AIARE 1 Avalanche Course and hello Spring!

The last weekend of winter provided one of the most spectacular 3 days of higher summits weather I have ever seen in March! Blue skis and almost non-existent wind led to some really enjoyable ski touring on Mount Washington during our second-to-last American Institute of Avalanche Research and Education (AIARE) course.

Day One

We kicked off the course on Friday with some lively classroom sessions and small group exercises.

AIARE Avalanche Course

Benny discusses identifying avalanche terrain on day 1.

AIARE Avalanche Course

Small groups learn vicariously while discussing a local case study

Day Two

We met early to learn some advanced trip planning skills using CalTopo.com and the Avenza App. The Higher Summits Forecast called for southeast winds around 10-15 mph so we planned a tour on the west side of Mount Washington.

AIARE Avalanche Course

Powerful trip planning software that is 100% free!

AIARE Avalanche Course

Adjusting layers while skinning up the Cog

AIARE Avalanche Course

Small pockets of 2-3 mm Surface Hoar were found on sheltered north aspects above Waumbek Tank but below tree line

AIARE Avalanche Course

Benny demonstrates some snow pit observations near Jacob’s Ladder

AIARE Avalanche Course

Some cool wind effect and cornices nearby

AIARE Avalanche Course

We contoured around the rim of Ammonoosuc Ravine until we could drop the main gully or “Center Ammo”.

We concluded our tour with a debrief at the trail-head before calling it a day.

Day Three

AIARE Avalanche Course

Student led trip-planning session at Pinkham Notch Visitor Center

AIARE Avalanche Course

Skinning up the Tuckerman Ravine Trail

AIARE Avalanche Course

Hermit Lake Snow Study Plot

AIARE Avalanche Course

Skinning up between Lobster Claw Gully and Right Gully

AIARE Avalanche Course

Snow-pack Observations

Avalanche danger was LOW and we had plenty of time to spare so we booted up Lobster Claw and traversed over to the top of Right Gully.

AIARE Avalanche Course

Ready to boot up Lobster Claw

AIARE Avalanche Course

Bluebird!

AIARE Avalanche Course

Sherika after descending from pit location

AIARE Avalanche Course

300 pound block of ice came from somewhere

Some video of our descent:

AIARE Avalanche Course

All smiles after a good run!

We wrapped up the course back in the pack room with discussions about continuing to learn about traveling in the back-country. It was a real pleasure having each of you in this course. Thank you all for staying engaged and contributing through out our three days!

Tomorrow, and beyond!

Only one more avalanche course next weekend after a Mountain Skills Course tomorrow and Washington Climb on Thursday. It might seem like the winter season is winding down a little but we are set up for a fantastic Spring ski season! The warm rock climbing can wait this year… I still have a lot of skiing goals to accomplish including reviewing some new ski mountaineering gear from CAMP/Cassin, Ortovox, Petzl, and DPS. Expect a lot of gear reviews to be landing April/May after I get back from Iceland.

Yup, Iceland!  Been awhile since I’ve been out of country so I am SUPER amp’d about this upcoming trip.

Want to try backcountry skiing?

Maybe you just bought a setup or still need to rent a touring package (a few places in town rent touring gear). Maybe you’d like to avoid the maddening crowds in Tuckerman Ravine and check out some new to you terrain ? Consider learning about the joys of back-country skiing with me. The snow-pack we have in the alpine right now combined with more stable Spring weather is a GREAT time to book a back-country ski day!

You can read a bit about the program here but reach out to me directly at nealpinestart@gmail.com to check on available dates before trying to book!

Did you get out this weekend? Whatcha do? Let me know in the comments below!

Well thanks for reading, and welcome Spring!

See you in the mountains!

Posted in Avalanche Courses, Backcountry Skiing, Mountaineering, Trip Reports | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Gear Review- Ortovox Pro Alu III Shovel + Pocket Spike

I carry an avalanche shovel about 3-4 days a week all winter long. For a piece of gear I rely on almost daily throughout the winter I am a bit picky when it comes to what model shovel I will carry. This winter I have been thoroughly testing the latest version of an Ortovox classic, the “Pro Alu III“, and I’ve been quite happy with its performance. Here’s a quick 60 second video review followed by a long detailed review below!

Ortovox Pro Alu III Avalanche Shovel Review

Ortovox Pro Alu III Avalanche Shovel- photo from Ortovox.com

Let’s start with a quick look at the manufacturer’s description and specifications then I will get into my personal review of the product.


The best PRO ALU of all time. In this latest iteration of an ORTOVOX classic we’ve used the most innovative materials available and cutting edge production methods to achieve the best weight-to-rigidity ratio possible. Stabilization ribs and high sidewalls give the anodized blade rigidity, while the integrated shaft socket makes it easy to pack. With the new quick-lock, the blade and the fluted telescoping shaft can be put together in one motion. The new T-Grip Pro is revolutionary. It can be inserted for both right and left-handers – and also facilitates economical clearing. One hand grasps the long grip side, which serves as an ergonomic lever, while the other hand has maximum hold on the shaft’s rubber-coated grip zone.

  • Rubberized grip zone

  • T-grip pro with flexible left and right-handed function

  • Rapid locking without pressing a button

  • Oval handle cross section

  • Telescoping handle

  • Non-slip step grooves

  • Sharp, protected edge

  • Pack-friendly

  • 90° clearing function PRO ALU III

  • Rescue sled function

  • Compatible with Pocket Spike

  • Groove-shaped handle cross section


After extensive testing while instructing avalanche safety courses almost every weekend of the winter I’ve formed some opinions on the design of this tool. Here’s my $.02.

Weight

An important consideration of everything I take into the back-country, let’s start by comparing the weights within my current fleet.

Black Diamond Deploy 3 Shovel: 565 grams (1 lb 4 oz)

Ortovox Beast 3.1: 782 grams (1 lb 12 oz)

Ortovox Pro Alu III: 806 grams (1 lb 12.5 oz)

So the Pro Alu is the heaviest shovel in my assortment.While it might weigh 8 ounces more than the Black Diamond Deploy 3 it gains a ton of functionality that I will go into greater detail but for now basically: much better handle, almost a foot in telescoping shaft length, slightly larger and more technical blade, ice axe compatibility.

Pack-ability

Another concern when touring with only a 30 liter pack is how well your avalanche shovel will pack. I’ve been testing the Ortovox Tour Rider 30 (review coming) for most of my day tours this season and the slim design leaves little imagination for where you store your avalanche tools. The blade of the Ortovox Pro Alu III fits snugly in the outer pocket as if they designed the pocket for the exact dimensions of the blade.

Ortovox Pro Alu III Avalanche Shovel Review

Perfect fit for the shovel blade

The shaft and handle fit easily enough in the dedicated shaft slot on the inside of the pack and the handle is less obtrusive than the larger D shaped handle on my Ortovox Beast making it easier to fishing around for my water bottle or some grub.

Durability

The blade is made of a very rugged feeling anodized aluminum. Ribs and raised side walls add overall strength to the material. I’ve probably moved close to 50,000 pounds of plowed up refrozen snow while demonstrating shoveling and rescue techniques during this winter’s avalanche courses and the blade is still looking great.

Ortovox Pro Alu III Avalanche Shovel Review

Just a few small scrapes. Considering the amount of crud I dig through on a regular basis this blade and anodized coating is holding up very well!

Comfort and Convenience

Like most Ortovox shovels a rubberized grip low down on the shaft improves grip as well as provide a little bit of insulation.

Ortovox Pro Alu III Avalanche Shovel Review

Good grip and warmer during extended digging in cold weather!

This second opinion isn’t mentioned anywhere from Ortovox but having dug about a dozen snow-pit demonstrations this season, often in arctic temperatures, I do think that little bit of rubber there feels warmer than grasping straight metal.

The “T-Grip Pro” handle is reinforced with metal for durability but encased in a dense plastic. Having been use to a D-shaped handle for so long I was hesitant to how this style would perform. During my first couple test runs something felt off. I then discovered that the handle could be set for either left hander’s or right hander’s! Once I reset it to the right dominant hand the grip felt much more natural in my hand.

Ortovox Pro Alu III Avalanche Shovel Review

Remove the inner shaft and reinsert based on hand dominance

Quickly assembling an avalanche shovel in an emergency is a skill we encourage students to practice. Ortovox makes it a little bit easier by using “self-feeding” slots that depress and guide the locking button into place. No need to try to push a small button while assembling the shovel. Just line up the grooves and firmly push the shaft into the blade and you are ready to start digging. A tapered and plugged shaft end aid quick assembly and prevent snow from getting jammed up into the shaft.

Ortovox Pro Alu III Avalanche Shovel Review

Well crafted thoughtful design

Bonus Versatility!

Ok so let’s get to the coolest thing about this shovel! Like a Transformer there is more than meets the eye here! With the addition of the Ortovox Pocket Spike you can convert this shovel into a substantial mountaineering axe!

Ortovox Pro Alu III Shovel Review

Ortovox Pocket Spike

Let’s take a quick look at the manufacturer description:


Our new POCKET SPIKE is simply ingenious! Although usually tucked away in your backpack or pants pocket (hence the name), the POCKET SPIKE can quickly be retrieved in tense situations, for instance, when you’ve only got a few feet to the summit or if you have to cross a steep slope. In two steps, you can mount it on to the PRO ALU III shovel handle for added protection. The POCKET SPIKE has two parts: the tough axe blade made from AL 7075 T6 and the spike, which is attached in place of the shovel blade. The two parts snap together to form a single piece with no sharp edges and weighing just 95 grams. This tool is perfect for tours where you are happy about some additional support when you’ve only got a few feet left to the summit.


Ortovox Pro Alu III Shovel Review

Carrying case included

THIS is what I’m talking about! I can think of far to many times I’ve been kicking steps up steep terrain in Tuckerman Ravine wondering why I didn’t bring an ice axe that day.

“Conditions will soften up early”

“There will probably be a well established boot ladder”

You’ve been there too perhaps and justified leaving the mountaineering axe at home to save a pound or two. Well this thing only weighs 95 grams (or 4 ounces with the included carrying case). Combined with this shovel it feels like a super solid self arrest tool. The T-shaped handle makes it feel like you could easily bear down and slow or halt a slide before things got ugly. The over all ruggedness of the whole design inspires more confidence to me then a Black Diamond Whippet. I still think the Whippet is a great”better than nothing” option but this Pocket Spike option is as solid feeling as a real mountaineering axe.

Ortovox Pro Alu III Shovel Review

Solid protection in steep terrain!

This can be used as a short axe at about 48 cms or fully extended to 68 cms! Here it is next to my 70 cm Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe at both lengths for comparison.

Ortovox Pro Alu III Shovel Review

Crushing Mode

Ortovox Pro Alu III Shovel Review

Cruising Mode

Summary

Ortovox is an industry leader when it comes to innovative snow safety products. This fully functional avalanche shovel that transforms into a solid alpine axe is a great example of careful design and thought. Taken on its own the Ortovox Pro Alu III is an excellent if somewhat heavier avalanche shovel choice. When you consider the increased efficiency and functionality from a telescoping shaft, trenching mode, and the ability to quickly convert it to an effective self arrest tool it is a phenomenal choice for those who spend a lot of time in steep snowy places.

Like the review? Have a favorite avy shovel? Please leave a comment below!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimers: Climbing and skiing in the back-country is inherently dangerous. Seek qualified instruction from certified guides and instructors in the use of the above tools. Attempting to use anything described in this review in any situation could result in injury or death. Recreate in the mountains at your own risk. I received this product from Ortovox as part of their Ambassador program but the opinions I’ve stated here were not influenced in any way. Affiliate links help support this blog. 

Posted in Climbing Gear Reviews, Gear Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Gear Review (and Giveaway)- Trailfoody.com

I heard my alarm and rolled over and checked my phone. It was 6 AM and I had set my alarm for 5:30. I must have hit snooze a couple times and now and I was late for work. My clients were meeting me at 7 AM for an ascent of Mount Washington and I had little time now to assemble my lunch. Luckily I had just received a sample from Trailfoody.com, a new premium food service company based out of Roanoke, VA to demo and review.

Trailfoody Review

My sample “Wanderer” package from Trailfoody- photo from trailfoody.com

Simply put Trailfoody is a convenience service like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, services that select high quality ingredients and ship them to your home with step by step instructions for cooking (there is no cooking for Trailfoody because it’s meant to be eaten on the go). This company is targeted at outdoor adventurers (like anyone reading this blog) who like good trail food. As a convenience service there is going to be a premium to pay but for the top level tier I was surprised to see it wasn’t as marked up as I thought it might be. Before we get into cost lets take a look at content.

Once a month Trailfoody sends its subscribers a hand selected assortment of trail foods seeking a balance in nutrition and taste. Some months the company follows a theme and this month was “Pan-Asian”, a theme I’m quite fond of. The service claims the “Wanderer” level package is good for 1-2 outings with 9+ trail foods and between 1100-1400 calories.

I decided to put this assortment to the test a few days ago while guiding a winter ascent of Mount Washington. I grabbed a bacon egg & cheese bagel at my favorite breakfast sandwich stop on the way to the Bunkhouse and for the rest of the day I relied on Trailfoody’s selections to keep me going. This is how it played out:

We hit the Tuckerman Ravine Trail at 7:45 AM and 45 minutes later we stopped at the Huntington Ravine trail for a quick snack and some water.

Trailfoody Review

Looking for my first Trailfoody snack, photo by http://www.brentdoscher.com

I chose these rice crackers from the 9 options included in the yellow stuff sack Trailfoody sends you with new service.

Trailfoody Review

First snack

100 calories  of gluten free goodness. Since my hearty breakfast sandwich was still powering me a bit this light snack was enough for now. 35 minutes later we stopped below the steeps of the Winter Lionhead Route to don crampons and I broke into the curried beef jerky I was anxious to try.

Trailfoody Review

This was some seriously good jerky. I’d never seen curried jerky before and 100% grass fed beef gave this excellent flavor, 80 calories

I decided to add this included electrolyte mix to my water.

Trailfoody Review

Not to sweet and quite tasty

We spent the next 45 minutes climbing the steep trail until we broke treeline and once again stopped for a quick refuel. It’s always wiser to eat the protein and fatty things early in the day so I reached for the almonds.

Trailfoody Review

Tamari is a great seasoning on almonds! 160 calories

35 minutes later we hunkered down below Lionhead and I grabbed a sugary snack.

Trailfoody Review

Tasty but dried fruit does burn fast! 40 calories

At the base of the summit cone I broke out the hearty looking energy bar.

Trailfoody Review

This thing was delicious! 240 calories

Trailfoody Review

Fueled up and heading up the summit cone, photo by http://www.brentdoscher.com

Just below the summit I dug into the other energy bar supplied:

Trailfoody Review

Also quite tasty and another 180 calories

On the summit I enjoyed a bit of calories & caffeine with this little bar:

Trailfoody Review

Caffeine and calories = WIN

After a successful summit I enjoyed the energy chews on the descent.

Trailfoody Review

Good end of day boost, 160 calories

I calculated about 1,200 calories when all was said in done and arrived back at the trail-head only mildly hungry which is quite a nice surprise considering this was a 4000 foot 4 mile winter ascent with pretty rough trail conditions and some definite adverse weather:

Trailfoody Review

Climbing in these conditions takes energy! Photo by http://www.brentdoscher.com

I won’t lie and say I wasn’t a little bit jealous of the left over pizza my companions were scarfing down at each break (left over pizza is my all time favorite winter trail food) but I was pretty content with what Trailfoody provided. This was more than enough food for warm weather outings that is for sure! The selections were really all solid and I can tell they care about sourcing quality options.

So is this a service for you? Well let’s break down some of the costs.

The company currently offers three levels of service starting with the one I tested, “The Wanderer”

The Wanderer

1-2 outings
  • Sometimes you pack for a full day. Sometimes you don’t.
  • 9+ trailfoods, 1100-1400 calories
  • 4 energy foods for breaks and recovery, plus heartier trailfoods that pair together as a tasty lunch or can also be eaten separately in smaller breaks.

This level is $25.95/month (including shipping). I think it would be best to think of this as fueling one outing unless you supplement. The markup here is noticeable but if you could track down all these high quality trail foods individually I think you’d probably save a bit, but it’s unlikely you’d find all these in your local grocery.

The Pathfinder

3 outings
  • You’re a regular. The trees and the trout know you by name.
  • 3 packs of 7+ trailfoods, 700-1,000 calories per outing
  • Each contains 2 energy foods for breaks and recovery, plus heartier trailfoods that pair together as a tasty lunch or can also be eaten separately in smaller breaks.

At $47.95/month (including shipping) this one works out to $15.98/outing. This is significantly cheaper per outing than the first tier though in this months sample it would come with out the Honey Stinger chews and the GoMacro Thrive (a loss of 340 calories). Considering the beef jerky alone costs $5.99 each this actually works out much closer to regular retail pricing than I had originally assumed.

The Intrepid

4 outings
  • That’s 4 outings for the most intrepid, or 2 outings each for 2 people.
  • 4 packs of 7+ trail-foods, 700-1,000 calories per outing
  • Each contains 2 energy foods for breaks and recovery, plus heartier trailfoods that pair together as a tasty lunch or can also be eaten separately in smaller breaks.

At $57.95/month (including shipping) this level works out to $14.49/outing offering a light savings over the “Pathfinder” subscription level.

Summary

When you break it down the markup for this service isn’t that high, though the convenience and quality is. Home-made trail food will certainly be the most economical option but not all of us are gourmet trail chefs, and some of us may tend to over-sleep and need to rush out the door quickly in order to meet our objectives. For those people this service might be worth checking out.

Thanks for reading the review! Want to try a free Wanderer sample yourself? You can enter the raffle multiple times at this link below! Contest ends on 3/31/17!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Posted in Gear Reviews, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Trip Report- Willey’s Slide & Mount Washington

I was fortunate to spend the last two days with John W. who recently moved to New Hampshire from points south and has steadily been increasing his mountain skill repertoire. An avid hiker John had set a goal to summit Mount Washington in the winter and felt a One-Day Mountaineering Course would be a good pre-cursor before a Mount Washington summit attempt. You see John had tried Mount Washington non-guided in the winter last year with rented equipment and came to find out there is more to using crampons in steep terrain than meets the eye. He can tell you that story personally if you get the chance to cross paths with him in the mountains but I can tell you about our two days.

After spending some time at the Northeast Mountaineering Bunkhouse dialing in our gear choices and packing strategies we made our way to the historic and classic Willey’s Slide in Crawford Notch. At the base of the route the snow was perfect for practicing self arrest, the fundamental skill of quickly stopping oneself while sliding down the mountain with an ice axe. This skill is not intuitive but must become second nature should you wish to travel in steep snowy or glaciated terrain. John showed marked progress after a half hour of practicing. We then worked our way up the first couple hundred feet of lower angle snow climbing working on proper crampon technique.

ice climbing new hampshire

John works on crampon technique with Mount Webster behind him

ice climbing new hampshire

Short pitching our way up the right side of Willey’s with a party of three on the center ice line

A quick list of skills we covered:

Gear selection & packing

Crampon Skills: French Technique, German Technique, Front-Pointing

Ice Axe Skills: Piolet Canne, Self-Arrest Grip, Travel Grip, Self-Arrest from all possible falling positions

Roping up, how & why

Short-pitching, ice screw placement, anchoring in

Knots covered: Figure 8 follow through, Clove-Hitch, Overhand on a bight, Figure Eight on a bight

Rappelling with a device

Arm-wrap rappel


Day 2- Mount Washington Attempt

We met at 7 am sharp and headed off to the trail-head to get a jump on some questionable weather coming in the afternoon.

Climbing Mount Washington

Ready to roll

With low avalanche danger and well above freezing temperatures I decided we would forego the typical Winter Lionshead Route and tackle the more direct (and arguably more fun) Right Gully of Tuckerman Ravine. We still carried avalanche gear with us along with some ultralight harnesses, helmets, and a short rope due to the semi-technical ascent choice.

Climbing Mount Washington

We made great time to Hermit Lake arriving here by 9:30 am

Climbing Mount Washington

The floor of Tuckerman Ravine is always impressive

Climbing Mount Washington

Heading up towards Right Gully

Climbing Mount Washington

Topping out Right Gully

Climbing Mount Washington

Final push above Split Rock

Climbing Mount Washington

The clouds lifted for mere minutes while we got a quick summit photo

With snow conditions prime for glissading I brought us over to the top of the East Snowfields on the south side for a fantastic ride back down to the flats (see video).

Climbing Mount Washington

Dropping a thousand feet in elevation in 10 minutes tends to make you smile

We then connected into Lobster Claw Gully for another quick descent back to the floor of the ravine.

Climbing Mount Washington

Faster than Winter Lionhead but need to be avalanche aware and know how to navigate into them from above!

Climbing Mount Washington

Blue skies as we exit

Climbing Mount Washington

Sun setting on the Boott Spur Ridge as we leave Hermit Lake

Thanks to excellent snow conditions and Johns affinity for hustling downhill we made it back to the parking lot 2 hours and ten minutes after standing on the summit!

This day happened to be John’s 55th birthday and I was truly honored to spend it with him in such an amazing place! I look forward to seeing him in the mountains again soon.

Checkout some of the video from our two days!

Thanks for reading!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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Gear Review- Arc’Teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boots

Likely one of the most important choices a climber makes involves their footwear. Happy feet are so crucial for happy climbing and my feet have been quite happy this season while I’ve been testing the Arc’Teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boots. Before I break into the details here is how they have been tested:

Mountaineering: (paired with Petzl Vasak Leverlock crampons)

4 winter ascents of Mount Washington with the lowest ambient air temperature around -20f and wind-chills around -50f.

ArcTeryx Acux AR Mountaineering Boots Review

One more trip up “the rockpile” in my ArcTeryx Acux AR Mountaineering Boots

Waterfall Ice Climbing: (paired with Petzl Vasak Crampons, Black Diamond Cyborg’s, and CAMP/Cassin Blade Runner’s)

30+ pitches of waterfall ice climbing including Black Pudding Gully (WI4+), The Black Dike (WI4+) Drool of the Beast (WI5-) and Repentance (WI5).

ArcTeryx Acux AR Review

The author on Black Pudding Gully (WI4+), photo by Brent Doscher Photography, http://www.brentdoscher.com/

ArcTeryx Acux AR Mountaineering Boots Review

The author on Drool of the Beast, photo by Brent Doscher Photography

I mention specifically what crampons I tested these with as this is a very important consideration when selecting a climbing boot, especially in this case and I will get into that further in the review. But first lets take a look at some of the details of this design.

I’ll start with some preliminary info from when I first received these boots back in October.

Arc'teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boot Review

 

“A pinnacle of design for mountaineering, ice and mixed climbing, the Acrux AR is the lightest, most durable, and lowest profile insulated double boot available.”- Arcteryx.com

That is a strong statement, and it happens to be true. Let’s compare some of the other lightweight double boots on the market:

La Sportiva Spantik (88.96 oz/pair)

La Sportiva Baruntse (82.96 oz/pair)

La Sportiva G2 SM (72.22 oz/pair)

Scarpa Phantom 6000 (70 oz/pair)

Arc’teryx Acrux AR (69.1 oz/pair)

This is actually less than an ounce difference than my La Sportiva Batura 2.0’s that I reviewed last winter here.

 


The obvious difference between these and my Batura’s is that these have a removable liner.

ACRUX AR MOUNTAINEERING BOOT Review

ACRUX AR MOUNTAINEERING BOOT

These liners “feel high-tech” in hand. I wore them around the house and they feel like a comfy slipper designed for astronauts. From arcteryx.com:

“Arc’teryx Adaptive Fit technology uses a removable bootie that employs stretch textiles and minimal seams to create an instant custom fit with no pressure. With protection extended beyond the cuff of the boot and the highest level of breathability in this category, the bootie’s GORE-TEX® membrane optimizes climate control and waterproof benefit. The perforated PE foam’s quick dry properties improve comfort, and a rubberized sole allows the bootie to be used as a camp shoe.”


Arc’teryx partnered with Vibram®  and created the AR outsole using Vibram® Mont rubber which keeps its frictional properties in sub-zero temps.

Arcteryx AR Mountaineering Boots Preview

“The specially developed Vibram® AR outsole is designed for support and sure footedness. The tread and construction feature a semi-blocked toe, with anti-slip grooves, a medial climbing support zone, and heel created to provide braking on steep descents. The Vibram® Mont rubber compound maintains its performance in sub-zero conditions.”


Now that I have had sufficient time in the field to test them let’s get into the question on everyone’s mind. How do these perform?

On the approach

Honestly these have been the most comfortable mountaineering boots I have yet to wear. They feel like they were custom made for my feet. For reference I am a US men’s size 9, EUR 42, medium width forefoot with a slight Morton’s toe. Unlike my previous double boots (Koflach Degre, Vertical, and Arctis Expe) it is easier to put this boot on by first putting the slim fitting liner on then sliding into the outer boot. When the liner is already in the boot it is a little more tricky to slide on but not impossible.

The lacing system is probably the only thing I could imagine being improved upon. There is no traction/tension grabber that is becoming common in a lot of boots in this category. For a boot at the high end of the category I would LOVE to see Arcteryx take it a step further and add a ratcheting lacing system like Boa.

As it stands I’ve adapted my lacing strategy. For general mountaineering and easy ice climbing I lace them at home and leave them all day. For harder ice climbing (WI4 and up) I’ll lace them at home, approach, then take the time at the base of the route to snug them up for better performance on the vertical. It doesn’t take long and leaving them loosely laced on steep ice can lead to some insecurity.

For comfort on the approach and descent these score very high. They are super light and warm enough for my feet in all the conditions I’ve tested them in. I do have “warm” feet though so if you suffer from cold feet I would suggest some solid test runs before going to significant altitude. The long term comfort is so significant that I’ve returned home after 14 hour days and left them on while stocking the wood stove and cooking dinner. No joke I have not felt the need to pull my feet out of these as soon as I get home even after significant slogs.

One of the reasons they might be so comfortable on the approach and descent is the small amount of flexibility within the shank/out-sole, a trait some who have tried them are concerned about, but one that I feel is easily remedied. I will elaborate more on that in the next section.

On the climb

The slim looking low profile Arc’Teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boots are the Lamborghini of the climbing boot world. Ok, that might be going a bit overboard but seriously I find these perform extremely well on steep water ice when paired with the right crampon. Why is the crampon pairing so important? Two reasons.

  1. These are super light boots. For hard ice climbs a heavier crampon might actually reduce your energy expenditure by giving your boot/crampon a better balance for efficient kicks. Before you call me crazy consider this is the same theory that explains the practice of adding pick weights to your ice axes. I find the heavier Black Diamond Cyborgs and CAMP Cassin Blade Runners to add a nice amount of weight allowing me to “kick lighter” and let the boot/crampon do the work. So super light boots are a plus for the approach and descent, but it’s nice to add a little mass for the kicking portion of your climb!
  2. These boots have some flex. That small amount of forefoot flex feels great on that 8 mile approach, but when you are front-pointing on near vertical ice having a secure platform takes precedence. I noticed the flex first when leading a 3+ route wearing my well worn Petzl Vasak Crampons. It wasn’t a big deal, but it was noticeable. I’ve since lead multiple grade 5 ice routes using the Black Diamond Cyborgs and CAMP Cassin Blade Runners and in all cases the inclusion of the stiff heavier crampon virtually eliminated all noticeable flexibility while front-pointing on both steep rock and ice.

Summary

Five months of some of the best Northeastern ice climbing I’ve had in years have left me with a super positive impression of the Arc’Teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boots. Slipper like comfort, 3-season like weight (yet still plenty warm for my feet), and high end performance when it matters most all add up to a fantastic new edition to the growing assortment of lightweight double boots. You should try a pair on!

Thanks for reading! Take it one step further and comment below! Have you tried them? What did you think? What’s your current boot crampon/setup?

Disclaimer: Arc’Teyrx provided a pair of these boots for the purposes of review but all opinions expressed above are my own. Affiliate links help support this blog.

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Gear Review- La Sportiva Tech Gloves

The La Sportiva Tech Gloves are another great option in the growing category of technical gloves designed for mountaineering, ice climbing, and mixed climbing. For this review we had guest reviewer, AMGA certified Rock Instructor, and all around sender Justin Guarino, test these over ten hard days of ice climbing and mountaineering in the White Mountain Region. Here is his take on this technical alpine glove!


La Sportiva Tech Glove Review

La Sportiva Tech Glove Review- photo from lasportiva.com


The Good

  • Warm even when wet
  • Excellent dexterity
  • Slip Resistant Grip (great of ice climbing)

The Bad

    • Durability
    • Odor
    • Slow to dry

The Verdict

I was very pleased with these gloves and there performance was top notch. The test consisted of a few weeks of steep ice and mixed terrain as well as times of idle inactivity whilst coaching students. Through the entirety of the test my hands were as happy as they could be in the sub freezing daily temps. Easily clipping gear while running it out on grade 5+ waterfall ice and placing cams was never difficult on sketchy stances while sending steep mixed corners. From the onset I took the approach of looking at this glove as a contender for multi day alpine walls in Alaska this spring; I have to say I would take them with me on this death defying terrain were a glove can make or break you.


La Sportiva Tech Glove Review

Justin starts up the crux pillar of the classic Grade 5 ice route Repentance


The Details

Warm when wet:
This is critical and they performed excellent. My hands get sweaty… maybe because I’m always scaring myself. With that said wet from the inside wet from the outside (dripping ice and snow) doesn’t matter they did the job. Truly a pair of gloves that you can start and finish the day with. That in itself merits buying them for they simplify your selection. One and done get after it!
Excellent dexterity:
Given that I often venture into strange terrain, terrain where you better be able to get gear in and not fumble your crucial equipment. I have to say that given the level of insulation the dexterity of these gloves was astounding.
Slip resistant:
This is a crucial trait of an alpine glove and they delivered! Designed to perform and it showed. No fooling around. Its life or death at times up they. Not once did I pull these gloves off with my teeth in a panic and spit them out! I’ve done that before with other gloves and was glad I didn’t have to!
Durability:
You can’t hold it against La Sportiva. If you climb as much as I do you don’t expect these things to last… and they won’t. 10 days on them and I probably have 10 days life left in them. I am a professional and use them at a professionals level of activity so like I said I didn’t expect them to last. (Editor’s note: 20 days of hard use might translate to 1-2 seasons for us weekend warriors).
Odor:
I mean come on all gloves smell bad. But these in particular produced a particular offensive odor. I suppose I need to dry them out better. But who has the time… Climb climb climb! (Editor’s note: I’ve noticed this with most gloves and the only resolution is a good glove/boot dryer! This is the one I use everyday and it is amazing!)
Slow to dry:
Lots of insulation but once the water gets in there it stays. They are still warm but you better believe that makes me nervous especially in sub zero temps. Again they are gloves what do you truly expect. All said they are a great buy.
La Sportiva Tech Glove Review

Justin finding some alpine conditions on Mount Webster’s Shoestring Gully

Thanks you Justin for sharing your feedback on these gloves! If you would like to give these a try you can find a pair on Amazon here or Backcountry.com below!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: La Sportiva provided a sample of these gloves for the purposes of this review. The opinion expressed above are solely of the tester. Affiliate links help support this blog.

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Repentance, Black Dike, Ice Fest, Avy Course!

What a week it has been! This time last Wednesday I was just topping out the classic hard line Repentance on Cathedral Ledge with my old friend Tom and new friend and fellow Northeast Mountaineering guide Jordan. The route was in excellent shape and felt a few degrees easier than when I first climbed it a few years ago with Bob & Ryan.

Thursday I got to guide NEM regular guest Nick up an equally fantastic Black Dike on Cannon Cliff. It had been years since I’d climbed this route and it was in great shape. We did have to wait for a party ahead of us but completed the climb in 6 hours car to car with some of the best glissading I have ever seen on the descent trail!

Friday we started our 4th avalanche course of the season and students and instructors alike partook in evening social hours upstairs at International Mountain Equipment and watched presentations at the Theatre in the Woods.

AIARE Avalanche Course

Skinning out in Crawford Notch during our Observational Outing during day 2 of our AIARE Avalanche Course

On Monday I started a 2 Day Ice Climbing Course and had the pleasure of introducing father & son team Andy and Peter to ice climbing at Cathedral Ledge and in Crawford Notch. The snow was fantastic and I geeked out a bit over some of the snappy wind slabs we found along our route.

Later that night I heard of a climbing accident on the Black Dike. A climber had fallen during the final moves and severely broke his ankle in the 50-60 foot fall. I spoke briefly with Nick last night and he is in good spirits and incredibly grateful for all of those who assisted him off the cliff.

That brings us to today, a chance for me to do some laundry, get to the dump, and attend to other household errands that have been put off for a bit too long. Another round of snow inbound for tonight so I’ll probably find myself skiing tomorrow before our next avalanche course starts on Friday.

What an absolutely fantastic winter we are having! Hope you are getting out there and enjoying it!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Posted in Avalanche Courses, Backcountry Skiing, Ice Climbing, Mountaineering, Trip Reports | Leave a comment