So, as ice season is passing in Ogden, I want to briefly reflect on my favorite gear from this winter. This is gear that has been with me on pretty much every outing and I am very happy with. I will also add a few pieces of gear that Phil has been using all winter and loving. I will not be adding pieces that I have taken climbing out of default (because I have no other option). This is all gear that I love and therefore CHOOSE to take with me instead of a different option.
I have been able to ice climb about 30 days this winter, which isn't a ton, but I feel pretty happy with it, considering I'm a full-time student and in the process of opening a business.
Black Diamond Torque Gloves- These gloves are awesome! The grip is incredible and the dexterity is hard to beat. I layer a light merino liner under them and my hands have been warm from 15-30 degree teperatures. I think I only got the screaming barfies once this winter. These gloves are a little light duty, I'm afraid. 30 days of ice, a few days of drytooling, some training on a plice tower, and some hiking and they are ready to be replaced. I guess they're not really designed to be a a heavy-duty glove. But, even though the grip is getting pretty worn, they have still been quite water-resistant.
Arc'teryx Rho ltw zip baselayer- I have a lot of other baselayers, but this is always my first choice. If I have two or three outings planned in a week, I save this one for the best climb and use the others on lesser climbs. This baselayer is super comfortable, wicks moisture well and dries quickly, doesn't stink, even after 3 years of using year-round, and fits extremely well. It has long, stretchy sleeves which I really appreciate for ice climbing. Sometimes I'll tuck the sleeves into my torque gloves to keep my wrists covered, which really helps to keep my hands warm. It is also super durable. I have scummed up chimneys, hiked countless miles with a pack, and washed it probably 150 times, and it still looks new.
NWAlpine Black Spider Light Hoody- I have already written many times about this piece (http://gearthirty.blogspot.com/2012/03/lightweight-midlayers-my-favorites.html). The combination of lightweight, quick-drying material, great design and fit, and affordable price tag make this one of the best base/midlayers I have ever used. I do occasionally wear this as a baselayer and it works quite well. I rarely go climbing without it.
Arc'teryx Acto MX Hoody- I have already done an in-depth review on this piece (http://gearthirty.blogspot.com/2012/02/arcteryx-acto-mx-hoody-review.html), and my opinion hasn't changed. I have been looking a lot at other softshell jackets, but I can't think of a better material for active use during the winter than what is used on this jacket. Maybe Neoshell. This jacket has pretty much replaced my hardshell (I used my hardshell three times this winter, two of which were skiing). It does let a little bit more wind through than I would consider ideal for a shell, but when moving fast, I rarely get sweaty (I sweat, but it evaporates quickly).
Marmot Zion Jacket- This has been Phil's go-to jacket all winter long. Whenever we were hiking or climbing and I was sure he'd be overheating and sweaty, I'd ask him how he feels and he'd reply, "I feel great! I can't believe how well this jacket breathes!" He'd often throw the jacket on to dry off once we got up to a climb and were racking up. Read an in-depth review here: http://gearthirty.blogspot.com/2012/03/marmot-zion-neoshell-jacket-review.html
Arc'teryx Atom LT Hoody- This jacket goes almost everywhere with me, winter or summer. It has mostly been my belay jacket this winter because temperatures have been fairly mild. On really cold mornings, it turns into my climbing jacket. I love EVERYTHING about this jacket. If you don't have one yet, you're missing out, in my opinion. A better review here: http://gearthirty.blogspot.com/2012/01/arcteryx-atom-lt-hoody-i-just-wanted-to.html
Mid-October climbing on the Middle Teton in the Atom LT Hoody
NWAlpine Fast/Light Pant- In-depth review here: http://gearthirty.blogspot.com/2012/02/nwalpine-fast-and-light-pant.html. I love the fit, simplicity, key features, and material of these pants. They aren't perfect, but pretty close, and for $110 they are hard to beat. My go-to pant for pretty much all winter activities, especially climbing.
Cilogear Worksack- I haven't even touched another backpack this winter (except for my bc skiing pack), and I have seven other packs to choose from. I imagine it will be my go-to pack on most summer climbing outings as well. Full review here: http://gearthirty.blogspot.com/2012/03/cilogear-worksack-60l-review.html. My only regret with this pack is that I didn't also get a 30 liter worksack.
Camp Awax and Cassin X-All Mountain Tools- I have used many other tools over the years, including Nomics, Quarks, Vipers, Cobras, and Reactors, and I haven't found another tool that I like better than the Camp Awax and Cassin X-All Mountain. I even spent a week in Ouray with all of these tools side-by-side (except the Cassins), and my consensus was that the Awax was my favorite (the Nomic being a fairly close second). Phil has been climbing with the X-All Mountain tools this winter and ended up selling his other set (Reactors) because he didn't think he would use them again. I think that the X-All Mountain is possibly the most underestimated tool on the market. The picks on these tools penetrate all types of ice extremely well (sometimes too well, but a little modification to the picks help them pull out of the ice easier). They have held up quite well to drytooling and even camming in horizontal cracks. Great tools!
CAMP Awax Tools
Cassin X-All Mountain Tools
Petzl Dartwins- This is the first year I have owned Dartwins, but I have never used a better crampon for vertical ice and mixed. They skate a little too much on low-angle ice, but I don't even want to touch my other crampons when I'm headed to climb a waterfall. They do tear holes in my pants a little more efficiently than other I've used, but I was amazed at how much more secure my feet feel on steep ice with these crampons compared to some others I have owned or used.
Scarpa Phantom Guide Boots- After climbing vertical ice in these boots, I shudder at the thought of going back to my leather boots. These boots hold onto my heel and foot so well, they have pretty much eliminated calf burning for me. Now that's not to say that my calves wouldn't burn on a long, sustained climb in these boots, but my calves would usually start to burn while climbing on our local waterfalls, but I haven't had even the slightest bit of calf strain on these same waterfalls with the Phantom Guides. Some more thoughts on these boots here: http://gearthirty.blogspot.com/2012/03/few-thoughts-on-scarpa-phantom-guide.html