cm GPO and the far right ski is a Pompeii top skin, medium flex, 187cm Protest.   All of them will be getting Dynafit bindings.  Hopefully I'll be skiing the short GPOs on Hood in August after OR.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Reality check....

OK, every blog is just an opinion.  And everyone has one.  An opinion that is.  Some are just more ill informed than others.  Some are simply ignorant.

"Don’t make this into something it’s not.
Tito’s death has nothing to do with many of the larger issues being bandied about online. Tito’s death has nothing to do with whether or not children should be climbing, or if they understand risk to an acceptable level that would, in your judgment, permit them access to a crag. Tito’s death doesn’t have anything to do with the so called grade-chasing, gym-bred mentality judgementally assigned to many of today’s youth climbers. Tito’s death has nothing to do with your fears and insecurities, and nothing to do with your self-affirmations about your own smug sense of safety at the cliff."
Andrew Bisharat

Sad as Tito's death is let's not make it something it is not.  That much Andrew has right.

Some more opinion?
The rest Andrew hasn't clue about and totally missed the point.  In my opinion of course and with all due respect.  Andrew has at least earned that respect.  He's simply wrong from my perspective.

About once a year I get the chance to mentor some kid. (anyone under 40 is a kid to me these days btw)   Pity the poor souls!

Hell I am a only a shadow of my previous self, literally half the man I use to be when I was leading trad .12s from the ground up.  And those ascents few and far between mind you!

Every time I start a new mentorship I am reminded of  and generally am enticed for the obvious reasons into recounting all the injuries and deaths I have seen or been privy to in 45 years of climbing.  And I have a damn short list  by comparison to a few friend's intimate lists.

This is as close as I have come.

Mind you I have taken dozens of falls rock climbing.  No clue how many... but dozens sometimes on just one climb!  And only been hurt 3 times.  Two early on and only the one recently that was serious.  My longest?  A 70' footer.  Which had me pumped up on Adrenalin for hours after wards. (another mistake btw)

So why the opinion?

Every single person I have mentored in any fashion has been a relative new climber not just a new leader...on rock or on ice.  And every one of them is in such a hurry to boggles my mind.

Why?   Leading is harder in every way imaginable.  Leading is more dangerous.  Leading can get you killed if you make a mistake.  And it doesn't even have to be a big mistake.  Tie the knot wrong.  Rig your hardware wrong.  Misjudge your own abilities.  All unhealthy things to do climbing or leading. 

Climbing is a serious and likely fatal sport if you make a mistake.  Just because a lot of people do it these days...doesn't make climbing SAFE!

Take some time.  Enjoy the top rope and try to learn what you can while you are there.

You just don't know what you don't know.  But the secrets come easily and quickly if you open your eyes and mnd.

I could so easily argue all of Andrews points...but why bother?

Face it.  Climbing is some serious chit.  You fook it up and you'll likely die.  You fook it up and you are likely THE idiot because it will be YOUR own mess.

Climbing and gravity don't care how old you are or how hard you can climb.  Make a mistake and you will pay the price.  Simple as that.

That is what I have learned climbing.

The rest of the opinions?

"Don’t make this into something it’s not."

I feel the loss of each dead friend and I have felt the pain of each of my own injuries and mistakes and sometimes another's mistake!

"Don’t make this into something it’s not."

We all make choices and mistakes.  If you fook it up?  Own up to it......if you are able.  And move on.   I'm proof even an idiot can live through a lifetime of climbing and still (mostly) enjoy the effort :)  It is having the patience to live through, "the you don't know, what you don't know"  part that can be difficult.

"Don’t make this into something it’s not."

and for the exprienced alpinists out there another cheerie report of life after death and other fool things to do in the mtns.......

Monday, July 22, 2013

Blue Ice?

Hard gear to get here in the US with import duties and shipping.  But if you are in the EU or better yet Chamonix it is worth checking out all of the Blue Ice gear.  Always a tool guy, I really like the new classic Bluebird ice axe.  Their "model" helps me appreciate the classic lines of the newest piolet  :)

Hélène is in love with the Blue Bird Ice Axe!
It should be available in the late Fall of 2013. 
The newest Blue Ice cataog:

Thursday, July 18, 2013

If you aren't paying attention?

My friend Jon..did a nice (remember "nice" can be a relative thing;)  trip the other day.

I love traverses although I haven't done all that many.  But the long day (or days) out can be great fun.

Jon's adventure has to be one of the better ones I have seen lately.

The line: 41 Km and 5000m of ascent. Les Contamines to Aiguille du Midi

41 fooking Kms?!  25 miles in the alpine!  Chit man..that is a long day's walk by any standard.  Good on ya!

The rest of his adventure is here:

Not that Jon would ever admit it but he  has become is quite the mountain animal.  Think not and wonder if he climbs?  Look here:

Some great stuff Jon!  Now stop dicking around and go back to work.....with a rope on next time, will ya :)  I would like to see that amazing photography continue!

Jon's real job:

Jon playing on the "wrong" side of the camera during one of his earlier alpine link ups mentioned above.
On the Legarde Direct, © Magnus Kastengren

Some thoughts on specific?

Two pairs of Praxis GPO!

Good gear is a collaboration of the builder, the design team and the end users.

Studying weapons, and climbing gear, which are all just tools really, I've come to one solid conclusion.

The more the end user is involved the better the product.  Seems simple but it only takes a few minutes of looking around at any one piece of gear you use to play with or defend yourself with to see just how connected the end user has been to the design team.  Doesn't matter if that 'tool" is a season old or a several millennium.

The best designs are built to be used with a LOT of influence by the peoples using them!

The closer your requirements are to the designer's/end user's original applications are the better those tools will likely work for you.

I can think of a half dozen designs just off the top of my head that have stood well over the test of time.

New technology can be a really fun thing and make us humans much better with less effort at what we do.

In this case skis are on my mind.   I've been skiing a long time.  The Volant Spatula, DPS 112RP, the Dynafit Broad Peak  all come to mind as game changers for me.   But there are lots of skis out there I never got on.  And lots of skis that likely changed your own skiing.  My original fiberglass ski, the K2 Holiday, changed skiing for me :)

The newest Cho Oyu, the RPC and the Huascaran are current choices that make me wiggle in anticipation for the first snows of winter while I am out enjoying myself on sun warmed alpine rock in mid July.

But I have a couple of new toys you'll be hearing about the next chance I get on some snow. (Mt Hood In July hopefully)  I'm pretty stoked for the obvious reasons.  When the real players are involved, magic happens.  Think CCW packs, the Nomic, Low tech race bindings and the newest Rebel Ultra.

Drew Tabke:

"The story that Praxis Skis has played in my career as a skier cannot be underestimated. Since I started riding their Powder Boards in 2007, they’ve been a steadfast source of support and innovation for me as well as the core group of skiers who support their small brand. Praxis is a puzzle piece that doesn’t always fit in to the makeup of the ski industry. For example, as an athlete it has been difficult to secure sponsorship from binding or boot sponsors without committing to a particular manufacturer’s ski line as well. But I’ve always believed that having access to the innovation and quality that a small brand like Praxis offers is well worth giving up a the visibility and contracts that can come with the bigger brands."

More here:

and here:

You can spend  a lot of dollars, hire bright new engineers and designers to little avail.  The guys that can make the stuff work?  Really work for those of us actually using it?  It is the guys/gals deep in the game are the ones that will really make  a difference.  Pity the fool who hasn't figured that one out yet.  And trust me...more that haven't, than those that have.

Clothing layers in the Outdoors?

Clothing Layers?

This is a post from Feb of '10 . But as the seasons and gear options change I thought it worth re posting again.

(or in this case lack of layers)

I was lucky enough to spend the last week ice climbing around Banff and on the Icefield's Parkway in Alberta Canada. Places I have climbed and skied in most winters for years.

Besides the obvious high quality ice climbing I was really looking forward to field testing some new (for me anyway) pieces of clothing and ideas on cold weather use.

But before I get to what I used on this trip and the results, let me back up a bit and tell you what I have used in years previously and have been happy with generally.

The coldest temps we would actually climb in hover around -25/-30C (-22F). Anything colder and I retreat to a shelter, hot springs and good food. Not uncommon to see
+10C (50F) on calm days in the sun on sheltered ice climbs.

Base layers?
Generally Merino wool or Capilene, two piece set ups and one piece union suits depending on the temperatures. Some times even those would get layered.

Mid layer/insulation ?
Pile. Pick your weight and material but generally some sort of pile gear. Pile pants and pile shirts or sweaters.

Outer layer/ protection?
Early on it was nylon shells, then Goretex and then Shoeller style soft shells of wool/spandex (25 years ago) and more recently synthetics (Shoeller and its copies) with real 4 way stretch.

Boots were singles and dbls. Often times with Supergators on the singles and even the dbls when required.


Old stand-bys were boiled wool Dachsteins with/without over mitts. My favorite were Dachsteins and Helly Hansen over mitts and when required a foam pad between the layers to keep your hands from getting too beat up with straight shafted tools. Dachstein gloves had their place as well...but generally considered a luxury. Goretex shelled gauntlet gloves with thick pile liner came next and have remained a standard with leashed tools.

Leashed tools? Leashless tools? Here is where much of the info I am relating splits. True leashless tools like the newest BD Cobra and Fusion or the Petzl Nomic and Quarks have in many ways redefined what we use for clothing on ice/mixed climbs. Gear that easily works leashless will NOT be warm enough, in my experience, for leashed climbing.

OK..back to the clothing systems.

An old saying I heard as a kid was, "Eskimos never sweat." The thought behind that? It was just too cold in an Arctic environment to ever risk getting wet, soaking your insulation and then having that insulation freeze. Makes sense, but how do you ever get anything done and not sweat if you are working hard and trying to climb fast?

(I'm about to repeat info now that can be better understood by reading Mark Twight's and Will Gadd's ice climbing/technique books)

Obviously you'll sweat on the approach unless you really back off the pace. I don't do approaches longer than just a few minutes in my climbing upper layer. I dress really lightly on the top layer for the walk in and then dry off and change to dry clothes at the base of the climbing.

To stay dry I use a belay sweater/jacket (depending on insulation required by the temps) to let my body heat dry me off and keep me warm while drying out at the belay if I have broken a sweat climbing. Better yet climb with a light enough and breathable enough set of clothing that you don't wet your body or gear on anything but the hardest leads. It is a tough balancing act.

Light enough...breathable enough?

Four words that are saying a lot! You need to push the definition of both imo.

I switched a few years ago to all Shoeller style clothing. But unbelieving in just how far I really needed to go I bought all the gear in a insulated form. To be specific Arteryx Gamma MX hoody and pants. I have worn out a set of both over time. And I still love both of them for climbing. But for everything but the very coldest weather (below -20C) I find that material (Polartec Power Shield in the Gamma MX line) to be too much now.

Why too much? Too heavy physically, too warm and not breathable enough.

OK, you ask, "WTF, Dane?" "That is a $400 piece of kit (Gamma MX Hoody) you encouraged me to buy last year and now you are telling me it is rubbish?...too warm?...too heavy?"

Last year I thought the Gamma MX hoody would be the one piece of clothing I would always take on alpine/ice routes. Now I am saying it is too much? Yes....but don't throw it away just yet :)

You need to go back to the idea that "cool muscles work more efficiently".

Mind you it might take you a bit of effort to find out just how "cool" you are willing to work at to make this all work. That might include a trip where you dress too light and freeze your ass off to find out just how "cool" you'll want to be :) I'd suggest you make that trip, a low risk, high energy event. If you blow it bad on the clothing combos at least movement will generally keep you warm. You need to iron out your system in a fairly controlled environment.

The rewards are worth the risk imo. But to be sure, blow these combinations in a big way and cold injury is almost certain or even death will be the end result. I have used the system at a fine edge half a dozen times now and I had significant performance and recovery break through each time. I also look back and thank my lucky stars that there was no "incident" on those climbs that could have easily precipitated a disaster. An unplanned night out in bad weather while cutting it close on gear can be more than just uncomfortable.

The results of 24 unplanned hrs out in 10F temps? A full year of recovery.

Here are my current thoughts on winter clothing systems. Limit the layers. Yes, limit the layers! The first picture in this post is me climbing early in my career in mostly wool, with temps rapidly going to -40 as the sun went down. It was pretty miserable at the time and to be honest a little scary. I had never been in such temps and that exposed before.

But a couple of things made a big difference. I was mobile, light layers made that possible. I was dry internally because the clothing breathed well and so I stayed warm if I kept moving. Funny now because I realised as I typed this morning that the clothing pictured there (circa 1973) would be a perfect set up for leashless climbing now in very cold temps...say -20C but not at
-40C :)

So limit the layers and stay mobile. Easy to do now with modern clothing.

Layer One:

I am using a R1 Hoody inner layer. MEC makes R1 tops and bottoms for something like $60 retail. Or you can buy Patagonia's for $150. Same exact material and in several ways the MEC clothing is better designed imo. Now there is a easy decision?!

Yep, just the R1 and nothing between it and my skin. Although my lowers are actually Costco longs...almost expedition weight but some brand name called "Paradox". The R1 seems to be just a bit much on my legs and I lose some mobility compared to the Paradox lowers (in a synthetic originally  and now Merino wool as well) which seem to slide in the outer shell pants I am using easier.

Layer Two:

That depends on the outside temps and the level of aerobic action I expect. My current choices going warm to colder temps are:

Eddie Bauer Front Point is a combo hard shell and soft shell . Very water resistant (my top was dry in a soaking waterfall that went straight through my pants and filled my boots to the brim) and very breathable. I am highly impressed with the details of this garment and the combo of materials used. A surprising and almost immediate favorite for cold technical climbing. But there are other lwt shells that will fit this catagory.   (I am currently using Polartech Powershield Pro as my choice in fabric for shells.)


Arcteryx Atom Lt Hoody....lightly insulated shell with stretch vented sides and under the arms.   And the Patagonia Nano garments here as well.  (both still in use and the best available IMO) Again a surprise, water resistant as well but not tested to any extreme yet. Very warm for its weight and thickness but useful in the right temps (cold) for hard climbing because the stretch side panels and insulated body breath so well.

Worth noting that I have now cut one full layer from the previous suggestions from even last year's system. Insulation is used as required in the base layer and in the outer layer. And most manufactures are now making something similar..Patagonia's Nano series is another example. Mtn Hardware has one as well. But there is no separate insulation layer short of the belay jacket. The real insulation is in layer THREE where the insulation can EASILY be added or just as likely removed to keep you dry and mobile.

For my pants I have been using the Arcteryx Gamma Lt. for two winters now. (Patagonia Knifeblade and Guide pants are a big hit currently with me)  I did add a set of grommets to use them as a pant gaiter. And no one more surprised than me that a set of generic long johns and a Gamma Lt. would be good enough to keep me warm and toasty from -20C to well above freezing and still breath enough on the "death marches" while toiling and dripping in in sweat. Only disadvantages I see are they aren't very durable and the lower left leg could be more tapered if my crampon "wear" is any indication.

Layer Three:

A Belay jacket chosen for the degree of warmth required and how much drying will be required.

Listed in amount of warmth is required. Warm temps to cold and how much moisture I expect:

Mountain Hardware Compressor Hoody (Primaloft 1)
*shown here in combo with the Atom Lt @ -20C in the shade* (lots of other high quality jackets in this category now)

Narrona Hooded Down

Mtn Equipment Nilas

Primaloft 1 garments and some of the Arcteryx jackets are a good choice as well.

As a system that is it...THREE... layers total. And one generally will be in the pack.

Gloves and boots?

Maintaining your mobility, cutting down on weight by doing so allows you to move faster. You can then use lighter weight boots and gloves and still stay equally as warm or warmer while moving faster with less effort! Add the advantages of leashless tools and the differences of what you can get away with for a glove system while still being comfortable is simply...amazing.

You have to remember it is a SYSTEM. If required I could carry and use both layer TWO pieces together for extra warmth. I'll do another post and describe the boot and glove systems I am using with this clothing combo. Scarpa and La Sportiva for boots and Outdoor Research and Mtn Hardware for gloves cover the brand names here for me.

Bottom line on the field testing? Climbed harder and faster with less effort and less clothes and in more comfort than ever before in Canada. Huge success for me.

An after note..

A long time climbing buddy who on rare occasion reads the blog busted on me for listing all the brand names I use. I search out the best gear for my own use and buy it at retail. No one giving this stuff to me. But that doesn't make it the best gear for your use. I list the manufacturers simply so you can make direct comparison for your own benefit.

A note on Summer clothing?

Summer temps for me mean even less layers.  2 generally in warm weather and back country trips.  My base layer?  Generally a tech shirt of some sort.  My lower layer?  Pants or shorts depending on the temps.   Dress light!  Dress for success.  And keep moving.

My 2nd layer is a Patagonia Sun Hoody generally or a RAB Boreas.  The third layer if required will be a wind shell.  But I seldom take a wind shell with either hoody mentioned, even while spring skiing.  By July the shell is generally a stow away item seldom used.

When you start reading in the newest clothing catalogs about "their" newest three layer system,   REMEMBER it wasn't anything new even 4 years ago!

Imitation is the greatest form of flattery....

Newest pack from Arcteryx.  Simple is always good.

"Weighing in at just 680 grams, the Alpha FL is an ultralight and highly weather-resistant alpine climbing pack. Designed with custom-engineered N400r-AC2 nylon ripstop fabric, it is weatherproof, exceptionally durable, and yet supple enough to accommodate the shape of its contents, making the bag less prone to punctures. "

More here:

and here:

Friday, July 12, 2013

Ultimate Direction's, Juric Running Pack?

 The perfect place to use my Ultimate Direction pack.

Last Fall I got to talk with the guys at Ultimate Direction about their new race series of running packs.   In the middle of January 2013 I received the Scott Juric version.  But it wasn't until today that I finally got a chance to use it.

"The Signature Series was designed by three of the most successful, most well-known ultra runners in the world. Using power mesh for zero bounce and state-of-the art cuben fiber for its unsurpassed strength to weight ratio, our Signature Series vests integrate load carrying, performance, and comfort into one unified system. With water bottle pockets in the front of the vest for quick and easy access, the Signature Series represents the next generation of ultra running hydration packs for runners.
Learn about the inspiration behind the Signature Series from UD Brand Manager, Buzz Burrell. "

Make no mistake.  I'm no ultra marathoner runner.  A marathon distance race with full support tears me up.  Every few years in the last decade I've done something similar. May never do another...ever.  Anything over 20 miles I really have ZERO interest in.  But I long days in the mtns with almost nothing on my back. 

SCOTT JUREK  designed his signature series of running packs for Ultimate Direction in Small, Medium and a Large sizes.  So even the big boys like me..that aren't really designed to be runners can fit one.  And I fit a large...damn near perfectly by comparison to other off the shelf gear.

It is the only Ultimate Direction pack I ordered because  of the available sizing.  Most of the guys using these packs are likely lucky to hit 150# soaking wet!

I really wanted to see if I could adapt one of the Ultimate Direction super light/minimalistic packs to alpine climbing or some sort.  Summer ridge traverses that involve little or no technical gear seemed like a good place to start.   I was and am now very excited to get out and use this one.

We did a 10 mile ridge top trip today followed by another 16 miles on a  mtn bike that ended in a gruelling (for me anyway) 1700' vertical, 6 mile climb on the bike.  Not very steep but my steel mtn bike isn't my carbon roadie either.   Not a long day but a fun one anyway.  I walked away pummeled but still walking....even if just barely.

Gotta say I really like this pack.  Th first hour in on the ridge traverse I was hooked.  Super stable and super comfortable pack/vest, even with a little downhill trail running to get started.  Not much in it.  But plenty of room for more.  Water, cell phone, camera,  Gu, Shot Bloks, lunch with 1500 ml of water in bottles.  Some slings, rap gear with my super light weight Alp 95 CAMP climbing harness.  All in, still well under 10#.  Closer to 6# than 10#.  Depending if I add a water bladder or not with the bottles.

The pack/vest is made for running.  But nothing wrong with taking this sort of super light weight gear and adapting it to your own needs.  If it would only carry skis easily I would use it year around.  But for the rest of summer and a couple of projects I have in mind this thing is almost perfect.  For a few long ridge traverses and a couple of lwt alpine climbs I am going to give the Juric version a serious beat down.   I'll update  the blog with the results.

I'm pretty stoked to find a "pack" that will do what I want and not be in the way.
Anyone that knows me is going to be surprise to see me out of my custom CCWs for serious climbing or my REI Flash for quick hits like this last ridge "run".

Just a heads up on the pack details as the video covers it all much better than I do in writing.  CAMP also deserves some credit here for my own lwt kit.   I am relying on CAMP gear more and more through all four seasons now.  Worth looking around to see if they have anything you might use as well.  Some pretty innovative gear there with huge potential for skiing and lwt climbing.

But no one else doing anything similar to the Ultimate Direction designs that I know of short of military tactical vests.  And none designed  for or light enough for trail running.

More on the Camp gear I am using withteh Ultimate Direction's vest here:

Besides the OEM water bottles which I replaced with the Camp versions with the straw for easier use the packs holds everything I need.  A Camp wind shell and lwt axe are standard kit this time of year.

wind shell
watter bottle

Cell phone and camera a easily stashed as is just about anything else I can think of including aluminum crampons via the bungee cord in the back.  Just trying to think out side the box a little here.  If you have similar goals of going long and light, this pack and the others in the signature series are worth a look.  I like gear that allows me to look at projects with a new set of eyes and expand my own imagination.  It is one reason that new gear still excites me.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Very cool historical promo

This was obviously done for Mountain Equipment but what a great story in those 50 years of Mountain Equipment gear.

50 Years in the Mountains from MOUNTAIN EQUIPMENT on Vimeo.