Gear Review

Weekly Monday Gear Review: Revo Guide Sunglasses

One thing a Mountain Guide must have is a good pair of sunglasses. With the amount of time outdoor professionals spend in the sun, UV protection is paramount. I recently acquired a pair of the “Guide” sunglasses from Revo and they have been great. Personally, I prefer larger framed shades mostly due to my abnormally sized noggin, but also because of the greater surface area they cover on my face.

The Revo Guide comes with Serillium lenses to resist impact and scratching, making them ideal for a variety of outdoor pursuits. They also feature Revo’s patented Element Shed, allowing sweat, oil, water, or snow to simply just roll off your lenses keeping your vision unimpaired.

The Revo Guide aren’t just full of great tech features and style, they are sustainable as well. They utilize a nylon that is made from the Castor Bean plant as opposed to petroleum based nylon like many other eyewear manufacturers. This material is sustainable and environmentally friendly as well as lightweight and highly flexible.

Whether skiing, rock climbing, ice climbing, or just cruising around the block, the Revo Guide will not disappoint.

Hope to see you all out there.

-Eric Whewell
Colorado Mountain School Guide
800-836-4008 x3

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Weekly Monday Gear Review: Black Diamond Stinger

The Black Diamond Stinger crampon is the latest entry to the lightweight, steep ice and mixed category from our friends at BD.

This crampon is designed for anything and everything from steep waterfalls to mixed, roadside or alpine.

Stainless steel construction keeps the weight at 2 lbs. and the asymmetric platform fits my low-volume, modern ice boots perfectly. The hooded monopoints and aggressive secondary points guarantee security on any type of ice.

For me, as someone who has used BD crampons for years, one specific improvement stood out. They managed to significantly improve the fit of both the toe bails and heel wires by decreasing the profile of each. This makes a huuuge difference when you’ve got your feet jammed into cracks or when shuffling foot placements in tight quarters.

Also worth mentioning are the durable anti-bots that are included as well as the ability to easily change out the monopoint once it wears down.

For the alpinists out there….all hardware is easily replaceable and these crampons are some of the quickest to adjust or repair out of any that I’ve tried.

If you’re looking for a crampon to take you through the rest of the water ice season here in Colorado and continue well into spring alpine climbing here in the Park or abroad, look no further.

-Mike Soucy
Colorado Mountain School Guide
800-836-4008 x3

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Weekly Gear Review: BCA Float Airbags

Backcountry skiing is dangerous, especially this year where we live. So far, I’ve witnessed one of the more hazardous and unpredictable snowpacks that I’ve ever seen. But no matter the location or the stability, we all accept a certain level of risk in chasing the pow that takes us out of the sterility of the ski area to begin with. One rider’s acceptable risk might be vastly different from another’s. However, I think we can all agree that avoiding avalanche burial is the desired outcome.

Enter the Backcountry Access (BCA) Float Pack. It is one of several airbag packs that operate on the Brazil nut effect. This states that larger objects tend to stay on top of smaller ones while in turbulence (avalanche). When deployed, you become the nut, and theoretically, remain on top of the avalanche debris. This theory is being increasingly tested by one successful “save” after another. The most recent took place here in Colorado:
These packs have two distinct shortcomings. They are heavy- about twice the weight of a comparable pack without a Float system. And they are expensive. However, each additional save that’s attributed to this pack makes these criticisms less viable in my book.
There are three different Float packs available from BCA. I prefer the 36 liter model, which is built for folks that need the additional volume of a larger daypack. For 2011/12, BCA fine-tuned this pack to include all of the features that make their other packs so great. The pack includes ample storage space, back panel access, internal shovel/probe pockets, waist belt pockets, ski and snowboard carry system, lined goggle pocket and hydration sleeve. The internal frame and load lifter straps make the additional weight of the pack quite manageable.
I believe that in the near future, we will see these packs become a standard part of our avalanche rescue kits. But with such a great option out there now, why wait? We should continue to make smart and conservative decisions in the backcountry, but we’re all prone to the same errors that catch people in avalanches. Stacking the odds in your favor is never a bad thing.
-Mike Soucy
Colorado Mountain School Guide
AIARE Level 1 Instructor
800-836-4008 x3
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Weekly Monday Gear Review: Marmot Spire Pants

At first glance I thought the Marmot Spire Pants were bibs, and bibs are often just too hot for me on the up portion of the day. But they are really pants with suspenders, which are easily removable.  However with the back yoke for the suspenders being mesh, the sweat factor is a non-issue. As it turns out, I have yet to remove them and kind of like wearing the waist loose with the suspenders holding up the pants.

With two way full side zips, it is easy to ventilate the upper legs while the lower legs stay protected from the powder. Lightweight and fully waterproof Goretex construction with 3 zippered pockets and built in gaiters completes the package. Speaking of the gaiters, I hate struggling with gaiters too tight to fit over my ski boots, the fit is perfect on these.

I have been wearing these primarily for skiing, both lift served and backcountry, as well as for teaching avalanche courses which involve a lot of wallowing in the snow. They have performed very well for all my uses and have kept me warm in the 70mph winds we have been having.

I plan to try them out ice climbing soon and have a hunch that they will do just fine, though a harness may restrict access to the pockets and they do have a looser fit than I am used to in an ice climbing pant, so we’ll see. 

Designed as a ski pant, I give them 2 thumbs up for design, construction and comfort when used as such.


The colors available (I have the yellow) are just a bonus and a nice change from the black, black or more black choices in technical pants I have become accustomed to for the last decade.  All in all a pant I am quite happy with. They are not so lightweight that I will rip them up easily, but the they will let me rip up the slopes!

Mark Hammond
Head Mountain Guide
Colorado Mountain School

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Scarpa Maestrale Ski Boot review

The Scarpa Maestrale is the lightest four buckle boot on the market and is designed to be the perfect touring boot. What does this mean? For me it means a touring boot that fits my foot well (Intuition Liners are a must for me, and remember to shell size. If you don’t know how, please ask a salesperson for help) has a great range of motion in the cuff while touring, is Dynafit compatible, is stiff enough to move bigger (larger than 100mm underfoot) skis, and does not weigh more than concrete.

How does the Maestrale fit into these parameters? The boot fits me really well. I am a 26.5 and the intuition liner when formed filled every little area between my foot and the shell. When in touring mode the range of motion may not reach the claimed 40 degrees, but I am also not physically able to use 40 degrees efficiently for more than a few strides. It is Dynafit compatible, and is just stiff enough for larger skis in backcountry snow conditions.
I have been able to ski the Maestrale with the K2 Coombacks (102 underfoot) and the LaSportiva Hi5 (105 underfoot) in variable conditions from spring corn, to wind crust a few inches thick. The boot skied precisely and comfortably in all conditions besides the wind crust. This may have been the skier more than the boot, but I would love a little extra stiffness as Colorado seems to have variable snow conditions on occasion. On two occasions I skied a groomed run at the area and was pleasantly surprised at how well the boot held up at speeds.
The asymmetrical tongue makes the boot easy for entry and exit, while the alpine tounge closure seems to hold my lower foot quite stable and precisely. The buckles are light and seem to be holding up and the power strap is effective and even has a bit of elastic that helps secure it. The walk ski mechanism is easy to use (seems like all boots these days), and I would recommend the Maestrale as a great lightweight, four buckle, touring boot. If you are looking for a boot that handles drops, faster speeds, and crushes the crud, this is not the boot for you. For that check out the Scarpa Mobe.
Hope you enjoy and lets all pray for Snow.
Mike Alkaitis
CMS Senior Guide
For your enjoyment: In this video CMS Guide, Mike Alkaitis, skis at a local area
called Caribou with his Scarpa Maestrales.
Posted by BRC in Gear Review, 1 comment

Weekly Monday Gear Review: Black Diamond Punisher Gloves

Climbers are pretty finicky when it comes to climbing gear…any climbing gear.  This is especially true, however, when dealing with climbing gloves because it’s with our hands that we feel connected to the mountain.

Since our hands are so integral to climbing, it stands to reason that climbing gloves should be tough, warm, grippy, dexterous, sexy and functional.  Enter Black Diamond’s Punisher gloves…they fit the bill.  When in doubt, the Punisher gloves are my go-to glove because they excel in a variety of conditions and uses.  Gloves, unlike mittens, aren’t designed for uber-cold conditions and yet I’ve used my Punishers for below-zero climbs in Rocky Mountain Nat’l Park for years.  As long as you’re hydrated, well fed and active, these gloves provide ample protection from the cold.  When leading on ice, it can be downright dangerous to climb with a bulky glove: carabiners are hard to open, screws are easily dropped and the rope is fumbled.  Not good.  However, too-thin gloves sacrifice the warmth for their nimbleness and for most of us frostbite just isn’t an option.  The BD Punisher gloves strike a near-perfect balance between these two worlds of warmth and dexterity, in my opinion.  My test?  If I can’t manipulate a small, fickle zipper with my gloves on, they don’t pass.

The Punishers have a thin plastic membrane built in that keeps the gloves functionally waterproof.  Although this membrane inhibits breathability, it’s also crucial to have in cold, alpine environments.  The palms are grippy leather that usually take some time before they saturate and freeze.  My trick is to have two pairs of Punishers, one for the climbing/belaying and another pair zipped inside my jackets, close to my body.  When one pair gets wet, I swap them out for the dry pair and at least warm up the first pair, and so on.  Other features include a small-but-effective gauntlet to keep snow and ice from pouring into your jacket’s sleeves while your arms are overhead and a finger loop on each glove.  This finger loop functions as a quick way to remove the glove one-handed in a pinch (it helps to have a BD ice clipper on your harness: just hook the finger loop on the clipper and pull your hand out of the glove).  Again, this little feature isn’t something I use very often but it sure helps when you’re hanging by one arm, need to get your other glove off and your mouth/teeth are incapacitated for some reason.
These gloves excel in the worlds of cold, snow and ice.  With near daily use, my Punishers typically last me a few seasons.  Again, they’re my go-to glove from ice to moderate mixed climbing, from heinous alpine to easy mountaineering.  They do almost everything perfectly.  Oh, and they’re sexy.
Andrew Councell

Colorado Mountain School Guide
800-836-4008 x3

Posted by BRC in Gear Review, 1 comment

Weekly Monday Gear Review: Marmot Powder 8 Jacket

I’d like to introduce everyone to my new jacket of choice, the Marmot Powder 8.  I’ve been wearing my Team Red version for some time now and I have to say that is my go-to jacket.

The Powder 8 Jacket is a jack(et) of all trades.  It keeps me warm, it’s comfortable and soft to the touch.  Plus it looks good.  I’ve worn this jacket for everything, from multi-pitch rock routes during these cooler times, to Christmas Mass.  In fact my mother even complimented me on it.  That never happens with my outdoor attire.  To me the Powder 8 is the perfect combination of jacket, sweater, and fleece.  It has the protection of a jacket, the look of a sweater, and the feel of fleece.  You can’t go wrong.

If you are in the market for a jacket, I recommend you check out the Powder 8 from Marmot.  I give it two thumbs up.

-E.J. Nogaski
Colorado Mountain School
800-836-4008 x3

Posted by BRC in Gear Review, 1 comment

Weekly Monday Gear Review: Backcountry Access Alp 40

Guiding is a profession that requires a myriad of equipment for various applications while holding up against years of abuse.  I am no exception, and when it comes to packs I am not only abusive but picky as well.  Finding a pack that will do the job it’s designed for is not an easy task, but I think I have nailed it with the Backcountry Access Alp 40 liter.

I used this pack almost exclusively ski touring for the 2010/2011 winter.  The Alp 40 has a number of features I think are great.  Most importantly, it carries well.  The pack comes with ample shoulder and hip padding so your torso stays comfortable on that 7000ft Alaskan tour.  The pockets on the hip belt are perfect for storing a compass, a snack, and chapstick for quick easy access.  The pack also features back panel zippered access so you can grab your puffy coat that you accidently buried at the bottom of your pack when the mercury starts dropping.
Let’s talk professional features.  The Alp 40 comes with a Velcro side pocket to conveniently store your avalanche probe and shovel handle as well as an external zippered pocket to store your shovel blade.  The pack lid is removable to make it lower profile and comes with a helmet fly.  BCA made the pack capable of carrying skis diagonally as well as A-frame style so you have options when booting couloirs in the spring.  The side compression straps can be linked together to carry a snowboard or snowshoes if you aren’t on skis.  The Alp 40 also comes with BCA’s patented freeze-proof hydration system that accommodates a bladder or wide-mouth water bottle.
All in all, this is a great pack for recreational and professional use.  I look forward to another winter in my BCA Alp 40 and will be my go to for my upcoming American Mountain Guides Association Ski Mountaineering Guides Exam.
Eric Whewell
CMS Senior Guide
AMGA Certified Rock & Alpine Guide
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Weekly Monday Gear Review: Scarpa Mobe

A friend of mine who works at a popular outdoor retailer recently told me that they are easily selling four pair of AT boots to every one pair of tele boots this fall. Randonee equipment is in the midst of a surge in technology and popularity, and boots are leading the charge.

The only downside to this innovation is the abundance of choice for the consumer. Are we now expected to have a quiver of boots to suit our touring, mountaineering, and racing needs? It seems so, but I will persevere.
Finding the right ski boot, for me, represents the crux of my ski kit assembly. Fit, performance, weight, and binding compatibility all receive equal consideration.
I feel as though I found an appropriate balance last year with the Scarpa Mobe.
The Mobe is Scarpa’s entry in the tech-fitting (Dynafit) compatible freeride category. This is a boot that’s designed to deliver high performance for aggressive skiers in steep terrain. The Mobe will be seen as often in the ski area as in the skin track. Weight and flex are comparable to or better than others in this category (Radium and Titan).
The flex index of the boot is listed as 125. This is a difficult number to interpret objectively or score against other models. Suffice to say that it is a stiff boot in comparison to other touring oriented models out there. What I can say that I appreciate about the Mobe is that it offers a progressive flex that I haven’t experienced with other stiffer boots out there. It offers plenty of power without feeling like my shins are pushing up against a brick wall.
Other details worthy of feedback include the power strap. Specifically…….it is a power strap. It’s plenty wide and its elasticity tightens the cuff around your entire leg.
One thing I would change with this boot is the buckle system. It would be valuable to add some sort of buckle catch that functions to secure the buckles while they are loose.
So, buy this boot if you are an aggressive ski area convert. Buy this boot if you ski big terrain on fat skis and want a stiff and supportive ride. It will not disappoint.
Have fun out there.
Mike Soucy
Colorado Mountain School Guide
800-836-4008 x3
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Weekly Monday Gear Review: Marmot Drakon 35

Here at the Colorado Mountain School our go-to outdoor apparel is Marmot.  When I heard they were making a new pack, the Drakon 35, I was excited to try it out.  I have used Marmot packs in the past and had great experiences with them.

I was about to head out to the Cascades for an Advanced Alpine Guides Course that was being taught by the AMGA.  But before I headed out there, I had to give my new pack, the Marmot Drakon 35 litter, a test run.
That test run would be a guided two day ascent of Longs Peak (14,260’).  Right away I keyed into the fact that the pack seemed to have a bit more room than most 35 litter packs I’ve used in the past.  I was able to pack a Black Diamond 2 person tent and poles, an inflatable sleeping pad, a sleeping bag, stove/fuel, freeze dried food, the ten essentials, extra clothing, and all my climbing gear into my pack.  I placed my helmet and climbing rope over the top of the pack and used the side straps to fasten the rope tightly to the sides.
On the hike up to the Boulder Field the pack carried really well.  I had no sore spots or pains because of the pack.  I could tell that the waist and shoulder straps are built in a way that makes carrying heavier loads easier and more comfortable.  With the added benefit of the vertical zipper system, I was able to access food and water easily while on the trail.
The next day I was able use this same pack for the summit climb.  By buckling the side straps across the front of the pack, the Drakon 35 compresses nicely and becomes low profile for climbing.  Little pockets on the inside of the pack made it nice to store sunscreen and snacks.
After this trip I knew this would be the pack to take on my Alpine Course.  Needless to say… I give this packs two thumbs up.
Thanks,
Joey Thomson
Colorado Mountain School Senior Guide
800-836-4008 x3
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Weekly Monday Gear Review: La Sportiva Trango Primes

Lots of folks around here say that alpine climbing in Rocky Mountain NP is some of the best training available for the greater ranges of the world. Some actually say that the greater ranges are some of the best training for climbing in Rocky. We get wind; we get cold. But we do have some classic mixed climbs requiring long approaches, snow, ice, and rock climbing. Full winter days in the Park require footwear that allows you to move quickly and comfortably. And stay warm. And climb well.

I picked up a pair of La Sportiva Trango Primes last winter and I must say, they’re fitting the bill so far. I’m looking forward to some more testing this season, as the snow falls and the ice forms.
When one browses the Sportiva website, one sees no less than five different Trango boot models. The Prime fits in at one end of the spectrum: warmest. With the most insulation, thickest midsole, an aggressive Vibram tread, and an integrated gaiter, this boot was made for winter alpine adventure.
The fit is true to the Trango last, maybe a bit roomier than the lighter weight models. I have used all types of crampon bindings on this boot with success. They also work well with my Silveretta ski bindings for approaches.
Climbing-wise, I have no complaints. The stiff midsole is solid on steep ice. The flexible ankle allows for mobility on the rock and mixed terrain, as well as comfortable flat footing on the less-than-vertical. When I compare the rock climbing performance to my red Trangos, I’d say they’re not quite as nimble or precise. This is definitely a boot geared towards climbing with crampons on.
If you’ve already been wondering when Alexander’s and the Smear are going to form; or you’re planning and training for a trip to the Alps next spring and you need new footwear, give this one a shot. It’s yet another well-crafted Italian mountain boot from La Sportiva.
Mike Soucy
CMS Guide
800-836-4008
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Weekly Monday Gear Review: Black Diamond OZ Carabiner

I’m a huge fan of the Oz carabiner by Black Diamond because of its light weight. Using a full rack of these carabiners saves my load a few pounds. I have had trouble with other lightweight carabiners in the past due to my hand size. The Oz carabiner is perfect for my large hands and gives me peace of mind while serving its function impeccably.

Yours truly,

Steve Johnson
Colorado Mountain School Senior Guide
AMGA Rock and Alpine Guide Certified

Tech Specs:
Weight : 28 g (1 oz)

Closed Gate Strength : 20 kN (4496 lbf)
Open Gate Strength : 8 kN (1798 lbf)
Minor Axis Strength : 7 kN (1574 lbf)
Gate Opening : 22 mm (0.86 in)

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Weekly Monday Gear Review: Revo Redpoint and Guide Sunglasses

Revo Guide

“These make me see better! Russ, you’ve got to try these.” Said my sister to her husband after trying on my Revo brand sunglasses. His take? “I almost don’t need my prescription lenses with these!” He enthused.

And in fact, I was so psyched on my new Revos that I now have 2 pair.

For me the main draw in a pair of sunglasses are the optics and the optics on the Revos are phenomenal. Crystal clear, no distortion and keeps my eyes feeling rested even after a long day (or week) in the harsh alpine light of the Rockies.

The lenses are polarized and block 100% of UVA, UVB and UVC light.

Revo  Red Point
Of course, nobody can get behind sunglasses that don’t make you look your best and the Revo brand satisfies in this department too! I have both the Red Point model and the new Guide model and they both get plenty of compliments. And not only do the frames look good; they also fit my face comfortably and stay in place no matter the activity.

Rock climbing, ice climbing, skiing, or roaming the urban environment the Revos are with me, making my job easier.

Mark Hammond
Head Mountain Guide
Colorado Mountain School
800-836-4008

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Weekly Monday Gear Review: Black Diamond 40L Speed Pack

Since the line of Black Diamond Speed Packs were introduced, I have been a fan.  I have 2 generations of the 30L model and they have all performed great. My older Speed packs have served me well, from guided ascents of the Diamond on Longs Peak to multi day traverses in Washington’s North Cascades.  I have been fortunate enough to use the new version of the Speed Pack, but this season, in the 40L size. I only hoped the new model wouldn’t disappoint.  Needless to say, it didn’t.

The Speed 40L sports some new features this year including “SwingArm” shoulder straps to limit abuse on my shoulders during long mountain days.  Also new is Black Diamond’s “reACTIV” Hipbelt system allowing the pack to move with your body, not against.  These new features have made the pack much more comfortable than the older versions, especially when worn all day.
Some things haven’t changed that make the Speed Pack my favorite.  The new design still features a removable hipbelt and top lid to strip the pack’s size when climbing.  It comes with dual ice axe loops and external crampon attachment option as well as hydration system compatible.  Best of all, the pack is still super light and maintains its stripped down minimalist build.  I look forward to using the Speed 40L for most guiding objectives this year.
Enjoy,
Eric Whewell
CMS Guide
800-836-4008
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Weekly Monday Gear Review: Black Diamond Key Chain Bottle Opener

Picture this: I’m sitting down trying to open a bottle of brew with no luck at all. When all of a sudden an angel sent from Heaven above comes out from the fog. That angel was a Black Diamond rep. He hands me this fine piece of hand crafted steel and says, “Here you go man. I hope you get some use out of it.” In my hand is the Black Diamond key-chain/bottle opener. Clearly a gift from God.

Flash forward a couple years. I still have the bottle opener and it has seen its fair share of bottle tops. The Black Diamond key-chain/bottle opener is one of the greatest tools that I own. Not only is it a great key-chain but, get this, it is also a great bottle opener. How many of you can say you’ve got something that does that. This little device doesn’t take up much room in your pocket and it doesn’t hang too low when the keys are in the ignition. But don’t think less of it because of its small size, it packs quite a punch. I have yet to find a bottle it can’t open.

Well….when I mean a bottle, I mean a beer bottle or something similar. This thing doesn’t open water bottles. That’s impossible.

Anyways, this versatile little tool is just half of the Black Diamond nut tool. Some of you reading this might say, “Hey I already have a BD nut tool. Can’t I just use that then?” We’ll sure you can. But let me answer your question with a question. How are you going to fit it in your pocket? How are you going to press the gas pedal when it is jabbing you in the leg?

Don’t be a fool. Avoid bulky pockets and bruised legs. Purchase the compact Black Diamond key-chain/bottle opener. I give it 5 stars and I know you will too.

PS: I’m not positive that it’s hand crafted or made out of steel. But who really cares.

To find out how you can get your hands on this and other great Black Diamond products, please visit the Black Diamond homepage.

E.J. Nogaski
Colorado Mountain School
enogaski@totalclimbing.com
800-836-4008 x3

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