Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Ski Mountaineering Gear, Winter 2014-2015

Ski mountaineering is a broad category. People practice a wide range of skiing and refer to it as ski mountaineering. One way to define ski mountaineering is skiing in which the hazard or concern is something other than, or in addition to, avalanches. Maybe you're going for speed on a low-hazard day. Maybe you're going for distance over multiple passes. Maybe its spring-time corn touring.  Perhaps its high altitude, or glaciated, or requires technical climbing equipment and skill. Here are some thoughts and notes on what I carry for this.  To see what I use on "simpler" missions, check out this article. To see what I carry for winter alpine climbing, check this out.  Additionally, help support this blog and Eastern Sierra business by shopping at Sage to Summit.  Anything that I use that is sold there, is linked accordingly.

Ski Gear.  Keep it small, light and simple.  Use skill to negotiate funky snow and terrain:
  • Dynafit TLT 5P boots- no tongues, no powerstrap.
  • Black Diamond Stigma Skis (80mm underfoot)
  • BD mohair skins
  • Trab race bindings
  • Black Diamond Fixed Carbon poles
Clothes.  Most carry and wear too much.  Keep it simple, move fast, carry an awesome puffy jacket. 
  • Darn Tough Socks
  • Arc Teryx Sawatch pants
  • Syn boxers.
  • Syn/wool t-shirt. 
  • OR Rumor Hoody.
  • Patagonia Houdini Shell
  • Feathered Friends Daybreak Hooded jacket
  • Dynafit Ski Touring Expert Gloves
  • Warm hat
  • Sun hat
  • Kaenon Burnet Sunglasses

Safety Gear, etc:
  • Pieps DSP Pro, Voile Telepack shovel, BD Carbon 240 Probe.
  • Communication- Sometimes as simple as a cell phone, sometimes a SPOT Device, occasionally (mainly in Canada) a 2-meter, 2-way radio, and more and more my new Iridium sat phone or Iridium GO Smartphone modem.  Adventure is awesome, thriftiness is noble, but failure to consider communication with the outside world is ridiculous.
  • Navigation- 80% of the time the phone, preloaded with maps and apps, is enough.  Carry a "back-up" paper map.  In big, new-to-me, complicated terrain where visibility is likely to shut down, I'll bring the full kit:  Dedicated GPS (Suunto Ambit 2), large-scale waterproofed paper map, compass, altimeter, clinometer.  
  • Emergency Shelter- Very occasionally it is as simple as the mylar (space blanket style) bivy bag that lives in my omnipresent First Aid/Emergency kit.  Usually though, I bring the 8.5'x8.5' 9 oz Hyperlight Mountain Gear Cuben Tarp.  
  • Emergency Evacuation- Sometimes it's as simple as the bivy or tarp.  Drag someone on that.  In many cases, I'll carry the Brooks Range Eskimo Sled.  If you are not already packing a rope, carry a chunk of cord for dragging a packaged casualty.
  • First aid kit.
  • Ski repair kit.  (it should be around a pound for groups.  Less is probably inadequate.  More is silly.  Let me know if you want more detail on what I carry)
  • Snow Study:  Saw, crystal card, magnifier, ruler, documentation.  Be equipped and trained to make sound decisions for yourself and large column tests for the avalanche center.
  • Food, water. Whatever's clever.  
  • If I need a rope while skiing it's almost never less than a 40m half rope.  If I need a rope while skiing it's almost never more than a 60m single rope.  
  • Spikes.  As it gets steeper and firmer, add in this order: 
  • Also as needed:
    • BD Vapor Helmet
    • CAMP Blitz Harness
    • Rack of gear.  If it requires more than 5 of anything (cams, nuts, screws, slings) leave the skis behind.  
  • Glaciers?  Crevasse rescue skills and equipment.  
  • Pack:  Maybe the BCA balloon pack, maybe an alpine pack (Cold Cold World Valdez), maybe the little CAMP Rapid race pack.  
Multi Day Ski Touring
This is what we live for.  Getting way out there, going out of contact.  Seeing what few get to see.  Most of the gear is the same as for day trips.  But you'll add in camping gear.  And eliminate some things.  You won't need emergency shelter if you have a dedicated tent, for instance.  
Living the good life in British Columbia's Coast Range.  April 2013.

  • Shelter.  I pick from three, in increasing weight and weather protection:  Black Diamond Betalight, Black Diamond Firstlight, and Hilleberg Nallo 2.  
  • Feathered Friends Widgeon -10 sleeping bag.
  • Thermarest NeoAir XTherm.
  • Jetboil with 2 oz per person per day of fuel
  • Lighter and matches.
  • Bigger Pack.  Hyperlight Mountain Gear 4400 Ice Pack
  • Food.  Just add water for dinner and breakfast.  A mess of bars and energy candy and jerky and cheese for lunches.  It should all add up to about 2 pounds per person per day.  Depending on individual metabolism and work load.
  • Water bottles.  2 gatorade bottles.  Nothing more, nothing less.  

Sunday, November 23, 2014

The Haute Route

 Mark And Janelle Smiley and I are excited to be teaming up this coming spring in the Alps. Mark and I will guide while Janelle takes excellent photographs. 

We have all the details outlined on smileysproject.com/ski/

Saturday, September 13, 2014

NE Ridge Bear Creek Spire, Speed Run

I busted out today what seems to be the "Fastest Known Time" (3:47:53) for the NE Ridge of Bear Creek Spire. I've already defended these silly speedy missions elsewhere. In short, its a great workout and a killer way to cover a ton of ground. Going for time motivates visits to places and times I may not otherwise.

I snapped one photo (below), and collected data with Strava. I've got other speed records documented on this page. 

I wore some clothes, ate some food, and went as fast as I could. For footwear I wore Hokas for the run and carried a pair of Evolv Addicts for the scrambling. The Hokas are awesome for everything but the scrambling. In that venue, they suck. The Addicts are compact and seemed more than worth their weight on this endeavor. I wore the rock shoes from where the NE Ridge and N. Arete join to the summit and down the Ulrich route to the sand.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Celebrating a Different Sort of Full-time Climber

"Some will fall in love with life and drink it from a fountain that is pouring like an avalanche coming down the mountain." B. Surfers. Pepper 

Chad dips water from Precipice Lake, Sequoia National Park
In our climbing community and circles we have ample opportunity to observe and share the lives of those that are "living the dream". Climbing's immersive nature and inspirational quality lends itself to uninhibited passion. 

But how? How to live that dream?

There is no shortage of media in our mountain and climbing community advocating for the nomadic, "dirtbag" life. Nor is there any shortage of this lifestyle in climbing's history. Whether you're perusing the Patagonia catalog, listening to our crowd's defining podcast, or lusting after the release of the next feature length climbing movie, one wouldn't be wrong to believe that having no permanent address is the only way to fully experience climbing. 

Our climbing communities attract those with counter-culture leanings. The immersive experience of mountain travel is addictive. One wants only more and more. Like junkies, many new and old climbers dive fully in. Influenced by the story of hero Alex Honnold living in his van full time, who was in turn preceded by California's legendary "Stonemasters", countless rock fiends hold the full-time, on-the-road schedule as the pinnacle of the climbing experience. Every corner of the internet holds a new blog documenting someone's "escape from cubicle hell". Indeed, wandering from one climbing area to the next is an amazing life; one finds a strong community, rapid improvement in the craft, and a life bouncing from one beautiful natural environment to the next.
Dale, high on Mt Tyndall. 

However, few if any can truly sustain this wandering existence. Whether the limits are financial or lifestyle, "living the dream" on the road is better described as "sampling one particular dream." There are many other ways to live in concert with the mountains. I've had the distinct pleasure of sharing mountain adventures in the past month, and for years, with two excellent men who each live their very own version of mountain and climbing nirvana. And neither life looks like anything we regularly see romanticized. Our climbing culture's neglect of yet another, more feasible and common, path is unfortunate. Both Chad and Dale get more time in the mountains than average. And both hold down full-time jobs and have healthy, grounded, sustainable lives. They make sacrifices for their pursuits, but that which is "lost" sure seems minimal. They each execute a version of the climbing life in their own way, but they share a passion, balance, and delightfully non-standard way of living an immersive climbing life.
Chad, in Pete Starr's footsteps. Chad and his Sierra pioneer hero share
lawyer training, SoCal residence, and  the summit of
Black Kaweah, about 80 years apart. 

A couple years ago I had the distinct pleasure of lending a very small hand in the production of the Supertopo High Sierra climbing guidebook. I edited a little, wrote a little, and contributed a few photographs. So did Dale, incidentally. And Chad made it into one of the photos I submitted. At the book release party I met ultra-sender, and dedicated lifer, Chris McNamara. Chris Mac has built much of his life around climbing (although he has a robust entrepreneurial spirit… I also work for him at OutdoorGearLab.com) and has a ridiculous climbing resume. Even as he's reviewing gear and selling guidebooks for climbing, he doesn't get out as much as he'd like. None of us do, really. I had him sign a copy of the guidebook for Chad. In explaining who Chad is, I noted that he and I had spent nineteen days together in the mountains in the previous year. Chris commented, asking "does this guy have a job? I don't even get out 19 days in a year". Yes, Chris, Chad has a job. He works in some fully engaging, high-energy, real estate business. I don't really get it, but I do know that Chad has changed positions a number of times, and is now responsible for his own business. As a guide, I interact with plenty of people who work in high-consequence environments. Upper level professionals, in this age of the smartphone, are accustomed to constant contact. Getting them out in the wilderness is stressful, at the least. Chad, however, lets it all go. When he's out, he's fully immersed.

Chad on Dunderberg

Dale's friends joke that he does too many things to be just one person. He climbs, skis, and bicycles at a high level. He spends a great deal of time with his family on the East Coast, travels for work, and still leads the Mammoth happy hour charge more often than not. I am pretty confident that "Dale" I get to hang out with is actually sometimes a hologram of the real Dale that is in Missouri fixing windmills or in Vermont eating white cheddar.

Dale on Mt. Williamson's "Long Twisting Rib"
While the aforementioned notion of "ditching it all" to climb and travel full-time is indeed romantic and much touted, Dale and Chad demonstrate that it isn't the only way our cutting edge forefathers chose to pursue their passions. Before he started really making money with photographs, Galen Rowell was notorious for driving hundreds of miles on his weekends off from fixing cars. Francis Farquhar, best known for his first ascent of Middle Palisade, was an accountant in the Bay Area. The legendary and athletic Pullharder climbing club, in it's heyday through the mid- to late-00's, was made up of students and professionals in San Diego. 

Hamilton Dome, Sequioa National Park
If nothing else, Chad and Dale and those like them prove that enjoyable immersion in climbing and mountain life does not require quitting one's job or living in a van. All of us have barriers to climbing more. A full-time job need not be one of them.