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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Sunday, April 24, 2011

Gear Review - Smith Optics Vantage Helmet

My buddy Mike, his blog is here, has been telling me I should have a bad review on a piece of gear at some point.  The only problem is that I don't really buy bad gear.  However I try to be fair when it comes to reviewing each feature of any equipment and try to talk about the great features and some features that could be improved.  One of these days I am sure I will rip some crappy is not one of those days though.  The Smith Optics Vantage Helmet is probably the most complete helmet ever.  I have used the Sandbox Brain Bucket and the Smith Optics Hustle helmet, but this new helmet is better than both.  Smith adjusted their vents, made the liner more comfortable, added BOA as the adjustment system and improved their goggle/helmet you can see in the picture.  I got to use this helmet for the first time at the SIA On Snow Demo during the trade show back in January.  I got the red helmet and the new red sensor lens from STP's Smith Optics rep at the show.  The combination is sick!

Ventilation is probably the most important part of any helmet and Smith designed this helmet perfectly.  Adjustable vents are the key to keeping you warm or cooling you down and they have to be easy to adjust and have enough of them to regulate those temperature changes.  This two piece helmet has 21 vents!  The helmet also features  Dual Regulator vent controls.  This means the front and rear vents are controlled by two separate switches.  Each switch then has 3 positions, closed, halfway open and fully open.  The Vantage helmet also features a BOA closure on the back for adjusting the fit of the helmet.  Even with all these features the helmet still weighs just under a pound!
Two stage adjustable vents on the Smith Vantage.  Key to
improving your ski/snowboard experience.

Even though this is the best snow helmet I have ever worn there are still a couple things that could stand to be fixed.  I think that a perfect score for a helmet has to include a place for your goggles to rest right above your forehead.  This makes it easy to take them on and off, cool down your face and not have them stuck behind your helmet making you fumble to get them back on.  The Vantage does not do this well.  You have to precariously rest them half on the visor and hope they don't slide back and flip over.  The only other thing this helmet needs is a flat enough spot to mount a helmet camera.  There are other mounting options when using a camera, but a flat spot does not exist on this helmet.  This forces me to use a goggle strap mount for my camera and that does not make it super sturdy.  Overall, it is not a huge deal, but it is an easy thing to fix for updated models.

Final Say:
Best all around helmet I have ever worn for ski/snowboarding.  It is low profile, comfortable and ventilates extremely well.  If you can overlook the one or two small things it does not do well, you will be very impressed.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ice Climbing - Lincoln Falls 3.20.11

Me leading the center route ramp
Man, the 2010/11 ice climbing season has been great.  I have climbed so many different areas and everyday has been incredible.  Lincoln Falls just south of Breckenridge was definitely my favorite area this year.  I think all in all I have been up there four times.  I returned to Lincoln Falls the weekend after my ski vacation with family in Winter Park with a crew for the fat spring conditions.  The falls are very wide and have multiple overflow areas that create mixed lines and delicate curtains and pillars.  The ice is always thick because of the aspect of the hill and therefore the freeze/melt cycles occur daily.  This weekend was after a good warm week and the fall was particularly thick and there was even a curtain on the right side of the main fall.  I had my eye on leading the easy center ramp to warm up and then tackle the pillar/curtain on the right.  There was even a thin smear mixed line to the far right that looked like it had just come in a couple days before.  Ryann was back in town for her Spring Break from UNL and we decided to head up to Lincoln Falls with Mike, Crystal and Brian Williams.  It was Brian's first time ice climbing and we were excited to get him hooked on it.  I roped up on the easy route first and we all got laps.

It was pretty good weather for the day so we decided to bring two ropes and get a couple routes going at the same time.  I was the only leader so after I hung the first route I wanted to get on the significantly harder right side line.  The left side probably went at nothing harder than WI 2 but the right route probably pushed into the WI 3+ area.  The top half was a shallow dihedral and took stemming well, so overall it wasn't that hard, but placing screws became a problem just under the topout and so I sprinted through the last 10 feet.  Chains were up top and I was happy to see that, because I wanted to top rope the thin smear mixed line just to the right.  Everyone had a great time climbing both routes.  Brian Williams did an amazing job for his first time ice climbing and he seemed super psyched to try it again.

Brian Williams, right side route, getting ready for the upper section
Crystal getting good sticks on the first route
Check out more after the break!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Winter Park Trip - 3.10.11-3.14.11

Me and my sister
Talk about a vacation!  Family, friends, snowboarding, powder...this is why I live in Colorado.  For 4 years my sister and an assortment of other family friends have come out to Colorado for some spring skiing.  This year we had a huge group, there was my girlfriend Ryann, Mary Kate and Brian Flynn, Christine Eckert, MK's boyfriend Justin and his friend Jeff.  With me and my sister that made 8 people on one condo!!!  The condo was a good size, but for 8 people and luggage it was definitely cozy.  The condo was in Beaver Village Lodge just north of Winter Park, so it was a quick drive every morning to the slopes.  Half of the group got into Colorado, from Florida, Wednesday night and went skiing Thursday.  I was at work Thursday, but the plan for me was to leave early to get down to Denver.  I needed to pick up a new Burton snowboard and meet my sister and girlfriend at the airport.  We would head up to the mountains that night.

Thursday afternoon I had a couple stops to make.  First it was to Burton's showroom in Denver to pick up a new snowboard and bindings.  After riding the Burton Joystick at the SIA On Snow Demo I had to get a setup of my own.  I swung by the showroom and picked up the gear with plenty of time to get it waxed at the local Colorado Ski and Golf store.  Marianne and Ryann weren't getting into Denver until later that night so I met up with my friends Mike and Crystal and got dinner at the Cherry Cricket.  Our friend Austin met up with us as well and he was going to try and meet us for a day at Winter Park as well.  Dinner was great and as we were finishing up I got a call from Ryann saying she had arrived.  Marianne was delayed for about an hour, but I headed out to DIA to hang out with Ryann until Marianne got in later.  Ryann and I got a beer at the airport while waiting for Marianne and eventually we all left DIA for Winter Park.  The drive was easy but we got in really late and hit the sack looking forward to the next day.
Brian with a bread bowl of mac n' cheese, chilli
and then more mac n' cheese!!!
Having lunch at the base of Mary Jane
Check out more after the break!