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The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

The cold world of skimo & alpine climbing

Monday, December 15, 2014

Friday, December 5, 2014

"Buy the Fucking Ticket!"

There have been a rash of new mountaineering books coming from Patagonia publishing....and Chamonix photographers recently. (Take a look @ Alpine Exposures)  Haven't seen or read them all but had some time to read again this week.  And found a treasure here!

The name Kelly Cordes is likely known for hard climbing, margaritas and his writing. 

Cordes' most recent "The Tower" showed up the other day.   Being the critical literary scholar that I am, (huge roll of eyes here) of course I looked at the nice color photos first.  Then I got sucked into a  chapter that caught my eye.  An hour later I was hooked, rope, tools, pack  and tent.  That surprised me!   It is not often I get caught up in or even simply interested by a climbing story these days.

I grew up reading Messner's work, stories of Maestri, Mountain Magazine and having over the years met many of the characters in this book.  Generally I detest books where I actually know the climbers being discussed or quoted.  And to be honest never really enjoyed much of Cordes' previous writings.
I really enjoyed the skill and diplomicy that Cordes showed writing "The Tower". I've got a fairly extensive mountaineering library.  "The Tower" is not only a great historical perspective on Patagonia but a wonderful read on the current climbing environment and excitement there as well.

Going to Patagonia? Gone there in the past?  Or just interested in the history of Patagonia and the climbing there?

"The Tower" by Kelly Cordes is one, if not the best modern mountaineering book I've had the pleasure to read in a long time.  Careful though.  This is a book that is not easy to sit down.  Sad part is, the book does has an ending. 

A great read is truly a treasure.  Gotta say thanks to the author for this one!

"The Tower"
By Kelly Cordes
Patagonia Books

Thursday, December 4, 2014


It doesn't take a lot of imagination to make an epic adventure.  Every place I have lived or just visited has it's own local "Nolan's".   I suspect there is always one "there" to fit your imagination and abilities no matter what your sport or current skill level.  Ya just gotta look.   Just takes the imagination and courage to get on them!  Finishing is always optional...showing up is the firststep and often the most difficult.

    Nolan's">">Nolan's 14 - Trailer
from Pheonix">">Pheonix and Ash Productions on Vimeo.">Vimeo.>

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


"That is the average lifespan in the United States today: 27,375 days.  If you are typical, that is what was deposited in your “time bank” when you were born.  Every day, whether or not you want to, you make a withdrawal of 1 day.  When the days run out, you die.  Game over. "

Reflect on that fact when you watch this:

3456">">3456 feet
from Ride">">Ride Greener on Vimeo.">Vimeo.>

Learning to ride or ski takes a LOT longer when you decide to hike every hill. Fight every battle? Right every wrong?  Not that we shouldn't try mind you.   Life is if anything the ability to  more fully understand your desires and goals.  Harder yet knowing how to balance and accommodate them responsibly into the world around you.   In the end you get 27,375 days.  1500 on either end you'll be lucky if you are conscious enough to actually enjoy ;-)

525,600 minutes...

Call it 26,000 even.  What will you do with yours?

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

BD Stainless again....BD recall of the Whippet stainless ski pole

Black Diamond Equipment Recalls Whippet Ski Poles Due to Risk of Injury

Recall Details
Units: About 3,000.
Description: This recall includes Black Diamond Whippet and Whippet Carbon ski poles manufactured May 2013 through January 2014.
The Whippet is gray with two telescoping shafts and the Carbon Whippet is black with three telescoping shafts.
The upper shaft of both models is made of aluminum and has a black and orange rubber handgrip with a built-in, stainless steel, serrated pick and a black nylon wrist strap with a an orange Black Diamond logo.

Friday, November 28, 2014

It is a commercial ad but I liked it....

Patagonia as a clan, and corporate culture does a lot of neat stuff.  The ad aside, I liked this for several reasons.

Skimo boot comparison, Scarpa Alien 1, Dynafit PDG and TLT 6 P.

One likely has to ask.."why start with this photo?" 
I have thought long and hard on how to do this review.    For some rappelling on skis is going to seem pretty extreme.  For others?  They would be skiing here unfazed, where I was really happy to have a rope for a pitch or two.

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Patagonia Nano-Air and Arcteryx Atom Lt comparison?

Colin Haley on the Midi.  photo courtesy of Mikey Schaefer

I've had more questions about the new Nano-Air from Patagonia than any other specific piece of gear this Fall.  Obviously the Patagonia Marketing & PR department is doing its job!

Every email asked the same question..."how do the two compare?  "How about a Nano-Air in a straight up comparison to a Atom LT?"

Saturday, November 22, 2014

The PP, April '14


More info for those that have asked?

video of the gully filmed the same month

and prior to that

same line...with more ice a few years previous

comparison and topo

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Welcome to the PNW!

This was filmed in an amazing storm cycle from last winter @ Baker.  We got something like 10 feet of snow locally in 7 days.  Baker got more!  It was pretty good skiing that week ;-)

The end result and rain that followed gave us  avi conditions that took down one of Crystal chair lifts.

The">">The Shadow Campaign // Whitewash
from DPS">">DPS SKIS on Vimeo.">Vimeo.>

Monday, November 10, 2014

Friday, November 7, 2014

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Dynafit Denali?

This ski review thing is kinda fun and deceptive all at the same time.  I had a new friend ask me this summer, "how can you do a legitimate ski review on the conditions we were skiing as compared to our typical  snow?" 

My answer was, "it is all snow, ya turn left and ya turn right".  That and the fact is I have no interest in skiing on or writing a review from what I would consider "typical snow".

I ski a lot in a maritime snow pack in the Cascades.  But also ski in the Western States interior and the Alps.  I use my skis as tools.  And I have gotten more and more picky on the skis I like and want to spend time on.  I've become more educated about what a ski is capable of and more importantly what I am capable or...or not as a skier.

The picture above is the current crop of what I wanted to ski on this winter.  Everything there is just a slight variation of what I have been skiing on for the past 3 or 4 seasons.

I have had few duplicates of my ski choices.  The first ski that fit that category was the Huascaran.  A mistake on my part as the 196cm ski was not the 177cm ski.  Would seem obvious at first glance but it wasn't to me.   The next time I bought two different sizes of the same ski was with the Cho Oyu.  I used and really liked both sizes of the Cho Oyu.

I picked the short pair of Cho Oyu as one of 4 pair last winter to take to France.  And to be honest, it was pure luck on part to have that specific pair of  Cho.  It was the ski that really saved my ski season there.  Out of the 4 pair of skis along on that trip, for various reasons, I ended up using the Cho Oyu more than any other ski.  From steep skiing (well steep for me anyway) to the Haute Route.  I was impressed with the Cho.  It is a good ski for my own use.

Here are a couple of previous comments on the Cho:

As much as I liked the Cho there were a few things lacking for my own unreserved use.  But I certainly wasn't going to complain because I've had some of my best skiing ever on a Cho Oyu...literally.  By the end of last season I was using the Cho every where without reservation.

Of that new rack pictured above, 4 of the skis there are specific picks to better the performance of the Cho in certain conditions.  Mind you the conditions I am thinking of are pretty harsh.  Which are bad snow, hard base underneath and the results of a fall likely fatal.

The few times I skied that kind of terrain last winter, all on a short Cho Oyu, I wished for a more stable ski.  But I wasn't willing to ditch the super light weight ski and race bindings to get there either.  Instead I tried to adapt my own skiing to the gear as best I could.  97% of the time I simply enjoyed the ski.

Knowing I would be on more, similar terrain this coming winter I wanted to hedge my bets.
So I bought two pair of lwt custom Praxis skis that Keith made up for me @ 9d8 and 110mm.  And two pair of Dynafit skimo boards. (Dynafit's Manaslu and 7-Summit to be reviewed later)   All with the idea of more ski than the Cho was capable of because of the lwt construction.

The two Dynafit Denalis in the above picture were an after thought really.  Unknowingly I figured it would simply be a heavier version of the Cho Oyu with the added width @ 98mm under foot..instead of 88mm.    How bad could it be?

Turns out not bad at all!

Before I start here.  I am making the comparisons of the Cho to Denali because I thought the Cho Oyu was a stellar ski for my own use.  The direct comparison of the specs of the Denali to the Cho should tell you how much I already respect the Denali's performance to date.  I wasn't kidding when I said, "I've had some of my best skiing ever on a Cho Oyu."

Here is the comparison.

Up front, my actual ski's weights:

the 176cm Denali  1247g per ski @ 98mm under foot
the 174cm Cho Oyu 1210g per ski @ 88mm under foot

Less than 3oz per pair heavier and a longer ski with the Denali.
Bonus to the Denali there IMO.

Cho Oyu
Dimensions   125-88-111 [174]
turn radius      16-12-15m [174]
410-430mm tip rocker, 160mm tail rocker

Dimensions   131-98-116 [176]
turn radius        22.0/21.0 [176]
430mm tip rocker, camber, 200mm tail rocker

What all that means to me is a more stable, less hooky ski on nasty conditions.  Not that I consider the Cho hooky, it isn't.  But I did ski some of the worst wind pack, wind and rain breakable crust and ice conditions on the Denali that I have ever skied.   Few, if any skis would have made those conditions enjoyable. Not enjoyable snow conditions by any means but the Denali ended up being a solid choice for me.  I was able to stay up right the majority of time when my partners weren't always so fortunate on lesser skis.   I'm convinced it was advanced ski technology that was unable to cope with the ever changing and generally terrible conditions more than it was my skiing ability.

Not that I was rocking every turn/run by comparison either mind you.  But I was getting down in one piece on the Denali and happy with the ski.  More so than I thought I might/should be.  I also brought a 2nd pair of very solid all terrain skis on that trip, but never ended up using them.  Funny as I wasn't even tempted to take them out of the ski bag.  Says a lot on just how good the Denali was in the variable conditions we had.

One of the places I thought the Cho really shined last year was our early hard snow conditions here in the PNW.  The Cho skied exceptionally well on those perfectly groomed but pretty hard snow conditions we had in late December and early January here in the PNW.  Turns out I got a day or two on similar conditions during the Austral winter.  And while it was obvious some of my ski partners really wanted to see if I could actually ski the Denali, even my 176cm version was up to almost anything a big free style ski was capable of on hard pack.  Where the Cho would have been done on groomers, the Denali even in a short 176cm was still cruising like a champ.  That surprised me.  As did the Denali's performance on ice worthy of crampons.  The kind of ice you generally only see in the mountains above 10 or 12K feet.

Breakable crust that I would have preferred a DPS Spoon on, or at least 115mm under foot,  the Denali skied with little effort.  Wasn't the ski in the way, that is for sure.  More my lack of technique.

I have some bigger, lwt, wood core ski to fill in the gaps on the nasty snow of any steep French gullies this winter.  Only time on those new boards will tell me which of those skis will better the Denali.  But at least for me the Denali to date have been better than the Cho in hard conditions.  And the Cho was a proven bench mark as a lwt ski for me last winter.

I bought both the 176cm ski which I have skied on and the 184cm Denali hoping I can take advantage of both sizes.

The video from last Spring shows a place I was wanting more ski than the Cho.  The Denali might be just enough more ski for some added some security there..that day..those conditions.   Make no mistake these are wider versions of really good skimo boards.  They aren't the typical touring skis or the typical soft snow ski.  They are true mountaineering skis.  The Cho is a well proven version of that definition even while being just one year old.  From my little time on the Denali I think it is a even more mature version of that tool.   With race bindings on them I hope to prove that statement to myself over and over again this winter.

Some are sure to I did.  How about a comparison to the La Sportiva Nano?  To start with $300 to $500 more @ retail.  Ouch!  I have not skied the Vapor yet.  But the comparisons on soft snow between the Denali and the Vapor, from those I trust, have been very favorable.

But money no object?  Ya gotta wonder right?
It is a very modern 5 point ski.  Some advantages there.

General consensus from those that I know that have skied both:
"Mind blowing weight for a powder plank!"

1180g [172cm] for one ski
129-103-120 [172]
19m [172]
Generous tip rocker, camber underfoot, gentle tail rocker

For everything skimo related look here:

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Newest Trango tool

I've always had high hopes for this tool.  Great retail price point to start with, @ $175.00 per tool.  Now with a ice specific pick and a more comfortable handle.  It was good as a Gen 1 version.  Suspect the Gen 2 version of the Raptor will be even better for my own use.    I know just by looking at the new handle (less spike more open finger hook)  the ease of rotation will be improved significantly.

I'm looking forward to using them and then writing a full review.

A few years ago on the original version @ the Weeping Wall.

1st generation Raptor
No smoke and mirrors here, but real design changes coming from climbers using the tools not the marketing department.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Fall yard sale...

All five ski for sale are pictured on the left side of this picture..

Part of last year's bumper crop.  Time for me to pull the bindings, change boots and move on...

Skis only, no bindings.

All are in exceptionally good condition tops and bottoms.  One mount with Dynafit Radicals on the Protest, and Huascaran.  Speed Superlight were mounted on the 182 GPO.  Radicals and then Rossi Axial 2 on the 192 GPO.  There are no lemons here.

Add actual shipping costs via US mail to any of these skis or boots.  US sales only.   Pay Pal preferred.

Praxis Custom ordered ski:

Carbon GPO, sunset top sheet, 192cm.  Twice mounted with Speed Radical to a TLT6 29,  and recently with a Rossignol Axis 2,  $300.


Hauscaran, 192cm.  Once mounted with Speed Super Light to a TLT6 29,  $300.

La Sportiva

Hang5,  178cm, Once mounted with Speed Radical to a TLT6 29,  $300.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Ya, that was a bad idea...

Not cleaning a binding and boot I suspect ended in this rather spectacular, dangerous and likely totally unnecessary fall.
Season after season I see the same things happen while skiing with my groups.  Silly little mistakes that lift skiers seldom if ever worry about.  The one in particular that drives me crazy is popping a binding off on the first turn.  It is a Rookie mistake.   And easily avoidable if you are informed,  experienced or simply willing to pay attention. 
Doesn't matter if the walk is across the parking lot or a 1000 meter boot pack, the process of getting into your bindings should always be the same.  Clean off both boot and binding.  Better yet have a partner help you with it as required.  Trust your ski partners to help you do it right.  If you are using a tech binding the problem is worse than a alpine binding.  But neither binding style is immune to the effect of having foreign material, dirt, rocks or simply snow and ice in the binding or on the boot proper.
Ski bindings are not made to work with foreign material of any sort between boot and binding.  Get it wrong and the binding simple will not stay on.

This is a classic situation where you have to pay attention and cleaning your off boots.  Better yet, think of where you'll be putting on your skis and the platform required to do it all safely not just for you but for everyone in your group.
Don't let the terrain fool you.  Snow and ice can be just as bad as dirt and rocks when it comes to eliminating the security of a good ski binding.  Alpine ridge boot pack or a set of steel stairs.  The attention you pay on cleaning your boots and bindings should not change.

Experience tells  me most will have the ski skills for this this long before they have the courage.  And for good reason.

In my experience most will have the ski skills to ski difficult terrain long before they have the fundamental knowledge of how to do it safely.
Blowing out of the binding on the first turn is your, your partner's and your guide's fault.  Everyone is responsible for each other.  Do that in difficult terrain or a no fall zone and the  risks go up accordingly.  Like a bullet sent down range with the pull of a trigger, there are no "overs".  You don't get to call a mistake back in the mountains and wish it weren't so.  You live or die by your mistakes.
With tech bindings work your toe levers every time you click in to clean your pin holes.  Don't let the peer pressure of the group skiing off on step in alpine bindings rush you.  Pay attention to your own mounting platforms while attempting to get your skis on.  Be sure you are capable of cleaning your boots, clicking in and NOT loosing a ski all at the same time.
Listen to your own intuition.  If you think some of your partners decisions are questionable...they more than likely, areDo what you need to do, to be safe.  Be well aware of the consquences of your actions and that of your partners.
And the conservative line and in a conservative manner in the back country.  Or at the very least think about how hard it would be and how long it would take to get the biggest bozo in your group off the mountain and back to medical care if they missed the next huck and things went terribly wrong.  Can you solve that problem alone if it goes bad?  Or are you relying on others to prop your sorry ass up and get you out?   
That doesn't mean missing all the fun.  What is does mean is thinking about the result a nasty fall could mean. 
If you have no clue...and nothing wrong with that, ask questions.  Everyone started this stuff at the beginning of the book.  If you need the Cliffs notes versions, listen to those that do have a clue and then act accordingly.  It aint rocket science.  It is easy to be a quick study.
If you are skiing with a partner you owe them thinking ahead, for everyone's peace of mind and ultimately everyone's safety.
 Hopefully this is a better explanation.  Look closely at the photo then dbl click.   Guide is high right on the slope in a yellow jacket.  He is hiking to retrieve the first lost ski.  You can see it just left of the little snow ledge on the rock cliff.  A second ski is below him stuck in the snow left of another rock.  At the end of the slope, his client, in blue, recovering from what I'd suppose mentally at least (she was unhurt thankfully despite all the rocks on this slope) was a fairly traumatic fall.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Time Travel? A chance to experience it...

"Hey all!
   Just trying to promote Simon McCartney's slide show at Neptune's, Thursday,September 4. It's absolutely free, and you can bring alcohol! I think it starts at 8:00...guess I should have double-checked! But I KNOW that all of you will LOVE this show (I think, anyway!). Just a bit of backstory, just in case. Simon and Jack (Roberts) climbed the North Face of Mt. Huntington (in Alaska) in 1978, and then the Southwest Face of Denali in 1980. Both of those climbs were ground-breaking for their times, and to my knowledge, have yet to be repeated in their entirety. BFD. After the epic on Denali, Simon withdrew altogether from climbing, completely and totally. He and Jack saw each other that next summer, but never again, nor did they ever have contact again. Jack used to "look" for Simon for years, but finally gave up. But Jack talked to me a LOT about Simon, the climbs, etc, so I kind of felt like I knew him. He so wanted to see Simon again. Years passed, Jack died. I was on Camino in Spain when I received an email message, "Simon McCartney looking for Pam Roberts." Long story short, Simon had finally decided to come out of hiding from the climbing world, and tried to contact Jack. Found out he had died, found out he had a widow, and set about
trying to find me. We connected....he wanted to write a book about their climbs. I have all of Jack's journals from those climbs, and the photos. In the ensuing 2 years, Simon has written a book(unpublished as of yet) of these 2 climbs with the help of Jack's journals and photos, and we have become friends. He's been wanting to come to the States to reconnect with various people from that time period, and so part of that time will be here in Boulder. He's really excited, and excited to give a show. This is a big deal for him, and I have to say, it would be the most significant thing for Jack, were he still alive, so it's a very big deal for me. I'm just "tagging" you all because you are friends, because you "get" climbing, and you knew come if you can! It will be a never before seen experience...not even Jack got to see this! Invite anyone you want........I'd love to see a full house!
pam (Roberts) "

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Dynafit bindings ramp?...if you are on them think about this...

Next time you buy or snap into your Dynafit bindings.

Or the next time anyone wants to tell you ramp angle isn't a problem on b/c ski bindings.

The difference between a Dynafit rental heel and a Dynafit Speed Super Light heel is 21mm.  Or just over 3/4",    .789" or there abouts.

Then think about just how well you would ski if you stuck a 3/4" lift under your heel.   Sure you can shim the toes as Dynafit does with their spacer or use one of the B&D versions.

Or you could actually use a combo of toe and heel that has the least amount of ramp from the get go.

My suggestion? ZERO ramp.

Some asked so here ya go guys.

A couple of Dynafit combos I am currently using that I really like.  Not easily put together here in the States but easy enough else where or if you travel/go on the Internet early season.  Either system is easy to use, super strong in any alpine situation you'd use a touring boot and most importantly to me, proven reliability. 

I'd bet these guys would be happy to put it together for you given some notice.  Tell them I sent ya :)

These combos give you +4mm to a -1 depending on adjustment plate or toe shim used.

Speed Superlight toe, no shim and a race heel (-/+ 0)
Speed Super light toe, no shim and a adjustment plate w/race heel (+4.5mm)
Speed Radical toe, 6.5mm factory toe shim and Superlight heel (-1mm) (toe is hell for stout)
Speed Radical toe, 6.5mm shim and Superlight heel with adjustment plate (+4mm)

Even the worst of the combos above is a full 9+mm less ramp than a current Speed Radical.

Once you have skied @ -0- it is really unappealing to go past even 3 or 4mm.   And that isn't even taking into account stack height on the bigger ramp angles and the traditional shim fit to get closer to a -0- ramp.  All of which I find almost as annoying but in a different way.

My go to binding set up for most skiing of any sort is a race heel and toe.  No shims.  But if you want a adjustable heel and low ramp, use the Dynafit Speed Superlight heel with track, and add the factory 6.5mm toe shim to what ever toe you use.  Cut the top clip off for the race toes to fit.  Works perfect.

I unintentionally skied a good part of my season last year on the Race binding and the back adjustment track ending up with 4.5mm of ramp.  While I would have preferred -0- ramp the 4mm wasn't annoying.

As Linnaeus noted boot board ramp angle and boot forward lean is also an import factor here.  The most modern boots I think will perform better and you as a skier with less binding ramp angle.  Pretty common stuff in the alpine world.   The BC boot and binding makers have different priorities.  My take on that is it isn't helping anyone to ski better to use more ramp angle on their bindings.  Good skiers can work around a lot.  Others not so much.

More here on ramp angles of Dynafit bindings:

Speed Radical toe, 6.5mm shim and Superlight heel with adjustment plate (+4mm of ramp total)   Not a heavy binding set up by any means but not a super light either.  Just a STOUT binding system by my standards with as much ramp angle (4 or  5mm of +) I am willing to use on a daily basis.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Thalay Sagar....

Damn it!

DamNation">">DamNation - Trailer
from Patagonia">Patagonia> on Vimeo.">Vimeo.>

Monday, May 19, 2014

Old school, New school....lost and found?

Hess and Deborah from the North.

In the late spring of 1976, I and 3 others did out first Alaska trip.  Not flying into KIA but going farther north into what was then a little visited area.  David Roberts, Don Jensen had come before us as had others we didn't know and hadn't read about.  For us it was a good adventure

Sunday, May 18, 2014

The tail of two tips....Dynafit's carbon, Nanga Parbat, Cho Oyu and Denali

Whole lot of Dynafit love happening on the Haute Route!

I am a big fan of the Dyanfit's newest Nanga Parbat, Cho Oyu.  And I suspect the Denali will be just as good or better of a ski if you need the extra width.   But!   And it isn't a big BUTT... more like a irritating PIA.  One that should have been caught a long time ago by the designers and Dynafit testers.   There is this one small problem.

The tip on these skis suck.  Yes the new tip design takes Dynafit's excellent skins well.  And no. my bitch isn't a square tip thing.  Although one has to wonder why a square tip other than to cut weight or more than likely just to be different..

What is annoying is a little sharp edged bump where the ski's edge and the ski/skin  tip insert meet.


If you double click on the photo above and look at the left edge of the ski where the edge and tip meet you'll notice a little indent and the resulting bump where they meet just short of the ski's edge end.

Seems trivial when you look at it.  But for me it isn't trivial.  It is really annoying.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Light weight touring specific.

The morning this picture was taken coming out of the Vignette hut it was cold and windy.  To be honest I don't think any of us thought we would really be skiing into Zermatt later that day.  Weather was coming in, it was cold and all of us were tired from the last 5 days of skiing.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

Ski poles? A2.16 Pro Trailer, Mountian Pole! again.

Here is a pole drive by for ya....

My current pole collection dating back to the late '70s from right to left.
And until recently everything was still in use.  No more.

Good idea, but a poor understanding and  follow through on my part here:

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The gear list?

going, going ...gone!

Most won't care.  But a few have asked.   From the many options I have here to ski and climb in what did I take to or end up using full time in Chamonix?  Each was carefully chosen from a lot of options.
Never been to Chamonix when I didn't want to buy or think I "needed" something.  Of course I did eventually!  But this is what I actually used this trip to great satisfaction.  And better yet, never thought I lacked anything for gear or clothing.  I went heavy on ski and could have left the Hauscaran or the GPO at home...but not both.  The other two I used a lot.  Boots as well.  All good choices I'd take again. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

The ice axe......

My first lasting impression of "ice climbing" was a quote.  Don't remember where it came from now but most likely a European from the '30s who had spent some serious time on steep North Faces in the Alps.

"Where there is snow, we can go!"  

Westcomb Shift LT in Neoshell


Westcomb sez:
"Industry’s lightest Polartec® NeoShell® Jacket. The Shift Hoody offers no-compromise wind and water protection, in a featherweight shell. Designed so the gram counting outdoor adventurer can maximize experience with minimal weight."

For this year's trip to Chamonix I was determined to not over pack or take so much new gear that I would never get a chance to use it all.  I did exactly that last time.  Besides the over weight and excess luggage charges (which were as much as my original plane ticket!)  the entire process ended up a disaster.  Gear was lost or stolen mailing it back to save money and there was gear in France I never did get a chance to use.

PPP on my part.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Straps or brakes?

Entering the last gully on the Grand Envers

Rant mode on here and at full volume!

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Peak Performance BlackLight Synthetic Puffy?

Sking into Zermatt.  Last day of the tour.  Clothing is sorted!

For those reading the  blog long term it is obvious I get pretty excited about my light weight synthetic puffs.  I own a bunch of them from different manufactures and at least attempt to use them all.  Arcteryx, Mountain Equipment, Mont Bell, Patagonia are some of my favorites.

But I am ever seldom happy for long.  The more you use the best gear available, the more it becomes clear on how to better it fro your own use.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

FYI on content?

If you come here often, I suspect you will have noticed a distinct lack of new content lately.  Good reason for that.  I've been skiing and climbing in France and Switzerland for the past month with another to go before returning to Seattle. 
This trip has allowed me to test some theories, get to see and use some of the newest gear to best effect and so far, only scare myself spitless a few times to date.  But the trip isn't over yet!
Best part of the trip, and there have been many,  is I am already fully booked for Chamonix in  March and April of 2015!  
If you find the upcoming changes and newest content to Cold Thistle (and I have many planned ) interesting, entertaining and fun be sure to let me know.  I am pretty stoked about it all!  If next winter is any thing like the last 6 weeks.  2015 will simply be amazing here at CT!
Things should start happening in late May.  Stick around and see what you think!

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Grivel Twin Gate?

Ya, I have seen a lot of fluff and faff in the climbing world.  When it comes to bits and pieces stuff comes and goes.  The bad or complicated stuff simply binned early on.  We all have some I suspect.  And really wish we didn't.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Sunday, April 13, 2014


Beyond">">Beyond Good and Evil
from morgan">morgan> on Vimeo.">Vimeo.>


"Dare to live the life you dream....not the life you think you must."

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The last resort?

This a project the NW locals should be all over supporting in any way possible!

No matter what you donate in time or money...if you ever need them it will be cheap by comparison.

Raffle and dinner are only 10 days away.  Don't let the lack of a ticket scare you away!

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

The world of alpine web blogs?

the skin
You'll want to dbl click these photos for full effect

A few of us finally got together for some easy but oh so good skiing here in Chamnonix.

TK, Matt, Brian and Charlie all gathered for a really fun ride today.  Simply brilliant skiing starting with a coffee in Chamonix, up the Midi tram and then a short, pleasant skin over into Italy.   Down 1200m of the de Toule Glacier to the Helbronner mid station.  Up that tram and another then back to Chamonix for lunch.  The blogs are here:

I will eventually write more when I have some time but  I am not much on writing up my own trip reports.  Magical days with good friends, old and new, can deserve some pictures and words.  This was truly one of those days for me. 

The picture above is Charlie about to spray me with much of the crew following.  Me?  I'm in the middle of a perfect patch of steep snow with a huge shit eating grin.   Dave is pictured below at the last of the ice fall.  The route?   Half the Valle Blanc then up and down the de Toule Glacier, then up for coffee, and down the  Combe de La Vergie, down the right bank of the Seracs de Geant.

"Super Dave Searle" above"
I've skied on a lot of fine days.  Few better than this. 3600+m of vert. total, one "one"run.
All enhanced by the Italian coffee, grappa and French sunshine!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Guide de Montagne...

Chamonix is such a great place in so many ways.  For one example, literally hundreds of mountain guides live and work here full time.  For others is is just a stop along the yearly pilgrimage to see and work in some of the very special places in the world.

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Envers?

Day two was fun.

One of my goals this trip was to ski many of the classic Vallee Blanche routes that I hadn't bothered with previous.  One I didn't intend to ski was the Petite Envers.  Generally it is too crevassed for my likely.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Crochues-Bérard tour Chamonix....

As always the views and mountains here are incredible!
Can you name that classic N. Face?

"Crochues-Bérard was a blast, best I've ever skied it."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Andy Nesbit interview....

Andy">">Andy Nisbet - 2014 Scottish award for excellence mountain culture
from Dave">">Dave MacLeod on Vimeo.">Vimeo.>

Thanks for the link Steve!


Patagonia">">Patagonia: Attempt To Succeed
from Sam">">Sam Van Brempt on Vimeo.">Vimeo.>

Thanks for the suggestion Sam!

Friday, March 21, 2014

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Superfeet insoles?

I have spent 30+  years on Superfeet Kork custom insoles in my ski boots.  Was lucky enough today to spend an afternoon with Jeff Gray who is Superfeet's Director of Education and Training.  And what I got was an amazing education in a short amount of time.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Amazing Mtn photos...

Photo courtesy of and stolen from 's blog

If you haven't seen  's blog you should, if for no other reason than the amazing photos.

I was gobsmacked...jaw dropping!

Have fun!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Spring ski classic


Tacul alpine ice...

Ski Packs? Camp USA 260 and 600, Arcteryx Khamski 38

Truth is I am spoiled ("no chit", some of you must say) because I really do have some amazing gear.  And I get exposed to a lot more that isn't so amazing.   Packs in particular for this discussion. Randy at Cold Cold World has indulged me over the last few years by making what I still think is the best climbing sac I have ever used, let alone seen..  And that opinion includes the newest Arcteryx and Patagonia climbing packs along with the no name stuff floating around the Internet as a "alpine pack".   But sadly, a climbing pack is clearly not a ski pack.   It is close mind you but without the ski attachments and the extra "bag" for touring kit you still only have a climbing sack.  Useful but not idea for my own use. 

Thursday, March 13, 2014

The ice axe that glows... Bhend


Bhend Metallbau, Grindelwald Switerland
By Bruno Schull


            Who invented the ice axe?  Did shepherds scrambling back and forth between high pastures add crude picks to wooden alpine stocks, or is that just a climbing legend?  How did the long ice axes of the last century evolve into the short technical tools we know today?  I am not a historian, so I can not answer these questions, but I suspect that there are many different interpretations, and that the definitive story remains to be told.  What I can offer is the story of one ice axe, which has been made in largely the same form for over one-hundred-and-forty years, by four generations of the same family.  It’s the story of the ice axe which accompanied climbers on the first ascents of the highest mountain in the world, and the most infamous north face of the Alps.  It’s also a story about craft, an intangible combination of skill, tradition and values, fast disappearing in the modern world.  It’s the story of the Bhend ice axe. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

"Why decision making is greater than a beacon"

amazing photo courtesy of from the Internet


Why decision making is greater than a beacon...

December 23rd, 2012 by
Interview by Megan Michelson

Editor's note: This is a good read which I totally agree with BTW.

"Drew Tabke has been competing in big-mountain contests for the last eight years. In 2011, (and  again in 2013)  he won the overall title on the Freeskiing World Tour and placed second in 2012 on the Freeride World Tour. When he’s not competing, Tabke spends about 80 percent of his time in the backcountry, notching first ski descents in Washington’s North Cascades or in Chile’s Andes, where he spends three months each summer. Tabke, 28, spoke to us about his thoughts on the state of the backcountry while eating a burger at a pub in Seattle.
What draws you to the backcountry? I don’t like people telling me what to do. In ski areas, you have rules, ski patrol, and so many things that decide what you can and cannot do. In the backcountry, the best experience for me is having an idea of where I want to go and not using a guidebook and not getting too much information and having an authentic adventure. That’s my ideal.
Are there actually places left that haven’t been explored? Sure, in Washington, which is why I moved here from Utah. In Utah, it’s so hard to get somewhere where you can’t see another skin track. But in Washington, you may have a difficult approach, but then you get to a place where you have to figure out where to go, and you see no signs of other humans."

The rest is here:

Scott Toepfer, a member of the Colorado Avalanche Information Center, takes depth measurements every 50 feet at the crown of a lethal avalanche near Loveland Pass. (Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post)

Read more: Colorado avalanche victims were part of snowboard gathering turned tragic - The Denver Post

Sunday, March 2, 2014

"Why not me?"

Dawn patrol proud of her Dynafit, Praxis and Camp!

If you have ever looked at anything on Cold Thistle and wondered. "why not me"?  I am here to ask you, "why not you?"

Much of life is only two things...actually showing up and when in it out.  Take a risk...make a leap of faith.  You never know just how far it might take you!

More on this story in April ;-)