Backcountry Skiing in the Tetons at the Baldy Knoll Yurt

Fresh powder in the Teton backcountry

Fresh powder in the Teton backcountry 

For the past three years, me and a group of friends have done a backcountry ski tour together. Last year, we did a Sierra tour, and the year before, we did a tour in the Tetons. This year, we got back together, but rather than do a point to point traverse, we decided to rent a yurt to use as a base camp, and do day trips out from the yurt. I’ve done a fair amount of backcountry skiing, but up until this trip, I had never stayed in a backcountry yurt, I’ve always slept in a tent or a snow cave.

The yurt we chose was the Baldy Knoll Yurt, in the Teton backcountry, run by Teton Backcountry Guides.  We were there the third week in March. The first day of our trip was mostly spent driving to Victor, Idaho, on the Wyoming border, and then skinning up to the yurt.  The climb up to the yurt was a long, steady uphill grind that took us about 4 hours. We probably could have gone faster, but we were carrying very heavy packs (or pulling a heavy sled, in my case.) Not long after we started skiing in, it began to snow heavily, which was a portent of good things to come. We had a guide who took us to the yurt, and showed us how everything works. After that, he left, and we were on our own.

 

Skinning in to the yurt in heavy snow fall

Skinning in to the yurt in heavy snow fall

The yurt is pretty comfortable, especially when compared with a tent. It has a wood burning stove for heat and melting snow for water, and a two burner gas stove for cooking, along with pots, pans, and cooking utensils. There are gas lights. 3 bunk beds and 2 cots for sleeping. A covered outhouse nearby.  Overall, about what I expected.

Yurt Exterior

Yurt Exterior

Inside the Yurt

Inside the Yurt

The next morning, we woke up to over two feet of fresh powder. We were pretty stoked. We spent the next three days trying to track out as much of it as possible. There was great skiing right next to the yurt, and we started with that. After lunch, we ventured a little further afield and skied the terrain on the South side of the ridge connecting the yurt with a peak labeled 10024 on the map, which is East of the yurt.

Click Here For a Map of the Area

Powder!

Powder!

First Tracks

First Tracks.  South slope of the ridge connecting the yurt with Peak 10024

The snow was sublime, nice light powder. Definitely the best powder turns I’d had all season. When we were done skiing, we came back to the yurt and had dinner. The heavy loads we carried on the trip in paid off, as we were able to eat really well all week long. No freeze dried food on the whole trip. It was all fresh and tasty.

Beef, it's what's for dinner.

Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.

The third day, we skied up to the top of Peak 10024, and spent the day skiing Peak 10024 and the ridgeline just to the south, across the valley from Peak 10024. The snow continued to be amazing, and there were sections of full-on knee deep powder in the wind loaded pockets. It was too good to stop skiing for lunch, so we didn’t go back to the Yurt until evening. We were treated to a terrific sun set, and cooked another great dinner, then off to bed to rest up for the next day.

Climbing up to the summit of Peak 10024

Climbing up to the summit of Peak 10024

On the ridge that connects the Yurt to Peak 10024

On the ridge that connects the Yurt to Peak 10024 

Skinning up the ridgeline South of 10024

Skinning up to the ridgeline South of 10024

Better than fireworks

Better than fireworks

The bluebird sky and bright sunshine of the past day had begun to bake the South facing slopes, so we ended up skiing the North facing slopes right off of the ridge that leads to Peak 10024. The snow was not quite as light and fluffy as it had been, but it still was a lot of fun.

We opted to leave that afternoon rather than spend another night out in the Yurt, so we left that afternoon. It only took a little over an hour to get back to the car, which was much better than the 4+ hour approach on the way in.

Overall, it was a terrific experience. We had great weather, great snow, and a lot of great skiing. For anyone looking for a great backcountry yurt experience, I would highly recommend the Baldy Knoll Yurt. The yurt is comfortable, and the terrain it is close to is ideal for “earn your turns” backcountry powder skiing.

Desert Ice Climbing: Hidden Haven Falls

Hidden Haven is a red rock canyon in southern Utah.  It’s not far from Parowan, on the road to Brian Head ski resort.  In winter, the falls at the top of this narrow canyon freezes up, providing one of the most aesthetic ice climbs I’ve ever experienced.  I’m used to climbing frozen waterfalls, but climbing frozen falls in a sandstone slot canyon is a visual treat.

The climbing consists of 4 distinct steps, separated by some walking up the canyon.  The first three are all pretty short and relatively easy at WI 2 or 3, and the last pitch is the longest and steepest, about 110 feet and WI4.

The first ice step, at the entrance to Hidden Haven

The first ice step, at the entrance to Hidden Haven

I climbed this in March.  The ice in Utah’s Wasatch Range to the North had all pretty much melted out due to unseasonably warm temperatures, but because of the narrowness of the sunless canyon and the elevation (a bit over 6000 feet) the ice here remained climbable (albeit kind of wet.)

Climbing the first step to get into the canyon

Climbing the first step to get into the canyon (Photo:  Dallen Ward)

Once you get into the canyon, it’s very beautiful, and you traverse from one pitch to the next along the gentle frozen creekbed that flows along the canyon bottom.

Walking along the canyon

Dallen, walking along the canyon

Climbing the 2nd Ice Step

Climbing the 2nd Ice Step (Photo:  Dallen Ward)

The real payoff of this climb is the fourth and final pitch.  The final falls is set in a tall amphitheater of red sandstone, with a ribbon of ice ascending to a narrow slit of sky above.  It’s a gorgeous setting.  The ice is steep in places, but not particularly difficult.  Like all ice climbs, the difficulty varies depending on conditions.  When I climbed it, it was probably WI3+ or 4-.

Starting up the 4th pitch

Starting up the 4th pitch (Photo:  Dallen Ward)

4th pitch of Hidden Haven

4th pitch of Hidden Haven (Photo:  Dallen Ward)

 

The view from the belay, looking up the 4th pitch.

The view from the belay, looking up the 4th pitch. (Photo:  Dallen Ward)

I really loved this climb.  I’m definitely going back next season, but this time, I will bring some more friends so I can set up a photography perch on top of the 4th pitch and get some better pictures of this outstandingly beautiful route.  Gear Notes:  I brought rock gear, but didn’t use any of it.  Ice screws are all that’s needed. The descent is simple.  There are fixed slings and rap rings on trees above all of the steps.  A single 60 meter rope will get you down the rappel on the 4th pitch.

The view from the top of the 4th pitch.

The view from the top of the 4th pitch.

 

 

 

 

 

Eddie Bauer Guide and Guide Lite Gloves

I have 30+ pairs of outdoor gloves and mittens.  It seems like every year for the past 20 years, I’ve bought one or two new pairs of gloves, searching for the elusive perfect glove.

However, for the past couple of years, I’ve been using two gloves almost exclusively for my climbing; the Guide Gloves and Guide Lite Gloves from the Eddie Bauer First Ascent line.

Guide Gloves on ice.  Ouray Ice Park

Guide Gloves on ice. Ouray Ice Park

The problem with glove design is that it’s got conflicting goals.  A glove needs to be warm, but it also needs to not be too bulky.  It needs to keep your hands warm and dry and comfortable, but also needs to maintain dexterity.  They need to be tough enough to stand up to the abuse of climbing and rappelling, but not so stiff and heavy that they don’t perform well.  A good glove design is one that makes appropriate compromises between these conflicting goals.

Here’s why I really like the Eddie Bauer Guide and Guide Lite gloves:

1:  Fit.  They fit my hands really well.  I have relatively broad hands, but my fingers are not particularly long.  The Eddie Bauer glove pattern fits my hands almost perfectly.  Some glove makers (Black Diamond for example) tend to pattern their gloves with longer fingers.  When the gloves are cut too long in the fingers, it compromises dexterity and makes manipulating gear more difficult.  If you have extra long fingers, the Eddie Bauer gloves may not fit you well, but for me, they fit “like a glove.”

2:  No removable liner.   I hate removable liners in my gloves.  Almost without exception, removable liners make gloves more bulky, less dexterous, and harder to put on and take off.  Especially when my hands get damp with sweat, taking a close-fitting glove off will often pull out the liner, or invert the liner’s fingers, making it difficult to get back on.  I have used dozens of gloves with removable liners and have yet to find any that had the same functionality as a glove with an integral liner.   The supposed benefit of a removable liner is that you can take it out and dry it overnight.  In practice, I haven’t found this to be an advantage.  I just take my entire glove and put it next to my body inside my sleeping bag at night, and they are plenty dry by morning.

3:  Just the right amount of insulation.   The Eddie Bauer gloves have just the right amount of insulation for me for most conditions.  They both have an integral, non-removable liner made from a mix of acrylic and merino wool.  The Guide Glove has an additional layer of primaloft one insulation, while the Guide Lite just has the acrylic/wool insulation.  I use the Guide Lite gloves for climbing and am comfortable in them in temperatures down to the high teens.  The more generously insulated Guide Gloves are comfortable down to about zero Fahrenheit.  If I’m actually climbing, I can use them in colder temperatures, but I will typically need something warmer to wear on my hands when I’m not active (like when I’m standing around at the belay.)  I am seldom doing technical climbing in arctic or Himalayan temperatures, so these gloves have me covered for 95% of the conditions I’m climbing in.

I find these gloves to be considerably warmer for their bulk than any other gloves I’ve used, and are warmer than gloves that are considerably thicker.  I don’t know for sure why this is, but I suspect that the merino wool in the liner pulls away moisture and keeps my hands dry, which keeps them warm.

Guide Gloves (left) and Guide Lite Gloves (right)

Guide Gloves (left) and Guide Lite Gloves (right)

4:  Excellent Dexterity and Feel.  Both of these gloves provide exceptional dexterity and feel for manipulating equipment and climbing.  They are soft and supple, and don’t provide much resistance when clenching your fingers and gripping an ice tool.  The palms are relatively thin, and the fingers are sensitive enough to have a good feel when placing ice screws and rock gear.  The Guide Lite in particular is extremely good in this regard, providing about the same level of dexterity and sensitivity as uninsulated dry tooling gloves I’ve used that are not nearly as warm as the Guide Lite.

5:  Adequate Durability.  These gloves are generally pretty durable, with leather palms and reinforcements in high wear areas.  I have worn out a pair of these gloves, but they lasted as long as I expected, given the abuse I subjected them to.  I have had one defective pair of Guide Lites, where the knit cuff became unstitched from the glove long before the glove should have worn out.  This pair was replaced by Eddie Bauer under their lifetime warranty.  (Waiting for the replacement pair to come back, I used some other lightweight softshell gloves instead, and was reminded of how much better the Guide Lites are than my other lightweight softshell gloves.)  Bottom line is that I’ve been happy with the durability of these gloves.  They don’t last forever, but I don’t expect that of my climbing gear.

Nothing is perfect.  Guide Lite gloves unraveling.

Nothing is perfect. Guide Lite gloves unraveling.

6:  Adequate water resistance.  These gloves are not waterproof.  They don’t have Gore-tex inserts or seam sealed shells.  They have water resistant fabric, and water resistant leather (and come with some Nikwax leather treatment to increase that water resistance.) If you are climbing ice that is running with water, or you’re constantly plunging your hands into wet snow all day long, the gloves will get wet.  In almost all cases, I’ve found the water resistance of these gloves to be adequate.  Even if the leather gets wetted out, my hands have tended to stay warm and comfortable.  In general, I would rather have a glove that is water resistant than water proof, because I’ve never yet found a truly waterproof glove that has decent dexterity and fit for technical climbing.  If you demand a truly waterproof glove, then these aren’t the best choice.  I have found, however, that they are water resistant enough to do the job well in almost all conditions that I am climbing in.  They dry out overnight if I sleep with them under my clothing.

Conclusion:  In spite of the fact that I have a large box filled with gloves, the Guide and the Guide Lite are the ones that get the most use for technical climbing.  They perform better across a wider range of conditions than any other gloves I’ve used.  Combined with a super warm mitten for ultra-cold belaying duties, these gloves are pretty much all I use any more.

Skyward Mountaineering: Winter Alpine Climbing Intensive Workshop

Skyward Mountaineering is a guide service operated by alpinists Steve House and Vince Anderson.  In addition to offering guided climbs both locally and internationally, they also teach instructional workshops focusing on various aspects of climbing.  I was lucky enough to participate in their  three day Winter Alpine Climbing Intensive Workshop.

The workshop took place in Ouray Colorado, from Monday to Wednesday. Including me, there were four students.  Steve and Vince were the instructors.  The first day was spent climbing in the Ouray Ice Park.  Vince and Steve coached us on various aspects of ice and mixed climbing.  We spent time  learning how to move on low angle terrain, climbing moderate ice, downclimbing, and climbing steep ice and rock.  The emphasis was on moving efficiently with the least possible expenditure of energy.

Vince Anderson, headed up the ice to set up a directional anchor

Vince Anderson, headed up the ice to set up a directional anchor

I’ve done a fair amount of climbing in the past, but this training day was super helpful.  Viince and Steve would watch us climb, and give us pointers on our technique.  The instruction on climbing rock with crampons and ice tools was particularly useful for me, because I haven’t really done much dry tooling and mixed climbing.  By the end of the first day, I had climbed the most difficult rock climbing I’ve ever done in crampons, and was getting a much better idea of what I needed to do to stay balanced and in control on rock.

Vince, coaching me on Le Saucisson, a dry tooling route in the Ouray Ice Park

Vince, coaching me on Le Saucisson, a dry tooling route in the Ouray Ice Park

Day two began with a presentation by Steve and Vince on various skills and techniques needed for alpine climbing.  Vince talked about preparation for climbing, with a focus on mental preparation.  We discussed strategies for balancing speed and safety, and minimizing danger on route.  We got to see pictures and hear stories about various climbs he’d done to illustrate his points.

After Vince’s presentation, Steve led a discussion on gear and clothing systems. He brought duffel bags full of gear and clothing and Steve and Vince talked about what they used and why.  I was in gear geek heaven.  We talked about clothes, stoves, cams, ice screws, tents, sleeping bags and other stuff.  We got to see the sleeping bag that Steve made for their ascent of Nanga Parbat.  Steve talked about how gear and clothing design is evolving and gave us some hints about what we might see in the future.

Steve House, expressing his everlasting love for his DAS Parka

Steve House, expressing his undying love for his DAS Parka

After the gear discussion, we headed off up the Camp Bird Road to put some of the theories we’d learned into practice.  At the ice and mixed climbing spots near the road, we had some practical, hands-on instruction on the logistics of bivouacs, rope management, belays, anchors, communication, and other aspects of climbing.  We practiced belay changeovers, and set up a simulated bivi site on a narrow ledge.

Vince Anderson on the "bivi ledge" he chopped out.  (We decided not to sleep there for the night, however.)

Vince Anderson on the “bivi ledge” he chopped out. (We decided not to sleep there for the night, however.)

One of the most useful parts for me was the discussion on rope management and minimizing time spent doing changeovers at belays.  When I’m climbing, it always seems like the belay changeover takes way more time than it should.  They taught us a dozen little tricks to shave time off of the exchange.

Steve House instructing on belay changeovers, while Vince Anderson heads up the ice to set up a top rope.

Steve House instructing on belay changeovers, while Vince Anderson heads up the ice to set up a top rope.

Interspersed with the instruction on non-climbing techniques, we also did some more climbing, and Steve and Vince coached us on our movement skills.

Steve House, demonstrating relaxed form on steep ice.

Steve House, demonstrating relaxed form on steep ice.

We wrapped things up as the sun was setting, and later on that evening, we all met for dinner, where we chatted, listened to Steve and Vince’s stories, and generally had a great time.  It was at dinner that we learned of our objectives for the next day.  We were going to split into two rope teams of three, and climb two multi-pitch routes that are right next to each other.  My team, led by Vince, was going to climb Bird Brain Boulevard.  The other rope team, led by Steve, was going to climb The Ribbon.

The Ribbon is the prominent ice climb on the left.  Bird Brain Blvd is in the dark cleft and chimney system on the right.

The Ribbon is the prominent ice climb on the left. Bird Brain Blvd is in the dark cleft and chimney system on the right.

I have to admit that when I heard we were going to be attempting Bird Brain Boulevard, I was pretty worried.  It’s seven pitches (1200 feet) long, and rated WI5 M6, which is significantly harder than anything I’ve climbed before.  I’ve known about this route for years.  I remember seeing pictures from the first ascent it in an old Latok Mountain Gear catalog.  It holds a somewhat mythic status in my mind.  It’s a climb that is out of my league, even on top rope, with a guide.  I spent a mostly sleepless night that night, worrying about flailing, slowing the party down, and making a fool out of myself on a route that was too hard for me to climb.  We were planning a pre-dawn start, to ensure we got on the climb ahead of any other parties, but I was awake well before my alarm went off at 4:15.

Vince picked me up a little before 5, and we drove off in the dark to the trailhead.  We were all relieved to see that there were no other cars parked there.  We would be on the route first, which would minimize objective dangers of other parties knocking rock and ice down on our heads.  We took our time getting gear ready and took it easy on the approach, waiting for the sun to come out and give us some light to climb by.  We actually started climbing about 6:00, just as it was getting light enough to see.

The climbing was steep, and I had to keep in mind what I was doing, but none of it was beyond my abilities as long as I stayed calm and focused.  The biggest difficulty is that I had to poo, the Mexican food from last night’s dinner having wended its way through my digestive tract.  I took care of this call of nature on the belay ledge at the top of the second pitch, crapping in a ziplock bag so I wouldn’t befoul the route, and extending my clove hitched rope section a bit further so I could reach the farthest part of the ledge.  I was a bit anxious because I had slowed everything down and the other two in my party were now waiting for me high above at the top of the next pitch.

I unclipped the clove hitch that tied myself to the anchor, and was reaching out to unscrew an ice screw that was last remaining piece of the belay anchor, when my feet sheared through the snow, and I pitched right off the belay ledge.  I felt like a complete moron.  I’d climbed steep ice and rock up to this point without falling, but somehow managed to fall off of the belay ledge.  Luckily, I was on a top rope, and the only thing injured was my pride, so I climbed back up to the ledge, retrieved the ice screw, and proceeded up the climb, a little shaky from some extra adrenaline in my veins.

The view down the climb from the belay ledge.

The view down the climb from the belay ledge.

The climbing all along the route was pretty sustained.  Every pitch had some part of it that made me wonder if I could do it.  However, I just kept thinking back to the training of the previous two days:  “Place the tool.  Test it.  Believe in it?  Then trust it.”  “Keep your picks and your crampon points quiet and still once you place them.”  “Always keep in mind the direction of pressure when you choose a crampon point placement on rock.”  Find a crack and torque the pick.”  Vince and Steve’s coaching was fresh in my mind, and kept me progressing steadily upward from one section to the next.

Oli, on one of the steep ice sections, headed for the chimneys.

Oli, on one of the steep ice sections, headed for the chimneys.

The most tenuous part of the climb was a section that was mostly devoid of ice, and required stemming on bare rock up to a lip that had some  frozen moss that would take (gentle) sticks.  The most strenuous parts of the climb were a series of squeeze chimneys, where I had to wriggle up, thrutching my way higher, with my back pack dangling below me hung from a runner, wishing I wasn’t quite so thick.

Climbing good (thick) ice on Bird Brain Blvd

Climbing good (thick) ice on Bird Brain Blvd

Wriggling up a chimney on Bird Brain Blvd

Wriggling up a chimney on Bird Brain Blvd

Oli, pulling over a lip on Bird Brain Blvd

Oli, pulling over a lip on Bird Brain Blvd

Finally, we topped out, and then traversed and rappelled our way over to the Ribbon, where there is a series of fixed rappel stations.  I was worried that our ropes were going to get stuck in the trees along the rappel route, but we managed to avoid that hassle.  We got back to the car without incident, a little after 1:00 in the afternoon, which was a respectable time for a guided group of three people.   (I was glad to only have to use my headlamp for the approach, not the descent.)

Vince Anderson, navigating through trees on our rappel down to the Ribbon.

Vince Anderson, navigating through trees on our rappel down to the Ribbon.

I was really happy with how things had gone.  Other than my ignominious tumble off of the belay ledge, I’d managed to climb the route with no falls and no hanging on the rope, which was certainly better than I had feared.  It was the perfect end to a terrific three days.  I went back to town, soaked in a hot tub for a while, then met up with Steve and the rest of the group for an early dinner/late lunch at the local brew pub.  (Vince had headed back home to take care of some business.)    We chatted and ate, and then I finally said goodbye to my new friends.

The workshop exceeded my expectations on all levels.  I can’t think of a better way to tune up my alpine climbing skills than to spend three days with Vince and Steve, learning from the best in the business.  It was truly a terrific experience, and I’m already dreaming about climbing with them again.

Training for the New Alpinism by Steve House and Scott Johnston (Book Review)

training

This is a new book on training for alpine climbing, by uber-alpinist Steve House and elite sports trainer Scott Johnston.  There are tons of books on the market that deal with getting in shape for various sports, (including rock climbing) but to my knowledge, this is the first and only book that focuses on training for alpine climbing.  I was expecting the book to be somewhat dry and boring, because I don’t really look at the topic of fitness and training as an exciting subject.  However, the book is remarkably engaging and interesting to read.  There are terrific climbing photographs, stories and anecdotes from the lives of accomplished climbers, and the book is written in a very straight forward and accessible style.  I bought the book with the expectation that it would be a boring, textbook-like treatise, and found it to be quite enjoyable as well as useful.

Building Strength and Endurance

The challenge of alpine climbing is that you need to be able to build endurance for the long moderate sections of a big alpine climb, and power for the technical cruxes.  Not surprisingly, this book focuses on two main goals; improving endurance, and improving strength.

To increase endurance, the authors recommend lots of training just under your aerobic threshold.  For strength, the general advice is for using free weights and/or body weight exercises that build max strength without adding unneeded bulk.

I’ve read through the book cover to cover twice now, and have read several sections of it multiple times.  I’ve been trying to integrate its teachings into my exercise regimen for about a month now.   Here are my impressions of the book so far:

Practical and Theoretical

One of the most useful things about the book is that it includes both theory and practical application.  The book provides specific recommendations on various exercises and training regimens, and includes detailed descriptions of various exercises to do in order to increase strength and endurance.  There are sample schedules for how to incorporate strength and endurance training into an integrated program, and specific recommendations on how to time the various cycles to correspond with your anticipated peak climbing seasons.  If you wanted to, you could just follow the specific examples in the book.

However, there is also great deal of exposition of the theories behind why certain methods of training are preferred over others.  The book explains the underlying principles behind the recommended methods, timing, etc.  This is great, not because I care intellectually about the science underlying the specific recommendations, but because it allows me to figure out how to adapt the general principles to my personal situation, and still remain inside the parameters that will allow the routines to have their intended effect.  For example, rather than just telling readers to go out and hike up hills for a long time, the book goes into great detail about the theory of endurance training and what constitutes an effective regimen.  It establishes the parameters of “Zone Training” with “Zone 1” being the level of effort that is right under your aerobic threshold, and Zones 2 through 4 progressing ever higher above your aerobic threshold, with increasing reliance on anaerobic metabolism.

The authors are big proponents of lots of training in Zone 1 as a way to increase your endurance.  They provide the theoretical basis behind these recommendations, and give the readers various options (from simple to complex) for assessing which zone you are training in.    For me, that means that with the aid of this book, and a bunch of trial and error in identifying my aerobic threshold, I now have a target heart rate that I’m aiming to maintain during my Zone 1 endurance work outs.  I can use this basic concept to tailor my training to the book’s precepts, no matter what sort of training I’m doing, from indoor training on a treadmill or stair stepper, to outdoor training, hiking up trails or backcountry skiing.

I also have a feel for how I should prioritize my training.  Before reading this book, I was doing too much Zone 2 and Zone 3 work, and not enough training in Zone 1.  I assumed that working myself really really hard for 20 minutes was “better exercise” than an hour at a more moderate pace.  The book has shown me the error of my ways, and I’ve turned that around now, and spend the majority of my endurance training in Zone 1.

The good news is that a long training session in Zone 1 doesn’t make me think I might die, like a Zone 2 or 3 (or 4) work-out would.  The bad news is that my Zone 1 sessions are significantly longer than my old anaerobic Zone 2-3 workouts.  I’m spending more overall time working out, but it’s at a lower level of effort.  The other good news is that it seems to be working.  My aerobic threshold heart rate is slowly increasing, and I’m able to maintain my Zone 1 workouts for longer periods of time while recovering faster.  So, it appears that after about a month of putting the book’s recommendations into practice, I’ve already seen some positive results.

Beyond Strength and Endurance

The book also addresses a number of other topics beyond strength and endurance.  Some, like nutrition, are broadly applicable, but there are other topics that are climbing specific, such as the mental stresses associated with danger, and challenges of high altitude.

My Recommendation:  Buy this book

I really like this book.  Even though I’m not an elite athlete and never will be, there’s tons of useful information in this book even for a mediocre mountaineer like myself.  It’s taught me how to tailor my training for those qualities that are most important for climbing.  Given the positive effects that I’ve seen after only a month, I’m excited to track my progress over the next year.  This book definitely deserves a place on the bookshelf of anyone who is interested in alpine climbing, no matter what level they are climbing at.

Cassin Bladerunner Crampons

Bladerunners on Thin Ice

Cassin Bladerunners on thin ice

The Cassin Bladrunner crampons are a new modular design that is supposed to provide both maximum versatility and excellent performance.   The design allows the crampons to be set up with either horizontal or vertical front points, (or, I suppose, one of each,) and there’s a great deal of choice on how the front points are configured.  You can use single front points or double front points, and you have a wide range of options as to how you want to mount them.  (Single offset, double closely spaced, single centered, double offset wide apart, etc.)  The relative length of the two points is fixed, however, so if you want to climb with one short and one long front point, you’re out of luck.

The Bladerunner also gives a choice of toe attachment options.  You can use a standard wire toe bail, or change it out for a nylon front strap (like Grivel’s “Newmatic” option.)  The standard heel lever is used in both cases.  (There is no option for replacing the heel lever with a heel strap.)  One thing I have noticed with the front strap option, is that the front points end up quite long.  When the strap is mounted as far forward as it will possibly go, I still end up with 2 inches of front point extending beyond the boot toe.  This is because the strap is a bit on the narrow side, so my fat toe’ed boots don’t extend very far forward in the strap.  Smaller boots with narrower toes may have more of an adjustment range.

Bladerunner and a Scarpa Charmoz boot.  Note how far the frontpoints extend beyond the boot's toe.

Bladerunner and a Scarpa Charmoz boot. Note how far the frontpoints extend beyond the boot’s toe.

The most obvious competitor for the Bladerunner is the Petzl Lynx, which also features interchangeable (vertical and horizontal) front points and interchangeable toe binding options.  There are a few design features that set the Bladerunner apart from the Lynx, and other crampons on the market.  Most modern technical crampons are made from three pieces: a front piece, a heel piece, and a connecting bar that holds the two together.  The Bladerunner is made from two pieces.  The front piece, and a heel piece that integrates a wide connecting bar.  This wide connecting bar section fits rather solidly into the front piece, making the Bladerunner a bit more stiff and rigid than a typical three piece design.

The rear portion of the Bladerunner also has a unique feature I’ve not seen on any other crampon.  The wide connecting bar has an abrupt bend in it, that’s designed to hook on the underside of the heel of your boot, providing a tighter fit.  This means that careful attention needs to be paid to the sizing of the Bladerunner in order to achieve the optimum fit.

Fit and Sizing: 

The Bladerunner comes in two sizes.  The variation is only in the rear piece however, as the front section is the same for both sizes.  The Camp/Cassin web site says that Size 1 fits boots that are Euro size 37-46, and Size 2 fits boots that are Euro size 40-49.  The characteristics of the connecting bar, however, make the length of the sole’s heel the most important consideration when getting a decent fit with these crampons.

Here are some pictures of the Bladerunner crampons on a pair of large boots (Spantik) and somewhat low volume boots (Scarpa Rebel Ultra.)  As you can see, getting the right fit depends on matching the rear piece to the length of your heel, and to some extent, the depth of the heel.

The asymmetrical Bladerunner shape fits well on this Scarpa Rebel Ultra boot. (Size 45 boot, Size 2 Bladerunner Crampon)

The sharp angle in the heel piece locks into the underside of the heel section of your boot, providing extra stability (if the fit is good.)

If the heel piece is the wrong size, it doesn’t extend to the back of the boot, and you end up with your boot heel hanging out over your crampon. (Size 45 Scarpa Rebel Ultra, and Size 1 Bladerunner)

Size comparison of the Size 1 and Size 2 Bladerunner heel pieces.

Size 2 Bladerunner on a Size 45 La Sportiva Spantik. In spite of the somewhat bowed appearance, the fit is very secure.  Makes me wonder if you’d get snow build up between the boot sole and the center of the heel piece, however.

Performance and weight:
Although I have both the horizontal and vertical front points, I have not yet used the horizontal points. They have a broad, chisel profile that will likely give good purchase in snow and neve. However, I can’t speak from experience on this issue.

I have used the vertical points (in my preferred offset mono-point configuration) on both ice and mixed routes. I’ve been very pleased with the Bladerunner’s performance. The crampons are very solid and secure, and I don’t feel any slop or vibration when climbing on them. They are very good technical crampons.

Weight of a single Bladerunner crampon is 1 pound, 2 ounces in monopoint configuration with wire toe bail, and 1 pound, 4.1 ounces in dual alpine front point configuration with the plastic toe strap.  This is not particularly light weight, but not too far off of similar modular crampons.  For comparison, the Petzl Lynx configured with two front points and nylon toe strap is 1 pound 3.4 ounces.  A Black Diamond Cyborg with a monopoint and wire toe bail is 1 pound, 2.1 ounces.  A non-modular Grivel Aiir Tech crampon with “New-matic” nylon toe strap is 1 pound, 1 ounce.

The crampons come with anti-balling plates that seem to work well, and the front points are easy to swap out, as changing front points doesn’t require disassembling the whole crampon as with some other modular crampons I’ve used.

Conclusions:

I’ve only owned the Bladerunners for a couple of months so far, and have only used them for water ice climbing and mixed climbing.  So, my conclusions are not based on long term use, or use for alpine climbing on snow and neve.  I like them very much as a technical water ice/mixed crampon.  They fit my boots well, and there is very little slop or vibration in use.  The aggressive secondary points are well suited for steep ice.  The only issue is their price.  MSRP for these crampons is $350.  That’s a lot.  I’m not sure I like them that much better than other (less expensive) technical crampons I’ve used.

I suppose that the price premium could be justified by the idea that this single crampon will do everything, because of the various configurations of front points and bindings.  If you didn’t own any other crampons at all, and needed a crampon that could do everything, then maybe it would make sense.  However, I have a whole box of various crampons, and I’m not fully convinced that these Bladerunnrs are going to replace my Grivel Air Tech crampons for alpine climbing.  I like the lighter weight of the Air Techs, and the New-Matic binding Air Techs seem to fit my boots better than the nylon toe strap configuration of the Bladerunner.

So, I guess I’m still on the fence regarding the Bladerunners.  They have become my go-to technical crampon.  I’m planning on taking them to the Cascades this summer, where they will get a proper testing in the alpine environment.  I will have to wait until that trip to really evaluate their versatility as a “quiver of one” do everything crampon.

Here is a link to a Cassin VIDEO showing the details of the Bladerunner crampons

Some manufacturer pictures of the Bladerunner in Alpine and Monopoint modes:

Cassin Blade Runner crampons in alpine configuration

Cassin Blade Runner crampons in alpine configuration

Cassin Blade Runner crampons in monopoint mode

Cassin Blade Runner crampons in monopoint mode

 

E Climb Klau Aluminum Ice Screws

The E-Climb “Klau” ice screw is not widely available in the United States.  As of this date, I couldn’t find a single U.S. seller.  I ended up ordering the screws directly from Spain, where E-Climb is headquartered.  E-Climb Website HERE  The E-Climb Klau screw has a couple of features that make it different from most other screws on the market.  It has an aluminum body, and removable/replaceable steel teeth.

E-Climb Klau Ice Screw

The aluminum tube body makes the Klau screws marginally lighter than all-steel screws.  This is a nice feature for gram-shaving alpine climbers who obsess over gear weight.

Some weight comparisons:

19 cm Black Diamond screw  5.7 ounces;   22cm Black Diamond screw  6.2 ounces

16 cm Grivel 360 screw   6.2 ounces

14 cm Klau screw 4 ounces; 18 cm Klau screw 4.4 ounces; 22 cm Klau  4.7 ounces

The per screw weight savings aren’t really huge.  Average savings of less than 2 ounces per screw.  However, with a 10-12 screw rack, you could save about a pound or more with aluminum Klau screws compared with traditional steel screws.  For weight obsessed climbers, a pound of savings may well be worth it.

The teeth of the screws are steel, and can be replaced if they are damaged.  Changing out teeth is pretty easy.  You just screw off the teeth, using the crank handle of another screw as a wrench.  The replacement teeth then just screw back on.  The replacement has some dry adhesive (think  “loctite”) on them to keep them from unscrewing when they’re not supposed to.  Replacement teeth are about $13.  The instructions for the screws say that conventional sharpening can mess up the interchangeable facility of the screws. I don’t think that a little touch-up with a file here and there would ruin it, if you stayed away from the little threads that secure the teeth to the tube.

Replaceable tips/teeth for E-Climb Klau screws

The most important characteristic of an ice screw for me is how quickly and easily it can be placed.  The Klau is comparable to other modern screws in ease of placement.  It bites into the ice and gets started just as easily (maybe a little bit easier even) compared with my Black Diamond screws.  Starting them seemed about the same as my Grivel 360 screw.  I could place a Klau screw with my left hand, which is a good test, as I am pretty clumsy with my left hand.  The folding crank gives good leverage for turning it into hard ice.  The crank doesn’t have much up and down wiggle room, however, so on featured ice, you will need to chop away lumps and bumps that impede rotation of the crank, as there is very limited ability to maneuver the crank over such obstacles.   In my completely non-scientific tests of these screws, they do seem to be slightly more difficult than steel screws when trying to clear ice out of the tube after use.

screw-1

E-Climb Klau (left) and BD screw (right)

The threads on the E-Climb screws are not quite as tall as the threads on other screws in my arsenal.  I have no idea what effect this difference might have on holding power.  However, I think that I might place the screws in a more horizontal position compared with the slightly down-facing position of other screws with larger threads.

Overall,  I like the Klau screws.  I like their light weight, and they place easily in hard ice.  I don’t think that they will replace my steel screws for every day ice cragging, but for alpine climbs where weight is an issue, I will definitely use the Klau screws to lighten my load.

 

2014 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market Highlights

 

Like the gates to the Emerald City, the OR Show entrance is designed to dazzle.

The 2014 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market presents an overwhelming array of products to assess and be dazzled by.   After a couple of days wandering the halls of the  outdoor retailer show, here are some of my impressions:

Backcountry Ski Touring:

As the winter oriented show, it’s not surprising that there were tons of backcountry skiing items to lust and drool over.  By far the coolest of them all (and my favorite thing I saw at the show in any category) was the new Jet Force airbag back from Black Diamond.

Jetforce

The coolest thing at the entire show: The new Jetforce airbag packs from Black Diamond.

The Jetforce pack differs from conventional airbag packs in that it uses a battery driven fan to inflate the airbag rather than releasing compressed gas from a canister.  This allows the pack to be taken on an airplane, which is problematic for compressed gas systems.  When trying to figure out the logistics of getting my airbag packs to Alaska for a heli-skiing trip, it was very difficult to work out how to do it, as I couldn’t bring the gas canisters on the plane, so they had to be shipped separately ahead of time.  The Jet Force pack can simply be brought on the plane as checked luggage.

Performance wise, there are a number of other benefits of the fan driven system.  First of all, the pack can be deployed and then easily be readied for another deployment in minutes.  At first, I didn’t really see how this was a big leap forward, as getting caught in multiple avalanches on one tour shouldn’t be on anyone’s agenda.  However, the ease of redeployment makes it easier to pull the ripcord if you’re unsure of whether you’re in a serious slide or not.  The hassle and expense and finality of traditional canister systems makes me reluctant to activate the airbag in marginal situations.  I’m unlikely to pull the ripcord unless I’m certain I’m going for a big ride.  Having the Jetforce pack makes me more likely to activate the pack just in case.

Jetforce Deployed

Jetforce pack with airbag deployed

Once activated, the Jetforce keeps reinflating for several minutes, allowing for full inflation even in the event of a small puncture in the bag.  After several minutes, the fan reverses, and sucks all the air out of the bags, leaving a big airspace that facilitates breathing or even self rescue.

Readying the pack for use again after it has deployed is simple.  The fan forcefully deflates the airbag, so it’s ready to stuff back in the pack.  The airbag doesn’t need to be folded in any particular manner, you just stuff it back into the airbag pocket, fasten it all up, and it’s good to go.

The non-airbag features of the Black Diamond Jetforce Packs are also very nice.  The packs are clean, with well thought out compartments, accessories, and suspensions.  The packs are available in 11, 28, and 40 liter versions, with the two larger sizes available in two different back lengths.  Weight is a bit over 7 pounds for all three models, which places them in the middle of category when compared with other airbag packs.  They aren’t the lightest, but they aren’t the heaviest either, and given the functionality and features, it’s a pretty impressive design effort.  Retail price is about $1,100.

I had seen pictures of this airbag pack previously, and had read descriptions of how it functioned.  However, watching demonstrations of its capabilities and looking at the thoughtful design and construction of the packs I came away very very impressed.  I want one (or two) of these packs very badly, and will likely get at least one of them (likely the 28 liter version) as soon as they become available next fall.

Salomon Backcountry

Backcountry is big business and the big players are all in it.

Everybody is getting into the backcountry ski market. Some alpine touring boots from Fisher.

Snow Shovels:  

One backcountry ski trend that I found very encouraging was the proliferation of avalanche shovels that can be used in “hoe mode” with the blade angled at 90 degrees like a hoe.  Previously, Ortovox seemed to be the only company that recognized the benefits of being able to set up your shovel like a hoe (which makes moving snow much easier in some situations.)  At the OR show, lots of companies, including Black Diamond, BCA, and Mammut were showing off snow shovel models whose blades could be used in hoe mode.  Nice to see some more options here:

BD shovel with “hoe mode”

BCA Shovel with hoe mode

Ski Touring Bindings:

I was impressed with the new G3 tech binding, the Ion.  Having been pretty underwhelmed by their first tech binding, the Onyx, I wasn’t expecting too much here.  Happily, I was very pleasantly surprised.  The Ion has a number of innovative features that make it stand out when compared with the standard Dynafit offerings.  First off, it clamps the boot with steady forward pressure, eliminating the gap at the heel of the boot as with the Dynafit and Plum bindings, and supposedly providing more consistent performance throughout the full range of ski flex.  They have a DIN range of 5-12, which is plenty for the backcountry, even for a big guy like me.

They have a number of thoughtful improvements, including little guides at the toe, that position your boot in the right spot to engage the toe clamps. The rep told me a bunch of stuff about how the specific radius of the wings helps with consistent engagement of the boot.  I only understood about half of what he was saying and have no idea if it really makes a difference or not.  I can say that the clamping wings have a nice positive engagement on the boot.

G3 Ion

The new G3 Ion Binding. The toe guides are the vertical black pieces sticking up just in front of the toe wings.

The heel piece has easy to engage climbing plugs, and burly brakes.

G3 Ion Heel

G3 Ion Heel Piece

Overall, I was really impressed with this binding.  I have no idea how it will function in the real world, as I haven’t had a chance to ski it, but it certainly looks promising.

 Ice climbing gear:

The ice climbing gear I was most excited over are the new Petzl Laser Speed Light ice screws.  They are aluminum body screws with steel teeth.  This concept is not new.  I climbed on Lowe R.A.T.S. (ratcheting aluminum tube screws) back in the old days, and they had a similar combination of aluminum body and steel teeth.  Currently, the e-climb Klau screw is also made with an aluminum body and steel teeth.  I’ve never seen one in real life however, and I don’t think they are sold here in the U.S.

The Petzl screw looks like it incorporates the sharp, fast-placing tooth design of their Laser screws, but with significant weight savings due to their aluminum tube body.  Seems like just the ticket for alpine routes where I’m trying to save weight.

Sadly, they won’t be for sale until June or July.

Aluminum tube body. Steel teeth and hangers. Looks perfect for alpine climbing.

New, but not necessarily improved.

Cassin is updating their X Gyro umbilical leash with special purpose carabiner clips to replace the Nano 23 full strength biners on the older version.  I’m not convinced that this is a positive thing, as I think the Nano 23′s do a fine job in this role and are full strength.  They have kept the thin cord attachment that you can use to larks-foot your umbilical directly to the tool if you don’t want to use a biner.

The “big” news that wasn’t really all that exciting was the new Nomic clone from Black Diamond, the new “Fuel” ice tool.  No idea if it is as good as or better than the Nomic, but it looked very similar.  It might make high grade mixed climbers excited.  It didn’t do much for me.  (Probably because I’m not a high grade mixed climber.)

The new (yawn) Fuel from Black Diamond.

Mountain Boots:  

Everybody who makes mountain boots now has a version of the Scarpa Phantom Guide/Sportiva Batura.   This is a good thing, as these insulated integral gaiter single boots tend to be light, well-performing, and versatile.  With more companies offering these types of boots, everyone should be able to find a fit for their foot.  (I saw them from Scarpa, Sportiva, Lowa, Mammut, Salewa, and there are no doubt others I missed)

Salewa mountain boots

Lowa Mountain Boots

The big news is that Scarpa’s terrific Rebel Ultra boot is being discontinued from their U.S. lineup.  (but will still be available in Europe.)  Too bad, as I think it’s a terrific boot.  The Scarpa rep said that the Ultra just wasn’t beefy and durable enough to justify its price tag for the majority of consumers, who expect a $500+ mountain boot to have tank-like durability.

Scarpa’s 2014 mountain boot lineup. (Note the unfortunate absence of the Scarpa Rebel Ultra.)

 Stoves:

By far, my biggest disappointment of the show was the Jetboil Joule.  I’m a serious stove geek, and the idea of a high output liquid feed tower stove with an alpine hanging kit and pressure regulator really had me excited.  The MSR Reactor is my current favorite alpine stove, but I figured that the Jetboil Joule would dethrone it due to the Jetboil’s inverted canister liquid feed design, which is great for very cold temps when butane loses pressure.

However, when I saw the Jetboil Joule in person, I was amazed at how big and bulky it is.  My first thought when I saw it was, “That thing’s the size of a soccer ball.  It would take up half the volume in my back pack.”  It’s maybe not quite as big as a soccer ball (probably more like a volley ball,) but it’s way too big to be of use to me as a stove for climbing or backpacking.

A great concept, but way too large for climbing or backpacking.

The Jetboil rep said that the stove was optimized for groups of 4 to 6 people and would be a great basecamp stove.  He’s probably right about that, and I was impressed at its simmering capabilities and the ease at which it roasted marshmallows and melted chocolate without burning it.  However, I really have very little use for a stove that large.  I was hoping for a compact, cold weather snow melting mega blowtorch that I could take on cold alpine climbs.  What Jetboil delivered was a bloated comfort-camping and basecamp stove.  I’m hoping they can come out with a smaller, more streamlined version of the Joule, sized like the smaller Jetboil Sol or Sumo stoves.  Until they do, I’m sticking with my MSR Reactor.

Clothing

strata

Rab’s Strata, with Polartec Alpha Insulation

Not too much new as far as clothing goes.  The only stand-out stuff that piqued my interest were the lightweight insulated pieces using new ultra breathable synthetic insulation.   Polartec Alpha is the best known of this new breed of insulation, which is touted as being more breathable and having a much broader comfortable temperature range than traditional insulated pieces.  The Rab Strata and the Patagonia Nano-Air were two of these new clothing pieces, with the Patagonia piece having the benefit of additional stretch in the outer fabric, and the Rab piece having the benefit that it is on sale right now.  (The Patagonia Nano-Air is not yet available.)  The Patagonia offering doesn’t use Polartech Alpha, but rather a proprietary insulation that seems to share Alpha’s highly breathable characteristics.  Not quite sure if I “need” one of these Polartec Alpha garments, but Patagonia’s “Put it on, Leave it on” sales pitch did sound pretty good.  I’m trying to figure out just where one of these garments would fit in my alpine clothing arsenal.

Patagonia’s Super Stretchy Nano-Air hoody, with extra breathable Insulation.

 

Patagonia Ascensionist 25L Pack

Patagonia Ascensionist 25L

Patagonia Ascensionist 25L with shockcord compression straps I added.

 

15.8 ounces (with add-on shock cord compression straps.)

The Patagonia Ascensionist pack line is Patagonia’s new foray into making backpacks.  The 25 liter pack is the smallest of the line-up, suited for day trips and traditional alpine climbs from huts.

The Ascensionist 25L pack is stripped down to the bare essentials.  The suspension is Spartan but effective for its size.  It has a thin sewn-in foam back pad, lightly padded shoulder straps, and a removable waist belt made from 1 inch webbing.  If you pack it carefully, it carries well, even with a full ice climbing load.  The pack doesn’t have any compression straps, but I added my own compression system by weaving a couple of pieces of shock cord in and out of daisy chains on the sides of the pack.  This helps control the load when the pack is mostly empty.  They also allow me to strap crampons to the outside of the pack.

Pack Characteristics:

1  Weight:  Weight is only 15.8 ounces, including the shockcord compression straps and cordlocks I added myself.  (Weight from the factory was 12.8 ounces.  This is good, as it’s hard to find a technical daypack that weighs under a pound.  Most climbing daypacks have lots of heavy “features” that add weight but are of questionable functionality.  The Mammut Trion Light 28L pack is a good example of this trend, as it’s about the same size, but weighs more than twice as much as the Patagonia Ascensionist.

2:  Top lid:  The top lid is unique.  It is secured with a single drawcord that can be opened or closed with a single gloved hand.  When you open the pack, the top lid stays propped open on its own, which makes access convenient.  There is a top pocket that is accessed by a horizontally oriented zipper.   Nothing about the top lid is game changing or a massive leap forward, but it is very cleverly and thoughtfully designed and definitely is an improvement over the typical day pack lid.  The top lid is closed by means of a simple aluminum hook.  I’ve found that the hook doesn’t stay fastened when the pack is not full and there’s no tension on the hook.  This isn’t really a serious issue, however, as when there’s no tension on the hook, it’s not needed to keep the pack lid closed.

3:  Construction and features.  Fabric is a mid weight gridded ripstop in the body, with a doubled, heavier fabric on the bottom of the pack.  I haven’t used it enough to have any opinions on long term durability.  Ice axe attachments are by means of traditional loops on the bottom secured at the top by adjustable shock corded hooks.

Overall, the pack is a study in simplicity.  It’s stripped down to the basics, which is generally a good thing in my book.

However, there are a couple of things that I wish this pack had:

It doesn’t have any provision for carrying a hydration bladder.  There’s no hole to slip a hydration hose through, and there’s no loop inside to hang a bladder from.  Adding a small hydration hole and hanging loop would make the pack much more user friendly for those of us who tend to use hydration bladder systems.

Also, the foam back pad is not removable.  Having a removable back pad would allow me to strip out the pad and use the pack as a low bulk stuff-sack summit pack like the old MEC Genie pack.

The changes for hydration compatibility and making the foam pad removable would have added very minimal weight (probably less than 2 ounces total) and would have made the pack a little more versatile.

The pack lists for $99, which is pretty expensive for a lightweight daypack.  The MEC Alpinelite 24 pack is $54 Canadian, and the REI Flash 22 pack is $49.50.   However, the Ascensionist 25L is significantly lighter than the MEC Alpinelite, and more climbing oriented than the REI Flash.  Whether it’s worth an extra $50 compared with those packs probably depends on how tight your budget is, and how often you think you will have need of a good daypack that’s focused on climbing.

So far, I’m happy with the pack.  I’ve used it ice climbing and hiking, and have been pleased with its performance.  I’m probably going to get it modified to add a hydration bladder exit port and a bladder hanging loop.  I’ts likely to be my go-to technical daypack for a while.

Patagonia Ascensionist 25L

Patagonia Ascensionist 25L on ice

This Link is to a nice video of Steve House explaining the various features of the Ascensionist 25L Pack.

Rab Boreas Pull-On

Rab Boreas in Snowy Conditions

Rab Boreas in Snowy Conditions

The Rab Boreas Pull-On is a strange soft shell.  It’s not very wind resistant.  It’s not very water resistant.  Currently, outdoor clothing companies all seem to be making their softshell clothing more and more weather resistant, blurring the line between hard and soft shells.  The Boreas goes the other direction.  It’s a softshell that provides maximum breathability and minimum weather resistance.  Just based on this description, it sounds useless.  However, it’s become one of my favorite pieces of clothing.

I put out a lot of heat when I’m active.  I’m one of those people who steams in cold weather.  For winter activities, like skinning uphill when backcountry skiing, or moving quickly when climbing or approaching over easy ground, the only insulation I generally require is a midweight or heavy weight base-layer.  However, I typically need a lightweight weather resistant layer over the base-layer to add a little protection from wind and a bit of extra warmth.  Most softshells and windshirts leave me overheated and sweaty.  They just aren’t breathable enough.  They provide too much protection.

The Boreas is just right when worn over a base layer when I’m exerting myself.  It doesn’t cut the wind entirely, but takes the edge off a cold wind and allows the base-layer underneath to continue to function.  Likewise, it won’t keep me dry in sustained rain, but it will fend off snow and light drizzle.

The hood is comfortable, and fits snugly under a helmet.  The single zipper allows for venting, and a chest pocket is large enough to hold sunglasses or a small pocket camera.

So, the Boreas has become my go-to garment for moving fast in the mountains.  As long as I’m moving, it’s just enough.  I stay cool, comfortable, and don’t end up drenched in sweat.  It’s not a great piece for cold weather belaying, or other activities where I’m stopped and inactive for any length of time.  Stop and go sports like hard climbing are not where I use this.  However, for situations where I’m constantly on the move, like backcountry skiing, or easy routes in the mountains where I’m constantly on the move, its’ perfect.

The Boreas fits close.  If you want to wear more than just a baselayer under it, you may want to go up a size.

Weight:  8.6 ounces (size large)

Boreas Pull-On on the Rab Website