"Second, anyone who tells you that gear doesn’t matter is clueless (at least in alpine climbing). I’m 100% certain that Rob and I were carrying less total mass of material than any other roped ascent of the route. My ice axes, crampons and helmet are all significantly lighter than they were just three years ago, and massively lighter than the ice axes, crampons and helmets that Steve and Rolo had in 2001. My helmet is the lightest one on the market. My ice axes are Petzl prototypes which are noticeably lighter than Quarks, which are already some of the lightest technical ice axes on the market. My crampons are steel in front and aluminum in back, and connected by dyneema cord. We cut the leg loops off of our harnesses. Our cams were the new BD ultralights. Our ice screws were the aluminum Petzl Laser Speed Lights. Our carabiners and slings were certainly way lighter than the lightest ones available in 2001. We climbed on a single 7.7mm rope, and didn’t bring a second one. I wore single boots on both ascents – the La Sportiva Batura, of which the current version is significantly lighter than the first version that came out in 2007. Yeah, we brought sleeping bags, they weighed 700g each. Yeah, we brought foam pads, but have you seen how light the NeoAir pads are? We had a Jetboil Sol, which is much lighter than the original Jetboil, which already was much lighter than whatever stove Steve and Rolo had in 2001 (probably a white gas stove)."
YEA! They did it! Took awhile but Petzl showed both a lwt skimo axe and a new lwt "Nomic" as the revamped "Sum'tec" @ OR in SCL 2017. Makes sense because the new Sum'tec was so easy to make up with parts they already had on hand at Petzl.
Let's be honest here. If I can with a straight face make any comparison to a $119 insulated soft shell, and a $350 insulated soft shell things are really messed up some where in the outdoor industry food chain. (prices quoted are typical msrp retail pricing) If you are just into labels...and not performance you can stop reading here :).
Lets start with what I still consider the gold standard of insulated soft shells, the Arcteryx Gamma MX @ $350 US $ currently.
From the Arctery web site:
"Breathable, wind-resistant, lightly insulated hooded jacket constructed with Fortius 2.0 textile for increased comfort and mobility. Gamma Series: Softshell outerwear with stretch | MX: Mixed Weather."
"This wind-resistant, breathable hoody is perfect for alpine specialists looking for enhanced mobility. A tough, highly wind-resistant outer face sheds moisture and a light fleece backer adds warmth while wicking away moisture.
Helmet Compatible Stormhood™
Helmet Compatible Stormhood™ The Arc'teryx helmet compatible Stormhood™ is designed to provide the ultimate protection in cold or wet weather. The laminated brim and hood adjusters secure tightly and deliver full coverage without restricting movement or visibility.
Adjustable hood cinch cords
Tall collar for full coverage"
Honestly the last time I can remember using a insulated soft shell (Gamma MX) for climb was March of 2009 on Curtain Call with Jack. It was cold outside, little wind and the ice wet. The Gamma MX was a perfect choice in jackets for the day. Jack was wearing a Mammut version of a similar fabric and pattern. Cutting edge and good gear for 7 years ago,.
My original Canadian made Gamma MX
Mind you I still use a lot of "soft shells" just nothing like the Gamma MX that is insulated for my own climbing climbing. I do how ever use a number of lwt insulated garments as "climbing sweaters". The entire Arcteryx Atom lineup has been good. The choice in Arcteryx Atom garments depending on temps. Or the RAB Xenon are some all time favorites for cold weather winter climbing. I really like the Pertex shell RAB uses. But stretchable shells that offer good durability, water resistance and weather protection from Westcomb, Arcteryx and Patagonia are my likely choices these days for climbing or skiing over a insulation with rare exceptions.
So back to the Gamma MX. My first MX cost me the then seemingly outrageous price of $300 back in 2003 iirc. So up front the garments last. This one was passed on to a buddy working on a ranch. He used it as his every day jacket rain or shine till seams started exploding. It then went back to Arcteryx for repair and he is still using it today.
The reason I don't use insulated soft shells for climbing now? They are certainly warm and wind resistant but I've not found one that breaths well enough to climb in. The criticism continues even with the newest Gamma MX.
The fit of the Arcteyx version is excellent for me. High marks there for detailing, pattern, fit and finish. Just as I should be in a $350 dollar outdoor jacket. The Gamma MX is no longer made in Canada and the fabric not as heavy/warm/windproof as the originals but still a good weight IMO and very stretchy. Decent wet weather protection for a while anyway and they dry quickly when wet. No question this thing is durable. Most will give I away or recycle it on Ebay long before they wear one out. High praise there.
My take on the Gamma MX today? Not warm enough to ski in alone mid winter. Not warm enough for most cold weather outdoor actively unless you are moving quickly. If you are working hard the Gamma MX doesn't breath well enough to justify the weight or durability. The Atom LT is a better option for me while climbing. It breaths much better than a Gamma MX. They are a straight across trade for me in similar weather conditions. The Atom LT is lighter and breaths better. The Gamma MX is more as in, way, way more durable in use.
Some folks love climbing in an insulated soft shell. There are some great ones out there. The Neoshell versions really impressed me and still do for over all weather protection. And nothing wrong with the Gamma MX. As I said earlier I still think it is the gold standard of the category. Neoshell is the only thing I have seen that enhances a good insulated soft shell.
So how does the Carthartt Crowley jacket figure into the technical soft shell mix?
It reminds me at least in feel, warmth and weight of the very best of the Neoshell versions of insulated soft shell.
But first two important numbers....a Gamma MX, size XL and comparable with a slightly roomier fit, the Carhartt Crowley in Large.
Gamma MX Hoody is 1# 13oz. and $350.
Crowley Hoody is 2# 3oz and $120.
The weight difference is noticeable. So is the durability and wind protection advantage going to the Crowley on both points. Think of the MX as a bespoke sport coat for a Fall or Spring night on the town. The Crowley as a nice fitting leather motorcycle jacket for protection on your sport bike.
The Crowley I might delegate as a full time mid winter ski jacket with a slick insulated layer under it. The MX makes a good piece of kit on the hill if you are moving or the temps mild.
You might wonder why I am so interested in a insulated soft shell now. For the last few months I have gotten up just prior to dawn and put on what ever I thought would keep me warn in the coldest part of the day as I walk a few hundred yards to a barn to move/feed 100# hay bales around outdoors, no matter the weather, clear, rain or now snow prior to sunrise. Interesting to me what I have learned from the experience that applies to my other outdoor interests and may be yours. Wrestling with 100+ lbs of dead weight that is hard to get a handle on first thing in the morning is like having to lead a hard pitch first thing after a bad bivy. Rather unpleasant. What have I learned? I really want warm feet walking through thigh high wet grass. I want a decent hood on the jacket (wind). And the least amount of clothes to keep me warm and no bind while working. Pretty much what I want on that hard mixed pitch after a bad bivy. Jacket has to be TOUGH and abrasive resistant to survive even a week around the horses and barn. If the jacket collects hay on sticky fabric (inside or out) it won't be comfortable for long. From my memory snow seems to stick in a similar fashion. Insulated soft shells are the perfect barn coat or at least could be. Price has been a big deterrent for me in such an abusive environment. The best materials are water proof (Neoshell). All the best soft shells in this category are pretty abrasive resistant. The high quality insulated versions might well be warm enough 99% of the time in the "barn" environment even mid winter.
I was so convinced that the Gamma MX was the answer to the "barn coat" that I went to Ebay and bought one "new with tags". Then before it could arrive I found the Carhartt Crowley version in the local Carhartt store and bought that as well. Hard to resist the low buy in $ amount truthfully. The Ebay price on the Gamma MX and the retail price on the Carhartt added together got me into both jackets for a good bit less than full retail on a Gamma MX. If nothing else it was a nice score I figured.
Two weeks later I am more impressed with the Carhartt than ever. Enough so to add a rare new gear review here :)
Carhartt Hood? Works with a climbing helmet no problem. Big enough and decent vision. Hood has a simple draw string system and a good chin protector on the high zip front with a pull tag. All the pocket zippers also have the same nice pull tags.
Cuffs? Tapered cuff Velcro closure.
Pockets? One zippered chest on the outside, two zippered hand pockets on the sides. Pockets are deep unlikely you'll loose much from them even with the zipper down. One Velcro tabbed drop pocket internally and two that are not sealed that are unintentional pockets....that work good for something like sun glasses or a light glove/hat. All the pockets are a light woven fabric lined to enhance breathability and lower bulk is my take on it. The plan seems to work.
Nice gusset around the hemline. Draw string there as well.
Bottom line here? Even for twice the price the Crowley is a damn nice jacket. At $120 it is a steal. Equally at home on lift served skiing or a cold mixed route that requires some chimney stuffing. Likely more than one Harley rider will wear it on his bike. Basic black for color has some appeal. Nice jacket to haul on your next plane flight to where ever, just to maintain the image. And it is comfy. Good enough for a dinner date, beer and a movie And it makes a decent barn jacket that I won't ever worry about trashing. It is a insulated soft shell jacket I would actually take on quick shots of alpine mixed climbing. That is HIGH praise from me.
This jacket was a really fun find. I've put some decent mileage on it doing everything BUT outdoor pursuits unless you consider riding a horse something exciting. For the most part I just find it a quick way to get really dirty. So far all that has spit shined up with just a wet wash cloth on the Carhartt Crowley. Be curious to see to it looks this time next year. Don't imagine there will be any surprises the way Carhartt builds clothing.
Best $120 I have spent in a long time. The new Gamma MX I ordered? It is here, still got the hang tags on it. Still one hell of a jacket even at $350. I'll be saving it for spring skiing :)
"Simon McCartney was a cocky young British alpinist climbing many of the hardest routes in the Alps during the late seventies, but it was a chance meeting in Chamonix in 1977 with Californian ‘Stonemaster’ Jack Roberts that would dramatically change both their lives – and almost end Simon’s.
Inspired by a Bradford Washburn photograph published in Mountain magazine, their first objective was the 5,500-foot north face of Mount Huntington, one of the most dangerous walls in the Alaska Range. The result was a route so hard and serious that for decades nobody believed they had climbed it – it is still unrepeated to this day. Then, raising the bar even higher, they made the first ascent of the south-west face of Denali, a climb that would prove almost fatal for Simon, and one which would break the bond between him and climbing, separating the two young climbers for over three decades. But the bond between Simon and Jack couldn’t remain dormant forever. A lifetime later, a chance reconnection with Jack gave Simon the chance to bury the ghosts of what happened high on Denali, when he had faced almost certain death.
The Bond is Simon McCartney’s story of these legendary climbs."
Mark Twight puts Huntington's "Timeless Face" into context and closes one chapter to hopefully only open another on Huntington.
"In the early-80s I discovered Mountain Magazine and the north face of Mount Huntington. I thought the protagonists to be the baddest of the bad-asses. This was about the time the WPODs (Newsom was a part of the WPOD) were active in AK. Those guys scared the shit out of me and I put Roberts in the same category. For a long time I took the ascent at face value and inspiration from it because my own experience taught what may be one when extraordinary conditions and will prevail. But some of Jack's actions off the mountain made the rumors of doubt easier to believe and I did. Reading Newsom's words was a relief because they meant a climb that inspired me for many years was real, and likely the single ballsiest undertaking in the history of North American climbing."
IIRC it was the winter of 2006-7 (?), that I remember John Freeman telling me he had soloed Polar Circus wearing fruit boots and using Nomics. Nomic's were may be a year old at the time. Common now anywhere there is ice, but at the time Nomic's alone were pretty radical ice tools. Fruit boots? Sweet but usually pretty dang cold. Warm day on Polar Circus? It all seemed to make "some sense". When John was telling me the story it had been a while since I had been on steep ice and either way I was impressed with the choice of gear and the climb.
This John Freeman:
I like the films linked below and Ueli's choice in gear. Which likely has some to do with his head as well.....but not much :)
Now we see Nomics on anything from Alpine ice to steep water ice or really hard M climbing. Fruit boots? Some of the best mountain boots are now better/lighter/warmer than most of the original fruit boots. Telling for me that the Nomic is still "state of the art".
Ueli Steck wasn't one to wonder if a lwt boot would suffice on cold ice. The Ultra was never imported into North America but available in Europe. I still think the Phantom Ultra was a much better boot than the Phantom Guide having used both boots.
I try to keep up on a few things..alpine boots being one of them. I've not missed La Sportiva's new dbl boot entry or Arcteryx's new "dbl" boot line . I was involved on the ground floor in both ideas.
I think the next step in the evolution of boot technology was the Scarpa Rebel Ultra. I suspect Scarpa did as well hence the name.."Ultra".
Having used the Rebel Ultra mid winter @ altitude in the Alps I can say it worked fine...but could be a little warmer :) The Phantom Ultra was just a little warmer. I suspect the newest Phantom Tech to be a even better boot than the Phantom Ultra was and ....every bit as good of boot as the Rebel Ultra is now. Thanks to Grammy for the updates.
Photo courtesy of Chris Graham
More coming shortly on the Phantom Tech from a few of us that buy are own boots, and that are just now starting to use the Phantom Tech..
I'll update this review as I get more info.
Today it is weights.
All boots are size 45 and weighed on my postal scale
Rebel Pro Goretex 852g
Rebel Ultra 860g
Phantom Tech 970g (Scarpa listed @ 815g for a 42)
Phantom Ultra 1030g
Phantom Guide 1120g
Phantom 6000 1160g (last generation with a Baruntse liner) (Newest 6000 is listed @ 995g for a 42)
Quick high points?
The new Phantom Tech drops 2 full ounces per boot from the older Phantom Ultra. 4 oz. for the pair in my size 45.
Both Toes and heel crampon attachment points have changed for the better. Any crampon will fit the newest Phantom boot much better.
The boot sole and the ankle articulation of the new Phantom Tech are way, WAY stiffer than the ultra, Guide or Rebel Ultra.
While you wouldn't think the internals of the boot would have changed much..that would be an incorrect assumption.
Anyone climbing in a Phantom Guide now will be pretty impressed I think with the changes in the Phantom Tec. There is a reason there is no longer a Phantom Guide model available. (at least in North America) For once I actually agree with Scarpa's marketing plan here :) It is a very nice boot.
Super light generally means less durable. Slightly higher and much more durable gaiter than the old Ultra or Guide. The new wrap around gaiter is suppose to be the chit. I am with holding my opinion on that one till I get some time in the boot.
Over all? It is lighter than the Ultra my previous high point for boot design. It would appear to be warmer and at least from the rubber sole up. And at first blush it seems to be a warmer boot than the Ultra. Comparable to the Batura and Phantom Guide I think. May be warmer than either. Or at least that is what my trashed feet are telling me. That info and the source is not as reliable as they once were :) A super light technical ice and mixed boot. It is not a double boot for warmth. But it is the best thing I have seen in a "warm" single to date.
Boots this light and agile will change how you climb.