Wednesday, November 26, 2014

La Sportiva Nago vs Mythos

"What's the main difference between the La Sportiva Nago Climbing Shoes and the La Sportiva Mythos Climbing Shoes? How does the La Sportiva Nago Climbing Shoes stack up against the La Sportiva Mythos Climbing Shoes?"

Great question! Those two shoes are very similar, with some noticeable differences that make them slightly better for some particular purposes.

To start off, the Mythos is an un-lined full leather shoe. This means it stretches out a lot over time. I size these pretty small in order to get a good lasting fit when they stretch out. The pair I used to own were a size 36.5, and I normally take a 39 in most other shoes. That stretching though makes them super comfortable. They're a great shoe for moderate all-day multi-pitch climbs.

The Nagos are a little different. They have a synthetic liner around the middle of the foot, so the stretching out is limited to the toe and heel. In my opinion that is just enough to make them break in and be comfortable, but not so much that they lose their sensitivity and performance ability. A great compromise.

The biggest difference is the Nago maintains its edge much longer than the Mythos. This is very important for performance on face climbs with small edges. With that in mind the two factors you need to weigh are all-day comfort against edging performance. If sized correctly, the Nago should provide a reasonable amount of comfort over a long time but the edging performance (or lack there of) can not be fixed with the Mythos. For that reason I prefer the Nago.

Feel free to keep the questions coming! 

Terrible Blog Updater

So I've been extremely absent from my blog since the Spring. I've been doing a bunch of fun things that I think are worth sharing, but my free time just hasn't been devoted towards this blog. But no longer! I've been getting a bunch of questions from friends and clients about climbing and figured I might as well start publishing my responses to them in this public forum for everyone to see. So for now I'm back with a regular stream of gear and technique related questions. Hope to get some trip reports and stories up here soon too.

See you in the mountains,


Thursday, April 3, 2014

RRRR: Red Rock Rendezvous Recap

I really just wanted to have the title of this post resemble a pirates' favorite letter, but in reality we all know that's P! (because its like an R, but its missing a leg) But in all seriousness, I can only begin to say how much fun I had at the Red Rock Rendezvous this past weekend! Not only did I spend time with so many great people, but it was my birthday on Saturday and my partner Laura was able to make it for the festivities as well.

A Beavertail Cactus (Opuntia basilaris) in bloom with the Red Rock Escarpment in the background

I began Friday of the festival leading a U-climb clinic all day for new climbers. We focused on all the fundamentals of the sport and by the end of the day everyone could go through a safety check, rappel, and utilize good body positioning and technique on 5.7 climbs. Such a fun group of folks getting their first outdoor climbing experience, or at least a refresher.

On Saturday I had the pleasure of assisting professional climbing athlete and yogi Heidi Wirtz with her Yoga for Climbers clinics. I'm not a practitioner of yoga, but definitely an interested observer, and the opportunity to learn a thing or two from Heidi was a real treat. Not to mention it was also my birthday! Although this was Heidi's clinic and certainly her expertise, she let me put up a route in the afternoon at the Hunter S. Thompson Dome called Squire and rated 5.10c. I called it an "easy-hard" route, because of its overhanging nature but with big jugs to grab onto. Got to love that grade "easy-hard", they're always a lot of fun.

Panorama I took of Heidi leading her group in some yoga poses. Can't beat this setting for yoga!
I definitely picked up some yoga poses and stretches to add into my stretching regiment. It was great to get some instruction in yoga from a climber that obviously is able to tailor her practice towards improved climbing movement. But I have to admit I was very sore after 2 sessions of yoga that day!

Heidi stopping on the hike out to take a photo of a good looking barrel cactus. So great to see someone appreciating the little things! Definitely check out Heidi's yoga and climbing retreats at Earthplay Retreats.

Saturday night was definitely the party night at the Rendezvous. Lots of people dancing to the music, and the beer was flowing freely. Had a great time hamming it up with my friends after a long day in the desert sun.

Sunday I was assigned to multi-pitch guiding, probably the most popular opportunity at the Rendezvous. I took two great guys from Pennsylvania up Lotta Balls 5.8 in the First Creek Canyon. Despite some high winds I was able to stay attached to the thin face section of balls the route is known for on pitch 2. These guys had a great time and were super appreciative to get up on a multi-pitch climb and learn a few more efficient techniques for station and rope management.

My first Rendezvous will definitely not be my last! I look forward to next years event and many more after that for years to come!

Monday, March 10, 2014

Red Rock Rendezvous March 28-30, 2014

I'm very excited to be participating in this year's Red Rock Rendezvous hosted by Mountain Gear! I absolutely love climbing and guiding on the sandstone of Red Rock and I'm stoked to be invited as an American Alpine Institute guide to help facilitate clinics and guide multi-pitch routes. Should be an exciting weekend working alongside sponsored athletes and enjoying the desert sun with a huge portion of the climbing community!

Can't beat Red Rock sunsets!
To get stoked for everything Red Rock, check out this video about the event:

More great info about the Red Rock Rendezvous can be found on the American Alpine Institute blog here.

I'll also be in Red Rock the week before the Rendezvous and the week after. A few exciting days lined up already and hope you can join me in the desert for some climbing!

In related news, I'll be in Joshua Tree starting on April 5th where I have the honor of working with the group Athletes With Disabilities that gives people with a leg or arm amputation the opportunity to experience climbing. I can't express how excited I am to be working with this group! You can check out a video below of a past event.

I'll be back up in Washington starting May 1st, but I'll enjoy the high desert rock of the Southwest while it lasts! Excited to be meeting up with old friends and making new ones all spring in the desert sun.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Lent: My 7:00 AM Wake-up Call

Upon very brief discussion with my partner Laura, I decided to give up sleeping in for lent. That's right, my alarm will now be permanently set to 7:00 AM for the next 40 days. I wouldn't call myself a devout Christian, but the practice of lent seems like a great opportunity for self reflection and a chance to make a pledge to yourself to do better about something. For me it will be making the most of my days. On some of my days off I have a bad habit of sleeping in until 10:00 or even 11:00, pouring myself some coffee, and getting lost in a movie into the afternoon. While these days are at times very rewarding because they come after long days of physical and mental exercise, they still make me feel like I lost time I could have spent better.

I'll need to adjust my daily habits a little to accommodate for this change. While I can go on very little or no sleep if needed for an alpine climb or early morning rally to a climbing destination, I typically need 8 hours of sleep to feel good in the morning. So no more late night movies, social gatherings, or gear shake downs. I can see this small change leading to greater changes in my life, including more time to train, write, read, etc. I'm truly hoping it will have a far reaching ripple effect for me.

So, what are YOU giving up for Lent?

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Expedition Prep: Insulated Jacket and Pants

When thinking of gear needs for an expedition to a cold mountain like Denali, my mind easily wanders first to thoughts of how to stay warm. The entire clothing system I'll be wearing works as a unit, but the "over-it-all" puffy coat and pants are crucial to keeping me warm when hanging around in camp, or for moving in the most brutal conditions.

I prefer synthetic insulation over down for climbing in the mountains. Synthetics maintain their loft and warmth when they get wet, which is often in the mountains. Less likely in the sub-freezing temperatures found on Denali, but a wet snow and moisture created by my own sweat could still present an issue for a 21 day trip with limited ability to dry things out. I also want these layers to be versatile for climbs in more moist environments like the Cascades. There's nothing out-right wrong with getting a down parka for this trip, especially one with a waterproof shell or the new waterproof down technologies, but that's just not my style.

Right now, I have an older Patagonia Micro Puff Hoody from around 2009 when it was being made with Primaloft One insulation. It's very good and has served me well for ice climbing trips in the lower 48, but only has somewhere in the range of 100g to 120g of insulation. I'll want the most I can get for the types of conditions that can be present in Alaska. What type of insulation is being used, and how much, determines how much warmth a layer can trap. For a diatribe on quality synthetic insulation you should check out this post on the blog Cold Thistle:

Dane makes some good points about clo value and efficiency that make you want to seek out Primaloft One insulated products. I tend to agree with him here, but I'm still willing to go with a jacket or pant that incorporates some of the "less efficient" insulation if its still performing well in the field. A great example of one of those products would be the Patagonia Das Parka.

Patagonia's DAS Parka
The Das Parka uses 120g of Primaloft Synergy throughout, and an additional 60g of Primaloft One in the torso. So that's 180g of insulation total in the torso which is the most of any synthetic jacket I've looked at from leading manufacturers. (Note: the number of "grams" cited by companies for insulation refers to how much a square meter of the fabric weighs. The more of something you have, the more it insulates.) As far as warmth the DAS really stands out as a great choice. gave the DAS its Top Pick in a review of 20 insulated jackets, calling it "one of the warmest insulated jackets." Some features that could be improved include a hood with little adjustment that doesn't cover the face very much, and its bulkiness and weight coming in at 23.6 ounces. For these reasons its my number 2 choice for an expedition parka.

The Outdoor Research Chaos Jacket wins out as my top choice. It wasn't included in the review mentioned above, and if it was I believe it would have beat out the DAS as the top pick. With 170g of Primaloft One insulation throughout the entire body of the jacket and 133g in the hood, it has the most insulation of the highest efficiency of any synthetic jacket on the market. Its a little heavier at 26.8 ounces but packs smaller than the DAS with the more compressible insulation. It's also $50 less expensive which is nice.

Outdoor Research's Chaos Jacket
As far as puffy pants go, there are many less options to chose from as this is such a specific item. I think I only found 8 models in total from all the brands I could find. Again I prefer synthetic insulation, especially for something I might end up sitting on snow while wearing. I'm at more of a toss up as to which option I'll go with as well. The warmest option will definitely be the Patagonia DAS Pants that compliment the jacket. They're filled with 100g of Primaloft One, but leave a lot to be desired in other design features. They have full side zips which is absolutely necessary to get on and off over boots and crampons, but the closure method at the hip and cuff are just small strips of hook and loop closures aka velcro. They're also quite light at 15.3 ounces, and every ounce counts, always.

Patagonia's DAS Pants

Due to the somewhat flimsy closures and lower durability I've also been looking closely at the new Black Diamond Stance Belay Pants. These use 80g of the less efficient Primaloft Synergy insulation, but use snap buttons at the cuffs and hips and also have scuff guards on the inside of the leg to protect against wear from crampons. The belt is also a nice feature. In reality though, I'm likely not wearing these while moving on the mountain because I'd overheat. Rather I'll be using these while hanging around camp and to add warmth inside my sleeping bag. For that reason I'm currently leaning towards the DAS Pants.

Black Diamond's Stance Belay Pants
Some points worth noting include that these are meant for some of the most extreme climbing conditions. Cold that can plunge to -40F and winds over 100mph are always a possibility on Denali. But there will likely be many nicer weather days, where these layers stay in the pack and don't need to come out. I'll likely be layering the parka over 5 or so layers, and the pants over 3 layers. For a puffy I'd actually climb a technical route in I'd be looking at something much lighter in the sweater category with something like 60g to 100g of fill so I don't overheat. But for the slower walking and lower exertion of an expedition to the extreme cold of Denali, these mega-puffys make sense.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Expedition Prep: A Series

I'm starting a new series on my blog focused on preparing for big mountain expeditions. I will be doing my first expedition to climb Denali's West Buttress this June as a guide with the American Alpine Institute, and there are many things I'm doing in preparation for climbing this 20,320' peak. Although most of my equipment and training from winter climbing and mountaineering in regions like Washington's Cascades and the Northeast have direct carry-over onto an objective like Denali, I'm still evaluating my equipment needs and altering my fitness training appropriately. I'll be discussing a new topic every Tuesday and Thursday.

Myself on Mt. Rainier, one of the best mountains in the lower 48 for high altitude training.

Look for my first post tomorrow on insulating layers: puffy parkas and puffy pants. Expect further topics to include training for altitude, crevasse rescue, mountaineering boot choices, sleeping bag choices, etc. I look forward to suggested topics and questions as well.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Smuggs Ice Bash: January 24-26, 2014

Vermont's Ice Climbing Festival is being held again this year for its 8th season. I'm excited to be helping out at this event from the kick-off festivities Friday night through Sunday. There's nothing like returning to Smuggler's Notch for me. It's the place I swung my first tool, did my first lead on ice, and honed my winter climbing skills in this mini-alpine playground.

The classic Smugg's climb Ragnarock epitomises the style of the area.
Steep ice, mixed rock, and constantly variable conditions present every climbing challenge.

The line-up of events looks something like this:

Friday January 24th
  • Kick-off Party: 6:00 - 10:00PM
    • Dry-tooling competition
    • Public Dry-tooling demo's
Saturday January 25th
  • Gear Demo's: 8:30AM and on
  • Clinics: 9:00AM - 4:00PM
  • Slideshow Presentation by Lidsay Fixmer: 6:00PM
  • Raffle!
Sunday January 26th
  • Gear Demo's: 8:30AM and on
  • Clinics: 9:00AM - 4:00PM
  • Wrap-up festivities!
For more info you can check out their website:

So sharpen the tools, tighten the crampons, and pack up the parka! Should be a great weekend of climbing and socializing. Hope to see you there!