Cascades Climbing Trip Gear List

Those who know me know I can be a little obsessive about gear. I enjoy making detailed gear lists for trips sometimes weighing everything down to the ounce. I shared my first gear list for ski touring in Iceland this past April and most recently in a trip report for climbing Mount Shuksan in the Cascades. Since I have two more trip reports for the Cascades coming soon I’ve decided to give the gear list its own post that can be easily linked too without taking up so much space in the trip report.

Packing for Cascades Climbing Trip
Packing for Cascades Climbing Trip

Having over 20 years in outdoor retail I love chatting about gear so if you have any questions about any of my recommendations, or suggestions for better products, please comment below!


Cascades Gear List


Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack

Hyperlight Mountain Gear 3400 Ice Pack

At just over 2 pounds this pack has enough space for 3-4 day alpine endeavor’s, rides comfortably, and is made of materials that will last for over a decade of adventure! Also made in Maine!

Buy from Hyperlite Mountain Gear


Black Diamond HiLight Tent

Black Diamond HiLite Tent

A super lightweight and pack-able 2 person single wall tent. I spent 12 nights in this from car camping between climbs to dug in at 11,000 feet at Ingraham Flats on Rainier and the tent performed perfectly through-out!

Buy on Backcountry       Buy on Amazon


Western Mountaineering TerraLite 25 Degree Sleeping Bag

Western Mountaineering TerraLite 25 Degree Sleeping Bag

This was the best gear purchase I’ve made in over a decade. I have a few sleeping bags from a great heritage -30 EMS down bag to a fairly light 35 degree synthetic sleeping bag but I decided to upgrade for this trip and I could not have been happier for my first Western Mountaineering sleeping bag! I’ll go into greater detail in a review later but for now I’ll just say I slept GREAT in this compressible lightweight sleeping bag!

Buy on Backcountry          Buy on Amazon


Sea to Summit Reactor Thermolite Sleeping Bag Liner

Sea to Summit Reactor Thermolite Sleeping Bag Liner

This goes with me everywhere. It’s super comfy on airplanes as a blanket and in hostels around the world. I also like that it keeps my expensive down sleeping bag clean (extending its life) even after weeks of griming sleeping!

Buy on Backcountry         Buy on Amazon


Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Mattress

Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Mattress

I upgraded from my older, heavier, bulkier Therm-a-Rest Prolite sleeping pad with this in “short” and doubled it up with the closed cell foam pad listed below. It was a great combo for both warmth and comfort!

Buy on Backcountry      Buy on Amazon


Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite Mattress

Therm-a-Rest RidgeREst SOLite Mattress

Affordable added warmth and comfort, I used a full length model to pair with the short model mentioned above for a very comfortable and adaptable combo.

Buy on Backcountry         Buy on Amazon


MSR WindBoiler 1.0 L Stove System

MSR WindBoiler 1.0 L Stove System

This stove was amazing on this trip! Super fast and efficient for melting snow I could easily budget just 2 ounces of fuel per person per day assuming we had water sources at Lake Ann and below Winnie’s Slide bivy site.

Buy on Amazon       Buy on Backcountry


Food

For dinner and breakfast I went with Mountain House meals. The egg scrambles were one of my favorite. For a dinner appetizer I carried a Lipton noodle soup packet and combined it with a Miso soup packet, great for replacing lost sodium and electrolytes! The Mountain House Pad Thai and Chicken Fajita Bowl both tasted great!


Sea To Summit Delta Spork With Knife

Sea to Summit Delta Spork

Simple lightweight option to make meal time easy!

Buy on Backcountry        Buy on Amazon


Arcteryx Acrux Mountaineering Boots

Arc'teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boots

My mountaineering boots of choice, full review of them here. While I LOVE these boots for my cold New England ice climbing and mountaineering adventures they turned out to be a little too warm for Shuksan and Forbidden (but perfect for Rainier, more on that later). My co-guide Jordan who has been having a banner season in the Cascades was rocking the Salomon S-Lab X Alpine Carbon 2 GTX Boots… these things look AWESOME! Basically comfy enough for long warmish approaches, crampon compatible, and climb rock really well… I will be getting a pair of these before my next summer Cascade adventure!

Buy Acrux AR Mountaineering Boots on Backcountry       Buy on Amazon

Buy Salomon S-Lab X Alpine Carbon 2 GTX Boots on Backcountry      Buy on Amazon


Petzl Vasak Leverlock Crampons

Petzl Vasak Crampons

Make sure you select the Leverlock or FL option! Great all around mountaineering crampon in my book! I have led grade 5 ice in them and walked hundreds of miles in them from Washington to Katahdin over the last decade and they are still going strong! I do plan to shave a little weight for these longer glaciated non-water ice routes by picking up a pair of Petzl Leopard Crampons soon!

Buy Petzl Vasak Crampons on Backcountry          On Amazon

Buy Petzl Leopard on Backcountry        On Amazon


Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles

Leki Micro Vario Carbon Trekking Poles

The lightest most compatible trekking poles I have ever seen! I’ve been loving these! I’ve used them all over the White Mountains including a 2 hour car-to-car ascent of the Northeast Ridge of the Pinnacle! You can see them during one attempt in this video.

Buy on Backcountry        Buy on Amazon


Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe

Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe

This has been my mountaineering axe for almost 15 years and is the right balance of weight and durability.

Buy on Backcounty       Buy on Amazon


Petzl Sirocco Helmet

Petzl Sirocco Helmet

Finally got the latest version of this iconic helmet and went into a ton of detail in a long form review last month here!

Buy on Backcountry       Buy on Amazon


Petzl Sitta Harness

Petzl Sitta Harness

I brought this harness for the more technical climbing on Shuksan and Forbidden and my full review of it is here.

Buy on Backcountry       Buy on Amazon


Petzl Altitude Harness

Petzl Altitude Harness

I brought this harness for the less technical Disappointment Cleaver route on Mount Rainier. Super lightweight, pack-able, and able to put on while wearing skis. It is everything I want in a mountaineering harness. Detailed review coming soon.

Buy on Backcountry       Buy on Amazon


Petzl CORDEX Lightweight Belay Gloves

Petzl CORDEX Lightweight Belay Gloves

If ropes are involved these come with me. They were perfect for the warmer daytime glacier temps and offer great protection for rappelling, short-roping, etc.

Buy on Backcountry      Buy on Amazon


Sterling Evolution Duetto Dry Rope, 30m 8.4mm

Sterling Rope Evolution Duetto Dry Rope

A solid choice for glacier and ski mountaineering trips.

Buy on Backcountry      Buy on Amazon


MSR Snow Picket 60 cm

MSR Snow Picket

Two per rope team is ideal! I also pre-rigged this with a double length Dyneema sling and Petzl Ange S carabiner.

Buy on Amazon


AMK .7 First Aid Kit

AMK .7 First Aid Kit

I customize mine a little but this is a great base kit at the price!

Buy on Backountry      Buy on Amazon


Suunto MC-2 Compass

Suunto MC-2 Compass

My favorite and trusted compass/clinometer for the last two decades!

Buy on Amazon


Nalgene Tritan 32 oz water bottle

Nalgene Tritan 32oz Wide Mouth Bottle

A staple of every outdoor adventure, I carry two of these for my hydration needs!

Buy on Backcountry    Buy on Amazon


SOL Emergency Bivy Sack

SOL Emergency Bivy Sack

Super affordable and weighs less than 4 ounces means there is never a reason not to bring this!

Buy on Amazon


Revo Cusp S Sunglasses

I have the Solar Orange lens on this pair for lower light conditions

Buy on Amazon


SPOT Satelite GPS Messenger

SPOT 3 Satelitte GPS Messenger

Cell phone service is very spotty on Mount Shuksan. I was able to find a bar or two of service (Verizon) at Lake Ann (southwest side) and send and receive a few text messages. We had no service at the bivy site at the top of Fisher Chimney’s however I was able to FaceTime my wife from the summit! For the times with no service the SPOT GPS Messenger easily allowed me to send “check-in” messages home and in my opinion is an important piece of rescue gear should an incident occur.

Buy on Amazon


Petzl Actik Headlamp

Petzl Actik Core Headlamp

I recently upgraded from my older Petzl Myo model and this new model is awesome! Up to 260 hours of burn time and able to through light 90 meters! If you’re due for a headlamp upgrade I highly suggest you check out this model!

Buy on Amazon


Petzl Zipka Headlamp

Petzl Zipka Headlamp

I always carry a spare headlamp on multi-day adventures and this is my choice back-up model. It’s small enough to fit in my first aid kit but still bright enough to function as a real headlamp.

Buy on Backcountry       Buy on Amazon


Quality Survival Lighter

UST Floating Lighter

Fire-starter is on every gear list, and this one is a good value!

Buy on Amazon


Garmin Fenix 3 HR GPS watch

Garmin Fenix 3 HR Watch

My current favorite GPS navigation capable smart-watch with optical heart-rate! This is the watch I used to create the GPS tracks linked in the trip report. It also allows one-button waypoint saving and the built in barometer/altimeter was a nice plus to our navigation plans.

Buy on Amazon


GoPro Hero 5 Session

GoPro Hero5 Session

A great little HD cam with advanced features beyond this post. You can see some of the footage about a minute into my Forbidden Peak video!

Buy on Backcountry      Buy on Amazon


Anker PowerCore 10000 Charger for iPhone, GoPro, etc

Anker PowerCore 10000

This thing was great! About the size of a deck of cards it packs 10,000mAh which easily provided 4 full re-charges for my iPhone 6s and still have 50% juice left!

Buy on Amazon

Clothing


Black Diamond Alpine Start Hooded Jacket

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hooded Jacket

I absolutely love this piece and went into great detail about it in an in-depth review here.

Buy on Backcountry       Buy on Amazon


Black Diamond Alpine Pant

Black Diamond Alpine Pants

I’ve been wearing these back east for most of my Spring/Summer climbing season with multiple trips in Huntington Ravine and through-out the White Mountains so I felt confident taking them as my main climbing pant to the Cascades. Having essentially lived in them for two weeks of non-stop climbing I can whole heartedly endorse the comfort and performance of these soft-shell pants!

Buy on Backcountry     Buy on Amazon


Patagonia Technical Sunshade Hooded Shirt

Patagonia Technical Sunshade Hooded Shirt

This is in my opinion the most critical piece of glacier clothing you can own. I reviewed it in detail here but on a shade-less blazing glacier this one garment offers more protection and comfort than any other article of clothing I own. I’ve said it before and I will keep saying it… EVERY climber should own one of these! I do have a small cult following of “sunshade hoodies” who have “seen the light” or better yet “appreciate the shade” that these things bring… just get one and thank me later ok?

Buy on Backcountry


 Clothing to be linked soon:

Arcteryx Mid-weight Synthetic Insulated Hoody

Patagonia Fitz Roy Belay Parka

EMS Powerstretch Climb Hoodie

EMS Powerstretch Long Underwear Pants

One synthetic T-shirt

One Ortovox Rock & Roll Boxers

One pair midweight socks

One pair heavyweight socks

One pair lightweight glove liners

One pair midweight Outdoor Research Project Gloves

Outdoor research sun ball cap

iPhone 6s+ with headphones & charger


Crevasse Rescue Kit- Petzl Micro Traxion, SL OK, Tibloc, Sm’D, Oscilla
Personal Climbing Gear- Kong GiGi with Black Diamond Magnetron and Gridlock, Magnetron and Petzl Reverso 4, Cordelette with Petzl Ange S, 2 prussiks, knife, Petzl Cordex Belay Gloves on Petzl Ange S, Petzl Attache anchor biner
Group climbing gear- Alpine Rack and Draws
Group climbing gear- Sterling Nano IX 60m rope
Group climbing gear- Sterling Nano IX 28m rope

Thanks for reading! Got a question or comment? Please comment below and stay tuned for next week’s trip report of The West Ridge of Forbidden Peak!

Part 1: Fisher Chimney’s, Mount Shuksan

Part 2: The West Ridge, Forbidden Peak

Part 3: Disappointment Cleaver, Mount Rainier

Affiliate links help support this blog

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.
ACRUX AR MOUNTAINEERING BOOT Review
Photo by Brent Doscher Photography

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.

Gear Review: La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX Mountaineering Boots

This Fall La Sportiva asked me if I would be interested in reviewing the La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX Mountaineering Boots in their new “Highlander” color from a hunter’s perspective. Since I have very limited experience hunting I enlisted my good friend Alec to help review a pair. Alec has been getting out almost every weekend since the hunting season started.

La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX Mountaineering Boot Review
La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX Mountaineering Boot Review

La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX Mountaineering Boot

Alex finding some signs of the buck he’s pursuing this season while the La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX Mountaineering Boots keep his feet warm & dry

How we tested:

The boots were tested pheasant hunting in high grass fields in early season, deer hunting from late October through late November with the season continuing until December 4th . For deer season, I have hunted in the White Mountains of NH and Colebrook, NH. We have yet to have had much snow in the lower elevations of the Whites yet, but there was snow in Colebrook and that was where I found the boots to be a little cold. In the White Mountains, I have been in rolling, rocky, steeper terrain. I have never felt like the terrain was too much or for the boot. The rubber of the sole maintained traction in all of the conditions that I found myself in. With two more weekend left in the season, I look forward to use them until the end.

La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX Mountaineering Boot Review
La Sportiva Trango Cube GTX Mountaineering Boot Review

Durability

So far there have been no issues with durability. The boots show no sign of wear and tear. The Thermo-Tech Injection™ TPU lacing system seems to provide a nice protective layer over the fabric. The only reason that I have reserved a rating of 10 is because I am still interested to see how the PU eyelets hold up over time.

Weight

At only 26.2 ounces (size 45.5), this boot is very light. Manufacturer weight for a size 42 is only 24 ounces. The heaviest aspect of this boot is the sole, but the balance is very comfortable.

Comfort

La Sportiva as a brand tends to run on the narrower side, but these boots run wider. As someone with a wider forefoot, having this extra width makes a big difference for my comfort. I have been wearing the boots with the tongue inserts in, but with it getting colder will be taking them out to allow for thicker socks. This boot is designed for a narrow to medium with foot, but the removable tongue allows for different volumes. The flex allows for great comfort while walking.

Features

The removable tongue is a great feature. The polymer shrouding over the upper makes for great durability. The stiff sole makes for great traction in varying terrain. Unlike some hiking boots, the laces are a perfect length so they do not drag or get caught on underbrush.

The Good

Light weight, soft upper, nice flexion in the ankle, stiff sole with nice rocker, highly waterproof, the tongue design (materials and removable insert).

The Bad

A little light on insulation, a little low in the upper, a little narrow if you have a really wide foot.

The Verdict

I am really enjoying this product especially for tracking, stalking and scouting. The rocker of the sole really makes up for how stiff it is in terms of moving quietly. With sitting for long periods of time, it is really nice to have the ability to flex my ankles to keep my feet from falling asleep. I have found with other boots that this has been a problem when taking a stand for a couple of hours. The ability to take out the tongue insert has been great for being able to vary the weight of socks that I’m wearing depending on conditions. The boot is fantastic for early to mid season hunting. The one place that it has fallen a little short is the lack of insulation. Sitting for three hours on a snowy day, my feet did get a bit cold. Once I got moving, everything warmed right up, but I am interested to continue to experiment with different sock combinations and how tight the boot is as the season goes on.

Overall, I am very happy with this boot and would highly recommend it especially if you are looking for something to lead you up to the part of the season where a heavier insulated boot is needed. -Alec F.

So there you have it! Sounds like a high end hunting boot to me and I might need to invest in a whole new hobby. If you want to pick a pair up you’ll probably find the best price on Amazon here. Thank you Alec for getting some feedback on these for La Sportiva and my readers!

See you in the mountains!

-Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: La Sportiva supplied Northeast Alpine Start with these boots for the purpose of review but that has in no way effected the opinion of our guest reviewer. Affiliate links in this post help support this website.

Product Preview- Arc’teryx AR Mountaineering Boots and Cassin Blade Runner Crampons

While I am excited about all the products I’ll be testing this winter I am perhaps most stoked to put this duo together and get on some early season ice as soon as possible! I’m hoping I’ll get enough field days in to have a full review post for each by early-mid January. I realize though by then a lot of ice climbers may have already geared up and wanted to share my first impressions on these before the season arrives.

Let’s start with a preliminary look at the new Acr’teryx AR Mountaineering Boots.

Arc'teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boot Review
Arc’teryx Acrux AR Mountaineering Boots

“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.

LaSportiva Batura 2.0 Review
LaSportiva Batura 2.0 Review

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

ACRUX AR MOUNTAINEERING BOOT Review
ACRUX AR MOUNTAINEERING BOOT PREVIEW
ACRUX AR MOUNTAINEERING BOOT
ACRUX AR MOUNTAINEERING BOOT removable liner

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 Vibram® AR outersole uses Vibram® Mont rubber to perform well even in extreme cold

“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.”


I’ll share a promotional video on the boots and move onto the crampons I’ll be pairing with them this winter!


CASSIN Blade Runner Crampons

CAMP Cassin Blade Runner Crampons
Cassin Blade Runner Crampons

These are the most aggressive fully adaptable to any situation crampons I have seen. I used to love my older Petzl M10 crampons because I could swap out the front points for either dual, mono, or mono-offset. The Blade Runner’s do all that but CAMP also makes optional “snow points” so you can turn your vertical ice crampon into a multiple purpose mountaineering crampon. It really does make these incredibly versatile! My demo pair arrived set for offset mono and I plan to test them that way first with our thin early season ice conditions. Included with the crampons were two more vertical front points and semi-automatic toe bails allow for use on boots without rigid toe lugs.

CAMP Blade Runner Crampons
Included extra parts

Fit

How well a crampon can attach to your boot is paramount. You want them to feel like they were designed for each other and no one else. Right out of the box the fit on the Acrteryx AR was quite good. There is plenty of adjust-ability to make it “perfect” starting with three possible toe bail positions, two possible heel lever bar positions, full vertical adjustment on the heel lever itself, and, something I haven’t seen before, the asymmetric bottom that more closely follows the contours of the boot outer-sole.

CAMP Cassin Blade Runner Crampons
CAMP Cassin Blade Runner Crampons- a snug fit
CAMP Cassin Blade Runner Crampons
Vertical heel lever adjustment

Obviously we can’t talk much about performance just yet but they are definitely a very aggressive crampon! One could argue this is a 19 point crampon (20 if set up in dual front-point mode). The design looks like it will excel on steep & cauliflower ice.

CAMP Cassin Blade Runner Crampons
Cassin Blade Runner Crampons- aggressive, included anti-balling plates

The front points are made from Chromoly Steel and taper from 5mm down to 3mm. A “wear indicator” of sorts lets you know when it’s time to swap in new front points.

CAMP Cassin Blade Runner Crampons
CAMP Cassin Blade Runner Crampons

Well that’s it for my first impressions. I absolutely can not wait to start putting these to use this winter. I’m also reviewing the Camp Cassin X-All Mountain Ice Tools and the Camp Cassin X-Dream Ice Tools.

CAMP USA Cassin Ice Tools/Crampons
Things with sharp points

Think the Arcteryx Acrux AR boots might be good for you?

You can purchase them on Amazon here. Ordering through that link will help support this blog.

Stay tuned this winter for lots of gear reviews and giveaways! I’ll be raffling off brand new climbing harnesses, ice screws, carabiners, and more. Don’t miss a review or giveaway! Subscribe/Follow this blog at the top right so you get all the details!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

LaSportiva TX2 Approach Shoes Review (and Friendly Foot Giveaway)

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

LaSportiva TX2's Approach Shoe Review
LaSportiva TX2’s Approach Shoe Review

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La Sportiva Batura 2.0 GTX Mountaineering Boots Review (and Giveaway!)

I have just finished my 2nd winter season climbing in the award winning La Sportiva Batura 2.0 GTX Mountaineering Boots and I should have shared my impressions of this boot long before now. As the saying goes, better late than never!

La Sportiva Batura Review
La Sportiva Batura Review- Photo by http://www.brentdoscher.com/

Shopping for a high end mountaineering boot is stressful. Climbers will pour over online reviews, solicit advice from guides, climbing partners, shop employees, and so on. No doubt about it pulling the trigger on a $500+ purchase while imagining black toes, blisters, or cold feet can feel as sketchy as running out 50 feet of verglas with no protection. While there is some truth to the saying “If the shoe fits” the unfortunate reality is few climbing shops will stock the high end models, and special orders may seem risky with various return policies and shipping costs. What is a prospective buyer to do? Read, read, then read some more. To that end I’ll add the following personal opinions to the plethora of  positive reviews already out on the interwebs.

But first, context. It would be good to know what similar products the reviewer has experience with if in order to validate their opinion. These are the boots I have climbed in extensively over the last 16 years, both leading ice climbs up to Grade 5 in difficulty and countless mountaineering trips up Mount Washington.

Koflach Verticals (discontinued)

Koflach Degre’s

Asolo Cholotse’s

Scarpa Mont Blanc Mountaineering Boots

Of these the Cholatse’s have a special place in my gear room as I am on my 2nd pair and are worthy of their own review. Long story short they are a tad lighter than the Batura’s but can not compete with the warmth of the Batura’s. It’s not a fair comparison though as the Cholatse’s do not have the built in super gaiter. I’ll get into more detail on the Cholatse’s in another review. Let’s focus on the guest of honor.

La Sportiva Batura 2.0 Mountaineering Boots Review
La Sportiva Batura 2.0 Mountaineering Boots Review

Style:

Is it a single boot with a gaiter? A synthetic hybrid? A double boot? What exactly are we looking at here?

The President of La Sportiva NA, Jonathon Lantz, calls it a true “1.5 boot”. Half way between the best single boot and the best double boot for warmth. An accurate description would be a technologically advanced single leather/synthetic hybrid with a built in super gaiter. Quite a mouthful, but there really is quite a bit of technology put into this boot! Before we dive into that though let’s look at fit:

Fit:

I am a very standard US Men’s Size 9 with a noticeable “Morton’s Toe”. The European size 42 fits me perfectly, as it has in the Asolo’s & Koflachs I have also worn. When comparing them to the Asolo Cholatse’s there is a slightly noticeable narrower feel to them. While my feet are medium width they are definitely not to snug for me but wider feet might have an issue with these. Narrower feet will really like the lacing system I am about to mention but low volume feet should consider swapping the factory insole out for a thicker insole like my well loved Superfeet REDHots.

Lacing:

Tucked underneath the velcro protected waterproof zipper is the boots lacing system. What sets this apart for other lacing systems is the integrated ratchet system just over the top of your foot. This ratchet system lets you get a snug lace which really holds the foot in place in the boot, critical for preventing toe bash on long descents and while repeated kicking into hard waterfall ice.

Waterproofness:

La Sportiva has essentially matched the bombproof waterproofness of a plastic boot but kept the boot breathable and much lighter. How? Two layers of Goretex. One within the boot itself, and another within the attached “super gaiter”. This technology was tested on one particularly drenching descent off Mount Washington this winter with 8+ inches of slush on the trail. I was not expecting my feet to stay dry given the conditions and felt a bit guilty when back at the shop my clients were wringing out their socks (they all wore plastic boots, so I’m thinking they must have stepped in a deeper flow at one or three of the waterbars that cross the trail).

Warmth:

I’ll need to confess a bit before I start talking about warmth. I have very warm feet. Fellow search & rescue members have raised eyebrows in the past when I’ve turned out with my Asolo Cholatse’s on, and while they have kept me warm while staying on the move in -20f temps with wind chills around -50f I have become more cautious about what I select for these missions that may involve a overnight bivouac with a patient. To that end if the mercury is down I’ll be in my Batura’s. Here’s why. The boot uses “Gore-Tex Insulated Comfort Technology“. While La Sportiva/Goretex doesn’t go into much detail about this technology there is noticeably more insulation in the boot than my 200gr Thinsulate Cholatse’s. The doubling up on the Goretex linings undoubtedly adds warmth while maintaining a small amount of true breath-ablility. The super-gaiter definitely adds a lot of warmth and I’m really a fan of having laces that never freeze (because they are 100% enclosed in the super-gaiter).

Coldest temps I’ve tested these: -27f ambient air temps with wind chills -50f to -60f. Feet were toasty while moving but I wouldn’t want to stand around for a hour. My sock of choice is the Smartwool Mountaineer Socks.

Were they as warm as my experiences with double plastic boots? Quite close really. The real difference here is the lack of a removable lining. This has implications for multi-day expeditions. A 5 day trip to Katahdin? No problem. A month long trip in Alaska? I might miss having a remove-able liner and would probably take a very close look at the La Sportiva Spantiks. As for day trip convenience if you don’t have one already pick up a decent boot dryer. I’m able to dry mine out daily during the busiest part of the guiding season and the drier really cuts down on any potential foot odor.

Comfort/Performance:

So how do they feel? Over the last two winters I have worn them up & down Mount Washington about 12 times, and ice climbed 30+ days in them. My feet were quite happy at the end of every day, which is saying something considering our low snow year has not given us the smooth sailing trail conditions we are used to. Mile after mile of uneven rocky scrambling, often with micro-spikes on to contend with acres of water ice covering trails most the season, and never a sore foot. While ice climbing the stiff carbon insole provides a stable platform while front pointing and the flexible uppers make flat footing super casual.

La Sportiva Batura 2.0 Mountaineering Boots Review
Comfy feet on the summit of Mt. Willard

Crampon compatibility:

For mountaineering days I paired them with my older style Petzl Vasak crampons. They fit perfectly and the combo made for a very light boot/crampon match. For ice climbing I spent this season in the Black Diamond Cyborg crampons, again, a perfect fit.

La Sportiva Batura 2.0 Mountaineering Boots Review
Solid ice climbing performance- Photo by http://www.brentdoscher.com/

Summary:

If you’ve read all this, or read any of the other reviews around the web, you’ve probably heard enough by now. They are one of the best single boot for ice climbing/mountaineering in the lower 48! They score high across the board and if you can find a shop that stocks them take a few minutes to slip a pair on. You can also order them from Amazon here!

Contest/Giveaway: Edit 5/1/16 (CONGRATS TO WINNER TODD R!)

It’s been far to long since I’ve offered up some tasty shwag to my readers so today I’m offering up something that any outdoors person should be psyched to get. A VSSL Supplies Kit, worth $109.99! You can read my review of this clever product here. Simple to enter, just comment below on what your favorite boots are. Hiking, climbing, skiing, it doesn’t matter. Just keep it about footwear and you’re entered! All commentators will be entered into a climbing helmet and the winner will be drawn and announced on 5/1/2016. I think we’ll have a video clip of the drawing as Alex is pretty pumped about being the lottery official.

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See you in the mountains,

NEAlpineStart

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links which help to fund this website. 

 

 

 

 

 

Five Ten Guide Tennies Review (and Friendly Foot Giveaway)

It would not be a stretch of the imagination to state that I have spent more time in the Five Ten Guide Tennies in the last 10 years than any other shoe! From May to November if I’m heading out with the sole purpose of rock climbing I am wearing these. This staple of my closet has recently undergone some changes and improvements that help guarantee it will continue to be my go-to shoe for all technical climbing. To really point out the changes it would be best to look at the pro’s and con’s of the older version first.

Previous version of the Five Ten Guide Tennie
Previous version of the Five Ten Guide Tennie- photo from fiveten.com

Simply put, they climbed better than any other approach shoe option out there, but lacked durability. I can attest to this as I happily replaced mine about every other year. Considering I would guide or climb in them 100+ days a year I was happy to sacrifice some longevity for how well I could climb in them, essentially being equals to dedicated climbing shoes on almost all routes up to 5.7 in difficulty. In many situations I felt I could climb better in these approach shoes than in climbing shoes. Two examples;

  1. Moderate slab climbing. The amount of Stealth rubber surface contact you could get with these on sub 5.7 slab climbing made long run outs seem like semi-technical hikes rather than climbs. They actually felt even more secure as the “dots” on the soles wore down leaving a smooth climbing shoe style sole for maximum friction.
  2. Foot jam territory. No better example than the classic Reppy’s Crack on Cannon Cliff. This crack is notorious for making your dogs bark like crazy when jamming it in snug fitting climbing shoes. Climb it in your wider more protective Guide Tennies and it feels a whole grade easier to me.
Peter Sielicki styles Reppy's Crack in his Five Ten Guide Tennies
Peter Sielicki styles Reppy’s Crack in his Five Ten Guide Tennies

There were two disadvantages to the older version. The first was the well known durability issue. I know some guides who were just not willing to keep replacing them after each season of guiding and looked for alternatives. Some would land on the much more expensive La Sportiva Ganda. Other’s would go for the more affordable Scrapa Crux. The durability issue seems to have been addressed as the new version is noticeably reinforced throughout, but especially in the heel and forefoot of the sole.

More supportive and robust heel cup than previous model
More supportive and robust heel cup than previous model- photo from fiveten.com
Thicker and slightly stiffer outersole made with C4 Stealth Rubber
Thicker and slightly stiffer outersole made with C4 Stealth Rubber- photo from fiveten.com

I’m expecting these to last a bit longer than the older version. I plan on maximizing their life with two tactics;

  1. Maintenance: Treat them with Nikwax. The uppers of the shoe are made of Nubuck Leather. Nikwax Waterproofing Wax will protect the leather from both drying out over time and from abrasion. I’ve been using this on leather for 2 decades. It darkens the leather a bit, which I like. After trips brush off loose dirt/mud and put them away dry. I’ll reapply the Nikwax at the start of every rock season.
  2. Selective use: I don’t wear these when I’m not going rock climbing. Ever. Walking down sidewalks wears C4 Stealth rubber down. I have another shoe I prefer to use for dedicated (non-technical) hiking and I’ll be posting a review for that updated model soon! If I save these for only technical rock climbing days I’m quite certain I’ll get 100-150 days out of them.
The latest version of the 5.10 Guide Tennie
The latest version of the 5.10 Guide Tennie

As with the previous version these shoes can still climb technical rock like no other in their class. The thicker outer sole and heel cup will definitely last longer than its previous incarnation, however it has stiffened the shoe up a bit. The “hand-ground beveled toe” makes this newer shoe edge better than its predecessor with only a small dip in smearing performance. The stiffer sole has another more subtle advantage over the previous sole in regards to foot fatigue. The older version was so soft you could feel every pebble you stepped on during an approach. I once hiked Mount Washington in my older Guide Tennies and could tell the next day it wasn’t the right tool for the job. Every rugged section of the trail massaged the bottom of my feet in a sadistic way. Rugged trail hikes require a bit more support on the bottom of the foot. The new version seems to have found the balance between sensitive-enough-for-technical-rock-climbing, but supportive enough to handle approaches that are a bit rougher than strolling up to Cathedral Ledge.

Another noticeable difference with the new version is the lacing. While the Guide Tennie has always had lacing similar to a climbing shoe Five Ten is using a thin low friction lace that allows the shoe to be snugged up from “Approach Mode” to “I Should Probably Put My Climbing Shoes On But I Kind Of Want To Show Off Mode” with out having to start the snug-fest all the way at the bottom. Subtle, but there.

Tight lacing
Tight lacing

At 14.43 oz these pack away small enough in my light alpine rock pack to not be noticed, though if the climbing is moderate I’ll probably just keep them on my feet!

Top of Cannon Cliff after climbing Lakeview, Grade III 5.6
Top of Cannon Cliff after climbing Lakeview, Grade III 5.6

Bottom line, the company that has been designing approach shoes since 1988 has redesigned this time tested model based on 2 decades of feedback. While no shoe will ever be absolutely perfect the Five Ten Guide Tennie does pretty well at trying to obtain that goal.

Friendly Foot Giveaway!

No matter what approach shoes you go with one thing is certain. Climbers feet stink. Luckily there is a company called Friendly Foot that understands this, and sells a product that actually works. You can refer to their website for all the details, but all you really need to know is my wife is adamant I never run out of it.

Works better out of the bottle
Works better out of the bottle

So, to enter to win a bottle of this great stuff just comment below on approach shoes, foot stink, the weather, what ever. That’s it. One comment = one entry. One entry per person. Contest ends at 11:59pm on 11/18/15. Drawing held 11/19/15. 

Don’t like leaving it to chance? I got you covered. Use Coupon Code “FF14” at checkout on their website to get a 10% discount on your order. Shipping is free on orders of 4 bottles or more! Pro-Tip, these are excellent stock stuffers for all the climbers on your Christmas list!

The Five Ten Guide Tennie- Best technical climbing shoe in its class!
The Five Ten Guide Tennie- Best technical climbing shoe in its class!

Thanks for reading! See you in the mountains!

-NEAlpineStart

Disclosure: I bought these with my own money. This post contains affiliate links which help to fund this website.