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Conquistadors of the Useless

Conquistadors of the Useless: From the Alps to Annapurna.Terray, LionelMountaineers Books2001Frenchman Lionel Terray is one of mountaineering history's greatest alpinists, and his autobiography, Conquistadors of the Useless, stands among the "100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time", according to National Geographic Adventuremagazine. Following World War II, when France desperately needed successes to heal its wounds, Terray emerged as a national hero, conquering summits atop the planet's highest mountains.This biography of Lionel Terry is filled with first-time feats and acts of bravery in the face of unspeakable odds. He climbed with legends such as Maurice Herzog, Gaston Rebuffat, and Louis Lachenal. He made first ascents in the Alps, Alaska, the Andes, and the Himalaya. Terray's gripping story captures the energy of an optimistic world shaking off the restraints of war and austerity. It's a mountaineering classic.97808988677879780898867787Conquistadors of the UselessBiographyen by Lionel Terray seems to have gotten extremely positive reviews. Being listed as one of National Geographic Adventure 's 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Time is probably already good enough reason to read it. However, perhaps the most glowing review was that made by Explore magazine : "If my library was to somehow catch fire and I could only save one book, the long out of print Conquistadors of the Useless, by Lionel Terray, would be it."

Terray is probably best known for his role in the first ascent of French routeAnnapurna I8091mNorth face in 1950 (he did not summit) and in the first ascent of French routeMakalu8463mNW side. However, his routes on somewhat lower peaks, particularly SE faceFitzroy3440mSouth sideED-; 50-60°, VI+,A2/VII+300m/6 pitches of ice + 650m/14 pitches of rock, SE ridgeJannu7711mSouth side and Arista NEChacraraju Este6001mEast sideED2800m, 1 day may be even more important as they represented the absolute cutting edge of difficulty climbed at altitude at the time.

Bold Beyond Belief

Source: . Credit: Fishbond .
Source: Fishpond. Credit: Fishbond .

Article about the book Bold Beyond Belief: Bill Denz, New Zealand's Mountain Warrior, 2nd edition.Maxim, Paul2012Twenty eight years after the original hard man of New Zealand climbing was killed in the Himalaya, the story of this legendary mountaineer has been recorded in a book.The New Zealand Alpine Club is proud to support this biography of Bill Denz. Running to nearly 300 pages, with over 100 images and a Foreward from Greg Child, Bold Beyond Belief is the story about a kiwi climber whose attitude, passion, drive and vision is unique in the 150 year history of New Zealand Mountaineering.97804732331989780473233198Bold Beyond BeliefBiographyen caught my eye in AAJ 2012. Bill Denz was a New Zealander who put up large number of groundbreaking ascents. Many of his routes in New Zealand Alps are considered to have been decades ahead of his time.

Denz is best known for his very bold solos of routes at the very pinnacle of difficulty at the time. Routes like DenzMount Cook3754mCarolina FaceNZ5-/TD; 60-652000m and SW Buttress & West FaceKusum Kanguru6369mMain summit, SW side are still today considered very serious propositions. Aside of being very bold, he was also very persistent, a fact that is highlighted by his 10+ attempts to solo Compressor RouteCerro Torre3127mEast faceED-/ED1/nccs VI 5.10b,A2 70°; 6a,A2-3/5.10,A-2/VI,A2-3, 80°900m (27 roped pitches). Like too many others, he was killed by avalanche when attempting West pillarMakalu8463mSouth side in 1983.

The Bond

At the end of the 70's duo Simon McCartney and Jack Roberts put up two extremely difficult and serious climbs in Alaska: Timeless faceMount Huntington3731mNorth facenccs VI 5.9 WI5 and SW faceDenali6190.5mSW faceAK6; 5.9,A38,000'/4000m from base camp. The latter climb proved nearly fatal for Simon. His book The Bond: Two Epic Climbs in Alaska and a Lifetime's Connection Between Climbers.Mccartney, Simon & Westman, MarkVertebrate Publishing2016'Man, the only - only - good thing about that climb was that you were tied on to the other end of the rope.' Simon McCartney was a cocky young British alpinist climbing many of the hardest routes in the Alps during the late seventies, but it was a chance meeting in Chamonix in 1977 with Californian 'Stonemaster' Jack Roberts that would dramatically change both their lives - and almost end Simon's. Inspired by a Bradford Washburn photograph published in Mountain magazine, their first objective was the 5,500-foot north face of Mount Huntington, one of the most dangerous walls in the Alaska Range. The result was a route so hard and serious that for decades nobody believed they had climbed it - it is still unrepeated to this day. Then, raising the bar even higher, they made the first ascent of the south-west face of Denali, a climb that would prove almost fatal for Simon, and one which would break the bond between him and climbing, separating the two young climbers for over three decades. But the bond between Simon and Jack couldn't remain dormant forever. A lifetime later, a chance reconnection with Jack gave Simon the chance to bury the ghosts of what happened high on Denali, when he had faced almost certain death. The Bond is Simon McCartney's story of these legendary climbs.97819102406639781910240663The Bondguidebooken tells the story about these groundbreaking ascents.

High and Hallowed

Source: . Credit: XTreme Video .
Source: Vimeo. Credit: XTreme Video .

High and Hallowed: Everest 1963 tells the story of 1963 American Everest expedition. Despite James Whittaker becoming the first American to summit Everest earlier during the same expedition, the main feat of the expedition was the first ascent of Hornbein routeMount Everest8848mNW side50°, IV by Tom Hornbein and Willi Unsoeld.

Their route was the most difficult on Everest at the time is is widely c0onsidered to have been landmark in the history of mountaineering. The dramatic events of the expedition are also covered by the books and .

The Fitzroy Traverse

The route follows the iconic skyline from right to left over all main peaks. Source: . Credit: austinsiadak.com .
The route follows the iconic skyline from right to left over all main peaks. Source: austinsiadak.com. Credit: austinsiadak.com .

I have briefly mentioned the 2014 first ascent of Fitzroy traverseFitzroy3440mNorth pillar7a,C1, 65°3600m by Alex Honnold and Tommy Caldwell (Big routes going down, part deux). Now there is a movie A Line Across the Sky about the ascent. It is included in Reel Rock 10 .

Fitzroy traverse is very alpine undertaking. Something which perhaps is somewhat out of the norm for both of the protagonists who are world class rock climbers not particularly known for their alpine exploits. That said both have extensive experience of scaling large rock faces rapidly. To pull the Fitz traverse off within limited weather windows of Patagonia, speed is obviously of prime importance. Something that the first ascentionists are very familiar with having both held The Nose speed record and climbed many Yosemite big walls in a day.

Citadel

Source: . Credit: Posing Productions .
Source: Vimeo. Credit: Posing Productions .

New film by Alastair Lee is Citadel is out. The film is the first real climbing film shot in 4K (not counting amateur filmings with GoPro hero and the like which are also 4K). The flick features Matt Helliker and Jon Bracey, the same team that features in previous film Moonflower .

As in "Moonflower" the guys find themselves again in Alaska but whereas the previous time they were climbing variation to classic MoonflowerMount Hunter4442mNorth sideAK6; VI AI6 M6, 5.9,A32100m, 7-10 days on route this time they visit very little known Neacola Mountains of Aleutian Range. Their target was Northwest ridgeCitadel2597m. Unlike what is normally the case, climbers did not report the details about the climb to keep audience in suspense.

The Other Face of K2

Source: . Credit: http://banskofilmfest.com .
Source: Bansko Filmfest. Credit: http://banskofilmfest.com .

While The Summit or K2: Siren of the Himalayas probably are far better known and get a bigger audience, The Other Face of K2 might actually be the most interesting film. It follows a Catalan attempt on Magic LineK28611mSouth sideRus 6B; IV-V, 60°3500m. Jordi Corominas reached the highly coveted second ascent of the route.

"Magic Line" follows the SW ridge and is one of the most mythical routes of the climbing world. The name was given by Reinhold Messner who was planning to attempt it in 1979, but discarded the route. It was climbed in 1986 by a Polish team of Peter Bozek, Przemyslaw Piasecki & Wojiech Wroz in 1986. The climb is comparable in reputation to other legends like Shark's FinMeru Central6310mNorth East Pillar6a,A4, WI5,M61400m or yet to be climbed North ridgeLatok I7151mNorth face or NE faceMasherbrum7821mNorth side. There has been only two summits (until 2015), neither without fatalities.

Corominas may not be as famous as some, but he has been nominated for Piolet d'Or (at least) twice and his palmares is extremely impressive:

Siren of the Himalayas

Source: . Credit: http://K2siren.com .
Source: Official movie page. Credit: http://K2siren.com .

Despite The Summit about 2008 K2 disaster likely gathers far more viewers, K2: Siren of the Himalayas might be more interesting to climbers. It centers around 2009 campaign to climb K2 with Gerlinde Kaltenbrunner, Fabrizio Zangrilli, Jake Meyer and Chris Szymiec at the main focus. The attempt was done on Cesen RouteK28611mSouth sideIII-IV, 75°.

Compared to siege-style 2008 campaign, 2009 campaign was significantly smaller in scale is regards to number of climbers as well as lighter in style with neither high-altitude sherpas nor bottled oxygen. The film has won several prizes and most of the reviews are very positive.

Water repellent ropes

Source: . Credit: UIAA .
Source: UIAA. Credit: UIAA .

For years manufacturers have marketed dry-treated ropes. However, everyone and their brother knows that not all dry-treatments have been equally effective. Yet personal experience aside, there has been no way of knowing how effective various treatments are. That ends now, as UIAA has introduced new water repellent certification.

The test seems to mimick real life surprisingly well. A rope sample is subjected to subject to light abrasion over its entire surface to simulate few days’ use. The rope is then soaked for 15 minutes following a precise procedure. To pass the test at a certified laboratory, the amount of absorbed water must not be greater than 5% of the rope’s weight. For comparison, a non-treated rope absorbs around 50% of water in this test, and many ropes labeled as "dry" can absorb between 20% and 40% of water. Ropes with surface treatment only cannot pass the says according to Beal.

So far only Beal, Edelweiss and Mammut offer certified ropes that I know of. The certification is very new though, so it is entirely possible that some other brands could have equally good treatments but their ropes are yet to be certified.

The Summit

Source: . Credit: http://www.impawards.com .
Source: IMP Awards. Credit: http://www.impawards.com .

I recently discovered that a film about 2008 K2 disaster called The Summit had gone unnoticed by me. It's cast certainly isn't as impressive as that of upcoming Everest but being the movie-buff I am, I clearly have to watch this one too.

Tragic events of August 1st and 2nd 2008 on the Abruzzi RidgeK28611mSouth sideIII, 50° have also been covered in several books, at least The Time Has Come: Ger Mcdonnell - His Life & His Death on K2.O'brien, DamienCollins Pr2012Damien O'Brien is married to Ger McDonnell's sister, Denise. A keen sports fan, especially of GAA, Damien spent 3 years as chairman of his local GAA club. He was fascinated listening to Ger tell his stories and was delighted to write this book in his honour.97818488914329781848891432The Time Has ComeNon-fictionen, No Way Down: Life and Death on K2.Bowley, GrahamHarpercollins2011In the tradition of Into Thin Air and Touching the Void, No Way Down by New York Times reporter Graham Bowley is the harrowing account of the worst mountain climbing disaster on K2, second to Everest in height... but second to no peak in terms of danger. From tragic deaths to unbelievable stories of heroism and survival, No Way Down is an amazing feat of storytelling and adventure writing, and, in the words of explorer and author Sir Ranulph Fiennes, “the closest you can come to being on the summit of K2 on that fateful day.”On August 1, 2008, no fewer than eight international teams of mountain climbers—some experienced, others less prepared—ascended K2, the world's second-highest mountain, with the last group reaching the summit at 8 p.m. Then disaster struck. A huge ice chunk came loose above a deadly three-hundred-foot avalanche-prone gully, destroying the fixed guide ropes. More than a dozen climbers—many without oxygen and some with no headlamps—faced the nearly impossible task of descending in the blackness with no guideline and no protection. Over the course of the chaotic night, some would miraculously make it back. Others would not. In this riveting work of narrative nonfiction, journalist Graham Bowley re-creates one of the most dramatic tales of death and survival in mountaineering history.97800618347909780061834790No Way DownNon-fictionen, K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous Mountain, 1 Reprint Edition.Viesturs, EdBroadway Books2010Ed Viesturs, one of the world's premier high-altitude mountaineers, explores the remarkable history of K2 and of those who have attempted to conquer it. At the same time, he probes the mountain's most memorable sagas in order to illustrate lessons about the fundamental questions mountaineering raises—questions of risk, ambition, loyalty to one's teammates, self-sacrifice, and the price of glory. Viesturs knows the mountain firsthand. He and renowned alpinist Scott Fischer climbed it in 1992 and got caught in an avalanche that sent them sliding to almost certain death before Ed managed to get into a self-arrest position with his ice ax and stop both his fall and Scott's.Focusing on seven of the mountain's most dramatic campaigns, from his own troubled ascent to the 2008 tragedy, Viesturs crafts an edge-of-your-seat narrative that climbers and armchair travelers alike will find unforgettably compelling. With photographs from Viesturs's personal collection and from historical sources, this is the definitive account of the world's ultimate mountain, and of the lessons that can be gleaned from struggling toward its elusive summit.97807679326089780767932608K2: Life and Death on the World's Most Dangerous MountainNon-fictionen, One Mountain Thousand Summits: The Untold Story of Tragedy and True Heroism on K2, Paperback Edition.Wilkinson, FreddieNew American Library2011One Mountain Thousand Summits reveals the true story of the K2 tragedy that claimed the lives of eleven men. Based on his numerous trips to Nepal and in-depth interviews he conducted with the survivors, the families of the lost climbers, and the Sherpa guides whose heroic efforts saved the lives of at least four climbers, Freddie Wilkinson's narrative uncovers what actually occurred on the mountain, while delivering a criticism of the mainstream press's incomplete coverage of the event, and an insightful look into the lives of the six Sherpas who were involved.97804512333189780451233318One Mountain Thousand SummitsNon-fictionen, K2 Surviving Three Days in the Death Zone, 1th Edition Edition.Rooijen, Wilco van & Thurman, RogerG+J Publishing CV2010In the summer of 2008 the 'Norit K2 expedition' climbed without additional oxygen the 8611 meter high peak of K2 in Pakistan. During the descent the expedition turned from triumph to tradedy. One of the biggest tradedy's in mountain climbing history. Statistical every quarter 'conqueror' will die on the "Killer Mountain". In 2008 11 climbers lost their life. The news was going over the whole world from CNN, Al-Jazeera, Sky News, BBC, New York Times etc.Wilco van Rooijen, the Dutch expedition leader has been missing for three days and give up by the outside world. On his last strength he came back a life out of the 'Death Zone'. The 'Norit K2' Expedition 2008 paid a high price. What exactly took place that August 1, 2008? How could this tragedy have taken place?97890892704679789089270467Surviving K2Non-fictionen and The Summit: How Triumph Turned to Tragedy on K2's Deadliest Days.Falvey, Pat & Pemba, Sherpa GyaljeO'brien Press Ltd2013On 1 August 2008, 18 climbers from across the world reached the summit of K2, the world's second highest and most dangerous mountain - a peak which claims the life of one in every four climbers who attempt it. Over the course of 28 hours, however, K2 had exacted a deadly toll: 11 lives were lost in a series of catastrophic accidents. Attracting a climbing elite and standing at 8,611 metres on the Pakistan-China border, K2 is known as the 'Mountaineer's Mountain' because of its extreme technical challenges, its dangerously unpredictable weather and an infamous and hazardous overhanging wall of ice known as the Serac. Snow-bound at Base Camp for weeks on end and increasingly despairing of their prospects of success, an unexpected weather window gave the climbers the opportunity they were waiting for. In their collective desire to reach the summit, seven expeditions agreed to co-ordinate their efforts and share their equipment. Triumph quickly turned to tragedy, however, when a seemingly flawless plan unravelled with lethal consequences. Over the course of three days, a Nepalese Sherpa called Pemba Gyalje, along with five other Sherpas, was at the centre of a series of attempts to rescue climbers who had become trapped in the Death Zone, unable to escape its clutches and debilitated by oxygen deprivation, chronic fatigue, delirium and a terrifying hopelessness. The tragedy became a controversy as the survivors walked from the catastrophe on the mountain into an international media storm, in which countless different stories emerged, some contradictory and many simply untrue. Based on Pemba Gyalje's eyewitness account and drawing on a series of interviews with the survivors which were conducted for the award-winning documentary, The Summit (Image Now Films and Pat Falvey Productions, 2012), The Summit: How Triumph Turned to Tragedy on K2's Deadliest Days is the most comprehensive interpretation of one of modern-day mountaineering's most controversial disasters.97818471764319781847176431The SummitNon-fictionen. Obviously there is no shortage of articles covering the disaster in main stream media including: Few False Moves, K2 tragedy: 'We had no body, no funeral, no farewell ...' and K2: The Killing Peak. Unfortunately this is not the first time when large group of climbers were held captive high on K2 with catastrophic results: 1986 K2 disaster.

One Day as a Tiger

Source: . Credit: https://www.v-publishing.co.uk .
Source: Vertebrate Publishing. Credit: https://www.v-publishing.co.uk .

Once again, Amazon recommendations came up with interesting suggestion in a form of One Day as a Tiger: Alex Macintyre and the Birth of Light and Fast Alpinism.Porter, JohnVertebrate Publishing2014'The wall was the ambition, the style became the obsession.' In the autumn of 1982, a single stone fell from high on the south face of Annapurna and struck Alex MacIntyre on the head, killing him instantly and robbing the climbing world of one of its greatest talents. Although only 28 years old, Alex was already one of the leading figures in British mountaineering's most successful era. His ascents included hard new routes on Himalayan giants like Dhaulagiri and Changabang and a glittering record of firsts in the Alps and Andes. Yet how Alex climbed was as important as what he climbed. He was a mountaineering prophet, sharing with a handful of contemporaries - including his climbing partner Wojciech Kurtyka - the vision of a purer form of alpinism on the world's highest peaks. One Day As A Tiger, John Porter's revelatory and poignant memoir of his friend Alex MacIntyre, shows mountaineering at its extraordinary best and tragic worst - and draws an unforgettable picture of a dazzling, argumentative and exuberant legend.97819102400839781910240083One Day as a TigerNon-fictionen. The book is a biography of Alex McIntyre, a name that may not be household name like Reinhold Messner, but arguably just about as influential for the development of modern alpinism.

After ticking some of the hardest alpine routes of the era, he steered to Himalaya for bigger objectives. With partners like Wojciech Kurtyka he was a strong advocate of pushing pure alpine style to the biggest routes on the highest peak at the time when massive expeditions and siege tactics were very much the norm. Granted, there had been alpine style attempts and even successful ascents before, such as the first ascent of West SpurBroad Peak8047mWest sideAD; 60°Normally three high camps. by Fritz Wintersteller, Marcus Schmuck, Kurt Diemberger and Hermann Buhl, even purer in style climbs on East sideSkilbrum7410mEast side53h and Chogolisa by the same climbers during the same expedition and even far earlier attempts by Albert F. Mummery on Nanga Parbat8126m to name a few examples.

McIntyre arguably pushed the style further than any of his predecessors laying the groundwork for a style that much later became to be known as fast 'n light style. McIntyre sadly died at the age of 28 when climbing on Annapurna I8091m. Before his untimely death he put up extremely impressive palmares including:

The author John Porter was not familiar to me. However, having participated in many of McIntyres's biggest climbs he clearly was at the forefront of the sport during the late 70's/early 80's. However, his contribution to climbing world does not stop at selection of landmark ascents as he is one of the founder's of Kendall Mountain Festival as well as co-founder of SteepEdge.

Everest 2015

Source: . Credit: http://www.impawards.com/ .
Source: IMP Awards. Credit: http://www.impawards.com/ .

I have been wondering whatever happened to Stephen Daldry 's film project about 1996 Everest disaster. It was widely reported in media some years ago but then seemed to drop from the face of the earth, until at some point there were rumours about David Fincher directing it. Then about nothing, so at least I thought that it had become abandonware.

Not so, as apparently the film Everest will infact see the light of the day, albeit not with either Daldry or Fincher helming it. The director Baltasar Kormákur may not be that well known, but the cast consists of the A-listers Keira Knightley and Jake Gyllenhaal so the producing studio Working Title seems to be serious with this one (Budget is reported to be $65 million). Which is not something you could say about much earlier tv film about the same event based on Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Everest Disaster.Krakauer, JonImport1997Into Thin Air is a riveting first-hand account of a catastrophic expedition up Mount Everest. In March 1996, Outside magazine sent veteran journalist and seasoned climber Jon Krakauer on an expedition led by celebrated Everest guide Rob Hall. Despite the expertise of Hall and the other leaders, by the end of summit day eight people were dead. Krakauer's book is at once the story of the ill-fated adventure and an analysis of the factors leading up to its tragic end. Written within months of the events it chronicles, Into Thin Air clearly evokes the majestic Everest landscape. As the journey up the mountain progresses, Krakauer puts it in context by recalling the triumphs and perils of other Everest trips throughout history. The author's own anguish over what happened on the mountain is palpable as he leads readers to ponder timeless questions.03854920810385492081Into Thin AirNon-fictionen. Working Title is best known for romantic comedies like Notting Hill so it's definitely interesting to see what they can make with the subject matter worlds apart.

As the movie is said to be based on Into Thin Air: A Personal Account of the Everest Disaster.Krakauer, JonImport1997Into Thin Air is a riveting first-hand account of a catastrophic expedition up Mount Everest. In March 1996, Outside magazine sent veteran journalist and seasoned climber Jon Krakauer on an expedition led by celebrated Everest guide Rob Hall. Despite the expertise of Hall and the other leaders, by the end of summit day eight people were dead. Krakauer's book is at once the story of the ill-fated adventure and an analysis of the factors leading up to its tragic end. Written within months of the events it chronicles, Into Thin Air clearly evokes the majestic Everest landscape. As the journey up the mountain progresses, Krakauer puts it in context by recalling the triumphs and perils of other Everest trips throughout history. The author's own anguish over what happened on the mountain is palpable as he leads readers to ponder timeless questions.03854920810385492081Into Thin AirNon-fictionen it will be interesting to see what they make out of the debacle that followed the tragic incident. Namely Jon Krakauer questioned a lot of actions of Anatoli Boukreev, who was the head climbing guide of Scott Fischer 's team. Accusing him of recklessness and abandoning his clients, even being the cause of some of the deaths. Later some of the 'facts' presented by Krakauer have revealed to have been liberal with the truth. Boukreev's point is backed of by the fact that a grand total of none of his clients lost their life. Krakauer's view is strongly opposed by many climbers, such as Galen Roswell, Simone Moro and Lene Gammelgård (the latter was part of the climb) as well as American Alpine Club. The latter honored Anatoli Boukreev with its highest award. The very prestigious David A. Sawles award, conferred only nine times in the previous 16 years, is given only to climbers who have "distinguished themselves, with unselfish devotion at personal risk or at sacrifice of a major objective, in going to the assistance of fellow climbers." If the movie's position is anything like to Into Thin Air's, I highly recommend reading also The Climb: Tragic Ambitions on Everest.Boukreev, Anatoli & Dewalt, G.WestonPan Books2002The Climb is Russian mountaineer Anatoli Boukreev's account of the harrowing May 1996 Mount Everest attempt, a tragedy that resulted in the deaths of eight people. The book is also Boukreev's rebuttal to accusations from fellow climber and author Jon Krakauer, who, in his bestselling memoir, Into Thin Air, suggests that Boukreev forfeited the safety of his clients to achieve his own climbing goals. Investigative writer and Climb coauthor G. Weston DeWalt uses taped statements from the surviving climbers and translated interviews from Boukreev to piece together the events and prove to the reader that Boukreev's role was heroic, not opportunistic. Boukreev refers to the actions of expedition leader Scott Fischer throughout the ascent, implying that factors other than the fierce snowstorm may have caused this disaster. This new account sparks debate among both mountaineers and those who have followed the story through the media and Krakauer's book. Readers can decide for themselves whether Boukreev presents a laudable defense or merely assuages his own bruised ego.03004889610300488961The ClimbNon-fictionen.

The Roskelley Collection

In 2014 spring John Roskelley was awarded Career Piolet d'Or, a trophy formerly awarded to Walter Bonatti, Reinhold Messner, Doug Scott, Robert Paragot and Kurt Diemberger, all mountaineering legends.

Roskelley was not too familiar to me although I had bumped into his name here and there. As Amazon 's recommendations email featured his book The Roskelley Collection.Roskelley, JohnMountaineers Books2012Three extraordinary stories of mountaineering literature, now combined in one volume* Includes 30 color and 75 black-and-white photographs* Part of The Mountaineers Books "Legends and Lore" series for climbers, armchair mountaineers, and readers of classic adventure literature The Roskelley Collection includes legendary climber John Roskelley's three acclaimed books, together for the first time in one volume and all written with opinion, self-reflective humor, and spellbinding adventure. Also included are two new essays about Roskelley's more recent climbs with his son: an ice climb (Slipstream) in Colorado and a summit climb of Everest.Stories off the Wall is Roskelleys autobiography, told in a series of essays that includes accounts of attempts and ascents on the North Face of the Eiger, in the Russian Pamirs, in Yosemite, and in the Himalaya. Nanda Devi: The Tragic Expedition, a compelling and emotionally raw page-turner, chronicles the 1976 expedition, co-led by Ad Carter and Willi Unsoeld, on which Unsoeld's daughter, Nanda Devi Unsoeld, died on her eponymous mountain. Last Days recounts two legendary climbs in the Himalaya: one a successful first ascent of Tawoche in Nepal with Jeff Lowe, the other an attempt on Menlungste with Jim Wickwire, Greg Child, and Jeff Duenwald.97815948566489781594856648The Roskelley CollectionNon-fictionen, I decided it was time to change that and wen on to do some research. Mr. Roskelley has several groundbreaking ascents (like NE ridgeK28611mEast faceV, 50-70°, Direct east faceUli Biaho Tower6109mEast facenccs VII 5.11d,A434 pitches, American routeGreat Trango TowerMain summit, West side5.9,aid and West faceGauri Sankar7145mShankar, West faceA32800m, 66 pitches, many of which still unrepeated and marking milestones in technical climbing in Greater ranges) to his name.

The book consists of books: Stories Off the Wall, Reprint edition.Roskelley, JohnMountaineers Books1998He has lost toes to frostbite, suffered pulmonary edema, survived avalanches and icy bivouacs. Roskelley, one of America's premier mountaineers, recounts his experiences on the high peaks and his transition from teenage exploits to middle-age prudence. He offers stirring tales of adventure: a dramatic rescue on Denali (Mt. McKinley), an impulse climb on the North Face of the Eiger, tackling a frozen waterfall in Canada's Banff National park. Roskelley claims three 8000-meter peaks; he was the first American to reach the summit of 27,000-foot Mahalu in Nepal. He attended the ill-fated 1974 International Climbers Camp in the Russian Pamirs, an expedition beset by an earthquake and avalanches, during which one of his companions and nine women climbers died. To select a climbing partner, Roskelley uses the "shoelace test"--if the person's shoelaces don't stay tied, he won't tie onto a rope with him or her. His adventures provide peak reading.97808988660949780898866094Stories off the WallNon-fictionen, Nanda Devi: The Tragic Expedition.Roskelley, JohnMountaineers Books2000In 1976, John Roskelley joined an expedition to climb Nanda Devi, the third highest mountain in the Indian Himalayas. This is the story of that ascent, led by top mountaineer Willi Unsoeld, whose young, inexperienced daughter, named for the peak, perished there. It is the story also of Ad Carter, part of the team that first summited Nanda Devi forty years earlier; and of Lou Reichert and Jim States, two of the three members to actually reach the summit. But mostly this book is about Roskelley himself, who led the summit party of three and who outspokenly criticized an expedition that allowed unqualified climbers to participate in the technically difficult ascent. Originally published in 1987, Nanda Devi: The Tragic Expedition established Roskelley's reputation for being not only a forthright and uncompromising climbing critic, but also a wise and authoritative mountaineer dedicated to grueling preparedness.97808988673989780898867398Nanda Devi: The Tragic ExpeditionNon-fictionen and Last Days, 1st edition.Roskelley, JohnStackpole Books1991Roskelley, one of mountain climbing's more prominent figures, describes two of his Himalayan climbs: Tawoche's East Face in Nepal (summited 1984) and Menlungste's Southeast Ridge in Tibet (attempted 1990). In addition to detailing the climbs, Roskelley offers his climbing ethics: a quick alpine-style climb is preferable to porter-supported battering of the route by teams of climbers; depend on skill and experience; opt out when luck is given too big a part in the climb. His point of view is that of a family man approaching middle age, yet his language is that of latter-day climbers. Recommended where there is a climbing clientele.- Paula M. Strain, MLS, Rockville, Md.97808117088909780811708890Last DaysNon-fictionen and seemed to be highly recommended. Besides, such many-in-single-covers books (Kurt Diemberger Omnibus: Summits & Secrets, the Endless Knot, Spirits of the Air.Diemberger, KurtMountaineers Books1999Kurt Diemberger is a the only person alive to have made first ascents on two 8,000-metre peaks – Dhaulagiri and Broad Peak – and he is recognised as one of the finest chroniclers of his contemporary mountaineering scene. His books have popular around the world and his writing is guaranteed to enlighten, move and entertain.As a fantastic mountaineer and career expeditioner, and a skilled filmmaker and writer he has been a witness to 50 years of eventful Alpinism and Himalayan climbing. He gives us a link to the golden age when the 8000-metre peaks were first climbed – in the 1950s and early 60s.The Kurt Diemberger Omnibus brings together three fine books, one of which, The Endless Knot, is perhaps the most gripping and tragic mountaineering saga ever written. It describes the ill-starred K2 attempts of 1986 during which thirteen climbers died in a variety of incidents. At the end of the season seven climbers made one last bid to gain the summit, five succeeded but, overtaken by a storm during the descent, only two of the seven climbers survived. One of them was Diemberger, who describes events with harrowing candour.Summits and Secrets deals with Diemberger’s early climbs in the Alps, the Hindu Kush and the Himalaya. It describes the epoch-making first ascent of Broad Peak in 1957 and the equally significant first ascent of Dhaulagiri in 1960, where he reached the summit with a Swiss team. The final book is the more relaxed Spirits of the Air, where Diemberger reflects on his varying – and often hilarious adventures – and on the contrasts between his life in Italy, Austria and the always-beckoning Himalaya.97808988660639780898866063Non-fictionen and The Boardman Tasker Omnibus: Savage Arena, the Shining Mountain, Sacred Summits, Everest the Cruel Way.Tasker, Joe; Boardman, Peter & Bonington, ChrisMountaineers Books1995Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker each two accomplished books which, deservedly, soon acquired classic status and became required reading for all those venturing to high altitude. It is fitting that the memorial to these two exceptional climbers and writers should take the form of the annual Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature. As for their own four books, these are now reprinted for the first time in one volume. 97808988643669780898864366Non-fictionen) are great for longer trips.

Crack School

Wild Country Crack School Masterclass - with Pete Whittaker and Tom Randall.

British gear manufacturer Wild Country sponsors Tom Randall and Pete Whittaker, known as Wide Boys. The lads are no slouches when it comes to crack climbing whether it being full body combat of off-withing or the other end of the width spectrum.

Hot Aches has filmed their exploits on Century Crack (wide boyz ) and Cobra Crack (wide boyz ii – slender gentlemen ). The manufacturer has also produced Crack School Videos a series of videos where the guys reveal tricks of the trade.

Wide Boyz II – slender gentlemen

Slender Gentlemen. Source: . Credit: Hot Aches .
Slender Gentlemen. Source: Hot Aches. Credit: Hot Aches .

features some cutting edge climbing both in alpine terrain (Shark's FinMeru Central6310mNorth East Pillar6a,A4, WI5,M61400m) as well as high-end rock climbing. I would imagine most of us having seen the film remember section titled "Wide Boys", as it is driven, gripping and funny all at the same time.

I wasn't too sure about whether I should buy the full-length version of Wide Boyz as I already owned the Reel Rock. Boy am I glad I did, as it is not merely a extended cut of the same film, rather than completely different movie. Having really enjoyed the film, when I read that there's a sequel in the making, a decision to buy it was a no-brainer.

The sequel Wide Boyz II – Slender Gentlemen sees the lads change their focus from wide to thin. Having tamed the most difficult offwidth, Pete and Tom set their sight to Cobra Crack, a legendary finger crack located in Squamish, Canada. The coveted first ascent of Cobra Crack fell to Sonnie Trotter in 2006. At the time it was considered one of the hardest traditional crack routes in the world, and still is. The grade was never set in stone and has wavered somewhere in the low to mid 5.14 range. Some seriously interesting additional info can be dug out from the web regarding the preparation for the climb, the climb itself as well as behind the scenes action.

Crampon tuning

Petzl Dart. In many ways a polar opposite of Grivel Rambo 4. Very light and reportedly highly sensitive due to horizontal and minimal frame. Configuration of secondary points seems very good, although it has no smaller additional point between frontpoint and outside secondary point. Furthermore, secondary points could benefir from being a tad longer and facing outwards. Also, points facing backwards woulkd work better for hooking if they were polaced further to the back (or maybe those backmost orange points could have similar shape than the back part of secondary point). Credit: Petzl promo photo.
Petzl Dart. In many ways a polar opposite of Grivel Rambo 4. Very light and reportedly highly sensitive due to horizontal and minimal frame. Configuration of secondary points seems very good, although it has no smaller additional point between frontpoint and outside secondary point. Furthermore, secondary points could benefir from being a tad longer and facing outwards. Also, points facing backwards woulkd work better for hooking if they were polaced further to the back (or maybe those backmost orange points could have similar shape than the back part of secondary point). Credit: Petzl promo photo.

I was planning on replacing the heel lever of my Darts and Lynxes with Grivel one, as it has the attachment strap in the top whereas Petzl level has it at the bottom. Grivel placement has two advantages: it is more secure and the lever is easier to open.

As for the security, the lever cannot open when the strap is closer, as its position makes it physically impossible for the lever to open. This is not a biggie in my book, as the lever of Petzl crampons has never opened accidentally on me; neither have I ever seen it open for anyone else. I have however read of that happening. As for the opening part, Grivel lever is dead simple to open by simply pulling on the straps, while Petzl one needs to be pressed open. Like mentioned before, neither one of those are big issues, but as the function can be made better with no penalty, there's no reason to do so.

Unfortunately the switch doesn't really work as the bail of the lever is longer in Petzl design. Effectively this means that you would have to make the crampon too long in order for the Grivel lever to work. Additionally, Grivel bail is somewhat thicker, which causes it not to work too well with Petzl crampon. So basically you would have to switch the whole back part. Unfortunaly I don't have Grivel back parts lying around anymore. You can't replace just the lever either, as Grivel design is such, that the bail doesn't easily come apart. BD levers would also have strap at the top, but I don't have any of their crampons, so can't comment whether that would work on Petzl crampons. I've read that they can be fitted, but then again I also read the same regarding the Grivel lever.

While I was trying the mod, I also compared the crampons. One thing I like about the Petzl DartPetzlDarthttp://www.petzl.com/files/imagecache/product_outdoor_slideshow_image/node_media/dart_2.jpgThe DART is the crampon for extreme mixed and ice climbing. The mono-point is designed to displace less ice and make for precise placements on micro-edges. The third row of points is angled towards the rear for hooking in steep terrain or around ice columns. Ultra-lightweight. is that their secondary points are placed more forward than those of Grivel Rambo 4GrivelRambo 4http://www.grivel.com/upload/products/crampons/15/binding_0/15_l.jpgOur range’s most technical crampon is now at its fourth evolution, integrating Grivel’s active anti-balling plate and simplifying all adjustments: just one screw to adjust the length, just one screw to substitute a point, just one screw to position the spur. Rigid crampon with anatomic curve. Asymmetrical forged mono-point, extremely easy to substitute with just one screw, integrated with a half point external lateral support point: a new solution for external support. Structure in rigid plastic acts as a spacer for the screws and as support for the supple rubber anti-balling device. Accordeon in supple rubber holds together the front and rear parts of the anti balling system. Four retention points for descent. Moveable spur. Completely patented. 's. Even if I have replaced the front bail with the one taken from old Rambo 2. It is somewhat longer than the bail of Rambo IV, therefore I placed it furthest to the back, whereas I used the original bail in the middle hole. I believe this evens out the lack of additional tertiary point in Petzl design.

On another note, Dart feel stickier and more secure than Petzl LynxPetzlLynxhttp://www.petzl.com/files/imagecache/product_outdoor_slideshow_image/node_media/lynx_1.jpgFrom snow couloirs to dry tooling, the LYNX is a versatile crampon. Modular front points allow for many options: dual or mono-point, long or short, and/or asymmetrical. They come with two types of interchangeable front bindings to adapt to boots with or without toe welts.. Apparent reason is not obvious, as the location of the secondary points appears to be damn near identical. Possibly this could at least partially be due to failed front point system of the Lynx as the front point wiggles around unless the screw is very tight. Which it won't stay for very long, as it tends to loosen eagerly. The issue is made worse by back retention mechanism of Lynx front points, which allows the point to wiggle sideways.

I've seen a pair of Lynxes modded with additional small point to offer more stability. This is done to mimick the additional point of Grivel Rambo IV. It was done simply by adding another front point, which was modded heavily to be half as long as the original. Reportedly it adds stability and works well, despite it being a bit too close to the front point.

The reasoning behind this is to mimick the stability gains of conventional twin front points without the down sides. All things being equal, twin front points are more stable on pure ice, no questions about that. However, it is not the whole story, as monopoint penetrates the ice better, which makes it easier to plant it deeper, particularly in pick holes. Monos have other advantages as well. On pure ice, the second front point has a tendency to lever the crampon out of ice, when you twist your foot sideways. Which is unfortunately pretty much unavoidable when topping on bulges. On mixed ground, monos are generally far better as they go readily in cracks on rock almost like pitons. Therefore you can often get a very good foothold where you would have basically nothing with twin points.

In order for such tertiary points to fulfill their purpose, they need to be placed far enough from the front point. Too close, and they hinder the penetration in ice. This not ideal in the modded Lynx, as it ends ups a bit too close. It also needs to be long enough to have any noticeable effect. Black Diamond StingerBlack DiamondStingerhttp://demandware.edgesuite.net/sits_pod21/dw/image/v2/AAKN_PRD/on/demandware.static/Sites-BlackDiamond-Site/Sites-bdel/default/v1374905101088/products/ice_alpine/400029_stinger_web.jpg?sw=472Designed to tackle serious ice and mixed lines on winter crags and alpine faces the world over, the Black Diamond Stinger is our lightweight stainless steel crampon with a replaceable monopoint. An asymmetrical design fits the contours of modern mountain boots, and thin, low-profile heel and toe wires offer a precise fit for less weight. and Grivel G14GrivelG14An evolution of the species. Our G14 crampons combine the technical performance of forged, vertical frontpoints with the low profile, collapsible frame of the G-12 to make an altogether fresh, modular, and customizable crampon suited to many climbing disciplines. Our success and experience with the Rambo crampons reinforces the efficiency of forged points: they penetrate hard ice better, with less vibration, and offer the opportunity to combine vertical and horizontal axis. Front points are simple to configure on the G14, allowing the user to build mono or dual point crampons and replace worn points easily. The low profile of the crampon frame places the climber´s foot closer to rock or ice, and is less prone to balling up. At last, alpine climbing crampons with the technical performance of their ice and modern mixed counterparts. The G14 crampon is delivered with the Antibott included. have too short points imo, so they barely make contact to ice. Best designs in this respect are the aforementioned Grivel Rambo IV and possibly Simond MonocerosSimondMonoceroshttp://www.simond.com/media/min/Monoceros_3253_662x496_img_ori.jpgUltra-lightweight mono-point crampon designed for ice climbing and dry tooling. Asymetric, semi-rigid structure that perfectly matches the curve and shape of your boot, for a more precise bite. Improved rigidity between crampon and boot. 15 points: 11 at the front, 4 under heel. Speed bindings for use on boots with toe and heel welts. Comes with crampon bag and tool. Weight includes anti-balling plates., the latter of which I have never seen in real life.

While talking about the crampons, not much has changed during the recent years, despite all of the best design having some room for improvement. I've not seen Simond Monoceros or heard anything about their performance, so can't really comment on them. Designwise it looks promising though.

  • Grivel Rambo 4GrivelRambo 4http://www.grivel.com/upload/products/crampons/15/binding_0/15_l.jpgOur range’s most technical crampon is now at its fourth evolution, integrating Grivel’s active anti-balling plate and simplifying all adjustments: just one screw to adjust the length, just one screw to substitute a point, just one screw to position the spur. Rigid crampon with anatomic curve. Asymmetrical forged mono-point, extremely easy to substitute with just one screw, integrated with a half point external lateral support point: a new solution for external support. Structure in rigid plastic acts as a spacer for the screws and as support for the supple rubber anti-balling device. Accordeon in supple rubber holds together the front and rear parts of the anti balling system. Four retention points for descent. Moveable spur. Completely patented. is heavy and bulky. Aside of that it would benefit from secondary points placed further forward. It is also absolutely the worst crampon to walk in, due to their height caused by vertical frame and lack of bite underfoot when walking (point facing forward and back rather than straight down).
  • Obvious down side of Petzl DartPetzlDarthttp://www.petzl.com/files/imagecache/product_outdoor_slideshow_image/node_media/dart_2.jpgThe DART is the crampon for extreme mixed and ice climbing. The mono-point is designed to displace less ice and make for precise placements on micro-edges. The third row of points is angled towards the rear for hooking in steep terrain or around ice columns. Ultra-lightweight. is their lack of changeable front point. Granted the whole front section can be replaced, however their availability is rather limited and they cost a lot more than front points. This is not as big of a deal as one might think though, as secondary points wear as well which affects the crampons bite. Also, the front point is fairly long to start with, so it can be filed a good bit before it gets too short. They also lack antibot and the point underfoot are fairly scarce, so they are not ideal alpine crampons. Lack of antibot is not as bad with many other crampons though due to minimal area.
  • Petzl LynxPetzlLynxhttp://www.petzl.com/files/imagecache/product_outdoor_slideshow_image/node_media/lynx_1.jpgFrom snow couloirs to dry tooling, the LYNX is a versatile crampon. Modular front points allow for many options: dual or mono-point, long or short, and/or asymmetrical. They come with two types of interchangeable front bindings to adapt to boots with or without toe welts. is very good crampon for overall use, however they don't feel as good to climb in as Darts. Also the front point attachment system is far from ideal. I also know of several snapped front bails. Interestingly, I have not heard of that happening with Darts, albeit the front bail looks identical. Perhaps Petzl has been getting bad batch of steel from their supplier.
  • Black Diamond StingerBlack DiamondStingerhttp://demandware.edgesuite.net/sits_pod21/dw/image/v2/AAKN_PRD/on/demandware.static/Sites-BlackDiamond-Site/Sites-bdel/default/v1374905101088/products/ice_alpine/400029_stinger_web.jpg?sw=472Designed to tackle serious ice and mixed lines on winter crags and alpine faces the world over, the Black Diamond Stinger is our lightweight stainless steel crampon with a replaceable monopoint. An asymmetrical design fits the contours of modern mountain boots, and thin, low-profile heel and toe wires offer a precise fit for less weight. is in many ways similar to Dart but with replaceable front point. Which also makes them heavier. They also wear pretty fast.
  • Never tried the Grivel G20GrivelG20http://www.grivel.com/upload/products/crampons/23/binding_0/23_l.jpgThe evolution of the modern technique of climbing ice push towards a more fluid motion, more elegant and faster, therefore it demands a crampon that makes it possible: a technical crampon, and a super-light one. G20 is a crampon 100% technical, reliable, efficient and the LIGHTEST IN THE WORLD: less than 800 grams per pair! The new MONO-RAIL technology (patented) distributes the 12 points in an intelligent and original way. but a mate had them (1st gen). At least that one had the front point in stupid angle (facing out) making them awkward to kick. The design has changed since then though, not sure whether the front point is now in better angle. Furthermore, the mono rail system makes them higher when walking, which in all likelihood will have similar stability issues than the Rambo when walking in rocky terrain but to lesser extent. However, they have few point underwood, which can't be a good thing when walking. I also know of at least pair which had the mono rail snap off.

Skinny single Ropes

Mammut Serenity. Marketed as currently the thinnest single rope (actually it isn't; Edelrid Corbie is 8.6mm and weights exactly the same). Source: . Credit: Mammut .
Mammut Serenity. Marketed as currently the thinnest single rope (actually it isn't; Edelrid Corbie is 8.6mm and weights exactly the same). Source: Mammut. Credit: Mammut .

Modern single ropes are getting thinner and thinner. The thinnest single ropes at the market are under 9mm thin, with Mammut SerenityMammutSerenityhttp://static2.mammut.ch/medias/sys_master/8815865757726/8.7_Serenity_lime_green_bild2.eps_Zoom2.jpgOur thinnest and lightest single rope - with the 8.7 Serenity, Mammut is once again proving exactly what is possible in the area of high-end ropes. The 8.7 Serenity is the first choice for ambitious sports climbers when tackling the most difficult climbing routes at the absolute limit. With a high sheath proportion for such a thin rope, the 8.7 Serenity is the longest-lasting rope in its class. As well as meeting the standard for single ropes, the 8.7 Serenity also meets requirements for half and twin ropes, and is therefore suitable for mountaineers looking for a versatile and light rope. Thanks to the COATINGfinish™ treatment, the 8.7 Serenity of course guarantees top performance and outstanding, flexible handling. (8.7mm, 51g/m) being the thinnest as far as I know. These are without the doubt the ones to consider if you prefer to climb alpine or ice with single rope coupled with a separate tag line.

Mammut Serenity, as well as the thinnest singles from Edelrid (Edelrid SwiftEdelridSwifthttp://www.vaude.com/out/pictures/generated/product/1/1024_1319_75/71037_138.jpgOne rope – three certifications. With its 8.9 mm diameter, the Swift is one of the skinniest single ropes on the market. It is a single rope, double rope and twin rope all in one. 8.9mm, 52g/m), Tendon (Tendon Master 8.9TendonMaster 8.9http://cdn1.bigcommerce.com/server800/d4ec7/products/1314/images/3357/527_1__45819.1330746882.1280.1280.jpgAn exceptional rope with a diameter of 8.9 mm, a single, half and twin rope in one. With a low weight, 52 g/m and the Complete Shield finish this is a rope to allow you to push your climbing even further. The double impregnation increases life span and its resistance to moisture, abrasion and penetration of impurities into the rope. The fantastic handling properties of the rope and the minimum friction through running belays make this rope your ally on long sport routes and technical mountain terrain. 8.9mm, 52g/m), Petzl (Petzl VoltaPetzlVoltahttp://www.petzl.com/files/imagecache/product_outdoor_slideshow_zoom/node_media/volta-0_0.jpgMulti-standard, ultra-light 9.2 mm diameter rope for classic mountaineering and elite climbing performance. The VOLTA 9.2 single rope has the light weight necessary for elite users, offering maximum longevity and performance in any conditions, thanks to its Duratec Dry treatment. Certified for all uses: single, half and twin, for multiple uses and maximum versatility according to the terrain. 9.2mm, 55g/m) and Beal (Beal Joker UnicoreBealJoker Unicorehttp://www.bananafingers.co.uk/images/beal_joker.jpgAfter having been the first thin rope on the market to meet the requirements for all three standards for dynamic ropes, JOKER will from now on benefit from the latest UNICORE technology. The JOKER, at one and the same time a single, double, and twin rope, is now UNICORE and will delight the most experienced climbers and alpinists seeking lightness, easy running and security, and at the same time the traditionalistslooking for a multi-purpose rope for ridge climbs, or other classic, mixed or snow routes. 9.1mm, 52g/m) are also rated as half and twin ropes. These are without the doubt the ones to consider if you prefer to climb alpine or ice with single rope coupled with a separate tag line.

That being said I don't really see much value in triple rating, as such ropes are far too heavy for regular use as half ropes. Maybe occasionally for rock routes, if otherwise drag would be a problem. Using such a rope as twin a stupid idea. Light weight is really the only reason to use twins in the first place. Using such a thick ropes as twins would bring no benefit compared to use as single and would make the impact force far higher. Only scenario where such use of such rope system would make any sort on sense to me is if gear is bomb proof and risk of rope cut is very high.

Such skinny ropes obviously hold fewer falls than their beefier sister models. However that is not too important; if taking factor two falls is a routine to you I warmly recommend other activities as safer option. Which pretty much covers any other activity. More importantly, they are also not as durable against wear and tear. Depending on your belay device, it may be more difficult to hold a hard fall.

Slightly thicker breed of ropes between 9.2-9.5mm are somewhat heavier (generally around 53-58g/m) and promise to offer a bit more durability. Such ropes include the likes of Sterling Rope Fusion NanoSterling RopeFusion Nanohttp://www.sterlingrope.com/aimg/x3_d86691c20389d607db4903c030864afa.jpgThe Nano may be the most versatile rope in Sterling's line up. It's both the largest diameter half and skinniest single rope that we offer. Duel certified, the Nano is the top choice rope of many of our athletes for alpine climbs, extended expeditions and long routes where rope drag would be an issue. (9.2mm, 53g/m), Tendon Master 9.1TendonMaster 9.1http://www.bananafingers.co.uk/images/Tendon_Master_92.jpgThe Tendon Master range is top-dog in the Tendon collection. These extremely light ropes, which have a small diameter and low weight are intended for daily use on artificial climbing walls, for the toughest sports climbing and for extreme ascents in the mountains. (9.1mm, 56g/m) and Tendon Master 9.4TendonMaster 9.4http://www.klettern.de/sixcms/media.php/6/KL_Seil-Test_09-10_Tendon.jpgAn excellent single rope with low weight, great technical parameters and SBS construction of the sheat, which makes the rope not only more resistant to abrasion, but also soft and easy to manipulate. The best choice for both hard and sport climbing. (9.4mm, 58g/m).

Comparison of the numbers of the different diameter ropes in the same product family reveals some interesting points

  • Tendon Master 8.9TendonMaster 8.9http://cdn1.bigcommerce.com/server800/d4ec7/products/1314/images/3357/527_1__45819.1330746882.1280.1280.jpgAn exceptional rope with a diameter of 8.9 mm, a single, half and twin rope in one. With a low weight, 52 g/m and the Complete Shield finish this is a rope to allow you to push your climbing even further. The double impregnation increases life span and its resistance to moisture, abrasion and penetration of impurities into the rope. The fantastic handling properties of the rope and the minimum friction through running belays make this rope your ally on long sport routes and technical mountain terrain. 8.9mm, 52g/m, uiaa falls 5, 8.7kN, Static elongation (%) 6.9, Dynamic elongation (%) 33, Knotability 0.8)
  • Tendon Master 9.1TendonMaster 9.1http://www.bananafingers.co.uk/images/Tendon_Master_92.jpgThe Tendon Master range is top-dog in the Tendon collection. These extremely light ropes, which have a small diameter and low weight are intended for daily use on artificial climbing walls, for the toughest sports climbing and for extreme ascents in the mountains. (9.1mm, 56g/m, uiaa falls 5, 9kN, Static elongation (%) 6.4, Dynamic elongation (%) 29, Knotability 0.8)
  • Tendon Master 9.4TendonMaster 9.4http://www.klettern.de/sixcms/media.php/6/KL_Seil-Test_09-10_Tendon.jpgAn excellent single rope with low weight, great technical parameters and SBS construction of the sheat, which makes the rope not only more resistant to abrasion, but also soft and easy to manipulate. The best choice for both hard and sport climbing. (9.4mm, 58g/m, uiaa falls 7, 7kN, Static elongation (%) 6.2, Dynamic elongation (%) 37, Knotability 0.9)
  • Tendon Master 9.7TendonMaster 9.7http://www.bananafingers.co.uk/images/tendon_master.jpgA top-class single rope with low weight and our SBS sheath construction that combines both increased resistance to abrasion, and great handling qualities. If you care about maximum performance, you have just found the right rope. (9.7mm, 61g/m, uiaa falls 9, 7kN, Static elongation (%) 6.3, Dynamic elongation (%) 36, Knotability 0.9)

First off, 9.1mm version is obviously heavier than 8.9mm version. And by a greater margin than could be expected from the diameter difference. It also has higher impact force, no doubt due to lower elongation numbers. Both are rated to same number of falls. Based on numbers alone, I see no reason why anyone would go with 9.1mm version. 9.4mm and 9.7mm versions in turn are of course heavier, but perhaps not by as large a margin as I would imagine. Both of them have lower static elongation (which is to expected) but higher dynamic elongation resulting in significantly lower impact forces than their 8.9mm sibling. However, there's no difference between 9.4mm and 9.7mm versions. Therefore, numbers would suggest that between Tendon models, my choice would fall between 8.9 and 9.4 versions. Obviously numbers don't tell anything about how durable the ropes are or how comfortable they are to handle. BTW, Tendon Master 9.1mm and now discontinued 9.2mm (might still be available) are entirely different ropes, as the latter had very low impact force (6,8kN) and was not rated according to all three standards.

Next, comparing 8.9mm version to competing models reveals that Edelrid Swift has virtually the same impact force than Master 8.9mm while Beal Joker has significantly lower (7.9-8.2kN) while Petzl and Mammut fall in between. Basically my takeaway from this little number excercise is that in order to pass the tests, real skinny single ropes need to be made harder than their beefier siblings. Skinny versions are marketed primarily for sport climbing and based on the impact force, there appears to be a solid reason for that. Due to their higher impact forces they may not be the best options for trad climbing far above sketchy (read: hilariously shitty) gear.

Too bad that the brands using changing pattern in mid-rope (at least Mammut for ages and more recently Edelrid) don't seem to do so in their thinnest singles. Mammut RevelationMammutRevelationhttp://static2.mammut.ch/medias/sys_master/8815866675230/9.2_Revelation_Duodess_lemon_bild2.eps_Zoom2.jpgExtremely light, top class single rope for sport climbers in extremely tough situations. Thanks to its small diameter, and therefore low weight, the 9.2 Revelation offers outstanding handling for climbing and belaying. Thanks to the superDRY™ treatment, the 9.2 Revelation is resistant to dirt and water. This top level rope also meets the standards for single, half and twin ropes, making the 9.2 Revelation an all-round rope for alpine activities on rock, ice and snow. (9.2mm, 57g/m, 8.7kN) and Sterling Rope Fusion Ion2Sterling RopeFusion Ion2http://www.sterlingrope.com/dimg/dddc72ca6bdb8a9a22631fe40b2c81c5.jpgThe Ion2 is the largest diameter rope in the fusion range. It's unique design is manufactured by first twisting multiple colored fibers into a single sheath-strand and then braiding the sheath to create the speckled pattern. It's diameter is a great size for intermediate climbers looking to match a lightweight rope with performance while knowing that the diameter isn't TOO thin for a beginner belayer. (9.4mm, 57g/m, 8.1kN) are the only thin(nish) ropes available as such a version that I have come across to. Come to think of it, I would love for such versions of half ropes to be available. I often use just a single half rope in my home crag (tied to both ends of course) to avoid carrying two ropes as single 60m rope halved in this way is still plenty long. It would also make evaluating the amount of rope left much easier, which is a great help when climbing full pitches. To take it a bit further, my ideal rope would have changing pattern in mid-length and 10m before both ends. Obviously, no such ropes exist. Some have a black marker in mid-length, but it is nowhere near as good a solution as changing pattern, as they are not as easy to notice, particularly when the rope is well worn.

Klettern 4/2014 has tested skinny singles that are new or revamped for 2014. Edelrid Eagle LightEdelridEagle Lighthttp://www.vaude.com/out/pictures/generated/product/1/1024_1319_75/71213_053.jpgThe next generation of Edelrid's Eagle single rope. Its thinner diameter means that it's lighter, more compact and provides better handling. By using state-of-the-art yarns, Edelrid can reduce the diameter without compromising the technical standards., Mammut FinesseMammutFinessehttp://static2.mammut.ch/medias/sys_master/8815868772382.image/9.3_Finesse_blau_neongreen_bild2.eps_Zoom2.image.jpgThe 9.3 Finesse is an absolute high-end rope featuring the innovative Double Twist technology. An innovative and unique braiding process allows four parallel threads instead of the usual two to be used in the sheath construction. The result is an extremely fine rope surface and unparalleled flexibility in handling. The Double Twist technology also creates unique and striking rope designs. Of course a rope of this caliber is also equipped with the high-quality COATINGfinish™ treatment, to ensure lasting protection from dirt and water. Meets the standards of single, half and twin ropes., Cousin-Trestec Tepee III and Petzl ArialPetzlArialhttp://www.petzl.com/files/imagecache/product_outdoor_slideshow_image/node_media/arial-0_0.jpgWith a 9.5 mm diameter, the ARIAL 9.5 single rope is designed for experienced climbers, offering maximum longevity and performance in any conditions, thanks to its Duratec Dry treatment. receive recommendation. Unfortunately the test misses several of the models that I find interesting. Also Climb Magazine (May/2014) has tested some ropes. The article can be downloaded from their website for free from Archive section (requires registration though).

Scarpa Zodiac

  • Source: . Credit: Scarpa .
    Source: . Credit: Scarpa .
  • Source: . Credit: http://www.anmavo.com .
    Source: Anmavo. Credit: http://www.anmavo.com .
  • Source: . Credit: http://www.anmavo.com .
    Source: Anmavo. Credit: http://www.anmavo.com .
  • Source: . Credit: http://www.anmavo.com .
    Source: Anmavo. Credit: http://www.anmavo.com .
  • Source: . Credit: http://www.anmavo.com .
    Source: Anmavo. Credit: http://www.anmavo.com .
  • Source: . Credit: Globetrotter .
    Source: . Credit: Globetrotter .

I need to replace my badly worn out approach shoes. Besides getting to the crags I also use them in longer trips to big peaks, during which use they need to be fairly stiff in order for them to be good to walk in with relatively big pack.

This rules many shoes out, as they are too soft and/or lack proper cushion in the mid sole. Most of the hiking boots don't come to question either, as I fail to see the logic in mid high shaft. That may have place in climbing boot, but in hiking boot I feel that is both unnecessary as well as counterproductive. They add weight and warmth, neither of which are desirable properties for such use scenario. They are supposed also to add stability, but as far as walking goes, I don't buy that logic. Unhindered ankle mobility is far more important in my book. In order for the shaft to actually provide sufficient support, it would have to be higher and stiffer.

Feature wise Scarpa ZodiacScarpaZodiachttp://www.scarpa.net/all-scarpa/products/approach/zodiac/zodiac-g.jpgChosen by alpine guides to face different terrains, approach and technical trails. A versatile, technical, precise and resistant shoe. Water resistant suede upper, snug fit and up-to-the- toe lacing system for volume control. Moraine sole and Mulaz Vibram® tread, technical and precise in climbing. looks like it could be exactly what the doctor ordered. And Scarpa shoes typically fit my feet very well. Unfortunately they are pricey, reviews seem to be impossible to locate and none of the local shops have them.

Zodiac is essentially a bottom half of a B1-graded boot with a properly stiff sole unit complete with big, aggressive lugs and a serious protective rand making it ideal for stuffing into cracks. B1 boots are targeted to winter walking and may do at a pinch for the very easiest mountaineering routes. Zodiac obviously has no shaft, so they are not as warm or as well suited for walking in snow than B1 boots with the shaft. In return, they are lighter and more agile. And they are probably stiff enough to be used C1 crampons (such as Kahtoola, Grivel G10) in some use scenarios. Word of warning though, using Zodiac with crampons is no substitute for real crampon compatible boots and proper climbing crampons. That being said, such combo might be viable lightweight option when having to cross occasional snow fields. Not at all uncommon when approaching rock climbs in alpine terrain.

At roughly 500g/show depending on the source, Zodiac is about 200g lighter per shoe lighter than Scarpa Rebel (regular and GTX), which are about the lightest boots compatible with semi-automatic crampons. Rebel Pro weights the same (708g/shoe, give or take few grams depending on source and size) than Rebel or Rebel GTX, making them the lightest shoe that comes with welts front and back making them compatible with crampons with "automatic" binding.

Training for the New Alpinism

Training for the New Alpinism. Source: . Credit: Steve House .
Training for the New Alpinism. Source: Steve House. Credit: Steve House .

Steve House 's new book: Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete.House, Steve; Johnston, Scott & Twight, MarkPatagonia Books2014In Training for the New Alpinism: A Manual for the Climber as Athlete, Steve House, world-class climber and Patagonia ambassador, and Scott Johnston, coach of US National Champions and World Cup Nordic Skiers, translate training theory into practice to allow you to coach yourself to any mountaineering goal. Applying training practices from other endurance sports, House and Johnston, who combined have over 60 years of experience, demonstrate that following a carefully designed regimen is as effective for alpinism as it is for any other endurance sport and leads to better performance. They deliver detailed instruction on how to plan and execute training tailored to your individual circumstances. Whether you work as a banker or a mountain guide, whether you live in the city or the country, whether you are an ice climber, a mountaineer heading to Denali, or a veteran of 8,000-meter peaks, your understanding of how to achieve your goals will grow exponentially as you work with this book. Chapters cover endurance and strength training theory and methodology, application and planning, nutrition, altitude, mental fitness, and assessing your goals and your strengths. Chapters are augmented with inspiring essays by world-renowned climbers, including Ueli Steck, Mark Twight, Peter Habeler, Voytek Kurtyka, and Will Gadd. Filled with photos, graphs, and illustrations.97819383402399781938340239Training for the New AlpinismInstructionalen is about to hit the shelves shortly. The book is about training for alpine climbing. In this respect, it appears to be somewhat similar to Climbing Stronger, Faster, Healthier: Beyond the Basics, 1 Edition.D.C., Michael A. LaytonCreatespace Publishing2009A must have book for all climbers: boulderers, sport, trad, ice, alpine & big-wall. Complete training and conditioning section, up to date nutrition section, full injury and rehab section written by a sports physician, Climbing tips and tricks from the pro's (learn their secrets), huge section on gear, and the only info available on proper bolting and anchor placement. Hundreds of photos!97814392319829781439231982Laytonguidebooken. Definitely interesting to see what its like.

His first book Beyond the Mountain.House, StevePatagonia Inc2009What does it take to be one of the world's best high-altitude mountain climbers? It takes raising funds for an expedition, negotiating some of the world's most dangerous countries, suffering freezing-cold bivouacs and enduring the discomforts of high altitude. It also means learning the hard lessons the mountains teach. This book explores those lessons. Dubbed by Reinhold Messner, "The best high-altitude climber in the world today." Steve House's story chronicles his experiences in the worlds highest mountains, each chapter revealing a different aspect of mountaineering.97809790659589780979065958HouseBiographyen concentrated on his development as a climber and select ascents, mostly his attemps on Nanga Parbat culminating in first ascent of Central PillarNanga Parbat8126mRupal facenccs VII 5.9 M5 WI4; WI4 M5 5.94100m. 8 days round trip 4500m, a climb that won him Piolet d'Or.

Hybrid clothing

Alpha Composites for ice climbers and alpinists offer more protection than a softshell, but stop short of replacing a hardshell. They are for the fast and light world of rapid travel, mixed environments and alpine conditions. Source: . Credit: Arc'teryx .
Alpha Composites for ice climbers and alpinists offer more protection than a softshell, but stop short of replacing a hardshell. They are for the fast and light world of rapid travel, mixed environments and alpine conditions. Source: Arc'teryx. Credit: Arc'teryx .

Several brands appear to be coming with hybrid clothing. The principle is logical enough: combining hardshell where the protection matters the most with softshell where breathability is more important. In theory this should yield the best of both softshell and hardshell in a single garment without the downsides of either.

At least Millet has had such garments out for some time (e.g. Millet Roc Composite PantMilletRoc Composite Panthttp://www.millet.fr/resize/media/declinaisons/13231/image/f488x520/MIV5711_4333.jpgPant with braces, built from WINDSTOPPER® X Fast Stretch 3L fabric for modern mountaineering: ultimate performance, absolute precision, freedom of movement, extreme resistance to adverse weather and abrasion with Gore and Windstopper fabrics) and BD Black Diamond Dawn Patrol Hybrid ShellBlack DiamondDawn Patrol Hybrid Shellhttp://demandware.edgesuite.net/sits_pod21/dw/image/v2/AAKN_PRD/on/demandware.static/Sites-bdag-Site/Sites-bdel/default/v1394263047035/products/apparel/W27W_Dawn_Patrol_Hybrid_Shell_azurite_410_50.jpgCombining hardshell protection with softshell flexibility, the Dawn Patrol™ Hybrid Shell is a dynamic, hybrid layer built for continuous movement and unpredictable weather. came to market for 2013/2014 winter season. For 2014/2014 season at least Arc'teryx and Marmot are having a go with comparable approach. Arc'teryx uses combo of Gore and softshell fabrics in their Arc'teryx Alpha Comp seriesArc'teryxAlpha Comp serieshttp://images.arcteryx.com/S14/450x500/Alpha-Comp-Hoody-Cayenne.pngAlpha Composites for ice climbers and alpinists offer more protection than a softshell, but stop short of replacing a hardshell. They are for the fast and light world of rapid travel, mixed environments and alpine conditions. whereas Marmot combines various Polartec fabrics in their Marmot Misto JacketMarmotMisto Jackethttps://orhub.s3.amazonaws.com/discoverW14/2014_New_Product_Gallery-500px/Polartec_MarmotMistoJacket.jpgPOLARTEC’s Marmot Misto Jacket & Pants is a cold-weather mountaineering kit featuring a first-of-its-kind hybrid construction using the most breathable waterproof fabric on the market, Polartec NeoShell. The kit also features Polartec Power Shield and the first-ever breathable puffy fabric, Polartec Alpha fabric, to maximize weather protection, insulation, stretch and breathability..

The idea seems sound enough, particularly for pants. Nothing really breathes when stuck knee deep in snow, therefore having lower legs made of of very breathable fabric comes with little gain. No reason not to use as waterproof a fabric as possible where it comes with no penalty. The mix of fabrics is a delicate art though; too little waterproof stuff and it does you no good, too much of it or in wrong places and the downside of waterproof fabric becomes all too evident (impaired flexibility and comfort due to lack of stretch (in most cases, albeit some waterproof fabrics have at least some stretch)) and impaired breathability. Another possible downside of such approach may be additional seams.

As a side note, apparently Rab is expanding their Neoshell line with Neo Guide jacket and pants. They are supposed to utilize heavier fabric in places compared to their Rab Stretch Neo pantRabStretch Neo panthttp://rab.uk.com/assets/product-images/stretch_neo_pants_beluga.jpgThe Stretch Neo Pant is a fully waterproof and highly breathable over trouser. The Stretch Neo Pant makes a perfect partner with the Stretch Neo jacket and provides complete wet weather protection. The Stretch Neo Pant boasts 3/4 length side zips to make getting them on and off very easy, 2 zip pockets with water- resistant zips, belt loops and brace attachment points and reinforced crampon patches. All these features hint at the Stretch Neo's favourite environment - out on the Mountain! garments.

Pretty tied up

Weighing only 36 g per metre, the GULLY 7.3 is the lightest double rope on the market. Source: . Credit: Beal .
Weighing only 36 g per metre, the GULLY 7.3 is the lightest double rope on the market. Source: Beal. Credit: Beal .

Ropes are getting thinner and thinner. However, this doesn't seem to directly translate to reduced weight as the difference between different ropes of same diameter is surprisingly large.

Sub 8mm half ropes are not rare anymore with at least Tendon Master 7.8TendonMaster 7.8http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51oZmMseLBL.jpgAn excellent rope with uncompromising quality certified both as a half and twin rope. Low weight and top-class specifications enable broad versatility but it‘s ideally suited to ice and mixed climbing. (7.8mm, 38g/m), Mammut TwilightMammutTwilighthttp://static2.mammut.ch/medias/sys_master/8815869755422/7.5_Twilight_grass_bild2.eps_Zoom2.jpgThe latest version of the well-known Mammut® double rope has resulted in the thinnest half rope in the world: The 7.5 Twilight now meets the standards for half and twin ropes, making it the perfect companion for two-person rope teams on long demanding tours on rock, ice and in mixed terrain. The COATINGfinish™ treatment guarantees long-lasting protection from dirt and water during these alpine pursuits, ensuring consistently high performance. (7.5mm, 38g/m), Edelrid ApusEdelridApushttp://www.vaude.com/out/pictures/generated/product/1/1024_1319_75/71042_138.jpgUltra-light twin and double rope. The ideal solution for mixed routes, alpine sport climbing and extreme mountaineering, where every gram counts. (7.8mm, 42g/m), Sterling Rope Fusion PhotonSterling RopeFusion Photonhttp://www.sterlingrope.com/dimg/f7e4e565c8b22e6abc510d29e747baf0.jpgThe Fusion Photon is Sterling’s first half rope that is also certified to twin. It was manufactured to have a perfect balance of diameter to weight. Designed to round out the Fusion series as a performance half rope, the Photon is small and light, making rope drag less of a concern over long or windy pitches. (7.8mm, 42g/m), Petzl PasoPetzlPasohttp://www.petzl.com/files/imagecache/product_outdoor_slideshow_zoom/node_media/paso-0_1.jpgWith a diameter of 7.7 mm and an extremely light weight, the PASO 7.7 rope is designed for ice climbing or technical mountaineering in cold, wet conditions. This rope benefits from the Duratec Dry treatment to improve longevity and performance in any conditions. (7.7mm, 42g/m) all being sub 8mm ropes. The thinnest and lightest of the bunch is Beal GullyBealGullyhttp://blog.weighmyrack.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Beal-Gully-73mm-Unicore-GoldenDry.jpgWeighing only 36 g per metre, the GULLY 7.3 is the lightest double rope on the market. It is also certified as twin rope. Its extremely light weight and very low impact force make the GULLY 7.3 the ideal rope for ice climbing, mountaineering and the most demanding terrain. Like all other thin double ropes in BEAL's range, the GULLY 7.3 benefits from the reliability and additional safety that UNICORE technology provides. at 7,3mm and 36g/m. Obviously worth a look for all activities where grams per meter is top of the requirement list.

While looking at weight per meter, the difference between different ropes of same diameter is surprisingly large. For example Tendon and Edelrid offerings have the same diameter, yet Tendon is 4g/m lighter. Which equals roughly 10% percent. Quite a bit IMO, maybe even to the point of raising suspicion about the accuracy of the measurements.

New and upcoming ice gear

X-Dream not only features two different picks to change the axe for ice or mixed climbing, but it also incorporates a patented adjustment system in the handle. Source: . Credit: Camp .
X-Dream not only features two different picks to change the axe for ice or mixed climbing, but it also incorporates a patented adjustment system in the handle. Source: Camp. Credit: Camp .

There appear to be some interesting looking gear coming to the shops near you next season (although some items may make it sooner).

  • First off, Cassin X-DreamCassinX-Dreamhttp://www.camp-usa.com/product-images/new-2011/cassin-technical-ice/3051-X-Dream.jpgAptly named, the X-Dream not only features two different picks to change the axe for ice or mixed climbing, but it also incorporates a patented adjustment system in the handle to fine tune the swing and torque even further. A quick turn of the allen bolt above the grip allows the tools to be switched between Dry and Ice positions by changing the angle of the handle in relation to the angle of the pick. In the Dry position, the handle kicks upward for a more down and out pull. The Ice position drops the handle for a more natural swing. The picks function much the same way. The Dry pick features a more aggressive downward curve at the tip while the Ice pick has a more traditional flatter beak for vertical ice. Both picks feature same angle for optimal performance on all angles of mixed and ice climbing. They are designed to provide solid sticks with minimal penetration making them the perfect choice for brittle ice and techy mixed terrain. Climbers can further refine the X-Dream with the micro-adjustable trigger finger ledge (choose from two inserts that can be flipped over to adjust the position). T-rated Shaft. B-rated Pick. promises to offer adjustable handle hook. This should make it possible to have both ice-climbing specific more moderate handle angle (ala Petzl NomicPetzlNomichttp://www.petzl.com/files/imagecache/product_outdoor_slideshow_image/node_media/nomic-1_1.jpgThe NOMIC allows the entire rock climbing repertoire to be transferred to ice. Thanks to its adjustable ergonomic handle, it offers multiple grip modes and limits the risk of snagging when switching hands. The ICE pick allows easy penetration in any type of ice, and pulls out easily. The modular head has two removable pick weights to balance the axe and propel it into the ice with an exceptional swing. The NOMIC can also be equipped with a hammer when placing pitons.) as well as more agressive pick handle well suited for steep mixed climbing and dry tooling, both is one tool. Interesting idea indeed.
  • Second, Grivel has two new tools coming, Grivel Tech MachineGrivelTech Machinehttp://grivel.com/upload/products/ice_axes/81/81_l.jpgDesigned primarily for ice climbing and dry-tooling. Interchangeable ICE pick is tapered at the tip (3 mm) for easy penetration, even in cold ice. The stout Mix blade, 4.2 mm, will accept your “normal abuse” hooking on both ice and rock. The Machine's radically bent shaft easily clears bulges and cauliflowers. Its shape allows stable hooking on both ice and rock. Solid placements come easily, even when the ice gets unruly. and Grivel Machine 3.0GrivelMachine 3.0http://grivel.com/upload/products/ice_axes/82/82_l.jpgA totally new generation for technical climbing on all of the world’s mountains. For the first time we present a shaft and head hot forged in a single piece! An unbelievable masterpiece possible only for people who hot forge metal since 1818! Interchangeable ICE pick is tapered at the tip (3 mm) for easy penetration, even in cold ice. The stout Mix blade, 4.2 mm, will accept your “normal abuse” hooking on both ice and rock.. Particularly Tech Machine, the more aggressive of the two, looks interesting.
  • Black Diamond has tweaked their Black Diamond Fusion 2Black DiamondFusion 2http://demandware.edgesuite.net/aakn_prd/on/demandware.static/Sites-BlackDiamond-Site/Sites-bdel/default/v1393941246029/products/ice_alpine/412088_fusion_up_web.jpgOur premier mixed climbing tool with a hydroformed aluminum shaft, the Fusion is incredibly stiff, lightweight and versatile. to create Black Diamond FuelBlack DiamondFuelhttp://www.climberism.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/black_diamond_equipment_fuel.jpgSlightly tweaked Fusion 2. It shaves the head and loses hammer, both of which make the tool lighter. Additionally it comes with pick targeted more towards ice instead of more mixed-oriented pick of the Fusion , is 2cm shorter and spike is somewhat redesigned. Length aside, the rest of the changes are something that many have done to their Fusions themselves. Interesting to see whether the tweaked version can give Petzl NomicPetzlNomichttp://www.petzl.com/files/imagecache/product_outdoor_slideshow_image/node_media/nomic-1_1.jpgThe NOMIC allows the entire rock climbing repertoire to be transferred to ice. Thanks to its adjustable ergonomic handle, it offers multiple grip modes and limits the risk of snagging when switching hands. The ICE pick allows easy penetration in any type of ice, and pulls out easily. The modular head has two removable pick weights to balance the axe and propel it into the ice with an exceptional swing. The NOMIC can also be equipped with a hammer when placing pitons. a run for its money on ice climbing performance.

When it comes to ice screws, there jas not been much news under the sun during the recent years. That being said, Petzl Laser SpeedPetzlLaser Speedhttp://www.petzl.com/files/fckfiles/image/produits/SPORT/new-products-jan2013/laser-speed.jpgThe LASER SPEED ice screw starts easily due to the optimized drill shape. Strength and durability are improved due to the steel tube and specific threading. The integrated flexible crank gives an optimized lever, making it easier and faster to screw in. completely revamped their offerings for 2013/2014 and I am yet to see their current screws. As far as the truly new products go, Salewa Quick ScrewSalewaQuick Screwhttp://www.bergsteigen.com/sites/default/files/styles/large/public/fotos/salewa-eisschraube.jpg is entirely new screw and not just in Salewa stable. It has integrated quick draw draw and quirky looking protector thingy, apparently you are supposed to rack them hanging upside down from the draw. The big idea apparently being to save weight, space in gearloops and not to puncture your pants. While the last point is certainly a plus, I am not too convinced of the rest, particularly having tried Grivel HelixGrivelHelixhttp://www.grivel.com/upload/products/ice_screws/8/8_l.jpgGrivel’s easiest ice screw. Easy to get the first bite in the ice thanks to its symmetrical grip. Easy to screw in thanks to the handle on the grip. Easy to attach a carabiner thanks to the shape of the ring. Easy to carry on the rack with a carabiner, even several at a time. You’ll find that Helix has all the fantastic qualities usually found in a Grivel screw, the ones that have made them famous worldwide and the reference in ice screws. The huge technological capacity and large quantities of production allow Grivel to offer a high quality product at an extremely competitive price. You won’t find anything else on the market with the same quality/cost ratio.. The integrated quickdraw is a huge hassle, despite it rotating around the screw (well at least in theory, practice is something quite different). The "hanger" looks very small with retractable lever. While I have my doubts about how the screw would perform, it is definitely interesting looking design that I wouldn't mind trying out.

Grivel has updated their Grivel 360Grivel360http://www.grivel.com/upload/products/ice_screws/2/2_l.jpgThe new 360° screw can benefit all ice climbers. In situations where safety depends on speedy screw placement (crevasse rescue or steep ice) the 360’s sharp bite and easy starting are quite reassuring. When ice or rock obstructions prevent a normal fixed hanger’s rotation, the 360’s handle may be lifted away from the surface and turned freely. The 360’s super-slick finish makes it very difficult for ice to clog its core. The 360’s efficiency makes it possible to place an ice screw where and when you want to, not just where and when you are able to. for 2014 season. The 360 has undergone several changes during the years (the handle knob shape (at least twice), thickness and length of the crank and how the handle is fixed into hanger). The previous changes have either advanced performance or handling without sacrificing performance, this time around I am fairly confident its quite different. Although in fairness sake I have to admit I have not used the design.

They have reshaped the hanger by making it substantially larger than in the old model. Sales pitch reason for that is that they are easier to rack. I am inclined to believe that manufacturing costs are a big reason as well, as they now have the same head as their other screws. I am willing to admit that the new hanger probably makes the screw rack better. Unfortunately it is also quite a bit larger (and I suspect also heaver) than the previous model. Which isn't my cup of a tea (although in fairness sake I have to admit not having actually used the new design). At all. The reason why I love 360 is the ease to get it initiated (very easy to rotate you hand when holding the hanger), the new hanger shape can't be as good for that than the old one. Also the fact that is larger hinders it from going to really tight places. Which is too bad really, given that exactly this is the reason why 360 works where nothing else does. So basically we are looking at the changes that decrease the function where it matters the most for some gain in rackability. Pretty damn poor trade-off in my book, particularly as the old model racks just fine if you don't try to rack them like you would rack some other screws. Two per carabiner or clipper and you get on with 360 just fine. Try to cramp more into single carabiner/clipper and they don't work.

Big routes going down, part deux

Source: . Credit: PataClimb.com .
Source: SuperTopo. Credit: PataClimb.com .

Free soloing machine Alex Honnold seem to be branching out from pure rock to more alpine endeavours.

After his free solo of El Sendero Luminoso (El Potrero Chico, V 5.12d) he partnered with Tommy Caldwell to climb Fitzroy traverseFitzroy3440mNorth pillar7a,C1, 65°3600m. Talk about hitting the ground running as this is his first route in Patagonia. Central part of traverse from Aguja Guillamet - Aguja Mermoz - Fitzroy consists of Care Bear TraverseFitzroy3440mNorth pillarnccs VI 5.11 A03 days, itself a noteworthy outing.

Big routes going down

Annapurna South Face, showing Ueli Steck's route (solid line), 1970 British route to its left, 1981 Japanese route to its right. Source: . Credit: Himalayan Masala .
Annapurna South Face, showing Ueli Steck's route (solid line), 1970 British route to its left, 1981 Japanese route to its right. Source: Himalayan Masala. Credit: Himalayan Masala .

There has been some really big ascents during the fall of 2013. The most famous one is surely Ueli Steck's lightning fast solo of , dubbed one of the more significant ascents ever. However, handful of other world-class ascents also took place during the same Himalayan fall season.

Ueli Steck soloed the difficult face along the route made famous by epic 1992 attempt by Pierre Beghin and Jean-Christophe Lafaille which ended in Beghin loosing his life.

The other highlight of the fall is the newest creation of Mick Fowler and Paul Ramsden. The pair had previously won Piolet d'Or for their stunning ascent of Siguniang (Inside LineSiguniang Shan6250mNorth faceED+; VII/AI6/M61500m). This time around, they climbed previously unclimbed SW faceKishtwar Kailash6451mSW faceED; Sco VI1500m in Indian Himalayas. The peak is located in disputed Kashmir area which has kept it off limits for foreign climbers since mid 90's.

Less attention was paid to rare ascent of beautiful Peine ProlongéeGauri Shankar7145mGauri, South sideED+; WI5+ M5 A11900m in Rolwaling Himal of Nepal. The peak has only been climbed a handful of times previously and all routes are difficult.

Auto-locking belay devices

Edelrid Mega Jul. A master of trades, jack in none?. Source: . Credit: Just Cheaper .
Edelrid Mega Jul. A master of trades, jack in none?. Source: Just Cheaper. Credit: Just Cheaper .

Traditionally autolocking belay device has been almost a synonym with Petzl Grigri 2PetzlGrigri 2http://www.petzl.com/files/imagecache/product_outdoor_slideshow_zoom/node_media/grigri-1_0.jpgThe GRIGRI 2 belay device with assisted braking capability is designed to facilitate belay maneuvers. The GRIGRI 2 works equally well for lead climbing and top-roping. It may be used on all single dynamic 8.9 to 11 mm ropes on the market (optimized for 9.4 mm to 10.3 mm ropes). Both compact and ultra-light, the GRIGRI 2 will accompany you on climbs around the world for many years. The GRIGRI 2 has a new design that allows excellent control during the descent.. Which is out of its element in alpine environment due to number of factors.

Perhaps the most important reasons why not to Grigri in alpine settings are:

  • Doesn't work with half ropes (or twins for that matter)
  • Doesn't really work in environment where freezing of the device itself or the ropes is a possibility (I am aware that Will Gadd seems to have a different opinion)
  • Heavy and bulky

Therefore I had written autolockers off as not suitable for my needs. However, the current crop of devices, most importantly Edelrid Micro JulEdelridMicro Julhttp://www.edelrid.de/images/produkte/sports_2013/Sicherungsgeraete/microjul%202013.jpgA compact, ultra-light belay and abseil device for half ropes and twin ropes. The only suitable device for use with the Flycatcher 6.9 mm. For belaying a leader or bringing up 2 seconds, also suitable for abseiling Robust solid stainless steel construction. Very lightweight construction. High braking performance assists the belayer with leader falls. Small eyelet for releasing unit with a carabiner when bringing up your partner. Rope can be paid out faster to a leader by holding device in the “open” position with the thumb. Suitable for 6.9 - 8.5 mm double and twin ropes. and Edelrid Mega JulEdelridMega Julhttp://www.edelrid.de/images/produkte/sports_2013/Sicherungsgeraete/megajul%202013.jpgOur most versatile belay and abseil device made of solid stainless steel for durability. For belaying a leader or bringing up 2 seconds, also suitable for abseiling. Very lightweight construction. High braking performance assists the belayer with leader falls. Small eyelet for releasing unit with a carabiner when bringing up your partner. Rope can be paid out faster to a leader by holding device in the “open” position with the thumb. Suitable for 7.8 - 10.5 mm ropes. as well as Mammut Alpine SmartMammutAlpine Smarthttp://static2.mammut.ch/medias/sys_master/8812533252126/Smart_Alpine_Silver_bild1.eps_Zoom2.jpgThe alpine version of the award-winning Smart can also be used with Double and Half Ropes as well with thin Single Ropes, making it the ideal companion for all alpine rock and ice pursuits. When it comes to belaying, the Smart Alpine offers the same excellent qualities as the Smart: dynamic braking of the climber in an accidental fall, and locks even at low levels of force exerted by the user. The Smart Alpine can also be used to independently belay one or two second climbers in an autolocking mode from the fixed point. The device is also ideal for abseiling. Silver-red version for use with rope diameters of 7.5 to 9.5 mm. might change that. Particularly Edelrid devices seem very interesting indeed being quite similar in size and weight as your regular tuber. On paper sounds like a winning combination, definitely too good not to investigate further. Micro Jul should also work properly with really skinny half ropes, something that cannot be said with otherwise excellent Petzl Reverso 4PetzlReverso 4http://www.petzl.com/files/imagecache/product_outdoor_slideshow_image/node_media/d17_l_reverso_4-orange_1.jpgUltra-light (59 g) multi-purpose belay/rappel device that regulates the amount of braking friction on the rope according to its diameter and condition; Reverso mode. This multi-purpose belay/rappel device is ultra-light (59 g, 25 % lighter than the REVERSO 3) and intuitive to use. V-shaped friction channels with asymmetrical lateral grooves adapt the friction to the type of rope for better control (ARC technology: braking control for twin, half and single dynamic ropes). Reverso mode for belaying one or two seconds with assisted braking., which isn't promised to hold a fall in Reverso mode belaying two seconds simultaneously with very skinny ropes. And it doesn't in practice either. Which is a real concern is you climb in a three-person team using sub-8mm ropes.

Short googling session came back with few discussion threads about Jul devices. Other than some users having found the device to block when abseiling in autolocking mode and not using carabiner to release locking (carabiner release is the method recommended by Edelrid, btw), majority of reviews seem to be positive. Some also complained about carabiner wear due to use of steel which is considerably harder than aluminum used in carabiners. That I could easily live by if the device works anywhere close to as well as it promises. Gear wears out, tough luck. Much more seriously, there are picture or two of a device that has had the cable ripped of. I could not dig out more information whether that is a manufacturing defect of that single device or more wide-spread issue. The lack of recall might suggest the former though.

Farewell to Alpine grades?

Ginat (Droites NF) used as example where traditional alpine grade fails to recognise seriousness. Source: . Credit: Chamonix Topo .
Ginat (Droites NF) used as example where traditional alpine grade fails to recognise seriousness. Source: Chamonix Topo. Credit: Chamonix Topo .

Mont Blanc: The Finest Routes.Batoux, PhilippeVertebrate Publishing2013Mont Blanc - The Finest Routes is a collection of the 100 must-do climbing routes in the Mont Blanc Massif. Modern alpinism is a multi-faceted activity for which the Mont Blanc Massif is the perfect playground. Classic routes to which every mountaineer can aspire are surrounded by the towering rock faces, huge mixed walls, precipitous ice shields, serrated ridges and narrow gullies that define the massif's harder climbs. In order to attain these prestigious summits via the most interesting itineraries, this book presents a modern selection of 100 must-do routes, ranging from historic classics to more recent lines, described in order of increasing difficulty. Author and mountain guide Philippe Batoux provides a comprehensive account of each route, outlining its history and atmosphere and giving all the technical information needed to climb it. These written descriptions are complemented by photo diagrams and detailed topos. In addition, every route is illustrated with superbly evocative photos that make best use of the book's large format. The routes were chosen for the quality of the rock, the reliability of the in-situ gear, the beauty of the surroundings, the prestige of the summit and the enthusiasm the route inspires. Preference has been given to routes in the modern idiom, whether they are gullies that only form in winter, difficult free climbs on high-altitude cliffs, long ridge scrambles or traverses of major summits. There are routes here for all tastes, from famous classics such as the Cosmiques Ridge on the Aiguille du Midi, the American Direct on the Petit Dru, the Whymper Couloir on the Aiguille Verte, the Walker Spur on the Grandes Jorasses and the Kuffner Ridge on Mont Maudit to more recent gems such as Je t'ai conquis, Je t'adore on Pointe Lepiney, No Siesta on the Grandes Jorasses and Le Vent du Dragon on the Aiguille du Midi.97819061486459781906148645Guidebooken seem to have abandoned the alpine grades altogether. Instead they have introduced commitment grade which is used in combination with appropriate technical grade.

Sounds familiar? That is exactly the way North-American alpine grade (NCCS) works and how WI-grading of the ice climbing works. The same approach is used in snow and ice topos of Mont Blanc area by Francois Damilano (e.g. Snow, Ice And Mixed: Vol 1.Damilano, FrancoisJM Editions2005The first of a 2 volume set covering the climbing in the Mont Blanc range. Snow, Ice and Mixed Vols 1 and 2 replace the popular Neige, Glace et Mixte. Now published in English with full colour photo-topos through out it is a comprehensive guide to the show and ice routes on all the summits in the massif.Vol 1 covers eastern section of the Mont Blanc Massif from Tirent Orny Basin to Geant Basin.97829521881289782952188128Guidebooken and Snow, Ice And Mixed: Vol 2. From the Envers des Aiguilles to the Tre-la-Tete Basin.Damilano, FrancoisJM Editions2006To complement the first volume (CCE151) which covered the eastern side of the Mont Blanc massif, this second volume covers the western area, from the Envers des Aigilles to the Tre-la-Tete basin. As with volume one the guide is in full colour throughout and includes descriptions of 663 routes, shown on 232 colour photographs and also includes 11 maps. It should be noted that while these guides are not definitive the vast majority of routes are covered.978295188142978295188142Guidebooken) but is not used in rock topos of Michel Piola (Massif Du Mont-Blanc - Envers Des Aiguilles.Piola, MichelGinevra2006The Envers des Aiguilles covers a wealth of fantastic alpine rock climbing around the Requin Hut, the Envers des Aiguilles Hut and the banks of the Mer de Glace. This guide is in English throughout and features over 250 routes ranging from 5+ to 8a; all are easily accessible from the previously mentioned huts or from the Montenvers Railway or Aiguille du Midi telepherique.97828787120019782878712001Guidebookfr).

In the book author Philippe Batoux explains that the failure to recognize seriousness of a route by traditional ifas system as the reason for his decision on grading system. He gives example of Le Marchhand de SableTour Rouge2899mTD+/II 6a+300m and La GinatLes Droites4000mNorth faceIV ED1; IV/WI5/Sco V,51050m. Both of them get the same alpine grade (TD+). The Batoux book is ordered by seriousness, in which Marchand route is #17 and Ginat #85. Which is to say worlds apart.

Although placement of some of the routes in the book is quite peculiar. I personally have a hard time understanding the logic on placing with a number #12, well below routes like North FaceTour Ronde3792mNorth faceII AD+/D-; II/AI2/Sco II/60° (avg.52°)°, IV (Direct Finnish variant) 350m/10-12 pitch 4h (3-5h) and Chèré CouloirMont Blanc du Tacul4248mTringle du TaculII D+/II WI4; II/WI4/Sco IV/85°350m, 3-4h to the top of the Triangle. Neither Tour Ronde North face or Chèré Couloir is remote, big or serious. Instead they both are well frequented, have plenty of in-situ gear, even in situ anchors, often have track and do not have too complicated descent. So I have a hard time seeing how those could be considered to be even in the same ball park than multipitch WI6. Any multipitch WI6. Each and every WI6 is quite a serious proposition as WI6 is by definition serious due to less than bomber gear caused by invariably funky ice.

That said, the point he makes is a very valid one. Batoux commitment grades are as follows:

I
Short climb, safe belays, easy descent. No commitment, no objective dangers.
II
No objective dangers, or only for very short sections of the route. Abseil descent possible (routes on the south face of the Aiguille du Midi, climbs on Aiguilles Rouges).
III
Several pitches or long approach. Expesiure to objective dangers limited or short-lived (gullies on the Triangle du Tacul. Editors note: Should probably be gullies on East face of Mont Blanc du Tacul, Batoux has graded the ones on Triangle with II whereas the ones on east face have been graded III).
IV
Objective dangers during the approach or the climb. Long descent or obligation to continue and descent by a different route (North face of Les Droites).
V
Long climb at high altitude requiring excellent mountaineering skills and great commitment. Descent difficult, retreat uncertain (one-day routes on the North face of Grandes Jorasses).
VI
Long climb on an alpine face involving one or more bivouacs. Logistical difficulties due to altitude and remoteness. Exposed to seracs and stone fall during the approach or the descent (north and east faces of the Grandes Jorasses, south face of Mont Blanc).

The shortcomings of ifas grade are well known and Batoux system is not the first attempt to solve the issue. In his book Sommets Du Nepal.Grobel, PaulGlénat200797827234539509782723453950Sommets du NépalGuidebookfr Paolo Grobel introduced a system with some similarity while keeping the traditional ifas grade but adding commitment grade to it:

I
A route with no high altitude camp on a summit less than 5600m (Normal Route on 5587m Mardi Himal: I/F, snow)
II
A route with no high altitude camp on a summit between 5600m and 6800m, where the factors relating to commitment as defined above are relatively straightforward (Normal Route on 6165m Island Peak: II/AD, snow)
III
A route with one high altitude camp on a summit between 5600m and 6800m, where factors affecting the commitment can be straightforward or complex (Normal Route on 5903m Paldor: III/PD+, snow arête and easy rock. Normal Route on 6476m Mera Peak: III/F, snow. Normal Route on 6119m Lobuje Main (East) Summit: III/D, snow)
IV
A route with several high altitude camps on a summit between 6500m and 7500m, where commitment factors can be straightforward or complex (Normal Route on 6814m Ama Dablam: IV/D, mixed. South Ridge of 6501m Singu Chuli: IV/TD, snow ridge. Normal Route on 7246m Putha Hiunchuli: IV/F, snow.)
V
As for IV but with complex commitment factors (Normal Route on 7152m Baruntse: V/PD, snow. Normal Route on 7126m Himlung Himal: V/F, snow: West Ridge of 6966m Dorje Lhakpa: V/AD+, snow)
VI
A route with several high altitude camps on a summit between 7500m and 8500m, where commitment factors are relatively straightforward (Normal Route on 7678m Makalu II: VI/PD, snow: Normal Route on c7999m Xixabangma Central: VI/F, snow. Normal Route on 8188m Cho Oyu: VI/F, snow).
VII
As above but with complex commitment factors (Normal Route on 8167m Dhaulagiri: VII/AD, snow. Normal Route to 8012m Xixabangma Main Summit: VII/PD+, snow and rock.
VIII
Reserved for peaks above 8500m, though the immense popularity of, and fixed equipment on, Everest make it difficult to fit the world’s highest mountain into any category.

Similar idea has been used for quite a while by CampToCamp.org. However, factors that constitutes, say grade IV at CampToCamp is not the same as grade grade IV according to Batoux or Grobel.

Panico and Topo.verlag approach the same issue with fundamentally rather similar approach , however they have decided to use different scale and slightly differing factors in their E-grade (Ernshaftsbewertung, seriousness grading, see here: Leseprobe). It is used on combination with traditional alpine grade (albeit it could just as well be used in combination with just the pitch grades).

E1
Relatively short outing. Retreat is possible from where ever. Not too exposed. Objectively quite safe. Simple route finding. E.g. Normal routeLes Diablerets, Normal routeWildstrubel, West flankAllalinhorn.
E2
Longer route. Retriet is always fairly easy. Several exposed sections. Objectively relatively safe. Route finding requires experience. E.g. Gältehore-Arpelistock, NordgratFerdenrothorn, Traverse E-WBreithorn, Traverse Pollux-Castor W-ECastor, TriftgratWeissmies, Normal route from Cabane de VignettesPigne d'Arolla.
E3
Long outing. Retriet unproblematic only from few places. Terrain often exposed. Short dangerous sections (ice fall, stone fall) possible. Route finding requires experience. E.g. Traverse of TschingelhörnerTschingelhorn, GalletgratDoldenhorn, Y CouloirAiguille d'Argentière, Traverse W-ELyskamm.
E4
Big, long and exposed route. Retriet problematic and involves risks. Sudden bad weather can have dramatic consequences. Partially objective dangers for longer sections. Route finding requires experience. E.g. GitzigratBalmhorn, NordgratBietschhorn, HörnligratMatterhorn, Migot SpurAiguille de Chardonnet, ArbengratObergabelhorn, RothorngratZinalrothorn.
E5
Very big and long route. Terrain is very exposed and has unforgiving character. Retriet is practically not possible or only with great effort and involves big risks. Sudden bad weather can have dramatic consequences. Certain level of ice or stone fall danger are unavoidable. Diffucult route finding, a lot of experience in route finding and perfect rope handling necessary. E.g. S-rippeMorgenhorn, SichelgratWetterhorn, SchaligratWeisshorn, Marinelli CouloirDufourspitze, South FaceObergabelhorn, FerpéclegratDent Blanche.

It'll be interesting to see if any one of these approaches takes off, the idea behind them is certainly sound enough and there's a real problem in alpine grading system (utter and miserable failure to give proper recognition to seriousness and scale of the climb).

Personally I feel that there should be some form of commitment element added to alpine grade to make it more informative. In principal, CampToCamp and Grobel systems make perhaps most sense, particularly as they are more or less backwards compatible. The reason why I prefer their solution to Batoux solution is that they offer means to make distinction between routes with short crux and the ones with sustained difficulties. While some of the technical grades (french and YDS rock grades as well as WI ice grade) consider how sustained climbing is within a pitch, none that I am aware of are affected by other pitches. Yet 15 pitches of WI5 is clearly way more demanding than one. Granted these factors have some effect on Batoux system as well, but if a cruxy route is serious at the same time, then it would look similar to one with sustained difficulties, yet have different demands for the prospective aspirant.

Grobel system makes sense in the case if big mountains but doesn't readily lend itself to lower altitudes. However, the routes in, say, New Zealand can still be very big and remote without going very high. Altitude certainly affects the commitment, but it is not the only thing affecting it. The same goes for the length of the route. Perhaps altitude and possible high camps could be combined to Batoux factors so that the criteria would be similar to Batoux but the grade would be bumbed if the route requires high camps or goes to great altitude. On the other hand, these factors are easy enough to understand, therefore they could be omitted from grading system and expressed as separate factors which would make the commitment grade simpler which might actually make it more expressive.

Hyknusa

While browsing for new films and something that has possible slipped under the radar I came across to this: Caroline Ciavaldini and James Pearson in Sardinia. It is a trailer of their trip to Sardinia, during which they repeated Sardinia's hardest multi-pitch climbs.

The featured climbs include: , and . While possibly slightly out of scope of this site, it was certainly very entertaining, so I dug deeper to find the whole length video available here: Episode 1 - Gravité Zéro 2013 di MONTAGNETV.

The Last Great Climb

The Last Great Climb movie poster. Credit: Posing Productions Shot on 2014-01-20 Photo taken..
The Last Great Climb movie poster. Credit: Posing Productions Shot on 2014-01-20 Photo taken..

While on Topic of upcoming films, there appears to be another interesting looking project in the making. The Last Great Climb covers the first ascent of NE ridgeUlvetanna2930mNE ridge5.12,A2/E6 6b,A2/C235 pitches, 1750m by Leo Houlding, Sean Leary, Jason Pickles & Chris Rabone.

If the previous work of director Alastair Lee and the trailer is anything to go by, some spectacular footage should be a given. The feature is third part of the trilogy by the same team, the two previous ones are (North Peak, NW faceMount Asgard2015mNorth Peak, NW sideE6 6b) and Autana . BTW, there's also another movie about difficult rock climbing on Mount Asgard: Asgard Jamming .

La vie de Guy Lacelle

I stumbled on this short film commemorates legendary ice climber Guy Lacelle: La vie de Guy Lacelle . There appears to be some films of similar length available in Yotube and few other places, not sure whether this is the same film or not. Anyway, HD download is pretty cheap on Alstrin Films site.

Kurt Diemberger

Source: . Credit: Abe Books .
Source: Abe Books. Credit: Abe Books .

When shopping for The Mont Blanc Massif: The 100 Finest Routes.Rebuffat, GastonMountaineers Books1996The definitive hard backed 'inspirational' guide to the Mont Blanc area, illustrated throughout. The internationally renowned Gaston Rébuffat here provides an outstandingly comprehensive step-by-step description of his 100 finest climbing routes in the Mont Blanc massif. The author begins by taking the reader up the fairly simple routes, such as the traverse from the Clocher to the Clochetons de Planpraz and the South-East arête of the Aiguille de I'Index, gradually progresses to the more difficult routes of the Gervasutti Couloir on Mont Blanc du Tacul and the Hirondelles arête on the Grandes Jorasses, and finally climaxes in the superb climbs on the Droites North Face and the Central Pillar of Frêney on Mont Blanc.Each route has at least a double-page spread of text, photographs and a map of the area of the route. Rébuffat explains his reasons for choosing the individual route and then gives information on the first ascent, height, difficulty, time, equipment, starting point and an account in outline and detail of the ascent and, where necessary, the descent as well. Rébuffat's vivid and authoritative text is made even more exciting by the numerous exceptionally beautiful photographs and specially drawn maps. The translation by Drs Jane and Colin Taylor reproduces faithfully the quality and style of the original French text. Colin Taylor will already be well-known to many mountaineers as the General Editor of the Alpine Club guidebooks which include this area.08988647710898864771Guidebooken I came by Kurt Diemberger Omnibus Kurt Diemberger Omnibus: Summits & Secrets, the Endless Knot, Spirits of the Air.Diemberger, KurtMountaineers Books1999Kurt Diemberger is a the only person alive to have made first ascents on two 8,000-metre peaks – Dhaulagiri and Broad Peak – and he is recognised as one of the finest chroniclers of his contemporary mountaineering scene. His books have popular around the world and his writing is guaranteed to enlighten, move and entertain.As a fantastic mountaineer and career expeditioner, and a skilled filmmaker and writer he has been a witness to 50 years of eventful Alpinism and Himalayan climbing. He gives us a link to the golden age when the 8000-metre peaks were first climbed – in the 1950s and early 60s.The Kurt Diemberger Omnibus brings together three fine books, one of which, The Endless Knot, is perhaps the most gripping and tragic mountaineering saga ever written. It describes the ill-starred K2 attempts of 1986 during which thirteen climbers died in a variety of incidents. At the end of the season seven climbers made one last bid to gain the summit, five succeeded but, overtaken by a storm during the descent, only two of the seven climbers survived. One of them was Diemberger, who describes events with harrowing candour.Summits and Secrets deals with Diemberger’s early climbs in the Alps, the Hindu Kush and the Himalaya. It describes the epoch-making first ascent of Broad Peak in 1957 and the equally significant first ascent of Dhaulagiri in 1960, where he reached the summit with a Swiss team. The final book is the more relaxed Spirits of the Air, where Diemberger reflects on his varying – and often hilarious adventures – and on the contrasts between his life in Italy, Austria and the always-beckoning Himalaya.97808988660639780898866063Non-fictionen which is a collection of several books of mountaineering legend Kurt Diemberger tied together, much like The Boardman Tasker Omnibus: Savage Arena, the Shining Mountain, Sacred Summits, Everest the Cruel Way.Tasker, Joe; Boardman, Peter & Bonington, ChrisMountaineers Books1995Peter Boardman and Joe Tasker each two accomplished books which, deservedly, soon acquired classic status and became required reading for all those venturing to high altitude. It is fitting that the memorial to these two exceptional climbers and writers should take the form of the annual Boardman Tasker Award for Mountain Literature. As for their own four books, these are now reprinted for the first time in one volume. 97808988643669780898864366Non-fictionen.

Two more video finds

I seem to keep on stumbling on interesting videos. First we have this: Dru North Couloir Direct , which in its own right is pretty damn spectacular. However, then there is this coming up: Jirishanca Teaser . Apparently the full length film is coming later.

In the mean time there are some related stuff.

Double boots

In my trip to Peru I found out that my Scarpa Phantom GuideScarpaPhantom Guidehttp://www.scarpa.com/images/products/87411-210/detail.jpgRedefining mountain performance, this boot is suitable for challenging the most technical routes in cold climates, whether ice cragging or in the high mountains. are probably not quite warm enough for multi-day trips at altitude. Well, actually the problem is their lack of warmth, they are plenty warm when dry. However, the problem is that they won't be warm after the first day. And good luck trying to get them to dry when camping on the glacier. Therefore double boots are in order to maintain warmth for days in an a climb.

Fortunately gone are the days of clunky plastics. Best of the current crop of double boots are supposed to be only slightly bulkier than single boots and not much heavier either. Particularly Scarpa Scarpa Phantom 6000ScarpaPhantom 6000Phantom 6000, new model indicate for technical Himalayan mountaineering and extreme use in cold environments. No compromise in the search of innovation in warmth and lightness. looks the part when it comes to volume. According to reviews they offer good ankle lock and climbs as well as the Guides. I've read that they have flimsy inner bootie, that's not very durable. However, this shouldn't be too difficult to fix, as Palau booties can be had for reasonable price. What makes me concerned is the fit though. My Phantom Guides are 45. I'd like HA boots to be slightly larger, but apparently Scarpa makes no half sizes.

Unfortunately pretty much all of the competing models (that is to say La Sportiva BaruntseLa SportivaBaruntseWhen the conditions are cold and high the Baruntse offers a hospitable climate to keep your feet warm and dry. Ideal for use on 6-7000 meter peaks or in harsh winter conditions where you don't want to think about your feet. The thermo-formable inner boot sports the patented speed lacing system and couples with the highly insulated multi-layered PE outerboot for dependable warmth and a PU coating to keep moisture and cold outside and heat inside the boot., La Sportiva SpantikLa SportivaSpantikThe Spantik is perfect for 6-7000 meter peaks or anywhere that you need a toasty warm performance fit. This is a lighter, warmer more compact alternative to the Nuptse. It is step-in crampon compatible and provides excellent technical climbing capabilities., Boreal SiulaBorealSiulaIntense to extremely cold conditions. High mountain and altitude climbing. Long winter alpine ascents., Asolo Base Camp GVAsoloBase Camp GV, Lowa Expedition 6000 RD PLUSLowaExpedition 6000 RD PLUShttp://www.lowa.de/artikel/sehrgross/230065%207220.jpgThis proven mountaineering boot is ideal for tough, western alpine routes with mixed terrain and for expeditions in the 6,000-meter zone. The removable inner boot of quick-drying materials keeps you dry and fits perfectly. and Zamberlan 6000 Denali RRZamberlan6000 Denali RRhttp://www.zamberlan.com/upld/201203/001_6000_Denali_black_red_sml.jpgExternal gaiter made of Cordura® fabric in the upper area and Cordura®/Kevlar® in the lower area to ensure thermal insulation and abrasion resistance - Riri Storm® waterproof and UV ray resistant zip with protective cover - Inner, removable bootee sepcifically developed to grant warmth, lined in mesh for better internal ventilation - Thermal removable footbed with a PE layer for cushioning and an aluminum film for optimum insulation - Carbon fiber + fiberglass midsole ensures maximum rigidity and lightness - Vibram® sole for extended durability and grip - Zamberlan® PCS system for crampons. are either a lot bulkier, quite a bit heaver or both.

Dane of ColdThistle has written extensively on the subject of double boots, both in the form of general articles and reviews of specific models.

Mont Blanc: The Finest Routes

The Mont Blanc Massif: The 100 Finest Routes.Rebuffat, GastonMountaineers Books1996The definitive hard backed 'inspirational' guide to the Mont Blanc area, illustrated throughout. The internationally renowned Gaston Rébuffat here provides an outstandingly comprehensive step-by-step description of his 100 finest climbing routes in the Mont Blanc massif. The author begins by taking the reader up the fairly simple routes, such as the traverse from the Clocher to the Clochetons de Planpraz and the South-East arête of the Aiguille de I'Index, gradually progresses to the more difficult routes of the Gervasutti Couloir on Mont Blanc du Tacul and the Hirondelles arête on the Grandes Jorasses, and finally climaxes in the superb climbs on the Droites North Face and the Central Pillar of Frêney on Mont Blanc.Each route has at least a double-page spread of text, photographs and a map of the area of the route. Rébuffat explains his reasons for choosing the individual route and then gives information on the first ascent, height, difficulty, time, equipment, starting point and an account in outline and detail of the ascent and, where necessary, the descent as well. Rébuffat's vivid and authoritative text is made even more exciting by the numerous exceptionally beautiful photographs and specially drawn maps. The translation by Drs Jane and Colin Taylor reproduces faithfully the quality and style of the original French text. Colin Taylor will already be well-known to many mountaineers as the General Editor of the Alpine Club guidebooks which include this area.08988647710898864771Guidebooken has been prime source of inspiration for many an alpinist. Now there appear to be new version out: Mont Blanc: The Finest Routes.Batoux, PhilippeVertebrate Publishing2013Mont Blanc - The Finest Routes is a collection of the 100 must-do climbing routes in the Mont Blanc Massif. Modern alpinism is a multi-faceted activity for which the Mont Blanc Massif is the perfect playground. Classic routes to which every mountaineer can aspire are surrounded by the towering rock faces, huge mixed walls, precipitous ice shields, serrated ridges and narrow gullies that define the massif's harder climbs. In order to attain these prestigious summits via the most interesting itineraries, this book presents a modern selection of 100 must-do routes, ranging from historic classics to more recent lines, described in order of increasing difficulty. Author and mountain guide Philippe Batoux provides a comprehensive account of each route, outlining its history and atmosphere and giving all the technical information needed to climb it. These written descriptions are complemented by photo diagrams and detailed topos. In addition, every route is illustrated with superbly evocative photos that make best use of the book's large format. The routes were chosen for the quality of the rock, the reliability of the in-situ gear, the beauty of the surroundings, the prestige of the summit and the enthusiasm the route inspires. Preference has been given to routes in the modern idiom, whether they are gullies that only form in winter, difficult free climbs on high-altitude cliffs, long ridge scrambles or traverses of major summits. There are routes here for all tastes, from famous classics such as the Cosmiques Ridge on the Aiguille du Midi, the American Direct on the Petit Dru, the Whymper Couloir on the Aiguille Verte, the Walker Spur on the Grandes Jorasses and the Kuffner Ridge on Mont Maudit to more recent gems such as Je t'ai conquis, Je t'adore on Pointe Lepiney, No Siesta on the Grandes Jorasses and Le Vent du Dragon on the Aiguille du Midi.97819061486459781906148645Guidebooken haven't seen it myself yet, but I'm sure it is worthy addition to guidebook library of anyone comtemplating a visit to the area.

A collection of the 100 must-do climbs in the Mont Blanc Massif - Rebuffat for the modern age! Modern alpinism is a multi-faceted activity for which the Mont Blanc Massif is the perfect playground. Classic routes to which every mountaineer can aspire are surrounded by the towering rock faces, huge mixed walls, precipitous ice shields, serrated ridges and narrow gullies that define the massif's harder climbs. In order to attain these prestigious summits via the most interesting itineraries, this book presents a modern selection of 100 must-do routes, ranging from historic classics to more recent lines, described in order of increasing difficulty. Author and mountain guide Philippe Batoux provides a comprehensive account of each route, outlining its history and atmosphere and giving all the technical information needed to climb it. These written descriptions are complemented by photo diagrams and detailed topos. In addition, every route is illustrated with superbly evocative photos that make best use of the book's large format.

Slovak Direct

Source: . Credit: Andy Houseman .
Source: Andy Houseman. Credit: Andy Houseman .

While browsing Vimeo I came across interesting pair of videos regarding Andy Houseman and Nick Bullock's ascent of Slovak DirectDenali6190.5mSouth faceAK6; WI6 M5/100°, 5.9/V+4000m from base camp. The route went formerly with the name "Czech Direct", but was later renamed as the FA party was indeed Slovak, not Czech.

It is very big route indeed, that has got a lot of fame as it was heavily featured in both Extreme Alpinism: Climbing Light, Fast, and High, 1st edition.Twight, Mark & Martin, JamesMountaineers Books1999* The most advanced climbing how-to on the market * Techniques and mental skills needed to climb at a more challenging level * Illustrated with full-color photos throughoutBig, high routes at the edge of a climber's ability are not the places for inventing technique or relying on old habits. Complacency can lead to fatal errors. So where does the hard-core aspirant or dreamer turn? The only master class in print, Extreme Alpinism delivers an expert dose of reality and practical techniques for advanced climbers.Focusing on how top alpine climbers approach the world's most difficult routes, Twight centers his instruction on the ethos of climbing the hardest routes with the least amount of gear and the most speed. Throughout, Twight makes it clear that the two things he refuses to compromise are safety and his climbing ethics. In addition to the extensive chapters on advanced techniques and skills, Twight also discusses mental preparedness and attitude; strength and cardiovascular training; good nutrition; and tips on equipment and clothing.08988665450898866545Extreme AlpinismNon-fictionen and Beyond the Mountain.House, StevePatagonia Inc2009What does it take to be one of the world's best high-altitude mountain climbers? It takes raising funds for an expedition, negotiating some of the world's most dangerous countries, suffering freezing-cold bivouacs and enduring the discomforts of high altitude. It also means learning the hard lessons the mountains teach. This book explores those lessons. Dubbed by Reinhold Messner, "The best high-altitude climber in the world today." Steve House's story chronicles his experiences in the worlds highest mountains, each chapter revealing a different aspect of mountaineering.97809790659589780979065958HouseBiographyen Together with Scott Backes, Twight and House made 60h non-stop ascent, that is considered milestone in fast and light style of alpinism.

The first video EpicTV Interviews: Alpinist Andy Houseman On Denali's Slovak Direct concentrate on history of the climb and personal impressions while the latter BD athlete Andy Houseman and Nick Bullock climb Denali's Slovak Direct is filled with climbing action the climbers shot themselves.

The Pursuit

New ice climbing film by Aaron Mulkey's adventures in Norway seems to be in the works and due out Fall 2013. Meanwhile they have made the trailer available though Vimeo: The Pursuit - Official Trailer Additionally, they have a video available in Youtube New ice routes in Norway with Rab athlete Aaron Mulkey .

The video centers on their FA of on Veslehorn near Hemsedal, next to famous . The route has gotten some repeats in spring 2013.

Power Shield Pro

On the Soft shell front, relatively new Polartec Power Shield ProPolartecPower Shield ProIn 1998 Polartec launched Polartec Power Shield and the soft shell revolution. It was developed in recognition of the fact that 90% of the time you are outside, the weather isn't that bad. So there is great benefit in giving up a little weather protection, in order to get a lot more breathability. In 2010, we are building on that product history by adding real water resistance to our soft shells with the launch of Polartec® Power Shield® Pro. Polartec® Power Shield® Pro combines never before seen levels of air permeability with durable hydrostatic resistance to keep you dry both from within and from out. After launching Polartec Power Shield Pro at the consumer level in Fall 2010, it has won numerous awards, including Outside Magazine and National Geographic Adventure "Gear of the Year" and others. looks like a very hot commodity. Unfortunately, just like is the case with Polartec NeoshellPolartecNeoshellWaterproof fabrics have forced outdoor enthusiasts to live with the restrictions of sweat, saturation, cold and overheating for too long. Introducing Polartec NeoShell. The first truly breathable, fully waterproof, temperature regulating fabric ever. Tested and proven by some of the most committed outdoor enthusiasts on the planet. With unprecedented breathability in a waterproof fabric, it's the ultimate in personal climate control., actual garments made out of it are not too plentifull. Particularly pants made out of it appear to be a rare commodity.

Upcoming 2014 models of Patagonia Knifeblade PantPatagoniaKnifeblade PantBuilt for mobility and pared-down storm-level protection with optimal breathability, the Knifeblade Pants are highly water-resistant, performance stretch soft-shell pants built with lightweight, moisture-shedding Polartec Power Shield Pro fabric. are such gear though. On the jacket front things are slightly, but not a lot, better as Patagonia Knifeblade is made out, as well as Mammut Avers Jacket MenMammutAvers Jacket Menhttps://d1qxh2iwg385ci.cloudfront.net/medias/sys_master/8812491800606/Avers_JA_basilic_bild1.eps_Zoom2.jpgThe most technical alpine Soft Shell jacket in the Mammut collection: highly functional Polartec Powershield Pro material with a cozy high-pile lining and a range of alpine features put this jacket in a class of its own when it comes to cold winter activities. and 66North Vatnajokull Men´s Softshell Jacket66NorthVatnajokull Men´s Softshell Jackethttp://www.66north.com/shop/images/Product/medium/K11167-250.jpg. Unfortunately, that's about it though.

Actually, Power Shield Pro and Neoshell looks fairly similar on paper. According to Polartec, both sport a water resistance on 10 000mm and block almost all of the wind (99,9% for Neoshell, 99% for Power Shield Pro). That being said, I have also seen a figure of 5 000mm (sometimes even 3 000mm) to be used in case on Power Shield Pro. Also Power Shield Pro garments are usually (never) not taped at seams, whereas that is pretty much the norm with Neoshell. Therefore Neoshell is considered to be truly waterproof whereas Power Shield Pro is very-damn-close to being waterproof. The latter in turn is somewhat more breathable. And both are considered far more breathable than Gore-Tex, particularly Pro shell flavour. Gore's Active garments are more breathable than Pro garments, but they generally cannot be expected to stand the abuse of alpine climbing. If Gore allowed Active shell to be laminated into sturdier fabrics, it would probably be superior product to any Gore-tex garment of the market right now. Before when they pretty much had the market for themselves they had no commercial interest for this. Now that there are several viable alternatives, it is interesting to see whether they have to rethink their policies.

Both of the Polartec fabrics (or membranes to be more exact, Power Shield Pro is membrane softshell) are stretchy. The not too dramatic difference in Water resistance and breathability aside, the main difference is that Neoshell is typically laminated into hardshell fabrics whereas Power Shield Pro always come as a softshell. This doesn't have to be like this though, as there are some garmets using Neoshell used with Softshell fabric. Why there are so few of them is a complete mystery to me, as in my book, comfort of softshell, with weather proofness of Neoshell would be a home run in the big mountains where weather proofness of softshell may be found lacking.

With both of these fabrics out on the market (albeit proper climbing-specific garments made out of them seem to be in short supply), as well as eVent eVenteVenteVenthttp://eventfabrics.com/wp-content/themes/eventfabrics/img/logo.jpgNo matter what’s happening on the outside, eVent keeps you dry inside. It’s all made possible through a state-of-the-art fabric design that helps your sweat evaporate. (which as far as I known is also marketed as Mountain Hardwear Dry.Q EliteMountain HardwearDry.Q Elitehttp://demandware.edgesuite.net/aacw_prd/on/demandware.static/Sites-MountainHardwear_INT-Site/Sites-MountainHardwear_INT-Library/default/v1381941591170/innovations/technologies/Logo-dryQElite.jpgDry.Q Elite is used in our most premium waterproof-breathable products. It offers the most comfortable level of breathability by combining high moisture-vapor transfer rates and air permeability at all body temperatures. Traditional waterproof-breathable technologies require high levels of user exertion (high body heat) before the breathability kicks in. Dry.Q Elite is instant-on technology. It starts breathing the instant you put it on, regardless of temperature or level of exertion for waterproof, windproof performance like you’ve always wanted, guaranteed. by Mountain Hardwear) old king of the hill Gore-Tex surely has their work cut out for them. In order for them to become interesting to me again they would have to figure out a way of making their membrane stretchy and allow the use of Active Shell with fabrics which are tough enough to sustain alpine abuse. Or come up with something offering at least Neoshell-level of waterprooness at similar or greater breathability. Not an easy task.

Neoshell pants, where are thou?

One of the very few Polartec neoshell pants. Credit: Eider Shot on 2013-07-30 Photo taken..
One of the very few Polartec neoshell pants. Credit: Eider Shot on 2013-07-30 Photo taken..

After having given Polartec NeoshellPolartecNeoshellWaterproof fabrics have forced outdoor enthusiasts to live with the restrictions of sweat, saturation, cold and overheating for too long. Introducing Polartec NeoShell. The first truly breathable, fully waterproof, temperature regulating fabric ever. Tested and proven by some of the most committed outdoor enthusiasts on the planet. With unprecedented breathability in a waterproof fabric, it's the ultimate in personal climate control. garments a go (Rab Stretch Neo pantRabStretch Neo panthttp://rab.uk.com/assets/product-images/stretch_neo_pants_beluga.jpgThe Stretch Neo Pant is a fully waterproof and highly breathable over trouser. The Stretch Neo Pant makes a perfect partner with the Stretch Neo jacket and provides complete wet weather protection. The Stretch Neo Pant boasts 3/4 length side zips to make getting them on and off very easy, 2 zip pockets with water- resistant zips, belt loops and brace attachment points and reinforced crampon patches. All these features hint at the Stretch Neo's favourite environment - out on the Mountain! and jacket in my case), I am coming to conclusion that Neoshell would be the best fabric for ice climbing in wet and windy conditions and high altitude use, where you need very good windproofness simultaneously with high level of breathability.

None of the softshells I've tried seem to cut it when it gets really windy. Obviously they aren't quite waterproof enough when ice climbing in very wet conditions either. Gore-products on the other hand tend not to be anywhere near breathable enough for highly aerobic. Therefore I feel that Neoshell membrane laminated to stetchy softshell fabric would be just what the doctor ordered. Apparently Dane appear to be convinced that Neoshell soft garments are a way to go as well: Polartec Neoshell "Soft"? The real game changer?.

Unfortunately, this is where it starts to get complicated. There seems to be none available. Neoshell is relatively scarce to start with, and most of the garments made out of it are jackets. To make matters worse, many of them are light to very light, which unfortunately means that the fabrics used aren't particularly durable. And virtually every single garment is laminated into hardshell fabric.

For example, Rab Stretch Neo garments are basically three-layer hardshell, that just breathes better than Gore Pro shell. However, they are not very stretchy and appear to handle wear and tear of technical alpine climbing very poorly. Most other Neoshell garments (Montane, Eider) seem to laminated into light or very fabrics as well. 300-400g pants are surely nice when packing your backpack, but are of very little use when they have been ripped into pieces. They work without a doubt great for hill walking etc. But abuse of alpine climbing is a different matter altogether. Furthermore, Rab Stretch Neo pants leave a lot to be desired as far as features go (lack of integrated gaiters, completely unnecessary and counterproductive long zips).

I've tried to find Neoshell soft pants with no unnecessary bells and whistles, but such pants appear to be very difficult to come by. Mammut apparently makes (or at least made) Mammut Gipfelgrat Jacket MenMammutGipfelgrat Jacket Menhttps://d1qxh2iwg385ci.cloudfront.net/medias/sys_master/8812490326046/Gipfelgrat_JA_black_bild1.eps_Zoom2.jpgThe latest innovative waterproof Soft Shell jacket for technical alpine use, all year round and in all weather conditions. The jacket has all the required features and an optimal temperature for use on the mountain. out of Neoshell, but not pants. The same applies to Marmot Nabu JacketMarmotNabu Jackethttp://cdn.marmot.com/sites/marmot.com/files/imagecache/product_full/product_images/80740_6674.jpgThe peak of high performance innovation, the Nabu Jacket, utilizes new Polartec® Neo Shell® fabric to blend stretch, waterproof and breathable qualities together. It also offers a special wicking backer to control sweat and keep your core ultra comfy, making this the perfect all-around mountain jacket.. Eider Uphill Neoshell pantEiderUphill Neoshell panthttp://www.eider.com/media/declinaisons/10430/image/c452x520/EIV1930_0247.jpgThe Neoshell membrane: the new membrane meeting Polartec expectations regarding breathability. Very technical pant dedicated to the most demanding mountaineers. is pretty much the only piece of kit that comes anywhere near. Seems to have been discontinued though.

On the other hand, Polartec Power Shield ProPolartecPower Shield ProIn 1998 Polartec launched Polartec Power Shield and the soft shell revolution. It was developed in recognition of the fact that 90% of the time you are outside, the weather isn't that bad. So there is great benefit in giving up a little weather protection, in order to get a lot more breathability. In 2010, we are building on that product history by adding real water resistance to our soft shells with the launch of Polartec® Power Shield® Pro. Polartec® Power Shield® Pro combines never before seen levels of air permeability with durable hydrostatic resistance to keep you dry both from within and from out. After launching Polartec Power Shield Pro at the consumer level in Fall 2010, it has won numerous awards, including Outside Magazine and National Geographic Adventure "Gear of the Year" and others. should be very good material for pants as it retains comfort and stretch of softshells but adds significantly better water-resistance and improved wind-resistance at very small penalty in decreased breathability. However, it appears to be very rare as well, as Patagonia Knifeblade PantPatagoniaKnifeblade PantBuilt for mobility and pared-down storm-level protection with optimal breathability, the Knifeblade Pants are highly water-resistant, performance stretch soft-shell pants built with lightweight, moisture-shedding Polartec Power Shield Pro fabric. is the only pant made out of that I've come across. Pants made out of regular PowerShield are more common, but obviously they lack the level or weather-proofness of PowerShield Pro.

That being said, Millet Roc Composite PantMilletRoc Composite Panthttp://www.millet.fr/resize/media/declinaisons/13231/image/f488x520/MIV5711_4333.jpgPant with braces, built from WINDSTOPPER® X Fast Stretch 3L fabric for modern mountaineering: ultimate performance, absolute precision, freedom of movement, extreme resistance to adverse weather and abrasion is very interesting concept as well. At least on paper, it seems to combine the weatherproofness of Gore-tex with comfort and breathability of Windstopper while minimizing the bad points of either. Lower legs are where you need water-proofness the most as you'll be regularly plodding in deep snow. This is also were poor breathability of Gore-tex doesn't really matter that much, as nothing breathes when inside deep snow. And lower legs is not where you sweat the most in any case.

Color me blind

While trying to find replacement for my worn out softshell (Arc'teryx Gamma MX HoodyArc'teryxGamma MX Hoodyhttp://images.arcteryx.com/F13/450x500/Gamma-MX-Hoody-Buckeye.pngThis wind-resistant, breathable hoody is perfect for alpine specialists looking for enhanced mobility. A tough, highly wind-resistant outer face sheds moisture and a light fleece backer adds warmth while wicking away moisture.) I found out, that many of the best looking design are only available either as black or some other very dark color such as navy blue. This might be stylish choice for everyday use, but we are talking about garments targeted squarely for alpine climbing. On the mountains color choice like that is a joke.

Bright colour that stands out against rock and ice works better (far easier to spot out partner) and is safer (easier to see if there's a party above you or to spot from helicopter should the shit have hit the fan). Oh, and they look better in pictures as well.

Hollywood howlers

Will Gadd reveals in his blog that he has worked as a double in the , the upcoming Jason Bourne movie. It is directed by Tony Gilroy, previously encaged as writer for movies like Duplicity, Michael Clayton and The Bourne Ultimatum. It'll be very interesting what will come of it.

You did have to tamper with it, didn't you

I have said before that if you find something that just works, it would be good idea to buy rest of the stock as you can rely on manufacturers to either discontinue the model or tamper with it so that everything that made it great in the first place is lost.

Two latest examples of this are:

  • OR has ruined the Outdoor Research VertOutdoor ResearchVerthttp://05030077193e809f264e-1522c9aa9166aed90604201d00e4590f.r7.cf2.rackcdn.com/470x500_72524_189.jpgThese close-fitting gloves are the perfect choice for any cold-weather activity that requires sure grip and precise dexterity. Soft shell fabric resists wear, breathes well and lets you move without restriction, and the leather palms provide a natural, conforming feel and excellent grip.. While seemingly the changes to current model appear all good at first, they have also fiddled with the fit making the fingers far longer. This has made the fit worse for me. They are still usable but not very good like the old model. The change also required me to go one size smaller, which eliminated the possibility of using very thin liner inside to boost warmness. So all in all, far inferior product to me.
  • BD joined the wagon by tampering with the Black Diamond ImpulseBlack DiamondImpulsehttp://demandware.edgesuite.net/sits_pod21/dw/image/v2/AAKN_PRD/on/demandware.static/Sites-BlackDiamond-Site/Sites-bdel/default/v1374991456448/products/gloves_gaitors/801452_impulse_blk_up_web.jpg?sw=472The Impulse is Black Diamond's lightweight, breathable, four-season softshell glove. The Impulse's stretchy Polartec Power Shield shell, neoprene knuckle padding and bonded, high-loft fleece lining give you the ideal balance between warmth, protection and dexterity. Imported.. The new model seems to have a different fit as well and it is also stiffer and thicker due to reinforcements. This doesn't feel that bad, but some of the suppleness of the older model is lost and fit is also somewhat worse to my hand.

All changes are not all bad though. New Marmot Spring gloveMarmotSpring glovehttp://cdn.marmot.com/sites/marmot.com/files/imagecache/product/product_images/15390_1087.jpgThe Spring Glove is a reliable, functional, top-value glove that has proven its mettle with guides throughout the mountain ranges of the world. A versatile lightweight glove well suited for Spring Skiing. (model 2012/2013) seems to be an improvement over the previous model. AFAIK the model has been changed yet again, but at least in the pictures it looks exactly the same, colors aside of course. And anyway, this time I was foresighted enough to buy several pairs.

Lo and behold

Lo and behold, there appears to be newish pants made by Haglöfs that seem to have several things done right that most everyone gets very wrong time and again.

Just as a reminder, my ideal climbing pant, both soft and hard shell should have the following features:

  • High waisted cut with suspenders. I do not like bibs as they add unnecessary weight and diminish breathability. They can have elevated back provided it is made out of mesh or some else extremely breathable fabric (good but not mandatory on my book), but should not be very high in the front. I see no gain out of that. On the minus side, they adds bulk and decreases breathability.
  • Cut needs to be trim to reduce unnecessary bulk and prevent them from snagging too readily. Which greatly increases their real-life robustness while actually making the pant lighter, a real winning combo imo. This requires good functional cut which in turn benefits greatly from stretch fabric. Particularly, lower legs may not be too wide to avoid them from snagging to rock, crampons and the like, which greatly increases the risk of ripping. And adds utterly useless bulk and weight with no gain whatsoever.
  • Full length side zippers are completely unnecessary. They have no use, and add bulk, weight and just another thing that can break. Furthermore, they also make the pant less breathable and stiffer. While I can see the logic behind the thinking of putting in full-length zips (I just agree with the line of reasoning), I can't figure out what the heck has been going on through the designers at Rab who put 3/4 length zippers so that it doesn't go through waist and upper thigh. This is a stupid joke in my book that brings all the bad point of full-length zippers with none of the benefits.
  • They should have a two-way zipper from the waist to mid thigh to facilitate ventilation by opening them and to make it easier to answer the call of the nature. This seems to be something no one gets.
  • Decent integrated gaiter complete with tightening and, more importantly, loop so that you hook it under your heel or the boot to prevent it from raising. Hook doesn't work for me, as I use Scarpa Scarpa Phantom GuideScarpaPhantom Guidehttp://www.scarpa.com/images/products/87411-210/detail.jpgRedefining mountain performance, this boot is suitable for challenging the most technical routes in cold climates, whether ice cragging or in the high mountains. Phantom Guides that have no place to fix that hook properly. Inside the boot's integrated gaiter would be a possibility of course, but the loop is far better.

While not ticking all the points above, Häglöfs models don't have full length side zippers which most manufacturers seem to be dead set to have. They also make Haglöfs Couloir pantHaglöfsCouloir pantphoto to Häglöfs Couloir pant of Gore-Tex stretch soft shell fabric complete with membrane and all. This seems like a winning combo to me, a hard shell pant that is as comfortable as a soft shell. I have not even seen the pant, much less tried it, so can't comment on how well it performs in real life. That might change though.

Update 2013-10-22: I went ahead and bought Haglöfs Couloir pants 1,5 years ago. Those are fairly ok, but nowhere near as good as they could have been. First of all, they are far too wide in lower legs. Also, integrated snow gaiters are poorly done. And the fit isn't otherwise very good either, nowhere near as good as on some identically sized Haglöfs softshells. So unfortunately this is yet another good idea spoiled by half-asset execution.

On a more general note, Polartec NeoshellPolartecNeoshellWaterproof fabrics have forced outdoor enthusiasts to live with the restrictions of sweat, saturation, cold and overheating for too long. Introducing Polartec NeoShell. The first truly breathable, fully waterproof, temperature regulating fabric ever. Tested and proven by some of the most committed outdoor enthusiasts on the planet. With unprecedented breathability in a waterproof fabric, it's the ultimate in personal climate control. and hybrids may have stolen the thunder of Gore-tex softshell before many garments made out it ever got to the market. Not quite sure whatever happened to stretch versions of Gore-tex which were far more common several years ago than they are now. Currently Millet uses stretch Gore fabrics, but no one else as far as I know.

DMM ice gear lineup

On the hardware front, DMM seems to be modernizing their axe line up for 2012/2013 season.

DMM The SwitchDMMThe Switchhttp://coldthistle.blogspot.com/2012/01/new-dmm-ice-toolsthis-week.htmlSetting new standards for technical climbing in any terrain – ice, mixed or alpine. A true, leashless all rounder! If swinging around on a marginal pick placement with both hands matched, gunning for the next sketchy hook is your thing, then look no further, likewise, if quick enchainements in the Alps or psychedelically featured Continental ice float your boat then this is the tool for you. The Switch is DMM’s new ‘state of the art’ full strength leashless tool that takes all of our design heritage and manufacturing knowledge and brings them together as a modern classic. looks like a pretty exact replica of Petzl Nomic. Interesting to see can they one up the competition. I reckon at least their grip rest won't be wobbling and shouldn't break off either, as the handle appears to be fixed part of the shaft. This obviously means that it can't be adjusted, but it probably isn't too bad if the size fits you inthe first place. Might be a bad news for anyone with really small or really large hands though. It is also rumored that they are working on bringing new screw to the market.

On paper the new Switch looks a lot like Petzl NomicPetzlNomichttp://www.petzl.com/files/imagecache/product_outdoor_slideshow_image/node_media/nomic-1_1.jpgThe NOMIC allows the entire rock climbing repertoire to be transferred to ice. Thanks to its adjustable ergonomic handle, it offers multiple grip modes and limits the risk of snagging when switching hands. The ICE pick allows easy penetration in any type of ice, and pulls out easily. The modular head has two removable pick weights to balance the axe and propel it into the ice with an exceptional swing. The NOMIC can also be equipped with a hammer when placing pitons.. it would be interesting to try them out to see whether they feel like it as well. That beings said Black Diamond FusionBlack DiamondFusion looks very similar to Nomic on paper as well, yet feels quite different.

Nomic micro hammers

I have been trying to find new Petzl Lightweight hammersPetzlLightweight hammers for Petzl NomicPetzlNomichttp://www.petzl.com/files/imagecache/product_outdoor_slideshow_image/node_media/nomic-1_1.jpgThe NOMIC allows the entire rock climbing repertoire to be transferred to ice. Thanks to its adjustable ergonomic handle, it offers multiple grip modes and limits the risk of snagging when switching hands. The ICE pick allows easy penetration in any type of ice, and pulls out easily. The modular head has two removable pick weights to balance the axe and propel it into the ice with an exceptional swing. The NOMIC can also be equipped with a hammer when placing pitons., which Petzl apparently manufactures now. I reckon the older larger hammer would be better for actually pounding in pins, but their weight has adverse effect on the swing, which I reckon is usually far more important than the effectiveness of hammering in the pitons.

They seem to be very difficult to locate though. Maybe vaporware, all too familiar from the IT industry, has landed in climbing gear industry as well.

Update 2013-10-23: I did manage to find those hammers and have used them the last winter. I can verify that they do not spoil the swing, so all is fine on that front. haven't pounded many pitons with them so jury is still out on that front, but given the shape of the shaft I suspect hammering is about exactly as awkward as it is without it. The difference is that you won't abuse the head of the tools. So, looks to be pretty sweet compromise. The only real downside is that you need to use new style picks which have a cutout for the hammers. This is unfortunate, as I feel the old shape of the picks was better, mainly because it was easier to sharpen (new picks require a mjaor reshaping when your picks shortens.)

Ice cold

Ice season is finally here. UKClimbing seems to have a series of articles giving some tips how to climb more efficiently and safely.

Reel Rock 2011

Reel Rock 2011 poster. Credit: Sender Films Shot on 2012-02-29 Photo taken..

Reel Rock 2011 seems to include lots of stuff related to alpine stuff. It starts with Will Gadd's and Tim Emmett's exploits on wildly overhanging spray ice in Canada's Helmcken Falls, followed by a shortened version of Cold , featuring a winter ascent of Karakoram's Gasherbrum 2. After that the film moves to rock climbing. Most of this in this film's case take place on the big walls of Yosemite. The film is available as HD download.

Moonflower Is another interesting looking new video. It details the climb "Cartwright Connection"Mount Hunter4442m on Mount Hunter's Moonflower Buttress by Britons Jon Bracey and Matt Helliker. For more info, see British Moonflower Buttress Expedition 2011 or Cartwright Connection.

To be or not to be?

By doing some research for climbs in the Cordillera Blanca and Huayhuash, as well as back when I was doing the same for Langtang Himal of Nepal, I tumbled across whole range inconsistency of issues. These make even identifying the peak a tad difficult and therefore complicate finding further information a great deal.

These issues include things like:

  • inconsistent naming of Peaks
  • inconsistent writing form of the same sames
  • inconsistent altitude

Identifying the route has also the very same issues with naming. Also those and sometimes vague details about the route make it difficult to identify the same route. If first ascentionist information is available, it can make this a lot easier. It is not free of pitfalls though, as there appear to have been few ascents reported as new route when the route had actually been climbed before. Listed first ascencionists can also be inconsistent between sources if one source lists a route as climbed without summiting whereas another source considers the first ascent that ends up on a summit as the first ascent. In Peruvian Cordilleras several routes end on a summit ridge without actually summiting.

Jeremy Frimer's excellent guidebook Climbs & treks in the Cordillera Huayhuash.Frimer, JeremyElaho2005The pre-eminent guide to one of the world’s great mountain ranges, detailing the approaches, the treks, the climbs and travel. 09733035570973303557FrimerGuidebooken lists references to sources he considers to be primary. While this approach is very much common place (usually mandatory) in scientific world, I don't remember having seen it used in climbing world too often. Makes perfect sense though.

Sources of information I consider primary within the realm of climbing world (in descending order of importance, IMO):

  • guidebooks
  • Alpine journals (I consider Alpinist and Mountain Info to be somewhere between a journal and a magazine in this respect and Himalayan Index to be journal of sorts)
  • climbing magazines

Some of these are available either completely or at least partially online:

Another point that I have sometimes wondered is that in some areas there are very few repeats and virtually all ascents are called new routes. Sometimes this appears to be caused by practically every variation to an existing route to be considered a new route. And variations on mountain routes are pretty much the norm either intentionally (due to conditions) or unintentionally (getting lost). Obviously there are no stead-fast rules when a route is a route and when it is a variation. This is brought up in an The Changing Nature of Climbing of Alpinist.

Yet another point to consider is what constitutes a mountain. In Europe, most notably in Chamonix area, there are apparently not a bumb small enough not to be a mountain with name and everything. In less explored areas, say Himalayas or Andes, what is considered to be a mountain is usually very different. In those areas I suspect that the whole range of peaks making up the mountains of Chamonix could be just one mountain, with Aguille Verte, Grandes Jorasses etc called Mont Blanc Norte I and II respectively. At the very least, Mont Blanc du Tacul, Mont Maudit, Mont Blanc du Courmayer and other satellites would most definitely not to be counted as mountains, some of them probably not even as side summits. Not that there's anything wrong with them being counted as mountains, if they weren't it would certainly make reading guidebook more confusing due the great number of routes on various features on Mont Blanc and its satellites. If going to less explored areas though, it is worth a note that up there something called say North summit may actually be very much independent peak.

Also just because a peak doesn't even have a proper name but is referred to group name and a number (say Caraz II or K7) doesn't mean that it wouldn't be imposing peak on its own right.

Then there are mountains that have highly misleading name. Take Yerypajá Chico as an example (peak sitting on Cordillera Huayhuash main chain between Yerupajá in the south and Jirishanca in the north). The name would suggest a lower side summit to Yerupajá. However, a peak with a primary factor (altitude gain from low point separating it from its nearest higher neighbor) of over 500m is hardly a side summit of anything.

Scanning & stitching maps

Outdoor maps tend to be too large to be easy to use when climbing (or trekking for that matter). Copying or scanning & printing smaller portions of maps is often a good idea to create a map that is easier to manage. This can also save some money, as you are less likely to tear or otherwise destroy the original map.

Copying parts you actually need is obviously simple enough, but there are times where scanning is useful (particularly if you want to add route lines, campsites etc. on a map beforehand. However, scanning large format map raises few issues:

  • unless you have access to large format scanner, scanning in parts & stitching the pieces is required
  • folds and wrinkles are as good as certain to cause distortions. It is also virtually impossible to get the map to be completely flat on a scanner, which causes more distortions. And finally, scanners, particularly inexpensive ones, can add distortions of their own.

The best way (here: best equals the method that produces the best results, not the method where you might get acceptable results with least amount of time and effort) to scan maps for stitching I have come up with is the following (warning: the process is labor intensive; so if you can get the map in digital format, do yourself a favor and get it to save a lot of hassle).

  1. Get the map as flat on the scanner as possible. This can often be achieved removing the lid and placing heavy book above the map.
  2. Scan each piece normally. usually it's a good idea to leave edges unscanned, as they are almost certainly not completely flat causing bot distortion and darkness.
  3. Despite all the efforts described above to avoid distortions, there are some, trust me. Distortions are particularly bad for stitching as they are sure to cause disalignment on the part edges. The way to fight this is to:
    • create a grid and distort scanned image back to the size and shape it should have been. In the case of maps there are usually gridlines. The idea here is to create grid using image manipulation applications guidelines tool so that the grid size is exactly as it should be on paper map.
    • then load each of scanned images as new layer in image processing app and force it back to shape by distorting it so that the grids on map align perfectly with grid created above with guidelines. This also takes care of deskewing the scanned image (it is virtually impossible to scan large format originals with smaller format scanner without the scan to be a bit rotated).

Obviously one could try to be lazy and use stitching application for the same purpose and thus save a lot of manual labor. However, I have found that they usually do a bad job of stitching maps. No reason not to give it a go though.

One Crampon to rule them all, part deux

With Black Diamond about to introduce their new BD StingerBDStinger, it seems quite possible that Petzl might steal their thunder with all new Petzl LynxPetzlLynx. On paper it looks much like Petzl DartPetzlDart, just with proper downward points and heaps of adjustment possibilities. All this without too bad of a weight penalty. Interesting indeed.

Blessing in disguise

I broke the metal strap that is used to attach retention strap from the front bail of my Grivel Rambo 4GrivelRambo 4 's. It seems that this might have been a blessing in disguise as it made me do some comparisons of the front bails (I have few other Grivel crampons laying around (Grivel G14GrivelG14 's, my brother's old Rambo 2's).

I replaced the whole front bail with the one from mono-point set of Rambo 2. By doing this I noticed that the bail of Rambo 2 fits better with my Scarpa Phantom Guide's. It is not asymmetrical like Rambo 4 one, but this doesn't seem to matter. The difference is that the bail is narrower, thus eliminating the possibility of horizontal movement almost completely. The front bail is slightly longer though, so I ended up moving the front bail one step further back. This effectively moved the boot backwards half a step.

After noticing this, I compared the front bail of G14 and Rambo 4. Rambo 4 bail is significantly shorter, a bit narrower and asymmetrical in shape. By using slight violence I was able to fit Rambo bail on my G14. This moves the boot backwards quite a bit, which causes two changes:

  • front point gets effectively longer (which is otherwise significantly shorter than on Rambo 4)
  • secondary points and small additional points move significantly towards front giving them a much better possibility to actually hit the ice

I am generally not a big fan of very long front point (added leverage equals added strain for calves). However there's such a thing as too short. This new setup looks much better than the original one so I obviously need to give it a go to test whether this translates to better real-world performance.

While I was at it, I also tried out my new DremelDremel by sharpening pathetically dull secondary points.

Vimeo finds

No pain, no gain

Ice and mixed climbing require highly specific set of skills, that are not too easily gained by doing anything else. And yes, this includes rock and gym climbing too. Furthermore, the game is largely within the head. Best way to improve your confidence in ice climbing is to ice climb. Failing that, drytooling and rock climbing and even indoor climbing can all help.

However, when none of these are an option due to accessibility or time constraint, there are quite a few exercises that can be performed at home with not much equipment and that don't take too much time to complete.

Swinging. Take ice tool and duct tape some weight to head (say two cans of beer). Then start doing swings (aim for precise swinging that matches actual ice climbing swings). Depending on your fitness, weight and swinging speed, 40-60 repetitions per hand and a set should make the hand properly pumped. If it doesn't increase the weight. Repeat three to four sets per hand.

Calves. Bog-standard toe raise, either each calf separately or both at once. Or mix and match. Repeat between 40-60 times. If it doesn't start to burn your calves properly, either put your toes on a platform or put a backpack on.

If you have a pull up bar, there are lots of possibilities. For variety and added specifiness you can use the bar, hang from it from your tools or attach rock rings to bar. Of course there are the classics:

  • dead hang
  • one handed dead hang
  • pull up (normal, staggered)
They all work just fine and are beneficial. That being said, I have tried to come up with ones that more closely mimic actual climbing motion in hopes of them being even more effective. So I have come up with these two exercices:

combination exercise consisting of

  • pull up - lock off combo (repeat until properly pumped or until you can't do a pull up anymore)
    • dead hang for about five seconds
    • pull up
    • lock off for roughly five seconds either at top position or lowering my arms to 90 degree angle
  • to allow me to stay on, I place my feet on a bad support (small climbing hold bolted on wall in my case) to take some off the weight off my hands (not too much) and allow to shake out
  • keeping my feet on the support, few repetitions of a pull up, lock off and reaching higher with another hand (as in reaching for the next hold)
  • another shake out
  • few repetitions of dead hang and shake out placing feet on support
  • finish with dead hang until the pain becomes unbearable. Alternatively just hang while keep feet on a bad support (easier, thus allows for more duration).
This combination exercise should take few minutes to complete thus it is good for endurance, not just pure strength. I believe it mimics the actual climbing pretty closely.

Another simple exercise I find effective is to do a lock off (in 90 degree angle) while raising my feet (curled up) towards chest and keeping them there. This puts a load both on arms and core. This can very well be be combined with pullups by doing a pull up, keeping the lock off & feet raise for a few seconds, then repeating as many times you can.

Step up. Build a two or three step ladder, put a backpack on and start stepping. Unlike StairmasterStairmaster, this does not cost much, does not make much sound and doesn't take too much space. You don't have to use time to get to the training and you can train no matter of the weather. Obviosuly this is monotonic, but this can be aided by doing it in the living room watching tv or listening to music. Height of the steps and weight of the backpack obviously make a great difference in how strenuous this is. I use this exercise mainly for aerobic endurance, so I usually do this for an hour non-stop, changing the "leading" foot every five minutes. Mimics walking uphill with a backpack far better than, say, running, cross country skiing or mountain biking, although this certainly isn't as much fun. Trains both general aerobic endurance as well as uphill specific muscles of you feet. Add toe-raising on top step to make it harder.

Remote Exposure

Licensed under: cover photo.

There's a interesting looking book coming in a form of . It promises to give loads of useful info regarding the climbing photography.

Though many hikers and climbers carry cameras with them, they often come away feeling disappointed because their images fail to visually translate their experiences. In Remote Exposure Alexandre Buisse goes beyond the mere basics of photography and gives you the tools needed to create images that are not only of good technical quality but that are compelling as well.

This book will guide you through the various options for equipment, since the requirement for lightweight gear that is able to withstand cold, adverse weather conditions presents unique challenges. Learn about the importance of having an efficient carrying system and a logical, planned workflow.

Throughout the book you will find advice on where to point your camera and how to compose a strong image. Included are specific requirements for rock climbing, hiking, mountaineering, and camping. More advanced photographic topics are also covered such as digital capture and optimization techniques like high dynamic range imaging (HDRI), panoramic stitching, and how to achieve excellent results without a tripod.

The pages are filled with over 100 stunning images captured by Buisse as he hiked and climbed through mountain ranges on three continents. Photographers of all levels and those who just appreciate beautiful images are sure to be inspired by this book.

I also figured that it wouldn't hurt to brush up my self rescue skills. For this reason, I ordered Climbing Self Rescue: Improvising Solutions for Serious Situations.Tyson, Andy & Loomis, MollyMountaineers Books2006When your climbing team is in trouble on the mountain—how to get yourself out of a jam without calling 911. - Self-rescue procedures for teams of two—the most common climbing party size - Techniques equally effective on rock, snow, and ice - Utilizes gear climbers already carry in their rack - Includes 40 one-page rescue scenarios and solutions for analysis The rope is stuck—or too short. A crucial piece of gear is MIA. You’ve wandered off route into dicey terrain. An injury leaves you or your partner in need of help. Climb long enough and finding yourself in a jam far from help is inevitable. In Climbing: Self Rescue, two longtime climbing instructors and guides teach how to improvise your own solutions, calling for outside help only when necessary.Because few climbers carry fancy (and expensive) search and rescue gear, all skills taught in this book use the items typically found on a climbing rack: rope, carabiners, slings, and cord. Text, illustrations, and photos explain knots, belaying and hauling systems, rappelling, ascension, passing knots, how to safely assist and rig an injured climber, and more. Roughly half of the book is devoted to real-life climbing scenarios and solutions ranging from moderate to severe. Because real-life situations rarely unfold as they do in practice, Climbing Self-Rescue teaches how to analyze and improvise your way out of a crisis.ANDY TYSON is a guide for Alpine Ascents, Exum and Antarctic-logistics and Expeditions. MOLLY LOOMIS is an instructor for the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), Alpine Ascents and Prescott College. Tyson is the author of Glacier Mountaineering; Loomis has written for Rock & Ice, Climbing, She Sends, and other publications.978-0898867725978-0898867725Self RescueInstructionalen.

One Crampon to rule 'em all

Front part of Grivel Rambo 4. I really like the front point configuration with additional point outside the frontpoint, secondary points facing forward and outward and back points facing backwards and somewhat out. If I were to nitpick, I'd like the secondary points to protrude forward more aggressively (that is to say a tad more forward) and the underside of them could have small teeth for better traction on rock. However, my biggest grief on Rambo's is the weight and lack of sensitivity. Also, flat and rigid structure makes the front part not to fit too greatly on shoes with rocker soles. Credit: Grivel.
Front part of Grivel Rambo 4. I really like the front point configuration with additional point outside the frontpoint, secondary points facing forward and outward and back points facing backwards and somewhat out. If I were to nitpick, I'd like the secondary points to protrude forward more aggressively (that is to say a tad more forward) and the underside of them could have small teeth for better traction on rock. However, my biggest grief on Rambo's is the weight and lack of sensitivity. Also, flat and rigid structure makes the front part not to fit too greatly on shoes with rocker soles. Credit: Grivel.

I have climbed last few years mainly on Grivel Rambo 4GrivelRambo 4 on ice falls and Grivel G14GrivelG14 on alpine stuff. Rambo 4 works fine, but it is heavy and due to vertical structure, it doesn't give as good a sensitivity as I would like. This is particularly not ideal on mixed ground and thin ice. Furthermore, it is by far the worst crampon I've ever used to walk on, due to height and point structure. So I think I am going to need to try lighter weight crampons.

I do my drytooling and mixed climbing on fruitboots (older model of La Sportiva Mega IceLa SportivaMega Ice with permanently attached Grivel RacingGrivelRacing crampons). Obviously this combo as far lighter and more sensitive than anything you could realistically expect from any combination of more traditional boot - crampon combo. However, keeping the sensitivity of the fruitboots as a benchmark, my current go-to crampon for ice falls (Grivel Rambo 4) leave a lot to be desired.

Some features I think are important:

  • Fit. Good fit consists of multiple things, starting from the general shape. In my case that is a curved frame to fit curved shoes (Scarpa Phantom GuideScarpaPhantom Guide 's in my case). Some other features affecting the fit
    • front bail must not be too wide to prevent sideways movement
    • back lever must not be too tall so that it does not press ankle painfully (particularly important of softer boots)
    • back lever should have a proper retention strap to prevent accidental opening (could be an issue when hooking). Petzl lever has strap on the bottom, which is a very bad design in my book. Both Grivel and BD place the trap to the top of the lever, which make accidental opening of the lever as good as impossible. Luckily, it is possible to fix the issue with Petzl lever by either replacing the lever with BD or Grivel one, or by tinkering with the stock lever.
  • Offset monopoint. I have read that some prefer dual points for pure ice. I wholeheartedly disagree. Proponents of dual point usually list more support as benefits for dual points. I don't really buy this arguments. Granted, if you have dual points planted all the way into ice, they would be more supportive than mono point. The problem with this argument is that it is virtually impossible to get dual points planted as well as a mono point. The problem is that when the ice is hard, you usually can't get duals fully in due to added resistance. Duals are also more prone to shatter the ice. Monos on the other hand can be readily placed into your pick holes. Furthermore, monos are far easier to plant on featured ice, not to mention on mixed ground (not a really a contest here). Also, I have found out that duals tend to pop out if you boot twists slightly. This is a common occurrence, at least on my case, when pulling over bulges.
  • The point of support is very important though. To boost the support of dual, the secondary points need to placed far enough towards the front. This is a problem with most crampons on sale. Particularly, secondary points of G14 are placed too far back and protrude to little forwards to allow proper support. On Rambo 4 secondary points are better, but they still be placed a bit further forwards. Many models have small teeth facing forward outside the mono. I believe Grivel got this one right with Rambo 4, which has a smaller point about on the position where there would be outside front point on dual points. This is longer than on most crampons for added supports but not too long to cause the same issues as duals do. Pretty much the best of both worlds in my book. I also like the secondary points to angle outside for better hooking and for kicking a ledge to give a welcome rest for calf muscles when placing a screw.
  • For hooking performance, points angling out and back are beneficial. This is another part that I really like on Rambo 4.
  • Replaceable front point is a benefit, hands down. That being said, secondary points are very important as well. Therefore, I don't see having to replace the whole front part (like is the case with Petzl DartPetzlDart and Grivel G20GrivelG20) as a problem, if spare front parts are actually available and the price isn't too astronomical.

So all in all, Rambo 4 point configuration on flat crampon would be pretty close to my ideal.

Petzl Dart. In many ways a polar opposite of Grivel Rambo 4. Very light and reportedly highly sensitive due to horizontal and minimal frame. Configuration of secondary points seems very good, although it has no smaller additional point between frontpoint and outside secondary point. Furthermore, secondary points could benefir from being a tad longer and facing outwards. Also, points facing backwards woulkd work better for hooking if they were polaced further to the back (or maybe those backmost orange points could have similar shape than the back part of secondary point). Credit: Petzl promo photo.
Petzl Dart. In many ways a polar opposite of Grivel Rambo 4. Very light and reportedly highly sensitive due to horizontal and minimal frame. Configuration of secondary points seems very good, although it has no smaller additional point between frontpoint and outside secondary point. Furthermore, secondary points could benefir from being a tad longer and facing outwards. Also, points facing backwards woulkd work better for hooking if they were polaced further to the back (or maybe those backmost orange points could have similar shape than the back part of secondary point). Credit: Petzl promo photo.

Of the crampons available on the market, Petzl Dart, Grivel G20 and upcoming BD StingerBDStinger seem to be the closest thing to those ideals, although none of these are perfects. Biggest issue with the upcoming BD Stinger (based on articles about the test samples) is the configuration of the small points between front point and secondary points. These seem to be located too close to front point and the outer one could be longer. This setup is rumored to change before production crampons hit the shelves, so there's hoping BD will fit the bill pretty closely. Particularly if they have fixed the front bail (far too wide in their previous crampons).

Screw 'em up

I've had my ice screws sharpened a few times by Grivel sharpening machineGrivelsharpening machine. The screws after the sharpening machine seem a bit rough, but they do work fine, despite them usually looking a bit rough. Bursts need to be removed with a file, but other than that they have worked just fine.

However, the machine seems to just take off the material from the cutting edge, which means that the valleys between the teeth tend to get shallower.

Sharpening the screws with a file could produce the screws with more new-like shape, but sharpening the screws with a file takes a lot of filing, as the teeth need to be equally long. Which often means that you have to make all other teeth dull at first, then reshape all of them. This is rather labour-intensive and it is also easy to screw the angles up, which could produce fine looking screws with pathetic performance. However, I've seen some screws sharpened with a DremelDremel machine, which shaves off significant amount of time. Given that we have no Grivel machine available anywhere near where I live, I believe I need to give this a go. Keep in my that machine sharpening the screws is directly prohibited by screw manufacturers as it can overheat the screws, therefore ruining the tempering (read making the screw get dull and/or bend easier).

La Sorcière Blanche

Credit: Seven Doc Shot on 2010-12-28 Photo taken..

Since it has been bitterly cold and the weather shows no sign of warming up any time son, I decided to pass time by checking what new (well, to me) films are out there. Firt of all I stumbled on La sorcière blanche which had previously slipped under my radar.

It's a newer film from the people who brought you Ice Up featuring the first ascent of La Sorcière Blanche (V, WI6+, M8, 7a 400m, FA: Philippe Batoux, François Damilano and Benoît Robert, 2006) in Le Fer à Cheval (France), one of the landmark ice climbs. Few pics from the first ascent of direct variant can be found here.

Not wanting to pay full postage for just one film, I decided to browse further and found Crackoholic. It got such a raving review by Dave McLeod that I just had to add that to my shopping cart as well.

Photo-finish

So, after having finally decided on getting short approach skis. I figured it was time to try and find a new camera to replace my old Canon Ixus 850IS.

My decision process was as follows:

As far as image quality, robustness and versatility go, Single Lens Reflexor would be the only right way to go. However, I mainly take photos when going climbing (with the main purpose always being climbing, not photography). To be able to take the shots while climbing without having to sacrifice too much time for it, the camera needs to small and light enough to fit inside my pocket (or to hand it on a harness). So we are talking about preferably well under 200g. Which is to say even the smallest SDLR's are way too heavy and too big for me. So I needed to start looking for small camera that is as close to SLR camera when it comes to image quality as possible.

Credit: Lensmate Shot on 2010-12-28 Photo taken..

This is particularly difficult nut to crack as demands for the camera used for climbing photography are quite a handful.

First of all, it is obvious, that any chance to have decent shots requires a good lens. In my book, this means the following characteristics:

  • High quality lens with following features
    • No optical distortions
    • For action shots, wide angle is what's needed. The wider the better. Talking in 35mm terms, 28mm equivalent is pretty much the norm nowadays, 24mm would be better.
    • For landscape, reasonably long tele is required. I am less impressed with very long tele, as even in my limited understanding of photography I know enough to figure out that they don't really work in a very small camera. Way too easy to shake (yes, image stabilizers are a bliss, but even their abilities have limits) and far too little light. That being said, panoramas would benefit for reasonably long tele, so somewhere around 150mm would be great.
    • In order to have any realistic hope for decent pics in low-light situations, the lens needs to be bright as possible (read: low f-values)

Lightning conditions vary quite a bit as well which pushes the envelope when it comes to metering and censor.

  • Lots of snow and ice are tough for white balance calculation. Add to that plenty of reflections and it is easy to see why getting the colors right is not an easy task.
  • When it gets dark it gets worse for compacts. In order to be able to fit a small and light lens to small camera, you can't put a full-size censor to the camera. In fact virtually all compacts have a very tiny censor, only a fraction of physical dimensions of censors used in SLR's. This combined with very high pixel count makes the pixels tiny. Which is a bad thing, as tiny pixels means that little light is captured. Of course, small lens with high f-value doesn't help in this matter at all. To make matters worse the f-value is only half the story anyway, f2.0 in SLR equipped with full size censor (35mm) is a very different thing as f2.0 in a camera equipped with 8mm censor. Therefore all pocketable compacts make huge sacrifices in comparison to SLR's in this regard. Luckily there are few compacts that take some steps to right direction away from the main stream.
Luckily, some issues can be digitally remedied using digital processing, be that either automatically inside the camera of afterwards using photo processing. This is where in-camera HDR and such come into play. However, in a difficult situations, post-processing in image editor is needed. To have good foundation for this, particularly the following features are usefull:
  • ability to shoot raw. Main reason for this being to have as much information available for fixing various issues occurring due to a number of shortcomings caused either by the demanding lightning situations, limits of lens and camera software or lack of photographic skill of the camera operator. All three happening simultaneously is pretty much the norm for me.
  • bracketing. The big idea about bracketing is to take multiple shots at once with different settings thus increasing the likelihood of one of them ending up good. Bracketing is also a good way of getting ingredients to to be combined as a HDR shot later on.
  • in-camera HDR (essentially a combination of bracketing and a process to combine bits and pieces from several photos shot with different settings (almost) simultaneously).
Ability to use optical filters can help as well. Using filters it is possible to adapt the lens to different shooting situations, thus increasing the possibility of getting the colors right.

As the camera is going to be used primarily when climbing (alpine, ice and rock), it should be able to take full-on conditions. This area is particular shortcoming of compacts, as you pretty much can have both weather-proof sturdy design and reasonable image quality, just not in the same camera.

  • impact-proofness
  • water-proofness
  • camera needs to stand up to harsh temperatures, preferably with not too great negative effect on batteries.
My compromise is to use not particularly weather prof camera that I tend to keep in a case and store it in my pocket. Should it be really wet, I can weather proof it by placing the case in a sealing plastic bag. Obviously far from ideal a solution, but weatherproof compacts of the moment just don't seem to be up to task at hand when it comes to image quality.

Ability to shoot high quality video is nice to have. However, as the main purpose for me is shooting stills, shortcoming is video shooting (such as lack of optical zoom or autofocus) are easier to accept than shortcomings in the primary set of requirements.

Eliminating cameras according to above mentioned criteria, I came up with two or three options, namely:

  • Canon Powershot S95CanonPowershot S95.
  • Panasonic Lumix CMC-LX5PanasonicLumix CMC-LX5.
  • Leica D-Lux 5LeicaD-Lux 5. Essentially the same camera as Panasonic LX5 but with some tweaks in software, Leica brand and different software bundle.
  • Leica, Panasonic and Sigma also make compacts (albeit bigger than those listed above) with APS-sized sensor. However, they are so much bigger, that they can't comfortably fit in a pocket. IMO, pocketability is the deciding factor when it comes to size. Too big to dump in a pocket and any reason not to bring SLR is pretty much lost. Leica model also has some other serious limitations not to mention astronomical price tag.

After researching some reviews (eg. this one)I decided on Canon Powershot S95. Mainly because it is significantly smaller than the other two and according to reviews, overall image quality is supposedly pretty similar (and better than most other compacts). There are some differences but I figured they pretty much evened out when taking into account various aspects of image quality. Downsides of Canon were usually mentioned to be:

  • Mediocre handling, partly because of a missing grip.
  • Poor battery life. Clearly far from ideal, but reserve batteries are small and pretty cheap, so not a non-started either.
  • Video is reported to lack autofocus and optical zoom while shooting video. Fortunately, CHDK is coming to rescue in this area. Furthermore, I'd prefer AVCHD (as opposed to Mov) and 1080p50 (as opposed to 720p24). However, the main application being photography, I believe I can live with these restrictions.

Luckily, some of these of S95 can be partially remedied with aftermarket bits and/or CHDK software.

Pimping Canon Powershot S95

Credit: Lensmate Shot on 2010-12-28 Photo taken..

Some of the issues with Powershot S95 can be partially fixed with tuning the camera with aftermarket bits and pieces and hacker firmware.

The camera doesn't have any form of a grip which saves some weight and bulk but makes handling it less secure. This is not helped at all by the relatively slick surface. There are two possible ways to improve this:

  • attach aftermarket grip
  • DIY solution for those not willing to spend money on a grip or wishing to save weight and bulk is to apply adhesive tape to improve grip.

Canon does not supply attachment for optical filters. I reckon this might be to differentiate S95 with larger and more expensive G-series. However, Lensmate makes a adapter solution with which it is possible to attach 37mm filters, such as polarizer, to S95.

Stock firmware does allow neither optical zoom nor autofocus while shooting video. Luckily, extra features can often be introduced to Canon point-and-shoot camera by utilizing CHDK firmware solution. S95 is currently not supported by S95 but there is a beta in works which is supposed to allow both, zooming and autofocus when shooting video. Obviously it can't repair the mechanics though, namely noise caused by zooming and AF. This might be the reason why Canon disabled these features in the first place; microphones are located very close to the lens, therefore the noise caused by zooming or refocusing is readily picked up by the microphones.

Raw files shot with S95 are reportedly not supported by the current versions of Adobe Camera Raw (used by both Photoshop and Lightroom).

I kind of like geotagging my images, therefore GPS unit built in to a camera would be a very welcome solution. Unfortunately S95 doesn't have one. Alternative would be to geotag the images manually in batches. Lightroom excels in tagging in batches but unfortunately, it does not have a means to geotag. Well, natively anyway. There is a usefull plugin that makes this possible. Unfortunately the process is somewhat cumbersome if you want to store GPS data back to original images (pretty much the whole point in my book, as software-lock-in is something to be avoided at all costs) due to limitations of Pluging architecture of Lightroom. However, until anything more straight forward comes along, it is still a very workable solution.

Polarization with no polarizer

It is somewhat surprising that it is widely considered to be most useful filter, yet there is no pre-made filter in Photoshop, or Lightroom for that matter, to apply the said filter post-shoot digitally.

Granted, it is not as good as shooting with polarizer as if the highlights or reflections are burned there's just not enough data to dig out the lost detail. However, part of the damage can be remedied digitally afterwards. And the fact that there's no ready made filter does not mean that the same effect couldn't be achieved with the aforementioned applications, it just a bit harder.

These same techniques are very much usable also when you don't want to use polarizing filter. For example you don't want to use it when shooting multiple pictures to be combined into a panorama.

It's all downhill from here

Credit: STC Shot on 2010-12-28 Photo taken..

After a very long search for very lightweight (and short) approach skis that can be used with climbing shoes I finally found STC SnowVentureSTCSnowVenture. They appear to be the same as discontinued Rossignol FreeTrek. I did receive my pair but am yet to try them out. I had my eye on Hagan Nanook earlier, but didn't order them back then and now they are discontinued.

My reasoning for getting them is that some form of flotation aid is unavoidable in order to get to the climb if there's loads of snow. Usually full-on touring skis would be ideal up until you reach the climb, but they have few serious cons:

  • weight
  • if you can't leave them behind below the climb, their bulk can be awkward when climbing
  • you need to have skiing boot to use them. Granted, you could climb with them, but they are heavy and way too stiff unless climbing is technically straight forward

Downhill, real skis paired with proper skiing boots would kick ass, particularly if you can maneuver them. Short skis paired with light weight and far less sturdy climbing boots are way worse for downhill, but not being much of a skier myself, I figure short skis and climbing boots are better solution for my needs. It remains to be seen whether this reasoning is valid.

New weapons on the market

New modular head of Petzl 2010 lineup. The head is the same in Quark, Nomic and Ergo. This brings a long-awaited option of fitting hammers to Nomic for pounding in pitons. Credit: Ari Paulin,  Shot on 2010-10-21 Photo taken.(c) (c) 2010 Ari Paulin, licensed under: (c) 2010 Ari Paulin.
New modular head of Petzl 2010 lineup. The head is the same in Quark, Nomic and Ergo. This brings a long-awaited option of fitting hammers to Nomic for pounding in pitons. Credit: Ari Paulin, Shot on 2010-10-21 Photo taken.(c) (c) 2010 Ari Paulin, licensed under: (c) 2010 Ari Paulin.

New lineup of Petzl ice tools is on the market. See introduction including cool promotion video (available in HD).

Revamped lineup seem to be exactly what was reported earlier in several websites with the following new features/changes:

  • Once again, they have changed the pick system. This time around it actually makes sense though, as now their technical line-up (Quark, Nomic and new Ergo) use the same picks and modular head. This same system also fixes (one of) the biggest drawbacks of their excellent Nomic, the lack of hammer. I suspect that adding hammers to Nomiv will have negative effect on the swing. That being said, when the route requires pitons top be driven, you'll need a hammer, as simple as that. As the hammer is removable, it is now possible to fit it in only when needed.
  • Clever-looking slider/trigger system that can be fitted to all of the tools. Used like a very welcome addition to Quarks when using them leashless.
  • Improved trigrest. For Nomic and Ergo this means studs added to the bottom of trigrest. This surely gives better traction than current trigrest. This is not ideal in my book, as there's still no good solution to attach yourself to the tool for resting or if you want to attach spring leashes. Furthermore, such studs are most likely not as good for support as real spike (like used in Black Diamond Fusion 2nd gen). That being said, Petzl added a small hole beside trigrest. It is possible to fit thin cord through it to attach spring leashes. The hole is very small though, so it it can only take very small diameter cord (like 2mm) which probably makes it less suited for attaching yourself to it. Unless you drill a larger hole, of course. Yet, the hole in the handle works for attaching yourself to tool in case of emergency, especially if you expand it somewhat with a file. So this should still be workable solution.
  • For the Quark Petzl did exactly what I wished though, by making the spike clippable and griprest removable in case the route calls for lots of plunging.
  • Ergo is a new model targeted for extreme ice climbing, mixed and dry tooling. They look seriously funky. It would be very interesting to test how they perform in comparison to Grivel Monster. Some reports from climbers having been able test them say they are better on steep mixed than Nomic's. But so are the Monster's.

EDIT! Pommel design seems to be faulty by design in 2010/2010 version of Nomic and Ergo. See official notification by Petzl: Information concerning autumn 2010 versions of the NOMIC (ref. U21 2) and ERGO (ref. U22) ice climbing tools.

I have been anxious to get new Ice picks to fit them into my well-beaten pair of old Nomics in order to be able to attach hammers as well. Unfortunately Petzl has failed to deliver them. So recall of new line of tools and failure to deliver new picks in one season; doesn't seem to be a very good season for Petzl ice tools.

Search is over

Credit: Ari Paulin,  Shot on 2010-04-30 Photo taken.(c) (c) 2010 Ari Paulin, licensed under: (c) 2010 Ari Paulin.

I've previously written about my search for perfect alpine pack. To summarize, what I was was looking for is a pack small enough to actually climb with, yet large enough to carry a tent (very small one), sleeping bag, pad and few days worth of food on top of all the gear needed for technical climbing in mixed alpine terrain during the approach. So somewhere around 40 liters with a possibility to overpack.

Featurewise, some things I was looking for:

  • Lean-and-mean single compartment design
  • Reasonably durable fabrics
  • Low weight
  • Side attachments for ice tools
  • Strap for rope
  • Floating lid for overpacking

And some that I wasn't looking for:

  • Unnecessarily heavy and sturdy frame
  • Unnecessarily heavy and sturdy waist belt
  • Traditional ice tool loops
  • Zippered compartments aside from the ones on lid

The search is over, I decided on Cold Cold World pack made by Randy Rackliff. Mine is a custom model that is somewhat smaller than standard Chernobyl. Size aside, the other customizations include:

  • Standard cordura replaced with Spectra rip stop. I did go with 500D instead of lighter 210D for better durability as the weight difference is rather modest. Granted, dyneema might be a better still, but it is not too readily available and packs made of it tend to come with prohibitively hefty price tag
  • Standard ice axe loops replaced with pick pockets style attachment system that works better with modern leashless tools
  • Integrated crampon pouch
  • Standard rope attachment replaced with the model that is connected to pack only in the pack to facilitate accessing the pack without detaching the rope
  • Reflective tape added in order to be able to better locate the pack in the dark

So far the pack seems really cool and I am anxious to try it out. Customer service by CCW is absolutely top notch and prize of custom made pack is reasonable enough. So if the pack works as well as I expect it to, then I see no reason to look elsewhere whenever I am in need of a pack in the future.

Alpine armour

I have been very happy with how well soft shell clothing has worked in ice climbing. This combined with the difficulty of finding good hard shell pants, I am seriously considering bringing soft shells with the next time I venture into alpine climbing and using them as my main shell.

I don't trust them enough to keep the elements out if the weather turns really nasty, so I will bring very light hard shells (read: the lightest Paclite or similar I can find) just in case (and plan them to stay in pack). My theory is that this way I could enjoy better comfort and breathability of soft shell when climbing while still having fully waterproof clothing in case of a pouring rain. By taking very light hard shell the weight and space penalty isn't too great, so I reckon this approach might be feasible. Granted, very light hard shell isn't very durable, and probably can't take the abuse of full-on alpine climbing but with this approach they wouldn't have to; they would be worn only if forced to bivouac in foul weather or when sitting out the storm below the route.

Hi definitely

The Continuum Project follows some of the world’s best climbing talent around the globe to document bold new routes and daring repeats on ice, rock, and in the alpine.

Shot entirely in High Definition, watch as Guy Lacelle, Audrey Gariepy and Mathieu Audibert establish terrifying new ice routes in Norway and Rob Pizem and Mike Anderson crush brawny off-widths and delicate face climbing in Zion. Get on route with Ines Papert and Cory Richards as they blitz Kwangde Shar in Nepal and witness Majka Burhardt and Sarah Watson free the Beckey Route on Elephant’s Perch in the Sawtooths. Discover the rewards and risks of exploration with Jon Walsh and Ian Welsted as they establish a beautiful new mixed line in the remote Icefall Brook range of British Columbia and cool down on the difficult sport routes of Lions Head in Ontario with Sam Elias, Emily Harrington, Leslie Timms and Lauren Lee.

Extending the focus of Higher Ground, gain new perspective on the motivations and courage of some of the world’s top climbers through the superb cinematography and innovative approach of The Continuum Project. Credit: Ari Paulin,  Shot on 2010-10-21 Photo taken.(c) (c) 2010 Ari Paulin, licensed under: (c) 2010 Ari Paulin.

I noticed that The Continuum Project is out and available as HD download from Bouldering.com. So I went on and downloaded it.

Somewhat disappointingly, the quality is 720p and format is Quicktime (I would have preferred 1080p and mp4), but the quality is significantly better than dvd anyway and the film itself is stellar as well. As the price was reasonable ($14.99) I consider this well worth every penny.

While waiting for the download to finish I did some googling and tumbled in few other HD flicks as well:

What makes a good guidebook

I have once again shuffled through quite a few guidebooks when trying to come up with where to go next. During this research I have ran into guidebooks created with different philosophies. Of course, there are also good and bad examples of execution of any design.

Anyway, here are few thoughts on what in my opinion makes a good guidebook:

General structure. Probably the most obvious, and common, solution is to organise books based on mountain chains, then cover all of the routes on a specific mountain together, usually subgrouped by mountain face. This approach is employed in most of the guidebooks published by European alpine clubs (particularly Austriuan, German and Swiss). However intuitive and organised this approach is, it makes it rather tedious to get a good overview of what climbs are available from a particular starting point (typically a valley). To overcome this, I see two possible solutions

  • Have a introductory chapter for valleys that list huts and other commonly used starting point and list climbs/features that are climbable from them (including references). Actually many guidebooks have such a section but with no list of available climbs. ideally such a list should contain most important route details, such as name, grade, length and type and reference where full description of that route exists.
  • Have the whole thing organised by valleys rather than by mountains

I haven't seen a single guidebook using the former, the latter is used by some guidebooks for mountain areas (Mount Cook and Cordillera Huayhuash come to mind) and is almost always used for rock climbing and ice climbing guidebooks. The more I think about it, the more I like this valley based approach, although I still feel that the former option might actually be the best.

The general structure being whatever, I feel that index based on peak is absolutely necessary and should not be missing from any guidebook.

  • Maps in general and schematic ridge overview maps in particular, are extremely helpful in giving general overview of where things are and how to get from point A to point B.
  • Good images with route lines do a much better job in describing how the route goes than virtually any verbal description. Particularly if the key features are marked on that image. As added bonus, images work in any language. Such images are usually easier to compare to the text if they are put inline (i.e. not gathered to the back of the book), however the latter works too if the text references which image is associated with which route description.
  • First ascent info is useful when referencing different guidebooks, particularly ones in different languages when route names might not work too well in identifying which route is which.
  • Introductory general chapter that lists things like what gradings are used, seasons, classic climbs etc. are useful. Ideally the seasons should be broken down according to type of climbing as ice routes generally are in at the different time of the year than rock routes.
  • For grading, alpine overall grading should obviously be used (this seems not to be so obvious for publishers of guidebooks regarding to Eastern Alps). Additionally, I really like the technical gradings presented together with overall grade, not just in the verbal description. As for the grading scales, I prefer WI/M gradings for ice and mixed and french grades for rock. That being said, local scales work just as well. Particular area where the common practice leaves often a lot to be desired are snow/ice (and mixed) pitches. Commonly steepness is expressed as degree, which doesn't work too well if
    • route has short section that is significantly steeper than the rest of the route
    • route involves genuinely steep climbing
    if degrees are still used, then the length of the steepest passage, possibly combined with average angle could be sufficient. Still, it wouldn't do much good for really steep routes as anything between WI4 and WI7 would be pretty much 90. Obvious remedy would be to use WI/M grading (or Scottish winter grading). Which leads us to grading difficulties for mixed parts. Most commonly rock grade is used with perhaps mention of the climb being mixed terrain. The problem with this is that estimated rock grading in dry conditions doesn't really have any meaningful correlation to actual difficulty of the mixed climbing. For example uiaa IV pitch can be either easy mixed climb (perhaps somewhere around M2) or very difficult and bowel-emptying exercise depending of the nature of the pitch. M or Scottish winter grades would work way better.
  • As for elevation gains and times, it should be made obvious whether the figures are for the actual route or if they include approach as well. For routes generally used for descent, time typically required for descent should be indicated as well.

Screw you

Grivel 360 ice screw. Credit: Ari Paulin,  Shot on 2010-03-24 Photo taken.(c) (c) 2010 Ari Paulin, licensed under: (c) 2010 Ari Paulin.

I recently tumbled on an article and few net discussions regarding ice protection. Most seemed to consider BD Turbo Express and Grivel Helix as top of the range ice screws. Most didn't even mention Grivel 360, still the undisputed king of ice screws in my book.

See also Faulty by Design for previous post with me venting about lacklustre design.

People tend to rant about them being difficult to rack. And sure enough, they are more cumbersome to rack than most, perhaps even any, other screws. But then again, I tend to select my gear based on how they perform in their main duty. For me, ice screws exist to be used as protection, not mainly for being nice and shiny things to carry around hanging from your harness. Try to place one in featured ice and you soon realise that 360 delivers when anything else doesn't work at all. On more or less even surfaces there's not too great a difference to other top screws, although I still feel 360 is best of the bunch.

Somewhat similarly, I fail to understand why almost every manufacturer insists on having full length zippers on hard shell pants, yet, the very same companies make soft shells without them. Granted, softshell breathes better than hard shell, so there's some validity in that point from the ventilation point of view. That being said, bare skin or long johns beat any softshell by miles when it comes to breathability. Furthermore, zippers running from top to about mid thigh or just above the knee would be almost as good for ventilation purposes (You cant often really have them fully opened anyway and if you could, you would probably be better off by not wearing them). Not having full-length zippers would allow the pants to be closer cut, lower bulk, more supple and lighter. All this with one thing less to break. Another point I've seen mentioned as a plus for full-length zips is the ease of putting them on and taking them off. True enough, with zips it is possible to put the pants on without taking the boots of. That being said, I can't remember having ever either put on or taken off the pants en route. Therefore, I see no reason whatsoever to give this any sort of emphasis. If any pants need such zips, I feel that they are insulation pants (should one use such), not shell ones.

Be quick or be dead

Speed is important on long routes. Many alpine routes are so big, that unless you are fast, you are going to get benighted. Trust me, there's a huge difference being six beers deep in the pub after finishing the climb and suffering a cold night somewhere high on the route.

Note that being fast is very different from hurrying things. The easiest way of shaving minutes and hours from the ascent time is to be efficient. After all, not doing unnecessary things and doing the necessary ones in an effective way does not require any additional energy (might actually save some). There are few recent blogposts giving excellent tips regarding the speed on big routes. Be sure to check also my earlier entry on the same thing: Multi-pitch efficiency.

All that said, it doesn't hurt to train. Hmm, bad choice of words; actually, if it doesn't you aren't doing enough of it. One of the more effective ways of training more is to make it so easy that you run out of excuses of not to. In this regard, home wall is a great. No I don't have one, but I probably should. Due to housing arrangements, it may be a challenge to build a wall anchored to walls. However, there's no reason why it would have to bolted on, it could just as well be free-standing. And if there's no room for any sort of climbing wall, plain old bar and possibly rock rings can fit into almost no space.

Chasing the Holy Grail: Winter Climbing's Glove Problem

Black Diamond Impulse is not marketred as skiing glove and thus not part of their ice climbing glove lineup. Yet it is their best glove for oice climbing, their real climbing gloves being too thick and too stiff due to excessive padding. Credit: Ari Paulin, (c) (c) 2010 Ari Paulin, licensed under: (c) 2010 Ari Paulin.

Finding a glove system that works for ice and alpine climbing is anything but straight-forward. No matter where you look, you can't seem to find a pair that does all things well, so generally multiple pairs is what you need.

For ice climbing, I tend to bring at least two pairs of relatively thin climbing gloves (the amount of insulation varies regarding the temperature but I generally never go thicker than BD Impulse or Outdoor Design Diablo) and a pair of mittens for belaying. I own several pairs of gloves with Gore inserts, none of which are waterproof. So I have virtually moved away from them, as Gore inserts usually don't hold water anyway and the inserts usually readily follow when taking the glove off. Which makes it virtually impossible to get them back on.

Kelly Cordes has a good article regarding the glove issue, which might give you good ideas. There appear to be several other entries regarding the very same issue.

Nanga Parbat

Credit: Ari Paulin,  Shot on 2009-10-31 Photo taken.(c) (c) 2010 Ari Paulin, licensed under: (c) 2010 Ari Paulin.

Even if it looks like the Everest movies isn't going to come to theaters near you anytime soon, there's still others. More specifically Nanga Parbat covering the tragic Nanga Parbat Rupal Face expedition by the two Messner brothers in 1970, on which Reinhold Messners younger brother Günther died.

Gear-whores ahoy!

There seem to be few interesting items just out or coming in the near future.

Without further ado, here goes:

Updated version of the superb Phantom Lite, the Phantom Guide is a very light boot with a precise fit and new uppers designed for use in cold conditions. Credit: Ari Paulin,  Shot on 2010-10-21 Photo taken.(c) (c) 2010 Ari Paulin, licensed under: (c) 2010 Ari Paulin.
  • DMM DragonDMMDragon Looks a lot like lighter and somewhat improved version of awesome Black Diamond Camalot C4. Looks like the final production design is different from the prototypes so that final model does not have a thumb loop. Before actually trying it out this feels disappointing.
  • Scarpa Phantom GuideScarpaPhantom Guide This one looks like a no-brainer to me. I've been using excellent Phantom Lite's for years. However they are starting to leak due to wear and tear, so I need to replace them anyway in the near future. Phantom Guide seems like a new and improved version. The only question that remains is whether to get them half a number larger than my Phantom Lite's; they are very snug, climb excellently but walking downhill would be more comfortable if there was more room for toes. See also introduction/review Scarpa Phantom Guide vs the La Sportiva Batura Edit: after using a pair for a trip to Alps (albeit with regrettably little climbing due to poor conditions) I think the fit has been changed. I ordered mine half a number larger, so direct comparison of fit against Lite's is not possible, but the Guide certainly feels like it has larger inner volume, more so than the size difference might suggest. I offset this by inserting thicker after-market insoles. The lacing system has been changed and the new one feels to lock ankle better. Certainly a plus. The shaft is a bit taller and possibly a bit stiffer as well. Not sure yet whether I like this change.
  • Hagan NanookHaganNanook There are situations where some form of flotation aid is unavoidable in order to get to the climb. While full-on ski touring kit can get you to the bottom of the climb as effortlessly as possible (not to mention the joy it provides while descending), it is also very heavy unless you can leave it below the actual climb. Furthermore, climbing shoes are much better to climb with than skiing shoes, but they really suck in skiing even if you could use them (with Silvretta 404 binding you can). Howeverer, this effectively means that even if your skis would be great for downhill skiing, the shoes aren't up to the job. The other option would be to climb with your skiing boots, but they are big, bulky, heavy etc. Basically everything that makes a bad climbing boot. This solution is very much workable, if the climbing isn't too difficult (especially not on rock). Not being much of a skier myself, I figure the ideal solution for me though would be a very light and compact skis that can get me to the climb using my climbing boots and that I can strap to my backpack for the climb if I need to descent to different side of the mountain. The fact that they aren't too great to ski downhill is negated by the fact that I couldn't ski down anything difficult anyway, especially not when wearing my climbing boots and a backpack containing the climbing kit. It seems that Andy Kirkpatricks reasoning is very similar in this matter.
Credit: Ari Paulin, (c) (c) 2010 Ari Paulin, licensed under: (c) 2010 Ari Paulin.
  • Petzl ice tools for season 2010-2011Petzlice tools for season 2010-2011 Petzl are revamping their ice weaponry for the next season. Once again, they have changed the pick system. This time around it actually makes sense though, as now their technical line-up (Quark, Nimic and new Ergo) use the same picks and modular head. This same system also fixes (one of) the biggest drawbacks of their excellent Nomic, the lack of hammer. Other revamps include clever-looking slider/trigger system for all of the tools and improved trigrest. For Nomic and Ergo this means studs added to the bottom of trigrest. This is not ideal in my book, as there's still no good solution for using umbilical cord-type system should that strike your fancy and such studs are most likely not as good for support as real spike (like used in Black Diamond Fusion 2nd gen). However, improvement still compared to current Nomic. Since I don't use Nomics for alpine climbing anyway (I use somewhat tricked Quarks for that) I can easily live with that drawback though. The hole in the handle works for attaching yourself to tool in case of emergency, especially if you expand it somewhat with a file. For the Quark Petzl did exactly what I wished though, by making the spike clippable. They seem to have some new ideas regarding to wiregate carabiners up their sleeve as well. New Ergos look funky, interesting to hear how they perform.

I tumbled on two very informative videos featuring the gear tips and tricks of Steve House.

Climb out of Development Hell, my ass

Some months back it seemed like the Everest movie based on 1996-events was actually going to get made when the reigns were passed over from Stephen Daldry to David Fincher. In recent months things seem to have gone pear-shaped again for the project. Now the holdup being mr Fincher being tied up with a Facebook-movie.

In search of a perfect pack

Credit: Ari Paulin, (c) (c) 2010 Ari Paulin, licensed under: (c) 2010 Ari Paulin.

I need to find a alpine climbing pack for trips where I need to carry a tent, sleeping bag, pad and few days worth of food on top of all the gear needed for technical climbing in mixed alpine terrain.

My approach is to take as small a pack as possible so that it will be easy to carry while on the climb as possible. For this goal, I am willing to compromise during the approach by overpacking and attaching gear outside if necessary. I figure the size that is just large enough would be around 40 liters.

Other than the correct size, the features I am looking for are:

  • Lean-and-mean single compartment design
  • Reasonably durable fabrics
  • Low weight
  • Side attachments for ice tools
  • strap for rope
  • floating lid for overpacking

Some models worth consideration:

  • Arc'teryx NAOS 45Arc'teryxNAOS 45 (ridiculously expensive)
  • Berghaus Arete Pro 45lBerghausArete Pro 45l (too large?)
  • Black Diamond Sphynx 42lBlack DiamondSphynx 42l (Very narrow design, seems fine. Doesn't have fully floatable lid. Much more durable than Speed.)
  • CiloGear Dyneema 45CiloGearDyneema 45 or CiloGear Worksack 45lCiloGearWorksack 45l (looks very interesting, expensive)
  • Cold Cold World Cold Cold World Backpacks made by Randy Rackliff. Very nice looking line of backpacks with realistically priced possibility to order custom made. Should be great for climbing, as Randy's personal experience actually out using the gear as intendeded is pretty much second to none (including stuff like 3rd ascent of of Moonflower and 1st ascent of Reality Bath come to mind...early solos of Slipstream..Tear Drop etc.). For us Euros the ordering though the company website means that the price gets bumbed up through shipping, customs and VAT though. See also introduction/review)
  • Crux AK47 XCruxAK47 X (Lean and mean design, light for the size.)
  • Haglöfs Ascent 38lHaglöfsAscent 38l (too gimmicky, heavy)
  • Lowe Alpine Mountain Attack Pro 45+10Lowe AlpineMountain Attack Pro 45+10.
  • Mammut Granit 40lMammutGranit 40l (no floating lid, crap chest strap)
  • Mammut Ice Pack 45lMammutIce Pack 45l (Alpinist Mountain Standard. Looks like it has the same crappy chest strap as Granit though.)
  • Millet Prolight 45lMilletProlight 45l.
  • Mountain Hardwear Dihedral 40lMountain HardwearDihedral 40l.
  • PODsacs Alpine 40PODsacsAlpine 40 (Looks good, probably the closest thing to my wishlist so far. Not perfect though. I don't particularly like the classic ice tool loops, IMO Black Diamond PickPocket type of attachment is far superior. Even bigger downer is that they seem to be using same crappy chest strap fastening system (plastic clamp sliding on plastic rail) that I positively hate after breaking that same system in two previous packs.)
  • PODsacs CragsacPODsacsCragsac (looks good, but unnecessarily large in sizes suitable for taller person (47+10l))
  • PODsacs Black IcePODsacsBlack Ice (looks good, but unnecessarily large in size suitable for taller person (53+12l))

Layering done right

In his book Extreme Alpinism: Climbing Light, Fast, and High, 1st edition.Twight, Mark & Martin, JamesMountaineers Books1999* The most advanced climbing how-to on the market * Techniques and mental skills needed to climb at a more challenging level * Illustrated with full-color photos throughoutBig, high routes at the edge of a climber's ability are not the places for inventing technique or relying on old habits. Complacency can lead to fatal errors. So where does the hard-core aspirant or dreamer turn? The only master class in print, Extreme Alpinism delivers an expert dose of reality and practical techniques for advanced climbers.Focusing on how top alpine climbers approach the world's most difficult routes, Twight centers his instruction on the ethos of climbing the hardest routes with the least amount of gear and the most speed. Throughout, Twight makes it clear that the two things he refuses to compromise are safety and his climbing ethics. In addition to the extensive chapters on advanced techniques and skills, Twight also discusses mental preparedness and attitude; strength and cardiovascular training; good nutrition; and tips on equipment and clothing.08988665450898866545HouseNon-fictionen Mark Twight pushes forward the idea of layering on top, which contrasts with traditional layered clothing approach. While layering under works very well in theory (and in some activities in practice as well), it isn't at home on climbing. Hanging belay is hardly a place to start removing your jacked to be able to add extra insulation layers. This layering on top works very well, as long as the kit used for it are appropriate. For example, layering belay insulation on top of shell jacket means that the shell jacket doesn't have to (in fact, it must not) be very loose. Furthermore, as the insulation jacket is bound to get wet, synthetic may be a better option than down.

Faulty by design

Buying new gear may sometimes be highly frustrating. It is quite possible that despite the numerous offerings on the market, no one is making exactly the kind of gear one would need.

I have found the following items most bitterly frustrating.

  • Hardshell pants. Manufacturer's just don't seem to get this right. First and foremost, almost all hardshell pants are way too wide. Because of this, they are heavy and constantly get stuck to rock and crampons. There's no need for hardshell pants to be any wider than soft shell pants, most of which are too wide as well. Furthermore, I find full-length side zippers to be both unnecessary and harmful. Not having them would make it easier to have proper fit, as well as making the pants lighter, more supple, more waterproof and cheaper. There are few models with half-length zippers on the market, but they have the zippers backwards. For taking a dump, the zippers would have to be from waist to somewhat above knee. Stretch fabric panels in seat and knees would be useful, although not mandatory. And finally, I don't like bib-pants one bit, especially ones with same fabric used above the waist, which just makes the pants heavier and also seriously impair the breathability. There seems to be no pants on the market fulfilling the criteria. Possibly the best option is to buy ones that suck least, then have them made narrower. Some paclite models might be good fit and featurewise, however, Paclite can't take the abuse of alpine climbing.
  • Tools for steep ice and mixed. Petzl Nomics are mostly excellent. However, they have two major faults: missing hammer and clippable spike. Because of these shortcomings, they suck whenever you need to pound pitons, on very low angle terrain often found during approach or descent and whenever you'd need to either secure your tools to yourself with lanyard or if you'd need to clip yourself to tool for resting. BD's new Fusion seem to have these areas covered, though. Whether they can deliver remains to be seen. If they do, hopefully Petzl will come back with Nomic 2.0.
  • Carabiners for racking. No matter how hard I've looked, no one seems to be making carabiners which would be optimal for racking gear. Plastic ice clippers are form-wise the best bet (large and deep enough), they are however too easily broken (I know several occasions where general portion of the rack was dropped because of this). If someone where to copy the form to aluminum carabiner and throw into it noseless design ala DMM Shield or Wild Country Helium, I'd buy them in a heartbeat.
  • Climbing gloves. Frankly, most ice climbing gloves have one fault in common: they are unsuitable for climbing. Which in my book is rather bad given their intended purpose. In order to be able to actually climb with a glove, they can't be too thick. furthermore, while all sorts of knuckle paddings would certainly have been welcome ten years ago when shafts were more or less straight and fangs didn't exist, with modern tools they are utterly useless and only serve to make the gloves too cumbersome and stiff. Suppleness-wise dry-tooling gloves are great. Also several softshell models, such as Mountain Equipment G2 Alpine glove are great if the temperature is high enough. However, whenever the temperature is significantly below zero, one does need some insulation. There needs to be a balance somewhere between very thick and uninsulated which most manufacturers seem to ignore. Gore-Tex lining is not mandatory, IMO. Come to think of it, despite having owned countless pair of Gore-tex gloves, I'm yet to own a pair which would be actually waterproof. Outdoor Design Diablo is good though, as well as BD Impulse. That's about it though, everything else seem to be either uninsulated or too thick. If the weather is too cold for such a gloves, I doubt any glove will work. Then probably the best pick is to use thin liner glove in combination with mitten. Mittens are warmer than gloves and because of way fewer seams, seem to be more supple. Unfortunately mittens are crap when dealing with screws, so you need to take them off for that. Not quite as cumbersome as one might think, as mittens are easy to put back on. Unfortunately spindrift tends to find its way into the mittens when they are dangling from your wrists, thus making the mittens wet, which will render them cold shortly.
  • Alpine climbing pack. For shortish alpine endeavours (like 2-3 days) I find that size around 30 liters is just right to fit climbing gear for technical ice, rock and mixed, stove, food, bivouac bag and just enough of clothing. Yet the size is small enough so that there's no room anything unnecessary (obviously this size doesn't really fit for longer trips or for cases where tent, pad and sleeping bag need to be carried). Given the size, the pack doesn't need to have very stiff hip belt, which wouldn't really work with harness anyway. It doesn't have to have all sorts of bells and whistles which only add weight and impair the functionality. It has to be relatively sturdy fabric though, especially if there might be the need to haul it. Mammut seemed to have got this quite right with their Granit. Unfortunately they have felt the need to spoil otherwise great design with two mistakes: non-extendable lid and down-right gimmicky (not to mention stupid) chest strap (I think mine broke during the first day out). Black Diamond Speed seemed like a great candidate as well. However, I soon enough found out that there's such a thing as too light a fabric. I don't expect my gear to last forever in alpine use, but it shouldn't tear on the first touch against the rock either.
  • Helmet. Hardshell helmet with proper ventilation seems to be impossible to find. Well, time-tested Petzl Ecrin Roc or newer Vertex might fit the bill, but they are so very heavy and sit on too high. Black Diamond had this down with first generation of their Half Dome; however, they had to go on and ruin the perfect design by changing the inner completely thus severely impairing the ventilation and adding all sorts of useless gimmicks.
  • Camera for climbers. Small and light, with manual controls, sensitive wide-angle lens and ability to shoot raw. Almost as elusive a combination as yeti. There seems to be some models coming to market though, that might hit the mark spot-on (Sony CyberShot DSC-WX1, Canon Powershot S90).
  • Approach/trekking shoes. I am looking for a show with no shaft. I find the shaft useful only if it was high and sturdy enough to actually support the ankle. So far none of the boots (including full-on trekking shoes) are stiff enough for that. And if they were, they wouldn't be good to walk in. As it is, the shaft only adds warmth, bulk, weight and price, none of which is beneficial. However, the shoes must have stiff sole (especially torsionally) for walking in rocky terrain carrying a pack. And of course they must be durable and shouldn't soak too easily, the features which are badly impaired with countless seems. Why can't anyone make a classic trekking show without the shaft is beyond me.
  • Grivel Rambo IV antibot. The antibot is made of hard plastic and elastic rubber with the big idea being that the elastic rubber reduces snow buildup and boosts longevity. In reality this doesn't really work, as the rubbery parts come off way too easily. I am yet to meet owner of Rambo IV's who have taken few approaches/descents wit their antibots intact. Once they come off, they start to do so very readily and they are virtually impossible to fix with super glue (even proactive treatment doesn't work).

Full House

Cover of "Beyond the Mountain" by Steve House. Credit: Patagonia Books,  Shot on 2009-10-09 Photo taken in USA.Licensed under: public domain.

Steve House, one of the foremost alpinist at the moment, seem to have published hist first book Beyond the Mountain.House, StevePatagonia Inc2009What does it take to be one of the world's best high-altitude mountain climbers? It takes raising funds for an expedition, negotiating some of the world's most dangerous countries, suffering freezing-cold bivouacs and enduring the discomforts of high altitude. It also means learning the hard lessons the mountains teach. This book explores those lessons. Dubbed by Reinhold Messner, "The best high-altitude climber in the world today." Steve House's story chronicles his experiences in the worlds highest mountains, each chapter revealing a different aspect of mountaineering.97809790659589780979065958HouseBiographyen. It appears to be short-listed as one of the candidates for The Boardman Tasker Prize. I've previously written about Andy Kirkpatrick, Andy Cave and Joe Simpson, all of whom are among the previous winners.

Climb out of Development Hell

Few years back there was some buzz going on about Stephen Daldry making a Hollywood movie about the 1996 Everest disaster. Back then Nicole Kidman was rumored to play Jan Arnold, the wife of Rob Hall. The movie them send a group of renowed mountaineers (including Ed Viesturs, Veikka Gustafsson and David Breashers) to climb Everest and shoot action shots.

Then not much was heard about the project, it seemed to have been lost in development hell. It seems that Daldry has stepped aside but the project has dug itself out of the said hell. And here's good news, the torch has been passed over to David Fincher. Mr. Fincher has some relatively well knows movies to his name, including "Alien", "Fight Club", "The Game" and "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button". Talk about the High Expectations. I am yet to tumble on any rumors about the schedule or casting though.

Meanwhile, documentary directed by David Breashers carrying the name of is out and available in DVD.

Unsung heroes of Eiger

  • Erich Waschak & Leo Forstenlechner. The pair, who may very well be unknown for even the climbers familiar with climbing history (I certainly had never heard of them before I read The White Spider, Reprint edition.Harrer, HeinrichHarper Perennial1998At 13,025 feet, the Swiss Eiger doesn't approach the height of Everest or Denali, but the sheer rise and difficulty of its 5900-foot north face keeps it in the company of the world's most celebrated peaks. At the time Harrer (Seven Years in Tibet, originally the sequel to this volume) became part of the first successful summit climb in 1938, the north face of the Eiger was considered the "last and greatest of Alpine problems" left in the world. Originally published in 1959 (with chapters added in 1964 and an index covering subsequent Eiger climbs), this riveting account of his ascent and the history of confronting the EigerAbeginning with the first fatal attempts to conquer the north face in 1935Ais a crisply written paean to the mountain where Harrer first earned recognition as a world-class climber. A simple narrative style brings to life the many obstacles faced by Eiger climbersAsnowstorms, avalanches and a continuous shower of falling rocks among them. Harrer has a Hemingwayesque appreciation of the codes, bravery and rules of conduct governing the closed world of "true mountaineers." And he reserves special contempt for the sensation-seekers who gather to watch deadly feats of climbing from the ground below. Sections that document the evolution of climbing gear (Harrer wore no crampons on his 1938 ascent) and national rivalries in the WWII-era climbing community help make this volume an important contribution to the emerging canon of mountaineering literature.97800071978429780007197842White SpiderBiographyen put up a first one-day ascent of Eiger North face as early as July 26 in 1950 in astonishing 18 hours. The ascent was way ahead of its time, the next single day ascent was pulled of 24 years later, when slightly more well-known rope team of Reinhold Messner -Peter Habeler climbed the face in ten hours.
  • Michel Darbellay. First solo ascent as early as 1963.

Scream of Stone

Scream of Stone .

All mixed up!

Eiger Obsession

There seems to be quite a few movies and books popping out in last two years covering the historic, and in many cases tragic, events on the north face of Eiger.

I've mentioned The Alps: Climb of Your Life already earlier. Now I finally got around ordering North Face as it became available in Blu-ray. When searching the net to find out where to order it, I also tumbled on The Beckoning Silence , based on a book by Joe Simpson (yes, the very same one who Touched the Void). Both movies deal with the same tragic event on 1936 when Adreas Hinterstoisser and Toni Kurz, who joined forces with Austrian party of Willy Angerer and Edi Rainer while on the face, were trying to put up a highly coveted first ascent. They failed and the entire party was killed at different times during their retreat attemp. Nordwand (aka The North Face) is a drama movie based on true story but with some fictional elements injected into it, while Beckoning the Silence appears to be documentary.

The same event, together with many other early attemps, the first ascent, and the ascents that followed are all described in "The White Spider" by Heinrich Harrer, himself a member of the first ascent party (and later famous for Hollywood movie "Seven Years in Tibet"), considered a classic piece of mountaineering literature.

History of climbing gear

"Just before the rocks separating the Second from the Third Ice-field, I looked back, down our endless ladder of steps. Up it I saw the New Era coming at express speed; there were two men running - and I mean running, not climbing - up it." With these words describes Heinrich Harrer the significance of the modern crampons during the first ascent of the North Face of the Eiger.

I recently tumbled on an interesting article about the Nut Museum, which contained quite a bit of information about the development of trad pro. As it was interesting read, I though to throw together some pointers to various articles describing the history and development of climbing gear.

Climbing photography

No matter how finely sculpted the hindquarters of your climbing partners is, having their buttock have a central part in your climbing photos is bound to get old. So there are plenty of tips and trick of how to avoid the dreaded butt-shot.

Cartography

I've been frustrated with the driving instructions of quite a few climbing topos. No matter how good the verbal instructions, you just can't beat the map. However, if the map is rough, it can be even more frustrating than the verbal description.

If you have schematic map and not all of the roads are marked, figuring out which ones are marked is nearly impossible unless the map clearly identifies which roads are marked using either (or both) the road name and/or number.

Don't even consider drawing any map as a raster image. Vector is the only way to go for scalability and editability. If you need it as a raster image, fine, export it into a raster format of your choice, but don't ever consider drawing the map as a raster image.

My take on the best way of drawing maps is to draw them in scale. By far the easiest way of doing this is to use real geographic map as a guideline, then draw a vector map over it. Very easy to create scale-accurate maps this way. Using layers available in all remotely good illustration apps, it's even possible to easily create different versions of the same map within same image. This is very handy e.g. for different language versions and for different scale versions. Granted, vectors scale nicely but if you downsize a large map to very small size, there's often so much detail, that you just can't read the map any more. Not to mention that text needs to be certain size in order to be readable.

Furthermore, in the current era of GPS navigators the GPS coordinates are valuable help as well.

To ease the pain of drawing multiple maps, use symbol sets for common symbols.

Trad tips

I've tumbled on few interesting articles recently, mainly on trad climbing.

Dark chest of wonders

Web can be treasure chest for climbers searching for maps and information about the climbing destinations. Google maps is a good resource in planning. However, their maps don't offer sufficient details for mountain areas. Furthermore, when zoomed in into greatest detail, their maps cover only small area.

Google doesn't allow users to save a map for offline use either. This is easy enough to circumvent by taking a screen capture though. However, if you need a larger area than what fits into screen (or viewport if viewing embedded map), then you are out of luck. Well, sort of. This can be circumvented just as well, simply by:

  1. Taking multiple screen captures
  2. Stitching them together in image editing application

Depending on the number of screen captures required, this can be a very painful process. There are some tools to automate the process when working with Google Maps though, search and you'll find.

Very well, I found out that Map+ has maps about Switzerland available online, that zoom in all the way to great detail (looks a lot like 1:25.000 at least for mountain areas). The downside is that their maps are available only through small vieport, therefore, tens, if not hunderds of screen caps are required to cover larger areas. Which makes the manual stitching process rather time consuming and very boring indeed. So I thought there needs to be a better way. The best I've found so far (best and good are very different things, though) consists of

  1. using screen capture application/add-on, that allows capturing of selection only to a file. For Firefox, e.g. Screengrab add-on is such a tool
  2. Import the files into image editing application of your choice as layers.
  3. Carefully align the layers. Some image manipulation tools have features to auto-align the layers or separate images. Such a features are designed for building panoramas and can be a great help in stitching maps as well. Unfortunately I had rather poor results with such features though, as they tend to crash when you throw tens of images their way. Furthermore, they tended to rotate and/or distort base images thus producing inaccurate results. If such a automation works, it would be a time saver though.

Another nifty Google service is Google Earth. It can be a great help as well in planning the trip as it makes it easier to visualize the area, therefore it can assist in trying to figure out whether it is feasible to get from place A to B. And playing with it is great fun too.

Pimping my camera

I regularly read Lifehacker which often has a great tips and tricks. I noticed they had an article about CHDK firmware for Canon point and shoot cameras, which lead me to another article about the same firmware. I had heard about that earlier, but back then it didn't support my Ixus 850IS. This has apparently changed.

CHDK is a firmware hack for Canon point and shoot cameras that bring quite a few new features to those cameras. Most interesting of those to me are the ability to shoot RAW and bracketing options for shooting images to be used as ingredients of HDR images. So clearly I needed to give it a go.

After uploading the CHDK, I managed to get my Ixus 850IS (aka SD800IS with Digic III processor) to shoot RAW images (CRW), but none of the apps I normally use seemed to be able to read those. Apparently the RAW files produced by CHDK are not compatible with Canon official RAW files, so conversion is required. This was a kicker. dng4ps2 is able to convert Canon cameras RAW files into Digital Negative (DNG) format, which is ideal for this purpose. As it supports Powershot SD800 IS, which is American for Ixus 850 IS, one might thinks that all that is required is to simply select that as a camera from Settings - Camera options and be done with that. One would be wrong. This produces the error message "Can't find camera profile for this file". After some digging out, I found the solution:

  • Do NOT select anything under Settings - Camera types
  • Under Settings - Camera options, choose "Powershot SD800 IS" and press "copy". Type "Canon DIGITAL IXUS 850 IS" as camera name and "IXUS 850 IS" as short name.

Unfortunately, dng4ps2 loses your camera profile when you close the app, so this step has to be done every time you start the app. Interestingly enough, the created profile seems to be stored in Windows register but it doesn't seem to have any effect whatsoever. Anyway, I can live with that.

XnView, RawTherapee and Gimp armed with Ufraw plugin are also able to read the files and export the files as tiff, however not to DNG. The same goes for Google Picasa, except that it can't create TIFF either.

I did some experiments with bracketing as well. I am using Allbest build of CHDK which has several extra photo operations, one of them being Bracketing in Continuous Mode. Following the guide Bracketing I managed to get it to work. Well, sort of. I couldn't figure out the way to get to the sub menu where I am supposed to be able to adjust the number of bracketed shots. Other than that it seemed fine. There are more advanced options for bracketing involving the use of scripts. To use scripts for creating ingredients of HDR images, see Make ANY Single-Shot Intervalometer into an HDR-Bracketing Script.

As RAW files always, and uncompressed ones in particular, are much larger than jpeg images, I went on bought new SDHC memory card. Only to find out that my memory card reader doesn't want to co-operate with such cards.

Climbing photography

While I am at it, I though to throw min few links to articles about climbing photography.

One of the issues of climbing photography is that especially in the mountain environment, cameras in general and compact cameras in particular do a rather pathetic job of capturing the full dynamic range of the nature. Luckily, this shortcoming can be remedied with HDR images. the big idea of HDR images is to shoot multiple shots of the same image with different settings, then combine the images into a single image that utilizes color information from the multiple shots.

Often there's only need to combine multiple shots into a single panorama photo.

Cameraderie

I am considering buying new camera. As most of my photographing is done during the climbing trips, its suitability for climbing photography is the driving decision factor. Unfortunately, no one is producing s camera that would fulfill all my requirements.

My wishlist for climbing camera consists of:

  • Very small and light. Camera needs to fit in jacket pocked, otherwise it will see very little action. This rules out both SRL and larger compacts as well. We are talking about sub-200g range and as small as possible, especially depth is important.
  • Robust and weatherproof.
  • Lens. This is where it gets challenging. To be useful, the lens needs to have proper wide-angle. On the other hand, it needs to have reasonably long telezoom as well. Obviously the overall quality should be outstanding and it should not have any distortion to speak of. Tough order, I know. And it gets worse. As the lightening conditions are often difficult, large aperture is needed.
  • Controls. On top of proper automatic and metering, the camera should have usable manual controls. The key here is usable, which pretty much requires manual focus ring (you can't really use menus when trying to focus, can you).
  • Features. Ability to shoot RAW is probably on top of my list. GPS would be very handy for automatic geotagging.
  • Video. To be useful, optical zoom needs to be available when shooting video and the camera needs to be able to shoot HD video with normal frame speed, otherwise the whole feature is useless to me.

During my research, the following models made it to the short list:

Panasonic DMC-TZ7
Followup model of successful TZ5 with improved video features. Looks possibly the best compromise. However, based on reviews there are some rather alarming shortcomings. First and foremost, it has very small censor. This is almost a necessity if you want to pack an impressive zoom into a very compact body. The downside of this is of course reverse impact of aperture, noisiness and dynamic range. And sure enough, e.g. Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX3 and Fuji Finepix 200EXR reportedly boast vastly superior dynamic range. LX3 would shoot RAW as well, but unfortunately it has much shorter zoom, is quite a bit larger and its video features are far inferior to TZ7.
Fuji Finepix 200EXR
Reportedly very good dynamic range and boasts 5x zoom which would be acceptable I guess, but its video features are sorely lacking.
Ricoh CX1
Ricoh seems to have an interesting looking model in their offering as well, namely CX1 (only SD video, though). Very interesting features such as in-camera HDR.
Canon PowerShot SX200IS
Canon's entry into compact superzoom market. Sorely lacking in the video department (no zoom during recording, seriously?).
Nikon Coolpix S620, S610, S710
Nikon offering in its Coolpix S range sport both wide angle lens and reasonable zoom (up to 7x), however sadly not in the same camera. The video-side can't really keep up with the competition either.
Olympus μ9000
The Olympus µ-9000 (also known as the 'Stylus 9000') is the flagship model of Olympus' µ-Series line of point-and-shoot digital cameras. The µ Series consists of compact cameras characterized by small profiles, relatively great optical zoom function, and a focus on stylish outward appearance.
Samsung WB500
Interesting feature set but reportedly can't hold its own in image quality department.

If only Panasonic offered similar camera to TZ7 with larger censor (granted it would limit the zoom, but something like 6-8x would still be very good. Combine that with with lower pixel density (meaning that instead of 10MP, it would have "only", say 8MP) and it should sport greater dynamic range and shouldn't suffer from high noise as badly as it currently does. In my book, something like that would be very hard to beat in supercompact point and shoot market.

Auto-magic, take 2

I went on and replaced the "web 2.0" links available on some of the pages with JavaScript menu, which I reckon is less obtrusive and ultimately better from the maintenance point of view as well, as it would not require changes in markup. The script used on the site is based on JavaScript Context Menu by Luke Breuer.

The sample has been changed quite a bit though. Unfortunately my tweaking seemed to have broken compatibility with Internet Explorer 7, though. I tested the script with Firefox (3.0.7 and 3.1 beta), Internet Explorer 8, Chrome 2.0 beta and Safari 4 beta. Furthermore, it should work just fine with other browsers as well as long as they allow replacing right-click menu. The best part of this approach is that whenever the integrated services syntax requires changing or if I want to add new services, all I need to do is change the JavaScript. At this point, the integrated services are:

Essentially, the functionality pulled off with the JavaScript is rather similar to Accelerators, introduced in Internet Explorer 8. Those are pretty handy BTW; if you are using Firefox, IE8 Activities for Firefox comes highly recommended.

Caveats

Recently some book recommendation came my way courtesy of Amazon's marketing ploy. I've picked a habit of checking their "customers who bought this also bought" recommendations. Which is where I noticed Andy Cave's "Learnign to Breathe" and "Thin White Line".

As I had read Mick Fowler 's books not too long ago, the name immediately sounded somewhat familiar given that Andy was part of the same tragic Changabang expedition featuring in one of Fowler's book. As I found out that both of Cave's books are highly acclaimed, I went on bought both of them. So far I am in the middle of "Learning to Breathe" but already it's safe to say that it was money well spent.

Standards compliance

I recently noticed that Internet Explorer (including Internet Explorer 7) did a pathetic job of displaying this very site; (at least) all unordered (ul) and ordered lists (ol) were displayed incorrectly. This seems to be caused by IE:s inability to process such elements correctly whenever they are located within floated elements.

Which is rather sad given that many pure-CSS layouts rely on floats to build the layout. Which is the case with this site as well. To make matter worse, there's no real solution to remedy this. Fortunately upcoming Internet Explorer 8 (currently available as beta 2) seems to finally fix this.

However, since lists are heavily used on this site and lack of bullets and improper indents can seriously impair the readability of some of the pages, I added IE conditional comments along with CSS targeted to IE7 that fix this problem. At least up to the point where the layout is at least pretty close to what it should look like.

I also changed the mime-type to application/xhtml+xml which is what is recommended for xhtml 1.1. I am well aware that this may cause issues with old browsers. Tough shit. Furthermore, references to xhtml 1.1 schema are now added to html-root element.

Multi-pitch efficiency

  • Lead in blocks. Leading in blocks reduces the wait time, as it distributes leading and belaying more evenly (timewise, that is). This is very significant during the winter. It also often means less need to swap gear at belays if the pitch took less than half the rack.
  • Limit the number of belays. On multi-pitch routes very easy way to save loads of time is to build as few belays as possible. Usually this means using the full length of the rope. Naturally this isn't always feasible, but aim to run full rope length before placing the belay. Sometimes simul-climbing or soloing may be called for for the easier sections.
  • Get efficient on belays. By far the easiest way of shaving off time is at the belays. The key here is not so much to do things as fast as possible, it's more important to do the right things and nothing more. Stuff like building a belay so that no fumbling with it is necessary when continuing upwards, handling a rope when bringing up the second so that no recoiling is needed, efficient way of swapping gear, the second starting to clear the belay as soon as the leader is secured (in ice this means the first solid screw is placed) etc. make a lot of difference.
  • Make do with a single pack (if at all possible). Leading with a pack is so not my favorite thing to do, especially if the climbing is anywhere close to my limit. If you can't get by with just one bag, use small leader's pack and large second's pack.

The Alps

I just noticed there is a newish climbing-related film available in Blu-Ray: The Alps: Climb of Your Life . It was originally shot as Imax, so the feature length is substantially less than the is the case with typical films. Furthermore, it is more of a document than a feature film.

Just as one might expect from a HD transfer of a Imax film, quality of shooting as well as picture quality leave very little room for improvement.

In praise of Abalakov-thread

Now that the winters isn't too far far away, I decided to pay homage to Abalakov thread (aka V-thread), ingenius, yet extremely simple ice anchor. Knowing how to build one efficiently is a necessary skill for anyone planning on doing multipitch ice climbs.

It can be used to bail off a route without the need to leave expensive screws behind. However, it's greatest potential lies in a use as belay anchor. Whenever you can't descent by simply walking down, Abalakov thread is often a better way to rappel than to use trees. Of course, on alpine terrain trees are often not readily available either. But even if you had abundance of sturdy trees, using them usually involves criss-crossing across the fall to get from the tree to next. Meaning that you often can't use the full length off the rope. However, by far the biggest downside of using trees is rope's magical tendency to wrap around them and bushes, making a tedious, and often dangerous, process of retrieving a stuck rope a very real possibility. Using Abalakov's the risk of rope getting stuck is far diminished as you can follow a vegetation-free line.

Suit up!

About a year ago I finally decided to dig my pockets deep enough to dish out cash to purchase "Mountain Hardwear Transition Featherweight Zip T", lightweight, yet windproof shirt made of Gore-tex Windstopper Next2Skin (N2S). After using it in rock climbing and trail running, I can't rave enough about it. Why more manufacturers don't make apparel like this, is beyond me.

Windstopper N2S is typically far thinner than (most) softshell fabrics, thus it breathes better, packs smaller and is not too hot. In my book, you can't find a better clothing for summertime rock climbing in alpine surroundings or otherwise chillier days. Granted, these things don't come cheap, but they are worth every hard-earned cent.

Few year back I decided to replace my old and reliable bombproof Marmot Alpinist jacket with new hardshell. Finally I decided on Mountain Equipment Matrix, basically a Paclite shell with reinforcements of Gore-tex XCR. After experiencing its greatly enhanced breathability, reduced weight and bulk through simpler design, I doubt I'll ever go back to full-on armour-like shells. Granted, these things aren't as durable (which I experienced first hand by tearing mine with an ice axe pick during one less controlled slide during a walk-out). That being said, very few fabrics are particularly resistant against well-sharpened picks. Furthermore, light weight shells are also so much cheaper that I feel somewhat reduced longevity is justifiable for getting better function and added comfort.

Double dipping "Touching the Void"

I went to shopping spree after founding out that a film based on Joe Simpson's classic Touching the Void is available on HD DVD as well. Clearly this was too good to pass, no matter that I already owned a copy on DVD.

Although mountain footage would benefit greatly of High Definiton quality, there is very little climbing-related stuff available on HD. That being said, there is BBC's documentary Planet Earth , one episode of which contains beautiful mountain scenery. That being said, Vertical Limit is available in Blu-Ray. In it's unrealism it is either a very funny comedy (however unintended that is) or failed attempt at action/thriller.

Articles up for grabs

There are several great articles by Andy Kirkpatrick available at his site PsychoVertical.com. It seems that book of the same name is in the works as well.

Andy collaborates with Climb Magazine, which currently offers host of articles for free divided in three sections:

To access those articles you have to registered though.

Size matters

This winter has been extremely disappointing for us Finns willing to climb ice. Actually you pretty much need the calendar to know, that it, indeed, is mid winter, not early autumn as the weather has been plenty misleading. Should winters go on like this, retailers should probably forget about long screws and only stock 10 and 13 cm versions; there's not much use for the 16 or even 22 cm screws when your drink has more ice than local ice falls.

Lucky for me then, that since I happened to own a pair of recalled Petzl Sharken crampons, I decided to take single 10cm Petzl Laser Sonic ice screw as part of the compensation for returned crampons. I initially though that that screw wouldn't see much action. How wrong I was! This year I've placed it on most of my leads, to the point that I went on and bought another one, this time Black Diamond Express. Seems like American 10cm is more than 1cm shorter than the French one.

Although 10cm screws don't look like much, if you only have 10cm thick layer of ice, those certainly are the best options, much stronger than tied of 16 or 13 cm screws. Furthermore, fully sunk 10cm is way preferable to 13cm screw that made a little too close contact with underlaying rock. Saves plenty of money as well. Obviously quality of the ice is even more paramount to the strength of the placement than is the case with longer screws, though.

Vertical Pleasure

After reading some very interesting stories about the climbing life of Briton Mick Fowler, that can safely be described as eventful, not to mention hardcore, I decided it was time for me to buy his autobiography Vertical Pleasure: Early Climbs in Britain, the Alps, the Andes and the Himalaya.Fowler, MickBaton Wicks Publications2006This is the first set of mountaineering memoirs of one of Britain's leading mountaineers that was shortlisted for the Boardman/Tasker Award and published in Britain and the United States. Fowler describes his full development as a climber initially under the tutelage of his widowed father, then with school friends in London, then to Britain's more esoteric haunts, (sea stacks and far flung ice climbs) and finally in the Alps, the Andes and the Himalaya. Mick Fowler, who works for the Inland Revenue, is now recognised throughout the world as one of the most innovative and widely travelled mountaineers of his era. With job and family life making all the normal demands, his big climbing ventures have to be squeezed into tight holidays. Despite this he has pulled off some of the finest climbs and first ascents of recent years that are envied by his fellow mountaineers for their shrewd esoteric selection, grandeur and bold challenge.97809385674009780938567400Vertical PleasureBiographyen.

Turned out that buying that wasn't nearly as straight-forward as I expected. amazon.co.uk offered it for a bargain prize of £75.00. Most of my usual suspects don't seem to list that at all and those that do offer prices even higher than Amazon, culminating in thoroughly affordable $350.00 at Chessler Books. Surely it is supposed to be superb read according to reviews (eg. Vertical Pleasure), but $350 sure is steep. Finally I stumbled on Antiqbook, which offered it for much more reasonable € 29.50 + shipping. Not exactly affordable either, but not too astronomic.

For brief foretaste, read the article The Secret Life of a Tax Collector: Climbing Mountains.

All mashed-up

Since I have recently employed quite a few web 2.0 techniques, I decided to continue the trend. This time around, I added mashup of sorts, namely I exported newly geo-tagged locations from Glockner Group page (Hohe Tauern) to Google Maps map and embedded that map to said Glockner group page.

While I was at it, I also implemented a couple more microformats, this time hCalendar and hAtom. This essentially forced me to employ tagging as well. Next time I feel the need to review something, its likely to mean the inclusion of hReview.

Finally, I fixed some bugs in RSS creation (change log), added tiles to index page entries, and changed the presentation of the said entries slightly.

ABC going semantic

Microformats logo. Credit: Microformats.org, Licensed under: Public Domain.

I decided it was time to go more semantic by implementing microformats. In more exact terms, I implemented hCard (html vCard) to item list type, which I use to contain information about huts, hotels, lifts, tramways etc.

The big idea behind hCard is to allow browser to recognize contact information on a web site so that it can be easily picked up and exported to vCard, common standard to store contact information that can be exported from and imported into common contact management applications, such as Microsoft Outlook or Google's gmail. Somewhat related, postal address works poorly in the mountains, therefore coordinates are much more usefull in locating huts etc. Especially if you use gps device. Luckily, there's microformat for that as well, namely geo. My own homebrew linking system seems to be not too far away from xfolk so I might change the site a bit so that it takes advantage of that as well.

Forthcoming Firefox 3 and Internet Explorer 8 are likely the first browsers that can handle such microformats out-of-the-box. That being said, there are already plugins for current browsers, eg.

Laying it out

Parts of the site now has new layout based on the techniques and ideas behind 3 columns fluid layout by TJK design website relying on Faux Column technique and stylesheet branching to keep things compatible and manageable.

Being anal retentive tinker I am, I couldn't go with the solution as it was, of course. Instead I had to roll up my sleeves and incorporate some changes. As I get the rest of the kinks ironed out, the whole site will switch to new layout. After Ajax, RSS is the next web 2.0 technique employed by the site.

Housekeeping the information

Pretty complete rework of info page. Most of the information is the same, but organization is improved and some more information is added. Also some of the dead links have been removed.

ABC goes Ajax

I added nice javascript code tablesort.js which uses Ajax technology to turn static tables into sortable ones. While I was at it, I also tweaked table css a bit to produce nicer looking table. Also, I couldn't resist adding title attribute to grade link to show link description as tooltip. All this is currently in action on 4000m peaks in the Alps.

Cherry-picking in the Kunlun

On the climbing side, few Finnish climbers have been in Kunlun for a while, doing a couple of first ascents. Hats off! The expedition has a blog at: Kunlun2007.

Farther Than the Eye Can See

I recently saw a document film called Farther Than the Eye Can See It’s a true story about blind climber summiting Everest. I have to say I was scared when watching him cross numerous crevasses using unstable ladders in Khumbu Icefall. Somebody once said that many of the most incredible feats were accomplished by people not smart enough to know they are impossible. After seeing the doc, I must admit there might be some truth to it.

Keeping to the theme, I was wondering whatever happened to Stephen Daldry’s film Everest. It’s filmatization of infamous 1996 incident on Everest (you know, that “Into Thin Air” deal)? The crew went to summit Everest few years back with several elite climbers acting as stuntmen (David Breashears, Ed Viesturs and Veikka Gustafsson among them). Gotta admire the strive for authentity.

High Exposure

Speaking of David Breashears, if you haven’t already done so, do yourself a favor and read High Exposure.Breashears, DavidSimon & Schuster2003For generations of resolute adventurers, from George Mallory to Sir Edmund Hillary to Jon Krakauer, Mount Everest and the world's other greatest peaks have provided the ultimate testing ground. But the question remains: Why climb? In High Exposure, elite mountaineer and acclaimed Everest filmmaker David Breashears answers with an intimate and captivating look at his life.For Breashears, climbing has never been a question of risk taking: Rather, it is the pursuit of excellence and a quest for self-knowledge. Danger comes, he argues, when ambition blinds reason. The stories this world-class climber and great adventurer tells will surprise you -- from discussions of competitiveness on the heights to a frank description of the 1996 Everest tragedy.06848654590684865459High ExposureBiographyen It ranks very high on my list of best biographies, climbing related or otherwise. It’s full of interesting, and sometimes funny, anecdotes related to his previous filming projects. Best known of them being Everest and Cliffhanger .

Book-keeping

I did a pretty substantial change on a publishing side. Earlier details of books referenced in this page have been stored either directly in source document or in manually maintained xml-file that was used as central book database. While solving one of my requirements (reusable data), manually maintaining xml-file was not the most convenient of solutions to achieve this.

I finally got bored to this and did something I had planned on doing for ages, namely switched over to real book collection management database. My choice of application for the need is Bookcat. It has neat features for data input, including internet lookup from various sources, nice lookup tables that help to standardize the way the data is stored, can store every piece of information I need and can export xml.

The latter makes it relatively easy to extract the data I need to be used on the site. Furthermore, it uses Microsoft Jet database engine (Access), which while not being too great a database fulfills one of my paramount requirements: it's open in a way that I can access the database directly to perform maintenance tasks using all sorts of SQL trickery should I need to. Furthermore, not being a big fan for doing the same tasks again, this makes it possible to transfer data to different database system should I want to do so at some point. Finally, this also makes it possible for me to write code that accesses data directly from the database rather than relying xml-export function.

Right now there is only one entry making use of Bookcat data, but now that I have all the code needed for this in place, it is just a matter of inputting the data in Bookcat, then replacing book data stored locally in source file with reference to books (I use isbn as key). Now, if only I could figure out a convenient way of reading xmp or iptc metadata from image files with xsl. Or failing that, creating xmp-sidecar files for images.

History