Wilderness Navigation Course

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of spending two days with Robert, a professor at UCONN and longtime outdoors-man. Robert came up to Northeast Mountaineering to brush up on his wilderness navigation skills. We spent Monday morning at the Bunkhouse reviewing and adding to our collective “improvised” navigation skill set before simplifying our map and compass methods (plotting whiteout navigation plans, re-section, triangulation). After an introduction to the powerful trip planning tools CalTopo and Avenza we headed to the Green Hills Preserve for a bushwhack up Hurricane Mountain and a quick out and back hike to Black Cap to re-enforce our morning session.

Wilderness Navigation Course
Robert near the summit of Black Cap with Whitehorse Ledge and The Moat mountains in the distance
Wilderness Navigation Course
Single point re-section allows one to pinpoint there location on a trail with just one known point. For my in-depth review of the above pictured compass please go here!
Wilderness Navigation Course
GPS track of our short bushwhack and hike, map created on CalTopo and used via Avenza app

On Tuesday we enjoyed a 9 mile loop hike through the Sandwich Wilderness and around Square Ledge. The weather and views were stellar along with the conversation!

Wilderness Navigation Course
Sandwich Range Wilderness, White Mountain National Forest
Wilderness Navigation Course
A nice stretch of Square Ledge cutoff trail
Wilderness Navigation Course
The “other” Square Ledge
Wilderness Navigation Course
One of many stream crossings, all of which went smoothly with the help of trekking poles
Wilderness Navigation Course
Frog eggs!
Wilderness Navigation Course
Our route

Thanks for coming up Robert and for the excellent book suggestions! I’ve got both Barbarian Days and The Wild Truth on order!

For more information on the Wilderness Navigation Course please go here!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Two Parties Rescued off Mount Washington

This past Saturday I had the pleasure of summiting Washington with 4 hardy climbers in very pleasant Spring weather while guiding for Northeast Mountaineering. This really is a cool time to climb Mount Washington as you start out in summer-like conditions but soon discover above treeline it is still winter. There is a lot of snow still up there and aspiring hikers should be aware that crampons and ice axe are still needed along with proper clothing.

We passed a group heading up the mountain while we were descending around 2 pm and they were crawling up the snowfields in sneakers with bare hands grasping at the snow while clad in sweatpants and flannel shirts. I considered chatting with them about their level of preparation for what lay ahead but allowed the “Tuckerman Spring Effect” to hold my tongue and we continued our descent. I regret not attempting the conversation. They ended up requiring some assistance to get off the mountain along with another party who needed a rescue off the auto road.

Make good choices folks! Three websites every White Mountain Hiker should be familiar with:

HikeSafe

Mount Washington Observatory Higher Summits Forecast

Mount Washington Avalanche Center

And if you’re new to above tree-line hiking consider hiring a guide for your first time. It is probably much cheaper than a rescue.

Anyways, our hike was great. Here’s a quick video of the trip and a photo gallery:

Next up I started my rock climbing season yesterday while guiding on Whitehorse and Cathedral Ledge, trip report tomorrow, along with a review of the Ortovox Tour Rider 30 Backpack I skied with for most of the winter. Thanks for reading!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: Affiliate links help support this blog.

Gear Review (and Giveaway)- Trailfoody.com

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trailfoody Review
First snack

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

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

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

Trailfoody Review
Not to sweet and quite tasty

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

Trailfoody Review
Tamari is a great seasoning on almonds! 160 calories

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

Trailfoody Review
Tasty but dried fruit does burn fast! 40 calories

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

Trailfoody Review
This thing was delicious! 240 calories
Trailfoody Review
Fueled up and heading up the summit cone, photo by http://www.brentdoscher.com

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

Trailfoody Review
Also quite tasty and another 180 calories

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

Trailfoody Review
Caffeine and calories = WIN

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

Trailfoody Review
Good end of day boost, 160 calories

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

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

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

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

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

The Wanderer

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

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

The Pathfinder

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

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

The Intrepid

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

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

Summary

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

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

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Gear Review- La Sportiva Tech Gloves

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


La Sportiva Tech Glove Review
La Sportiva Tech Glove Review- photo from lasportiva.com

The Good

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

The Bad

    • Durability
    • Odor
    • Slow to dry

The Verdict

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


La Sportiva Tech Glove Review
Justin starts up the crux pillar of the classic Grade 5 ice route Repentance

The Details

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

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

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

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

Gear Review- LaSportiva Castle Pant

While I was searching for a new soft-shell pant for ice climbing this season I came across the LaSportiva Castle Pant. While billed as a ski pant this lightweight soft-shell slim fitting tech pant is a great choice for waterfall ice climbing and lightweight mountaineering which is how I primarily tested it over the last two months. The fact that it can serve double duty as a light back-country ski tour pant is definitely a bonus.

La Sportiva Castle Pants Review
La Sportiva Castle Pants Review

Let’s start with a look at the manufacturer description and specifications:

“The Castle Pant is a stylish and comfortable soft-shell ski pant made with technical, performance-focused features to give you everything you need to move confidently around the mountains.”

• 5 pockets <- manufacturer typo? Model has 4 pockets total, 2 front hand warmer pockets, one right rear pocket, and one right thigh pocket large enough for an iPhone 6s Plus

• Adjustable inner gaiter

• Reinforced bottom hem

• Front fly

• Reflective safety details

• Pre-shaped knees

• Suspender attachment

• Flat pocket construction

ITEM NUMBER: B74
SIZES: Men’s S – XL
WEIGHT: 20.56 oz (583g)
FABRIC: Main – Ectoshield™ (90% Nylon, 10% Spandex) • Bottom hem insert – Superfabric® • Inner gaiter – 100% Nylon
FIT: Regular

Not a ton of info from the manufacturer so I’ll break into some real life impressions starting with the choice of fabric.

Materials

La Sportiva uses a proprietary “Ectoshield™” material which is a 90/10 Nylon/Spandex blend. In hand it feels like a durable unlined soft shell very similar to Schoeller™ products I have used before. It is noticeably stretchy and feels quite abrasion resistant. The waist belt has a soft micro fleece lining on the band. There’s an adjustable nylon inner gaiter along with a heavier re-enforced crampon patch on the inner leg and adjustable outer cuff.

img_3633-1
La Sportiva Castle Pant Review
La Sportiva Castle Pant Review
Zippered lower leg with adjustable cuff

This adjustable cuff is a nice feature as I can snap then tighter when wearing ice climbing boots or have a bit more room for my ski touring boots. Since I rarely wear gaiters while ice climbing the option to snug them up is quite nice!

It is highly likely there is a DWR treatment applied despite no mention of it on the manufacturer’s website. I climbed in them through very drippy conditions and they definitely resisted getting damp.

Fit

They fit great under my harness and are quite comfortable on the approach. As a 180 pound 5’9″ 34 inch waist I went with the USA Medium size (Euro L/50). I found the sizing to be perfect for me. Check the size chart if in doubt:

EU S/46 M/48 L/50 XL/52 XXL/54
USA XS S M L XL
TOTAL HEIGHT 5’6″ – 5’8″ 5’8″ – 5’9″ 5’9″ – 5’10” 5’11” – 6”0″ 6’1″+
SLEEVE 31 – 32 32 – 33 33 – 34 43 – 35 35 – 36
INSEAM 31 32 32 33 33
NECK 14.5 15 16 17 18
CHEST 36 38 40 42 44
WAIST (CLIMBING/CASUAL PANTS) 30 – 31 32 – 33 33 – 34 34 – 35 36 – 37
WAIST (OUTERWEAR PANTS) 32 33 – 34 35 – 36 37 – 38 39 – 40

Performance

After a half dozen climbing days in these I’m thinking these may be my go-to ice pants this season. The 10% spandex material gives complete freedom of movement, and they feel like they can take a bit of climbing abuse from time to time. While they fit my body quite well there are both belt loops and suspender attachment points to facilitate every body shape.

La Sportiva Castle Pant Review
Setting up some top-ropes at the North End of Cathedral while guiding

Summary

This is an excellent option for a dedicated ice climbing pant that can serve double duty as a lightweight back-country ski touring pant, something that many New England climbers, back-country skiers, and skimo folks might be looking for. Here’s a short vid of me rocking these pants a few days ago at Frankenstein in Crawford Notch:

If you’d like to pick up a pair you can find them on Backcountry.com here and Amazon here.

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

While I received this item from La Sportiva for the purposes of this review the opinions above are my own. Affiliate links above help support this blog.

Gear Review- Black Diamond First Light Hoody

For the last couple months I’ve been testing the Black Diamond First Light Hoody. From early season recon missions into Tuckerman Ravine searching for climbable November ice to blustery cliff top rigging work while creating an instructional video with Northeast Mountaineering I’ve cultivated some appreciation for the versatility of this “light puffy”. Lightly insulated hooded jackets like this are a great addition to almost any climber or skier’s kit. If you are looking for a full on winter belay jacket you can check out some other models I am reviewing here.

Black Diamond First Light Hoody Review
Black Diamond First Light Hoody

Insulation

The Black Diamond First Light Hoody uses 60 gsm of PrimaLoft® Silver Insulation Active with a traditional tube style baffling. This is a high end insulation that resists “migration”; basically it stays put within its baffles reducing gaps in protection. PrimaLoft® also claims it is more wind resistant but less thermally efficient than the PrimaLoft® Gold Eco.

Black Diamond First Light Hoody

So this type of PrimaLoft insulation isn’t as close to high loft down in terms of heat retention per weight but feels quite warm for the weight of this piece. It also boosts excellent breath-ability and will still retain heat if you get soaked in a “not quite full winter” rain event.

The Patagonia Nano Puff and Black Diamond First Light Hoody
The Patagonia Nano Puff and Black Diamond First Light Hoody, birds of a synthetic feather

Shell/Lining

The Black Diamond First Light Hoody uses Schoeller® stretch-woven nylon with NanoSphere® Technology (80 gsm, 93% nylon, 7% elastane). This is a highly breathable shell fabric which allows this jacket to stay on during high output effort in cold conditions (skinning with sub-zero ambient temps) without overheating. In hand the shell fabric feels like it will handle abrasion better than some others in this category. The nylon woven mesh liner adds a bit of weight to this piece (65 gsm, 100% nylon) but is super soft and feels great directly on skin.

Weight/Compress-ability

Manufacturer specs state 510 grams, 18 oz. My home scale on my size large reads 568 grams, 20 oz. The jacket compresses easily enough into its internal chest pocket and only appears to be slightly larger in packing size than the Nano Puff (but about 50% heavier).

Black Diamond First Light Hoody vs. Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody
Black Diamond First Light Hoody vs. Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody pack-ability

A carabiner sewn loop allows you to clip this off to the back of your harness if you are leaving your pack on the ground and the top of the pitch looks a little bit more breezy than the base of the route.

Sizing/Fit

I found the sizing to be spot on. I went with a large which fits my 42 inch chest, 180lb build, with a little extra space for a soft-shell and base-layers but not too baggy to throw on over a t-shirt. The hood is sized to fit perfectly over your helmet.

Black Diamond First Light Hoody Review
Black Diamond First Light HoodyL

Summary

Yet another fantastic option in the growing lightweight hooded jacket category the Black Diamond First Light Hoody is an ideal “just in case” piece for edge season climbing and an obvious go-to choice for hard & fast winter objectives. If sharing leads on a multi-pitch ice climb I would still bring a full duty belay jacket like the models I am reviewing here. If you haven’t added a “light puffy” to your kit yet or the one you have needs replacing this should be on your radar.

If you think you’d like this jacket you can find other reviews and competitive pricing right here on Amazon. If you liked this review please leave a comment below and subscribe above!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: Black Diamond provided this item for purposes of review. The opinions expressed above are my own. Affiliate links above help support this blog.

Northeast Alpine Start has presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Strava.

Some promotional videos of this product:

http://classic.avantlink.com/affiliate_app_confirm.php?mode=js&authResponse=1726d3094b0dde4e7c5bf9c27f39e63a5b628a22

Gear Review: Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody

A couple months ago I got my hands on the iconic Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody and I’ve come to discover why I often see climbers milling about both at the cliffs and at the local coffee shop in this well designed piece. The non-hooded version of this jacket won the Editors Choice Classic Award from Climbing Magazine. I prefer hoods on almost all my outdoor clothing so I was happy to review the hooded version. This jacket falls into the “light puffy” category. If you are looking for a full on winter belay jacket you can check out some “full puffy” models I am reviewing here.

Patagonia Men's Nano Puff® Hoody
Patagonia Men’s Nano Puff® Hoody- photo from Patagonia.com

So let’s break down what makes this piece an excellent addition to your outdoor wardrobe!

Insulation

The Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody uses super light and compressible 60-g PrimaLoft® Gold ECO Insulation. “Gold” Primaloft is the highest level of synthetic insulation and of course being the environmentally conscious company Patagonia is known for they went with the ECO version of Gold which is 55% post-consumer recycled content. So you can feel warm and fuzzy while feeling warm and… ok that’s a bit too cheesy.

Patagonia Men's Nano Puff® Hoody

The “brick quilting” pattern is superior to other less expensive baffling methods and keeps the insulation in place preventing cold spots.

Shell/Lining

The Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody uses 1.4-oz 22-denier 100% recycled polyester with a DWR (durable water repellent) finish. Well what does that mean? 1.4-oz 22-denier feels like silk!

Patagonia Men's Nano Puff® Hoody
Brick Quilting Pattern = no cold spots

This isn’t a cheap nylon taffeta but a very abrasion resistant and pack-able material. It is quite comfortable over bare skin which is good since I broke this out repeated this Fall to wear directly over a t-shirt.

Weight/Compress-ability

12.8 oz. / 362 grams. Ultralight weight and super compressible, this is undoubtedly where the jacket go its namesake. Nano in this sense means extremely small. The Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody easily stuffs into its own internal chest pocket which measures about 8 x 7 x 4 inches.

Patagonia Men's Nano Puff® Hoody
A lot of warmth in a small little package

A carabiner sewn loop allows you to clip this off to the back of your harness if you are leaving your pack on the ground and the top of the pitch looks a little bit more breezy than the base of the route.

Sizing/Fit

I found the sizing to be spot on. I went with a large which fits my 42 inch chest with a little extra space for a soft-shell and base-layers but not too baggy to throw on over a t-shirt. The hood is sized to fit under your helmet but I found it would fit over as well, but a bit snug.

fullsizerender-2

Patagonia Men's Nano Puff® Hoody
A blustery day rock climbing this Fall near Gorham, NH

Probably more comfortable, and warmer, to wear this hood under your helmet unlike traditional belay jackets with over-sized hoods.

Features

Rounding out some of the features I haven’t mentioned yet:

  • Center-front zipper has wicking interior storm flap and zipper garage at chin for next-to-skin comfort
  • Two zippered handwarmer pockets have cleanly finished zipper garages
  • Under-the-helmet hood construction is light and simple
  • Drawcord-adjustable drop-tail hem seals in warmth

Summary

This is a super versatile layer that can serve many purposes.

It’s the perfect balance of warmth, weight, and pack-ability for climbing on the edge seasons.

Fall rock climbing is the best rock climbing in the Northeast and this jacket is ideal as your insulating layer all on its own. The DWR finish and warm-when-wet insulation adds protection should you leave the rain shell at home and get surprised by a later afternoon shower. After the leaves have fallen and the ice is starting to grow this becomes an excellent mid-layer, taking the place of heavier and less compress-able 200 weight fleece jackets. With quality long underwear, a soft shell, Patagonia Nano Puff® Hoody, and a hard-shell you have an adjustable system that can handle almost any winter conditions. I’ll still carry a heavier full on belay jacket when swapping leads ice climbing but for fast solo missions this is a perfect companion!

If you think you’d like this jacket you can find other reviews and competitive pricing right here on Amazon. If you liked this review please leave a comment below and subscribe above!

See you in the mountains,

Northeast Alpine Start

Disclaimer: Patagonia provided this item for purposes of review. The opinions expressed above are my own. Affiliate links above help support this blog.

Northeast Alpine Start has presence on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Strava.