Friday, June 29, 2012

Why luck is so important in the mountains!

I just watched two videos of some very lucky people in the mountains.  There have been many times in my own life when I got back to the car after a climb and thought, "Wow, I'm lucky to be alive."  Well, these climbers, especially the ice climber, are about as lucky as they come.

Another view of the same avalanche can be found on this website:

Pretty crazy. Here's another one.

Unbelievably close!  Getting out into the mountains is great, of course, but be careful!  Lots of ways one can die.  I'm sure, especially in this situation, there were a lot of reasons why this guy should never have been in this situation, but a little luck has allowed him to learn from his mistakes (hopefully) and climb another day.

To all you Ogdenites, be careful.  The snakes are out in force.  A good friend of mine took off the other day to solo a big climb and stepped on a rattlesnake less than two minutes into the approach.  He then ran into many more.  Phil and I ran into two rattlesnakes the other day coming off a big 12hr climb. 

Anyway, everybody have fun and be safe! 

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Icebreaker Merino Wool Sonic SS Zip Review

*This review can also be found at as well as other reviews, information on hiking, climbing, and paddling destinations, and outdoor industry news from around the world.  Please check out

For the last ten years I've been using merino wool blend clothing as base layers for cold weather climbing and skiing, but have left it at home for any warm weather forays because it has always been too warm.  I'm the type of person that would be just fine with nine months of cold weather and snow and three months of cool, spring/fall-like temperatures.  I do not do well in the heat and I don't enjoy the heat.  Unfortunately, I live in the desert that is Utah, a mile or so away from the eastern side of the wasatch front.  What that means is that it gets hot and is very dry.

As much as I hate the heat, I hate staying inside more.  I like to get out and hike, climb, bike, run, etc., no matter the temperature, I just don't like it as much as during the winter or early spring.  If I have the option, I try to head up to higher elevations (above 10,000ft) where temperatures are cooler.  But, with work and other obligations, those trips are few and far between.  If I relied only on these trips to stay in shape, I'd get fat (fatter than I already am).

Anyway, to deal with the heat I wear the lightest clothing I can find, sometimes sacrificing a little modesty to try to stay cool (I used to run in knee-length shorts and a t-shirt but find myself liking shorter, looser shorts now and lighter, looser shirts (or sometimes no shirt).

A little while back I was sent a t-shirt from Icebreaker to try out.  I had an icebreaker shirt before but it was a little too warm and tight for warm-weather training.  I thought I'd wear it more as a casual shirt because it would be too warm for our 90-100 degree heat, but I was pleasantly surprised.  It has become my go-to shirt for most any warm weather outing.

The shirt is the Icebreaker Tech T Lite short sleeve shirt.  It is a really nice looking shirt and I often wear it when I'm trying to look nice, but I often grab that shirt first for a trail run or to climb.

So, on Monday I got a surprise knock on my door from the UPS guy with a new Icebreaker shirt.  I think this one is the Icebreaker GT Sonic SS Zip.  So far I have gone trail running a couple times and played a couple hours of tennis yesterday in it.  I love it!  And it doesn't stink.

Spec and Pictures


  • Zip through workouts in dry comfort
  • Quick drying GT150
  • MP3 tunes via cord loophole
  • Eyelet panels Increase venting underarm and on the back
  • Sweat away with quick drying odour resistance
  • Weight: 0.47-0.55 kg

The Icebreaker Tech T Lite.  This shirt first won me over to icebreaker for warm weather clothing.  The material is light and airy, dries quickly, and doesn't stink, even after days of use.

The Icebreaker GT Sonic SS Zip.  I'm actually not sure if this is the quest zip, but the quest zip is the closest thing I can find to this shirt. I threw out the packaging before looking at the model.  It has a reflective, half zip.  The front green material is a light, stretchy, and comfortable.  The dark gray under the arm and the back panel are made of a super light, knitted material for extra coolness and breathability.

Reflective detailing on upper back.  The neck is kind of high, which I originally didn't think I'd like for warm weather.  But, the neck is really soft and it's nice to keep the sun off the back of my neck.

This is the underarm panel.

This is the material on the back of the shirt and under the arms.  We'll see how durable it is, but is very soft and comfortable next to the skin.  Dries really quickly too, especially for wool.

It has an iPod pocket on the backside of the shirt.  I put keys in the pocket at the start of one of my runs and they fell out of the pocket about 30 seconds later.  Not ideal for keys but works well for mp3 players or iPods.

Headphone port on the interior of the shirt.

I'm 6'2", about 185-190lbs.  This is a size large and fits me very comfortably for warm weather.  I could go down to a medium if I wanted a closer, performance fit, but I like the looser fit in warm weather.

The Verdict

Of all the warm weather tech shirts that I have and have used, these two shirts have become my two favorites.  They are as cool as any of the other shirts that I have, they dry as quickly as most any of my other shirts, and after days of exercising in them, they still don't stink (though I am going to wash them anyway).  I'd give these shirts 5 out of 5 stars.  I wish I had a bunch more.  I wouldn't take any other shirt on an extended backpacking trip because of these shirts' function and stink-resistance.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

New Route on Baffin Island

Here's a link to a new route on Baffin Island.  Pretty incredible!

I apologize that I haven't posted more over the last week.  I've been pretty busy.  Look forward to a couple posts in the next few days.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

GEAR:30 Retail Store Progress Update

Here's a little update on our retail store progress.  We will be breaking ground in the next week and we are told the building should be finished by September.  If you live in Ogden or are ever visiting, please come visit us!

Visit us now on Facebook @  Our website is a work in progress but you can visit it at

Monday, June 18, 2012

Alex Honnold and Hans Florine break The Nose speed record, again

Hans Florine now holds the speed record on the nose, again, but this time with Alex Honnold.  The pair beat the record yesterday by 12min 59sec, which a total time of 2:23:46.  Read more about it here:

Friday, June 15, 2012

Friends Shad Burnham and Brian Waters climb Cassin Ridge

A couple of friends of mine, Shad Burnham and Brian Waters, summited Denali last week via the Cassin Ridge.  I don't know all the details yet, but I have been told it took them four days due to high winds and stormy weather.  Shad's been a good climbing partner of mine for years.  This year he and Brian have been getting after it, climbing many fun and difficult routes in the Tetons over the winter, with the goal of getting up the Cassin Ridge on Denali.  Well done, guys!  Shad is the owner of the Pro Shop at The Front climbing gym.  If you're ever in Ogden, stop by and check out his shop and the gym.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Arc'teryx Nozone 35 Review

I have been looking for a good, simple alpine climbing pack for a while.  I have many packs and have used most of them over the years for climbing, but most of the packs I have are too big for a day of alpine climbing, summer or winter.  I wanted something that would be a good size for a day outing and could be stretched to overnight outings.  A few other requirements were that it was simple, clean, climbs well, comfortably carries climbing hardware (like cams, ice screws, etc) and up to 30lbs, and is somewhat strippable.

I read a 3-part post by Dane at Cold Thistle about his opinions on climbing packs.  They are very interesting articles and got me thinking (more than I already was) about what a good climbing pack is.  There have been times when I've been climbing with a mostly empty 50 liter pack with a fairly stiff frame that is so hindering to my movement that it makes a 5.8 rock climb or WI3 ice climb, that are usually pretty easy, awkward and sometimes difficult.  There have been other times when I'm out for a day of climbing and fill my pack half way, but the pack still fills full and bulky, just because the pack is so big.  That's usually ok if I'm hiking to the bottom of a waterfall or crag and am leaving my pack at the bottom, but if I ever want to do a long alpine route, my current packs are a pain to use.

Here are links to each of Dane's pack articles.  Well worth reading if you haven't already:

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:

Not long ago, Arc'teryx came out with a new/redesigned alpine climbing pack that is about the size I was looking for.  Before this pack, I was debating ordering the Black Diamond Epic 35 or the Axis 33. I was also thinking about special ordering a Cold Cold World Ozone pack similar to what Dane suggests.  I was also considering getting another Cilogear Worksack, but this time in 30L size.  I didn't know what to do.  I noticed this new Arc'teryx pack, the Nozone 35, which looked particularly interesting, but it is expensive.  About a month later I had one on the way, not because it looked better than the other options, but because it looked really nice and I got a good deal on one.

So, the pack showed up this morning and I wanted to write a little about my first impressions.  THIS IS NOT A REVIEW.  I have not yet used the pack.  These are just initial thoughts and they could very easily change.  Maybe these thoughts and pictures could be helpful to those that are also interested in this pack, but would like to see it in detail before they commit.

Let me say at the outset that I am not against expensive gear.  I have a lot of it.  If it's quality and will last a long time, I have no problem paying a lot of money for the gear.  I am against overpriced gear and  I am against low-quality gear.  My opinion could definitely change on this pack as I use it, but I think this pack has crossed the line to overpriced.

Pictures and Comments

Arc'teryx Nozone 35, Arc'teryx's redesigned alpine climbing pack.  They used to make the Nozone, but discontinued it a few years ago.  They have now resurrected the line, but with a bit of a face lift.  The total weight according to my scale is 2lb 4.2oz.  Stripped with lid (no hipbelt, no stays) weighs 1lb 14oz.  Stripped without lid weighs 1lb 9.6oz.

The black patch on the side of the pack is a stretch mesh wand/probe/trekking pole pocket.  It's not big enough for a water bottle, but it is big enough for a little with of food or the items mentioned above.
Arc'teryx's new Arc-on suspension.  It looks really nice and clean, but it just doesn't seem as incredible as their own videos make it sound.  The back panel is a pretty hard foam.  It's stiff so that the backpanel doesn't barrel when overpacked.  It also protects one's back against hard gear, like cams, screws, etc.

The lid is pretty small.  I can fit two small jackets (think driclime windshirt-sized jackets), but that's it.  The lid extends (floats) to accommodate overpacking and is easily removable.

The pack with the extension sleeve and rope strap.

These loops make opening and shutting the pack super easy, even with gloves.  

There are two reinforced haul loops, one on the front and one on the back.

The wand/probe/pole pocket.  

The Ice Axe/Tool attachment system is very simple and easy to attach tools.  Even aggressive, ergo-shaped tools and handles fit, though it takes a little extra effort to slip them in and out of the webbing loop.  Still very clean and simple.

The lower attachment is also part of the compression strap on the bottom.  Cool system, in my opinion.

The picks fit in the sleeve.  The interior of the sleeve is reinforced with a heavier, coated fabric.

A bungee cord is included with the pack.  I doubt I'll use it much, but it's nice as an option and especially that it's easily removable.

The interior.  You can see that the backpanel is also supported by two aluminum stays.  When the stays are in, the frame doesn't bend.  With the stays removed, the frame is quite flexible, while still offering a firm panel to protect against uncomfortable gear.

Pre-curved aluminum stays.  Thank goodness they're removable.  I doubt I'll ever use them.

The stays are held in by a reinforced velcro flap.  The stays are easily removable.

The shoulder straps have a nice curve and are light, but seem adequately padded.  We'll have to see how they feel with 30lbs or so.

The 1.5" webbing hipbelt is removable.  When tightened, the hipbelt helps pull the lumbar portion of the backpanel into the small of one's back.  Should support the weight of a day of climbing pretty well. 

Again, the backpanel is clean and simple.  The foam is hard.  That could be a problem.  We'll see. 

Without the stays the pack is quite flexible while still not allowing hard gear to push through the back panel into one's back.

Again, the backpanel is flexible without the stays.

To give you an idea of the size.  The lid in this picture is not extended.  The pack would be about four inches taller extended.

To Sum Things Up

So, my initial thoughts of this pack are really positive.  The only gripe I have so far is that the pack is so expensive.  For a 35L pack, $240 seems overpriced.  The other packs I compared it to earlier are about $60-$100 less for a comparable pack.  I do think that this pack is as well designed as any of the other packs and that the materials and manufacturing are every bit as good if not better than the other packs (except maybe the cold cold world packs.  I've actually never checked out one of their packs in person).  And because of the technology used in the pack, it probably is more expensive to make than the other packs.  But $240?  Pretty steep.

The other concern is the backpanel.  I think it will work well, but it is pretty hard foam and I'm interested to see how comfortable it is after a long day of climbing.  Time will tell.

Anyway, so far I think that the pack will be a good pack and will perform well.  We'll see in a few months if I think it's worth the money.

After a Couple Months

I have now been using this pack for a couple months.  I have only used it for rock climbing so far, but I couldn't be happier with it.  I think it is the perfect size for an alpine rock and ice climbing pack.  I'm still curious to see how it will work for ice climbing, but I've climbed moderate rock routes with the pack on, carried heavy loads (35+ pounds) on the approach to climbs, and even used it backpacking. 

Though I wouldn't suggest carrying more than 35 pounds in it for long approaches because of the minimal belt, the stays are robust enough to easily handle that much weight and more.  Without the stays, the pack still carries quite comfortably.  Even when overstuffed, the backpanel stays flat and will not barrel.   I'm not really sure why the pack has stays.  I've used them once even though I didn't need to.  Other than that one time, the stays have stayed in the closet.  A pack this size isn't big enough to carry more than 35 or so pounds worth of gear and the backpanel is stiff enough to handle anything less.

Without the stays, the pack climbs quite comfortably.  The hipbelt is thin enough to stay out of the way of a harness and the shoulder straps are comfortable with a load but soft enough, thin enough, and cut just right as not to impede arm movement.  When the pack is totally overstuffed with a rope, it is tall enough, just barely, to get in the way of looking up with a helmet on.  The only time that was a problem, however, was when the pack was totally full, spindrift collar extended, with a rope strapped on top.  

I think this pack is as good or better than any other alpine pack I have used.  I think this pack is every bit the equal (or maybe better) of many of the dyneema climbing packs on the market that are more expensive than this pack.  At $240, it's still plenty pricy, but for a climber who wants serious mileage and performance out of their pack, this is a good option and, in my opinion, worth the money.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Minimalist Running is Faster and More Efficient

A recent post from a great blog that I follow argues (with evidence) the point that minimalist running will increase one's speed and efficiency in running.  It's a cool, short post and worth reading.  Here's the link:

Ice Climbing Anchor tips from the American Alpine Institute

Recently the American Alpine Institute has posted tips for building anchors for ice climbing.  These tips aren't ground-breaking new information, just good, safe technique.  I find any information on anchor building to be helpful, either as a review or for learning the first time.  When I first started trad- and ice climbing, I was constantly reading books and articles about building anchors.

Anyway, I thought these were helpful posts, so I thought I'd pass them on.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Monday, June 11, 2012

My dog, Libby Lou Reynolds (September 25, 1997 - June 11, 2012)

Forgive me for this personal post.

I know most readers of this blog have little interest in my personal life, so I'll try to keep this fairly short.  I just want to introduce the world to Libby, the greatest dog this world have ever seen, and now the greatest dog in heaven.

Libby was born on September 25, 1997, and passed away this morning, June 11, at about 12:15am.  My siblings and I had begged for a dog for years and finally my parents conceded.  She was feisty from the very beginning and it took almost 15 years to wear her out.  Libby was always happy, never complained, and occasionally back talked to my parents when they would scold her for being naughty.  Her tail would wag so hard that it would almost knock her off her own feet when she was younger, and knocked little kids off their feet throughout her life.  She never bit or hurt anyone, and though she loved to wrestle, she would stop the instant she thought you might be injured.  She won the hearts of many a little kid when she'd allow them to climb all over her and pull her ears and she'd do nothing except smile and lick them back.

Libby loved spending time in the mountains.  When we'd take her hiking, she'd cover about 20 miles by the time we'd cover five.  As she'd be hiking down the trail, she'd notice a marsh or pond of water and she'd disappear into the water for a swim.  She'd always quickly return to make sure we were ok before she'd disappear again for more swimming.

She had a relatively long (for a Lab) and healthy life.  It wasn't until the last year or two that she really slowed down due to arthritis and old age.  Even in her old age she loved to be active, always bringing a ball to play fetch, but tiring out after a few minutes instead of a few hours.  As my parents would work out in the yard, she would follow them around wherever they went.  And as my mom would work in her office, she was always there laying on the floor by her side.  She was a loving and loyal companion.  Surely there never was a better dog than our beautiful black lab, Libby!  She will be missed!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Chad Kellogg's Summit Attempt on Everst

As many are aware, Chad Kellogg was on Everest this spring with the goal of setting the speed record of Everest without Oxygen.  He's already set the speed records on other smaller peaks.  On Mt. Rainier, he set the speed record by going from the Paradise parking lot to summit to parking lot in five hours (the same amount of time it took our group to get from parking lot to Camp Muir).  On Denali, he went from basecamp to summit to basecamp in 23h 55min.  Absolutely incredible!  Did I mention he survived cancer somewhere in there?  Chad's goal for Everest was to climb it from basecamp to summit in under 20hrs and back to basecamp in under 30.  Unfortunately, that didn't happen, but he gave it a valiant effort, and I doubt it was his last effort.

Anyway, here is a link to the fifth and final installment of videos that OR was making to document his attempt:

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Great video of Steve House: "Shattered"

There's a great new video of Steve House called "Shattered."  Because I can't seem to figure out how to embed videos from vimeo (even though I swear I follow their instructions exactly), Dane at Cold Thistle has it on his blog.  Check it out.  It's only 5 minutes long.  Well worth your time, in my opinion.  Here's the link:

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Alex Honnold at it again! Triple Crown Solo in under 20 hrs!

This quote from Reel Rock Tour's Facebook page:  Wow! Just finished covering one of Alex Honnold's most epic adventures for REEL ROCK 7 - The Solo Triple Crown in about 18 hours. Watkins, El Cap, and Half Dome, 90% free solo with a little bit of aid. Yesterday he started up Watkins at 4PM and topped out in 2:20, a speed record in itself. Next was The Nose, in 6 hours, in the dark. He forgot his chalk bag and had to borrow one from aid climbers half way up. Topped out Half Dome at 10:45 this morning. Here he is looking worked on the summit an hour ago. "OK," he finally admitted, "that was a big deal."

This guy's an animal!  I hope he has a long life.  The odds aren't particularly promising.

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Arc'teryx I-340a Harness Review

*You can read this review and others at  You can also find information on hiking, climbing, and paddling destinations and outdoor news from around the world.  Please check out

Let me preface this review by saying that I am not really a harness specialist.  I have been using the same harness for years and years.  In fact, my BD harness was 7 years old before I replaced it (wouldn't recommend that and neither would BD).  I was so nervous about climbing in that harness that I would borrow one of Phil's when we would climb together.  I have hung in most BD, Petzl, and Arc'teryx harnesses on the market, but I have only climbed in the BD Focus and Xenos harnesses, and the Arc'teryx X-350a and I-340a harnesses (and various ultralight webbing harnesses while mountaineering).  When it comes to all of the harnesses on the market, I can't tell you which one is best.  But, if you're debating about one of the harnesses mentioned above, this may be helpful.

The Stats and Features

From Arc'teryx's Website
The I·340a is an ice specialist with the ultimate combination of lightness, suppleness and support. A wide Warp Strength® Technology swami gives greater support without adding weight. Brawny tie-in point adds more critical strength where needed and adjustable leg loops are patterned with an anatomical conical shape for greater comfort while hanging. Fourteen slots present more options for clipping ice screws.
Harness Features
  • Two drop seat buckles
  • Wear safety markers on belay loop and tie-in points
  • WST™ load is evenly supported across entire harness structure
  • Low-profile webbing haul/gear loop
  • Fourteen ice clipper slots
  • Belay loop
  • Thermoformed tie-in point
  • Self locking buckle
  • Extra Large width WST™ (Warp Strength Technology™) swami belt
  • Four injection molded reversible/ removable gear loops
  • Adjustable leg loops
  • $170, ouch

My Experience

I have been using this harness for the past two months and I can't say enough about it.  The few complaints I had about the X350a harness have been remedied and, in my opinion and according to my limited knowledge on harness design, this harness couldn't get much better.

This harness is light, flat, and supple enough that hiking in it is very comfortable, even while wearing a backpack with a wide, padded hipbelt.  The gear loops on the hipbelt are removable and reversible, so if one were to do a lot of hiking with a backpack, the plastic could be removed for increased comfort.

Arc'teryx's Warp Strength Technology makes this harness very comfortable to hang in.  In my experience,  the BD Xenos was as comfortable or maybe slightly more comfortable than the X350a, but also a little heavier and bulkier.  Well, I would have to now say that the I-340a is more comfortable than either of these other harnesses.  I think this is due to a wider swami belt and a slightly different shape of the leg loops.  I have also found that it breathes a little better than the Xenos.

One gripe I had (and so did Phil) with the X350a was that the ice clipper slots were just a little too big for my BD ice clippers.  This meant that the little flange on the ice clipper that is meant to keep the ice clipper oriented properly wouldn't catch, and the ice clipper would rotate through the clipper slot and hang funny.  This problem has been remedied by making the ice clipper slots out of elastic.  This means that the slots are tight enough to catch the flange and keep the ice clipper oriented properly.  The elastic also has multiple slots so that multiple ice clippers can be used and you can customize the position of the clipper.

Photos and Explanations

Arc'teryx I-340a Harness.  This harness has 4 gear loops, many ice clipper slots, and comfortable, warp strength technology.  This harness is a size Large.  I have a waist of about 34 inches and this size fits well with and without layers under it.

Self-locking buckles.  No need to double back.

These ice clipper slots are made of elastic which allow one to use any ice clipper or carabiner to rack ice screws or hold tools.

Removable gear loops.  You can remove the plastic, or you can switch it so that they're angled in the opposite direction.

Switching/removing plastic gear loop.  If using a harness with a backpack that has a big hipbelt, it is more comfortable to carry the pack without the plastic gear loops.  It is a nice option, but it is a pain to remove them. It's not particularly easy and I'd hate to try to do it in the field with cold hands or gloves.  Luckily, the gear loops hang down far enough that the hipbelt on my pack doesn't cover the plastic.

BD Ice clipper.

The flange on the BD ice clipper helps to keep the clipper oriented properly.  These ice clippers don't work very well with the X350a but do with the BD Xenos and I-340a.  In my opinion, the Petzl ice clippers are better than the BDs anyway, and will work well on any harness that has ice clipper slots, no matter what size they are.

You can also use carabiners as ice clippers, but they don's stay oriented as well as the real deal.

The belay loop and tie-in points are reinforced and have wear markers for safety.  Or, in other words, when they start to wear out, you will see red showing through.

Some of the ice clipper slots are too far forward and the ice screws hang in the way of one's leg.  When ice climbing and the teeth of the screws are exposed, that can be a problem.  That's only a problem on the right side.  Easy to avoid.  Just don't use them.

Screws in the way of one's leg.

This is one of the lightest and smallest, full-featured alpine climbing harness.  About the size of a nalgene.

This harness weighs 13.8oz with its stuff sack in a size large; 13.4oz without it.

The Verdict

This is the best harness I have used up to this point.  Admittedly, I haven't used a ton of harnesses, but I have used a few.  The only down side is the price.  $170 is definitely not cheap.  But, if you spend a lot of time in a harness and you want to make sure you're comfortable, this is worth it, in my opinion.