Gear Review - Mammut Parinaco Jacket

I love jackets. I am a jacket connoiseur and whether it is a light wind shirt or a heavy duty down parka I love trying on jackets, feeling the fabrics fit and cut and seeing all the features. I really can't get enough of them and now that every outdoor company is throwing in outrageous colors it is even better!

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Gear Review - Black Diamond Mission 50 Backpack

This is the mother of all technical backpacks. I would describe this pack as comfortable, versatile and feature rich. Heavy loads are no problem, stripping weight is no problem, carrying a rope, ice tools, crampons and all the usual alpine/ice gear is no problem and even skis can be carried by the Black Diamond Mission 50.

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Tallahassee Rock Gym Expansion

Every climber has a similar story of their early days...driving home late after climbing with forearms burning thinking of the problem or route that shut you down go after go. I remember it like yesterday. Working at the Tallahassee Rock Gym was a privilege and climbing there was a blast.

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Gear Review - Outdoor Research Stormsensor Glove

Gloves. I don't think there is a more important piece of gear for winter activities than gloves. Your gloves need to be warm and dexterous but they also need to be comfortable and dry. The perfect glove, I have found, does not exist, but there are many good options for all around use and only a few suitable for specific activities like ice climbing or skiing.

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Longs Peak Cirque Ice Climbing - 11.5.12

Alpine climbing at its finest. High elevation, wind, little sun, cold temperatures, it all combines to make an epic day on the mountain. My first day out this season was up to the high alpine of Rocky Mountain National Park in the Longs Peak Cirque. We started at the Longs Peak Trailhead parking lot at 6:20 am and didn't return until about 4:30 that afternoon.

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Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Copper Mountain - 1.15.11 Video

Brown, Bryan, Austin and Mark
Good old Copper Mountain always offers a lot of terrain and some great snow.  I went up the weekend of January 15th and got in some turns with my friend MIke Brown who just recently moved to San Fransisco.  He loves it out there, but of course Colorado holds a special place in his heart.  He returned to the CO mountains with his family (very extended with cousins and whatnot) and they all rented a house in Dillon, CO for the week.  I headed up there with a couple other friends from the frontrange, Mark and Austin, and we had a great time with Brown and his family.  We drank beer, ate great food and generally made trouble on the mountain.  I even got a Thanksgiving type dinner that Sunday night with huge family style portions and about 10 people at the dinner table!

Brown hittin' the steeps
Mike's Dad (left) and friends

Check out more after the break including a new video!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ice Climbing - Loch Vale

Map of Loch Vale from Google My Maps
You have to love ice climbing.  The silence of winter.  Snow covered trees and trail.  Brown rock peeking out from underneath a blanket of powder.  Mother Nature makes it worth your while to get out in the woods during the "dreary" months, sharpen your tools and hack some ice!!!

Rocky Mountain National Park has some great ice climbing.  You can find everything from short ice crags to long alpine mixed routes.  One of the best places in the Park is Loch Vale.  The ice climbing is along the Glacier Gorge trail which backs up to Longs Peak and either ends at Sky Pond or Black Lake.  The Loch is on the branch to Sky Pond and hikes in about 3.5 miles to The Loch where you break trail and wallow through deep snow up to the ice.  The crag is simply a relief on the South East side of the gorge.  Loch Vale is a sloping ridge with a treeline and perfect freeze/melt cycles.  The snowpack is very good here, which melts and freezes to become some good ice, but avalanche danger can be a problem after a big snow storm.

Video after the break...

American Bouldering Series (ABS) Season 12 - National Championship

Alex Johnson on Men's #1
I have been to plenty of ABS competitions over the years, probably in excess of 50, but I have never been to the National Championship.  It just happen to be in Boulder, CO last weekend and my friend Jon invited me to go down to the competition with him.  I was pretty excited to see the best climbers compete for the ABS National Championship.  NE2C Productions put on the competition as an extension to the Unified Bouldering Championships that they started a year ago.  They always throw a great party with lights and music and the climbers never disappoint.  The UBC is the same comp circuit that has the bouldering competition in Salt Lake City, UT during Summer Outdoor Retailer.  It used to be the Mammut Bouldering Championships.

Men's #2
The comp took place in an empty warehouse between the Scarpa and La Sportiva offices (gotta love Boulder) right off of the Foothills Parkway in Boulder.  NE2C leased the space for a month, built the wall and put on the comp.  The wall was built by John Stack's company Vertical Solutions and consisted of three distinctly different walls that offered powerful overhangs and technical slab work.  The UBC and ABS always have some great ideas for boulder problems, typically there is a gimmicky problem (crazy moves, etc.), a finesse problem and a powerful problem.  This is a great format because it lets strong and technically sound climbers compete on a level playing field.  A perfect example is the Men's #1 problem.  It forced a figure 4 move off a roof hold and almost every climber ended up using the move.  Regardless of how strong the climber was, they still had to use the funky move.  In contrast Men's #2 was very technical and took a lot of balance and core strength to get the moves just right while Men's #3 was a burly overhanging pump fest.  The Women's problems followed suit and climbers like Alex Puccio and Sasha DiGiulian had to use power and finesse to finish the problems.

Check out the video of Ian on Men's #1 after the jump!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Copper Snowboarding Video

So I finally got some video editing software and I have now started to edit a bunch of the footage I have from my Contour helmet camera.  In this video I am skiing and I have the camera mounted to my ski pole.  It acted a lot like a Steadicam, but I need to get used to it... obviously!  I will be getting some short videos together over time and post some sweet climbing, skiing and snowboarding clips soon.

Here is some footage of my friend Nate snowboarding at Copper Mountain back in December.  Hope AZ is good for you Nate!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

SIA Tradeshow

The always popular "Dead Bird"
I do love working in the outdoor industry.  The  companies, culture and people make it all worth while.  Just a couple of weeks ago I attended the SnowSports Industries America (SIA) tradeshow in Denver, CO.  The tradeshow took place at the Denver Convention Center and there were more than 500 vendors in attendance, ranging from Burton and DC to 4FRNT and Nordica.  All the major players were there and the small guys like Liberty Skis and Icelantic were there as well.  On the softgoods side Marmot and Mountain Hardwear were there as well as Arc'teryx.  Since I am the ski/snowboard hardgoods buyer for Sierra Trading Post, it was my job to go to the show, meet with vendors and negotiate deals to procure product for STP to sell to our customers.

Overall these tradeshows are a ridiculous amount of work.  We walk around the convention center all day from 9:00am to 5:30pm or so in the evening.  We have appointments every second of the day and talk shop at each one.  Most of the time we are just stopping by to see a vendor that we already have orders going with, but a lot of my meetings were with new vendors that I needed to pitch STP to and land in order to start a relationship with them.  I am in charge of growing our ski and snowboard category and as such I have
Oakley booth.  The back half had offices and
meeting rooms...these things are the real deal
focused on some of the premiere niche brands like Armada, 4FRNT, Icelantic, Forum, Rome, etc.  Going forward I will be able to get product from companies like these in order to grow the category and have a larger and more diverse offering for my customer base.  The shows we go to are always a lot of fun because we get to see all the new and fresh product, which means there are ample opportunities for STP to get excess closeout product, and we get to rub shoulders with the brands we respect and use ourselves.  I have had an amazing time getting to know sales managers at ski and snowboard companies we work with and touch base with some great sales reps we work with.  We have such great relationships with our vendors that sometimes our contacts at those companies really care whether or not we have their gear and if we like it and enjoy it.  It really means a lot to a gear junkie like me to stop by the Smith Optics booth and talk to our rep about the gear we both really appreciate.

Plenty more after the break!

Mixed Climbing at the Bear's Den

The Bear's Den is a new mixed climbing wall in Rocky Mountain National Park.  I went up there for the first time a few weekends ago with my buddy Ryan and then a week later with another friend Austin.  Both times were a great experience and I will definitely be returning to train harder and get stronger.

Ryan has been developing the area with a friend and wanted to show me the routes.  It was my first time dry tooling and it was a blast.  Dry tooling essentially consists of sport climbing with crampons and ice tools.  There were a couple routes with big dynamic and demanding moves as well as technical climbing on small edges.  It is nerve racking placing ice tools on a crimp that you would be hard pressed to use while rock climbing.  We climbed two different routes, a M8 and something a little harder, maybe M9 or M10.  Mixed route grading uses a rating from M1 to about M12.  Just to give an image of how difficult M12 is, just think of climbing a movie theater ceiling from the screen to the back of the theater.  That's how crazy mixed climbing can get!  The Bear's Den wasn't that crazy, but check out the pictures and see what it's like.

Ryan climbing the M8
Austin on the M5
Me starting the M8
Austin flashing the M9/10
More posts coming soon about the SIA Tradeshow and On Snow Demo at Winter Park I went to for Sierra Trading Post and Nymph Lake ice climbing.  Also, check out my friend Mike's blog.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Clear Creek Canyon Ice - 1.9.11

Clear Creek Canyon outside of Golden, CO has a few ice flows.  They rarely come in and stay for a few days at a time, but if the temps are right the ice is pretty awesome.  I had just gotten back from Winter Outdoor Retailer in Salt Lake City, UT and climbing ice was the next thing on the agenda.  I had talked to my friends Austin and Dan and we decided to meet in Clear Creek and climb.

Dan climbing with Austin below
The plan was for me to drive down to Golden and meet up with Austin and Dan in Clear Creek Canyon.  The two of them had gotten up earlier in the morning than me and got up to Silverplume to climb a route there before we all got together.  Coors Lite is an interesting 3 tiered ice route that probably tops out at WI 3.  Nothing super serious, but it is a fun multi pitch route on the Frontrange of Colorado.  The conditions that day (Jan. 16) were pretty wet and thin because of the warm weather, but all three of us had a great time on the two vertical pitches of the climb.  They were both pretty much plastic ice, but it was good to get out after the traveling I had been through.  The first pitch had about 12 feet of vertical ice and then a runout slab for another 20 feet and a couple big steps of vertical ice leading up to the third pitch.  The third pitch was super thin and stepped out so that there were multiple areas where there was no ice at all!  We ran a lap or two on it and descended back to the base.  Once we got down and hiked out we headed into Golden and hit up Bent Gate Mountaineering and got some food at Woody's Wood Fired Pizza.  Bent Gate is always fun to visit.  It is one of the best all around outdoor shops on the Frontrange.  Lots of gear and a lot of "niche" outdoor brands like Mammut and Grivel.  The gear was fun to stare at and we got hungry for some pizza.

Me on the first pitch
Crazy Dan!!!
Austin gettin' sticks
Austin on the second pitch
Dan with the new Black Diamond Fusions

I want to go back and get on that mixed line!!!

Look out soon for more blog posts...

Friday, February 4, 2011

Gear Review - Black Diamond Viper Ice Tools

Everyone has a personal preference when it comes to ice tools, but in general there are a few tools that are far and beyond considered the "best".  Black Diamond Viper ice tools are one.  They do everything well and excel on ice.  Everything from the pick to the hand rest and angle of the tool work in harmony to optimize every swing.  I have had these tools for a few years now and I have used various other tools to see what would be the best.  Overall the BD Viper does everything I need it to do, extremely well.

This tool has the best versatility of any tool I have used.  Its Laser pick is perfect for ice climbing and can be customized for mixed climbing if need be.  The swing weight balances the Viper very well and allows for less swinging (better sticking), which makes climbing with it more efficient.  One other thing that the Viper features, are hand rests.  There is a "Fang" at the bottom of the tool where a climber can rest their hand, in lieu of a leash, which allows for less pump and more efficient climbing.  There is also the "Strike" about six inches up the tool which is basically another hand rest.  This makes it easier to get two hands on one tool without bunching up the grip area of the tool.  On top of all the physical features of the Viper ice tool, it can also accommodate a leash!  On the back of the shaft there is a hex screw that you can remove and, in its place, put an attachment for a leash.  The leash then allows a climber to rest there hand without having to grip the tool at all and it keeps the climber from dropping the tool unexpectedly.  The Android Leash for the Viper can also be removed by a clip mechanism which allows a climber to remove it momentarily and then reengage it.  This ice tool really does do it all.
Me using the Viper at Lincoln Falls
Hacking ice in the Ouray Ice Park
Obviously I can't say enough about this piece of equipment.  It is strong, light, functional and customizable.  It allows climbers to climb at their peak without worrying about the equipment and it excels at every facet when it comes to ice climbing.  I highly recommend the Black Diamond Viper ice tool for any ice and mixed climbing you plan on doing.

Final Say:
Overall this is the best all around ice tool on the market.  Grab one and go hack some ice!!!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Ouray Ice Festival 2011 - Part 3

Well the third day at Ouray was much like the first two.  We got up early, stopped at a breakfast place in town and headed to the park to climb.  We knew that it would be a busy day, because of clinics and other festival happenings, but we wanted to get on a few more routes before we left.  This was Ryann's and my final day in Ouray.  We were going to climb all day and then leave first thing the next morning.

Friday 1.7.11 - Scottish Gullies, Grad School and New Funtier
Mike climbing with Jason catching
So we started the day out in the Scottish Gullies near the North end of the park.  I first had to stop at the Black Diamond tent to pick up some Fusion ice tools to use for the day.  Jack Tackle, a rep for BD who I work with at Sierra Trading Post, was at the Festival and said I could use his tools for the day and test them out.  I took him up on his offer and grabbed them before we got on our first route. Since Mike and Crystal had clinics to attend later in the day we decided to get on a couple routes before lunch.  We got on the last two routes in the Scottish Gullies area because it was so crowded.  We setup on a WI 3+ and a WI 2 to warm up on for the day.  Both routes went pretty well, but the ice wasn't that great.  It was in the sun and so it had been cooking the last few days.  Even though the park puts new ice on every night, you still get the melt and freeze action that a natural ice route gets as well.  Everyone climbed well and had a good warm up for the day.  We were nearing lunch and so Mike and Crystal needed to head out and meet with their clinic group.  Jason, Ryann and I decided that a couple other areas in the park might have some open routes.
Me climbing in the New Funtier

The Grad School and the New Funtier are both farther South in the park and offer dozens of routes.  Grad School has ridiculously long routes and New Funtier has a good mix of easy and hard ice/mixed routes.  We got on one route in the Grad School and had a great time.  It was a longer WI 3 and offered some steep climbing, but we quickly found that the ice would be better in the New Funtier, so we hiked a little farther and found a great route.  It was super crowded, but one route was open that had some good ice and some technical climbing.  There was a little mixed climbing, thick ice, thin ice, and even a technical corner to overcome.  Jason, Ryann and I had a tremendous time running laps on the route and hanging out in the bottom of the gorge with everyone else.  The day went really well and the Festival was a success for everyone involved. We all climbed really well and had an amazing time.

As the sun started to set we hiked out and met up with Mike and Crystal.  They both had a great experience participating in their clinics with professional climbers helping them with technique and training.  Everyone was exhausted from the long day and we all decided to get a drink in town and then hit the Ouray Hot Springs!!!
Mike in the Scottish Gullies

Check out more after the break!