Got my first swings in of the season today up in Crawford Notch and by all accounts it was damn good swinging for mid-November! Things are coming along great and we got more cold temps and up to 11 inches of snow coming to the higher summits in the next 24 hours! All pics courtesy of Alexandra Roberts.
Elephant Head Gully is forming fast but what about that new fence huh? Hoping Mother Nature overcomes that obstacle as it will be a shame to lose such a great roadside quickie. The little gully to the right though might see more traffic now that it is not concealed by trees though!
The Flume & Silver Cascade have lots of mushroom ice and flowing water… might be tricky trying to stay dry in there… and the new snow coming will likely conceal less than solid parts of those brooks. Use caution!
Cinema Gully and the numbered gullies are forming fast for this early… and evidence of avalanches on Cinema was easily seen from the road. We had quite a few climbers triggered avalanches in Hitchcock Gully early season last year… heads up!
Cleft looked do-able.
Willey’s Slide looked thin but forming.
Over at Frankenstein things are looking pretty good. The south face routes are coming along great (but they never last do they).
Smear was the best looking thing in the Amphitheater… but everything in there will need some more time. My partner noticed Angel Cakes was looking like it was almost touching down! Might have to walk up there in a few weeks!
Assuming climbable ice in the Lost in the Woods area…
Standard Route was our objective and it served up some great plastic wet early season swinging! Consider a hard shell! We took the center line, stopped in the cave and chopped out the pin anchor under a few inches of ice, the two more pitches to the top. 13 cm screws didn’t bottom out the whole way. It’s wet though… still lots of running water (that’s a good thing).
Dracula looked a bit chandelier down low and the top out looked a bit sketch to me as we walked above… expect un-bonded ice and non-frozen turf shots on that puppy for another week or so. No thanks, I’ll wait. Welcome to the Machine forming nice for this time of year!
Hanging Gardens is off to a nice start but nothing touching down yet, and the practice slab next to it is looking do-able but thin.
Well that’s it! My ice season has started a couple weeks after my ski season this year… I don’t remember the last time I had more ski days in then ice days in November! Fingers crossed but I think this winter will be banger!
Here’s a quick video hash I threw together to share some stoke!
Our little Hydroflask family is growing! It started with the orange 21 oz Standard Mouth Insulated Bottle that I bought about 5 or 6 years ago. This has served as my wife’s gym bottle and my “light cragging” water bottle quite well. I then bought my 40oz Tall Boy, which has carried everything from ice water for relaxing on the beach in the summer to hot mulled apple cider for Fall/Winter day hikes. A couple of years ago I picked up a first generation food flask (far left) which kept soups and chili’s hot while winter climbing on Mount Washington and ice climbing in Crawford Notch. Just recently Hydroflask sent me their updated version of the 12 oz Food Flask and a 16 oz Insulated Coffee Flask to review.
So what makes Hydroflask different from all the other water bottle/tumbler companies out there? Well that would be the TempShield™ double walled vacuum technology that keeps drinks hot or colder longer than the competition. I wanted to try to quantify this statement with a little informal testing. Granted this is not some “double blind” research but it illustrates the point. First test…
Keeping Hot… Hot
I had experienced it many times before finding my coffee or tea still piping hot 4-5 hours into a sub-zero climb on Mount Washington. More recently I’ve used the Food Flask to keep soup & chili hot for a mid-day hot lunch sans stove while ice climbing or back-country skiing. To illustrate this I added just boiled water to a room temperature 12 oz Food Flask.
I then placed this in my freezer at -10°F (-23°C) for about 4.5 hours.
Impressively the water temp was still quite hot. In real life practice you can get better results then this when using the Hydroflask for food or drink. First, you can “pre-heat” the container by filling it with boiled water while heating up your food or drink separately. Then dump the hot water and immediately put your hot drink/food in and seal the container. Second, the container gets even more insulation when carrying it in my backpack surrounded by puffy insulating layers of clothing. Finally, if it’s a hot meal like chili or soup I tend to not open it until I want to consume the whole container (lunch time). Having it open for only a few minutes in arctic temperatures and moderate winds will see stored heat quickly lost!
Keeping Cold… Cold
I have also discovered that this much insulation can keep my ice in solid form for multiple pours of a refreshing beverage while hitting our local little pond beach or a town music festival. It’s almost hard to believe how effective these can keep ice. For this informal experiment I packed the same room temperature 12 oz Food Flask with ice from our freezer, sealed it, and sat it on our kitchen table overnight. We are currently burning wood so our house is sitting around 70 degrees (yay shorts in the winter).
Around 1:30 pm the following day (19.5 hours later) I remembered I was doing the experiment, moved it to the kitchen counter, and opened it.
I’m confident that if I reran this for 24 hours there would still be some water in frozen form at the end of the 24 hours! So how does Hydroflask insulate so well? It comes down to their patented TempShield™ technology. I spare you the nitty gritty and just say that not all “double walled” constructions are created equal. If you are interested in some of the finer details you can read about it here.
Finally of note with this updated 12 oz Food Flask is the more rounded “pill shape” design and leak-proof design. This packs in my smaller ice climbing packs quite well and I haven’t had a single leak during over fifty miles of trail and thousands of feet of climbing.
I also have to say I love finding products that not only work well for my family but are made by companies committed to giving back, especially when it comes to our natural resources! Through “Parks For All” Hydroflask is currently providing over $110,000 in grants to help protect, restore, and provide access to various park projects. You can learn more here.
World Surf League Partnership
I’m not a surfer, but I have quite a few friends (and one kick ass niece) who is, so you surfer types can read up on what this is all about here.
Hydroflask stands behind their products with an excellent warranty. It’s not a “drop it off a thousand foot cliff get a new one” type warranty (I’m personally glad those types of warranties are becoming a thing of the past) but one that truly stands behind the craftsmanship yet maintains a slight bit of realistic expectation. You can read the full details here.
Disclaimer/Exclusive Reader Discount!
First off you should know of the 5 Hydroflask models I’ve talked about the updated 12 oz Food Flask and 16 oz Insulated Coffee Flask were provided by Hydroflask to review. The other three models pictured in the first pic were purchased with my own money. Getting a couple samples has not influenced my opinion on these items in any way!
Second, Hydroflask has already started offering free Holiday Shopping on all orders, no minimum purchase! You can find the daily code for free shipping at the top of Hydroflask website. Then you can also enter “ALPINESTART18” in the cart and get an extra 10% off your order (minimum order of $20). The free shipping and 10% off codes work together! I just tested it to buy myself a 16 oz Insulated Coffee Flask since the purple one they sent me works better for my wife!
A water bottle or coffee mug is such an essential for our daily lives. Once you start using a quality one from a company like Hydroflask you quickly realize that design matters. Whether replacing that old funky plastic gym bottle or realizing you can have hot soup 4000 feet up a winter climb without firing up the stove there is most definitely a Hydroflask model that would be a nice addition to your kit (or your friends & family’s kits). These make awesome holiday gifts and as such will be included in my 2018 Holiday Gift Guide coming out at the end of the month. Thanks for reading!
I finally finished the curriculum for a 4 hour course designed to teach outdoor enthusiasts and professionals how to create, print, and use custom maps that are better than any map currently available from an outdoor retailer or publisher. Monday night I held the first course in partnership with the Kennett High School’s Adult Education Program. In attendance were some members of Granite Backcountry Alliance and the Conway Police Department.
Feedback from participants was quite positive and I’m ready to offer this course to the general public. Unlike my 8-hour Wilderness Navigation Course this course is 100% indoors. Participants need a laptop, IOS or Android smartphone, and the Avenza and GuidePace apps to take full advantage of the content.
Yesterday I offered an abbreviated version of this course in conjunction with some of my Wilderness Navigation content for a couple members of the Durham and North Conway, NH Fire Departments. With some adaptation this content is quite suitable for professionals who participate in search & rescue efforts.
After positive feedback from today’s participants I will be reaching out to Fire Departments around the state to see if they would be interested in this training. If you belong to an outdoor group or organization that might like to include this in your training regime please reach out to me for more details at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Every course has participants asking me what compass they should get. I’ve been a fan of the Suunto MC-2 for almost two decades! I wrote a long review on this compass here!
This will be my third winter skiing and climbing in my Arcteryx Procline Carbon Lite Boots and I should have shared this review much sooner! The good news is since they are not new-this-season you can score a pair at amazing savings (like 45% off!). That’s basically pro-deal price available for everyone! But you still probably want to know if it’s a good boot for you right? So let me share my experience with them to help you decide!
I got these at the start of the 2016/17 winter as part of a back-country setup optimized for uphill efficiency but that could still slay on the downhill.
How I tested
I’ve since skied over 50 days in them including two week long ski trips to Iceland. This includes skinning at least twice a week while teaching avalanche courses every weekend from mid-December until April. I ice climbed in them a half dozen times up to leading grade 4 waterfall ice. I’ve skied them on powder days and more typical east coast crud days. I’ve worn them all over Mount Washington and on groomers at local ski mountains. Suffice it to say I’ve put enough time, miles, and elevation on them to form some opinions!
Let’s start with…
I went with a Mondo size 27.5 for my US Men’s size 9 feet (slight Morton’s toe, medium arch/width). I wear my favorite Darn Tough ski socks with them. They fit like comfy cozy slippers for walking and skinning. They are comfortable “enough” for vertical ice climbing… but I’ll get into that more under climbing performance. When cranked tight for downhill performance they are as comfy as any ski boot I’ve ever worn, but I’ll go into a little more detail on that under ski performance.
When I say they are the most comfortable ski boots I have ever ice climbed in you must take it with a grain of salt. Why would someone climb vertical ice in ski boots? Well if it involves a ski approach/descent having a one boot system is a pretty sweet option. With out a doubt I’d say these climb better than any dedicated climbing boot skis. Simply put climbing boots do not ski well as they have virtually no “forward lean”. I learned this lesson the hard way skiing out of Chimney Pond in Koflach Vertical mountaineering boots many years ago. Long story short dedicated mountaineering boots might be great at hiking & climbing, but they will always come up short for real downhill skiing.
Enter the Arcteryx Procline. In touring mode this boot is definitely comfortable enough for a 12 mile approach even if it includes quite a bit of walking. However it is to stiff laterally for classic “French Technique”. You will find yourself switching to front pointing as soon as the angle is too steep for simple heel to toe walking. While leading waterfall ice up to grade 3 it performs quite well and I even led Grade 4 in them.
A modern dedicated ice climbing boots like my Arcteryx Acrux AR are noticeably more comfortable (and warmer) for real technical rock and ice climbing… they also are terrible for downhill skiing. Perhaps the best way to explain it is route and condition dependent. While everyone reading this might not be familiar with my local terrain I think these examples should work.
Early season or low snow years ascent of Pinnacle Gully on Mount Washington (Grade 3) which involves a 2000 foot 2.5 mile approach. I’d stick with a comfy mountaineering boot and leave the skis at home.
Mid-late season or great skiing conditions ascent of Pinnacle Gully, this would be a perfect boot!
My next Katahdin trip.
Finally you should know these are not the warmest boot out there. I have some freakishly warm feet so I tend to get by with less insulation than some of my climbing partners but there was one sub-zero day in Tuckerman Ravine where I got pretty cold toes while teaching an avalanche course. Standing around in them in arctic conditions is not the best idea. I still think they are plenty warm for fast & light adventures or summer trips to the Cascades.
The Arc’teryx Procline boots are only compatible with tech bindings like the Dynafit Speed Radical Bindings (my setup) or the G3 Ion 12 Bindings. I’ve been using them to drive the DPS Wailer 99 Tour 1 Skis (168cm). I assembled this set up to focus on uphill efficiency. Total weight for skis, boots, bindings is only 6.5 pounds per ski! Thanks to the 360 degree rotating cuff these are incredibly comfortable to walk and skin in. The carbon plate to switch from walk to ski mode has an easy to operate lever. In practice if you are not leaning forward enough while switching to ski mode the plate might not align perfectly with some raised nubs that really lock the plate in place. It’s quite easy to lean forward during this process and after a little practice you’ll get the plate to lock completely with little fuss.
Once switched into ski mode you can crank the two buckles down and the “power-strap” adds even more control. The boots definitely feel laterally stiff enough to ski fairly aggressively. Edge to edge control is sufficient enough for any black diamond in-bounds runs and I find the boots supportive enough to drive the skis in spring corn and mid-winter powder. When conditions are icy New England crud you’ll find me skiing these in a fairly conservative manner.
The Arcteryx Procline Carbon Lite Boots are the most comfortable boot I have ever skinned uphill in. They also are the only ski boot I’ve climbed technical ice in. They perform so well on the downhill that I ski them on in-bound groomers but really appreciate the all day comfort during long back-country days. They are not the warmest boots out there, but I have others for days when it’s really really cold out there. If you are in the market for a boot that is as efficient for uphill travel as it is for downhill travel you should take a close look at these! I’m really excited for my third winter season in these!
So what’s changed with the new model this season? Check out this video from ISPO 2018 to learn about the upgrades the new version of this boot has! (Thanks to Ron B. for sharing this with me through Facebook!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
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Ultra light crampon with LEVERLOCK FIL binding, for ski touring and snow travel
Extremely light due to their aluminum construction, LEOPARD LLF crampons are perfect for ski touring and snow travel. The CORD-TEC flexible linking system minimizes bulk for ease of carrying.
– crampons made entirely of aluminum, optimized for snow travel
– very lightweight (only 330 grams per pair)
– CORD-TEC flexible linking system optimizes volume of crampons when packed in their bag (included)
– tool-free length adjustment
Binding system especially adapted to the usage of these crampons:
– self-adjusting elastic strap around the ankle
– strap for good handling and easy removal
– compact heel lever facilitates crampon installation/removal
Alright, that’s out of the way so let’s breakdown the good & bad starting with…
This was the biggest reason I chose these for my ski mountaineering kit. When your crampons only weigh 11 ounces it is hard to justify not packing them “just in case”. The CORD-TEC adjustment system lets them pack up into the smallest stuff sack I’ve ever used for crampons measuring about 7 by 4 inches.
First make sure you select the right model! For ski boots you want the “LeverLock Universal” (LLF). The regular “FlexLock” (FL) model is suitable for hiking boots with or with out front and toe welts.
I’ll admit I was skeptical about sizing a crampon that joins the heel piece to the front piece with string! Ok, maybe “string” is not the right word. The “CORD-TEC” is actually a woven 100% Dyneema cord. I measure it just shy of 5 mm (3/16 inches). That would give it a breaking strength around 6000 pounds… so not “string”. Dyneema is also highly resistant to abrasion.
Petzl does sell a replacement for it if you ever wear it out somehow. I have a hard time imagining how much use it would take to requirement, but the option is there.
I found the CORD-TEC system to be very easy to adjust for both of my ski boots. No tools required an quite intuitive. Do not be intimidated by the instructions, once in hand you could pretty much size them without looking at the instructions, but if you are having any issues give them a look!
These have been tested over a few thousand feet of snow climbing in on neve, spring corn, and classic NH “windboard”. For an ultra-light aluminum crampon they perform great! They have not, and will not, be tested on waterfall ice or mixed rock routes. They are not designed for that and I’m sure such uses will shorten their life-span. So far they have only been in contact with snow but I’m not too worried about walking over short sections of granite to get to the next patch of snow this Spring. It’s gear. It should get beat on from time to time! These will be my choice model for my next trip to climb in the Cascades.
These are for ski mountaineers, back-country skiers, and riders who have found themselves on a steep slope wishing they hadn’t left their crampons in the car. These could also be a nice step up for many winter hikers who sometimes rely on Kahtoola MICROspikes in terrain where more aggressive traction would be more appropriate. Just make sure you get the Flexlock model. Skiers should get the LevelLock model. Finally these are for anyone who is looking to shave ounces off their total kit while still having the tools they need to reach the places they want to play. If that’s you then you should consider checking these out!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
These crampons were purchased with my own money. Affiliate links above support the content created at Northeast Alpine Start.
I usually wait until November to share some tips on getting ready for the upcoming snow & avalanche season but since I got my first turns in today over at Wildcat I just can’t help it. I am so stoked for this winter let’s go go go! If you are excited for winter like I am let’s get down to business so we will be ready to climb, shred, huck, slide, and skip our way up and down our amazing mountains all winter long!
First order of business…
Time to find your avalanche beacon in that mess of a gear closet and put some new batteries in it. You remembered to take the batteries out at the end of last season right? Wouldn’t want any funky corrosion in such an important device. If you have one of my favorite beacons, the Ortovox 3+, make sure you check your software version. If it is running version 2.1 you gotta send it in for a quickie update. Ortovox covers the shipping both ways and I sent in my fleet of 8 beacons and got them back in a week! All the details on that process are here!
Oh you don’t own a beacon yet? Well we probably should get you one if you have plans that include slaying back-country pow or climbing alpine gullies. I can help you pick out the right model with this post from last year.
Maybe you have an old beacon and thinking it’s time to update? Great timing because Ortovox will give you $75 towards a new beacon! Read up on this recycling program here! Oh, and this is when I put fresh lithium batteries in my headlamp, cuz I’m planning on being a more active member of my local Dawn Patrol squad this winter!
Are you thinking about avalanches? You should be! The Mount Washington Avalanche Center has posted its first general advisory of the season. It is important to understand that very small avalanches can have very large consequences this time of year as our run outs are basically big cliffs and large rocks. Size-able avalanches can happen before the center switches to the 5-tier North American Avalanche Danger Scale. You can read about one such local occurrence here if you need some convincing.
If you want to venture out and play on some 30+ degree snowy terrain (I sure do!) then you should be thinking about stability (or lack thereof). If you’re not sure what to look for then now might be a good time to sign up for an avalanche course. This is my tenth year teaching avalanche courses and this year I’m teaching AIARE 1, Avalanche Rescue, and AIARE 2 for Northeast Mountaineering.
3 days, $370pp, includes two nights lodging!
December 14-16, 2018
December 28-30, 2018
January 4-6, 2019
With this many AIARE 1 courses running you might think you can wait to book. Well might I say… don’t! Historically we are 80% sold out by mid-December. If you want to chose the date you take your course do so early! You can register directly here. Be sure to enter “DavidNEM” in the promo code box for a good chance at winning a free guided day of your choosing (and to let Northeast Mountaineering know you heard about this from me right?).
$150pp, includes one night lodging!!!
3 days, $485pp, includes two nights lodging!
Only one date… ya I know wish I could run more but the demand for AIARE 1 is still quite high… we might find a way to squeeze another 2 in during the winter but don’t bet on it. If you have taken a recent 1, and the Avalanche Rescue course, jump on this one quick before it sells out (we have an Avalanche Rescue course scheduled the day before so you can meet that requirement the day before this course!)
Ok, moving on…
Head Check Part 2
If you’ve been spending time learning about snow and avalanches for years now something you’ve definitely figured out is there is still more to learn. To sound cliche… the learning never stops! So to that end here’s a few ideas to get those wheels spinning (and skins gliding)…
Eastern Snow and Avalanche Workshop!!!
Photo by Brian Irwin
Attendees mingle and learn about some of the best brands, organizations, and guide services in the industry!
This is coming up Saturday, November 3rd! It’s in Fryeburg, ME. It’s an amazing full day of knowledge and winning shwag. There’s always good food and beer there. There is no reason you should not go to this if you have bothered reading this far. It’s only $50 for a full day of brain boost and you have a pretty decent chance of walking away with some nice schwag by the end of the day! Register now and come high five me at the AIARE/Ortovox table or creeping-on-the-DPS-table!
Avalanche Podcast you say?
Can’t make it to ESAW? That’s okay… I understand… sometimes schedules just don’t work out you know? But guess what? You can still start priming that back-country brain by listening to some wicked smart guy talk about avalanches on a Podcast! I just finally finished the first two seasons of “Slide: The Avalanche Podcast” by Doug Krause. Find it on iTunes or where-ever you get your podcasts…
It’s time to refresh those beacon skills. Run some drills. Dig! Don’t neglect the importance of “big picture” type scenarios. Sure, you bracketed that beacon buried under 6 inches of freshly fallen maple leaves in only 2 minutes 13 seconds flat but did you see that glove sticking out of the ground over there? That ski pole? Did you remember to fake-call 911 before you started your search? I’ll refer you to the Quick Reference- Avalanche Rescue flow chart at the back of your AIARE Field Book… oh… you don’t have one? Scroll back up to that stuff about signing up for an Avalanche Course… oh and how’s that First Aid training going? Taken that Wilderness First Aid Course yet?
Ok enough preaching… I’m just really really really excited for this winter. I think it’s going to be a good one. I just feel it. Fingers crossed, snow dances complete, sacrifices made… here it comes!
See you in the mountains!
Northeast Alpine Start
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I’ve tested most of the top brand iPhone cases designed for rugged outdoor use and the Hitcase PRO 2.0 is a standout in the category. I’ve been steadily beating on mine since last July when I received both the case and some of the accessories that sync so well with the Hitcase PRO design. A quick disclaimer before we start! Since I take all my pics with my iPhone I have zero images of the case since it hasn’t come off my phone since I put it on! Most images in this review are courtesy of Hitcase. Now let’s take a quick look at what makes this iPhone case so bad-ass.
The most distinctive feature of the Hitcase Pro is the “railslide” mounting system. Essentially Hitcase designed a rugged rail on the side of the case that allows you to quickly and securely attach the phone to a great selection of different mounts.
The monopod “ShootR” is basically a well though out selfie-stick! It’s super light and pack-able but the best feature is how it connects to the Hitcase railslide mount. This makes it feel very secure when shredding sick lines or hucking off a bridge into the river.
You can easily capture GoPro style footage while being hands free with the ChestR Mount.
There’s also mountain bike mounts, helmet mounts, vehicle mounts, and more! You can see the full selection of mounts here. The case can also attach to any GoPro® compatible mount, including drones, gimbals, and more.
The other big standout feature of Hitcase cases is the TrueLUX lenses that can attach to your iPhone camera to capture amazing images. With Macro, Wide, and SuperWide options these lenses definitely help you take shots you wouldn’t think possible on a smartphone.
Finally the case offers the type of protection you would expect from an “extreme” case. Waterproof and drop-proof to 16 feet. While I haven’t fully submerged mine I did have it in my pocket multiple times this summer while running Waterfall Rappelling courses. On more than one occasion it was exposed to high pressure directly in the waterfall and never experienced a leak!
See this case in action in this promotional video!
My iPhone is one of my biggest investments especially since I upgraded to the X this year for the amazing camera. I take it on countless rock and ice climbs all year along with lots of back-country skiing and mountaineering trips. For those reasons I have to protect it! The Hitcase Pro goes beyond mere protection and adds utility and flexibility greatly increasing the value of the iPhone’s own camera. I’ve found myself leaving the GoPro at home more and more these days and just shooting everything on my iPhone. If you need solid protection for your phone and like to shoot outdoor active photography this might be the perfect phone case for you!
See you in the mountains,
Northeast Alpine Start
Disclaimer: Media samples were provided for purpose of review. All opinions are my own. Affiliate links help support the content created here at Northeast Alpine Start at no cost to you. Thank you!