Gear Review (Preview)- Ortovox Diract Voice Avalanche Transceiver

Today Ortovox officially added two new avalanche transceivers to the market, the Diract and the Diract Voice. While a few preproduction samples have been checked out by other avalanche professionals I received a post production model about a week ago and want to share some preliminary opinions and thoughts at this revolutionary avalanche transceiver. A more in-depth review will be published after I’ve had some considerable real world field time with this model. I know a lot of people may be looking for a new avalanche transceiver before the snow really starts to fly and I hope this “first look” report will help you decide if you should consider the Ortovox Diract or Ortovox Diract Voice avalanche transceiver!

Initial Setup

Ortovox Diract Voice Review

After unboxing the initial set up was straight forward. As soon as you open the box instruction on the lid include a QR code directing you to download the Ortovox app for either iOS or Android. I selected English from the nine available languages and register the device through the app while synced to my smartphone via Bluetooth. Registration is a great idea since not only will up be sure to receive any important software update notifications it automatically extends the two year warranty by an additional 3 years giving you 5 years of total protection on your investment! More information and links to the apps along with some video tutorials can be found here: https://ortovox.com/us-en/service/information-user-manuals/avalanche-transceivers/diract-start

Ortovox Diract Voice Review

After registering the device I was instructed to calibrate the internal electronic compass used to ensure the device is held level in SEARCH mode and to analyze orientation when buried for the “Smart Antenna” technology (more on that later). I chose to do this outside in the yard away from the house and my cell phone to ensure no interference.

Voice Direction

Let’s start with the obvious biggest feature of the Ortovox Diract Voice. This is the first ever avalanche transceiver that gives the user verbal feedback during the stressful times of an avalanche rescue. Like others, I wasn’t exactly sure about the name Ortovox chose for this new model, but a quick Google Translation search revealed that “diract” is the Hindi word for “direct”. And that is what this avalanche transceiver attempts to do… direct your actions during the course of an avalanche rescue with important voice prompts. I demonstrate this in this video with some initial hands on practice in a nearby field:

POST PRODUCTION NOTES:

While filming the first couple test runs with my iPhone in AIRPLANE mode the transceiver experienced electronic interference which caused a false signal while outside the range of the transmitting transceiver and caused the transceiver to instruct me to start a fine search while still 18 meters from a second transceiver. Both of these errors were user-error, not software error! Any electronic with a GPS chip, Bluetooth, WiFi, radio transmitter, or microchip, should be more than half a meter away from a transceiver in search mode, or better yet powered off completely! I’ve left these first test runs in the final video as they demonstrate how the voice commands work and I believe that is useful. Twelve more test runs were conducted (6 filmed by the drone) and no other errors were observed.

My overall impression of this novel idea is positive. As an avalanche course instructor with over 100 avalanche courses taught I really do believe voice prompts can help rescuers react appropriately. Reminders like the initial “Run in 50 meter search strips and look out” encourage both urgency and situational awareness. Directional corrections like “run to the left/right” can help keep the searcher on the “flux line” while they are constantly conducting a quality visual search (often a part of rescue new rescuers struggle with). Getting outside of the fine search area the transceiver clearly tells you “You were closer!” When I publish my updated full review (ETA mid-winter) I will cover every voice command that’s possible and how best it fits into the rescue strategy.

There is one voice command I would have liked to have seen integrated. If the transceiver registers a number less than 1 meter during the search I would have loved for it to tell me to “Start probing here!” I have observed for years students will spend too much time on the fine search trying to get the lowest possible number when in reality if they are actually searching for a human sized target (and not a small stuff sack) and have a number under 1 meter they should halt the fine search and start probing. A probe strike is imminent. In that same line of thought it would be great if the transceiver could tell a quality fine search was carried out and if 1.6 meters in the lowest number after the fine search it could also direct the user to start probing.

That said a practiced rescuer should be able to make these transitions without the voice command, so the omission of this one command is no deal breaker!

Internal Lithium Ion Rechargeable Battery

Ortovox Diract Voice Avalanche Transceiver Review

The next biggest innovation in both the Diract and Diract Voice is the use of an internal lithium ion rechargeable battery. I think this is a great choice from a design point and I’m confident other manufacturers may follow suit as there are few disadvantages and many advantages. First of all having an internal rechargeable battery means no more pulling half used alkaline batteries out when they reach 60% and adding them to the draw of “not full batteries” I have in my gear room. This is better for the environment. The next advantage is you do not need to remember to remove your batteries at the end of the winter season. I’ve seen quite a few transceivers ruined with corroded batteries when owners left their batteries in them over the course of a humid summer. With this style battery it is best to not constantly “short charge” they battery, i.e. plugging it in every night to get it back to 100%. The user manual states to not charge until under 80%, and even states “once the battery charge falls below 40%, the device should be charged as soon as possible”.

The technical specifications claim that a full battery will provide a minimum of 200 hours in SEND followed by 1 hour of SEARCH. I will do some extensive testing of this battery over the next month and update this post accordingly by for now I’ll say I’m quite confident in this performance. After 2 hours of SEND and about 30 minutes of SEARCH my battery is still reporting 100%. Depending on how often you tour I imagine you’ll only need to recharge once or twice a season. I will be teaching rescue skills weekly from December through March and will report back detailed battery performance.

As for concerns about not being able to access or self-replace the lithium-ion battery Ortovox has had a third-party verify that this battery is good for at least 450 “cycles” and will still produce enough power to meet the 200 hours of SEND followed by 1 hour of SEARCH performance. A “cycle” is basically each time you charge the battery, which is why “short charging” is discouraged. Ortovox is working on a consumer focused solution for when it does become time to replace the battery, which based on my estimates of heavy use, won’t be needed for 5-7 years, if even then. The truth is with these numbers and proper charging habits the battery may last as long as the widely recommended “upgrade/replace your transceiver” suggestion of ten years. If that holds true that equals about 30-60 AA alkaline batteries from my own use staying out of a landfill!

The software is designed to self test the battery at every start up and will display a percentage, along with a alert if 30% or less, or “empty”. It also checks the health of the battery so if you ever do reach the end of the life of the battery it will display “Battery service necessary” and direct you to the Ortovox website for service/repair.

Finally it should be noted that you can not charge the battery when it is under 0 degrees Celsius. This may concern some users but I feel with proper planning this should never be an issue. My plan is to let my battery deplete for during day trips to within 40-50% capacity then recharge to full (one cycle). If I am heading out on a week long trip somewhere (Iceland this April?) I’ll recharge it to 100% for the trip. If you are spending two months on some amazing expedition I’m sure you can get the transceiver above 0 degrees Celsius in your sleeping bag if you need to recharge it.

Standby Mode and Auto-Revert

Ortovox Diract Voice Avalanche Transceiver Review

The next unique feature of the Ortovox Diract and Diract Voice is the addition of a “Standby” mode. Typically avalanche transceivers have only two modes, SEND/TRANSMIT or SEARCH. In a rescue scenario we teach everyone in the group not caught in the avalanche to switch their transceivers to SEARCH so that rescuers don’t waste time by “finding” people who are not buried in the snow. The issue is in a group rescue scenario you often do not need 5 people searching for a signal on a debris pile. For example if one person is missing and there are 5 rescuers you might only have 1 or 2 people actually searching with their transceivers while the rest of the group spots from a safe location and starts assembling probes and shovels to be ready for the extraction part of the rescue. These rescuers can utilize the standby mode to get their transceiver to stop transmitting, and, especially in the case of the Diract Voice, quiet the scene. We don’t need all the beeping and voice commands confusing the overall scenario. While in Standby mode the transceiver does have a motion sensor that is monitoring your movement. If no movement is detected in 90 seconds a loud alarm and display warning will indicate the unit will revert back to SEND in 30 seconds if 1) no movement is detected (i.e. you were caught and buried by a secondary avalanche), or 2) You press the FLAG button to cancel the revert.

Intuitive Design

Ortovox Diract Voice Avalanche Transceiver Review

The next thing I’d like to talk about is the shape and layout of the unit. Applicable to both models these transceivers are a slim design that fits comfortably in my hand and in my dedicated transceiver pocket on my ski pants. While I traditionally prefer to pocket carry my transceiver I believe I’ll start using the harness carry more often due to some innovative choices by Ortovox. The first is the decision to move the Recco technology from the transceiver to the carrying system. The second is the harness pocket holds the transceiver perfectly and adjusts with ease.

The layout of the controls is simple but well thought out. I am able to operate all functions on the transceiver with one hand regardless.of using my dominant (right) hand or not. With only two buttons and the SEND/SEARCH switch operation is really intuitive. To test the intuitiveness for a non-trained user I asked my 10 year old son to turn the transceiver on, put the unit into SEARCH mode, return to SEND mode, and power off the device. He accomplished all four tasks in less than two minutes with no further instruction.

Smart Antenna Technology

A feature of all Ortovox transceivers I have long been a fan of is the patented “SMART-ANTENNA-TECHNOLOGY ™. This basically makes locating your signal faster regardless of what orientation the transceiver is buried in by using intelligent position recognition and automatically switching to the best transmission antenna. Ortovox transceivers are the only transceivers that use this technology and I believe it’s an excellent feature.

Smart Display

The LCD display is quite visible in bright daylight and the brightness is adjustable via the free Ortovox app. I’ll be leaving it on the brightest setting while testing the battery performance this winter. The screen has a smart light sensor so when the transceiver is stowed in either a pocket or the carrying case it will shut off. After removing it from the harness a quick press of either of the two buttons will waken it.

Range and “smart” Search Strip Width while in SEARCH

Ortovox Diract Voice Avalanche Transceiver Review

I tested the Ortovox Diract Voice in an open field with a measured distance with the following results. I will update these this winter with other models buried 1.5 meters down in the snowpack. While in SEARCH for an Ortovox 3+ transceiver a signal was always acquired around on average between 30-40 meters with on result of 28 meters when the transmitting transceiver was in a poor coupling orientation. These results support Ortovox’s suggestion of a 50 meter search strip width in this open terrain with no interference. Yet another innovation feature of both the Ortovox Diract and Diract Voice is the unit somehow analyses the surrounding area for interference and adjusts the recommended Search Strip Width to be optimized. For example, in the open field (and even with my cell phone interference) the Search Strip Width was displayed as 50 meters. In my house while testing the Auto Revert function and surrounded by Wifi, electronics, etc the displayed Search Strip Width was reduced to 20 meters.

Multiple Burial Capability/Flagging (Signal Suppression)

The Ortovox Diract and Diract Voice transceivers have an intuitive system for helping the user manage the incredibly complex scenario of a multiple burial. The first is the display with indicate multiple signals with little “person” icons on the bottom of the display (up to three). This is another moment where I would have loved if the voice command could have verbally alerted me with something like “Multiple signals detected”. This addition would really help a searcher understand the bigger picture faster and manage their resources appropriately. Once you have finished your fine search and achieved a positive probe strike you can press and hold the flag button to have that signal suppressed, at which time the transceiver will direct you to the next closest burial. From my limited testing and reading of the manual there is not an option to “un-flag” a flagged victim. Should that be needed (and it shouldn’t if you use this feature with the caution taught in rescue courses) you will need to place the transceiver back into SEND then revert to SEARCH to remove all “flagged” targets. <insert info on any verbal instructions during FLAGGING>

Summary

This is a big moment in the history of avalanche transceivers. While there are a few great transceiver manufacturers out there I’m not surprised that Ortovox was the first to produce a transceiver that is so different from everything else out there. The benefits of a talking transceiver might vary by the user. Those who consider themselves “experts” in avalanche rescue will likely feel the effects of the voice commands less important as they are used to “listening” to the visual and audio clues of the various transceivers they have used over the years. In my opinion those advanced users might decide to upgrade to the Ortovox Diract (without voice) simply for the solid performance and benefit of the internal battery over transceivers that burn through alkaline batteries. Those who are new to avalanche rescue, or (gasp) rusty on their rescue skills (take an Avalanche Rescue course!), will likely find the voice commands from the Ortovox Diract Voice to be quite beneficial at guiding actions during the stressful moments of an avalanche rescue.

As mentioned this is an initial “first look” type review as I’ve only had this transceiver in my hands for about a week. I will test it throughly this winter while instructing over a dozen avalanche courses and will update my findings and opinions likely by late January. If you were planning on upgrading or buying you first avalanche transceiver this Fall in preparation of the winter I hope this information has helped you decide if the Ortovox Diract or Ortovox Diract Voice is the right transceiver for you, and if it is you can purchase one from these online retailers:

Purchase from REI.com

At the end of the day as an avalanche educator I’d be remiss if I didn’t end this review with the classic avalanche educator’s disclaimer. The BEST transceiver in the world is the one you practice with most! When was the last time you practiced avalanche rescue? How about taken an avalanche rescue course? Make avalanche rescue practice part of your seasonal preparation! There are SO many courses out there, if you are looking for one here’s some links to get you started:

AIARE Avalanche Rescue with Northeast Mountaineering <- the course provider I work for

AIARE 1 with Northeast Mountaineering

AIARE 2 with Northeast Mountaineering

Find courses with other AIARE providers all over the country at this link: https://avtraining.org/

You can also check out this free online training tool from Ortovox: https://www.ortovox.com/safety-academy-lab/avalanche-basics

Beyond Level One Online Avalanche Course*

Yet another way you could up your Avy Savvy brain is taking IMFGA Guide Mark Smiley’s newest online course “Beyond Level One*”. This is a massive online course designed to be taken over the course of a whole season with 120 episodes and contributions from some of the best avalanche professionals in the industry! I have taken other online courses from Mark and the quality is top-notch! I will be enrolling in this course myself to see what Mark has created and am especially excited about how much of the content I will be able to absorb à la podcast style!

Disclaimer: Traveling in avalanche terrain is dangerous and nothing in this review is intended to be “instruction” or assumed to be accurate. The author is a member of the Ortovox Athlete Team and received this transceiver at no cost as part of that partnership.

*Affiliate links above help support Northeast Alpine Start at no additional cost to you. Purchasing a transceiver or online course through those links earn the author a commission. Thank you.

Tech Tip: Rappel/Rigging Rings as Master Points

With the gaining popularity of the Girth Hitch Master Point Anchor option I am making the case for using a closed rappel or “rigging” ring as the master point instead of the commonly used locking carabiner. Some advantages of this choice;

  1. A closed rigging ring can’t be accidentally opened or left unlocked.
  2. Using a rigging ring means you save a locking carabiner in the anchor construction
  3. Adding a rigging ring to your regular kit means you will have one to leave behind should bailing be necessary (they are all cheaper than most locking carabiners)
  4. A rigging ring is “omnidirectional” so you do not need to worry about optimum loading, short axis loading, gate loading, etc.
  5. In most cases a rigging ring is lighter than a locking carabiner

Disadvantages of carrying and using a rigging ring in your kit are almost non-existent. One of the challenges is deciding which rigging ring works best for recreational/guiding in this system. To assist with that I purchased 5 of the more common rappel rings and will share the specifications and considerations for each to help you decide! Let’s start with this weight/strength/price comparison… I added a Petzl Attache Carabiner for comparison reasons.

ModelWeightStrength RatingInteral DiameterCost
SMC Aluminum Descending Ring12 grams14kN38mm$3.75
SMC Rigging Ring26 grams32kN28mm$5.95
RNA Revolution Ring, Small38 grams25kN30mm$5.99
RNA Revolution Ring, Large56 grams25kN40mm$6.99
FIXE Stainless Steel Ring86 grams35kN34mm$5.95
Petzl Attache Carabiner58 grams22/8/6 kNn/a$15.95

Now let us take a closer look at each option from lightest to heaviest and how practical each is for this application starting with…

ModelWeightStrength RatingInteral DiameterCost
SMC Aluminum Descending Ring12 grams14kN38mm$3.75
Girth Hitch Master Point Rappel Ring Anchor

The lightest and cheapest option is by far a SMC Aluminum Descending Ring. While ultra-light weight I am slightly concerned about the lower strength rating compared to other options. 14kN is over 3,000 lbs, which is a much higher force than the master point of your anchor should ever see. In a response to a REI slack online customer asking about the strength of these SMC stated “If you over tension the slack line you may notice some flex as the units start to elongate around 800 lbs”. So while these are strong “enough” for use as a master point I’d prefer something rated higher so I’m not second guessing myself while setting up a haul system or the dreaded “fall factor 2” type scenario (should never happen!). They are super cheap and light though, and easily fit three or four locking carabiners.

ModelWeightStrength RatingInteral DiameterCost
SMC Rigging Ring26 grams32kN28mm$5.95
Girth Hitch Master Point Anchor System

At about double the weight and 2.5 times the strength the SMC Rigging Ring seems like it might be perfect for this application, and it is, for two piece anchors and two person climbing parties. The issue with this ring is once you have a three-piece girth-hitch anchor internal space in the ring is a bit on the tight side to fit three locking carabiners (party of two) and impossible to fit four locking carabiners (party of three, guiding). Here’s a shot of this with a three piece anchor and you can see how tight it is.

It works but I don’t like how the carabiners bind on each other in this situation. So this would only be a good choice for two piece anchors and two person parties. Next up…

ModelWeightStrength RatingInteral DiameterCost
RNA Revolution Ring, Small38 grams25kN30mm$5.99
Girth Hitch Master Point Anchor System

A little more weight (38 grams) and a little less strength (25kN) with just 2mm more internal diameter the RNA Revolution Ring, Small works great on this three piece two person anchor. If you don’t often climb in a party of three this is a good choice. This brings us to what is becoming my favorite option…

ModelWeightStrength RatingInteral DiameterCost
RNA Revolution Ring, Large56 grams25kN40mm$6.99
Girth Hitch Master Point Anchor System

The RNA Revolution Ring, Large is my best in class for this comparison. While it weighs close to a Petzl Attache Locking Carabiner (56 grams vs Petzl Attache 58 grams) it still has a few advantages as a master point. It has plenty of space for more than 4 locking carabiners so this would be great for recreational and guided parties of 3+. It’s stronger in all directions than most aluminum locking carabiners (25 kN). It can easily accommodate a three or four piece girth hitch, and is easier to handle with gloves on (ice climbing FTW). We will finish with a quick look at the heaviest option…

ModelWeightStrength RatingInteral DiameterCost
FIXE Stainless Steel Ring86 grams35kN34mm$5.95
Girth Hitch Master Point Anchor System
Girth Hitch Master Point Anchor SystemGirth Hitch Master Point Anchor System

If you are not very concerned with weight the FIXE Stainless Steel Ring is a beast carrying a 35 kN rating with its 86 grams of weight. It can easily handle three lockers on a three piece anchor but a fourth locker would be pretty tight leaving this an option for two person parties.

Summary

Using a rigging ring is common in high angle rescue and industrial work and with the growing use of the Girth Hitch Master Point Anchor method recreational climbers and guides should consider the use of closed rings to create their master points for the advantages stated at the beginning of this post. No one anchor solution is appropriate for all situations and you should certainly practice this on the ground and seek qualified instruction and mentorship before trusting your life to any advice in this post. That said I think this method works quite well when appropriate and I expect it will be one of my common builds when multi-pitch climbing whether it be rock or ice (though I think this will really shine this winter while ice climbing).

Discount Purchase

After purchasing and testing these rings I let Rock N Rescue know their RNA Revolution Ring, Large was my “best in class” for this purpose and then they offered my readers a 10% discount on any purchases from their website with coupon code “AlpineStart10“. If you decide to add one of these to your kits you can save a little money on the purchase and at they the same time support the content I create here (this discount code will also earn me 10% of the purchase).

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: Some links above are affiliate links. Making a purchase after visiting one of those links sends a small commission my way and keeps this blog going. Thank you!

Tech Tip: Girth Hitch Master Point Anchor System

Girth Hitch Master Point Anchor System

I’ve been using the Girth Hitch Master Point (GHMP) Anchor System for a little over a year now having learned it from the great educational social media feeds of Dale Remsberg and Cody Bradford. Recent testing on the method was conducted by Derek DeBruin and John Sohl the Petzl facility in Salt Lake City and they published these results.

TL:DR Version:

“The girth hitch is a viable solution for the master point for anchor rigging, provided that;

1) Approximately 5cm of slip is within the climbing party’s risk tolerance

2) The girth hitch is cinched snugly by hand and body weight prior to use. This applies to a variety of rigging materials, such as HMPE or nylon slings or cord, as well as material conditions, whether new or used, dry or wet.” – Derek DeBruin

Best Uses:

There’s quite a few places this system could be well applied. It is primarily a solution for multi-pitch climbing. This isn’t a great option for constructing anchors that will be used for top-rope climbing. On a multi-pitch route with bolted belay stations I might even consider keeping a sling rigged with this system (much like how I keep a pre-tied mini-quad on my harness). Even if the bolts at the next station are not exactly the same distance apart you only need to loosen the hitch a bit to properly adjust it. On a multi-pitch route with traditional gear anchors a double-length Dyneema sling is a light & fast option for rigging this system. Multi-pitch ice climbing is where I see perhaps the greatest benefit as rigging this with gloves on will often be achievable with just an alpine-draw and good ice.

Here’s a video I created showing the method along with some suggestions, namely utilizing a full strength closed rappel ring as a master point instead of a locking carabiner, which adds security and saves a locking carabiner for other uses.

Summary

Because this is a material efficient and proven redundant glove friendly system I plan on keeping it in my growing “tool kit” of options. I still carry one mini-quad with me when I prefer independent master points (more comfortable for a party of three) and use it often as a glove friendly redundant rappel extension. The advantages over tying a more traditional old school pre-equalized cordelette anchor are great enough that I see less and less reason for ever taking my cordelette off the back of my harness. I still carry it for self-rescue purposes but newer anchor methods like the GHMP and mini-quad seem to solve most anchor problems more effectively. I’m stopping by REI today to pick up one a SMC Rigging Ring which is almost half the weight of the stainless steel one I used in the video. You should consider adding this to your tool kit!

Product Giveaways!

I’m running two giveaways at the moment. You can enter to win a SOL Emergency Bivvy Sack before the end of the month in the raffle at the bottom of this review of SOL survival products! You can also enter to win a camming device of your choice* by competing in an anchor building contest that ends at the end of October… rules for that contest are at this Instagram post.

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: Climbing is dangerous, you could die following any advice from this post. Seek qualified instruction and mentorship. Affiliate links above support the content created at Northeast Alpine Start.

*cam will be selected by the winner from any in-stock cam at International Mountain Equipment in North Conway, NH. Free shipping within the US.

Gear Review: SOL (Survive Outdoors Longer) Survival Gear and BIVVY SACK GIVEAWAY!

September is National Prepardness Month so it was well-timed that I received a handful of SOL products from Adventure Ready Brands. The company was founded in 1973 in Littleton, NH and manufactures the world-famous insect bite treatment, After Bite®, a full line of well-known insect repellents such as Ben’s® and Natrapel®, first-aid such as Adventure Medical Kits® and Easy Care First Aid kits, survival products with Survive Outdoors Longer®, and burn remedy products such as AfterBurn®.

In the following video I show the features of the products I received and share some opinions on them. Adventure Ready Brands does not sell direct to customer so I tracked down some outdoor retailers that have these items in stock and provide direct links to the products at these retailers below. These are affiliate links, so if you do end up buying something after using the link I will see a small commission at no additional cost to you. Hey, thank you! Thank really helps keep this blog going!

SOL Rescue Floating Signal Mirror from Backcountry.com

SOL Rescue Floating Signal Mirror (Two Pack) from Amazon.com

SOL Fire Lite Fuel-Free Lighter from Backcountry.com

SOL Fire Lite Fuel-Free Lighter from REI.com

SOL Fire Lite Fuel-Free Lighter from Amazon.com

SOL Stoke Pivot Knife & Saw from Backcountry.com

SOL Stoke Pivot Knife & Saw from REI.com

SOL Stoke Pivot Knife & Saw from Amazon.com

SOL Stoke Camp Hatchet from Backcountry.com

SOL Stoke Camp Hatchet from REI.com

SOL Stoke Camp Hatchet from Amazon.com

SOL Emergency Bivvy with Rescue Whistle & Tinder Cord from Amazon.com

To enter the giveaway for a brand new SOL Emergency Bivy Sack just click the Rafflecopter link below for all the ways you can earn entries! Contest at 11:59pm EST on September 30th, 2021! Good luck!

SOL Emergency Bivvy GIVEAWAY!!!

CONTEST OVER! Congrats to Angel L.!

See you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start

Media samples were provided for purpose of review. Affiliate links above support the content created at Northeast Alpine Start.

Half Day Skills Clinics are Back!

I’m excited to announce I’m offering half day skills clinics again from now through October! In addition to previous offerings I have added a “Improved Sport Climbing at Rumney, NH” clinic with details below! Dates still open will be listed below. If you see a clinic you would like to attend and the date is sill available message me through the contact form at the bottom. Once I confirm the date is still available you will be invoiced from Northeast Mountaineering and we will lock the date down!

Pricing

1 person* $175 2 person* $250 3 person $330 4 person $400

Hours

10am – 2pm

Improved Sport Climbing, Rumney NH

Sport Climbing Rumney NH
Rumney

This is a custom 4 hour curriculum designed for the gym climber who is transitioning to lead climbing outside or has already been doing some outdoor sport leading but could polish their skills. A general list of topics covered; Crag Selection, Rope Management, The Partner Check (more than just a belay check), Quickdraw Orientation, Clipping Technique, Proper Rope Positioning, Avoiding Back-Clipping, Avoiding Z-Clipping, Lead Belayer Skills, Safer Falling, Ground Anchors, Top-Rope Anchors, Cleaning Sport Anchors, Lowering vs. Rappelling, Clear Communication.

For those who are lead climbing or ready to take the sharp end you will be able to lead multiple routes within your ability. The focus will be on systems and not pushing your on-sight level.

Top-Rope Climbing at Square Ledge

Rock Climbing Square Ledge
Foliage as of 9/26/20 from the top of Square Ledge

If you have never rock climbed before you can’t pick a better place to try it than Square Ledge in Pinkham Notch. A short 25 minute hike brings us to this 140 tall cliff with amazing views of Mount Washington and it is just covered in good hand and foot holds. There are climbs here that anyone can do! A great choice to see if you’ll like outdoor rock climbing, and the foliage is really starting to show up there!

Guided Multi-Pitch Climb, Upper Refuse, Cathedral

Rock Climbing Cathedral Ledge
Reaching the top of Upper Refuse, Cathedral Ledge, 9/27/20

This three pitch 5.6 climb on Cathedral Ledge is an excellent introduction to multi-pitch traditional climbing and happens to offer an incredible view of Mount Washington Valley. You should have some prior outdoor top-roping experience for this clinic. *only available for 1 person or 2 person groups

Self Rescue and Multi-pitch Efficiency

Self Rescue Course Cathedral Ledge
Photo from Fall 2020, masks currently not required outside for vaccinated participants

This skills based program will help intermediate and experienced sport and trad climbers acquire the skills necessary to perform a self-rescue and improve your overall efficiency on multi-pitch climbs. The curriculum includes improvised hauling systems, belay escapes, smooth transition techniques, and rope ascension. A solid foundation in basic belaying, rappelling, and lead climbing will help you make the most of this program.

Dates Still Available*

September 13, 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23, 27, 28, 29, 30

October 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30

Interested? Just fill out this form and include your billing address, phone number, the date(s) and which program you would like to book and I will get back to you as soon as possible to confirm the date is still available and Northeast Mountaineering will invoice you!

See you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start

Affiliate links above support this blog.

Gear Review- AKU Rock DFS Approach Shoes

It’s no secret I have a thing for approach shoes. I’m lucky that I get to demo so many models each year. Occasionally a pair really stick out to me as a well designed high performing standout. The Italian made AKU Rock DFS Approach Shoes are this season’s stand out and I’m excited to finally share my experiences and thoughts on this shoe and brand!

Let’s start with how I tested:

Test period: Early May – Late August

Use: Day hiking in the White Mountains, approx. 50 miles and 16,000 feet of elevation gain/loss. Summited Mount Washington, Cardigan, Jackson, and Mount Chocorua wearing these.

AKU Rock DFS Approach Shoes Review

Manufacturer Description:

The DFS Rock collection uses a ground breaking Dual Fit System (“DFS”) to give you both maximum comfort during your approach and high performance fit while climbing and scrambling. The Rock DFS has two separate lace zones that utilize lightweight webbing that wraps around and under your foot which enables you to customize your shoe for the fit you want. The Rock DFS midsole incorporates a lightweight EVA foam for cushioning and a polyurethane heel for durability and support. The midsole is then wrapped with sticky climbing rubber to protect your shoe and to provide extra grip. Together with a Vibram Approcciosa sole with Megagrip, the resulting Rock DFS offers a high-performance approach shoe for all day comfort.

DUAL FIT SYSTEM
AKU’s DFS collection of approach shoes allows for optimum enjoyment and maximum confidence over the most demanding terrain. Whether you’re on flat trails or going vertical, AKU DFS shoes will take you there in comfort.

VIBRAM APPROACH
The VIBRAM Approach sole is designed to make quick work of trails while giving also giving you the confidence to edge and smear on your climb.

AKU ELICA TECHNOLOGY
ELICA Technology ensures an anatomical fit to provide better stability and weight distribution across your boot sole to reduce pressure points and encourage better hiking form.

  • Upper: 1.6mm Suede Leather, Air 8000 & Microfiber
  • Lasting board (stiffness): Soft Flex
  • Footbed: Ortholite Hybrid
  • Midsole: Dual Density EVA & PU
  • Outsole: VIBRAM® Approach
  • Upper protection: Rubber Rand
  • Weight Per Shoe: 380 Grams

AKU Rock DFS Approach Shoes Review

Opinions:

It is hard for me to pick the attribute I liked the most out of these shoes so I’ll randomly start with…

Comfort

Out of the box these fit my feet perfectly. AKU suggests to order a half size smaller than your “normal AKU boot size” for a “performance fit”. I’ve never worn an AKU boot before so this suggestion wouldn’t help me. I went with my normal US 8.5, EUR 42 that works well for me for LaSportiva boots and shoes and the fit was perfect. The toe box had plently of room while still maintaining a slim profile, and the heel cup was shaped perfect for my feet with zero slippage while ascending granite slabs. The footbed and midsoles offer great cushioning over our rocky and root ridden trails. The soft flex lasting board also kept my feet from feeling sore after many above tree line miles.

Advanced Lacing

The two separate “lace zones” definitely helps these shoes standout in the category. There is a typical toe to top of ankle style lacing system then a shorter quick lace system on top of the lower part of the foot. The idea is you can have them laced comfortably for a long approach and then crank the quick pull system tight for more technical scrambling. While it might sound gimmicky at first in reality this system works great! I wore them comfortably laced up the famous Huntington Ravine Trail (often referred to as the most dangerous hiking trail in the White Mountains) then tightened the secondary lacing system for the 1000 foot semi-technical scramble out of the ravine. The snug more precise fit was comforting both on these section and while technical rock climbing YDS 5.5 face climbing across the road at Square Ledge.

Traction/Grip

AKU Rock DFS Approach Shoes Review

AKU uses a Vibram Approcciosa sole with Megagrip and with a “soft flex” lasting board I found the traction of these to be excellent. I tested them on wet rock slabs and steep muddy trails around Ripley Falls. The performance in this category is excellent.

Durability

The thickness of the outsole combined with the full circumference rubber toe rand gives me confidence in the overall durability of these. It is sometimes difficult to talk about durability after just a few months of use but close inspection of these inspires confidence in all levels of construction. They truly look and feel “Italian” made and I would predict these easily lasting over 1k miles.

Company Values/History

Liking a product a company makes is already a bonus for me, but when that company is authentic and socially responsible that’s icing on my cake! If you’d like to learn a little more about AKU’s history and philosophies check out this five minute YouTube video:

Summary

This is the first AKU shoe I have ever demo’d and I’m highly impressed with the brand after this experience. I’ll definitely be trying one of their mountaineering boots, hopefully this winter. If you are shopping for a new pair of approach shoes or a great below the ankle day hiker this is an Italian made model that performs as advertised and doesn’t break the bank. I plan on summiting many more of New Hampshire’s 4000 footers in these (between finding time to test other brands/models). I highly recommend trying a pair of these.

Purchase: You can purchase these directly from AKU. The men’s models come in both the regular version and a Goretex model, as well as a Mid version for those who desire more ankle support. The women’s model is currently only available in the Goretex version.

The author purchased these for purpose of review. Affiliate links above help support the content created on Northeast Alpine Start. Thank you.

Gear Review: Adventure Medical Kits MOLLE 1.0 Trauma First Aid Kit

I’ve been sent a few of the new models from Adventure Medical Kits to review and will be sharing some thoughts on these models the next few weeks. The first one I am covering is the MOLLE Bag Trauma Kit 1.0. Reviewing a first aid kit is a bit of a challenge as a big part of my role as a climbing guide is to avoid and prevent injury before it occurs. However with over 16 years of guiding and volunteer rescue experience I have some opinions of what should be in a first aid kit, so I hope to share some of that experience with you if you are in need of a first aid kit. Let’s start with a pretty solid disclaimer:

The absolute best thing you can do to prepare yourself for a medical emergency in the wilderness is take an actual Wilderness First Aid Course. No first aid kit, book, or self-study, can better prepare you for handling an injury or illness in the mountains than a quality course taught by professionals on the subject. I highly recommend the amazing instructors and staff at the renowned SOLO Schools in Conway NH. They offer courses all over the country so please consider finding one that you can make it so you will be better prepared for the unexpected!

Now for the details of this kit, let’s start with the manufacturer basics and an inventory of what is included:

Revie

Manufacturer Description

MOLLE BAG TRAUMA KIT 1.0 Be ready for anything when you’re in the field with the AMK Molle Bag Trauma Kit 1.0, designed to work with your tactical modular bag system and to equip you with the supplies you need to venture 1 – 2 days away from your base. The 2-foot QuikClot dressing included stops life-threatening bleeding fast, while the bandages, dressings, and medications enable you to address other wounds, bleeding, and fractures or sprains, while keeping the patient comfortable as you make your way back to camp or await rescue.

  • Stop Bleeding Fast
    Control bleeding with QuikClot® hemostatic gauze, which acts on contact to stop bleeding five times faster. The gauze is impregnated with kaolin, a mineral that accelerates your body’s natural clotting process.
  • Wilderness & Travel Medicine: A Comprehensive Guide
    Know how to provide life-saving medical care. Written by wilderness medicine expert Eric A. Weiss, MD, this book includes over 50 improvised techniques and 100 illustrations for treating outdoor injuries and illnesses.
  • Manage Pain and Illness
    A wide array of medications to treat pain, inflammation, and common allergies.
  • Metal Buttoned Straps
    With integrated metal buttoned straps, this kit easily attaches to your favorite gear for easy access.

KIT DETAILS

  • Size:7.87 x 5.51 x 3.54
  • Weight:.9 lbs
  • Group Size:1 Person
  • Trip Duration:1 – 2 Days

Supply List

  • 3 – Triple Antibiotic Ointment
  • 8 – Antiseptic Wipe
  • 3 – After Bite® Wipe
  • 4 – Pain Reliever/Fever Reducer (Aspirin 325 mg)
  • 2 – Antihistamine (Diphenhydramine 25 mg)
  • 4 – Pain Reliever/Fever Reducer (Ibuprofen 200 mg)
  • 4 – Pain Reliever/Fever Reducer (Acetaminophen 500 mg)
  • 1 – Petrolatum Dressing, 3″” x 3″”
  • 1 – Wilderness & Travel Medicine: A Comprehensive Guide
  • 1 – QKCLT Z-Fold Gauze 2 Ft
  • 2 – Trauma Pad, 5” x 9”, 1 ea.
  • 3 – Adhesive Bandage, Fabric, Knuckle
  • 5 – Adhesive Bandage, Fabric, 1″” x 3″”
  • 2 – Sterile Gauze Dressing, 4″” x 4″”
  • 2 – Sterile Gauze Dressing, 2″” x 2″”
  • 1 – Sterile Non-Adherent Dressing, 3″” x 4″”
  • 1 – Cloth Tape, 1/2″” x 10 Yards
  • 2 – Bandage, Butterfly Closure
  • 2 – Latex-Free Glove
  • 14 – Moleskin, Pre-Cut/Shaped
  • 1 – Bandage, Elastic, Cohesive Self Adhering, 2″”
  • 1 – Splinter/Tick Remover Forceps
  • 3 – Safety Pin
  • 1 – EMT Shears, 4″”

Here’s a short video where I open the kit up and go through the contents with some comments:

Opinions:

As mentioned it can be difficult to review a piece of outdoor gear that you hope to not use, and are less likely to use with proper preparation and planning. That said a first aid kit should be part of every outdoor enthusiasts “kit”, and this one is well designed for military and hunting/fishing use. The ballistic nylon is coated and the bag itself feels quite robust and weather resistent. It’s a good baseline in your emergency preparedness plan but there are a couple items I would add. The most obvious for me is a SAM Splint… since the description specifically mentions the contents “address… fractures or sprains” I think a SAM Splint would have been a great addition. Granted, those who have gone through a quality Wilderness First Aid course will learn multiple ways to implement splinting material, and you can easily add one yourself for around $15 from Amazon.

The other addition I’d like to see in most first aid kits is a disposable CPR mask. Granted, you need training to use a CPR mask but these disposable masks cost less that $1 each and I think they belong in every first aid and attached to every set of car keys in the country. If you would like to become certified in CPR you can easily find a course from the Red Cross here.

One of the best things included in this kit is the book, “Wilderness & Travel Medicine: A Comprehensive Guide” by Eric A. Weiss, MD. This updated book is over 200 pages long and is in a great format. I especially like the “Weiss Advice” insets and “When to Worry” side bars… This is a great book to brush up on your skills after a Wilderness First Aid course or to pre-study before you take your course!

Adventure Medical Kits MOLLE Trauma Kit 1.0 Review

Some other opinions around these details:

Size (listed above)… this is a big kit for most hikers/climbers/skiers… this is well suited for military/hunting/fishing or as part of your vehicle/home emergency preparedness plan.

Weight– Less than a pound and can be even lighter if you leave the book at home.

Group Size– Listed as “1 person” this is where I feel AMK is underselling the kit. This is definitely a “group sized” first aid kit in my opinion, suitable for 3-4 people for a few days.

Duration– Same as above, listed as 1-2 days I think this kit is suitable for up to week long trips (especially if you supplement it a little bit with personal first aid items).

Summary

This first aid kit is specifically designed to attach to “MOLLE” type packs making it great for those who already use these style of packs (mostly military/law enforcement and some hunting/fishing enthusiasts). It is probably not the right choice for ultra-light hikers, climbers, trail runners, etc (no worries I have a couple other models to review soon more geared to that user-group). There is plenty of extra room in the ballistic pouch to add your own additional items (mine would be SAM Splint, EpiPen, extra headlamp, a couple glow sticks, and a bottle of iodine). If you are already a MOLLE user or looking for a solid kit to add to the “go bag” this is a good place to start!

Purchase: You can find the Adventure Medical Kit’s MOLLE Bag Trauma Kit 1.0 at here at Cabela’s.

A media sample was provided for review. Affiliate links above support the content created here at no additional cost to you. Thank you.

Gear Review- Black Diamond Fuel Approach Shoes

Black Diamond Fuel Approach Shoes Review

Black Diamond has released their most advanced approach shoes yet this past Spring, the Black Diamond Fuel Approach Shoes. I’ve been testing a pair for the last few weeks and am ready to share my take on their comfort and performance. First lets look at the manufacturer claims and specifications.

Manufacturer Description

Engineered for days when the word “approach” actually involves full-on climbing, the Fuel is our most technical performance shoe. The Fuel’s upper combines breathable EnduroKnit, a durable stretch woven lateral panel, and welded TPU film overlays for maximum durability and precision fit. The internally overlapping tongue allows for fewer seams and a sleek comfortable fit with minimal bulk, while the lace-to-toe construction features webbing and scalloped eyelets for variable, adjustable fit and tensioning to suit different conditions. A climbing-specific forefoot construction allows for exceptional edge control and our BlackLabel Mountain rubber is ultra-sticky for superior grip on rock. Finally, a tag-loop on the heel and tongue gives you the option to clip the Fuels to your harness once you rope up.

  • Capable of easy 5th class climbing with confidence and comfort.
  • Upper construction of Black Diamond developed knit and woven textiles with welded TPU film overlays for adaptable fit and maximum durability
  • Low profile molded collar padding and lining
  • Protected lateral laces and smooth upper construction
  • Overlap tongue means fewer internal seams for precision fit
  • Lace to toe with webbing and scalloped eyelets for adjustable fit and tension depending on conditions Functional climbing forefoot construction for edging control and durability
  • Tuned dual density EVA midsole with stiffness and comfort
  • Black Diamond BlackLabel Mountain is a high performance sticky rubber
  • Rubber toe protection
  • Multiple webbing loops for tagging options

Tech Specs

  • MaterialsPolyester Enduro Knit, EVA Midsole, BD BlackLabel-Mountain Rubber
  • Size RangeM’s US 6-14 1/2 sizes
  • WeightEACH: 312 g (11 oz)
Black Diamond Fuel Approach Shoes Review

My opinions…

Out of the box the first thing I noticed was the lightweight feel. My US Size 9 pair weighs 1 pound 5 ounces (600 grams) which is slightly lighter than the manufacturer claimed weight an about an ounce heavier than my LaSportiva TX 2’s. A fair comparison in terms of weight and support would be closer made to the LaSportiva TX Guide approach shoes.

The second most notable feature was the welded “TPU film overlays” especially on the upper around the heel. I’ve seen this technology used in high end waterproof jackets and using it on an approach shoe not only gives the shoe a very high tech look but also inspires confidence in the long term durability of the shoe.

Fit/Comfort

I went with a US Men’s size 9, EUR 42, and the fit was pretty spot on for my medium width regular arch foot. I probably could have sized down a half size but with a full length lacing system I was able to snug these up sufficiently for low 5th class climbing. I did notice some heel lift while wearing them around the house on Day one of testing but interestingly when hiking around Rumney NH I didn’t notice the heel lift. The heel cup could definitely be a little deeper. The wrap style tongue and padding was quite comfortable while testing with and without socks… something to consider in hot weather these actually felt pretty comfortable without socks. The EVA midsole provided plenty of under foot support and had noticeably more cushioning in the heel than other approach shoes in this category.

Performance

In class 2, 3, and 4 terrain these perform well as approach shoes. They definitely had adequate grip and comfort over 4-5 mile trips in New Hampshire’s rugged White Mountains. To test them in fifth class terrain I climbed a half dozen routes at Rumney, NH ranging from 5.3 to 5.7. They felt more secure while edging vs. smearing which I think may be in part to the rubber used in the outsole. The “BlackLabel Mountain rubber” feels a little stiffer than the compounds used in competing brands which makes these feel like the soles will have longevity with a small reduction in the coefficient of friction. As I’ve found with most approach shoes I’ve tested the friction can improve as the soles break in a bit. I usually have maximum confidence in my smear-ability once the “dots” on the soles have been worn down and the bottom of the approach shoe looks more like the bottom of a climbing shoe. Perhaps after a full season of use I’ll feel these smear a bit better.

Durability

It’s not easy to speak to much on durability when my testing window is only a few weeks long. That said a close look at the construction of these inspires confidence you will not wear through a pair of these in a couple seasons. They would certainly outlast some similar models with the futuristic welded seams and significant toe rand.

Black Diamond Fuel Approach Shoes Review

Summary

The Black Diamond Fuel Approach Shoes are a welcome addition to the growing list of approach shoes. The price and features puts them up against shoes like the LaSportiva TX Guide approach shoes and they certainly can compete. A slightly deeper heel cup would be nice and a softening and smoothing of the outsole over time will likely increase the security while heading up slabby terrain. I also think it is great that Black Diamond is producing a women’s version since options for women’s approach shoes haven’t always been there. If you are in need of some new approach shoes this is a model to consider, especially if you’ve worn Black Diamond climbing shoes before and know their sizing fits your feet!

Black Diamond Fuel Approach Shoes Review
Black Diamond Fuel Approach Shoes Review

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

A media sample was provided for purpose of review. Affiliate links above support the content created on this blog. Thank you.

Gear Review- Osprey Poco Kid Carrier

This is a different kind of “review” than I normally post as both my kids have now outgrown our beloved Osprey Poco Premium Kid Carrier that we used for over 7 years and close to 250 trail miles in the White Mountains. In fact this item was probably the most important item I owned when I first started blogging with my “Adventure With Alex” blog… a father/son hiking journal… If you scroll through some of those older posts of the now suspended blog you’ll see this iconic backpack all over the place, including probably our most memorable which was Alex’s first 4000 footer, Mount Washington!

Plus

While our days using this pack have ended seeing Osprey continue to improve the design and create what I felt was the best kid carrier on the market 10 years ago, including a new “LT” model that is about 3 pounds lighter than our older “Premium” model, has inspired me to share this with other newer adventurous parents who might follow me!

If you’re looking for the best kid carrier backpack available consider one of these three models…

Osprey Poco

Osprey Poco LT <- lightest and most affordable

Osprey Poco Plus <- deluxe with removable kid sized day pack and most storage

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Tech Tip- Snap Bowline with Yosemite Finish

The bowline is an excellent knot for securing your climbing rope around an object, most commonly a tree. You might be securing the bottom of a stacked rope while top-roping to “close the system” while also creating a handy ground anchor if needed, or fixing a rope for a single strand rappel while scrubbing your next project. In this short video I demonstrate the traditional “scouts” way of tying it as well as the alternative “snap” method (I refer to this also as the “handshake” method). I also demonstrate an alternative way of finishing the knot with a Yosemite finish. If you like this type of content please subscribe to the YouTube Channel and I’ll keep producing videos like this throughout the summer!

See you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start