Hiring a Guide

A rope joins two beings who have only one life; the guide for some hours ties himself to an unknown man who is going to become a friend.  When two men share the best and the worst, they are no longer strangers.    The guide does not climb for himself; he opens the gates of his mountains for his companion.    Gaston Rebuffat,  Between Heaven and Earth

Guides

Hiring a guide is somewhat uncommon here in the United States.  Very few US climbers that I know have ever climbed with a guide.  This is in contrast to Europe, where guided climbing is much more common. 

Hiring a guide can be an excellent experience.  A good guide will not only guide you up a route, but will also teach you skills that will carry over to unguided climbing going forward.   

The process of hiring a guide is different in Europe than it is in North America.  In the United States, many of the more popular climbing areas are located within national park boundaries.  In these national parks, the Federal Government awards guiding “concessions” to selected guide companies.  Unless a guide is affiliated with one of these concessions, that guide is not allowed to guide in that area.  In addition, there are often restrictions on which routes are allowed to be guided, and which are off limits to guided parties.  (For example,  on Mount Rainier, no guiding is allowed on Ptarmigan Ridge.)  

Because you’re working with a company as opposed to an individual guide, it may be difficult, for example, to retain the same guide if you want to undertake guided climbing in Grand Teton National Park, Mount Rainier, and Rocky Mountain Park.  Because of the concession restrictions, you will likely be forced to use three separate guides, one for each location.  

Regulations are a bit more relaxed outside of national parks, but many federal and state lands regulate guiding activities.  It is often the case that some sort of commercial permit is required to legally guide on public lands.  The reason usually given for these restrictions is the need for quality control.  Personally, I think that this justification is somewhat lame.  I participated in a guided class in a national park that was attended by a park ranger who was there to “audit” the guide service and assess whether or not their guide permit should be extended.  It was abundantly clear that the auditing ranger knew little or nothing about climbing.  Unless somebody died during the class, it would have been pretty much impossible for him to draw any valid conclusions as to the quality of the services provided.  

However, government oversight of some sort isn’t necessarily a bad idea.  This is because, in the United States, there is generally no requirement that a guide have any formal training.  This is in stark contrast to Europe, where every professional guide must complete a very rigorous, multi-year program in the guiding profession.  In Europe, the UIAGM (or IFMGA depending on the language) is the body that must certify an aspiring guide.  Without this certification, a person can not legally guide in Europe.  In the US, they regulate real estate agents, lawyers, and hair dressers, but anyone who wants to can call himself a guide.  

However, although certification is not mandatory in the United States, some guides do go through a certification process.  In the USA, the equivalent of the UIAGM is the American Mountain Guide Association (AMGA.)   The AMGA provides training and certification for guides.  However, not all certifications are equal.  The AMGA provides training and certification in a number of climbing disciplines, including “Certified Single Pitch Instructor”; “Certified Alpine Guide” “Certified Climbing Wall Instructor.”  These various certifications clearly involve widely varying degrees of competence and expertise.  So, it’s not enough to simply know that your guide is AMGA certified.  It is much more important to know exactly what disciplines that the certification applies to.  There are very few US guides who are certified across all of the AMGA disciplines.  To make the situation even more confusing, guide services are often referred to as “AMGA accredited.”  However, this doesn’t mean that all of the guides at that services are certified.

Don’t take this to mean that American guides are unqualified.  There are many good guides in the US, regardless of certification.  However, the lack of consistent requirements means that you need to do more homework when checking on your potential guide’s qualifications.  

So, when compared with Europe, the situation in the US manages to be both more complex in terms of regulations, and yet less transparent and consistent in terms of guide qualifications.  

With regards to costs and booking procedures, North America also differs significantly from Europe.  In North America, you typically reserve a guided trip some time in advance, and you pay a fixed fee by the day for the guide’s time.  Travel expenses, food, etc. are extra.  Differing guide companies have different policies regarding refunds, so it makes sense to ask what will happen if your climb is cancelled or cut short due to bad weather or other circumstances.  Depending on the situation and policies, they might refund your money, might offer to reschedule, or you could just be out of the money.  

My guide and friend, Franco Obert, of the Chamonix Guide Company
My guide and friend, Franco Obert, of the Chamonix Guide Company

 

The profession of guiding, and the process of hiring a guide is quite different in Europe than it is in the United States.  
 
First, as already mentioned, European guides must be certified by the UIAGM.  If you hire a mountain guide in Europe, you can be assured that he/she has undertaken a very rigorous formal curriculum in guiding.   
 
Second, in Europe, any certified guide can guide pretty much anywhere in Europe.  There are no “concessions” like in the US.  You can climb with the same guide in Chamonix, Zermatt, and the Dolomites.  
 
Third, the fees are calculated differently in Europe.  In contrast to North America, where a guide’s fees are typically a fixed daily rate, in Europe, the fee is dependent on the route climbed.  Generally, the longer and more serious the route is, the higher the fee.  As in North America, expenses (typically hut fees, and teleferique costs) are the responsibility of the client.  One advantage of the European system is that you typically don’t pay for days not spent climbing.  If you’re climbing out of your guide’s home base town and the weather is bad, you won’t pay for days spent trapped in town by bad weather even if you’ve made reservations to climb with him.  Unless you’re requiring your guide to leave his base of operations, if you don’t climb due to nasty weather, you typically don’t owe anything.  Similarly, if the climb is aborted due to sickness or other such event, you’ll only owe a reduced fee for a single day.  
 
Overall, I much prefer the European approach to guiding.  It makes it much easier to develop a long-term relationship with an individual guide, and it’s much more flexible.  Also, because of the requirement for universal certification, you can be assured of a uniformly high standard of competence when hiring a guide in Europe.
   
Some Advice About Being Guided:
I’ve hired a number of guides, in the U.S., Canada, and Europe.  Here are some observations about getting the most out of hiring a guide.
 
Selecting a lesser traveled route will endear you to your guide.  Most areas have a number of “trade routes” that are climbed with monotonous regularity by guides.  Choose something else,or better yet, collaborate with your guide to choose a route.  The lesser known route will be less crowded, the experience will likely be more enjoyable, and your guide will be excited to be doing something new.  
 
Be honest with your guide regarding your abilities, and don’t get in over your head.  Your guide isn’t there to drag you up a climb that you aren’t technically capable of climbing.  Remember, your guide isn’t Superman.  He’s trusting his life to you just as you are placing your life in his hands.  You have a responsibility to look after his safety that is not any less than his responsibility to take care of yours.  Similarly, just because you’re being guided, you can’t give up responsibility for your own safety.  Continue to exercise independent judgement, and don’t turn your brain off just because you’ve got a guide with you.    
 
Observe your guide carefully.  Watch the way he uses his crampons and ice tools, how he climbs rock, what clothing and equipment he favors.  Examine the paths he chooses, how he places protection and belay anchors, the way he manages the rope, how he moves, etc.  Ask questions as time and circumstances allow, but don’t waste too much time with questions while on the mountain.  Make a mental list of questions to ask him after the climb is over and you’re relaxing in a restaurant having a post-climb feast.  This is a great opportunity to learn how an expert climbs.  Take advantage of it.   
 
There are advantages to hiring a guide that is local to the area that you’re climbing at.  This is particularly the case in Europe.  A local guide can often get you on the very first cable car in the morning, the best spot at a crowded hut and other perks of local knowledge and connections.  
 
Lastly, don’t be afraid to find another guide if your experience with a particular guide is less than you had hoped for.  I’ve never had the misfortune to climb with an incompetent guide, but I have climbed with a guide that was a poor fit for me and my personality.  We just didn’t have much fun when we were in the mountains.  Luckily, I’ve found a number of guides that have been terrific, particularly my Chamonix guide, Franco Obert, a wonderful man with whom I have shared some of the best days of my life.
The amazing Barry Blanchard
The amazing Barry Blanchard

Some things I learned from Barry Blanchard:

I had the terrrific opportunity to climb with Barry Blanchard, one of the most notable climbers in North America.  Over the 10 days we spent together, I learned a lot of useful and interesting things:
1:   Snickers Bars, cheese sticks, and pepperoni are the foundation of mountain climbing nutrition. 
2:  It’s possible to climb 5.9 sport routes in your sneakers (if your name is Barry Blanchard.) 
3.  Always bring more than one pair of gloves with you on an alpine climb.
4.  Bring lots of 6 mil cord for retreating and improvising anchors.
5.  Not all alpine climbs have to start at 2:00 a.m. 
6.  Coiling your rope in a mountaineer’s coil makes it a lot easier to carry when wearing a pack.
7.  Keep a sense of humor no matter what’s going on, and remember climbing is fun (even when it isn’t.)

 

 

Ricoh GR Pocket Camera

I am a big proponent of using small, compact cameras when climbing.  Although I sometimes take larger, interchangeable lens cameras with me on climbs, there are many circumstances where the bulk and weight of a big camera doesn’t make sense.  If I’m climbing something difficult, I will often opt for a pocket camera.  Even if I’m bringing an interchangeable lens Micro 4/3 camera, I typically will also carry a pocket camera as a backup.

Over the years, I’ve used more than a dozen different pocket cameras.  In my days of shooting film, one of my favorite pocket cameras was the Ricoh GR-1.  It was light and compact, had a very sharp fixed 28mm lens, and took excellent quality photos.  It was like having a little SLR with a 28mm prime lens in my pocket.

Since I made the switch from film to digital, I’ve been on an unending search for the perfect pocket camera.  I’ve used most  of the high end digital options, including the top of the line offerings from Ricoh (GRD); Sigma (DP1); Panasonic (LX3 and LX5) Canon (S100) and Sony (RX100.)

While I have been generally happy with these pocket cameras, I never had quite the same quality of results that I enjoyed with my larger cameras.  The image quality from the pocket cameras were good, but when I compared the photos with photos taken with my Micro 4/3 system cameras, (especially the OMD-EM5) the pocket camera photos came up a little short.  In general, the pictures were not quite as sharp, and photos with wide dynamic ranges did not come out as well.  None of these pocket cameras fulfilled my need for a tiny camera that could measure up to the quality of my Micro 4/3 system.

The Ricoh GR is the first digital  pocket camera I’ve owned that has image quality that rivals that of my Micro 4/3 system cameras.  It has a large, APS-C sensor, shoe-horned into a really small package.  It has a fixed (non-zoom) 28mm (equivalent) lens that is very sharp, with an aperture of 2.8.   The best technical review of the GR that I’ve seen is the very detailed review at DP Review HERE.   My review will focus on my working impressions of the camera, with an emphasis on performance in climbing and backcountry photography.

Ricoh GR and Mountainsmith Cyber Small Case

The GR body is very light and compact.  It fits perfectly into a Mountainsmith Cyber Small case.  This case will attach to a pack strap with velcro straps, or can be secured to a climbing harness with carabiners.  In colder weather, when I’m wearing a jacket, I typically dispense with the case altogether and just put the GR in an ultralight ditty bag and keep it in a chest pocket.  Ease of access is everything in climbing and backcountry photography.  If your camera is in your back pack, you won’t get the photos you want.  The small size of the GR makes it easy to keep close at hand.

GR in the Mountainsmith Cyber Small Case fits nicely on a climbing harness
GR in the Mountainsmith Cyber Small Case fits nicely on a climbing harness

The camera controls are customizable, and are pretty easy to use.  I can change exposure settings and other critical controls even when wearing gloves.  The view screen is decent, and is visible even in bright glare conditions often encountered on the snow.

The sensor is very good at handling high-contrast scenes.  This is particularly important for winter use, as snow scenes can be particularly challenging for other pocket cameras I’ve used.

GR
High contrast shots are not a problem for the GR

Color rendition is very pleasing, and photos are crisp and sharp.

climb-1

Unlike most pocket cameras, the GR does not have a zoom lens.  With the GR, you’ve got to do all of your shooting with a wide angle (28mm equivalent) lens.  Generally, I don’t find this to be a problem.  The wide angle of view is great for scenic shots, and helps capture perspective on climbs as well, where you’re trying to capture a climber and also some background.  Zoom lenses can provide some flexibility, but I generally put more value on the superior optical quality of a fixed lens.

Fixed 28mm field of view is great for scenic shots
Fixed 28mm field of view is great for scenic shots
castleton-11
Wide angle of view allows capture of climber and the climb

After several months of use, I have been increasingly impressed with the Ricoh GR.  Because it delivers consistently excellent image quality,  I’m getting more and more comfortable using it as my primary climbing camera.  This means that I’m carrying my larger Micro 4/3 system cameras less often, which allows me to go light and fast, while still having a high quality photography option in my pocket.

The Ricoh GR is the first digital pocket camera I’ve used that has lived up to the standards of the GR-1 film camera.  It really is capable of providing SLR quality in a tiny package.  Because of this, the GR has become my new climbing/backcountry photography tool of choice.

Excellent image quality in a tiny package
Excellent image quality in a tiny package

Patagonia Knifeblade and Northwall Lines: Winter Clothing made from Polartech Powerstretch Pro Fabric

Patagonia Knifeblade Pullover and Northwall Pants
Patagonia Knifeblade Pullover and Northwall Pants at Ouray

Polartech Powerstretch Pro is a new highly breathable and water resistant fabric from the folks at Malden Mills.   Patagonia incorporated it into two different lines of clothing, the Knifeblade and Northwall lines, which are blurring the lines between softshells and hardshells.   The Knifeblade line is uninsulated, and the Northwall line has a light gridded fleece lining.  Knifeblade options are a full zip jacket, half-zip pullover, and pants.  Northwall line options are  jacket and pants.

Grovelling up a chimney in my Knifeblade Pullover. Bird Brain Boulevard, Ouray, CO

I’ve got a Knifeblade pullover, and Knifeblade pants, along with the Northwall pants.  These have become my all-time favorite winter climbing shells.

Here’s why I love them:

The Powerstretch Pro fabric  breathes really really well. When I am working hard, I am a heat inferno. Any hard shell I’ve ever used has never been able to cope with the amount of heat I put out when climbing. This soft shell fabric has no problem dealing with my prodigious heat output.  I sweat less, and stay dry from the inside.

Unlike traditional softshell garments, these pieces are functionally water proof.  They are billed as water resistant, but I’ve climbed in some very wet conditions and stayed dry, including once where I was pretty much stuck under a small waterfall while belaying. I’ve heard of some folks getting some seepage through the seams eventually, but I haven’t gotten wet yet during the winter.  I have used the pants in an extended period of driving rain.  After an hour, the pants leaked and continued leaking.  These are not rain pants, so don’t expect them to stand up to long bouts of heavy rain.  However, for anything I’m doing in winter, they have more than adequate water resistance.

The fabric has a bit of stretch to it.  Just enough to add significant mobility.

The cut of the Knifeblade Pullover is perfect for ice climbing. The pullover style is very clean. Length is long enough that it stays put under a harness. Cut and material make for a good, body hugging fit that doesn’t blouse up and block my vision of my ice screws on my harness, but it has enough stretch and the cut is good enough that it’s not at all restrictive. Hood works very well over a helmet.   Pockets are high and out of the way of my harness.

The pants have articulated knees, and a high waist, coupled with suspenders to keep them up without needing a belt.  Freedom of movement is excellent.  Seat can be dropped via zippers if you’ve got to poo.   The Northwall pants are lightly insulated, which makes them great for really cold days.  The Knifeblade pants are uninsulated, and better suited for more moderate temperatures.

The fabric is very durable. Long chimneying sessions, sharp ice tools and general abuse have not had much effect at all on the Knifeblade Pullover.  I’ve managed to stab some crampon holes in my pants, but the fabric doesn’t rip easily, and the holes were easily repaired with repair tape and seamgrip.

I’ve heard rumors that Patagonia will be discontinuing both the Knifeblade and Northwall lines and won’t have any Powerstretch Pro fabric clothing to replace them.  I hope this is not true.  Just to be on the safe side, I bought spares to make sure I will still have my favorite winter clothes in the event I ever manage to wear out my current ones.

knifebladep
Knifeblade Pullover and Knifeblade Pants, climbing desert ice.

 

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-.

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.

At the top of the first pitch, Vince and Ollie had already gone ahead and I was bringing up the rear, breaking down the belay anchors.  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.