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, August 28, 2012

Gear Review - Edelrid Crux Crashpad

This crashpad gives a whole new meaning to the saying "Go big or go home."  The Edelrid Crux crashpad is one of the largest crashpads on the market, there is no excuse with this pad underneath you.  I think it might actually be the largest.  Bigger than the Metolius Magnum, the Black Diamond Mondo, the Revolution 12-G...the list goes on and on.  It is only 4 inches thick, but at 85 inches in length and 47 inches in width this pad will cover any boulder problem by itself!  I took it up to Mount Evans Area A with my buddy Mike and we climbed a bunch of boulder problems from traverses to highballs.  This is the only pad I have ever used where I barely had to move it once we threw it down under a boulder problem.  Keep reading to check out the pros and cons of this monstrous pad.

The construction is pretty good and carrying the pad is pretty comfortable for the size.  The weight of this pad helps with that because it weighs very little for the size of the pad (go ahead and compare them).  The shoulder straps are padded, the waist belt is large and has a beefy buckle and the closure system for the pad is pretty intuitive.  Overall this pad has all the features that benefit any bouldering pad.  I do like the zipper closure for the bottom because I am always afraid of having gear slide out while hiking the trail or jumping around in a talus field.  The carpet in the middle of the pad puts the icing on the cake for sure.

Specs and Features:
  • 85.7L x 47W x 4H inches
  • 18.5 lbs.
  • Padded shoulder straps with waist belt
  • Daisy chain on each shoulder strap
  • Edelrid E in the center of the pad is carpet
  • Beefy buckles at every attachment
  • 3 pull handles
  • Zipper closure for bottom when pad folds up
The only drawback, so far, that I have experienced with this pad is a small puncture I got on the bottom of the pad.  I believe this is from one of the many sharp talus rocks that this pad was laid on for the day at Mount Evans, but it raises the question of long term durability.  Maybe the 18.5 lbs. of weight was accomplished by skimping on more durable nylon?  I don't know, but I do know that this pad seems to have a similar nylon construction to the Black Diamond Drop Zone and most Organic pads.  It might be the actual size and the small shift of the nylon outer wrap during falls that made it more susceptible to tearing.  I will update on this when I have a better idea.  At the end of the day though I would still recommend this crashpad to others.

Final Say:
You want a mattress under you while bouldering, but you don't want to carry it?  Get the Edelrid Crux crashpad.  'Nuff said.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Making Carabiners and Climbing Utah

So while I was at Outdoor Retailer in Salt lake City earlier this month I stayed a couple extra days after the show.  I got a tour of Black Diamond and climbed in Maple Canyon.  I got to see Black Diamond gear being made like carabiners and crampons and I got to see them testing everything from ski boots to their new Magnetron locking carabiners.  Maple Canyon was great as well and a completely different type of climbing than anything I am used to on the Frontrange of Colorado.  More on that later.

Below you can see a few different photos from BD.  The entire facility was pretty cool.  They have their hot and cold forge processes downstairs in their factory and I could watch them cranking out parts and finished goods for everything.  One thing that climbers are confused on sometimes is that they think some of BD's cams are made in China.  This is not entirely true.  They are assembled in China, but every part of every Black Diamond C4 and C3 (presumably the X4 too) is made in Salt Lake City Utah, USA.  The cam may be assembled in China, but they are still made in the USA.  A great point that was explained to me was that BD's factory in China has the same type of employees that value time off and climbing/skiing as their counterparts in America.  The employee passion and drive is not like that of other factories in China.  BD said to me "It might as well be another Salt Lake City factory in China."  The second one of these photos is particularly cool because you can see three white touch points working with the carabiner.  Two of these touch each magnet to open the carabiner and the third pushes the gate open.  BD runs this thousands of times for quality assurance.  Very cool to see it in action.

Maple Canyon was a blast as well.  The type of climbing in Maple Canyon is very different from anything I climb on the Frontrange in Fort Collins, Boulder or Golden.  Every hold is a variation of some type of cobble.  On harder routes there may be some type of smaller pinch cobble, but on easier routes you could find extremely large cobble jugs.  The climbing varies from route to route and whether the route is overhung or a slab, but you can find yourself climbing a completely overhung roof with nothing but cobble pinches for holds!  The area is pristine and the rock is in great condition as long as you climb the more traveled routes.  We climbed a few 5.10's and a couple 5.11's for the day.  It was great to have a local showing me around and getting me on some of the best routes in the canyon.  The Box was definitely the coolest area with climbing on each side of a slot canyon maybe 20 feet wide.  The massive cave in the photos below shows one of the largest caves I have ever seen.  It rivals anything I have seen in Rifle and actually reminds me more of Obed or Foster Falls back east in Tennessee.
The extra couple days I spent in Salt Lake City were really fun.  As a climber I have to say walking around Black Diamond was amazing.  It would be great to have a job there and be able to walk through the factory and see everything from carabiners and crampons to hexes and stoppers being made.  To be able to walk into work everyday and know you are a part of something like that and a brand that represents the climbing community would be extremely rewarding.

I hope this post gives a little insight into the inner workings of Black Diamond.  I probably left a few things out, so leave a comment if you have any questions.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Outdoor Retailer Summer Market 2012

The show has come and gone and since I have a day job I am just now getting to post about my time in Salt Lake City attending Summer OR.  I really need to get to these earlier as everyone else already has their posts up about the show.  The only difference here is that I will have a post up shortly after this about my time after the show in Salt Lake City hanging out with Black Diamond.  I got a tour of their facilities and then climbed in Maple Canyon.  Check back soon to see the report about that.

As you can see, from my schedule above, I am incredibly busy at Summer OR.  I have to meet with over 125 brands and I rarely get to them all, but always touch base with them before or after the show to be sure that any opportunities to get great gear for Sierra Trading Post do not slide by.  This year we also have a second site that we are running focused on young professionals.  Check it's Derailed.  Summer Outdoor Retailer was great and I was incredibly busy, but there was a lot of gear I saw worth talking about so read on to see photos and accounts from the show.

Summer OR is a rat race for STP.  We have over a dozen people there trying to make deals and get great product for both STP and Derailed.  I run from one end of the show floor at Mammut to the other with Body Glove or New Balance.  Because of this I really don't get to stop and look at all the cool gear on the aisles.  However, every meeting I have there is always a quick chat about the new product at the show.  Meeting with Petzl the first day, their headlamps division manager asked me what I thought of Mammut's new crevasse self rescue system.  I said, "I haven't seen that yet, but I meet with them after this meeting, so I will take a look."  That's the type of chitchat that happens before the "actual" business starts which makes the outdoor industry so interesting.  Everyone is interested in the latest and greatest gear.  They all want to see the new technologies that brands are employing to improve product.  The RescYou system below from Mammut packs down to the size of a helmet camera or two and weighs probably as much as 10 locking carabiners.  Easy to carry with you on a summit trip and worth it just in case the worst happens.
The Mammut ResYou
From Mammut and Black Diamond to Big Agnes and Mountain Hardwear there were thousands of brands debuting new product and technologies.  Mountain Hardwear has been at the forefront of this with their new Dry.Q and AirShield technologies, helping them to rely less and less on Gore Tex and their fabrics.  Their Dry.Q shell technologies are bombproof and the new AirShield is basically Mountain Hardwear's take on Windstopper and Polartec Powershield technologies.  Very cool to see them completely bucking the trend and creating their own innovative fabrics.  Black Diamond has been turning the climbing industry inside out the last couple years because of their new innovative designs as well.  Alien like small camming units, magnets in carabiners, lightweight but durable harnesses and a pack line that rivals any traditional pack brand out there.  They are doing some really amazing stuff!!!  Check out the photos below and let me know what your favorite product was at Summer Outdoor Retailer.
One of the most innovative new technologies at OR was Big Agnes's idea of a zipperless tent.  Anyone worth their salt in the outdoor industry knows that zippers are always the heaviest piece of any gear.  This is why you see more and more lightweight packs with role top closures and few zippers or maybe no zippers at all.  You also see less pockets on jackets because again, brands can cut weight most efficiently by removing zippers.  Big Agnes took this a little further.  As you can see from the photo above (a little blurry, sorry) there are no zippers on their new tent.  It is still in a prototype stage, but they have basically embedded tiny, but amazingly strong, magnets along the door closure for the tent.  An extra flap helps to seal the closure from bugs, but overall it is a pretty good design.  I can't wait to see the finished product.  One other tent was Sierra Designs's new lightweight tent, the Mojo UFO.  It is over $1,000!!!  For that price point you get a tent that weighs less that 2 pounds, but is a full size 2 person tent.  They did this mostly to show that they could, but the new fabric looks like a promising single wall tent technology...once the price comes down.

Again, sorry this is late, but better lat than never, right!  I hope you enjoyed the read and don't forget to look for my report on my Black Diamond visit coming soon.