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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Friday, September 28, 2012

Ice Climbing: A Scary Sport or Just Misunderstood

I fell in love with ice climbing at the Ouray Ice Festival in January of 2007.  I had just moved out to Colorado the summer before and a friend of mine still living in Florida was interested in coming out to Colorado for the festival.  He convinced myself and a housemate of mine to go on a roadtrip to Ouray to climb and participate in the Ice Festival in Ouray.  Having no idea what I should really expect I reserved myself to hoping that it wouldn't be too cold and that I wouldn't get too scared.  I was amazed, when I arrived at that box canyon outside Ouray on the way up "Million Dollar Highway", to see ice climbers young and old screaming and yelling and hacking away at the ice.  It was a veritable baptism by fire and I was ready.  I, and no one else with us, had any gear for ice climbing other than harnesses and ropes, so we scoured the demo tents and came out geared up in Scarpa and La Sportiva boots, Petzl and Black Diamond ice tools and crampons that looked like they should be mounted to a stick to fashion some kind of mace.  We were ready to ice climb...WI1.  We started out small and looking back now I am very thankful that my friend, now a paramedic in Denver, was there to curtail my more wilder dreams of leading daggers and delicate curtains that first fateful day.  We top roped everything and had a great time, but we all had a very healthy respect for the ice and the inherent danger that lived in that box Canyon.

I have read a lot about ice climbing on guide websites, in guidebooks, in instruction books and I must say that the safety aspect of preparing for ice climbing is pretty well covered.  I have even more experience from the actual activity of ice climbing all over Colorado on hard and easy routes in fairly timid environments and even more committing areas.  With that being said I still see plenty of ice climbers doing the wrong things when out on ice.  Standing in the wrong place, not having proper climbing or belaying skill and techniques, not being prepared for changing conditions in the alpine environments, etc. and I thought I would use this post to expound on my thoughts about ice climbing safety.
In the Ouray Ice Park
Hopefully the points I have below will help explain ice climbing to non climbers and reiterate important safety to those who do ice climb or have tried it at any time.  These are fairly straight forward and mostly seem like common sense, but I wanted to post what I think are some of the most important safety concerns and things to know about the sport.
  1. Never fall - This is not rock climbing.
  2. Stay out of the way of falling ice
  3. Use Pro...a lot!
  4. Top rope...a lot! - Probably 75+ pitches of top rope to really understand ice and be confident and competent enough to lead.
  5. Do not be afraid to clip into your tools while placing pro
  6. Practice placing pro on top rope
  7. Bring more gloves than you think you'll need
These are not exhaustive and are more so guidelines than rules, obviously you can do whatever you want, but overall these will keep you more comfortable climbing ice and give you a better chance of having a fun day instead of an "interesting" day.  Ice climbing is certainly a dangerous sport, but only as dangerous as you let it be.  These guidelines can help you mitigate any potential hazards with a clear head and proper precautions.  Will Gadd is definitely one of the best ice climbers in the world and he adheres to most if not all of these points and I figure if he does, they're good enough for me.  Eli Helmuth, a mountain guide in Colorado, adheres to a very strict set of rules and guidelines and he is out every day in the wilderness of Colorado, skiing, ice climbing and rock climbing.  There are plenty of resources out there and I encourage anyone interested in the sport to grab a book or guide and read up on the techniques, skills and precautions that these well written instructions can provide.  There are things as simple as, how to retreat off a route properly, to the more intricate details of ice climbing like analyzing types of ice and gauging how safe an area or climb might be.  Good apparel, a jacket and pants, are extremely important as well as good boots and crampons that fit well and feel good.  Your gear might be most important once you start leading.  Make sure you get everything you need and want to make clipping easier, sticking tools more efficient and placing pro simpler.  All these things can make a day in sub freezing temperatures not only bearable, but fun and exciting.
My friend Austin top roping a pillar
Ice climbing is a gift and if you have ever gone ice climbing or wish and pray for the season to be good in September, you know what I am talking about.  For ice to form and create the amazing areas and individual routes that we dream of every winter is impressive.  Ice climbers understand the rarity of their sport and the delicate balance that it teeters on every winter and they come back every year for more and more experiences in sub freezing temperatures and altitudes that most reserve for the summer months of May through September.  It is a great sport, a mesmerizing sport, a misunderstood sport...by the general public.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Gear Review - Adidas Outdoor Terrex Fast R Trail Shoe

Adidas isn't exactly an outdoor company.  I mean they make top notch soccer and team sports apparel and footwear, but you wouldn't be caught dead at the climbing crag in Adidas product, right?  That has all changed in the last year and a half.  Adidas has jumped head first into the outdoor market with Adidas Outdoor.  Adidas Outdoor offers everything from superlight trail running and approach shoes to soft and hardshell jackets and pants.  They have signed athletes like Sasha Digiulian and Thomas Huber and they recently bought the iconic climbing shoe brand Five Ten.  Adidas Outdoor definitely has the dollars to be significant and impact the outdoor industry, but are they doing it the right way?  Do their products perform at the same level as the competition or better, or are they just limping into an extremely tight knit industry with ruthless innovation cycles?  In the end, what I am asking is, is the product right?  I recently got a pair of Terrex Fast R trail shoes from Adidas Outdoor and have given them a month of heavy use.  I must say for their first foray into the outdoor industry they are definitely doing things correct.  The Terrex Fast R is comfortable and has every feature you would want from a lightweight trail runner, like durability, an easy lacing system and comfort.

The first real test I had for them was a day of bouldering at Lincoln Lake up at Mt. Evans in Colorado.  The trail down to the boulders is fairly technical and there is plenty of rock hopping once in the boulder field.  The Terrex Fast R from Adidas Outdoor performed extremely well.  The fit and comfort was great and the ankle support was fair for a trail runner.  Jumping and landing, even with extra weight from my crashpad, was no problem and traction on firm and loose terrain was top notch.  While we were bouldering it started to down pour and we had to hike out in miserable conditions. The traction for the Terrex Fast R was still great on wet rocks and on the trail in mud and wet grass.  I did notice a little bit of pinky toe rub after a full day of hiking straight down and then up 3 miles of trail, but I think on rolling terrain while running this shoe would perform great.  I highly recommend this shoe for lightweight approach and low to mid distance trail running.  

These shoes breathe incredibly well too and the speed lacing is a pretty great feature.  The onyl draw back to the speed lacing is that it is not quite as good as what Salomon offers on pretty much every one of their models.  The lacing twists and make loosening and tightening the shoe difficult and there is no tuck area for the laces on the tongue like Salomon does.  Instead you have to send them down to the end of the show and wrap around a bungee tab.  Not the best thing to do because they are exposed and still bounce around a little, but overall it works good enough.  The removable Ortholite insole and overall durability of the shoe make up for its shortfalls and overall these shoes are great.  The fit, features and traction are all stellar and I really didn't have any complaints that would keep me from buying this shoe.

Final Say:
Fit, form, function.  Yep, this shoe takes care of it all.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

It's Ski Season

I am more of a snowboarder, but I do ski some.  Either way I love ski/snowboard movies because of the amazing views, the incredible lines and the athletes involved in the films.  Tonight I am going to The Aggie in Fort Collins for Teton Gravity Research's tour stop to premiere The Dream Factory.

The film looks amazing and definitely gets me jazzed for ski season.  I can't wait to get up to Vail and Breckenridge for the season to get some turns in on fresh powder.  Hopefully the snow fall this year will be better in Colorado and all over the country.

Sick gear, crazy tricks and amazing cinematography contribute to a great ski flick.  The music is sweet too.  Check out the trailer and get psyched for the season!

Another ski film, from last year, has some amazing cinematography and tunes.  Check out the trailer for Chapter 5: Imagination for All I Can below.
JP Auclair Street Segment (from All.I.Can.) from Sherpas Cinema on Vimeo.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Reel Rock Film Tour and BA Rock Climbers

I always love this time of year.  Reel Rock Film Tour has been going on for 7 years now.  It was really the start of mainstream climbing films that demonstrate the bizarre but awesome culture of climbing and mountaineering.  The stories are inspiring (Anker and Sharksfin) and terrifying at the same time (Honnold soloing) and the quality of these films is amazing!  It started for me with Solutions and the Triple Crown back in the Southeast of the United States and culminated with First Ascent and my move to Colorado.  Reel Rock took over and continued to renew my love of the sport(s) annually every year.  I can't get enough of it.

How about you?