Posts in Category: Climbing

A Year of Hyperlite Mountain Gear

The Great One, Bridger Mtns, MT. 2400 Porter Pack. June 27, 2013

The Great One, Bridger Mtns, MT. 2400 Porter Pack. June 27, 2013

For just over two years I have been involved in product testing, feedback, and the design process at Hyperlite Mountain Gear in Biddeford, Maine. This has been a rewarding and fulfilling experience, as HMG is pioneering new ground and questioning the status quo in the outdoor industry. If you aren’t familiar, they are providers of lightweight, durable cuben fiber products for efficient movement in the outdoors. HMG is part of a small, but influential group of USA-based manufacturers that are pushing the envelope regarding how we think of gear.

HMG

HMG

 

I have now proudly been a HMG ambassador for the last year and thought it was the right time to summarize a year of mountain use with their products. Summer is coming to a close here in Montana, and it is a perfect time for reflection. HMG has been a pleasure to work with – kindly responding to feedback along the way and showing this in revised/often improved products. I wish them continuing success in all of their ventures!

Jerome Rock Lakes, Spanish Peaks MT. 5x8' Flat Tarp and 1600 Summit Pack. Oct 14, 2012

Jerome Rock Lakes, Spanish Peaks MT. 5×8′ Flat Tarp and 1600 Summit Pack. Oct 14, 2012

This pictorial representation begins in August 2012 and continues with images from every month of the year, until Aug 2013. A huge thanks to Mike and Dan St. Pierre, along with the rest of the crew at HMG! I humbly present to you a full year of my backcountry use with their mighty-fine gear:

AUGUST 2012:

La Mer de Glace et les Grandes Jorasses, France. 1600 Stuff Pack. Aug 8, 2012

La Mer de Glace et les Grandes Jorasses (farthest on R), France. 1600 Stuff Pack. Aug 8, 2012 (photo: Julia)

SEPTEMBER 2012:

The Grand Teton, WY. Orange 3400 Porter Pack prototype. Sept 23, 2012

The Grand Teton, WY. Orange 3400 Porter Pack prototype. Sept 23, 2012 (photo: Julia)

OCTOBER 2012:

Beehive Peak, Spanish Peaks MT. 1600 Summit Pack. Oct 7, 2012.

Beehive Peak, Spanish Peaks MT. 1600 Summit Pack. Oct 7, 2012 (photo: Julia)

Twin Falls WI3, Hyalite Canyon MT. 2400 Ice Pack. Oct 28, 2012

Twin Falls WI3, Hyalite Canyon MT. 2400 Ice Pack. Oct 28, 2012

NOVEMBER 2012:

Feeding the Cat WI3, Hyalite Canyon MT. 2400 Ice Pack. Nov 11, 2012

Feeding the Cat WI3, Hyalite Canyon MT. 2400 Ice Pack. Nov 11, 2012

DECEMBER 2012:

Lower Greensleeves WI3, Hyalite Canyon MT. 2400 Ice Pack. Dec 17, 2012

Lower Greensleeves WI3-, Hyalite Canyon MT. 2400 Ice Pack (look closely). Dec 17, 2012

JANUARY 2013:

S Brackett Creek, Bridger Mtns MT. 1600 Metro Pack. Jan 12, 2013

S Brackett Creek, Bridger Mtns MT. 1600 Metro Pack. Jan 12, 2013 (photo: Julia)

FEBRUARY 2013:

E Fork Hyalite Canyon, MT. 2400 Ice Pack. Feb 10, 2013

E Fork Hyalite, Gallatin Mtns MT. 2400 Ice Pack. Feb 10, 2013 (photo: Julia)

MARCH 2013:

G1 WI3-4. Hyalite Canyon, MT. 2400 Ice Pack. Mar 27, 2013

G1 WI3-4. Hyalite Canyon, MT. 2400 Ice Pack. Mar 27, 2013

APRIL 2013:

Bozeman, MT. Revised 1600 Summit Pack prototype. Apr 10, 2013

Bozeman, MT. Revised 1600 Summit Pack prototype. Apr 10, 2013

MAY 2013:

Hyalite Canyon, MT. 1600 Summit Pack. May 16, 2013

Twin Falls, Hyalite Canyon, MT. 1600 Summit Pack. May 16, 2013

JUNE 2013:

Beartooth Mtns, MT. 2400 Porter Pack. Jun 1, 2013

Beartooth Mtns, MT. 2400 Porter Pack. Jun 1, 2013 (photo: Julia)

Garnet Meadows, Grand Teton NP. 2400 Porter Pack. Jun 8, 2013

Garnet Meadows, Grand Teton NP, WY. 2400 Porter Pack. Jun 8, 2013

Blaze Mountain, Spanish Peaks MT. 2400 Porter Pack. Jun 30, 2013 (photo: M. McAlpine)

Blaze Mountain, Spanish Peaks MT. 2400 Porter Pack. Jun 30, 2013 (photo: M. McAlpine)

JULY 2013:

Skyline Arete (5.6, II), Gallatin NF MT. 1600 Summit Pack. July 19, 2013

Skyline Arete (5.6, II), Gallatin NF MT. 1600 Summit Pack. July 19, 2013 (photo: E. Stewart)

Alaska Basin, Grand Tetons. 2400 Porter Pack. July 24, 2013

Alaska Basin, Grand Tetons WY. 2400 Porter Pack. July 24, 2013 (photo: Julia)

AUGUST 2013:

Blackmore Lake, Gallatin NF MT. 1600 Summit Pack. Aug 4, 2013

Blackmore Lake, Gallatin NF MT. 1600 Summit Pack. Aug 4, 2013 (photo: Julia)

Lake Ellen Wilson, Glacier NP. 5x8' Flat Tarp and 2400 Porter Pack (not shown). Aug 16, 2013

Lake Ellen Wilson, Glacier NP, MT. 5×8′ Flat Tarp and 2400 Porter Pack (not shown). Aug 16, 2013

Twelve months and many hundreds of miles of use in the backcountry. Thus far, well done HMG. Thanks for pushing the envelope…and please do keep up the good work!

 

The Fifth Season

First Lupine, Tetons.

First Lupine, Tetons.

We are deep into the fifth season here in the Northern Rockies. Over the last 6ish weeks here in SW Montana I have been able to take recreational advantage of the varied spring conditions. Although June is just around the bend and its green in the valleys, there is still some winter to be had in the hills. Notable highlights have been knee deep powder skiing mid-April, Bridger spring corn laps, Hyalite ice climbing last week, and dry (enough) trails down low for running. I’ve been into Yellowstone a couple times recently and also the Tetons. The first green up has just occurred in the YNP and the landscape is looking stunning. Not to mention the ridiculous amount of wildlife seen both in the frontcountry and the backcountry. I hope that everyone is having a great fifth season and is able to get out to enjoy it. Here’s a bunch of pics highlighting my recent spring fun:

Julia and mid-April powder

Julia and mid-April powder

Brad looking rad

Brad looking rad

S. Fork Bracket Creek last hoorah. April 4.

S. Fork Bracket Creek last hoorah

Lava Lake trail run

Lava Lake trail run

en route to Lava Lake

en route to Lava Lake

Hyalite road re-opening and ice recon. HMG summit proto testing.

Hyalite road re-opening and ice recon. HMG summit proto testing.

Rain, snow, and mid-May Hyalite ice climbing!

Rain, snow, and mid-May Hyalite ice climbing!

The remainder of Mummy Cooler II (WI 4)

The remainder of Mummy Cooler II (WI 4)

Alternative methods to stream crossings

Alternative methods to stream crossings

Spring cones above Phelps Lake (J. photo)

Spring cones above Phelps Lake (J. photo)

Hey Boo-boo!

Hey Boo-boo!

Mt. Moran, center

Mt. Moran, center

Blaming it on the Tetons

Blaming it on the Tetons

HMG Summit Pack addendum

Spanish Peaks and HMG Summit Pack

Myself & HMG Summit Pack in the Spanish Peaks late 2012

Here’s some additional thoughts on the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Summit Pack (initially overviewed here nearly a year ago). The carry needed some help and to that, I gave it. A bit of seam ripping, resewing, and some Seam Grip – now the pack carries much better and is all the more practical as a sub-27 liter, do-it-most, all season pack.  It’s great for everything from winter ice cragging to summer overnights, and ski tours to rock climbing. Before the modification, the pack carried ok for weights around 5 pounds. But for anything much more, the pack just didn’t distribute the weight sufficiently. So to the cutting board it went and out came a fairly decent modification.

Overnight with my revised pack, Fall 2012

Overnight with my revised pack, Fall 2012

This little cuben pack from HMG had nearly everything you could need in a sub 10oz package except for its carrying comfort. So I went at it – and came up with a fairly easy fix to a fairly large dilemma. The original design pulled at the one center point of shoulder attachment and thus, pulled inward one’s shoulders unnecessarily after extended use.

Back view from HMG website

2012 single point shoulder strap attachment, Summit Pack back view from HMG website

This caused an awkward carry at the least, and a sore upper neck/back at the worst. So with some ingenuity and some thread, the shoulder straps got chopped in the middle, reattached at horizontal with ~2.5″ of distance between them, and seam gripped with the addition of a haul loop. This mod now allows for an equal dispersion of pull/weight from the shoulders and therefore for a comfortable carry. I also added a hydration port with an exacto blade and some tenacious tape to complete the mod. Super simple, yet super functional and practical.

My modified Summit with revised shoulder strap attachment, haul loop, and hydration port

My modified Summit with revised shoulder strap attachment, haul loop, and hydration port

As I was revising this post today, I actually received a new version of the Summit Pack in the mail from HMG. No joke! It’s very similar to my modified version pictured above. This latest version has shoulder straps have been adjusted and they seem to be much more comfortable when compared to the initial pack. With a quick once-over, I’m very happy with the new iteration in terms of fit, a more comfortable carry, and a clean aesthetic finish. So, until I can get some miles with it, here’s a couple pics to show you the latest HMG Summit Pack prototype:

2013 Summit Pack revision

2013 HMG Summit Pack revision


Newly revised 2013 Summit Pack back and shoulder view

Newly revised 2013 HMG Summit Pack back and shoulder view

Recent Hyalite ice climbing conditions and winter layering

Clouds and fresh snow over Hyalite Reservoir


I was up to Hyalite for three days straight this previous weekend, and only on Saturday night did the ice climbing conditions come back. It seems like winter has re-taken its hold, after the apres-Halloween thaw that we experienced here up until this last Friday. Temps in the 50°’s (F) and up finally gave way to sub-freezing temps over the last few days. Flowing water has begun to freeze, and snow has accumulated in the mountains.

Saturday along upper Hyalite Creek


Sunday along the creek from the previous photo’s vantage point


Thin Chance, WI4 (and where it gets the name)


I trudged up through the Amphitheater, where the two Chances (Fat and Thin) are just coming in, and the talus is quite treacherous on the way up. I broke trail up through the trees on the climbers trail that largely stays on the ridgeline, and the going was pretty straightforward, although it could use some more snow. Up top, I was able to reach (from left to right) The Scepter, Mummy II, Crypt Orchid, The Matrix, Cave and Gulley, and Feeding the Cat.

‘Feeding the Cat, WI3’


‘The Matrix, M5, WI4’ (left) and ‘Cave & Gully, WI3’ (center) – not yet in shape


‘Crypt Orchid, WI2-3’

There was a party of four on my first objective of Crypt Orchid, so I traversed right and soloed around on Feeding the Cat. The upper portion is somewhat suspect, so I downclimbed without topping out – figuring it was a smart move given the state of the thin ice. It actually had some of the most ice out of all of the upper climbs above the Amphitheater and was well featured and fun.

Chandeliered ice on ‘Feeding the Cat’

As a gear related note, I managed to remember to take a photo of my somewhat typical winter upper layering system. The four-layer ensemble in this instance consisted of kit for the teens (°F) for steep hiking over ~four miles (high aerobic exertion) with intermittent climbing/faffing about (low exertion). I find these, and similar layers suitable for other winter pursuits, with mainly the thickness/fabric of said garments being adjusted for variable temps/conditions/applications. Slightly thinner and more breathable for warmer temps and/or higher exertion, and thicker for colder temps and/or lower exertion.

Four-layer winter layering system


This particular system consisted of a RAB MeCo 120 L/S Tee as a next-to-skin layer, RAB Boreas Pull-On as a midlayer, Westcomb Shift LT Hoody for a stretch WP/B outerlayer, and finally a layered 100g/60g Primaloft Montane Flux as a fully featured synthetic belay parka. For my legs, I had on Cap 2 Bottoms and Backcountry Guide Pants, both from Patagonia. All layers were highly functional and warranted for the outing. And as a final layering note, I have not found the need for external gaiters now that I’ve had integrated gaiters with a couple of pairs of climbing boots. The integrated gaiter is definitely a lighter and more efficient system when compared to the traditional external ‘over the boots and pants’ calf-height gaiter system. Gotta love the progression!

Integrated gaiter on Phantom Ultra, under the Backcountry Guide Pant

The rest of the day consisted of scoping out the conditions of other notable climbs both high and low. Mummy II is looking to be in, but thin, and The Scepter is broken into a couple of yet-to-be touching daggers.

‘The Scepter, WI5’ (left) and ‘Mummy Cooler II, WI3-ish’ (foreground)

The Scepter, WI 5, (forming)

Besides that, the lower Genesis area had a ton of climbers on it playing around on top-rope both on the newly formed, and still running ice, and also on the dry/mixed routes on the right of the crag. I also checked out Lower Greensleeves, which was not at all in. Up above, it looked like Genesis II was getting close to ready while to the left, Hangover was being climbed in thin conditions. Overall, things are looking up for Hyalite’s ice conditions and should hopefully continue to progress.

Genesis I area coming in slowly, but surely


Self-portrait low on ‘Feeding the Cat’

Hyalite Canyon Ice is (was?) in

Looking from Twin Falls cirque east across the canyon (with Winter Dance forming on middle left of the LH prow. Click to enlarge and use magnifier to find Winter Dance)


As I write this, the temps yesterday reached 70°F (!), with no sign of winter conditions in the near future. So the ice that I climbed this prior weekend may just be liquid now. So it goes here in the Montana off-season. Irregardless, here’s my take on the weekend’s fun:

Midway up Twin Falls with snow covered ice


I got out twice this past weekend, with both outings to Twin Falls here in Hyalite Canyon. It is mostly an off trail approach, with a makeshift climbers trail existing here in the early season, and a bootpack often in the later season. A big thanks to Bud Martin for the chainsaw trail work that has aided in the community’s ease of access. Way to go, sir! After a couple of miles and a couple thousand feet of elevation gain, I made it up to Twin Falls late Sat afternoon, passing four or five climbing parties who were on the descent. Both the left and right falls looked to be climbable, so I ice bouldered around for a minute to try out my new Petzl Nomics (yup, I bit the bullet and got the gold standards!), and also to try out my boot/crampon interface between my new Scarpa Phantom Ultras and my trusty Grivel G20s. I really couldn’t ask for a much better setup.

Nomic with new Cold Thistle hammer


Everything seemed to be in working order, and I even tried out my newly purchased and amazingly crafted 36 gram Cold Thistle Tools Nomic Hammers on the notoriously chossy Hyalite rock. Anyone who has pounded a piton knows that singing sound that a well place pin makes, and the new hammers performed with aplomb, albeit while on the safety of the ground. Better to know this while grounded, than to find out otherwise 40m off of the deck! And as for a Chamonix treat to myself earlier this summer, the unavailable in the states Phantom Ultras (LW brother to the Scarpa Phantom Guides) hiked like a dream and also felt great climbing. It is a wonder to me that this Ueli Steck designed boot did not make it to the U.S. Weird. Glad to have them on my feet though!

Scarpa Phantom Ultras doing their thing


Phantom Ultra and G20


It was cold and wintery on my Sat recon, while the next day felt like spring, despite ProLite’s Brad Baumann and I getting to the trailhead as the first car and first climbers Sun morning. There was some fresh snow, although it was quite wet, and the ice looked to have built up all throughout Hyalite Canyon over the course of the last 12 hours. So up we went, with the right side of Twin Falls being my first lead of the season – and a long one at that. Twin Falls is Hyalite’s premier WI3 pitch of climbing, coming in at around 60m or so of fun and classic moderate ice. A perfect climb for those of all abilities, especially for an October (thin) ice climb. I placed four stubby 12-13cm screws and one 16cm for the whole pitch, although this was plenty for the moderate grade and thin ice. My rack consisted of a mixture of Grivel 360’s, Grivel Helix’s and Black Diamond Express ice screws. All which worked just fine. There are subtle nuances between these brands/styles, but nothing to really note except that the BD’s weigh considerably less for the gram-counters among us. My favorites thus far are the Helix and the Express screws, after using a few other screws over the last couple seasons. Ease of racking and ease of placement are the main reasons for this preference. As for the 360’s, they are wonderful to place in featured ice due to the smaller head size, but because of this they are horrible to rack. Each screw potentially has its place, but the overall ergonomics of the Helix and Express seem to take the cake.

Looking to right side of Twin Falls from the left, mid-rappel


Brad coming up and over the last of the climb


Psyched on the early season ice and lead, I brought Brad up and we traversed over to the left side of the falls to make the double rappel, given that we had a single 70m rope that wouldn’t take us all the way to the ground. The rap is straightforward from the left side, with multiple slung trees about halfway down from Twin’s left belay. By the time we got down, a couple of parties had arrived and we were on our way out, in time for a delicious Cajun lunch in town at Cafe Zydeco. You know what they say about the early bird…it catches the po-boy sandwich!

Rapping the left falls


Regarding gear, besides the aforementioned boots, crampons, and tools, I got to climb in the recently highlighted Westcomb Shift Lt Hoody on Dane’s Cold Thistle blog. A wonderfully designed piece from a North American manufacturer (Brad and I actually helped in this design, so a little gratuitous horn-tooting!). Westcomb came through for the LW community and put out the lightest NeoShell piece to date with the Shift (my small weighs 312g/11oz). One napoleon pocket, 3-way adjust hood that accommodates a helmet, draw hem, alpine cuffs, roomy enough for a midlayer, and did I mention that it’s currently the lightest NeoShell piece on the market?! For those that aren’t familiar, Polartec’s NeoShell is an industry breakthrough, and one that I’ve been testing prior to it being available on the market.

Testing a prototype Westcomb NeoShell Apoc Jacket in Yellowstone, December 2010


I can attest to the fabric’s impeccable breathability, 4-way stretch, and waterproofness. It is not your Gore-Tex of yesteryear! One must try it to believe, but I can vouch for it after nearly two years of testing. I have high hopes for this LW piece, and it has served me well thus far on various outings and temperature ranges, including the truly testing Scottish hills, winter in Yellowstone, and now Hyalite ice climbing. To many more, I say. And as I’ve mentioned many times previously on this blog, my HMG Ice Pack was absolutely a tried and true piece of highly functional equipment for the mountains. None better, in my opinion. Over a year of abuse/use and no real complaints to date. The carry and design are unparallelled for a two pound pack. Thank you HMG, for breaking the mold!

HMG Ice Pack and Nomics – locked and loaded


Again, so psyched to have climbed a Hyalite ice classic in October. Let us hope that the current warm weather doesn’t completely degrade the already forming ice here in the hills – keep your fingers crossed for more to come. If no ice, then backpacking may be in order for the upcoming weekend. Either way, I look forward to the opportunities that abound here in this gorgeous neck of the woods.

Twin Falls from below