Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth fitness, nutrition, and adventure courses and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+ Sign up for Outside+ today.
Unleashing a Monster
Product: Grivel Monster
A year and a half ago, I noted in our leashless tool review that the designs then available were only a precursor of shapes to come. Grivel’s new Monster tool is the radical first step in that new direction. First, the company has discarded the traditional aluminum-tubing shaft in favor of a shape cut from chromoly spring steel. This shape features a multitude of gripping positions, more than any traditional design can offer. To optimize the grip positions to your specific needs, you’ll want to experiment with hockey-stick grip tape (or similar material) and perhaps utilize the included plastic “Guancet” add-on grips.
The Monster features the same handle as Grivel’s Racing Wing — an office favorite — and offers two distinct gripping positions: an upper position for swinging and a lower position for dry-tooling, with enough room overall to accommodate both your hands overlapped. The Monster’s balance is quite different, however, from the Racing Wing and just about any other tool out there. Regular ice tools are designed with most of the weight in the head for maximum impact. The Monster, however, has its weight balanced between its head and handle for better directional pull on rock holds, avoiding the dreaded side-to-side head wavering typically present when you make long reaches with regular tools.
At the heart of the Monster is its hot-forged pick. It is without doubt the most aggressively toothed blade on the market; no matter in what direction you’re pulling or pushing, the Monster has points that will traction. Stein-pulling, hooking, torquing — the Monster handles all with aplomb. It’s not, however, a tool for delicate ice due to the pick’s thickness, but then again, it’s meant to handle the occasional ice blob on a mostly rock route, not a long, diaphanous curtain. The pick is also fixed to the tool’s head, which many armchair Internet pundits have dissed, carping that the tool will have a very limited lifespan. But unless you’re the most rabid file fiend out there and dry-tooling four days a week, you’re unlikely to reach the Monster’s metallurgical limits.
Product: Outdoor Research Alibi Glove
With the onslaught of mindset-altering leashless tools has come an accompanying wave of drytooling-specific gloves. Outdoor Research, a company known more for its expedition handwear, has entered the field with a winner, the
. OR has constructed the glove with warm, flexible neoprene on the topside and decidedly sticky polyurethane on the palm — if for some reason you lose grip while wearing the Alibis, you’ll have only your poorly trained forearms to blame. Carefully positioned rubber bumpers guard against knuckle bashing, and a gel pad runs along the pinky side of your hand for extra cushioning when you’re yarding hard.
Product: Gordini Lava Utility Glove
If you need just a bit more warmth, take a look at Gordini’s new
Lava Utility Glove
, which features Gordini’s toasty Lavawool, a proprietary blend of natural and synthetic fibers. Originally designed for construction-site nail-bangers, this paw covering transfers well to “recreational” tool swinging thanks to its padded knuckles and sticky palm.
Product: Kong Spider helmet
If you’re looking to buy a hardshell helmet these days, pass on the
yesterday’s-news, salad-bowl models. There are now several better-fitting, more ergonomic models, including Kong’s new
The Spider’s centerpiece is its fit-adjustment “Run System,” which changes the fit via a dial located on the back of the helmet’s suspension. Some dial-based adjustment systems I’ve used have left me with a nagging pressure point right on the back of my head; the Spider, however, did an excellent job of distributing pressure throughout the band. The retention strap system did take a bit of fiddling to adjust, but I was able to get a good fit in the end. Most importantly, the Spider sat very well on my noggin while I was climbing; not once did I have to tilt it fore-aft
or side-to-side. Instead, it mirrored the natural movements of my head.
The Spider’s polystyrene inner cap was comfortably and trimly padded. The helmet’s headlamp-retention system was simple and easy to use, always a bonus when you’re trying to fiddle on your headtorch with frozen paws. A well-protected ventilation system tops off the feature list.
Product: Montrail Splitter Camps
Crack climbing, unlike the relatively intuitive movement of face climbing, is an acquired art, one at which most climbers must toil considerably before reaching a reasonable level of proficiency. But potential shortcuts are available, including Montrail’s Splitter Camps in Indian Creek. Jim Donini, the camp’s founder and ringmaster, bills the camps as being designed to “demystify crack climbing.” For a relatively bargain price, Donini offers three days of instruction by the top athletes on Montrail’s roster, including alpinist Jay Smith, El Cap speedster Timmy O’Neill, and all-around legend Bobbi Bensman, plus gourmet meals.
The group at the session I attended last fall was for the most part composed of neophyte crack climbers. Over the course of the weekend the guides schooled the students on everything from the basics of taping to the intricacies of torquing overhanging cupped hands. Though I was initially skeptical that Indian Creek could be a proper learning environment for novice crack climbers, I saw dramatic improvement over the weekend. By the end of the session, it was grins, gobis, and gabbing about return plans.
The Splitter Camp is a tremendous value both for its price and its content; a three-to-one client-to-celebrity-guide ratio elsewhere can cost you upwards of $200 per person per day, sans food. Montrail’s option is substantially less expensive and offers up some very tasty cuisine to boot.
Product: La Sportiva Slingshot trail shoes
When the folks at La Sportiva handed me a box containing their new super-light, go-fast
Slingshot trail shoes
, I thought the box was empty. On the scale a pair of 8.5 men’s checked in at a scant one pounds, five ounces.
My interest was piqued, but I was skeptical as to how well such a feathery shoe would hike and scramble. I was soon enlightened; the Slingshot’s midsole is just stiff enough to protect your feet while descending peaks and zipping down trails, and can even handle the occasional scree field. The Slingshots are not, however, designed for the abuse of schlepping around an alpine sack on long backcountry days; use your full-on approach footwear for such outings.
Another surprise was how well the Slingshots climbed. They proved to be quite sensitive on slabs and rounded terrain, and their thin toes slotted nicely into cracks. The soles feature climbing rubber around the outside edge and give the shoes great stick.
Two lacing options can be employed. The traditional setup uses four wide loops and one metal eyelet per side; more tension can be had if you lace the hidden loops located between each exterior loop, effectively doubling the shoe’s support. The wide-set laces also make it possible to fine-tune the width for an exact fit. Overall, the Slingshots fit narrow to medium feet well. Durability for such a light shoe was better than expected as long as you’re thoughtful about use. If you mindlessly abuse your gear, look for something that carries more heft.
Product: Austri Alpin Micro Magic biners
Price: $18 for the
Finding a non-wiregate biner under 40 grams is a difficult task; finding one that gives full service is even more problematic. Austri Alpin’s new
Micro Magic biners
are a rare fit for that program; they check in at 38 grams for the straightgate and 39 grams for the bentgate, and feature a wide gate opening and a deep, clove-hitch-accommodating basket.
The Micro Magics utilize Austri Alpin’s effective variation on the keylock for snagless unclipping. The bentgate’s subtle curve could be just a bit more defined for those oh-my-gawd, slap-it-in clips. A comfortable bend on the spine of both models cradles your index finger for holding the biner steady while clipping to pro. If wiregates aren’t your clip of choice, see if a little Magic might work for you.
Product: Metolius Cheap Bastard pad
Two thoughts sum up the new Metolius
Cheap Bastard pad
: serious beef, svelte price. This mat boasts a three-foot by four-foot landing area supported by an inch-thick top layer of closed-cell foam and a three-and-a-half-inch open-cell backside; all testers gave it high marks for cushioning.
The Cheap Bastard (or should we be PC and dub it the Inexpensive Birthright-challenged Offspring?) also comes with Metolius’ 45-degree offset hinge, which Velcros together to keep the pad sections from separating on impact. The pad’s corners are rounded, which prevents it from snagging as you drag it from spot to spot.
Possibly the Cheap Bastard’s most interesting feature is its cover fabric. For whatever reason, the nylon diamond-ripstop fabric cover seemed to shed dirt and grime better than the average pad. All told, the CB is a great investment, especially considering you’re only shelling out a Franklin, a Jackson, and a Lincoln.
Product: Deuter Speed Lite 20 pack
Packing up for a long alpine day can be a harsh test of one’s self-discipline: Many items, like spare sunglasses or that one extra cam, only contribute unnecessary weight. An easy solution for this packing quandary is to simply carry a small pack. That’s where the
Deuter Speed Lite 20
steps up with its frugal 1200-cubic-inch carrying capacity and airy one-pound, two-ounce weight. Made for fast travel and light loads, the pack is ideal for use as a summer alpine pack,
sack, and anything in between.
The Speed Lite 20 is built with a foam back panel, the outer edge of which is supported by a light Delrin strut. This combo gives the pack some body and offers support while hiking. The overall minimalist design does mean that you must take some care while packing or you’ll soon find a cam stem poking you in the ribs. I was surprised how well the Speed Lite 20’s generous three-inch-wide shoulder straps handled a load, leaving the removable half-inch flat webbing hip belt and sternum strap with just the simple task of load control.
For a full day out, the Speed Lite 20 has just enough volume to carry the essentials: shoes,
, half of a conservative rack, a little food, water, and a
. A skinny rope can be easily fixed to the pack’s exterior via four extra-long compression straps, and a helmet clipped where you like. This is the absolute maximum load — any more weight or bulk will overwhelm the shoulder straps.
The pack also features water-resistant zippers, three external mesh pockets, a hidden ice-axe loop, glove-friendly zipper pulls, and a small zippered internal pocket. Those fond of hydration systems will appreciate the internal bladder sleeve, hose port, and removable hose clamp pre-positioned on a shoulder strap.
Feel the heat
Product: Intuition Sports Denali boot liners
For years, climbers have tried homemade insoles, chili powder in their socks, and other forms of jiggery-pokery, all in the interest of comfortable feet and returning home with 10 toes. Intuition Sports, however, offers a less voodoo, more high-tech solution with its
Denali boot liners
Intuition uses Ultralon EVA foam, a closed-cell foam that can be custom-molded to your feet. The foam is lighter (7 ounces vs. 24 ounces), more durable, more comfortable, and, most importantly, warmer than stock liners. It’s thermo-moldable, which means that it will conform to the shape of your foot and boot after it has been heated. (The liner can also be reformed, if necessary.) You’ll need the assistance of a professionally trained boot fitter with access to necessary accessories such as a boot oven to ensure that the liners are properly fitted.
I used the Denali liners
in New England, guiding in the Pacific Northwest, and climbing on China’s 24,758-foot Mustagh Ata. My feet were noticeably warmer — not the blocks of ice with which I’m usually faced after a long, cold day in the mountains. Drawbacks? The liners are relatively expensive, as is getting them custom fitted (upwards of $220 total). Also, for plastic boots with a sunken heel, such as the Koflach Arctis, you’ll need to jury-rig something to fill the void. Compared to the disaster of frostbite, though, these are minor points. For winter and high-altitude climbing, Intuition is the ticket.
Black Diamond ToolBox
Product: Black Diamond ToolBox Price: $25 Online: www.bdel.com Sometimes it’s the little things in life that count. I’ve got a garage full of all the highest-tech gear available, but one of my favorite pieces of equipment is my Black Diamond ToolBox. This humble, heavy-duty nylon pouch is an absolute necessity when I’m hitting the ice. I can stuff in my ‘pons and screws, close the Velcro flap, cinch down the Fastex buckle, and toss the package in my rucksack, carefree in the knowledge that all those sharpies won’t be needle-punching my belay jacket. —Luke Laeser