"Life is brought down to the basics: if you are warm, regular, healthy, not thirsty or hungry, then you are not on a mountain... Climbing at altitude is like hitting your head against a brick wall - it's great when you stop."

Chris Darwin

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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.