Mountain Standards

Posted April 9, 2008

DMM Shadow Quickdraws: Hot-Forged Goodness

With a huge rack in my pack and a bunch of loose 'biners and runners for alpine draws, I sometimes overlook a fundamental piece of climbing gear: the standard quickdraw. New for spring 2008 DMM is introducing the Shadow Quickdraw. The Shadow is a desirable piece of gear for the discerning climber who wants full-sized carabiners yet appreciates that ultimate combination: light weight and super strong.

Posted April 3, 2008

Black Diamond Whippet Self Arrest Ski Pole: Added Security

Having spent numerous ski tours climbing and skiing steep, bulletproof terrain, I found myself wanting some added security in the often-precarious ski mountaineering environment. The latest model of the Black Diamond Whippet provided what I was looking for.

Posted April 1, 2008

The Starter Jacket: What Were They Thinking?

Being a certified gear whore isn't necessarily a bad thing, but being a gear whore in Jackson, Wyoming—where rent is unfathomably exorbitant—is certainly frustrating. You see, I live in a crawl space.

Posted March 29, 2008

Marmot Alpinist Pro Gloves: Warm and Dexterous for the Big-Thumbed

"Man, I wish my thumbs were bigger." Testing these gloves is, unquestionably, the only time in my life I have uttered that phrase. The Marmot Alpinist Pro glove has, far and away, the largest thumb of any glove I've ever worn. I don't know how to rectify this fact with the rest of my impressions of the glove, which were generally positive.

Posted March 26, 2008

CiloGear Dyneema(R) 45 Pack: Lighten Your Load

Winter mountaineering: some people love it. But rarely do I picture the clear summit days with perfect cramponing and one-swing ice. Instead I think of the long and cold nights, my sleeping bag stuffed with everything I don't want to freeze. I consider days at a stretch in the tent, arguing over a magazine before tearing it in half, broken only by endless sessions of postholing. With these grudges in mind, I've been known to obsess over weight (hence the magazine instead of a book). When I received the new CiloGear Dyneema(R) 45 mountaineering pack to test, I knew immediately that it would lighten my load.

Posted March 19, 2008

Petzl Dartwin Crampons: Serious about Steep

In December I headed down to Ouray, Colorado's Ice Park, to begin testing the Petzl Dartwin crampons. With all kinds of immediate climbing to be had, Ouray seemed the best place to determine effectiveness on everything from low-angle ice to crazy mixed testpieces...

Posted March 11, 2008

Marmot Snazette: Snazzy Functionality

Functional enough to withstand three weeks of high-altitude desert and mountain exploration, yet snazzy enough to sit down to tea with the King of Mustang, the Marmot Women's Snazette performed royally on a recent trip across the Himalaya.

Posted March 6, 2008

JetBoil PCS: Radically Improved Fuel Efficiency

A principal function of a climber's stove is to melt snow and ice, producing drinkable water. Hot soup, coffee and the occasional hot water bottle are perks, but on long trips fuel weight adds up. For Alaska I budget 48 ounces per day for a group of six—about 8 pounds of fuel each for a three-week expedition. While toiling with such donkeywork I imagine the ideal stove, where every calorie of fuel burned produces the maximum amount of water. This process, called heat transfer efficiency, inspired the design of the Jetboil Personal Cooking System (PCS).

Posted March 3, 2008

PMI Spire 10.2mm Rope: Dry to the Core

Several years ago I humped a 92-pound pack full of the cheapest, heaviest climbing gear in the world uphill for several days in Wyoming's Wind River Range. We're talking old school: full-gate oval biners on everything; 11mm ropes; old, rigid-stem Friends; big hexes; everything horrid you can imagine. I seriously debated purchasing either a large dog or a small burro for my next expedition.

Posted February 25, 2008

Lowe Alpine Air Zone Centro 35+10: Desert Trekker

Frequently I am accused of being a pack snob. It started way back in college when I had a part-time job sewing backpacks for a small outdoor company in Bellingham, WA. The owner and I would stay late tweaking, modifying and otherwise trying to improve the current line of packs as well as our personal climbing packs. Whether building custom packs, bringing old, well loved packs back to life, or modifying brand new packs, it was rare that I saw a pack that didn't need some improvement.

Posted February 18, 2008

Arc'teryx R-320 Harness: Everything You Want, Nothing You Don't

"It's the single piece of gear I'm excited about buying this year," said Nic, my gearhead friend, about the new line of Arc'teryx harnesses. It was an unusual comment—the thought of controlled spending—for someone who has a steady job and climbs or skis every day. Nevertheless, I told Nic he had his priorities straight. If I had to recommend a single climbing upgrade for 2008, I'd suggest the Arc'teryx R-320 harness I've been testing for the past six months. It has everything I want in a harness—and nothing I don't.

Posted February 15, 2008

Rab Latok Alpine Jacket: Expectations Bested

When I picked up Rab's Latok Alpine jacket for the first time I was skeptical. The Latok was lighter than any of the performance hard shells I'd worn previously, and the bright orange eVent label on the sleeve made me wary. Adding to my incredulity, I had never heard of Rab. Learning to love the Latok took a good deal of research and a bit of a brand-name leap of faith, but—after a fall and winter season of epic approaches, climbs, bootpacks, hailstorms and vertigo-inducing white-outs—I've found I like the Latok; I like it a lot.

Posted February 11, 2008

Cilao OZ 22 Race Harness: Built for Fast and Light

Every summer in Chamonix, among the 350+ mountain guides working in the valley, there seems to be one piece of gear that becomes eminently popular, and by the end of the season most guides have it. This year it was the Cilao OZ 22 Race harness, which weighs in at an insanely light 3.5 ounces. Easily recognizable by its bright green color, you would constantly see it traversing the range, from glacier slogs across the Valle Blanche to the higher elevations of Mont Blanc.

Posted February 6, 2008

Lowa Cristallo X Pro Gore-Tex Boots: Technical Prowess and Comfort

I've always been skeptical of Gore-Tex footwear, and it's almost guaranteed that I'll have cold feet regardless of the temperature (unless I'm clunking around in double boots), so I was curious to see how the Lowa Cristallo X Pro Gore-Tex boots would perform climbing and scratching around the Canadian Rockies.

Posted January 31, 2008

Cloudveil Zorro Jacket: A Masterpiece

When I was taking my ski exam in Europe, back in 1998, I was nicknamed "Zorro" by Bela Vadasz, one of the examiners. But truly, I did not feel like Zorro until I wore the Cloudveil Zorro jacket on many rainy days this summer and fall. In fact, I felt like grabbing my ice ax like a sword and making a "Z" in the snow more than once while wearing this piece, a great lightweight and windproof hard shell.

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