Mountain Standards

Posted November 6, 2007

Mountain Hardwear Women's Quark: The Every-Day Outerwear

In spite of the plentitude of masculine, heavy-duty shells on the market, I spent this past summer testing the women's Mountain HardWear Quark jacket. Why, you ask, did I eschew various men's models in favor of the women's Quark? Because it's extremely light, and Mountain HardWear touts it as the lightest (9 ounces), truly waterproof raincoat on the market.



Posted November 2, 2007

Therm-a-Rest Toughskin: Rugged in the Dire and Amorous

There may be other inflatable sleeping pads out there, but you know you've got a corner on the market when your brand name becomes the vernacular for your niche. For years, however, I avoided Therm-a-Rests, preferring the closed-cell pads that, while they might not offer quite the same insulation and comfort as an inflatable pad, had the distinct advantage of low-tech: you could be pretty sure they'd never fail in the field, regardless of how many times you flopped your crampon-laden pack down on them at inopportune moments.



Posted October 30, 2007

Maxim Apogee 9.1 70m Rope: Stands Up to Abuse

I had initially stayed away from using longer ropes due to their weight and bulk. The Apogee, at 9.1mm, dispenses with this concern, but its slim profile gave me doubts about its durability. After significant testing on summer alpine rock routes in the Tetons, alpine climbing in the Bugaboos and the establishment of new multi-pitch sport and trad routes at Rock Springs Buttress in Jackson Hole, my doubts about the rope's durability were firmly laid to rest.



Posted October 22, 2007

Wild Country Infinity Sprint 8.4 60m Double Rope: Infinitely Durable?

Over the summer I tested the Sprint double rope (8.4mm, 60m), a member of the new Infinity line from Wild Country. While the company is a relatively new rope manufacturer, they've got the time-tested reputation to back up their products, and I was not disappointed. The rope, weighing in at 64 grams/meter, has a UIAA fall rating of 8, a relatively high impact force rating of 875 daN, an 8 percent elongation and 0mm of sheath slippage. And as a double-dry rope, both the core and sheath are treated to resist saturation. All of the aforementioned specs prove that Wild Country is truly putting safety and functionality at the forefront of their rope design.



Posted October 18, 2007

Petzl e+lite: For Emergencies and Every Day

The luggage gods are not kind. Multiple times, when traveling internationally, I've had to wait days for my luggage to catch up with me. I'm starting to get used to it—but it becomes problematic when I'm scheduled to guide clients and my gear is in airline purgatory. This was the case at the outset of a recent twelve-day trip to the Alps. Luckily, my bags arrived on the first evening as we prepared to leave for a backcountry hut. But one of our clients was not so lucky—her bag had not arrived by the time we departed. Between me and the other guide, we assembled an ample amount of climbing gear for the client. She ended up with my normal LED headlamp, and I pulled the Petzl e+lite from my first aid kit to use for myself.



Posted October 11, 2007

Rab Power Stretch Grip Glove: Almost Too Sticky!

This lightweight glove packs a punch for as light as it is and as well as it climbs. Had the temperatures been more normal in the Tetons this season, I probably would have squeezed more milage out of the thin Rab gloves, but global warming had most of us stripped to light sleeves—and certainly gloveless—many a day up high.



Posted October 1, 2007

Arc'teryx Dually Belay Parka: Avoiding Wetness for Winter Warmth

When I first heard of a new truly hydrophobic (no water absorbtion) synthetic belay parka called the Dually Belay Parka from Arc'teryx, I was sure it could not be true. We have all heard the promise before: "This synthetic insulation will keep you warm even when it's wet." The disappointment of realizing you are not warm—but in fact cold—sitting in a damp belay parka is true betrayal. This feeling goes away when you realize there is no better solution. Now there is no reason to compromise, or be wet and cold, as the Dually Belay Parka insulates while refusing to absorb water.



Posted September 26, 2007

Grivel G12 Crampons: Do-It-All Spikes

Anyone who has exited from the top of the Aiguille du Midi ice cave to descend the narrow ridge leading into the Vallee Blanche above Chamonix will agree: it has your full attention. To the left, the ridge drops away down the famous Frendo Spur, somewhere in the neighborhood of 4,500 vertical feet. To the right, 800 feet of 50-degree snow will drop you to the base of the Midi's south face. So as I guide two guests down the steep and exposed arete, the last thing I need is my crampons balling up. Holding the rope tight between us, I wait for just the right moment, when all's steady, to whack my boots with my axe and knock the snow from them. That's it. I am buying new crampons, I tell myself. Tying yourself to people who are seemingly trying to pull you off of your feet every other step can make the cost of a new pair of spikes seem like chump change.



Posted September 21, 2007

Wild Country VC Pro Belay Device: Smooth, Secure, Simple

I've burned through a number of different belay devices, as my climbing obsession (and job) lead to unremitting use of these tools from March to November. I chose to test the Wild Country VC Pro because of its seemingly simple but effective design. This piece is an update from the VC belay device that has been on the shelves since the late 1980s. The classic version was a long-standing, standard device; the new VC Pro has big pitbull teeth on one side that allow for better bite with thin ropes. More importantly, it has all four hallmarks I insist on: smooth handling, effortless rappelling, secure holding and a simple design.



Posted September 20, 2007

Sunlinq 12Watt 12V Portable Power Pack: A Lightweight, Foldable Solar Charger

Guided clients demand a higher level of safety and preparation than you might find in a recreational group. Part of being safe is keeping your packs lean without skimping on necessary safety gear. While guiding I often need a satellite or cell phone to schedule pick-ups with my bush pilot, check weather, or communicate in emergencies. Over the years, I have started to use a small solar panel to charge my phone, allowing me to get through a long trip with a single lightweight battery.



Posted September 14, 2007

Black Diamond nForce Ascenders: The Heavy-Duty Choice

The newly designed Black Diamond nForce ascenders were a crucial piece of gear for my main climbing project this summer. Using static and dynamic fixed lines from 8-11 millimeters, my partner and I spent about ten days working on a first ascent, free, on the east face of Snowpatch Spire in the Bugaboos. Although the face itself rises 2,000 feet, we ascended an estimated 3,000' of fixed lines, equipping belay stations, scrubbing cracks, and rehearsing the crux pitches that, unfortunately, are still resisting our redpoint attempts.



Posted September 12, 2007

Mountain Hardwear Typhoon Jacket: No Water, No Weight

The search for the perfect multi-season jacket is exasperating—it has to perform well in various temperatures and conditions yet pack well, weigh nothing and (most importantly) look good. So you can imagine my excitement when I found a lightweight, durable shell that lived up to all my expectations. I found Mountain Hardwear's Women's Typhoon Jacket to be the perfect merger of fashion, function, and price. Weighing in at thirteen ounces and sporting a reasonable retail price of $199, its design and color options add a sense of style that rounds out this performance garment.



Posted September 8, 2007

Rab Neutrino Endurance Jacket: An Alpinist's Dream Come True

Sometimes first impressions are hard to shake, and I tried not to let my first impression of the Rab Neutrino Endurance jacket influence this review. No luck. The jacket wowed me at first appearance. Made from a water-resistant Pertex Endurance outer fabric and packed with 850+ goose down fill, it's an alpinist's dream come true: maximum warmth to weight ratio in a lightweight, weatherproof package.



Posted September 5, 2007

Julbo Neve: For the Approach

I'll admit it: I've got a small head. As a result, I've spent the past few years bouncing between glasses that slide down the bridge of my nose, frames that feel like a loose, dead handshake, and cheapos bought shamefully from the children's aisle. So, when Julbo asked me to pick one pair of mountaineering glasses to test, I chose the Neve, a pair of glasses designed with Alti-Spectron X6 lenses for small heads, and, yes, women.



Posted August 27, 2007

FiveTen Camp 4 Approach Shoes: Sturdy and Steadfast

My go-to approach shoe for three years has been the La Sportiva Exum Ridge. Sturdy yet nimble, stealthy enough for talus-hopping but rugged enough to endure all the missteps that result in abrasion, the shoe has held tough for me through three summers in the Tetons without blowing out or debilating the tread. It's a tough benchmark to beat.



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