GrandyOats Granola Review- And Contest!

Honestly I’ve never been a fan of granola, GORP (Good Ole’ Raisins and Peanuts), or trail mix preferring an eclectic mix of cured meats, hard cheeses, left over Flatbread, and home-made trail sushi. That is to say until I met some folks from GrandyOats during this past April’s Wild Corn event. They handed me a sample as I passed their vendor table and while chatting with other attendees and munching on my sample I discovered what good granola really is.

GrandyOats Review

Since 1979 these real life Granola’s have been making wholesome organic hand mixed food in Western Maine. Their business philosophy is rooted in a sustainable life-style where good business is just not profitable but environmentally and socially responsible.  You can read more on their story here.

Having been convinced that this quality of granola was changing my long held belief that granola is bland and boring I swung back around to their vendor table for a conversation and asked for a larger sample to take with us on our upcoming Iceland trip. They obliged with a 6-pack of Chocolate Chunk Coconola- Coconut Granola.

GrandyOats Review
Photo by Erik Howes

Here’s the official description of this tasty blend of goodness:

Chocolate Chunk Coconola is the delicious evolution of granola. This paleo, gluten-free, organic granola is vegan and loaded with coconut chips, seeds, nuts and dark chocolate. It’s made by hand in small batches at our solar-powered bakery and just like the sun, Coconola provides you with sustained energy to power your adventures.

  • Certified Organic
  • Certified Gluten-Free
  • Grain-Free & Certified Paleo Friendly
  • Non-GMO Verified
  • Kosher
  • Made in Small Batches at a Solar-Powered Baker

Ingredients: Organic Unsweetened Coconut, Organic Pumpkin Seeds, Organic Sunflower Seeds, Organic Coconut Nectar, Organic Dark Chocolate (organic cane sugar, organic cocoa liquor, organic cocoa butter), Organic Sesame Seeds, Organic Pecans, Organic Cashews, Organic Maple Syrup and Organic Vanilla.


What struck me as different from the admittedly low amounts of granola I have eaten over the years is how light this granola feels while munching. This is not only impart due to GrandyOats using the highest quality ingredients they can source but also the perfect level of minimal process baking. With other granola’s I would need to mix them with yogurt, drown in milk, or constantly wash down each bite with some water. This granola goes down easily handful after handful with out feeling heavy or too dry.

While I’ve already admitted I’m not a granola connoisseur quite a few of my friends and fellow mountain guides are. Each time I’ve shared some of my stash with them the feedback is consistent. They love it. I’ve also been able to share this tasty snack with multiple guests while out guiding and I have yet to find someone who didn’t take that first bite and pause before saying something like “That’s good granola!”.

The 9 ounce bags have 8 servings, 170 calories per serving (1,360 total), and cost $8 each when bought in a 6-pack from their website. That’s 1$ a serving for something that was literally hand-crafted, sourced ethically, baked and mixed perfectly! It doesn’t just stop at granola though. GrandyOats has a while line of trail mixes, roasted nuts (Organic Turmeric Ginger Cashews!), and hot cereal.

If you are a granola or trail mix fan you got to try these guys out. I am grateful I got to discover I actually do like granola, especially when it is made like this!


CONTEST

Win a free 9 ounce bag of Chocolate Chunk Granola! Just click the Rafflecopter link below for ways to enter the drawing and you might find yourself munching on some seriously good granola soon! Contest ends 6/30.

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

GrandyOats Review

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: Product samples were provided for purpose of review. All opinions are my own. Affiliate links help support the content created at this blog at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

 

PSA: Rappel Tree on Sea of Holes No More

Yesterday I climbed Sea of Holes on Whitehorse Ledge with my good friend Benny. As he made the moves past the bolt on the fourth pitch he quickly realized that we would not be doing the original 5.7 finish. The large pine tree that served as the anchor for the end of Sea of Holes and the D’arcy-Crowther Route (pg. 144 North Conway Rock Climbs, Handren) had uprooted.

rock climbing Whitehorse Ledge
Benny at the bolted belay station on the 5.8 variation finish to Sea of Holes with the uprooted tree anchor to his right

There wasn’t much noticeable loose rock or thick root system like the Refuse tree that failed 2 years ago on Cathedral Ledge.

rock climbing Whitehorse Ledge
Not much of a root system

I did not inspect it very closely but it did look a bit hung up on some smaller trees. Hopefully a heavy rain storm will send it the rest of the way down when no one is around. Until then if you plan on climbing Sea of Holes plan to do the 5.8 finish or rap from the 3rd pitch anchor.

See you out there,

Northeast Alpine Start

Memorial Day Week = Best Deals on Climbing, Skiing, and Hiking Gear this Week!

Most of my friends know I am a total gear junkie! It goes with the territory for an online gear tester. I subscribe to almost all the online retailers and manufacturers I like so I can stay informed over both exciting new gear releases and the best times to shop. Turns out Memorial Day week is right up there with Black Friday and Cyber Monday when it comes to getting the best new gear at the best price! Here’s a sampling of what I consider the biggest deals this week along with a few specific favorites I’ve personally reviewed and highly endorse!


Backcountry

25% off all Black Diamond Climbing Gear!

A great time to pick up some Black Diamond C4’s or Ultralights which I review and compare here!

25% off all Petzl Climbing Gear!

Lowest prices I’ve seen for both the Petzl GriGri+, the Petzl Sitta Harness and Petzl Sirocco Helmet! My in-depth reviews for each of these are here, here, and here.

25% off all Arcteryx Clothing & Gear!

You can actually get 30% off the Arc’teryx Acrux SL Approach Shoes when you click the “Apply Coupon” on the page. You’ll see in the cart the price drop to $119!


Moosejaw

You can also get 30% off Arc’teryx here with code “SUNKISSED”! The Arcteryx Men’s Atom LT Hoody might not be for this season but it is one of my favorite!


Up to 30% off Patagonia!

A great deal on the awesome Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket that I reviewed here!


Bentgate Mountaineering

Bentgate Mountaineering has some good deals and every climber should own a Pink Tricam! In fact I will interrupt this retail post to share the amazing “Ode to the Pink Tricam” courtesy of the Pink Tri-Cam Fan Page!

Ode to a Pink Tricam

Oh Pink’s the one I love to place
when I’m alone way up in space
on some exposed and airy face.

They sink where other gear won’t go.
When all you’ve got is manky pro,
This tricam saves your butt from woe.

But it’s often hard to get them out;
They make your second moan and shout
And wave his nut tool ’round about

But that’s why you’re the one on lead
Your problems are a different breed
As long as someone does the deed…

“Oh quit your whimpering,” you rumble,
“And get it out or there’ll be trouble”
“Get to work now, on the double!”

Although it sometimes takes a while,
They do come out with vim and guile,
(or chiselling and curses vile.)

Pink will do what all the rest.
Won’t do when they’re put to the test.
Oh pink tricams are just the best!

— Charles “Pinky” Danforth


Eastern Mountain Sports


EMS is currently running their every popular “Upgrade Your Gear” sale where you can find deals up to 50% off retail. Members (which it is free to join) can get 20% off already deeply discounted clearance items using promo code “UYG”. We are talking UPF synthetic t-shirts around $10 and 800 fill down jackets around $80! Good deals if they have your size available!


REI

Of course REI is going big this week with their Anniversary Sale! 50% off the Kelty Circuit tents is quite appealing!


This week is a great time to go through your outdoor gear and fill out your kit with anything missing or upgrade anything to the latest and greatest! Deep outdoor gear discounts usually don’t come back around until we are preparing for our winter months (Black Friday-Cyber Monday) so plan ahead and save some $ by getting your summer gear now!


While out shopping these deals please don’t forget the real reason for this holiday! Our family uses the long weekend to visit historic landmarks, most recently a WWII installation on the Maine seacoast, and have daily conversations with our oldest child about what it means to remember those who have made the ultimate sacrifice to our country. We also attend our local parade and wreath laying ceremony. We are only able to enjoy our freedoms because of the sacrifices made then and now. Never forget.


See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Affiliate links above support the content created here at no additional cost to you! Thank you!

Wilderness Navigation

This past weekend I took three students on a field trip to practice skills we had learned in evening classroom sessions the week prior as part of the MWV Career & Technical Center Adult Education Program.

Wilderness Navigation
Participants learn how to use Terrain Association to located their position then confirm their beliefs with solid Resection and Triangulation compass skills

This comprehensive 8 hour course goes far beyond a basic map & compass skills clinic. Classroom sessions cover such topics as “Survival/Improvised Navigation”, reading topographic maps, understanding the many uses of a compass, triangulation, magnetic declination, with emphasis on practical real life use!

Our field session includes a short easy/moderate hike to practice skills learned in the classroom; bushwhacking, single point resection, using hand-rails, creating a white-out navigation plan, all with plenty of 1 on 1 coaching and modeling.

Wilderness Navigation
My favorite compass, the Sunnto MC-2 <- Full review of this compass here
Wilderness Navigation
Plotting a bearing on a map can help you “stay found”
Wilderness Navigation
With a solid foundation of map and compass skills is paramount I also share available modern tech like this app “PeakFinder AR”
Wilderness Navigation
PeakFinder AR

This course is available year-round rain or shine! You can book directly here.

See you in the mountains!

Northeast Alpine Start

P.S. Two giveaways still have some time left to enter! Learn about upping your bug defense kit here and enter to win some sweet bug dope and compare some of the best climbing cams on the market and enter to win one here!

Gear Review: Furnace Industries Kronos Ice Axes

I first heard about the Furnace Industries Kronos Ice Axes through a review posted on a fellow gear reviewer’s blog. Technical ice axes made out of wood? The concept was definitely intriguing and I was pretty excited to check a pair out. Unfortunately these did not work for me. My experience with them did not match what other online reviewers have reported, and that’s ok. Reviews after all are largely based on opinions. Here’s how I tested them:

About a dozen days of ice climbing in the White Mountains on grade 3 & 4 waterfall ice. Routes like Thresher, Unicorn, Pegasus, Standard Route, Chia, Dracula, Hitchcock, and The Cleft. I loaned them out to a few fellow guides who collectively put another half dozen days on them. Their opinions largely echoed the ones I had developed and will share here.

Furnace Industries Kronos Ice Axe Review
Furnace Industries Kronos Ice Axe Review- photo by Peter Brandon

First, the manufacturer info:


The KRONOS® is the world’s first ‘T’ rated, CE certified technical ice climbing tool made from organic material.

Technical Specifications

  • Weight: 1 lb 7.8 oz (675 g)
  • Size: One Size
  • Length: 19 in (48.26 cm)
  • Material: Densified Beech Laminate / Hardened Tool Steel

Other Features

  • Axe comes with a hand finished removable and replaceable Type B Furnace Industries Ice pick
  • Type T Pick sold separately available HERE
  • Replacement Type B Picks available HERE
  • A softer swing as the wood absorbs shock of the pick strike offering increased sensitivity at all temperatures
  • Wood handle offers enhanced grip and thermal insulation
  • Hand finished handle offers multiple grip options
  • The KRONOS Ice Tool has a Type T shaft

 The Swing

One of the reported advantages of the wooden construction is the ability for the shaft to dampen vibration with each strike which could have the benefit of reducing arm and hand fatigue. This dampening effect was not as noticeable as it is when swinging carbon fiber tools like the Black Diamond Cobras or Grivel Carbon Tech Machines. The weight of the tool (1 lb, 8 oz) is 3-4 ounces heavier than most similar tools. That extra weight was felt by more than one tester to be a bit on the heavy side. The bulk of the weight feels like it is around mid-shaft which also felt less ideal for easy sticks.

My opinion here is likely effected by two decades of climbing on tools like the Petzl Quarks and Cassin X-Dreams where most of the weight feels closer to the head of the axe allowing for a bit of a “wrist flick” type placement rather than the kind of “elbow drop” type swing this design seems to encourage. One tester thought attaching some head weights might help better balance the tool but at an already comparatively heavy weight I think it would be better if they could move some of this mass higher on the tool somehow.

All in all while seeking fresh sticks in virgin ice a few of our testers felt the pick angle would cause occasional “bounce out” failed sticks and the heavier weight would contribute to fatigue. For hooking pegged out routes and dry-tooling the tool performed quite well, though felt a little on the heavy side for that to be the primary benefit of the tool.


Durability/Thermal Effeciency

While I’ve seen claims of great durability come from a few sources this is the other place where these really fell short for me. During our local Ice Fest I got first hand reports of a demo pair breaking and then my sample was damaged while another guide was taking them for a test drive. While still fully functional the two spots here where the laminated wood broke leave me concerned for long term durability. To be fair that upper trigger rest is a vulnerable spot on many tools.

In the past I’ve broken the removable trigger rest on the Petzl Quarks (and shortly after just always removed that piece from the Quark). The picks however have held up great for the amount of use they have seen. The hardened tool steel used here is probably the best thing about these tools. I’ve only tuned them twice and they hold a tune longer than most other picks I’m familiar with!

There is a bit of thermal advantage to using wooden ice axes (I have really warm hands so this benefit probably doesn’t get the credit it should). If you suffer from cold hands ice climbing this change in material may be of a greater benefit.


Summary

Without question these are hand-crafted with passion and are a solid accomplishment in engineering, but in my opinion they still need to be refined to cross from novelty conversation item to competitive and practical technical ice axe. I would encourage you to try them though! Other reviewers and better ice climbers than I have sung praises for them so this could definitely be a case of “not right for me but could be right for you”. I’d encourage you to grab a pair at your local Ice Fest and see for yourself. If a Kronos 2.0 arrives I’ll be eager to take another look!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

A media sample was provided for the purpose of this review and has been returned to the manufacturer. All opinions expressed are my own. Affiliate links help support this blog.

Climbing Cams Comparison Review (and Giveaway!)

This post originally published in Fall 2016. In Spring of 2017 I added a set of Black Diamond Ultralights to my kit and now with a year of testing it was time to update my findings. New contest for a free cam as well!

For the last two decades Black Diamond Camalots have been a mainstay of my rack. When the new C4’s came out in 2005 I upgraded my whole rack and saved over a pound in the process. While I’d been aware of the DMM Dragon Cams for a few years it wasn’t until I needed to replace a few well loved cams on my rack that I decided to give them a try. Note that this original review compares the previous version of the Dragons. The DMM Dragon 2’s are now available and have slightly wider cam lobes (more contact) and a textured thumb press for better grip.


C4’s vs DMM Dragon Cams

DMM Dragon Cams Review
DMM Dragon Cams Review

I picked up the 2, 3, 4, and 5, which is equivalent to the Black Diamond C4 .75, 1, 2, and 3.

Since the numbers the manufacturers assigned for the sizes do not correlate well we will be happier if we refer to them by color (which thankfully correlates). So I picked up the green, red, yellow, and blue size.

DMM Dragon Cams Review
A welcome addition to the rack

While they felt light in hand manufacturer specs and my home scale confirmed they are almost identical in weight to the Black Diamond C4’s. A full set of each weighs within one ounce of the other, with the Dragons coming in a hair lighter. When you consider the amount of quick-draws you could reduce from your kit while using the DMM Dragons (because of the built in extendable sling) the DMM Dragons are definitely a lighter option than a set of the Black Diamond C4’s.

However investing in the Black Diamond Ultralights one would save about 8 ounces, half a pound, over either the DMM Dragons or the Black Diamond C4’s for a full rack.  That weight savings comes at considerable cost, about $200 more for a full rack. The weight savings are noticeable throughout the size range but the largest gains are made in the biggest sizes.

DMM Dragon Cams Review
Breaking down the numbers

When comparing weight savings we have to take a look at probably the most noticeable feature of the DMM Dragons, the inclusion of an extendable dyneema sling.

DMM Dragon Cam Review
Expandable sling not extended
DMM Dragon Cam Review
Expandable sling extended

The advantages & disadvantages to this unique feature are a bit specific to the route & type of climbing you predominantly do, but lets take a look. First, you can gain 12-14cm of “free” extension on your placement without having to carry an extra quickdraw. How much weight can that save? Well 7-8 average quick-draws like the Petzl Djinns weigh close to 2 pounds, so that’s significant. On a straight up route where the gear is in-line this advantage is less pronounced as you’ll be clipping the sling un-extended, just like the sling on a C4. On a wandering line or alpine route this feature could probably save you a few draws and slings further reducing total pack weight.

DMM Dragon Cams Review
Hot forged thumb press

There are a few considerations with this design. First, the “thumb loop” found on the Black Diamond C4’s is considered to be one of the easiest to manipulate when pumped or trying to surgically get the best possible placement in a weird situation. Personally I feel the thump press on the DMM Dragons is plenty sufficient to keep control of the cam while making difficult placements (and has since be improved with the DMM Dragon 2’s). The thumb loop does provide a higher clip point on the protection, which should only be used for aid climbing applications, so this point is quite obscure for non-aid climbing applications. The last concern is the more complex cleaning process for the second. If the sling is extended it can be tricky to re-rack the cam one handed without it hanging low off the harness. With a little practice it can be done, but it is definitely not as easy as re-racking an un-extended sling.

As for holding power there has been anecdotal comments since they were released in 2010 that the slightly thinner surface area might be a concern in softer rock (sandstone). I have not seen any evidence of DMM Dragons failing in softer sandstone conditions when a thicker cam head may have held, so I think that theory can be debunked at this point. (Update the newer DMM Dragon 2’s have increased their cam head by 1.5 – 2 mm in size).

DMM Dragon Cams Review
DMM Dragon Cams Review

Black Diamond Ultralights

As mentioned above I picked up a set of Black Diamond Ultralights during Spring of 2017 and now have one full year climbing on them. I guided over 40 days of rock in the East with them and took them on a two week trip to the Cascades. They are holding up extremely well for the amount of use they see and have become my most reached for set whether I’m heading to the local crag to guide or off on a Cascades climbing trip.

Black Diamond Ultralight Cam Review
Still looking great after a full year of guiding and trips!

I’m hoping the above spreadsheet is helpful for some when deciding if the additional weight savings is worth the additional moo-lah. For some it will be a resounding yes, and others will be happier with the flexibility of the DMM Dragons (especially with the improvement made to the DMM Dragon 2’s), or the time-tested standby of the C4’s (especially if also aid climbing).


Where to Buy

First shop local! You can find most of these items at the following retailers in Mount Washington Valley!

International Mountain Equipment

Ragged Mountain Equipment

Eastern Mountain Sports, North Conway

You can also find them online at the following merchants:

Backcountry has all Black Diamond Cams 10% OFF!

You can also find them at Bentgate, EMS, Moosejaw, Mountain Gear, and REI!


Contest/Giveaway

I’m giving away one DMM Dragon Size 5 (equivalent to a Black Diamond #3), a $70 value!

To enter click the link HERE!

DMM Dragon Cam Size 5 Giveaway
DMM Dragon Cam Size 5 Giveaway

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: David Lottmann bought all the items referred to in this review with his own money. This post contains affiliate links.

How to: Survive Bug Biting Season (and Giveaway)

Spring in the White Mountains is here! After a long snowy winter many climbers and hikers are chomping at the chance to get on some dry rock climbing, hiking, mountain biking, and trail running. Unfortunately in a couple more weeks many insects will be chomping at the chance to chomp on us! Get your bug defense program up and running before “Black Fly Season” gets underway!

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody Review
Black flies try to fly away with Tom while rock climbing in the White Mountains. How many can you count?

In this post I’d like to share some time tested strategies to keep the dreaded “bug season” from keeping you from enjoying what it is you do in the mountains. To combat these little buggers we will use a four-pronged approach! Clothing, Repellent, Timing, Location.


Clothing

The first line of defense should be clothing. Everyone knows long-sleeves and pants are preferable for bug protection but they seem so hot when the temperature and humidity is high right? Some long-sleeve options actually feel cooler than going shirtless! Here’s my current favorite tops when dealing with an onslaught of bloodthirsty insects and warm temps!

Patagonia Sunshade Technical Hooded Shirt

Patagonia Sunshade Technical Hoody

Detailed Review HERE Buy direct from: Patagonia Backcountry Moosejaw

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody
The author wears his Black Diamond Alpine Start Hoody on a summer rock climb of Cannon Cliff, New Hampshire

Black Diamond Alpine Start Hooded Jacket Detailed Review HERE Moosejaw

These two pieces are super breathable and basically come with me on every adventure from April to September! For some lightweight breathable hiking and climbing pants check out the ExOfficio BugsAway Sol Cool Ampario Pants.


Repellant

We will look at two layers of repellant. One for your clothing/gear and one for your skin. Without question the most effective insect repellent is permethrin.

bug protection permethrin
Permethrin for Clothing, Gear, & Tents- buy on Amazon

I’ve used this for over two decades and its effectiveness was proven time and time again from jungle warfare training outside of Iquitos, Peru to the northern jungle of Okinawa, Japan. Some clothes like the ExOfficio BugsAway Ventana Jacket and the Royal Robbins Bug Barrier Traveler Pants come pre-treated with permethrin for convenience. You can also just buy a bottle of it to treat the clothing your already own. I treat a couple pairs of climbing pants every Spring and my approach shoes and haven’t had a tick attach to me in years!


DEET

Between wearing the proper clothing and treating it with Permethrin I rarely need to apply DEET to stay bite free but I do carry it as insurance during the worst feeding frenzies. A small application behind the ears and back of the neck can make leading a rock climb much more bare-able when those alpine gnats come out. Since I use it sparingly I tend to only pack the smallest of bottles like this great .5 ounce one from Sawyer. There are lots of size options for both spray and time-released lotions on Amazon.

Sawyer Heavy Biting DEET
Buy on Moosejaw/Amazon

Timing/Location

Finally timing and location can help avoid the little nasties. Mosquitoes are most active at dawn and dusk so you could plan to be inside during those times. If you only have time to climb around dusk you could pick crags with consistent breezes. Some of my favorite destinations during the peak feeding season are Square Ledge in Pinkham Notch, Profile Cliff in Franconia Notch, Table Mountain off of Bear Notch Rd., and higher elevation stuff like Huntington Ravine (beware of those alpine gnats though). Avoid the low lying swampy areas during peak feeding times.

Pawtuckaway State Park, Stonehouse Pond, Longstack, lower Shell Pond, and even the North End of Cathedral Ledge can all be particularly nasty just before dusk during the peak feeding season. If you are walking through fields or tall grass on your hike out just assume you’ll pick up a few ticks and do a quick check at the car. I once skipped a tick check before driving home from a hike in Madison, NH and discovered 7 ticks crawling up my bare legs while driving (I wasn’t wearing my treated hiking shoes that day or wearing any repellent).


Shop Local

You can pick up most of the DEET and Permethrin products I suggested and support local businesses while in the White Mountains at these great shops!

International Mountain Equipment, North Conway

Ragged Mountain Equipment, Bartlett

Eastern Mountain Sports, North Conway

LL Bean, North Conway


Summary & Giveaway

Southern New England is already seeing the tick and mosquitoes appear which means we only have a week or two in the White Mountains before bug biting season starts for us. Now is the time to shore up your insect defense plan! To get your started you can enter to win a 3 oz bottle of Sawyer Premium Maxi DEET Insect Repellant. You can enter multiple ways through this link below!

 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sawyer Premium Maxi DEET Insect Repellant
Sawyer Premium Maxi DEET Insect Repellant

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Affiliate links help support this blog