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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.

7 Crucial Healthy Eating Tips

I just finished a post for Mountain Trek about seven key things one should remember about food in order to maximize vitality. So many sources deal with what to eat but in this case I decided to look at WHEN to eat, which isn’t something you hear a lot of nutrition experts discussing. Having just completed the week-long program at Mountain Trek’s BC Lodge I was struck by how amazing the daily lectures were, especially the ones that detailed the key times our bodies are looking for nourishment and what they’ll do do when they get it.

For example, most of us in North America have a daily schedule that looks something like this: Wake up groggy ➨ Coffee ➨ Commute to office ➨ Coffee ➨ Quick lunch at desk ➨ Chocolate/Coffee to spike low energy ➨ Commute home ➨ Huge dinner ➨ Watch TV ➨ Sleep ➨ Wake up groggy

The issue with this model is that the coffee suppresses our appetite and so we don’t eat causing our bodies go into starvation mode and store calories as fat. We then eat a huge meal before bedtime and our bodies become further stressed and can’t work off the excess calories. (Because we’re just sitting there in front of the TV.)

So here are 7 Healthy Eating Tips that deal with everything from when to eat breakfast to how many snacks you should consume a day. (It’s a lot more than you might think.) Also included in this blog is the most popular salad dressing recipe at Mountain Trek, the Afterglow Almond Butter Dressing.

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

How To Keep Healthy and Active as the Cold Weather Approaches

I just finished a post for Mountain Trek about how to stay active and healthy now that the days are getting shorter and the temperature is dropping. The first tip in the blog definitely struck a chord with me because I gave up coffee for this month. I’m not a huge coffee drinker (I might have two double espressos in the morning) but I don’t drink it in the afternoons nor do I drink caffeine-rich drip coffee.

In fact, it’s a common misconception that espresso has more caffeine in it but one 2 oz double espresso shot has about 80 milligrams of caffeine, whereas a 12 oz brewed coffee has about 120 milligrams.

However, the caffeine headache I had after giving up coffee on October 1st lasted 3 days! Three days! It definitely makes me re-evaluate my morning cuppa ritual. (But it’s so damn yummy though!) Thankfully the headaches are over and I’m swilling a caffeine-free barley malt drink every morning. Whether this will continue on Nov 1st remains to be seen.

Avoiding more hot caffeinated beverages like coffee in the cooler months is just one tip for health as we head into the winter. Here are nine more listed in the Mountain Trek blog. Oh, and there’s a delicious Pumpkin Beef Chili recipe in there as well!

One of my 1st dates with Marley. Beautiful fall riding weather in the Kootenays

Farewell to my Lucy Lawless

 

 

A week ago I sold my 1988 Ford Ranger pick-up truck to a friend because the maintenance required on her was getting beyond my limited mechanic skills. It was a hard decision though as Lucy and I had been through some amazing adventures together. I bought her 7 years ago and named her Lucy Lawless because, well, I illegally drove her back to my house without any insurance or license plates and I just got the sense that she was a really tough female truck.

Since then she’s taken me up many a logging road and on countless adventures from first biking dates with my now-fiancé Marley to gay pride parades. She’s shuttled bikes, canoes, climbing gear, spaceships and bodies (specifically mine when I slept on her).

I hope she enjoys her new life as a backroads wood hauler with her new owner, who’s a way better mechanic than I. May she always remain Lawless.

Loading up for the 5-day, 500km Raid the North Adventure Race in 2010

Loading up for the 5-day, 500km Raid the North Adventure Race in 2010

One of my 1st dates with Marley. Beautiful fall riding weather in the Kootenays

One of my 1st dates with Marley. Beautiful fall riding weather in the Kootenays

Full moon sleep-out in the back of Lucy before an alpine start to put up a new rock climbing route.

Full moon sleep-out in the back of Lucy before an alpine start to put up a new rock climbing route.

Hauling La Roquette to the bobsled races in Rossland.

Hauling La Roquette to the bobsled races in Rossland.

Prepping for the Gay Pride Parade in Nelson.

Prepping for the Gay Pride Parade in Nelson.

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.

Review of the Voilé Charger and Voilé Charger BC Skis

Despite a name that incorporates an accent aigu, Voilé is not from France. In fact, they’re a small company based in Salt Lake City, Utah, and they’ve been making backcountry specific hard goods since 1980. Today, they manufacture five different kinds of skis and three splitboards and in this review, we’ll be looking at two of their offerings – the Voile Charger and the Voile Charger BC skis. A slimmer version of their award-winning Drifter design, the Voilé Charger adheres to the company’s ethic of light but strong. It has an aspen core with a cap construction, a traditional sidecut and camber underfoot. Its tip is tapered and rockered as is the tail, although less so. (The dimensions of the 181cm model are 137mm, 112mm, 126mm.) The only difference between the company’s Charger and Charger BC skis is the latter has an extruded fish-scale pattern on the base which allows you to ascend slight rises without the need of skins.

Read the full review on Backcountry Skiing Canada.