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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,  Licensed under: Public Domain.
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, Licensed under: Public Domain.

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

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,  Licensed under: Public Domain.
Training for the New Alpinism. Source: Steve House. Credit: Steve House, Licensed under: Public Domain.

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,  Licensed under: Public Domain.
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, Licensed under: Public Domain.

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

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,  Licensed under: Public Domain.
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, Licensed under: Public Domain.

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,  Licensed under: Public Domain.
Source: SuperTopo. Credit: PataClimb.com, Licensed under: Public Domain.

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,  Licensed under: Public Domain.
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, Licensed under: Public Domain.

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

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

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 South RidgeSilvrettahorn via W Flank & NW RidgePiz Buin.
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 EselsgratPiz Roseg East flank and South faceAgo di Sciora.
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, North ridgePiz Badile, Kuffner PillarPiz Palü, BiancogratPiz Bernina.
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, Cassin RoutePiz Badile, Gaiser-LehmannPiz Cengalo, SellagratPiz Roseg.

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.

History