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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Thursday, March 29, 2012

A Typical Ice/Mixed Climbing Rack

I think this post will be helpful for first time ice climbers and experienced toolers as well.  It is good to see what the typical setup looks like and for what reason certain gear is used.  There is one particular website that I list on my site ( that I think is a great resource.  Eli Helmuth does a great job at presenting information and describing how he uses it and why.  He is extremely experienced and I use his site and guiding service for reference on all sorts of issues.  Every day is different in winter and that's why the setup I use is an all around group of gear that will get the job done no matter what.  It could be a 2 mile flat hike with bluebird weather and plastic ice or it could be a 9 mile round trip hike with 2,500 feet of elevation gain, white out conditions and 400 feet of ice, you just have to be prepared for what you are expecting to encounter.  You know the usual saying, "Prepare for the worst and hope for the best."  A climber has to have just enough gear to protect a climb while not wasting space and weight on unnecessary gear.  A climber's rack is possibly the most important thing on any given route, because in many cases it can be the difference between success and failure.
My typical rack with ice gear, rock gear, draws and slings
This is my typical rack for ice/mixed climbing.  It doesn't change too much other than the rope I use.  For alpine routes and multipitch days I usually carry 7.7mm twin ropes, for all other days I typically use my heavy worker 10.2mm single.  The picture above encompasses my everyday rack, but things can change from route to route and knowledge of what gear you need for each route is essential.  Mountain Project is a great resource for this, with their library of route descriptions and photos.  There are other wesbites and personal blogs out there that chronicle good route information, but Mountain Project is essential because of the community driven content (Example: A guy that climbed Martha the day before you want to might put up a conditions report that you can use).  You can even contact individuals directly for information.

For sewn product I choose to carry a good amount of slings and quickdraws.  Above you can see I keep two cordelettes and two 4 foot slings on me at all times for building anchors of slinging ice/rock.  The quickdraws can vary from trip to trip (single pitch or multipitch), but you can see I carry a combination of screamers (Yates), sport draws and alpine draws.  I would say anywhere from 10 to 14 draws of some kind will get the job done.  For protection I carry a combination of rock gear and ice gear.  I always bring at least 6 screws of varying lengths and of course a 22 cm screw for v-thread work.  The rock gear is pretty much all Black Diamond with a few Metolius Master Cams thrown in.  I carry at least a half rack of stoppers and camming units from .3-3.  This changes as well based on the individual climbing objective, but the protection above is a general rack.

The last part of my climbing rack is comprised of necessities and are not an option to leave at home.  I always carry a first aid kit for any minor issues.  Anything serious is based solely on how fast you can get out of the backcountry.  A headlamp, just in case, and a file for sharpening tools, rounds out the essentials.
Haglofs Savage jacket and Mammut Castor pant
Clothing is a whole other story and can vary from person to person.  I will let you know what I use and you can decide for yourself what you want to do.  I am a huge proponent of softshell outerwear.  I use a Haglofs Savage jacket and the new Mountain Hardwear Trinity softshell jacket (review coming soon) and for pants I have a pair of Mammut Castor pants.  Using softshell outerwear allows for stretch while climbing and they still offer complete wind and water protection.  On top of that, softshell outerwear usually has some sort of microfleece backing that makes the clothing much more comfortable and softer to touch than any hardshell.  You always want the typical amenities; pit zips, thigh vents, hood, internal ankle gaiter, abrasion resistance, etc. and my outerwear definitely offers all of this.  Underneath the jacket and pants I usually have some sort of stretch tights for bottoms and a silk weight and mid weight long sleeve for the top.  Having a half or quarter zip long sleeve mid weight layer is nice for when you need to dump heat while hiking.  You can also zip it up and get the collar up around your neck for improved heat retention.  I always bring some sort of down/synthetic jacket and depending on where I will be climbing it could be my Marmot Ama Dablam (heavyweight) or my Montbell Thermawrap (lightweight).  After that it comes down to gloves and I can't emphasize enough how important it is to have enough gloves to cover the temperatures you will encounter.  I typically carry at least 4 pairs of gloves.  Black Diamond covers it for me and it starts with a lightweight lead/mix glove and finishes with a beefy warm belay glove.  I carry the Torque, Kingpin, Punisher, Element and Legend.  These really take care of my hands in any weather and they don't weigh too much that I feel I can't bring them all.  This is probably the most important part of my ice climbing clothing.

Overall that covers my general setup for ice and mixed climbing.  You can always add pieces of gear for a backup, like a shelter, shovel or stove, but this covers any day of climbing in the backcountry where the weather isn't going to get to crazy and the commitment for the climbing is tame.  I think this gives a good look at a typical setup and the reasons, benefits and drawbacks to each piece of gear.  Feel free to throw in the comments what you think I left out.  I know I probably missed a couple things that people will point out.  As always you have to evaluate the situation and your own personal goals and then measure those against danger and overall exposure during the day.  Climb safe and have fun.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Adam Ondra and the First 5.14d on Czech Sandstone Video

The Czech Republic is notorious for its type of ground up ethics for rock climbing.  The climbing is historically connected to the traditional ways in which routes have always been established in the region.  A few examples include metal hardware (cams, etc.) not being allowed because of the soft sandstone of the region.  Gear for traditional leading is replaced instead by rope knots.  The second big difference between Czech and most everywhere else in the world is the fact that equipping any route on rappel is strictly discouraged.  This means that routes are typically dangerous because of runout sections without bolts or protection of any kind.  Ondra's new route is located in a less traditional area which is why the route is slightly better protected in terms of bolt spacing.

The name of Ondra's new route is "To tu jeste nebylo" which translates roughly to "Never been here before".  Ondra explains the reason for the name perfectly on Planet Mountain's website.  It is a good read.

Adam Ondra climb, To tu ještě nebylo XIIb, Labské údolí. from Jirous AIX on Vimeo.

This video was fun to see because it showed the whole body of work on the route.  Too many times we "less than elite" climbers see draws hung on routes in videos and wonder how long and how difficult it was to redpoint the climb.  I also think the ground up ethics of Czech Republic add to the authenticity and purity of the redpoint of this climb in the video.  It is refreshing to see a professional, albeit Adam Ondra, work an entire route from hanging to redpointing.  Well done for sure.

What do you think about the ground up Czech ethics?  What about this type of video showing falls and hanging and then pushing for a redpoint?  Share your thoughts in the comments.

I picked this up from the two links below.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Almost Ice Climbing Video

Here is a great video of Will Gadd and Tim Emmett, kind of ice climbing in the Alps.  It's pretty funny and they both have a couple comments in the middle of the video, at 1:33 and 1:54, that really resonate with myself and most of my friends when it comes to ice climbing.  It is a dangerous sport, but you can easily mitigate your exposure to injury by just being smart.


BD athletes Will Gadd and Tim Emmett ice climbing in the Alps from Black Diamond Equipment on Vimeo.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Gear Review - Black Diamond Stinger Crampon

Black Diamond makes some of the best climbing and ski gear out there.  Their quality of construction and attention to detail rivals no one.  On top of that, their commitment to the outdoor industry and culture is paralleled only by Patagonia in my eyes.  They give money where needed and volunteer to save climbing areas.  They test product in their own back yard and employee dirt bag climbers and seasonal ski bums.  A great company for sure and it is best represented through their product.  The Stinger is Black Diamond's newest offering in the ice climbing category.  This new crampon is radically different from anything they have done before and it combines all the best features of the Cyborg, but improves on overall fit, function and aggressiveness.  This new crampon offers new geometry as well that improves efficiency when kicking and edge hold on mixed terrain.  Mike is gonna hate this, but this is probably the best crampon I have ever climbed in and one of the best looking.  From the replaceable monopoint to the new Electric Green ABS plates, I can't get enough, this crampon is sick!  Whether using it on ice or rock, it just feels solid and performs extraordinarily well.
Me using the Stinger crampon in RMNP
The first radical difference you see from the new Stinger is the new geometry.  The front point is unchanged, which is terrific because it means you can stock up on Cyborg/Stinger front points and using them on either crampon.  The secondary points, however are much different than the Cyborg and are much farther forward and extremely aggressive with the new serrations.  They grab ice very well and increase the purchase you get increasing overall stability.  The overall curvature of the crampon is another difference which makes the Stinger a little more agressive.  This increases the feel of the crampon on rock and makes it a little more versatile.  Honestly it feels like a rock climbing shoe because of the dexterity the curvature allows for.
Me with the Stinger in Ouray
Overall I really believe this is one of the best crampons out there.  A fixed monopoint and improved geometry has made me retire my Cyborgs.  Plus the green ABS plates are a way better color for making you look good!  Really though, whether I have been on a thin pillar or a crimpy face the monopoint has performed flawlessly and the agressive secondary points really bite into the ice.

Final Say:
Comparatively this crampon is heads above the competition in aggressiveness, fit and comfort.  If you are looking for a new pair, I highly recommend this crampon for replacing your old faithful set at home.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Ouray Ice Climbing Trip 2012

So back in February I went out to Ouray to hit up the ice park.  The weather was amazing and the company was great.  Ryann and I joined a crew of friends for three days in the park.  We left Thursday night and climbed Friday, Saturday and part of the day Sunday.  We hit up a few different areas including New Funtier, Between the Bridges and Scottish Gullies (check out the Ouray Ice Park map here).  The ice was great considering the weak year for snow, but with the warm weather the freeze melt cycles have been pretty good with the snow we do have.  Colorado has suffered this year in the way of snow, but ice climbing has still been pretty strong.  We climbed everything from WI2 to M7 and had a blast.  Check out the pictures below.
Ryann on a fun warmup in the New Funtier
David getting ready to lead a fun WI2/3 in the New Funtier

Me on lead in the New Funtier

David deep in the Scottish Gullies
Me on a WI3 on the Shithouse Wall
John doing some work on a warm last day in the park
Ryann chopping away on a WI2 in the Scottish Gullies
All in all the trip was a success.  The weather was perfect, the drive wasn't bad, Buen Tiempo was good yet again and the company was great.  My fiance Ryann was there as well as a few of our friends from church (David, John, Tasha) and a couple other friends.  We had a great time in Ouray ice climbing, hot tubbing and being in the mountains.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

RMNP Conditions Report - 3.21.12

The end of the season is near and it is time to trade in your ice gear for rock gear.  While there are a few areas that still have ice the weather is warming up and the ice is going...quickly.  Below is a quick list of ice that I saw this last weekend and know is still around.

The Crypt - Fat, but in the sun and melting daily.
Loch Vale - Super thin.  Mixed Feelings is looking good though.

Hidden Falls - Fat, but somewhat Styrofoam.  Running water can be heard behind the ice.

Northwest Face - In, but very thin.
Deep Freeze and Necrophilia - Both looked to be very out.  Almost no ice to be seen.