An eclectic mix of writing, covering climbing equipment, technique, life & death (and all the stuff inbetween).

Summer Alpine Bags: How light is too light? image Gear  | Dec 10, 09

Summer Alpine Bags: How light is too light?

Hi Andy Just wanted to quickly pick your brains on sleeping bags.  At the minute I have two sleeping bags, one is a lightweight RAB quantum 250 and my other is a RAB summit 900.  I tend to sleep quite warm so for summer alpine routes I’ve got a couple of options one is that I use my quantum 250 with a lightweight bivvy bag (would this put me at risk from getting very cold/dead?) or I could use my quantum 250 with my shiny silver survival bag thing which would increase the warmth and it’d hopefully give me some protection...

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Ultimate Gnarl Bag image Gear  | Dec 08, 09

Ultimate Gnarl Bag

Hi BobThe bag I’m messing with is a Wiggy’s Super Lite I bought a few years ago for a trip to Alaska, which I’ve stripped of its outer shell, zipper and hood, and sewn into a prototype Alpkit Epic bivy bag.WIggy’s are a strange company, a bit of a maverick in the outdoor gear world (jerry Wigglow’s rants are well worth seeking out on their website for their anti gear establishment views).  I was recommended their bags by the ultra hardcore dog sledder Gary Rolfe, who’d used them in some very...

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Further Education image Dark-Half  | Dec 06, 09

Further Education

Waiting for the weather to get cold again, I’ve spent the last two days finishing images and diagrams for the upcoming peg book;  clicking away in Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator, along with Indesign, not to mention fiddling with the book’s web page (requiring a DaVinci Code’esk dabbling in HTML, CSS and Jquery). In between Mac nerdiness I’ve also been fiddling with my rack, setting up a new Jetboil so I can hang it, sewing up a new alpine/Scottish winter check rig (designed to reduce axe lanyard/rope tangles, and put the rack where I...

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Flame on - patagonia speed ascent image  | Dec 03, 09

Flame on - patagonia speed ascent

As some people may have spotted I stopped working for Berghaus last year, basically because I didn’t have enough time to focus on my role there (I was working with the design team).  The one thing Berghaus lacked was a good ‘real’ softshell system (as sold by montane, Buffalo, Paramo, Patagonia), so on leaving - and being too mean to actually go into a shop and buy stuff - I got back in touch with my old sponsor Patagonia and asked if they’d have me back. I remember Rolando Garibotti telling me that Patagonia was like...

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DAS Is Skinny image Gear  | Nov 29, 09

DAS Is Skinny

It’s true that the original synthetic belay jackets - like the Patagonia DAS parka - had a much heavier weight of insulation, and most modern designs feature lighter weight, but I think in all but the most extreme of conditions this weight may be more appropriate, offering a better balance between weight, bulk and warmth.  Worn over a standard layering system - especially the softshell system I described - these lighter parkers will still do their job of keeping you warm when static in normal climbing scenarios (belaying, abseiling, bivvying). The heavier weight parkers worked better in...

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Nodrop image Technique   | Nov 11, 09


Hi Andy,  Great info as usual!  I’ve just started leading multi pitch ice and have loved going leashless.  Having some sort of lanyard is a great option, but I’d like to avoid more gear hooked or tied to the front of my harness.  What is your opinion of just carrying a spare tool?  What style of tool would you pick (I’ve talked to some that cut down a lightweight mountaineering axe)?  And finally, what would be an optimum way to carry it off the back without getting in the way?    Thanks for any light you can shed...

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Winter Strides image Gear  | Nov 08, 09

Winter Strides

HiWhat you wear on your legs really makes a big difference to how you climb and how you feel while you’re climbing, by which I mean having a pair of strides that restrict and hinder full athletic movement are both a drag on your body and mind and potentially dangerous. More than any other type of climbing, on a winter route you do not want to fall off, and the thing that has the biggest effect on this is being able to climb well and unhindered.  High stepping, bridging and even the odd drop knee make...

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Ten ideas on how to hone you alpine psyche image Technique   | Nov 04, 09

Ten ideas on how to hone you alpine psyche

I was emailed by a climber this week asking if I had any ideas on improving your mental attitude for alpine climbing, which I guess means “how do you feel less worried about hurting yourself and push your limit”. So here’s a brief rundown of ideas on how to make you feel Silva Karo.1.  Don’t have kidsI struggle with my alpine psyche just as much as the next climber, and having children and partners and parents who love you doesn’t help. This was brought home to me this year climbing Zodiac with Ian...

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slime time image Dark-Half  | May 07, 09

slime time

Spent an interesting few days over in north wales this week, battling the rain and gales with a freelance writer working for Trail magazine called Ben Winston.  We were doing a piece on linking together long scrambles with a bivy in the middle, sort of alpine-style climbing, but in the UK.  One idea was to do a 1000 metres of scrambling, but the weather was terrible, plus a ten-hour drive (arriving at midnight) the day before wasn’t that conducive to being overly psyched.In the end, we set out to do a scramble with Ben and my dad...

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Proof of Life image Dark-Half  | Mar 18, 09

Proof of Life

I always seem to have a project or two on the backburner – either climbing related or related to work – and sometimes both.  At the moment my climbing related dreams (and nightmares) revolve around a couple of climbs.  The first is an attempt at getting a paraplegic friend - wounded in Iraq – up El Cap (yes I do seem to be cornering the market for paraplegic El Cap climbing). Phil Packer – like anyone who has to live day to day on a pair of wheels - is a remarkable guy, and not only has he just rowed the...

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