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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Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Gear Review - Hi-Tec V-Lite Infinity Trail Runner

I got this shoe back in August and I wanted to run it through the paces before I gave a review.  I think overall Hi-Tec is a great company that makes some innovative footwear and blends different materials to offer a price point product with one or two great features.  The Hi-Tec V-Lite Infinity shoe is a pretty good all around shoe.  It has a Vibram sole, great breathability, and a new technology, Ion Mask.  These are all good features and offered on a shoe that is $119.99 is pretty good, but I will run through this review with a few questions about this shoe and the overall feature set and function of the shoe.

The first thing that strikes you with this shoe is that there is nothing special about it.  Honestly.  Sometimes you see a trail runner and you say, "Yes, I can see where the price tag comes from."  Or, "Yeah, it says Gore-Tex or eVent and so the price is justified."  With the V-Lite Infinity you don't get that feeling.  There's no special lacing (more on that), skeleton frame, stabilizing system, etc.  This isn't a bad thing, because this shoe actually brings it on the feature side of things, but it automatically puts the shoe at a disadvantage because there is no "wow" factor.  This is in addition to the fact that the only "wow" factors on this shoe is a Vibram sole and Ion Mask technology, one you don't need and one no one knows about!  No one really looks for a Vibram sole on a trail runner.  It is a welcomed advantage and explains pricing, but Vibram really only comes into play on boots and technical footwear, not trail runners.  By comparison I have two pairs of Salomon trail runners and Salomon never uses Vibram.  Neither does La Sportiva or Scarpa, seriously.  They may use Contagrip of Frixion, but never an expensive leading technology that really doesn't pertain to the function of the product.  This puts the Infinity at a disadvantage because you now have to justify a price that is not comparable to the feature set.  By comparison the Ion Mask technology that Hi-Tec uses on this shoe is great.  There is basically an application of a fluoro carbon (monomer) that charges the outside of the shoe and makes it hydrophobic.  It also resists dirt particles and other damaging debris.

The lack of punch for the Infinity trail runners or lack of quality features, makes the shoe less desirable for most customers because you have to assume that Hi-Tec is making up for a lack of quality or function in their product.  The technology that is present isn't present with any competitor and by comparison the others are doing quite well.  This makes it extremely hard for the Infinity to compete with the likes of Crosslites from La Sportiva or XT Wings from Salomon.  They also don't offer any real trail running function.  By this I mean there is no aggressive tread, no stabilization technology, no special lacing system and no waterproof technology.  For $119.99, you might as well spend another $10 and get something like the Salomon XT Wings.  Speed Lacing, Skeleton Chassis, Ortholite footbed, etc.  What it comes down to is a lack of features compared to competing product in regard to price.  I would like to say otherwise, but honestly, I can't.  

Final Say:
This shoe is very comfortable, breathes incredibly well, and the Ion Mask also allows for a clean look and long lasting upper on the shoe, but the lacing, sole and the pricing are three points that Hi-Tec missed on...completely.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Mixed Climbing at the Bear's Den - 11.6.11

Last weekend I got up into Rocky Mountain National Park with a few friends for another day of ice and mixed climbing.  Myself, Ryann, Dan, Austin and David were hoping to get out to Loch Vale and see how much ice had come in since the weekend before, but the weather was calling for high winds and low temperatures.  Typically the Glacier Gorge trail system shields some of the wind, but with the hike pushing 3+ miles we decided at the last minute to go to a small mixed climbing area reached from the Bear Lake Trailhead.  This area boasts some good mixed terrain and very fickle ice.  This early in the season usually affords more ice because of the temperature changes and so we thought we might get lucky for the day and find an ice route or two and a plenty of mixed routes.  The hike is much shorter and the cliff aspect is east, so winds aren't usually a problem.  We got to the base of the cliff and saw that a couple lines were being equipped and development was definitely taking place.  The Bear's Den has about 4 established bolted or otherwise, routes to climb.  There is so much more potential, but overall not much has been equipped because gear can be used or top-ropes can be setup.  We elected to setup top-ropes on a few different routes.  We got on three routes specifically, a great, but difficult M6, a fun ice gully/corner and a cool M5 arete.

The first route I had tried before and so I let everyone else give it a go.  Austin had tried it before as well and got about halfway up it again.  Dan and David had never been to the area before and so they both tried it as well.  It is very overhung and extremely technical with pick and crampon placements.  The route uses a broken crack that hangs almost detached from the wall.  After the lower section the headwall comes in with a wider crack and the terrain gets easier.  Getting through the bottom though proved difficult for budding mixed climbers like ourselves.
Austin on the overhung face
After our feeble attempts on the first mixed route I wandered around the cliff looking for easier terrain for all of us to enjoy.  Just up and left of the main cave was a great blank face that ended in a dihedral.  The corner had stepped ice and rock with a pillar hanging behind it.  It offered some technical ice and very sketchy mixed climbing.  Not particularly difficult, just different and challenging.  I hiked around the ridge and hung a top-rope for us to get on.  It was a great opportunity to introduce David and Ryann to mixed climbing.  David had been on a couple routes and Ryann had never mixed climbed before, so the mixed dihedral and the mixed arete were great opportunities.  We all did extremely well and climbed both routes with relative ease.  The mixed gully was like mushroom tops crowding a rock corner gully.  It was more about body position and technical movements than strength.
Me in the mixed gully
Dan gettin' it
David playing with the new Edelrid tools I got...Ryann,
Dan and Austin looking on.
The little ice gully was fun and a good easy warmup and introduction to the area.  We all ran a couple laps on it, doing slight variations and get some good swings.  I really want to go back and explore soon because there were corridors that had ice in them all along the cliff line.  There are probably a dozen mixed lines that vary from rock faces to ice smears.  The arete was the next route and we all worked out the beta before getting on the route.  Ryann and David wanted to watch first to get some idea of how to climb the route so we all looked it over as I roped up to give it a go.
Dan on the M5 arete
Austin pulling hard

Ryann mixed climbing for the first time!!!

The Bear's Den is a great mixed climbing area and i am excited to get back and check out all the untouched lines that exist with smears of ice and great dry tooling potential.  The short hike, sheltered cliff line and relatively good weather make this place a great full or half day crag.  Plenty of potential and adventure to be had.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Loch Vale Ice Climbing - 10.29.11

Ice season has cometh!  I got up to Loch Vale in Rocky Mountain National Park with a few friends for the first ice climbing of the season.  It was a good day with thin ice and mixed climbing.  My friends Mike (his website here), Crystal and Brian met up with me in Estes Park and we headed up to the Glacier Gorge trailhead.  We hiked in on a pretty packed trail and setup below the ridge that has Mixed Feelings, Crystal Meth and Mo' Flo' Than Go.  The weather wan't too bad when sheltered by the ridge, but there were gusts of probably 25 mph and the temperature hovered around freezing all day.  The sun was out most of the time and so hanging out below routes wasn't too bad.  I had a new pair of tools from Edelrid (the Rage) and so I was extremely excited to try them out.  They are actually one of two pairs in North America right now.  Perks of working in the industry!  The only picture I can find, other than my own, is right here!  There will be a full review on these coming very soon.
Loch Vale in very early season conditions
The best ice was on Mo' Flo' Than Go, so since I was the only leader in the group I roped up and got on the route.  It is a fairly short climb, maybe 30 feet, and so I grabbed a few screws and headed up the shallow dihedral of ice.  The new Edelrid Rage ice tools I used are definitely a mixed tool and so on ice they didn't perform as well as my Black Diamond Vipers, but I wanted to give them a go right out of the gate.  They have a different pick for rock and so the penetration in ice isn't nearly as good as something like the Laser pick from BD.  With that being said I could still get good sticks by flicking my wrist at the end of each swing for a good downward penetrating strike.  The vertical ice was fine and actually pretty thick considering the early part of the season.  I had a few stubby Express screws from BD and of course they went in like butter protecting the climb perfectly.  Stemming in the dihedral ramp went well and the route wasn't really a problem.  After the vertical ice you have to traverse left to a clump of trees with slings, but there was a snow field covering the rock slab and so it was a little nerve racking because I couldn't tell what was under the snow for foot or tool placements.  Everything went fine though and with the anchor set we were able to get on two ice climbs and a mixed climb.
Mo' Flo' Than Go

Mike on Mo' Flo'
Crystal on the left side of Mo' Flo'
Brian Williams on ice for the second time!

Me on a short mixed route by Mo' Flo'

The ice season looks like it will be pretty good out here this year.  As we pulled into the parking lot at Glacier Gorge that morning, I noticed a ton of hanging daggers just west of the parking lot.  I had never seen this before and it reminded me that there is an area called Parking Lot Ice right around Glacier Gorge trailhead.  There were daggers everywhere and wet spots lower that looked to be forming into ice.  This rarely comes in, but it is trying to.  I am pretty excited about that.  I can't wait to get out again.
Parking Lot Ice visible from...the Glacier Gorge parking lot!!!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Chaos Canyon Climbing Season

2011 was a pretty good season at Chaos Canyon.  I got up there a handful of times and finished some projects I have been working on as well as get on some classic problems I hadn't been on before.  It also consisted of a lot of exploration looking around for problems I had never done before as well as finding doable problems for visitors and new comers to Chaos.  It's an interesting bouldering area because the development revolved around harder problems, mostly V7 and harder.  When Dave Graham and company started developing Lower Chaos Canyon and Upper Chaos the problems just got harder and harder.  It seemed like V10 was the starting point for most problems in RMNP.  The reason for this is because developers of new areas usually have some sort of sponsorship and therefore climb extremely hard and get their pictures on magazine covers, etc.  This doesn't mean people like Dave Graham, Jamie Emerson and others don't warm up on the occasional V3 or V5, but it does mean that hiking in 5 miles and gaining 3,000 feet of elevation makes you want to climb something substantial or impressive in order to get recognition and of course climb to your peak ability.  These aren't your run of the mill boulder problems.

Chaos Canyon is one of my favorite bouldering areas because of the variety of boulder problems.  Even with all the difficult problems there are still problems that haven't been developed yet, because they are a little easier or just a little more obscure.  With that being said I love going up to Chaos Canyon and finding new problems that range from V2-V5.  These are great for most of my friends that want to warm up or run some circuits getting ready for something harder.  The established problems from V2-V6 are all stellar and from the second warmup boulder to the Autobot area, all the problems offer exposure, technical climbing and powerful movement.  Two such problems are Autobot and Revenge.  Autobot is a terrific V5 and I run up it every time I am up there.  My buddy Nate visited with a crew from Arizona and everyone tried Autobot with some good results.  We also all jumped on Revenge.  This is a hanging arete compression V6.  Burly movement leads to some technical heel hooking and a powerful topout.  Below are a bunch of pictures from the season.

Ryan C. on a V5 on the warmup boulder
Ryan C. on Potato Chip
Nate on Autobot
Ryann on Revenge
I got out with my girlfriend Ryann and an old roommate Steve for a day of development on easier problems.  We stumbled upon 3 or 4 problems that deserved to be cleaned and worked.  They probably all went at V4 or easier, but here are a few photos.  Check them out.
A nice, but stout V3 just north of the Warmup Boulder
A nice little V1 north of the Warmup Boulder

Deep Puddle Arete
Steve working the arete
A funky little V3-ish problem just right of Deep Puddle Dynamics
Unfortunately I didn't get to Upper Chaos this season to work on some of the V9's and V10's I wanted to project, but next season that will be a main goal of mine.  There are multiple problems like Skipper D, Riddles in the Dark and Right El Jorge among others, that I need to do.  I need to get back to Lincoln Lake as well to put in some work on Rebellion, Unshackled and others.  Should be another good season next year.

However, for now it is onto ice climbing, snowboarding and skiing.  Blog posts to follow about that soon!