Archive for the ‘Gear’ Category

Ten Things NOT to Take Alpine Climbing

After some trial and error, not to mention a fair amount of discomfort, here’s a list of some stuff you shouldn’t take climbing…

Canned fish – Yes. I climbed a two day route in the Waddington Range a few years back and my partner decided the lightweight food du jour was canned sardines. I made him eat them all at the bottom of the serious climbing and we suffered the intestinal consequences for two days.

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Review: MSR XGK EX

Espresso brewing on the EX. Note the old stove base. I’ve owned an original XGK for many years and have been very happy with it. Earlier this year I traded up for a brand new XGK EX. Largely because the old stove was starting to “feel” unreliable. It never failed me but taking a fifteen year old stove on a three week trip doesn’t seem too bright after a while.

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Review: Patagonia Mixmaster Jacket

The Mixmaster - you can live in itA note about my gear reviews. I buy all the items I review. I don’t get given them or get them pro deal in return for a review or a mention on my blog. Now we’ve got that out the way read on…

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Review: Beal Iceline 8.1mm 60m Ropes

So I’ve had these for a year and a half and as you might imagine they’ve seen some pretty hard times. Too hard in fact. I had to retire one of them the other day when the cord started showing through at around the midway point on one of pair. The other one is looking pretty frayed in at least one place too. Now given they’ve seen me through trips to the Yukon and The Waddington plus a winter in the North Cascades and a couple of summer routes to boot I’m not exactly complaining.

The one thing that did concern me was the amount of sheath slippage that seemed to be occuring. Even if I’d not sliced one of them I think they were on there way out either way. I’d sort of hoped they’d be a bit more durable but they have seen a lot of abuse. The dry coating seemed to hold up OK too. They’re very thin so bear that in mind when rapping on them, it can mean a pretty quick rappel. You can put another biner behind the belay device to add more friction.

I guess my conclusion is that they’re really good alpine cords – very light and nice and bouncy for absorbing falls on sketchy gear. Just don’t expect them to last that long. You can have cheap, light or durable but not all three at once. I’d buy them again but would plan to replace them in less than two years.

Note: Black Diamond sells this rope also. BD ropes are Beals.

"Fat Camp" in Da Wadd

Back from The Waddington Range and several pounds lighter. A full trip report and pictures will be forthcoming but work and life seem to be getting in the way. Needless to say it was a very productive trip with lots of new climbing. I should have it published before the weekend is out (honest).

In the meantime I thought I’d mention some of my fave bits of gear from this and other trips this year: Continue reading »

Leashless Alpine Climbing

A while back I blogged a bit about a leashless setup for my Quarks. The rain finally stopped and this weekend I got to try them out in the alpine. Nice big three day route – lots of time to figure out if my setup really works or not.


Makes it impossible to drop a tool. Its attached to you at all times. With a normal leash there’s a bunch of times you have to get out of it to do other stuff like taking a sling off your neck.


It’s two more things to get tangled in all the other junk involved in alpine climbing. I don’t really think there’s anyway around this.

The leashes are attached to the bottom of the tool making them difficult to plant, not that a Quark is that easy to plant anyway.

The ones I made are only designed to hold the weight of the tool so you can’t belay through your leashes – not that you should do this anyway.

Review: Vasque Ice 9000 Double Boot

Ice 9000I finally managed to get hold of a pair of Vasque Ice 9000s this spring. Here’s an initial review of how I’ve liked them.

Out of the Box

At one point Vasque was making big claims about the weight of these boots. In fact they are no lighter than a traditional plastic boot retrofitted with a thermofit liner. My Scarpa Invernos weigh about 3.7lbs (each) with the stock liner and 3.4lbs with an Intuition liner, this is about the same as the Ice 9000. The sizing is however way off. I usually take around a 13.5 US. My La Sportiva Nepal Extrems are a 47.5. The Ice 9000’s give me roughly the same fit in a 12 US, about a size and a half difference.

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Gear: MSR XGK Stove Base

MSR XGK Stove BaseHere’s an alternative to the MSR Trillium stove base. It doesn’t cost twenty five bucks, is a better insulator and holds the fuel bottle of an XGK to make it more stable.

This is really simple to make. Get a scrap of 1/4″ plywood from Home Depot and cut it to shape. You need something large enough to give the stove stability with a pan on top of it and wide enough to hold the two loops of shock cord for the fuel bottle. The one shown here could be smaller, it’s really designed for basecamp use. Paint the wood with heat resistant stove or muffler paint and then add two loops of shock cord to hold the fuel bottle snugly in place.

The only downside of this setup is that it doesn’t fold up like the Trillium does so it’s pretty bulky. You can however build it so that it’s no wider than the back of your pack which means it still packs pretty well.

WARNING: Even with an MSR heat reflector under the stove base the wood will still get hot and may scorch. Objects under the wood may also get pretty warm. I had a Thermarest sleeping pad that got hot enough to delaminate.

Useful links:

MSR’s Trillium Stove Base

Gear: Leashless Quarks

Leashless QuarksBeing attached to your leashless tools is a good thing, especially if you’re planning on dropping them occassionally. This can make big alpine routes a lot more fun and a lot cheaper. Grivel make the Double Spring which sells for about $50 and seems to be designed so that you can hang from your tools via the leashes if you want. The clips they use are rated to 3kN for example. My leashes aren’t designed to hold much more than the weight of the tool, although they could be modified to.

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Gear: The Alpine BOMB

Or, more aptly, how to modify a cannister stove to work in really cold weather. This isn’t my idea. It was published years ago in Mountain Review magazine (issue 7 page 74). It also appears in Mount McKinley Climbers Handbook, Glenn Randall (page 32). The version shown here is much simplified and not adapted for hanging. I also use a wind shield with it (not shown).

A few years back I was climbing in Southern BC with a friend of mine. We were staying at a hut but it was during a cold snap in late November. The end result was it was really cold even inside the tiny building. My climbing partner had brought the stove a cannister stove with a remote cannister, similar to an MSR WindPro. Getting the stove to work gave us much needed additional entertainment in the windowless hut. It also prompted me to dig out that Mountain Review article when I got home and start tinkering.

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