"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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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.

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