Adventure Spirit Blog

Learn This: Alpine Cooking

From an article that appeared in the August 2014 issue of Climbing Magazine. Experience-driven tips and tricks for cooking in the alpine. Check out Climbing Magazine to view the complete on-line article with photos.

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Alpine Climbing, Equipment Advice, Gear Reviews, Technical Skills

Alpinist Magazine Gear Review: Jetboil MiniMo Stove

The Jetboil MiniMo is another version of Jetboil's original innovative—but now outdated—stove design. The MiniMo, slimmed down to 14.6 ounces and 5" x 6" dimensions, is likely an effort to appeal to alpine climbers. Although the MiniMo offers some nice features—such as enhanced simmer control—it is as if Powerbar put its Oatmeal Raisin brick in a new bag and tried to pass it off as an innovation.

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Gear Reviews

Alpinist Magazine Gear Review: DMM Switch Ice Tools

This season, DMM enters the fray with the Switch. With dual offset grips and a radically curved shaft, in essence it references the Nomic. But, put the two tools side by side and you'll quickly notice the first difference: Though both are marketed as 50cm tools, the DMM is clearly almost 2cm longer. Obviously, a longer tool offers a longer reach, which sounds nice on paper, but I wondered both, "Why these dimensions?" and, "Does the added reach compromise the swing?" Taking the tools out for a first spin on Grand Illusion in Smugglers' Notch, I quickly reached the twin conclusions, respectively, of "I don't know" and "Maybe."

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Gear Reviews

Alpinist Magazine Gear Review: Big Agnes Battle Mountain 2 Tent in Alaska's Ruth Gorge

After flying into Lower Ruth Gorge in early May—following a five-day wait while more than two feet of snow fell—I began to doubt my "dark horse decision" to bring along the Big Agnes Battle Mountain 2 tent.

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Gear Reviews

Alpinist Magazine Gear Review: Omega-Pacific Link-Cam in the Pacific Northwest

Omega's Link Cam takes camming devices to the next level by separating the cam lobe into interlocking pieces that collapse onto one another along the stem, allowing for a camming ratio far beyond that of the ordinary. Four sizes are available, spanning the range from 0.5-2.5 inches.

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Gear Reviews

Alpinist Magazine Gear Review: Petzl Sum'Tec Ice Ax

The Sum'Tec is offered with either an adze or a hammer, with various shaft lengths: 52 cm for the hammer version and 52 or 59 cm for the adze version. Each features a 3.5 mm "B"-rated pick connected to a "T"-rated, slightly curved aluminum shaft. A quick click of the Trigrest allows it to slide from technical tool positioning up the shaft to the head, such that the spike can be used as an effective balance point in piolet-canne position. The spike also features an ample hole that easily accepts tethers. I prefer pairing the 52 cm hammer with the 59 cm adze to tackle technical-but-lower-angle alpine ice objectives like the icy prow of Mt. Baker's North Ridge and mixed terrain on the Aiguille du Chardonnet in the French Alps.

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Gear Reviews

Alpinist Magazine Gear Review: Grivel Candela V-Thread Tool

When I first started ice climbing, I experimented with homemade versions as so many others have: a file, a coat hanger, and the "cutting-edge" advancement of capping the hook using a used-up tube of lip balm, so it wouldn't shred everything it came into contact with. Times moved on, I got rich mountain guiding, and I decided to blow my wad on champagne, limousines, new socks and various other V-threaders. Black Diamond's One Shot—did it. Petzl Multihook—yep. Near rock bottom, I even sought solace in the Glacier Plastics Abalakov Hooker. Crazy times.

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Gear Reviews

Sometimes the Leader Does Fall: A Look Into the Experiences of Ice Climbers Who Have Fallen on Ice Screws

Last winter a climber with Adventure Spirit Rock+Ice+Alpine was asking me about the holding power of ice screws. We discussed the various lab studies that have been done (a list of links to some interesting ones can be found at the bottom of this paper) then he said, “That's great, but has anyone ever specifically done research into how they actually perform in the field?” He had a point. While the dictum in ice climbing is that “the leader never falls,” in the end, they sometimes do. So presumably there was an ample population from which to sample—but I was unaware of any actual field research done with this population. So, fueled by that question, I decided to explore the topic. The results of this inquiry appear below.

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Equipment Advice, Ice Climbing

North Ridge of Mount Baker Clothing & Equipment Packing List

Climbing the North Ridge of Mount Baker is a unique summertime alpine objective: with the exception of a few ice couloirs in Sierras, it's pretty hard to find true blue ice climbing smack dab in the middle of the dog days of summer—but the North Ridge offers just that. Depending on how you handle the pitching out of your climbing, the time of year, and the particular route conditions, there are typically 3-4 pitches of enjoyable ice in the W12-WI3 range (and head further to climbers' right if you want to bump it into WI4), and a seemingly endless series of low-angle calf burner pitches to boot.

 

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North Cascades, Equipment Advice, Alpine Climbing

Exchanging Longitudes for Latitudes in Quebec's Wild North: The Gaspe

My idea of road trips has always had a distinctly east-west orientation to them: You get in the car and travel along the latitudes. This past month, we turned logic on it's head and decided to explore the longitudes and long ice lines of The Gaspe Peninsula in Quebec. We found wild ice and stunning scenery and a distinctly international scene with a distinctly provincial flair.

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International, Ice Climbing

Enjoyable Drytool/Mixed Option in Smugglers Notch

The start was face climbing edges and a few blocks, but then about 40' up it turned into an interesting crack-corner, for 15' of fun, then a traverse to the P1 anchors of Quartz Crack. We spied a cool crack system and right-facing corner 40' left of Quartz Crack and right of Tri-Scam. Though it was a bit contrived as a complete route, this P2 looked like fun, so we headed over to check it out. The climbing protected well initially using the cracks on the left, then the corner opened up with some options, with overall enjoyable M4ish climbing despite a few precarious flakes along the way.

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Vermont, Ice Climbing

North Twin Sister West Ridge--A Great Cascades Option

Climbing the North Ridge of Baker earlier this month, I spied a beautiful pair of mountains to the west and wondered what they offered. Paging through the Becky Cascades book, I found out that I was looking at the Twin Sisters and that the rock on the North Twin's West Ridge was exceptionally solid durite. I logged it away for future reference...

 

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North Cascades, Alpine Climbing

North Ridge of Mt. Baker--July 2014--Trip Report

Arriving at our 6600' tent site in good time on July 10th, Rakesh and I headed out to explore further after covering some crack rescue (as it looked like it might come in handy out there!). There was an old boot pack which we followed for awhile, but then when we hit the generally crack-free plateau portion around 6600' beneath the Headwall area, the toe and sole prints of those tracks showed they were inexplicably headed downhill (perhaps they were doing an exit onto the Chromatic Moraine as some kind of training?). We blazed our own path through the “funnel” depicted in the photo below, then out to where the crevasse features lessen, then turned around for the day. From that vantage point, it looked like our best option would be to swing looker's left to the Roosevelt Glacier entry onto the North Ridge, as the standard/early season route was 'schrunded and had evidence of substantial rock fall. From there, the next morning we headed up as depicted in the photo below.

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North Cascades, Route Reports, Alpine Climbing

The Fastest (&Best) Draw: When&What Draw to Clip When Climbing

Look at pictures of trad climbers getting after it in any climbing magazine and you'll see an array of approaches when it comes to clipping your gear: a woman crushing her hands into some Indian Creek crack clipping directly into her cams, a fellow at Cannon Cliff pulling a roof with nothing but air and double-length sling underneath him, an alpine climber going au cheval on Mt. Stuart's North Ridge clipping short to a tri-cam. So, it's not surprising that recently a climber-client of mine just breaking into trad leading connected to ask just what is up when it comes to how and when to clip draws.

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Rock Climbing, Technical Skills

Of Amorous Relationships & Alpine Boots: The Mammut Nordwand TL

I first checked out the Nordwands while passing by the Mammut store on a rainy day while climbing in Chamonix. I wasn't necessarily looking to leave my old boots behind. They'd been good to me. We did some cool things together. Things were OK. But in the back of my mind, I did wonder, “What else might be out there?” I found out the answer the moment my foot slipped into the Nordwand.

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Gear Reviews

Success--and Reflections--on the AMGA Alpine Guide Exam

The AMGA is the premier training path for America's professional climbing guides and the 10-day AGE is the culminating exam that guides take in order to become Certified Alpine Guides. Along the way toward that test, hopefuls must first take a 10-day Rock Instructor Course, a 9-day Alpine Guides Course, a 5-day Ice Instructor Course, an 8-day Advanced Alpine Guides Course, a 3-day Alpine Aspirant Exam, a 6-day American Institute for Avalanche Research and Education Level 3 Course and Exam, and a then—finally—the 10-day Alpine Guide Exam.

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Training

Matterhorn Mirages

Coming in from Chamonix the drizzling day before my wife Alysse and I were bombarded by images of “it” everywhere. But for the whole of that damp day we had to be contented with six dollar cups of Zermatt coffee and seeing “it” only on kitchen spoons, jigsaw puzzles, envelope openers, and other kitsch—the real “it” remained lost in the clouds. Now gazing out of our tent in the clear blue morning, we were greeted by the signature lines of the mountain that made Switzerland synonymous with climbing—the Matterhorn.

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International, Ice Climbing, Rock Climbing

Cascade Climbing Blitz: Old Gold & New Gems

Graced with bluebird skies and strong climbing comrades, managed to put a satisfying amount of climbing into the last nine days: Black Peak (North Ridge-South Ridge Traverse), Sahale Peak-Sharkfin Tower (Link-up), Forbidden Peak (East Ridge-West Ridge Traverse), Poster Peak (Blue's Buttress), Burgundy Spire (North Face), Torment Peak (North Ridge), Mt. Shuksan (Southwest Rib to Hanging Glacier to East Ridge). Check out the details and glean some tech notes about the routes here.

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North Cascades, Alpine Climbing

Mammut's Sphere UL and Light Pump Sleep System on Mt. Rainier

An early-July Emmons trip an excellent place to test out Mammuts Sleep Systems. With freezing temps predicted in the 14K range, I opted to go light and bring the Sphere UL Spring bag and the Light Pump Mat UL. Together, these two pieces weigh in at just over a kilogram (1080g)--about 2 pounds.

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Gear Reviews

Mount Rainier Emmons Climbing Route Conditions Report-07-03-13

Under bluebird skies, I went with a team of climbers over to Rainier's "Wilder Side"--the Emmons Route--during the June 30-July 3rd period. Here are some notes regarding the current climbing conditions.

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North Cascades, Route Reports, Alpine Climbing