Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Ski Photos. Winter 2016-2017

Quick "photo dump"...

These haven't been posted anywhere else, in most cases. It's quick, it's dirty, and it's in no sort of order. Pretty stuff, white stuff, cold stuff. Wyoming and Colorado. Tetons, Rocky Mountain National Park, Silverton. Late November to early April. This kind of wraps the regular winter ski season. Now begins spring "expedition season". Still skiing, just different. Skis are smaller, backpacks get bigger.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Three Things Thursday, Issue #22

Pitch 9 of 11. Aguja de l'S. Parque Nacional Los Glaciares. Argentina. January 24, 2017
Three quickies:
  • Choose the right footwear. When you can, walk in shoes optimized for walking, rock climb in shoes optimized for rock, and tromp on snow and ice in appropriate kicks. When an endeavor involves all of these things, that gets tough. Make your compromises wisely... For instance, here in Patagonia, we're tackling big climbs after pretty big walks. Our packs are relatively small, and the approaches are strenuous but not technical. Walking in walking shoes, carrying the boots, seems like the call. Those choosing to walk in mountaineering boots are suffering for that choice. 
  • Use rituals to keep safe
  • Couples? Climbing, skiing, backpacking, hiking? Pure joy, or confounding suffering? Some thoughts on making it work

Friday, January 20, 2017

Alpine Climbing Gear List, 2017 Version.

Perfect granite and carefully selected gear. Paso Guillaumet,
Patagonia, Argentina. Jan 18, 2017. 
This oughta be fairly timely... I'm in the shadow of one of alpinism's most classic sky-lines, pondering gear, weight, logistics, and strategy while waiting for good weather in El Chalten. The climbing here is technical, long, with steep, human-powered approaches. In many ways, it is among the most challenging venues to pack for. What works here will work in any non-winter alpine range. Here's what we're packing for huge alpine mixed ice, snow, and rock climbs of Argentine Patagonia.

I divide the packing list right away into group and individual gear. If someone is equipped exactly this way, by my scale it should come to about 27 pounds individually. The group stuff, listed further below, comes to basically the same weight, but is then roughly divided in half. So the total team weight comes to about 84 pounds. And that is everything... Clothes, boots, rock shoes, tools, spikes, camping, food, rack, ropes, etc.  This is a hearty rack of pro, and two 60m ropes. Steel crampons, two ice tools per person... basically, for the most technical routes around. Put each climber in his or her clothes and personal climbing gear, and put a lead rope in play with the gear on the harness, and the packs end up being about 30 and 20 pounds. Now, that's not lightweight. But a competent climbing team should be able to climb smoothly to about 5.8 and WI 4 with packs like that. When it gets harder, get out the other rope and haul the heavier pack.

Also, note that many items can be swapped out for lighter alternatives. Easier rock climbs? Leave most of the cams behind. No ice? No screws, replace steel with aluminum crampons, ditch at least one tool each. Excellent weather forecast? No tent, substitute lighter shell gear. Shorter route? No camping gear of any sort. These are obvious things that the "list" doesn't fully capture. The list is on the "comprehensive" end of the spectrum, and the pack weights are still workable.

Without further ado...

Individual gear:

  • Synthetic t-shirt
  • Synthetic boxers
  • Two pairs of socks. I'm digging some Bridgedale, tall, thin "compression socks".
  • Arc Teryx Gamma AR pants
  • Patagonia thin gore tex pants
  • Patagonia R.5 hoody
  • Arc Teryx Nuclei puffy
  • Arc Teryx Alpha FL shell jacket
  • Feathered Friends Helios down jacket
  • Sun hat
  • Buff
  • CAMP belay gloves
  • CAMP Geko Light Raincover gloves
  • Camp G-Hot Dry gloves
Individual Camping "etc":
  • Sunglasses
  • Collapsible trekking pole
  • Wallet and passport
  • Two trash compacter bags
  • Headlamp. Petzl RXP
  • TP, hand sanitizer
  • Suunto Ambit GPS watch
  • Iphone and charging cord. Loaded up with maps and entertainment.
  • Headphones
  • About a pound of food per day
  • Spoon
  • The smallest Thermarest NeoAir
  • Feathered Friends Vireo... This thing is a secret weapon. Comfy and warm down to the low 20s, it works with your puffy jacket and keeps the weight to just over a pound. Game changer!
  • Arc Teryx Alpha FL 45 pack. 
Individual Climbing gear:
  • Cassin X-Light tool, pair. Modified with the after-market "X-Dry grips". 
  • Cassin C12 crampons
  • Evolv Kronos rock shoes
  • Garmont Ikon Plus boots
  • Hand Jammies
  • Two small lockers
  • Two larger lockers
  • Helmet. CAMP Speed 2.0
  • CAMP Flash Harness
  • Tibloc
  • Prussik loop
  • Micro traction
  • Belay device (I'm partial to the Edelrid Mega Jul these days... there's no real reason anymore to climb with a device that doesn't have some sort of assisted break. Ask me for more details...)
Group gear:
Camping, etc:
  • BD FirstLight tent
  • MSR Reactor stove and pot and hanging kit
  • Two lighters
  • Snow melt cup
  • Fuel (1-1.5 oz per person per day. Allows for some snow melt, but largely finding liquid water)
  • Iridium GO satellite communicator
  • Extra battery power to charge phones
  • Map and climbing topos
  • Emergency/First Aid kit
  • Pack towel (for tent condensation, mainly)
  • Sunscreen
Climbing gear:
  • Metolius "Mini Aider"... Sure, it's decadent. But iced up cracks are slow going. With an aider, they're less slow...
  • Pair of ascenders... Again, decadent. One of the first things to leave behind.
  • 10 draws. Mixture of short draws and shoulder length slings. All equipped with the category leading CAMP Nano 22. 
  • Knife
  • A set of Metolius Ultralight Master Cams from 0-4 (purple to red), each on a Nano 22  
  • A set of BD ultralight Camalot's from .5-4 (grey to grey), each on a Nano 22
  • Set of stoppers
  • Four pitons. thin
  • 5 ice screws. The aluminum Petzl ones
  • V-threader tool
  • 60m Esprit rappel cord
  • 60m 9.5mm lead rope

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Three Things Thursday. Issue #21

Today's theme, keeping the rope handy...

It is downright terrifying how often people die falling in the mountains, unroped. In the Sierra for instance, since 2011 or so, the fatality count for unroped alpine rock climbers and scramblers is approaching 20. That is horrible!

Now, don't get me wrong... There are many circumstances under which climbing unroped is understandable. First, I'll be the first to tell you that soloing can be very enjoyable, for its own sake. Next, sometimes, (though very, very rarely, especially among those well-trained in rope usage), going sans cord is the safest way to go. If time and/or loose rock concerns press in just the right way, skipping the rope can be a defensible safety move.

However, if you are skipping the rope for any of these reasons, you are kind of asking for it:

  • "There's no way to protect alpine ridges anyway"
  • "I don't know how to make this safer with a rope"
  • "It takes too much time to get the rope ready. It's just one little step. I'll be fine"
  • "I've never fallen on this before"
  • "It's too annoying to get the rope out"
  • etc...
Now, be honest with yourself... Are you soloing Matthes Crest or the Grand Traverse because that is the absolutely most enjoyable tactic for you, or do some of these empty excuses sneak underly your decision-making? 

Which brings me to my "Three Things" this week. Three "tricks" to keep the rope handier. If you own a rope, or have a rope along, these should allow you to keep said cord handier. 

  • First, use a shorter rope. It's extravagant, but I own climbing ropes in 20, 30, 40, 50, 60 and 70m lengths. And I choose the appropriate one for the job. In the Tetons, that is often a 42 meter rope... Weird, I know. I guided the Evolution Traverse on 30m of rope. Less rope takes less time to deploy and stow. Less time is less of a hurdle. Fewer hurdles mean smoother progress. 
  • Next, learn to "Kiwi Coil". Look it up on line. Hire a certified guide to teach you. Have a friend teach you. I don't care. Learn to do it fast. I can shorten the tied-in distance between myself and another climber from 40m to 5m in about a minute. I can take that entire 40m rope and "wear" it for a walking section in about 2 minutes. I can get 10m of it back out and ready to use in the time it takes my partner to tie his or her figure-eight knot. Learn to do the same. 
  • Finally, check out the photo above for another way to "wear" a rope. In this case, we topped out an ice climb of Canada's Weeping Wall and were walking over to the rappel tree. Doug coiled back and forth over his shoulders, as if to put the rope away, and then contained the coils with his sternum strap instead of wrapping it up to put on his pack. Super slick. Keeps the rope handy. 
If you've gotten this far, shoot me a note if you'd have any interest in an online course in rope management for advanced climbers. The course would be largely video-based, with the goal being to introduce accomplished multi-pitch rock climbers to skills for handling the transitions that come with alpine terrain. What would you pay for this course?