Cathedral & Whitehorse, Rumney & Huntington Ravine

This past 3 day holiday weekend had me guiding Yu Chih Chieh from Taiwan as he finished up 8 days of climbing instruction. Yu Chih, who goes by Brendan in the US, is in doctorate level program at Brown University in Rhode Island and is a die-hard botanist (and motivated aspiring alpinist).

Anchor building clinic

Cathedral Ledge

We started the morning with a brief anchor clinic and I show’d Brendan a couple options for extending top-rope anchor setups. Anchor theory is a hot topic with this guy’s scientific mind! We then hiked down to the Barber Wall for a quick rappel and discussed some of the finer points of the process.

Cathedral Ledge Rock Climbing

Rappelling the Barber Wall, Cathedral Ledge, Echo Lake State Park, NH

We then took a quick trip up Upper Refuse with a focus on seconding proficiently and transition efficiency.

Cathedral Ledge Rock Climbing

Thumbs up

Cathedral Ledge Rock Climbing

Topping out Upper Refuse, Cathedral Ledge

After we got a little heckled by the tourists at the top (the frat party was a bit offended I declined the beer they offered me for climbing the cliff, but I was working, and I do not drink Bud Lite) we made our way over to the quieter Airation Buttress for some lunch. Then a quick drive over to Whitehorse Ledge for 600 feet of slab ascent/descent.

Whitehorse Ledge Rock Climbing

Whitehorse Ledge

After 4 pitches of Beginner’s Route we headed back to the shop to look at a quick demo/practice of a belay escape.

For Sunday, July 3rd, the weather forecast was the same as the whole weekend. Bluebird. Knowing every cliff would probably be a bit of a zoo I decided to do something rash and head to the biggest zoo of them all. Rumney.

It had been a few years since I last visited this mecca of sport climbing. We pulled into the lot right at 9:30am and spaces were starting to fill up. The Meadows wall wasn’t too busy and we grabbed “False Modesty” and “Rose Garden” while discussing sport climbing issues that crop up every year (rigging to lower, closed systems, belayer placement, clear communication, etc).

Rumney Rock Climbing

Brendan cleans “Rose Garden” at The Meadows

We then headed down the road and up the hill to the Main Cliff to check out some of the new 2 pitch moderates that have been getting talked up on Mountain Project lately. “Crowd Pleaser” had quite a long queue on it but an obvious local regular pointed out the nearby 2 pitch 5.8 called “Tipping Point” with no line on it. We hopped right on and greatly enjoyed this fun little route.

Rumney Rock Climbing

Brendan reaching the first pitch belay ledge

Rumney Rock Climbing

Pretty scenic spot

The next pitch was super fun 5.8 with a solid crux right at the end… felt a bit closer to 5.9 to me but I’m not that well calibrated to Rumney grades ATM.

We then headed across and up the hill once again passing hordes of climbers on the wildly overhanging and popular crags like Darth Vader & Waimea making our way up to the highest bluff, the Jimmy Cliff. Up here we did two 2 pitch cruiser routes and enjoyed a steady fresh breeze the whole time.

Brendan had quite a bit of lead climbing experience in the gym and no “second belaying” experience so we covered some of the multitude of ways to properly belay the second while enjoying the cool breeze and lack of crowds.

Rumney Rock Climbing

Clip a Dee Doo Dah

Rumney Rock Climbing

Brendan finishes the last climb of the day

We stopped by the Black Crack Boulder on our hike out for yet another anchor building session (a critical trad climbing skill), then headed back across the Kanc to Mount Washington Valley. Despite some concerns about hitting the busiest cliffs on what might have been the busiest weekend we managed 5 climbs at 3 areas with 8 pitches total (plus that whole area is a botanist dream according to Brendan, who would often disappear while hiking behind me only to be found crouched at ground level camera in hand).

For July 4th, the last day of Brendan’s 8 day excursion, I picked an objective that I thought would be a suitable way to finish and also prepare him for his home country objective, Mount Yu Shan, the highest point in Taiwan!

Mount Yu Shan

Mount Yu Shan, highest point in Taiwan: 3,952 metres (12,966 ft)

We headed to Mount Washington with sights set on the Henderson Ridge. I had never climbed this route and found it to be fun outing. It took us 3.5 hours car to car with a leisurely pace and many stops to examine the unique flora that exists on Mount Washington (Alpine Garden Trail). We only saw one other climbing party of two on Pinnacle Ridge, and greatly enjoyed the cooler than valley temps!

After three days with Yu Chih Chieh I know he is well on his way to accomplishing whatever goals he sets for himself. An inquisitive scientific mind and desire will take him far in all aspects of his life and I look forward to the next time I share a rope with him.

Hope you all had a great Fourth of July weekend and spent a little time contemplating how lucky we are to have our freedoms!

Did you get out this past weekend? Let me know what you got on in the comments below!

See you in the mountains,

NEAlpineStart

Posted in Guiding Blogs, Mountaineering, Rock Climbing, Self-Rescue, Trip Reports | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

LaSportiva TX2 Approach Shoes Review (and Friendly Foot Giveaway)

Over the last two months I have hiked a few dozen miles and climbed over 4000 feet of technical rock climbing in the new LaSportiva TX2 Approach Shoes and I’m ready to share my opinion on them. For those who aren’t familiar with what an “approach” shoe is I’ll explain. While approach shoes might look like cross training or running shoes the main difference in this category is the use of a climbing shoe type rubber for the out-sole (soft & grippy on smooth rock) and a fit that can be snug enough for technical rock climbing. They differ from climbing shoes by the addition of a mid-sole and foot-bed along with enough support throughout the shoe to allow one to hike (or approach) a technical rock climb in comfort.

LaSportiva TX2's Approach Shoe Review

LaSportiva TX2’s Approach Shoe Review

Climber ability varies but a rough guideline in my mind is an approach shoe needs to perform well enough to climb 5.6-5.7 terrain comfortably. For my review I pushed them up to 5.9 (Direct finish of Whitney-Gilman Ridge, seconding) and I’ll get into how they fared later in the review. But let’s get some of the basics out of the way.

Manufacturer Description:

A LIGHTWEIGHT, FAST-DRAINING, PACKABLE ADVENTURE SHOE WITH GREAT SUPPORT AND A STICKY SOLE.

  • One piece (seamless) polyester knit upper for amazing breathability, drainage, and comfort
  • Extremely lightweight and packable for harness attachment or throwing in a pack with the C2™ ComboCord
  • Uber-sticky Vibram® Mega-Grip™ rubber outsole
  • Flared fifth metatarsal area enhances stability and torsional rigidity
  • WEIGHT: 9.8 oz/ 280 g
  • LAST: Traverse
  • CONSTRUCTION: Strobel Lasted
  • UPPER: Zone knit polyester mesh / Liquid rubber rands / PU TechLite toe rand
  • LINING: Non-slip mesh
  • MIDSOLE: Traverse lite injection MEMlex / C2™ ComboCord
  • SOLE: Vibram® Mega-Grip™ Traverse-Lite
  • SIZES: 38 – 48 (half sizes)
  • COLORS: Black/Yellow

With that out of the way let’s take a closer look at some of the characteristics of this shoe that make it stand out in the approach shoe category, starting with the most obvious.

Weight/Pack-ability:

The first thing I noticed when I took them out of the box was how light they were.

LaSportiva TX2 Review

10.5 ounces

The manufacturer specs state “9.8oz” per shoe and my home scale weighed them in at about 10.5oz (size 42). Either way that is about 8-10 ounces lighter per pair than my Five Ten Guide Tennies (review) and my Five Ten Camp Four’s (review). The other unique feature to these shoes is how “pack-able” they are. Not only is the lightweight upper super collapsible but LaSportiva has added this extra elastic band that is stored on the heel and can be deployed over the other shoe to make a neat little package for either storing in a small climbing pack or even clipping to the back of your harness!

LaSportiva TX2's Approach Shoe Review

Pack-ability

LaSportiva TX2's Approach Shoe Review

Attach-ability

So they pack well, and weigh little… but how do they perform when actually on your feet? Let’s start with hiking performance and get into climbing performance in a little bit.

For hiking: The TX2’s use a “Traverse lite injection MEMlex / C2™ ComboCord” mid-sole which provides a firm, cushioned mid-sole that is very lightweight. It is in between the stiffness and torsional rigidity of the old Five Ten Guide Tennies and the new Guide Tennies (for those who have used both). When flexed it stiffens up noticeably at mid-foot. When combined with the Vibram® Mega-Grip™ Traverse-Lite sole there is enough support to keep my feet comfy after a few miles of rough alpine scrambling (a downside of the old Guide Tennies was they were too soft through-out leading to sore feet, an issue that was resolved with the newest model). The TX2 finds a nice balance of soft enough for climbing and stable enough for rough trail.

LaSportiva TX2 Review

Vibram® Mega-Grip™ Traverse-Lite

LaSportiva TX2 Review

Descending Huntington Ravine Trail, Mount Washington

For Climbing: Two things matter when it comes to how well an approach shoe performs when moving over technical rock. Fit, and friction. Let’s look at fit first:

Fit:

These shoes fit me like a comfy slipper. My feet are fairly standard US Men’s Size 9, 42 EUR, medium width, slight Morton’s toe, feet. Getting these on takes a little more work than slipping into my Guide Tennies because the heel cup is so precise. Once laced up the heel does not move at all, even when edging on steep rock.

LaSportiva TX2 Review

Edge-ability

With the addition of a very soft fleece like rand on the inside upper I’ve worn these on a few climbs without socks and they are still ultra-comfy. I especially liked not having to pack sweaty socks in my pack when it was time to change into more aggressive climbing shoes. The lace system allows them to be worn more loosely for a casual approach or cinched snug for performance when roping up.

Friction:

The LaSportiva TX2 uses  Vibram® Mega-Grip™ rubber out-sole. While seeming designed more for adventure racing I’ve found it sufficient for slab climbing up to 5.6 and face/crack climbing up to 5.8. A dedicated “climbing-zone” is a somewhat quirky but effective design.

LaSportiva TX2's Approach Shoe Review

The Climbing Zone

LaSportiva TX2's Approach Shoe Review

Finding purchase 400 feet up the classic NH Whitney Gilman Ridge

Breath-ability/Drainage:

This is where the shoe design shows its “adventure racing” type appeal. The mesh upper, despite being black (not my first choice on HOT climbing days) is incredibly breathable. I climbed Whitehorse ledge on a humid 85 degree day and while I was a sweaty mess my feet did not feel the burn they would have if I was wearing my much less breathable climbing shoes. The downside (maybe) of such great breath-ablity is the complete lack of water resistance. Yesterday I barely tapped the water while crossing the drainage of an alpine gully in Huntington Ravine and I could feel the water almost immediately. 20 minutes later we arrived at our rope up sport for an alpine ridge climb and the shoe that had taken a bit of water was bone dry. So, water resistant? Not at all. Super quick drying? Yup!

LaSportiva TX2 Review

Top of Whitney Gilman Ridge, Cannon Cliff, Franconia Notch State Park, New Hampshire

Conclusion:

The LaSportiva TX2’s are a nice blend of adventure racing meets climbing performance. This is a great choice for fast-packers, ultra-trail runners, Tough Mudders, traditional/alpine rock climbers, climbing guides, scrambler’s, and more. The design is well thought out and the stitch-work & craftsmanship is what you would expect from the company that brought us the Ganda Guide and Boulder X. If you are in the market for a high performance approach shoe you should take a close look at the LaSportiva TX2, they might be the perfect fit for your next adventure.

Contest & Giveaway:

I’ll be testing more footwear over the summer/fall and the good folks at Friendly Foot have supplied me with a steady flow of the best damn foot-powder in the whole world. Every footwear review will offer a chance to win a bottle of this awesome sauce. For the first time ever I am using Rafflecopter to run the contest. Up to four ways to get entries! Contest ends 7/31/16 12:00am EST. To enter just click the link below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclaimer: While LaSportiva provided these shoes for the purposes of this review my opinions shared above are 100% my own.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Product Reviews | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Petzl Bug Pack Review (and Colonial Knife Giveaway)

The Petzl Bug pack is a solid choice for a small climbing pack designed for short to moderate length multi-pitch rock climbs. While a little on the heavier side (1lb 2.5oz) when compared to other styles in this category it’s clear Petzl has used the extra weight to build in some durability and well thought out features. Let’s break it down:

S71O-BUG_LowRes

Petzl Bug Review- photo from Petzl.com

Size:

At 18 liters (1,100 cubic inches) this pack falls in to the same category of small tech packs like the Black Diamond Bullet16 L (976 cu in), 1 lb 2 oz., and the super light Patagonia Linked Pack, 16 L (976 cu in), 16.5 oz. It is 2 liters larger than these comparable packs and I found this extra room enough to easily store this load out:

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody (review coming next month)

Patagonia Technical Sunshade Hoody (my review of this awesome piece is here)

AMK Ultralight First Aid Kit .9 (modified a bit)

Five Ten Rogue Lace-up Climbing Shoes (my comfy moderate trad shoe, review coming)

Nalgene Everyday Wide-Mouth Water Bottle, 1L

Lunch, Petzl Zipka Headlamp, Colonial Ameba Knife, Ben’s DEET

My “Cathedral Rack” (Basically a set of nuts, smaller tri-cams, set of Black Diamond X4’s and C4’s from .3 to size 2). 8 alpine draws, 2 quick-draws, 2 cordelette’s, 2 double length slings, couple prussiks, 5 lockers, Gigi and belay device.

Petzl Bug Review

Using every inch of 1,100 cubic inches

The pack does appear and pack noticeable bigger than the narrower profiled Black Diamond Bullet, mainly due to the extra 2 liters & slightly wider shape.

Comfort/Fit:

With closed cell foam padding in the back and the contoured shoulder straps this pack carries the light loads it is intended for quite comfortably. By design it rides very high on the back to not interfere with the harness. The waist-belt can fold away though I usually opt for just clipping it around of the outside front of the pack when it’s time to harness up.

Petzl Bug Review

Petzl Bug Review- photo from Petzl.com

Features:

Rope attachment

Packs under 20L typically can not fit the climbing rope inside so an attachment system for carrying the rope on the outside is important. While some current reviewers and online retailers suggest attaching the rope to the bottom that is outdated info. The carrying system is designed to carry the rope more comfortably over the top of the pack with an adjustable top strap and two side compression straps to ensure a solid attachment. While different styles of coiling can work I’ve found the “single strand butterfly” coil sits best when attaching ropes to the top of packs. Perhaps a quick video of demonstrating this style of coil that has become quite popular within my guiding circles is due… let me know in the comments after the review if this is something you would like to see!

Compartmentalization/Organization

There are some design choices here that while adding a couple ounces of weight have also added some nice convenience. The most noticeable (and questionable in my opinion), is the open wide external pocket on the back of the pack. This pack is intended to store a guidebook or route topo for quick access. It’s quite big, basically the full size of the padded back, and has no method to secure any contents in it. The thought of my guidebook slipping out on a steep Gunks route or a few pitches up Cannon has me questioning whether I would every find a use for this feature, and because the zippered pocket on the front of the pack is very generously sized I opted to keep my guidebook there.

Petzl Bug Review

Petzl Bug Review

There is an interior pocket that can accommodate my 100 ounce CamelBak Hydration Bladder with hydration port and a smaller mesh pocket with key clip.

Petzl Bug Review

Petzl Bug Review- photo from Petzl.com

Carrying a 70-100 oz. bladder costs quite a bit of storage space for my rack so if I was hitting up a bigger objective (Cannon) with this pack on a hot day I’d opt to rack up at the car and take the extra water. If my climb required a longer approach than Cannon (Huntington/Katahdin) I’d opt for a larger pack that could carry both 100oz. and my full rack with ease, like the Patagonia Ortovox Trad 25 that I reviewed last month here.

Rounding out the features (and another distinct difference between the other same-class packs I mentioned at the beginning of the review) is the addition of the daisy loops down the front of the pack giving the climber a convenient place to clip some gear that didn’t make it into the pack while “de-racking” after that epic send.

Petzl Bug Review

Petzl Bug Review- the author testing the pack on Cathedral Ledge, photo by Sue B.

Suggestions:

A sternum strap buckle whistle has become a standard for me on all of my climbing and back-country skiing packs. This “10 Essential” may not be needed often but when it is I like having it within arms reach at all times, and this would be an easy thing to add in the the next Bug’s development. I’d also like more info on the pack material as details are a bit vague “very durable: bottom and sides lined with high-tenacity fabric”. While I’m not concerned with the lack of brand name recognition here (and during my 2 month test period the pack handled abrasive situations quite well) it makes it hard to objectively compare when this denier/technology is omitted)

Conclusion:

When it comes to backpacks Petzl’s line is mostly focused on packs designed for caving /canyoning (descending) rather than climbing (ascending) with this pack being the only pack they’ve designed with the climber in mind. Despite this being the only offering from Petzl in this niche the Bug holds up well against companies with a larger focus on producing climbing specific packs. With a competitive price point and unique features in this class of packs it is definitely worth your consideration!

Did you like this review? Have you tried this pack? What’s your favorite climbing pack? Interested in the coiling video mentioned above? Let me know in the comments below and you’ll be entered to win a “Tat Cutter Neck Knife” from Colonial Knives. Drawing 7/28/16 Winner notified 7/29/16 and announced here. 

Colonial

Colonial Knife Company Tat Cutter Neck Knife

See you in the mountains,

NEAlpineStart

Disclaimer: This pack was provided to demo for the purpose of this review and has been returned to Petzl. As always, the above opinions are my own.

 

 

Posted in Product Reviews | Tagged , | 8 Comments

If a tree falls off a cliff…

It’s been a little quiet here since my last post but things have been happening. I’ve guided a couple days this season and gotten out to a few remote crags researching an article publishing with Wild Northeast magazine next month. I’ve also been reviewing gear from Petzl, La Sportiva, Garmin, and Suunto for both this blog and the Gear Institute. After returning home from a camping trip this past weekend I was surprised to hear that a relatively healthy looking (and well used) rappel tree on Cathedral Ledge fell to the base a little after noon on Saturday.

Having used this tree dozens of times in the last 10 years without much concern I decided I wanted to investigate the failure that could have been devastating if anyone was in the area when it fell.

First, the tree in question. This was a large live healthy looking white pine tree that was directly above Browns Fist/Lower Refuse (Pg 188, North Conway Rock Climbs). It was a convenient way to retreat from the Upper Refuse/Black Lung/Book of Solemnity area with a single 60m rope. You could just reach the ground in one rope stretching 30m rap from here, which was also mostly free hanging. During some guide training a few years ago I learned some pre-rigging tricks that would keep multiple clients more comfortable if the guide was going first off this tree as the stance below the tree was virtually non-existent and the rappel quickly goes over a roof and becomes free hanging.

Alternate single rope descents from this area are quite limited. From the 1st pitch of The Book anchor you can reach the thread anchor at the top of the 1st pitch of Browns Fist/Lower Refuse in 30m, and do another shorter rappel to the ground. You can scramble/down-climb to the Ego Trip anchor but that will require 2 60m’s, or one 80m rope as I discovered today (and a 2nd rap). You can descend Bombardment which will also require 2 60m ropes or a stop at the decayed tree a-top pitch one of Pleasant St with a single 60m and another short rappel.

In short, there is no fixed station in the vicinity that would allow a quick descent with a single 60m rope so “escaping up” is probably the best bet if you only have one rope (or reversing the Barber Wall approach trail).

I wanted to come in from above so we parked at the top and rapped The Book.

The Book of Solemnity

The scenic belay ledge at the top of the 1st pitch of The Book of Solemnity- Petzl Bug Pack Review coming soon

When we touched down on the Refuse Ledge it was obvious the tree took a lot of topsoil and debris with it. A smaller pine just below the the ledge took a hard hit and some “death blocks” are currently suspended in its exposed root system.

IMG_8995

Looking down from where the rappel tree used to stand, loose blocks are held by the root system of this destroyed pin directly above Brown’s Fist

We briefly considered trundling these but realized there was no way we could be sure there were not people below (we could hear voices near the base of Recompense) and I’m sure they could reach the lower climbers trail when set loose. Spotters will be needed to make clearing these safe. It was impressive to see how the root system that failed loosened rocks 10-15 feet back from the tree’s original location.

IMG_8993

Rocks loosened when root system pulled out

These are pretty stable in their place but the blocks in the previous photo are quite threatening.

After taking a couple quick pics and wanting to get some climbing in we made our way down to the Ego Trip anchor. My friend Dave Karl had loaned me a 80m Petzl Volta (review coming) to check out and I was curious if the length would get us down to the 1st pitch Ego Trip anchor. It did with little to spare, and another short rap had us on the ground.

IMG_9009

Sue on Bombardment

Sue grabbed a quick on-sight of Bombardment, we cruised up Upper Refuse, and finished up Lookout Crack.

Petzl Volta Climbing Rope

Sue tops out a one pitch Upper Refuse… easy to do with 80m of rope…

Petzl Gear

#petzl

IMG_9020

Sue finds the locks on Lookout Crack

Back at the top by noon we coiled gear and I grabbed a quick shot for upcoming gear reviews.

Petzl Bug & Petzl Volta

Petzl Bug & Petzl Volta

Gear reviews aside and back on topic… the falling of this tree cost me some sleep last night. It was a very solid healthy looking pine that I’ve trusted my life, and clients lives, to many times over the last decade. It did not budge when testing with climber loads and there was no red flags that would help me understand why this decided to fail at such a random time with no “event”. Usually “spontaneous” rock fall and tree “failures” like this can be traced to some weather or climber load event. In this case it was a nice, almost summer day with a seemingly light breeze at the cliff and many days without significant rain.

Checking with the local Mount Washington Observatory the highest gust in town over the period in question was only 18.5mph and while the cliff does see stronger orographic effects a few witnesses report relatively calm conditions during the failure. The soil in this area is a bit thin and quite compacted by climber traffic. Erik N. over at NEClimbs offered up some statistics for those who like numbers:

“A healthy root system should be roughly 1.5x  foot per inch of the diameter of the tree.  So a 10” diameter tree trunk at 4 feet high should have a root system 15 feet out in a circular area.  If more than 40% of the root system is compromised it’s at a high risk of failure.”

I’m not quite picturing the math perfectly here as I am a visual learner but this tree was 50+ feet tall, and the roots that ripped out looked to only go out about 15-20 feet in a circular area (a result of thin cliff restricted soil). By the above definition most of our anchor trees would probably be considered to have a “high risk of failure”.

These seemingly rare acts of nature have me wondering if we shouldn’t pay a little more attention to our tree anchors on our beloved highly traffic’d front-country cliffs. I’d like to spend some time with a certified arborist (quite a few around here are accomplished climbers) and do a quick inventory/assessment of the most popular tree anchors. While preserving the character of Cathedral/Whitehorse climbing is important to me I also think we need to be proactive when it comes to our existing fixed anchor management. This information, when shared with with local climbing communities like Friends of the Ledges, will hopefully lead to thoughtful replacement strategies of fixed anchors where appropriate.

In the meantime don’t spend a lot of time below Lower Refuse/Brown’s Fist (or the climbers trail that cuts from the Recompense Trail over to Funhouse Area. I will update this post when the very necessary trundling is scheduled.

From the vantage I got today there are some teetering blocks being held up by the uprooted routes of a smaller pine tree. Other climbers nearby reported hearing significant rockfall around 8pm Saturday night which I think was tied to this event, so I would consider the area below Lower Refuse to be a bit more active with random rockfall until local guides/FoTL/MRS can get in there and clean it up a bit.

UPDATE 6/27/16: The ledge above Browns Fist/Lower Refuse were cleaned this morning by a combined volunteer effort including Mountain Rescue Service, local guides, and Friends of the Ledges. Both routes below have significant dirt/debris on them that will require some heavy rain to clean up. Use caution below the AP Treat area as a lot of the debris ended up in this area.

Yay community!

 

Posted in Rock Climbing | 2 Comments

Ortovox Trad 25 Backpack Review

I’ve been using Ortovox avalanche shovels, probes, and beacons for over 5 years now so I was pretty excited when I got the opportunity to try out the new Ortovox Trad 25 Backpack. Designed for multi-pitch rock climbing with some unique forward thinking features this is definitely a contender for best design in this category.

Ortovox Trad 25 Backpack Review

Ortovox Trad 25 Backpack- photo from http://www.ortovox.com

Let’s take an in-depth look at the different characteristics of this pack.

Comfort

The dense molded foam used in the shoulder straps and back feel almost gel like. It is very comfortable. The shoulder straps are the appropriate width and contour to my 5’9″ frame perfectly. The length is perfect for my 19 inch torso and the pack rides at the right height when I’m wearing my harness. There is a shorter torso women’s version available as well.

Ortovox Trad 25 Review

Gel-like molded foam back panel and shoulder straps

Ortovox Trad 25 Review

Contoured breathable shoulder straps

Ortovox Trad 25 Review

Rides well on the back

Weight

For the amount of features this pack boosts it’s pretty impressive it only weighs one pound 12 ounces (750 grams). You can further lighten the pack by removing the aluminum frame but I found the pack rides so comfortably with the frame intact I left it in.

Capacity

I was a bit concerned 25 liters (1560 cubic inches) would not be enough for my multi-pitch rock climbing/guiding kit. Turned out I had plenty of room and I think this is a generous 25L pack. It is hydration compatible and even with my 100 ounce CamelBak I was able to get my entire kit inside

Ortovox Trad 25 Review

Hydration Compatible

Ortovox Trad 25 Review

My kit

When packing everything in this photo I was able to still get my helmet inside. On a subsequent trip where my partner was packing the rack I fit a Sterling Nano 60m 9.1mm climbing rope inside and strapped my helmet on the outside. For those wanting a bit more room for longer more committing routes the pack does come in a 35L size.

Accessibility

One of my favorite features of this pack is the “circumferential zipper”. While I can still cram my gear in via the lid covered top opening (which features it’s own innovative tightening system) when it is time to rack up I can easily get to my rack, quickdraws, shell jacket, etc.

Ortovox Trad 25 Review

Circumferential zipper access

The roomy top pocket easily fits my headlamp, bug dope, and lunch.

Rope Attachment

Once the pack is loaded up it’s easy to strap a rope on the outside. The top compression straps unhook and expand to fit any size rope and the bungee ice axe attachments on the bottom quickly secure the coil from swinging on your hike in.

Ortovox Trad 25 Review

Options for strapping rope on outside of pack

The fact that this ultralight pack can hold ice axes makes it a great choice for glaciated alpine terrain, though I would probably bump up to the 35L for longer routes.

Ortovox Trad 25 Review

Tom finds it quiet comfortable while jamming some classic back-country crack

Ortovox Trad 25 Review

Ready for adventure

Durability

The main material seems to be a soft high count denier. I don’t have the exact specs but careful inspection of it reveals high quality stitching and no noticeable stress points. While I have only had the pack a few weeks I feel it will serve well for hundreds of climbs.

Forward Thinking Rescue

Here’s where Ortovox has really done something different. I’ve always known this company to be industry leading when it comes to safety, especially with their commitments to avalanche education. This guiding principle is evident in this pack in a few ways. First, is the simple color choice. As a search & rescue member I am a big fan of high visible orange. It’s one way to be “searchable”. “Be searchable”… that phrase was coined in conjunction with the Recco system that is included in this pack. While this technology is limited in the Northeast right now it’s gaining a lot of popularity in Europe and may gain more traction here. You can learn more about Recco here. Finally, on the inside of the circumferential zipper are imprinted images of alpine emergency signals. There’s also another concealed zippered pocket here that I just found while grabbing this image!

Ortovox Trad 25 Review

Emergency Info/Reference

Conclusion:

For multi-pitch rock climbing this pack is a great choice. It’s clear Ortovox focuses on design functionality and safety in every product I’ve ever used from them, and this pack is no exception. If you’re looking around for a solid multi-pitch pack option check this one out!

Ortovox Trad 25 Review

The author looks at what comes next- photo by Matty B.

Disclaimer: While Ortovox provided this pack for the purposes of this review I can 100% confirm that the opinions I’ve shared here are indeed my own.

Posted in Product Reviews | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Petzl Connect Adjust Review

The Petzl Connect Adjust has been out for a little over a year now but many climbers haven’t really had a chance to be exposed to it to determine whether or not it would be a helpful addition to their kit. In this review I’ll go in depth on what this item is, how it is different from other products in this category, and what purposes it might be best suited for.

Petzl Connect Adjust Review

Petzl Connect Adjust

So what is it? Simply put it is an adjustable lanyard for conveniently attaching to an anchor. There are a few applications where using a lanyard while climbing can be quite useful. To name just a few; cleaning an anchor at the top of a sport route in preparation for lower/rappel, multi-pitch rappelling where you want to stay anchored without using the main climbing rope, route development/maintenance. It’s probably best to see it in action before we dive into the details.

There are other options in the “tether” arena, and to fully understand the advantages of this piece of equipment it must be held up against what is already out there. So let’s take a very brief look at the two most common solutions climbers use a tether.

  1. The single/double length sling. Cost effective multi-purpose item with the distinct disadvantages of not being adjustable or shock absorbing. Care must be taken to ensure there is no fall potential on generated slack within that attachment. Not redundant.
  2. The Metolius Personal Anchor System (PAS). 93.5 grams. More expensive than the first option, some limited adjust-ability, options to make the situation redundant. It’s no surprise this item has gained a solid following over the last few years for both sport and traditional climbing climbing.

What does the Connect Adjust achieve that these other options don’t? In my opinion there are two distinct advantages of the Connect Adjust:

  1. It’s CE certified for personal fall protection. Its design incorporates the use of the Petzl Arial 9.5 climbing rope. This adds considerable strength (over 15Kn) and durability, along with some dynamic elongation, to your tether. This option does weigh 32.5 grams more than the PAS and is a bit bulkier to rack.
  2. It’s a fully adjustable tether. Other options simply don’t have the ability to fine tune your adjustment length like this device. Sure, there’s the Purcell Prusik, but that can have limitations based on what you build it with.

Before I dive into a couple drawbacks lets get this out of the way right now.

There is no piece of gear that is perfect in every single situation. So don’t look for that. But there is a great piece of gear for every application out there! In this case the Connect Adjust shines in a few arenas;

  1. Cleaning a sport route. Yes, you can continue to link quick draws together with non-lockers to attach yourself at the top of that sick on-sight you just sent. But you know there are better ways. This could be one of them.
  2. Multi-pitch descents/canyoneering. I see obvious reasons to bring this along for these type of trips, mainly, the additional “fall protection”. Maybe I should explain that better. Let’s sidestep for a moment and address what I mean by “fall protection”.

If you’ve been climbing awhile you probably already know what I mean when I say “Fall Factor”. I’m not going to dive into the physics here, if you do not know what “Fall Factor” means you should do a bit of research or perhaps go for a climb with a qualified guide to discuss this very important concept of climbing… but at its essence “Fall Factor” means how much force will be transmitted to the climber/anchor in the event of a fall. You could connect yourself to an anchor with a 4 foot nylon sling, climb up 4 feet, fall 8 feet, and be seriously injured or killed. That’s “Fall Factor”.

Ok, back to “fall protection”. This device is meant to protect against that in climbing situations in two ways.

First, it’s dynamic in nature. While not considered a “shock absorb-er” the technical specs allow for falls up to FF1. That means you could be futzing about trying to adjust something on the anchor with 2 feet of Petzl Arial between you and your anchor point. If you create two feet of slack but don’t go above the anchor point, and fall directly on the anchor (a fall of 2 feet or less), this attachment will dissipate the energy enough to not scramble your organs. The nylon sling/PAS options will not accommodate this type of mistake.

Second, it’s easily adjustable in both directions. You can shorten or lengthen this with consider-able ease increasing the chance of not having unnecessary slack in the system to worry about generating any high fall factor forces. Granted, adjusting it to be longer takes a little bit of practice, especially if you want to do it one handed, but with a little bit of practicing it becomes second nature, and is definitely easier than the Purcell Prusik which pretty much requires two hands for both tightening and loosening.

With that point addressed there is only one other consideration I want to bring up, and that is in redundancy. The materials throughout are more than enough strong for the application, but when confronted with a double bolt anchor without chains this device doesn’t allow you to be clipped into both without building a quick sling anchor (Magic X) or the like. In this regard the Metolius PAS starts to show some advantage. However, the Petzl Dual Connect Adjust solves this issue quickly, though picks up some more weight & bulk in the process.

L35ARM-Dual-Connect-Adjust_LowRes

Petzl Dual Connect Adjust

I’ll be testing the Dual Connect for the next month or so, and plan to update this post with more info related to that. Specifically I have some ideas for how I will rack/store these items on my harness in a more efficient way. While I admit I won’t pack these on trips where I am shaving ounces everywhere there are plenty of times I can see this making my day easier. Off the top of my head guiding 3 clients half-way up Whitehorse before rappelling, cleaning/bolting new routes in the outback, and as a personal tether for Mountain Rescue Service applications (especially as a litter attendant, this device has great potential due to its specifications).

In summary Petzl has created something unique and innovative here. It’s not the Holy Grail, but it’s functional and serves purpose. It does not replace the PAS, double length sling tethers, or clove hitches, but gives us another option of how we secure ourselves in the vertical world. It’s definitely worth checking out.

So what do you think of it? Have you tried it? What’s your personal tether system look like? Let me know in the comments below!

Disclaimer: Both the Connect Adjust and Dual Connect Adjust are being loaned to me from Petzl for this review and I’ll be returning them shortly. My opinions on the device(s) are solely my own.

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Group Rock Climbing- Marianopolis

This is the 2nd year in a row I’ve gotten to work with the kids & faculty of the Connecticut based Marianopolis Preparatory School. These motivated teens loaded into a bus in the wee morning hours yesterday for a four hour ride up to Mount Washington Valley for their first taste of rock climbing. Keith & I took the group to the Thin Air Face and the kids & chaperons climbed the routes we set up as many times as their motivation and strength allowed them.

EMS Climbing School

A student attentively belays

EMS Climbing School

Showing some serious athleticism with that high step

Ortovox Trad 25 Pack

My first day testing the Ortovox Trad 25 pack, review coming next month

After everyone had their fill of climbing we had a little time to spare before the bus would return so we decided to bushwhack over to Diana’s Baths. It’s really a short walk over to this beautiful area and the kids had a blast.

EMS Climbing School

We don’t need no stinking trails

EMS Climbing School

Exploring the falls

EMS Climbing School

Group picture

After the bus arrived a quick trip to the top of the cliff rewarded them with a nice rainbow over the valley.

EMS Climbing School

We live in an amazing place

It was a pleasure introducing this diverse group of students to rock climbing (and bushwhacking for that matter). One of the students texted her mom in China to show her what she was doing and it was comical to see her mother text back so quickly with “put the phone away and pay attention!” I’m looking forward to the next time they come and climb with us.

See you in the mountains,

NEAlpineStart

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