Layering 101

Layering 101

Dialing in your Alpine System for Optimal Performance and Protection

Layering Jackets

By William Bevans

The Three Layer System

Your comfort and even survival in the backcountry is highly dependent on your layering system. Since a single piece of apparel cannot do the job, many different layers are used in sync to adapt to the constantly changing conditions. In this article, I will outline the basic three layer system commonly employed in alpine climbing with some extra considerations and tips. Below are the three foundational clothing layers generally utilized:

1) Base layer

The main purpose of your base layer is to wick moisture away from your body. This is your first line of defense because if this fails, your whole system will fail. First and most importantly, do not ever use cotton products. Cotton products will wick a small amount of moisture away from your body but will not rid the moisture completely or properly. Cotton acts like a sponge and if you are wearing wet cotton in cold temperatures, your body will struggle to stay warm. In an alpine environment, this can lead to numbers of issues, including hypothermia.

On your cold zero dark thirty (12:30am) start right out the tent, you may feel the need to pile the layers on. Once you get moving, however, you’ll find yourself heating up.  Start managing that heat so your base layer can manage the moisture. You have a long day ahead and if you get wet early its gonna be even a longer day!

The two common base layer fabrics are wool and synthetic. Which one you decide to use is a matter of personal preference.

 

Synthetic layers include the poly-groups (polyester, polypropylene). Synthetics are generally inexpensive, dry very quickly, pack down efficiently, and tend to be quite durable. The downside is that they provide little insulation and therefore, only a small amount of body-warming qualities. Some claim poly fabrics retain odor, but usually you have bigger concerns on a climbing trip than having stinky clothes! On longer, two month expeditions, I often take my synthetics and wash them in a large hot water bowl with soap, lay them on my tent and after a few hours in the sun, they are clean and good to go.

Wool has seen many improvements recently and has made a strong comeback into the outdoor clothing industry. The common wool used is known as merino wool. Efficient insulating properties and excellent breathability are wool’s top trademarks. Wool comes at a price, typically higher than synthetics. One of the common complaints of wool is that it can be itchy. If you decide to dunk your wool in a bowl of hot water, you should certainly expect it to take considerably longer to dry than a synthetic.

Base Layer Tips

• Consider getting a quarter zip top to assist with dumping heat during periods of high output.
• Dedicate clothes to sleep in and clothes to climb in. At the end of your epic day, when you’re with your partner sharing a whiskey, get out of your climbing clothes and allow yourself to yourself to mentally and physically recharge.Think of it like getting out of your work clothes at the end of the day. It might take some effort, but if you sleep better, you will climb better.
• Consider a one-piece base layer. Picture yourself at home, wrapped snugly in a one-piece, keeping you toasty on the couch by the fire. Pretty sweet, eh? Alpine onesies are the same, except there probably isn’t a cozy fire or a couch where you are going to be. Onesies are quite comfortable and leave fewer cold spots and areas for the cold and snow to creep in. I pretty much guarantee once you have one, you will wonder why you didn’t get it sooner. Thank me later!
• Most base layers are compressible. Be creative by stuffing that extra base layer into something that doesn’t pack well (kitchen pot, etc…) 
Layering - Using quarter zip synthetic base layers on the Kautz Glacier, Mt Rainier.

Using quarter zip synthetic base layers on the Kautz Glacier, Mt Rainier.

Dialing in fit.

A lot of companies are in the market today making gear. What works for you might not work for the next guy. Layering is as much an art as it is a science. Fit is extremely important and requires good ole trial and error. Just because all your flannel shirts at home are size M does not mean your size M for all of your climbing outerwear. Different companies cut items in different and sometimes mysterious ways. Take the time to dial in fit from your base layers to your harness.

 

2) Insulation layer

Your insulation layer’s primary role is to keep you warm and to regulate your temperature though breathability. Insulation can come in the form of fleece, which can be broken down into several different weights (100, 200, 300) combined with several other technical fabrics (windstopper, etc…). In alpine climbing, loft insulation is considered the benchmark where warmth is key. There are generally two types of loft insulation: synthetic and down fill.

Synthetic Insulation: In short, synthetic insulation jackets have come a long way. In today’s market, there are several synthetic jackets geared towards climbers that perform very well. Gone are the days where down fill insulation was simply unmatched. Top brands have developed jackets to handle your entire day start to finish, from a high output ski approach, to swinging tools, to a quick summit tag in full raging conditions to the long descent back to the car. These jackets that once didn’t pack so well now pack very nicely. While down fill still remains the best insulator, the biggest improvement with synthetics is the breathability factor and the jacket’s ability to regulate temperature. The clammy feeling that went along with synthetics is a thing of the past. Synthetic jackets can dry fast when wet and continue to keep you warm when wet. Synthetic jackets remain at a lower price than down jackets and for the earth conscious climber, many jackets now have insulation produced from recycled materials.

Spectrum of use

When considering any piece of gear, imagine how it looks on a scale of use. How many functions does the piece of gear serve? Does it reduce redundancies so you are not carrying three of the same thing? Most of the time it pays large dividends to have a piece of gear that can do many things. Ensuring your gear or clothing can serve a multitude of purposes can make packing easier, the weight you carry much less and the gear you have to manage less stressful. When you have redundancies in your pack, you may feel overwhelmed by the amount of items you have and that can damper your experience.
Layering - Synthetic insulation catching a beating on Alpamayo, Peru

Synthetic insulation catching a beating on Alpamayo, Peru

 

Down Fill Insulation: For those venturing into the mountains where the cold is a major factor, down fill insulation is the gold standard. Down-fill insulation comes in several weights, from lower grade 550-fill to a no compromise 900-fill power. Fill power measures the amount of puffiness, which directly effects the amount of air the down fill can hold and ultimately insulate. Fill powers commonly seen by alpinists are 600, 750 and 800. I generally recommend utilizing down at 750-fill power and above. If the fill weights are still a little confusing, think of the lower grade down fills as ones you would use to walk around town. When in the mountains, having higher grade down really does make a lot of difference. To see first hand, go to your local store and compress a 600-fill jacket and then compress an 800-fill jacket. The compressibility makes a major difference. When down is taken care of it last several years and continues to keep you warm like no other product. Down has excellent breathability and packs down like a dream. The negative: down is always priced higher than synthetics and the higher the fill, the higher the price. Down is also useless if it becomes wet, so be very conscious of the condition of your jacket and limitations of your jacket shell. Overall think of your down jacket as an investment piece of gear and if you take care of it, it will take good care of you.

3) Shell layer

Your shell layer is your main line of defense against the elements. Your shell layer keeps your insulation layer, your base layer and you dry and warm. Shell layers are built to take a beating. They come in two different constructions: hard shell and soft shell.

Soft Shell: There are a few major differences between soft shell construction and hard shell jackets. Soft shells are designed with fabrics with superior ergonomics, performance and movement in mind. The user will experience a jacket that “flows” and wears much smoother with them than a hard shell.

Many different types of fabrics are used in soft shell construction and each provides a very different experience based upon activity type and conditions.

Soft shells are more breathable than hard shells, but they do a mixture of repelling and absorbing the outdoors. They don’t completely protect you against snow, wind or water, so the trade off is performance and comfort versus weather defense. All soft shells are going to respond to weather differently, so it is important you try to dial in the comfort level you have with your jacket slowly. Consider using a soft shell for shorter trips, roadside ice or places where you are very comfortable with conditions.

Hard Shell: Hard shell jackets are the ultimate guard against the elements. A hard shell will use materials that do not allow water or wind to penetrate the fabric. The downside to this defense is that the fabric does not breathe as well as a soft shell. Another downside to the hard shell is lack of ergonomics and how the jacket wears during activity. The hard shell is going to feel a little bulkier and have a general lack of smooth movement. Both soft and hard shells are pricey but hey…what isn’t in climbing anymore?

Still not enough ?

Layering - Soft shell on the sharp end of Snot Rocket (W5) Mt. Willard, NH

Soft shell on the sharp end of Snot Rocket (W5) Mt. Willard, NH

For epic cold outings bring a belay jacket. When your up at Lake Willoughby ripping up Twenty Below Zero Gully and your soul is on its way to being frozen stiff, a belay parka may just save you!  A belay jacket provides the highest levels of warmth and protection when mountain conditions begin to rage on you.  This jacket earned its title for saving you during the periods of time when your caught on the belay ledge while your partner stitches the last pitch and the mercury has seriously begun to dip.  The belay jacket will allow you to remain warm and focus on your belay duties instead of suffering from the cold.   On the flip side, a belay jacket is also great in big mountain base camp settings, or just back at the climbing cabin when your just hanging around by the stove waiting for your partner to make a hot brew and heat up the tasteless evening gruel.  The versatility of this jacket that excels in the field, and on your downtime makes it a staple in every climber’s closet.  A belay parka/jacket is cut two different ways.  The parka is cut bigger and will usually cover your harness and have a bulkier feel.  A jacket will be waist cut and fall just above your harness.  Which you pick is just a matter of preference.  Sometimes the parka zipper can come up a bit from the bottom and this will allow you to clearly see your belay loop, tie-in knots and such.  While in the field, keep in mind you will be taking this jacket on and off and stuffing it in your pack constantly.  This jacket will be taking a good beating, so pick a good one.

To wrap up, I hope this helps with all your layering needs. Dial in your alpine costumes at home before you head out. Buy the gear you like and don’t make a habit out of compromising. If you like your gear, you’ll look good; if you look good, you’ll feel good; if you feel good, you’ll climb good, and if you climb good, you’ll be happy!

About the Author: William Bevans is a New England based alpinist with over 20 years of experience in the mountains. His studies are concentrated in the area of technical alpine and high altitude mountaineering. He has completed climbs and led expeditions in the Cascades, Rockies, Alps, Himalayas, Andes, and big walls in Yosemite, Zion and Mexico. Currently he is involved in mentoring next generation alpinists and climbing the New England classics.

The Apex and Switch – DMM Ice Tool Review

DMM is not well known in the US. When you think of ice tools, you think Petzl, Black Diamond , Grivel and most recently Cassin, not DMM. Well once you have a look at these tools, you will start thinking about DMM.

In mid February, DMM gave NEice some of their newest ice tools to review. Since then we have tested them at Lake Willoughby, Cannon Cliff, Crawford Notch and Frankenstein cliff. We have climbed ice from 3+ to 5+ in temperatures ranging from  -5  to 45 degrees F. In all, we logged over 100 hours of climbing with these tools and they are fantastic!

The first thing you will notice about the tools is the quality. The manufacturing of these tools is some of the best I have seen. DMM has been around since 1981 and it shows in the construction and design of these fine tools.

Apex: After a few swings, the Apex felt like they had been mine for years.  – Chris Thomas 

Switch: In my 35 years of ice climbing, the Switch is the best ice tool I have ever used!  – Doug Millen

The Apex ($239)

I was lucky enough to demo pair of DMM Apex tools (thanks NEice.com). From the first time I held them I could tell that they were my next gear purchase. I’m not going to spend time on specifications, that’s what Google is for, I’m not technical enough to know why they matter. What I do know is these tools are perfect for the climbing I do and affordable enough that I’ll have new tools and enough left over to pay the tolls between me and the ice.

The first climb on the DMMs was a moderately steep pitch of 4 ice. A few swings of the Apex and I felt like they had been mine for years. The grip fit my hand well and the tool felt balanced, a little less top heavy than the Cobra. Although the shaft is straighter clearance between my hand and the ice was more than enough. The Apex felt more like the Petzl Quark then the Cobra having a different pull which you could feel in the angel of the wrist.

Bottom line… If you’ve been climbing on Vipers, Cobras. Quarks. etc. and dreaming about a more technical tool that climbs and canes even better, the DMM Apex is your next set of tools. When you consider price and performance of this tool there is no better for the majority of mere human climbers.

The Full Report .

Features

  • Hot forged, ergonomic handle
  • T Rated Integrity Construction
  • Dual hand rests for leashless climbing
  • High clearance shaft
  • Pick weights for bullet hard ice and customized balance
  • Supplied with grip tape for handle/shaft customization
  • Supplied with T Rated Ice picks as standard
  • Can be used with leashes in traditional climbing mode, but excels without leashes
  • Mixed and Ice specific picks available separately. Compact Hammer, Compact Adze, Mountain Adze (Large)

http://dmmclimbing.com/products/apex/

~Chris Thomas

 The Switch ($279)

I have used Nomics for years and I was curious about these tools.

They are slightly heavier than the Nomic but the extra weight feels good and requires less swings in hard ice. The Pick weights are included but I found I did not need them. At about 1 inch longer than the Nomic it was easier to reach for better holds. The tool is fully T rated and you will not be able to break any part of this sturdy tool. The hand grips of the Nomic feel fragile and weak in comparison to the Switch. The handle is glove friendly, hot forged ergonomic with full strength upper and lower rests. If you use different gloves in different conditions you will like this grip and big hands fit well. The coating on the handle is great, I never felt like I was slipping out, even on overhanging ice. The swing of the tool is perfect too and so natural. I am a carpenter and I know a good swinging tool when I feel it. The picks come with the perfect shape for ice or mixed climbing and are pre-tuned. I never touched the picks with a file.  The Picks go right in, and come right out, no problem,  yet they feel really sticky and secure in the ice. The Switch as it’s name implies remains in balance when switching hands on the rests.

The only concern of mine is how the coating on the handle will hold up over time. So far, so good, not even a nick.

Bottom Line…I have switched from Nomics to the Switch, and I have loved every moment of the last 6 weeks climbing with this tool. The Switch is now my tool of choice.

Features

  • Glove friendly, hot forged ergonomic handle with full strength upper and lower rests and supreme stability
  • T Rated Integrity Construction
  • Full strength clip-in point accessible from either rest
  • High clearance shaft
  • Inboard eyelet allows threading of cord for use with freedom leashes
  • Pick weights for bullet hard ice and customized balance
  • Supplied with grip tape for handle/shaft customization
  • Supplied with T Rated Ice picks as standard
  • Mixed and Ice specific picks available separately. Compact Hammer, Compact Adze, Mountain Adze (Large)

http://dmmclimbing.com/products/switch/

 A few photos of the tools

You can get them at The Mountaineer 

http://store.mountaineer.com/product_p/dmmapex.htm

http://store.mountaineer.com/product_p/dmmswitch.htm

~Doug Millen

 

Orange is the New Rack

NEIce_gearreview_wide655x440

NEice Gear Review for 2014/2015

The cool gusts of Autumn are blowing in, scattering a kaleidoscope of leaves. The first snow flurries of a new season sift down through the mountain air.  Rock climbing seems a mere distraction now as the cold seeps into numb fingertips trickling down to chilled toes, hinting at what will soon arrive – the ice is coming. Eagerly, we await that first good thunk of our favorite ice tool sinking into soft early season ice. The thought of it, harkens up a familiar sensation of security and the satisfaction that comes from knowing you couldn’t fall from the steep blue ice at that moment.

“We await that first good thunk of our favorite ice tool sinking into soft early season ice.”

As memories like these bring on the promise of new adventure, we pull dusty gear out of the dark closet depths and sort and re-sort it all. Tool picks are sharpened. Ice screws inspected in a pre-season ritual.

simond chacal ice climbing tool

An earlier straight-shaft model ice climbing tool.

Our minds wander back over the years of ice climbing, maybe to our earliest terror-filled winters bashing a line up a route too hard for us, almost certain that death lay just a little higher. So, illogically, we just swung harder and gripped tighter.

Over 20 years ago, on one of my first stout leads at Lake Willoughby in northern Vermont, I nearly lost an arm placing a screw.  Untested ambition had put me there, high on the grade 5 crux, my stomach flipping with a lurch from the fear and overexertion. I tightened the twist leash on my left hand one more turn, cutting off more vital circulation, and using a tool pick in my right, turn the tube threads further into the ice. The fearful sound of that screw screeched in my ears as it resisted the effort. Burning up too much energy, I quit before it was even close to safe. I clipped the hanger and sucked in a frigid measured breath of partial relief and leaned my forehead against the ice, still too proud and scared to take on the rope.  There I was, filled with aching terror when fresh powder lay on the easy slopes in the next town over, just a cozy lift ride away. But, I kept going back for more of that fear. Exactly why, I can’t tell you. But, with experience, it improves. With time, the joy overtakes the fear. Things change. Life changes.

 

Huntington Ravine ice climbing photo

NEice member Rockytop in the mid-90’s on Mt. Washington, running around Huntington Ravine with straight-shaft tools, twist-leashes, plastic boots…and yes, that’s a mullet hairdo.

Along with us, the gear changes too. It was nearly 20 years ago, Grivel purposefully bent the shaft of their latest ice tools – giving us the Machine and essentially taking one whole grade of difficulty off the routes. A few years later, Beal gave us lighter, skinnier ropes – their Ice Lines. Our clothes got lighter, warmer, better. Ice screws actually went in like rock gear – fast. Leashes got quicker, then disappeared with Petzl’s Ergo tool, and have sort of come back again as tethers. This sport is now much easier and safer. Even without our training harder, technology has made us faster. Yes, death is still waiting, only a fool would deny it, but now I can smile at yesterday’s memories and fear no longer fills me while I’m walking up to that same steep route at Willoughby.

“Even without our training harder, technology has made us faster.”

As this season arrives, and you finish another set of pull-ups… maybe you’re dragging a file across the worn pick of your old ice tool, and perhaps you can’t help but wonder – will a new change in gear eclipse all that hard training? Only you will know really…all your training and preparation could take a back seat to that new piece of equipment that just clicks with your climbing style. Now you flow with it, as you start up a steep column, swinging smoothly. The tool thunking firmly in soft ice, again and again, and suddenly you’re at the top of that serious line you always dreamt of leading and you smile clipping into the anchor. The game has just changed for you…and life is even better.

 

THE GEAR

There’s nothing worse than bad gear –  It’s too heavy, it doesn’t fit, it doesn’t do what you want it to, or worse yet, it breaks and leaves you stranded.  There’s a lot of really good gear out there nowadays so it’s tough to pick out the best of the best.  Starting out on our first real gear review, we decided to mostly look at what’s new or nearly new this season.  We gave up some precious climbing time to delve into the real meat and potatoes items of the sport, checking out the latest in tools, crampons, ice screws, jackets, harnesses and gloves. The more we looked, the more we realized, a lot of it is orange (or most of it is available in caution-type colors anyway) Thus our headline, a play on the TV series, Orange is the New Black.  So, go forth with the colors of caution, maybe whether you like it or not.

 

TOOLS

CAMP X-Light Alpine Tool

The new CAMP X-Light Alpine Tool

 

CAMP X-Light  (new)  –  $199.99   A superlight and versatile tool for the technical alpinist, with a hot-forged aluminum alloy head that allows for multiple set-ups.  The removable X-Alp grip has a soft hand for good grip and can be swapped out with the X-Dry grip.

Petzl Summit EVO – Due out January 2015.   This tool should find a similar niche to the CAMP X-Light.

Black Diamond Fuel Ice Tool (new) – $259.99  A high-performance, all-around cragging tool that’s at home on steep ice and overhanging rock. BD says the Fuel is the quiver of one for the modern winter climber.

Grivel Tech Machine (new) – $249.95   A nice technical tool for mixed and big steep ice. The new round clip hole in the head makes it easy to clip on and off your harness. The Tech Machine comes with their Ice Blade (3mm tip) but it also takes an optional mixed pick for more extreme drytooling.

 

 

TECHNICAL CRAMPONS

There are some great standby ‘poons’ that hardmen and hardwomen of the Northeast have been crushing with over the past few years (Grivel C4, Petzl Lynx &  Dart, BD’s Stinger) so not too much has changed recently or dramatically other than CAMP’s new setup.

Camp Blade Runner Crampon

The business end of CAMP’s new Blade Runner crampon.

 

CAMP Blade Runner – $349.95  Not really new to start this season but when these crampons came out late last season, they were making quite a splash during the ice festivals in the Northeast.  CAMP athlete Ian Osteyee put up a new severe test-piece at Poke-O Moonshine with them last winter. Yup, they’re pricey, but hey, so is a good single-malt.

 

 

 

 

ICE SCREWS

Petzl Laser Speed Light Ice Screws

Petzl’s new Laser Speed Light ice screw. Be careful where you point your lasers.

 

Petzl Laser Speed Light – $74.95  If light is right, these just might be the screws for you. The speed light is an ultra-light screw with aluminum tube, an ideal weight-cutting tool for mountaineering. These screws seem to start as easy as the BD Express screws that are very popular.   The folding crank works well and folds away reasonably quickly, perhaps not as easy as one might prefer. Hey, we’re spoiled compared to 20 years ago.  Durability over the long-haul of hard climbing use through multiple seasons remains to be seen. They’re pricier than regular weight screws but several long-time NEIcers admit they’re going to add at least a handful of these to their racks.

 

 

 

 

 

JACKETS

New materials continue to improve the outerwear available for ice climbers on the move. A number of companies have come out with softshell tops that work great for keeping the sweat from building up too much and keep you cruising with one of the new wool-blend layers underneath and a belay jacket over them in harsher conditions.

Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Shell – $349.00  A minimalistic softshell jacket, the Dawn Patrol LT Shell uses Schoeller® stretch-woven softshell fabric to handle the demands of fast-and-light alpine climbs.

Mammut Nordpfeiler (men’s and women’s) – $350    This has a new WINDSTOPPER® fabric. more breathable and stretchier with pit zips for added cooling.  This is a prime GORE® WINDSTOPPER® jacket for high alpine use, offering high abrasion resistance and good stretch, ideal for colder conditions and as a second layer. This is not an insulative jacket so you’ll want to choose the right layer to go underneath depending on conditions.

Mammut Morangun Jacket (new features)- $425    Mammut has given this a more durable surface fabric than before with the combination of a 2-layer GORE-TEX® face fabric and the proven OTI™ Element synthetic fiber filling. It is waterproof and excellent in cold temperatures.

Outdoor Research Clairvoyant (women’s model) – $324.95  Streamlined, durable and functional, the Clairvoyant is built for high-alpine climbing epics and aerobic backcountry tours. And unlike many waterproof shells, the polyester face fabric is soft, supple and quiet, yet easily repels unpleasant weather during all-out adventures.

Mountain Hardware Quasar Jacket – $400  A waterproof 3-layer shell is designed to be as compact and efficient as it is hardworking. Dry.Q™ Elite technology starts expelling excess heat and vapor right away for nearly instant breathability. A sleeker fit than most jackets.

 

GLOVES

Caution Man Climbs Again! Special thanks to Julbo, Mammut, Petzl, CAMP, and the Outdoor Gear Exchange for helping bring together gear and lots of orange stuff for the review and a fun NEIce photo shoot. Thanks to AMGA guide Tim Farr for his modeling services.

Caution Man Climbs Again! Special thanks to Julbo, Mammut, Petzl, CAMP, and the Outdoor Gear Exchange for helping bring together gear and lots of orange stuff for the review and a fun NEIce photo shoot. Thanks to AMGA guide Tim Farr for his modeling services.

For some of us, this is the business end of modern ice climbing. If your hands are frozen or you can’t feel the tool, you’re already half-finished. Most experienced climbers bring two or three pairs in their craggin’ packs. These are a few of what’s new on the scene.

Black Diamond Torque Glove $59.95  A performance softshell glove with a tricot lining. BD says this model was built for high-end mixed climbing and drytooling, featuring a super-sticky palm and low-profile construction for unmatched grip and dexterity.

Black Diamond Punisher (women’s version) – $99.95  The company’s classic ice climbing glove but with a different fit for women. Maintains the  pre-curved construction with articulated fingers with a waterproof breathable BDry™ insert and EVA padded knuckles so you can still wrap your hand around a cold beer at the end of the day.

CAMP GeKO Light $99.95  A nice leather-palmed technical glove for mixed climbing and warmer days on the ice.  The model forgoes insulation in the palm for better grip but offers a thin 4 oz Primaloft® insulation on the main body combined with box construction using durable and water resistant polyester fabrics for a precise and snug fit.

CAMP GeKO Hot Dry – $109.95   This medium-weight glove is a new upgraded version of their best selling G Hot featuring a Hipora® waterproof/breathable membrane for extra protection in wet conditions.  The palm and fingers feature their Grip’R technology to help with holding power and durability.

 

 

HARNESSES

CAMP Air CR – $84.95   If you’re looking to slim down, CAMP says it used the same lightweight design on the AIR CR model as the Air harness but added adjustable leg loops. Constructed from 2mm perforated EVA foam attached using edge-load construction to soft polyester mesh on the interior and durable nylon mesh on the exterior. The Air CR seems a good bet for any kind of fast and light climbing endeavors including advanced alpinism and ice climbing with two slots to accommodate clippers or carabiners for racking your tools.

Petzl Hirundos – Due out January 2015.  A lightweight high-end model, which the company says is ideal for sport and alpine climbing. Also features two slots for the Petzl Caritool holders for racking your ice tools.

REVIEW

First Impressions – Camp Air CR Harness:  October 13, 2014. AMGA member and guide Tim Farr – “The Camp Air CR Harness is light, real light. Previous experience with past harnesses in this category had me expecting an uncomfortable and hip-bruising fit for anything but an un-weighted stance. But the Camp Air CR Harness is comfy. Proving that an ultra-light harness doesn’t need to sacrifice comfort for weight. On long rock routes with hanging belays and lots of rappelling, I haven’t even thought twice about the fit except for in amazement for the surprising level of comfort. While this harness obviously doesn’t have the comforts of a marketed big wall harness, I still found myself grabbing for the Camp Air CR over my beefier all-a-rounder for just about everything. The three auto locking buckles, comfortable leg-loops and four good-sized gear loops on the Camp Air CR offer plenty of climb-ability and durability for everyone from the crag dweller to the weight conscious alpinist. Its light, packs small, has enough room for a large traditional rack and doesn’t restrict your freedom of movement.  From long rock routes on Cannon Cliff to cragging 5 minutes from the car, the Camp Air CR delivers. While the ice and mixed season hasn’t quit started here in the Northeast, I’m expecting the Camp Air CR harness to shine simply based on my experience testing it this summer.”

BOOTS

So many good boots out there to choose from! We should all feel lucky.  But, sometimes there’s always room for improvement.  We felt adding a custom liner, like Superfeet, could help improve the performance fit of all these boots.  Hey, they’re your feet, do what feels good!

LaSportiva Nepal Cube GTX – $575     LaSportiva says it’s a technical, warm, lightweight mountaineering boot with state of the art technology for mixed climbing terrain. If you’re a fan of their Nepal Tops, these are lighter but with a more flexible ankle. meaning less support but more mobility for technical climbing. It also comes with removable additional tongue padding for an adjustable fit under the upper lacing.

Mammut Nordwand High GTX – $595    Mammut says this double-insulated carbon insole full-gaiter boot is the lightest in it’s category. A double GORE-TEX construction in the inner shoe and on the gaiter provides plenty of protection for moisture regulation and water resistance. We found the built-in gaiter has more room to go over pants than the Scarpa Phantom Guide, if that’s how you roll.

Scarpa Phantom Guide – $599.00   Scarpa says it’s got the same materials and construction as their Himalayan boot, the Phantom 8000, for more warmth for extreme environments, but with the added sensitivity of a slimmed-down full-gaiter boot. One of our testers said this had a bit more room toward the front for wider feet.

Trango Extreme EVO Light GTX – $420   All synthetic, waterproof and insulated. The silver lining, so to speak, of this boot is a lightweight, warm technical mountain boot for ice climbing, plus the performance for mixed climbing and cold weather alpine goals.

 

ROPES

Stay tuned for a gear review on ropes. Get the skinny on the phattest alpine cords – Coming soon!

orange_mammut_rope_websz2_1024

Do you like your ropes fat or skinny?

 

BITS & PIECES (Some new and some favorites)

Black Diamond Peter Beanie (new) – $25   No, it’s not for your Johnson but we can’t help but snicker at the name a little. This double-layer beanie is for super-cold days. and ‘Yes’, it’s available in orange.

Mammut Nano 8 (new) – $14   Not for your everyday ice climbing outing but a very lightweight (and orange) rappel device that pairs well with their new 60M 6mm static rap line for going light on that solo climb and descent or for getting down past that gnarly section while ski mountaineering.

CAMP X-Dream Ice Tool– $279.99

Petzl Nomic Ice Tool – $299.99

Black Diamond Arc glove – $69.99 This is one sticky palmed light-to-mid-weight glove that performs great. Like a lot of grippy gloves, don’t rappel down with them, you’ll wear them out too fast.

Mammut Guide Work Glove – $109.99  A warmer leather glove for use when that light grippy glove doesn’t cut it but the big bulky ones are too much. The company says it’s ideally suited for mountain guides, patrollers, lift staff and everyone who works regularly outdoors.

Julbo Cortina sunglasses– $70.00 If you’re looking for a rad pair of orange retro 80’s-style sunglasses like on our model – they have Matte Orange.

 


 

TRAINING FOR THE NEW ALPINISM

TRAINING FOR THE NEW ALPINISM

TRAINING FOR THE NEW ALPINISM

Book Review

by Don Mellor
October 2014

I just finished reading Training for the New Alpinism, and I’m feeling equal parts inspired, enlightened, and useless.

It’s a book that does just what it promises: it explains in scientific detail what it takes to be an elite athlete in today’s mind-stretching world of alpine climbing.

The technical density of the book came as a surprise to me. Maybe I was expecting some rehashed advice about running stairs or lifting weights. My BA in English Literature didn’t really prep me for the science, and so I had to read it twice just to get hold of some of the concepts. A third time wouldn’t hurt, either.

Interspersed among the technical chapters, however, were high-octane adventure stories about the ‘research” behind the instruction. Here Ueli Steck tells us that he’s a control freak and that his two-hour forty-seven minute dash of the Eiger North Face was not some spur-of-the-moment antic; nothing, even the weather, he says, was left to chance. Mark Twight weighs in about his initial crush on CrossFit training, his own failed attempt to find a quicker route to fitness, and his ultimate admission that Scott Johnston was right about the relationship between endurance and intensity training. TINSTAAFL is the title of Twight’s essay about the importance of realizing that There Is No Such Thing As A Free Lunch.P_164_Marko_on_Makalu

This is all about what they call “the new alpinism” It’s hard for a lot of us even to conceive of the mountain marathoning that’s going on out there. Eiger North face in less than three hours. Six days of continuous climbing on North Twin (in winter, after dropping a boot from half way up and finishing in an inner boot wrapped in athletic tape!). Eight days on the Rupal Face of Nanga Parbat, the world’s highest wall. Enchainments. Speed climbing. Gobbling up more hard climbing in less time and with less gear than we ever considered sane or possible.

This “new alpinism” isn’t following a line of fixed ropes as you push to higher and higher camps, acclimatizing on your way. Nor is it working some 5.13 flared crack above a port-a-ledge on El Cap. “New alpinism” is putting on a 35-pound pack and climbing non-stop till you get to the top. Sometimes you might grab a little shivering nap or maybe fire up your stove. But a lot of the time you just push on, telling your body to do stuff that most bodies can’t imagine.

Thus, this book is really the first to examine the distinctly more complex training requirements to make those bodies capable. And this is just it: changing our bodies – the capillaries and neurons, the muscle fibers and cell structures, altering things we may never even have heard of.

A little about the authors:

SteveHouseSteve House – If you really need me to provide his bio here, you don’t want this book. Just go back to your Facebook page.

ScottJohnston_lowresScott Johnston, on the other hand, iisn’t well known to most recreational climbers. Even though he has a proud resume of Himalayan and Alaskan mountaineering, he comes mainly from the world of swimming and Nordic skiing, both at the World Cup competitive level and as a coach. Most of us know that cross-country ski racers are probably the fittest athletes out there, and so his research and perspectives are absolutely applicable to alpine climbing. If ever you are in the Adirondacks and want to take a day off from ice climbing, go check out the college kids training at Mount Van Hoevenberg. You’ll come away feeling flabby.

House and Johnston make it clear that this isn’t just upping the reps or increasing the mileage – it’s a new game, one that doesn’t come without a huge investment. Nor it is intuitive. They make it clear right in the beginning that, “three forty-five minute Stairmaster sessions a week” will not do it. Instead, it takes a disciplined and difficult regimen of training that will alter both the anatomical and neurological structures of the alpine athlete. Like it or not, they say, “your results will be proportional to the time you spend in preparation.”

So much for the pep talk. Now comes the bulk of the book, the science and the reasoning behind a methodical and purposeful training routine. That preparation cannot consist solely of Great Range runs or maniacal gym workouts.

House and Johnston begin with the basic aerobic – anaerobic dichotomy, moving logically through the fuels of fats and sugars, the human body’s “functional and structural” adaptations to stress, strength training, periodization, and nutrition. These pieces come in logically sequenced, well explained packets, and most are supplemented by real-life experience as empirical support.

Again, the science is complex and I’d probably screw it up if I endeavored to summarize. Let me instead list some of the salient points that I’ll keep in my own training mind:

* It’s all about duration and frequency, not intensity. Maybe ninety percent of our training ought to be at a pace where we can still have a trail conversation.

* General training is every bit as important as specific training.

* You can’t try to maintain peak-level fitness for any length of time; instead, you must aim to reach your peak fitness just in time for your project.

* Recovery takes a long time. House tells of having to bail on a big Himalayan route because he hadn’t fully recovered from Nanga Parbat a full twelve months earlier.

* Endurance exercise burns fats. Intense exercise burns sugars. Every high-intensity burst is really costly, as it switches the fuel over from fats to sugars, which aren’t so plentiful in storage.

* Keeping records helps.

* Be patient. Progress is gradual and it results only from the cumulative effect of many, many hours of productive work.

I wonder how many of you NEICE.COM ‘ers are actually aspiring to do the high-end routes in Alaska or Patagonia. I wonder if most of you (like me) are instead thinking about a winter scoot along the crest of the Presidentials (those aren’t yeti tracks – Alan Cattabriga came by before breakfast) or maybe you want to take a whack at Emilie Drinkwater’s time on the Adirondack Trilogy. Whatever the goals, I think the House / Johnston book would do you well. Your pack might feel lighter, and the route might feel easier. And you might just make it back for happy hour.

Now a small complaint. Every time I would sit down to write this review, I’d find myself so inspired (OK, a little shamed as well) that I’d put it down and go for a short speed hike up a little rocky bump near my house in Lake Placid. It happened again today. The wind on top was pushing me around a bit, the year’s first snow pellets were biting my face. But no shit, there I was, alone, eyes closed, fantasies flipping back and forth between House’s climbs on the world’s big peaks and my own plans for an early season run on Agartha.

TRAINING FOR THE NEW ALPINISM
Steve House and Scott Johnston
Patagonia Books, Ventura California 2014

 

Buy TRAINING FOR THE NEW ALPINISM at The Mountaineer

 


DMM Testing: SLINGS AT ANCHORS

SLINGS AT ANCHORS

October 4, 2013

A great video and report on the forces at work on slings in four different belay set-ups.

In a previous video we compared the impact forces generated using nylon and Dyneema® slings with a dynamic load. It clearly highlighted the importance of ensuring there is no slack in a system using slings. As an example, a 85 kg mass free-falling just 60 cm on to a 60 cm Dyneema sling (fall-factor 1), with an overhand knot in it, generated enough force to break the sling.

Extending this previous theme we’ve looked at using nylon and Dyneema® slings in four different belay set-ups

-DMM

I have always tied in with both ropes and used clove hitches…seems like this is the best way to tie in. – Doug Millen

New Petzl Ice Climbing Products

New – Fall 2013 Ice Climbing Tools

Photo Casque @Lafouche
 

casque 



LASER SPEED LIGHT: Lightweight ice screw with integrated handle

Ultra-light screw with aluminum tube is ideal for mountaineering. Starting is facilitated by the optimized shape of the steel drill. The integrated flexible crank gives an optimized lever, making it easier and faster to screw in.

 

casque 

LASER SPEED: Ice screw with integrated crank

The LASER SPEED ice screw starts easily due to the optimized drill shape. Strength and durability are improved due to the steel tube and specific threading. The integrated flexible crank gives an optimized lever, making it easier and faster to screw in.

 

casque 

LASER: Ice screw

Starting the LASER ice screw is facilitated by the optimized drill shape. Strength and durability are improved due to the steel tube and specific threading. Screwing is facilitated by the excellent ergonomics of the aluminum hanger.

 

casque 

D-LYNX: Screw-in mono-point crampons for ice climbing, mixed climbing and dry tooling

Screwing the mono-point D-LYNX crampons directly onto shoes reduces weight considerably and improves rigidity. The shape and angle of the points are designed for expert use in dry tooling, mixed or ice climbing. The D-LYNX offers more striking precision thanks to the front/back positioning adjustment.

 

casque 

LIM’ICE: Sharpener for ice screws

The simplified handling of the LIM’ICE screw sharpener makes drill sharpening faster and easier. The two sharpening guides optimize precision sharpening on both sides of the drill teeth.

 

The future is NAO!

NAO is the first Petzl headlamp with REACTIVE LIGHTING technology.


NAO headlamp

The rechargeable NAO headlamp adapts its two high power LEDs instantly and automatically to the lighting needs for greater comfort, fewer manual interventions and longer battery life.

Outside Magazine awarded the NAO “Outside Gear of the Show” at ORWM12. A great honor and an acknowledgement of the ground breaking technology that is the NAO.

Petzl’s NAO web site is now live, go to www.petzl.com/NAO. Here you’ll be able to view the video as well as see more information about the headlamp and REACTIVE LIGHTING technology.

Below are some early media impressions on Petzl’s NAO, it will launch in July 2012 at $175 MSRP.

“Touted to have a first of its kind self-adjusting beam, the to-be-released NAO headlamp from Petzl could be a game changer in the world of head-mounted illumination products.”
From GearJunkie: http://gearjunkie.com/intelligent-illumination-headlamp-self-adjusts-its-beam

“Petzl calls the technology “reactive lighting.” We call it the most high-tech headlamp we’ve ever seen.”
“Petzl has come out with a headlamp which will very likely alter the course of headlamp technology.”
“Once in a while, a headlamp comes around that changes the game for others. Enter Petzl‘s Nao auto-adjusting headlamp, which dims or brightens according to the level of ambient light.”
Other places to go and see the NAO:
– Webpage: http://www.petzl.com/us/outdoor/headlamps/nao
– YouTube: http://youtu.be/FZb3k_x067w
– Facebook tab (you’ll need a FB account to view this): https://www.facebook.com/Petzl?sk=app_281881348531418

Source: Dave Karl, Petzl.com

New Crampon from Petzl

The “Lynx

Petzls latest High End Crampon

Available SEPTEMBER 2011
$245.00 MSRP

The new Lynx crampon from Petzl offers a forged and easily replaceable monopoint or dual point. The Lynx will replace the M10. A much lighter replacement and should make a lot of people happy.

Petzl-Lynx-Crampon

Modular crampon for ice and mixed climbing, with new LEVERLOCK universal bindings
From snow couloirs to dry tooling, the LYNX is a versatile crampon. Modular front points allow for many options: dual or mono-point, long or short, and/or asymmetrical. They come with two types of interchangeable front bindings to adapt to boots with or without toe welts.

Selling points:
• Versatile crampons for ice and mixed climbing

• Configuration and length of front points can be modified with one screw:
dual points in short, long or asymmetrical position
offset mono-point in short or long position

• Crampons adaptable to boots with or without toe welts:
interchangeable front bindings: stainless steel toe bail wires for shoes with toe welts, or flexible “Flexlock” style toe bindings for boots without toe welts
both types of toe bindings can be adjusted to accommodate shoe width and provide sufficient point length

• LEVERLOCK heel bail is height-adjustable, designed for boots with heel welt

• Integrated front and rear ANTISNOW plates

• FAKIR carrying pouch included

• Marked bars facilitate crampon adjustment

• Comes with:
FAKIR carrying bag (V01)
front and rear ANTISNOW (T24960)
flexible front binding
stainless steel wire heel bail

 

Product specifications:
Number of points: 14
Boot sizes: 35 to 45 with M linking bar (included), optional L linking bar fits boots sizes 40 to 50 (T20850)
Weight: 2 x 540 g = 1080 g (configuration with two points and ANTISNOW)
2 x 455 g = 910 g (configuration with one point, no ANTISNOW)
Certification(s): CE, UIAA

More on the “Lynx” at  coldthistle.blogspot.com & the NEice Forum
Source: Dave Karl, NEice Forum – Dane

Lynx