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Review of the Mountain Hardware Scrambler 30 Backpack

Recently I was asked to review the Mountain Hardware Scrambler 30 Backpack with the new proprietary “Outdry” technology. According the company this new laminate is added to the inside of the pack and forms a “waterproof” membrane – perfect for alpine climbing situations that may get a bit damp. What I learned, though, is that it’s definitely not perfect for total submersion. Here’s a quote from the article:

“Evidently there are two kinds of ‘waterproof’ in the world. There’s the ‘waterproof’ that describes scuba diving dry suits, Ziploc bags and the feathers on a duck’s back. And then there’s the ‘waterproof’ that Mountain Hardware uses when referring to its new Scrambler Outdry Pack.”

Read more about this pack’s highlights and shortcomings in my review on the Backcountry Skiing Canada website.

Review of the High Trail Evotec Skins

Nova Sport AG, the Switzerland-based parent company of the High Trai brand, was founded in 2005 by Yvonne Rochat and since then has tried to perfect climbing skin technology. For years it offered the Classic, which is a glue-based, 100 percent mohair skin, but now the company has ventured into the “glueless” market with its Evotec skins, which are 65% mohair and 35% nylon. There are other companies that have been attempting to perfect the “glueless” skin but just like the traditional ski skin market there have been some growing pains along the way. The challenge is coming up with an adhesive formula that works in all kinds of conditions, from -30°C to +5°C and in light and dry snow or soaking wet slush. Not an easy feat but High Trail claims to have created a silicone-based adhesive coating that it says “has remarkable performance characteristics that are ground-breaking when compared to conventional adhesive skins.” In this review, we put to test the company’s claims about the Evotec skins.

To read the full review, log on to Backcountry Skiing Canada.

Review of the Mountain Hardwear Compressor Jacket & Pants

There have been very few moments in my lifetime when I wished I had a pair of down pants. The exceptions have been skiing at Mont Tremblant in Quebec during a -30°C spell and snowshoeing in Manitoba in -40°C weather. I suppose if I was scaling Everest or mushing dogs in the Yukon then I’d purchase a pair but usually a good set of thermal long john’s and a shell will see me through most backcountry excursions. A down jacket on the other hand is a part of my daily wardrobe in the winter months and for a lot of the shoulder season too. I’ll wear one belaying, skiing, hiking, climbing in the alpine, walking around town and, inevitably I’ll stuff one in my backpack for a mt. bike or fat bike ride as well, just in case. Needless to say I was excited to try out the Mountain Hardwear Super Compressor Hooded Jacket, with it’s Thermal Q Elite insulation that the company says is “designed to mimic the structure of down to create the highest warmth-to-weight ratio available in synthetic insulation.” (In other words it’s supposed to be as warm as down but will retain its loft and perform well in damp conditions.) As for the company’s insulated Compressor Pant that were also sent to review, well, let’s just say I wasn’t as keen to try them out. But, wow, was I ever surprised.

To read the full review, log on to Backcountry Skiing Canada.

New Route in the Valhallas is one of the Hardest

 

For the past three years David Lussier of Summit Mountain Guides and I have projected a new route on the little south face of Gimli Peak in the Valhalla Mountains. It’s a line that’s noticeable from afar and we thought the corner crack on the upper headwall was going to be incredible. And it is. But it’s also seamed out and very, very hard. My favourite memory from all our attempts is Dave, while on lead, drilling one of the  bolts that’s required on the protection-less part of the 3rd pitch – he got tired and took his daisy chain and clipped himself to the drill bit that was still embedded in the rock…and rested! (Do not try that at home.)

A description of one of our attempts made it into Kootenay Mountain Culture magazine in my “KMC Rock Wars article” but the moves on the third pitch kept eluding us. Then, on October 7, Dave and Jason Luthy from Sandpoint, Idaho, successfully did the crux pitch clean. Here is a description of the route:

Valhalla Gold   5.12a
This climb is located on the shorter, south-facing wall that leads to the true Gimli summit. If you are looking at the prow of Gimli (the south ridge) it is the shorter wall back and to the right (east) where the descent route starts. Access: from the “beach” hike to the South Ridge route then traverse right (east) about 100m around the base. Scramble up a grassy (or snowy depending on the season) ramps towards the upper east-facing basin below Gimli peak. Ascend to the base of the East-facing couloir, seperating the upper south ridge and the main summit of Gimli. Take a double rack to #2s. All stations are bolted and it is possible to rappel the route with 2 ropes. P1: Start from a ledge 10m right of the gully separating the 2 summits of Gimli above a short green colored wall. Climb up following the prow of a broad grey buttress. (5.9 40m) P2: Climb up and left past a small pine tree and the left side of a 5m high detached pillar. Continue up and left to a beautiful hand crack in a shallow, right-facing corner and eventually a small overhang near the top. (5.10- 40m) P3: Climb the thin crack above passing a 2 fixed pitons. Continue up the steep wall following the thin crack past 5 bolts. Beautifully exposed. (5.12a 45m) P4: Climb up a right-facing corner with a small bolt-protected roof near the top. Harder than it looks. (5.10+ 25m) P5: trad. Climb up and left through easier ground to the summit. Beaware of large loose blocks. (5.4 25m) (FA: D Lussier, V Hempsall,  B Sawyer ’12. FFA: D Lussier, J Luthy ’14)

Vince at the 2nd belay

Dave on the crux pitch

Dave on the crux pitch

Dave at the summit

Dave at the summit

2014 West Kootenay Rock Guide Updates

Wonow Media has announced the 2014 West Kootenay Rock Guide Updates are now available to download for free.

The updates include over 200 new sport, trad and alpine rock climbing routes from all over the West Kootenay region of South-Central British Columbia including Castlegar, Nelson, Slocan Valley, Arrow Lakes region and Ymir as well as beta on Grand Forks and Onion Creek in Washington State, just over the border from Rossland.

The free PDF download also includes a tick list of all 500+ routes in the region, from the 5.4 trad route “Exfoliation” at Kinnaird Bluffs to the 5.13 sport climb “A Delicate Push” at Kootenay Crag. What it does not include, however, is photo topo maps. Those will showcased in separate posts such as this one in the “rock updates” section of Wonow Media be available for retail in the coming months. If you have any corrections to these updates, please contact Vince Hempsall at: vince (at) wonowmedia.com. Click here to go to the page where you can download the free PDF.

Sol Mountain Lodge’s Other Backcountry Season

The Backcountry Ski Canada crew are at the Sol Mountain Lodge in the beautiful Monashee mountains near Revelstoke, British Columbia, to take part in their season, which is in full swing right now.

Before you begin to wonder just how this is possible in the middle of September, let us clarify that it’s the midst of their mountain biking season. Sol Mountain is one of the only backcountry lodges in Western Canada that has purpose-built singletrack riding during the summer months and we’re going to be sessioning all of their trails over the next few days.

For the entire story about Sol Mountain Lodge, go to Backcountry Skiing Canada.

Backcountry Lodge + Mountain Biking = Luxury

For many of us backcountry skiers, the off season is spent whiling away the hours flipping through back issues of ski porn mags, attending the occasional CrossFit class and dreaming of the white stuff. But for others, the summer and autumn months are an opportunity to take part in another sport that has us climbing peaks and tearing back down them.

Mountain biking is what has brought the Backcountry Ski Canada crew to Sol Mountain Lodge on the southern border of Monashee Provincial Park near Revelstoke, British Columbia. (That and the opportunity to scope out the winter terrain.) It enjoys excellent tenure (30,000 acres), epic snowfall (up to five metres a season) and, importantly, road access in the summertime.

For the entire story about Sol Mountain Lodge, log on to the post at Backcountry Skiing Canada. 

Review of the Black Diamond Element 60 Backpack

Backpacks are a tricky thing – you don’t want too many bells and whistles because they’ll just increase the weight, but you don’t want a garbage bag either. I tend to prefer those packs that fall into the middle of the road: just enough straps to keep everything in place but without dozens of pockets, external cords and an espresso machine. Utah-based Black Diamond offers about 70 different packs so most likely there’s something for everyone in its quiver. (And that doesn’t include the Gregory line of backpacks, which parent company Black Diamond Inc. owns.) In the case of the newly launched Black Diamond Element line, the company is looking to appeal to the “minimalist-minded weekend backpacker” who is looking for a “streamlined and lightweight top-loader.” The Element comes in a 45-litre and a 60-litre option and the equivalent line in the female-specific category is called “Elixir.” Both models feature Black Diamond’s proprietary “reACTIV” suspension system and “SwingArm” shoulder straps that the company says articulate and move with you while you’re hiking over uneven terrain, thus reducing fatigue. When I looked more closely into this system, I learned that what the company is trying to do is have certain parts of the pack move with your body rather than remaining static so that when you bounce and swivel over rocks and roots, the entire load of the pack isn’t forced to move with you. The SwingArm straps have a stainless steel cable running through them that ensures they remain relatively friction free while allowing for greater movement and the waist belt isn’t affixed to any part of the frame, which means it too can move freely without bringing the entire weight of the pack along for the ride.

To read the full review, log on to Backcountry Skiing Canada.

Review of the RAB Neutrino 200 Down Sleeping Bag

I’m a hot guy in bed. That is, my body is like a 6-foot furnace when I’m horizontal for the night. And when I sleep outside, that furnace seems to kick into overdrive. I’ve spent more than one evening lying in a tent wishing I could just tear a hole in the fabric to increase airflow. Suffice to say, I’m really picky when it comes to sleeping bags – I don’t want a quiver of them so I’ve spent 25 years searching for the perfect one. It has to be comfortable but streamlined; breathable but not drafty; light and small when rolled up; and (here’s the kicker) it needs to be warm in the winter and cool in the summer. That last point is a big ask but I have faith. When I was asked to review Rab’s Neutrino 200 down sleeping bag recently, I knew it wasn’t going to fulfill all those qualities (it’s meant for lightweight use such as cycle touring in moderate climates) but I respect the company and I kept an open mind. The Rab brand was started in 1981 by its namesake, British alpinist Rab Carrington and, four years ago, the business expanded into the North American market after opening an office in Boulder, Colorado. Today, Rab offers everything from clothing and packs to tents and, of course, sleeping bags.

To read this entire review, log on to Backcountry Skiing Canada.

Mountain Goats Threatened at Gimli

We’ve all seen them up at the camping area near Gimli Peak: cute, white, and way better rock climbers then we’ll ever be. But the mountain goats in Valhalla Park are being threatened by our contact with them and, in turn, our access could be in jeopardy. Luckily, there are a few easy things we can do as visitors that will ensure their longevity and our continued access to one of the best alpine climbing areas in the Kootenays.

We may have good intentions but the fact is the habituation of goats is bad for goats and bad for park users too. Firstly, there’s always the threat of a goat not taking kindly to your presence and running you through, like what happened with the unfortunate goring of a hiker in Olympic Park.

That is an extreme example of what could go wrong during an interaction with a mountain goat. Typically, what we find is they’ll hang out near wherever we are and wait for us to go pee or brush our teeth and spit so they can saunter over and lick up our mineral leavings. And while a bit of sodium is good for a goat’s diet, this behaviour is unhealthy in the long run because it’s unnatural for them to linger in one location for too long and it makes them easy pickings for hunters, as evidenced when one was shot near the Beach camping area a few years ago in front of a group of hikers.

As climbers all we have to do to curb this habituation is the following: 

  • make sure we urinate in the porta-potty located near the camping area
  • brush our teeth and spit into the porta-potty
  • do not approach the goats
  • store all food and sweaty articles of clothing in the food cache or on the cable cache
  • and of course, do not feed the goats

Hopefully, by following these easy guidelines, we can lessen the interaction between mountain goats and humans near Gimli. If not, more drastic changes may have to be made to halt goat habituation in Valhalla Park and that could look like lessened access – something we all definitely want to avoid.

Currently, BC Parks is collecting information from park users to understand what the human-goat interactions are at and will use this to build a management strategy that is best for the wildlife. If you have an encounter with a mountain goat, please contact BC Parks Area Supervisor Chris Price directly at 250-354-6026 or via email at Chris.Price@gov.bc.ca.