Mountain Standards

Posted October 5, 2015

Sea to Summit UltraLight Sleeping Mats: Durable, Comfortable Innovations

Deciding on a sleeping system is a major consideration when packing for an expedition or alpine climb as a good night's sleep can make the difference between feeling groggy and slow or energized and on-point. With so many mats on the market it can be hard to choose: Classic closed-cell foam mats are virtually indestructible, but inflatable ones are often lighter, more compressible and more comfortable.

Posted September 23, 2015

Apex 22: Reaching the Apogee of Alpine Design

The Apex 22 compact-climbing pack has a tapered shape, minimal compression straps and zero extras. I tested it on single and multi-day trips and during a nine-day AMGA Alpine Guide course in the Cascades this summer.

Posted September 17, 2015

Rab Muztag Jacket: Lightweight Armor for Alpine Weather

Alpine climbing in the Coast Mountains of British Columbia inevitably involves extended travel through wet weather. While attempting an enchainment of Mt. Waddington (13,186') and its neighboring peaks, I wanted a lightweight shell that was waterproof and breathable enough to wear during high-output exercise. Unlike my other shells, which fall short in at least one of these categories, the Muztag jacket exceeded my expectations.

Posted September 11, 2015

Arc'teryx Acrux FL GTX: Robust Kickers

As a guide, I've burned through several pairs of approach shoes hiking up rough gullies and talus fields. When the Arc'teryx Acrux FL GTX showed up at my doorstep, I hoped they would last more than most. Over spring and summer, I used them on short and long approaches, through torrential thunderstorms, on muddy trails and over mountain scree.

Posted August 25, 2015

Evolv Luchador: Versatility, Performance and Unexpected Comfort

The Luchadors are constructed of a synthetic upper with a slightly cambered, semi-asymmetric last and an unlined-leather footbed. The midsole shank keeps foot fatigue to a minimum. And they flex enough to set the Trax High Friction rubber on subtle smears. A padded, single-piece tongue cushions the top of the foot that protects the laces from pinching into the tops of my feet and shredding apart when jamming cracks.

Posted August 12, 2015

Jetboil MiniMo Stove Review: The Old is New Again

Like its chief competitor, the MSR Reactor, the Jetboil MiniMo utilizes a highly efficient heat transfer system between the burner and pot. Put your hand next to one of these types of stoves while they're burning, and you'll instantly note that efficiency: Even with hands cupped around the burner, you'll not be burned.

Posted July 30, 2015

Petzl Adjustable Positioning Lanyards: Making Cliffside Work Easier

As a guide, I hang my derriere over a cliff edge every day, often for hours at a time. I'm constantly securing myself into anchors while belaying, instructing and overseeing clients. In these cases, I like being snug on the anchor with my weight on the rope or other connection—it chases away the little butterflies in my stomach. Thus, having a quick and efficient way to protect myself while also providing adjustability is invaluable.

Posted July 23, 2015

"Jul" of the Wild—A Review of Edelrid's Mega Jul Belay Device

These days, it feels like everyone is coming out with a "new" belay device that's touted as somehow better than its predecessors. But, at least to me, it feels like many of the so-called improvements are superfluous and clumsy. I've sampled nearly all of the variations out there, but keep coming back to my trusty favorites for both recreational and guiding use.

Posted July 16, 2015

The Big Agnes Battle Mountain 2: Throwing Stones at the Tenting Goliaths

After flying into the Lower Ruth Gorge in early May—following a five-day wait while more than two feet of snow fell—I began to doubt my "dark horse decision" to bring along the Big Agnes Battle Mountain 2 tent. But I've always had a soft spot for the dark horse, the little guy, and Big Agnes is certainly a David among a field of tenting Goliaths like Mountain Hardwear, MSR, Sierra Designs, and an army of others.

Posted July 1, 2015

Black Diamond Gloves Round Up

Andrew Councell reviews five gloves from Black Diamond that bridge the gap between skiing and mountaineering. "The average ski glove emphasizes warmth and is subsequently bulky, but Black Diamond has been producing ski gloves that can actually climb as well," he writes.

Posted June 18, 2015

DMM Switch Review: Things That Make You Go DMM...

This season, DMM enters the fray with the Switch. With dual offset grips and a radically curved shaft, in essence it references the Nomic. But, put the two tools side by side and you'll quickly notice the first difference: Though both are marketed as 50cm tools, the DMM is clearly almost 2cm longer. Obviously, a longer tool offers a longer reach, which sounds nice on paper, but I wondered both, "Why these dimensions?" and, "Does the added reach compromise the swing?" Taking the tools out for a first spin on Grand Illusion in Smugglers' Notch, I quickly reached the twin conclusions, respectively, of "I don't know" and "Maybe."

Posted June 11, 2015

Duckworth Maverick Snorkel Hood:The Last Base Layer You'll Need to Buy

The versatility of the Maverick played a key role while hiking (a.k.a. sweating) uphill and making my way along a knife edge in Summit County, where winds picked up to near 35 mph, leaving little option other than getting low and waiting it out.

Posted June 3, 2015

Black Diamond Offset X4 Cams—Secure Traditional Gear for Flared Placements

Sometimes seen as an aid-specific tool for the pin scars on big-wall routes in Zion and Yosemite, offset cams can be invaluable almost anywhere.

Posted May 28, 2015

Lowa Cevedale Pro GTX Boot: Durable Comfort in Mountain Terrain

The Cevedale Pro GTX boot is comfortable right out of the box. A stretchy tongue combined with a well-padded midsole helped them break in quickly, and a partial-length shank lets the boots flex for walking. Lowa offers a novel approach to balancing the tension between the forefoot and the ankle, which is critical for maintaining a snug fit while avoiding pain in the Achilles tendon. An inventive lacing system uses low-friction ball bearings in the eyelets which allow you to quickly cinch the boot around the lower foot, then lock off the laces in cam buckles at the ankle in a simple motion.

Posted May 20, 2015

Tools for Climbing in Avalanche Terrain

Andrew Councell reviews Ortovox's trifecta of avalanche-rescue equipment: transceiver, probe and shovel. "In the States last year alone, avalanches claimed the lives of seven climbers. It's clear that we are not immune," he writes.

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