Category Archives: Mountaineering

Why you should wash your down gear

Did you know that washing that grimy down jacket is easier than you think? Washing your down gear extends the life of the product, and its ability to keep you warm. Here’s an article from Outdoor Research we wanted to share with you about how to wash down gear (also applies to sleeping bags).

Don’t forget: All of our stores carry Nikwax products, like Down wash and Down proof, to help you get your precious pieces clean.

We look forward to seeing you!

Choosing the Right Tool for the Job – Carabiners

The Black Diamond Journal recently posted an excellent article that discusses some of the characteristics of various types of carabiners.  It’s an excellent overview of carabiners in general, but also contains some details of interest to seasoned climbers.  I’ll post an excerpt here- for the rest, check out the original post on Black Diamond’s blog.

QC LAB: Choosing the Right Tool for the Job – Carabiners

By Kolin Powick

With dozens of companies making untold numbers of carabiners these days, it can be a real chore to navigate through countless different models to choose the one that’s right for your type of climbing. Wiregate vs. standard gate.  AutoLock vs. screwgate. Ultralight vs. heavy. What biners should I use on my slimmed-down alpine rack as opposed to my daily sport cragging kit? As with most pieces of climbing gear, there is a certain amount of inherent versatility, but often certain products are better suited, and more often than not designed specifically for certain applications. As with almost anything, it’s always prudent to select the right tool for the job. This month we’ll attempt to distill the basics of carabiner usage to help you figure out what’s the right choice for your type of climbing.

Differences between Industrial and Recreational Carabiners

We’ll start off with a quick word on basic carabiner use because we get this question all the time.

I get lots of random calls from arborists, fire departments, rescue workers, marinas, yachting folks, Jeep guys and warehouse personnel wanting to know if it’s okay to use our carabiners for their particular application. The official answer is always no, not recommended. Just as all of our instructions say, our gear is “For Climbing and Mountaineering Only.” But why?

The simple answer is that we are climbers and mountaineers, we know climbing and mountaineering, and we design, test and certify our gear for climbing and mountaineering. We’re not as intimate with the loads, the uses, misuses and abuses of these other applications.

What many people may not realize is the different ways that recreational gear is designed, tested and rated compared to industrial equipment. Industrial carabiners are usually made of steel, are much heavier, are much stronger, and rated differently than aluminum climbing carabiners.

An industrial carabiner is usually rated to a SWL (safe working load, or safe working limit)- of let’s say 30kN. This means that you can load the carabiner safely to 30kN. And in industrial applications there is almost always some kind of safety factor say of 2 or greater, which means that the carabiner won’t actually break until around 60kN. However, climbing gear is rated to the load at which it will actually break. So a 20kN carabiner actually breaks at that load. There’s a big difference.

Bottom line: Climbing gear shouldn’t be used in industrial applications—it just isn’t designed and rated for those types of loads and situations.

This is only a small excerpt of the complete article- to see the rest, visit Black Diamond’s Journal here.


Ranger dies on Mt. Rainier during rescue effort

Photo of Ranger Nick Hall, c/o National Park Service

On Thursday afternoon, climbing ranger Nick Hall fell over 3,000 feet on the northeast side of Mt. Rainier while attempting to prepare four injured climbers for helicopter evacuation.  The climbers had summited, and were roped together for descent when they slipped on the Emmons Glacier.  They called for help via cell phone with two members of the party dangling in a crevasse.  Three of the climbers were successfully evaced, while the final climber spent the night on the mountain with two rangers.  None of the climbers’ injuries were life-threatening.

Rangers, Search & Rescue team members, and other emergency responders receive neither the credit nor the respect they deserve for putting themselves in harm’s way for the sake of others.  Condolences to the family and friends of Nick Hall.

For additional details on this story, see this article from the Seattle Times.


Tragic weekend on Mt. Everest

Image by 3D RealityMaps

Update:  Sadly, the number of fatalities has increased to four.  This story has been picked up by the mainstream media- a more detailed report can be found at 

Planetmountain has reported that tragedy struck this past Saturday on Mt. Everest, as three climbers have lost their lives on the South Face.  A sudden storm hit the mountain on Saturday afternoon, although exhaustion and altitude sickness are also cited as factors in some of the deaths.  An additional two climbers remain missing, while others including 6 suffering from frostbite were evacuated by helicopter.  Italian mountaineer Simone Moro is credited with assisting the helicopter evacuations from Camp 2.

The day prior (May 18), Swiss alpinist Ueli Steck and Sherpa Tenzing reached the summit of Mt. Everest.  The summit is Steck’s first, following an unsuccessful attempt in 2010 in which he was forced to retreat due to frostbitten feet.

You can read the entire story on Planetmountain.

How to Choose a Climbing Rope

The climbing rope is responsible for saving thousands of climbers’ lives every single day. No piece of gear more important than the rope. It’s not only your lifeline, but a link to your partner—and your ticket to a wild, high place. It’s a metaphor for everything that is truly meaningful in this vertical sport. It’s also a pretty cool piece of gear.




Andrew Bisharat is a prominent climbing blogger, publishing at his site Evening Sends.  A few weeks back he published How to Choose a Climbing Rope, which contained a good bit of information for people looking to purchase a rope or simply desiring to know a bit more about them.  The paragraph before the break above is from his article, as is the excerpt below.  To see the rest, visit his blog.

Early climbing ropes (from the 1700s up to the 1930s) appeared around alpine villages like Zermatt, Switzerland, and were made of braided hemp, flax, manila, cotton or horsehair. These early experiments resulted in climbing cords with terrible strength-to-weight ratios, poor durability and low elasticity. They snapped in falls easily, often resulting in tragedy. The mantra of the era, “The leader must not fall,” wasn’t just a catchy phrase.

World War II was a catalyst for innovation in the climbing world, with advances made in carabiners and pitons. However, nothing revolutionized climbing as greatly as the introduction of ropes made of nylon, a material Arnold Wexler of the U.S. Bureau of Standards concluded, in 1945, was superior to all other materials for this application. In 1953, the German rope manufactuer Edelrid introduced the kernmantle rope, an even bigger innovation that resulted in extremely durable ropes that didn’t kink or twist—and best of all, they could handle repeated lead falls. A kernmantle rope has a strong braided-nylon “core” of strands (the kern) that are encased within an abrasion-resistant sheath (the mantle). All modern climbing ropes now use the kernmantle design.

Today, climbing ropes are extremely reliable. “The leader must not fall” has been replaced with “If you don’t fall, you’re not trying hard enough!” There are over 100 different climbing ropes on the market, all of which come in various lengths, diameters, and categories. It’s important to understand how ropes are classified before making a purchase. Here is a basic primer for getting onto the sharp end.

Static vs. Dynamic: This is the most general categorization of ropes, but also the most important to not confuse. Static ropes do not stretch. Dynamic ropes stretch a lot. Static ropes are not for lead climbing! Because static ropes don’t stretch, climbers typically use them for hauling loads on big-walls, or fixing lines on new routes. Static ropes can be used for top-roping, but, again, never for leading. The elastic qualities of a dynamic rope are what make falling on lead safe because, with rope stretch, the forces on the gear, belayer and climber go way down. Dynamic ropes are what you will use 99 percent of the time.

There’s more to this story! Visit Andrew’s blog here to read the rest of this article.

How tough are you?

Unlike many writers and bloggers on the outdoor scene, Brendan Leonard is not famous for his outdoor exploits- you won’t see his name in the list of top finishers in a bouldering competition, or read about his bold solo summit of a Himalayan peak.

He writes, “I’m probably a lot like you. I like rock climbing, but start to flail when it gets vertical. I like bicycles, but not racing against other people on them. I like running and trail running, but I probably like ice cream more. I mostly avoid avalanches by not being a good enough skier to get on slopes steep enough to slide. But I sure like to get out there.”

However, unlike most of us, Brendan is sponsored, by Outdoor Research.  It’s easy for me to understand why- he’s a great writer, and I read his blog Semi-rad religiously.  I particularly enjoyed one of his recent posts, so I’m posting a fragment of it here in hopes that you’ll check out his blog to read the rest.

How Tough Are You?

Photo by Lee Smith

There are many good strategies to use when running the New York City Marathon. Throwing up at the start is probably not one of them. My friend Syd was in for a long day after he puked early in the 2011 race last November. He never got back the nutrients and water he’d lost, but kept running until Mile 18, around 96th Street on the course, when he felt like a bag of garbage. Then he started walking. It wasn’t his first marathon – it was his sixth, interspersed with 23 half-marathons – but it was maybe the hardest.

Syd’s dad, in his 70s, met him with a cold, wet towel, and they walked together, to mile 19. It was a 14-minute mile. After mile 19, he told his dad he’d see him at mile 22, and then he started running 11-minute miles. I know this because I was sitting in a coffee shop in Monterey, California, tracking him and texting his wife Debi updates every time he hit another mile marker, remembering how he had said he was worried about the race in the weeks leading up to it. Debi texted back, “His calf injury is killing him.”

When we had talked on the phone a couple weeks earlier, I said to Syd, The thing I like about all this stuff we do – running, climbing, mountaineering, cycling, all this suffer-filled, sometimes painful stuff – is that it’s just a way of repeatedly asking ourselves the question, “Am I tough enough?” And the answer is almost always yes.

I think what I like about toughness is that it’s not quantifiable, other than in the form of a story. Lots of people can have a faster race time, climb a couple letter- or number-grades harder than you, stand on the next-higher place on the podium. But nobody has a measurement system for toughness. Usually, when you talk about how tough someone is, you start out with,

“This one time …”

and then you tell a story.

To read the rest of this post, please check out Brendan’s blog here.

Video: Record-setting alpinist Ueli Steck demonstrates some hard mixed climbing

Ueli Steck is one of the best-known mountaineers of our time, made famous by his many achievements, including first ascents in the Himalaya  and most notably his record-shattering speed ascent of the north face of Switzerland’s Eiger in 2008.  (The excellent film The Swiss Machine chronicles Steck’s quest for the Eiger record; a trailer for the film can be seen here.)  In this video, he explains his plans for future climbs, and climbs some breathtaking overhanging mixed terrain.