Now that the Red Rock Rendezvous is over for the year, we’re beginning to get some great correspondence from our participants. Over the next few weeks, we’ll share a few of their notes with you. Here’s one of our favorites:
Our intrepid reviewer, Eric Ian, takes a lightweight Patagonia jacket, the Houdini, into the wilds and returns with this awesome video review. You can also see more on the Houdini line at Mountain Gear.
Marc Hemmes reviews two CAMP USA Harnesses: the Flint and the Jasper CR3 Light
Hanging belays have always been my unofficial test for harnesses. Sure, if you’re vying for the second ascent of the latest Chris Sharma project, you can buy a g-string of a harness that only weighs two ounces, but the cons will quickly outweigh the pros once you’ve been hanging in the harness for more than five minutes. For the rest of us, who would rather avoid leg amputation by harness, here are two harnesses from CAMP that will keep you nice and comfy without sacrificing performance.
The CAMP Flint Harness: If I had an editors choice award, the Flint Harness would win. As CAMP describes it, “The Flint is designed for high-end climbers looking for a harness that will not break the bank”. The Flint excels at everything from liebacking steep granite cracks to high stepping at your local sport crag. No matter the climb, or the hanging belay, the Flint has all the right ingredients.The 6-mm EVA foam padding is comfortable and supportive without being bulky. It weighs in at only 475g (16.8oz), and the price is right. I really like the adjustable leg loops, which I found to be much better than one size fits all. Both the leg loops and the belt buckle are pre-threaded for quick and easy adjustments. Another handy aspect is the patented no-twist belay loop, which keeps your locking belay biner from cross loading. The Flint also has the standard four gear loops, a rope trailing loop in the back, and the always handy drop seat for your bathroom needs.
To sum it up, the Flint has become my go-to harness for all occasions, and for the price ($49.95 at MountainGear.com), you can’t beat it.
That’s a good question.
There are a lot of products out on the market that are designed to add a water repellent finish to fabric and leather boots. Using them will also condition and extend the life of leather uppers. Not a single one of these treatments (short of dipping in liquid rubber) will make a non-waterproof boot into a waterproof boot. These boot treatments are similar to the Durable Water Repellent (DWR) sprayed on some rain jackets. These products treat the leather or the cloth so it is water repellent, not waterproof.
The Waterproof/Breathable (WPB) lining used in waterproof hiking boots doesn’t breathe as well if the outer fabric and leather is saturated. Some people confuse the sweat from their foot (it sweats a lot!) with leakage and blame the boot, not their sweaty foot. The idea behind using these treatments on a WPB boot is to keep the upper from absorbing water and allowing the WPB lining to breathe as well as possible, thereby reducing sweat buildup inside the boot.
When used on a non WPB membrane lined boot these treatments will reduce the rate and the amount of water absorbed, and therefore delay how soon the foot gets wet. With heavy leather boots these treatments may slow the rate down enough that light moisture will evaporate and never reach the foot; but these treatments will never turn a non-waterproof boot into a “waterproof” boot. Also, these treatments cannot “repair” boots once the WPB lining has developed a leak.
So, to answer the question, I will have to ride the fence a bit and say that it purely depends on how the boots are used after they have been treated. On a freshly treated boot the water will bead up and run off, however, the treatment will wear and wash off over time. How soon depends upon how much brush, snow, rain, mud, etc., the boot will be exposed to. Most people will get a day or two on the trail in severe conditions, and a week in good conditions. A couple hours of plowing through heavy, stiff, wet brush, and a person can overload the treatment. If your waterproof boots are leaky, or were never waterproof to begin with, then these types of treatments will not really change that.
One should use these products to:
- add a water repellent finish to footwear
- support the breathability of WPB footwear
- condition leather and increase its life
- reduce the amount of dirt that attaches to cloth and leather
- reduce drying times
“Hang on, I have to put these hiking boots on,” I say. Two runners stare back at me, blinking.
“Aren’t we running?”
“Yeah, but I already did every other sport in these. I’m trying to find their limit.”
For a mostly barefoot runner, the idea of wearing a hiking boot doesn’t typically strike me until some expedition involves the word “summit.” Even then, many, many, many moons ago I had discovered what I was certain was The Perfect Boot and refused to ever consider another. It was the boot of all boots, until one day I was many miles from the last train out of the German Pfalz, and I had to run. My battered, blistered, bruised ankles would never be the same.
I knew the Asolo Athena was special when I pulled it out of the box. It felt so light and flexible, but sturdy enough for some reckless outdoor behavior. Plus, it was coral and I’m a girl and buy kit and cars based on color, obviously.
It felt a little unfair to test a new boot, like wavering loyalty to a lover, and I almost felt guilt. Then I slid my foot into a whole new world of possibilities.
Day 1 – Hiking: Yeah, it’s a hiking boot. It can hike. Like a boss. The Vibram soles make for great grip on the rocks, particularly wet ones, submerged ones, steep ones, ones I should probably not be clambering up. I broke this boot in with 12 miles simply because it was that comfortable: No rubbing, no blisters.
Day 2 – Biking: It was a balmy 11 degrees out. The Asolo Athena was mentioned as a “light” winter boot and summer hiking, but it is indeed waterproof. I threw a simple wool sock on, some leg warmers for 1983 fashion, 18 more layers of down and merino, and rode for hours with wind chill. My toes? Toasty. Snow handling? Fantastic.
Day 3 – Running: I don’t generally recommend running in a hiking boot, but sometimes when you’re hiking you have to escape wildlife or catch a train. For these eventualities, we want to know our gear will hold its own. I did three miles on a treacherous, soggy, muddy, post-snow-thaw trail. The Asolo Athena performed beautifully. The waterproof material kept my feet dry through slush and creeks. My feet still had breathability thanks to the mesh upper fabric. The self-cleaning sole technology actually does keep the mud out and preserves traction.
The only con I actually noted in this boot was when I decided to see if it was capable for some summit action. I threw on some adjustable crampons and launched myself up the side of a mountain. They were a little too flexible for a solid fit, so I can’t recommend them for a Denali expedition. But I’m pretty sure they’re good for just about everything else. If they came in black, I’d wear them to weddings.
They are just under $200 at MountainGear.com.
Editor’s note: This is the last in our Learn to Tele Ski series. Let us know if you want more of these types of articles by posting a note on Mountain Gear’s Facebook Fanpage.
By Ammi Midstokke
Now that we’re close to the end of the ski season, it would seem time for me to discover new ways of establishing once and for all that I am not a born skier. Being run over by four year olds on the bunny hill had me pretty convinced already, but I figured certainty would help me in accepting the low learning curve of a new Telemark skier.
The idea of slapping on my skis and heading out my back door seemed like a good one, but as it is with sports, it would be necessary to acquire some key safety equipment first. One transceiver, probe, shovel, and some skins later I was ready climb something. It’s the getting back down that always seems to be the problem.
In the interest of surviving my first backcountry experience, I went to Nelson B.C. and took part in a backcountry clinic at the Coldsmoke Powderfest. This was probably the only intelligence I’ve applied to my skiventure this year, because backcountry skiing actually requires some specific knowledge to keep one safe in the snow.
After half a day learning how hard it is to shovel a person out of the snow, I was close to returning back to the safety of groomers. The beauty of those white-coated trees beckoned; however, so the subsequent battle with my skins began.
Placing skins on skis requires a whole new set of motor skills and muscles, not to mention a swear word vocabulary likely developed in a prison yard. It may also be the primary reason you need a second person to backcountry ski with.
I had a suspicion that backcountry skiing is where it’s at, but I had no idea it was going to transport me instantly to some sort of Narnia paradise. The people and the lift lines were gone, the snow undisturbed, the trees absorbing all sound except the swish-swish of my skins as I moved up the mountain.
The journey upward was so peaceful, I would have been just as happy to skin my way right back down, though the group seemed to have a growing excitement about skiing something called “fresh powder.” I noted their Alpine Touring bindings were all mounted to skis wide enough to suffice as dining tables. I kept glancing with trepidation at my retro Teles then reminding myself that these were top of the line Tele skis, considered downright FAT in, you know, 1983.
The silence of the landscape at the top of the ridge was all the reward I needed. The freedom of backcountry skiing, one’s ability to leave the masses and explore the winter wonderland, it gives a whole new purpose to becoming a skier. I recalled my fear of winter months ago, wondering what I would do to survive if I couldn’t run trail year round. Now I know I’ll spend hot days daydreaming about those first inches of snowfall.
We spent a considerable amount of time learning about avalanches, what can trigger them, and how to avoid being a probe-perforated carcass in the snow. Thus, with a healthy paranoia of steep slopes, we set off traversing exactly one of those.
Even the traversing was amazing, slipping along and losing just a few feet of elevation. It wasn’t until we reached an open bowl of untouched deep powder that my fear became as palpable as everyone else’s excitement.
“We’re gonna ski down THAT?” I tried to make it sound like I was excited too, but the fact that my tone had just blended with the bleach white snow gave me away. My only solace was knowing that the area had been recently controlled, so at least I wouldn’t be responsible for causing an avalanche as I tumbled down the slope.
Fact: Tele turns in deep powder on skinny skis is really damn hard. I’m pretty sure they were hard on these babies in 1983 too, and that anyone who can do it is a downright bad ass. I struggled and offered a sort of contemporary interpretive dance performance that no doubt was reminisce of a love/hate relationship between humans and Mother Nature.
One turn, two turns, BIFF. Another fact: Getting up in deep powder is really damn hard. In fact, it’s so comically ridiculous, I recommend trying not to fall in powder too often. I ate so much snow, at least I was sure to be hydrated by the time I reached bottom.
As the steepness lessened, somehow the muscle memory of those groomer runs returned, and my skis managed to stay together and ride high. For a few blissful turns uninterrupted by catapulting myself headfirst into the snow, I experienced the smooth float that draws so many people out of bounds. Suddenly, it was all worth it.
I’ll keep skiing those groomers just because I need all the practice I can get, but it’s the beauty of the backcountry that will keep me skiing season after season.
Editors Note: Do you want to learn how to rock climb? Take part in Mountain Gear’s UClimb event at the 2014 Red Rock Rendezvous, and get expert instruction, meet America’s most famous rock climbers, and get all the gear you need for just $349. Register by clicking here, & read about Jenny Petrut’s UClimb adventure at the Rendezvous by clicking here.
By Chris Barlow, Mug shot by Dawn Glanc.
Less than three years ago, Patti Winford led a pretty typical life as a nurse, a mother, and a wife. “My activities for the last 30 years have been centered on my children, family, and job,” she says. Since 2011, however, she has climbed 5.10 sport routes in Kentucky’s Red River Gorge, led tradition climbs at Seneca Rocks, and swung ice axes at the Ouray Ice Festival. An impressive tick list for anyone but especially for Patti who began her climbing career a bit later than most folks. “I am thankful I started after 50, because my life is fuller. I have made lots of new friends, challenged my body and mind, and have learned to appreciate and rediscover nature and the outdoors.”
“Kentucky” Patti, as she is known, decided to try rock climbing to prove her mettle after her 22-year-old son told her she was “too chicken.” Her first day out with her son didn’t go well. Even after more taunts, she couldn’t climb more than 20 feet off the ground out of fear. But, she resolved that if the opportunity arose again, she’d be ready.
Patti saw an advertisement for a UClimb event, offered by Mountain Gear, at the Red River Gorge. It “was close to home and was ‘beginner focused.’ Just what I needed!”
It turned out to be the perfect way for Patti to get the foundation of skills. “UClimb was awesome. The guides were very accomplished and helpful, and they were interested in us having a successful climbing experience. I learned basic techniques and climbed as much as I could.” On top of the instruction and fun experience, she got all the basic equipment she needed to begin her climbing career through UClimb, gear she still uses today. She even won an extra half-day of climbing instruction in the raffle at the end of the event. Patti got so much out of her first UClimb event that she organized a group of beginners from her gym to attend a second event a year later.
For Patti, the value of UClimb wasn’t just a few fun weekends. She describes learning to climb as an awakening. “My goals in life are to live a simpler, more sustainable life, and reduce my impact on the earth. It is easy to become a rampant consumer in our time. Sharing the outdoors with others is a goal. As a nurse I see the damaging effects that our current lifestyle creates in humans. Climbing … [allows] me to stay active and fit and enjoy our beautiful earth.” And now she’s going for more: In a few weeks, Patti embarks on a through-hike of the Appalachian Trail. “In a roundabout way, climbing has led me to this path. I am looking forward to that adventure….”
But the best part? Patti now gets to go climbing with her son. “Mom, can I get a catch on this pitch?” is music to her ears.
The North Face athlete and 2014 Red Rock Rendezvous instructor Alex Johnson is one of America’s best female boulderers, though lately she’s been hard to find on the comp scene. After viewing so many inspiring photos on her Instagram page and checking out her blog, we decided to track her down in Bishop, Calif., to find out more about her climbing goals, Fritz, and life in the trailer.
MG: Hi Alex! So it’s been a year or two since the end of the R&I feature when you climbed Book of Nightmares. What have you been doing in that time? Are you still competing?
AJ: Since that interview came out I’ve mostly been climbing outside. I’ve really shifted my focus away from competitions, and last year I turned down my spot on the US Team, and it was the first year I didn’t compete at the Mountain Games in Vail since 2003. I find a lot more gratification in outdoor climbing, and it suits my moods better. With competitions, you have to be on your A game on one specific day out of the year. If I’m climbing outside and I feel like crap I can just go home and come back the next day.
MG: Right now you’re Sieging the Swarm (#siegingtheswarm). What is your day-to-day like for that?
AJ: Lately it’s been pretty hot in Bishop so I go up to the boulder later in the day, leaving town around 2-2:30. My mornings are really mellow, I read in the sun or go use internet somewhere. Or clean the trailer. Then Fritz (Alex’s chihuahua) and I walk up to the boulder, and I bundle her up for when the sun goes down and get to work.
Read the rest of the Q&A with Alex by clicking here!
Our videographer, Henna Taylor, will be wandering about at the Red Rock Rendezvous capturing your best quotes and funniest (or most fun) moments. Say hi to this tall, smiling, curly-haired woman if you see her. She’ll be carrying a video camera.
Sometimes I get to do fun things for work. This time, our gear buyer gave me a Therm-a-Rest Antares 20°F down sleeping bag and a Neo Air All Season sleeping pad to review. I knew of a scenic little bench above the St Regis Basin in Montana’s Bitterroot Mountains that would be a great place to ski into for a weekend of testing. Forecast lows were in the mid- twenties, just right for a 20°F sleeping system.
When I rolled out the bag and pad, I thought, “These are going to keep me warm down to 20 degrees?” I’ve owned two other Neo Air sleeping pads and although they’re comfortable, they’re not warm enough for snow camping. I also had questions about the bag because I’ve used bottomless sleeping bags before and they always left cold spots.
These two products work together to form a sleeping system that eliminates the down fill on the bag’s bottom. Your body weight compresses that insulation anyway and renders it useless. The SynergyLink Connectors on the bottom side of the Antares allow it to work with any 20” to 25” sleeping pad. Because I like a wide pad on a snow camping trip, I chose the larger 25” Neo Air All Season.
The sleeping bag packs down to the size of a small loaf of bread and has an EN Limit Rating of 23°F. It’s a lot more compact than my double-soccer-ball size synthetic 20° F sleeping bag. The NeoAir All Season sleeping pad boasts 2.5 inches of cushy thickness and an R-value or 4.9, which should be suitable for snow camping. It packs down to a fat-water-bottle size and, combined with the Antares, the pair was still smaller together than my 20° F synthetic bag alone. In terms of size and weight, this combo was a winner, a solid “A”.
Note: Alli will be teaching at the 2014 Red Rock Rendezvous representing Petzl!
“Simply mimicking the training plans of elite athletes will not result in high levels of performance,” ~Tudor O. Bompa and G. Gregory Haff, Periodization: Theory and Methodology of Training
Whether you’ve been climbing for three months or three decades, if you’ve never participated in a structured climbing training program before – meaning that all you’ve done to train so far is climbing or bouldering – getting started can be a daunting and confusing prospect. However, by following a few basic guidelines, you could soon find yourself on your way to improving your climbing game, and within the next few years, climbing harder than you ever imagined you could.
Read the rest of Alli’s piece here!
Editor’s note: Jonathan will be instructing at the Red Rock Rendezvous this year!
My first ever climbing trip to Vegas was during the Winter of 2010/2011. I came out for what I planned to be a couple week stay, but was lured into several month stay by the plethora of amazing climbing, fun city vibe, and the relentless sunshine.
During my first few weeks in Vegas I wanted to sample it all; the sport climbing, the bouldering potential, and the towering multi-pitch walls. I asked around to my friends about what was a token classic Red Rocks long route. Answers ranged from Levitation 29, Epinephrine, Rainbow Wall, and of course ‘Prince of Darkness, among others. The ‘Prince‘ seemed like the best suited option for us – especially considering that we were coming off a pretty serious weekend on the strip and still certainly fighting a multi-day hangover. Black Velvet was a relatively short approach, and this route is well known for its ease in route-finding and clip-up nature. Sounded perfect.
The day of we packed up and I hastefully snapped an iPhone photo of the topo as we meandered out the door–well past the 7a.m. launch time that we had conceived a day earlier. Looking at the guidebook I assumed that we would easily make up time on the route, and anyways, these winter days are only getting longer (read: hardly).
Legs exhausted from hours of dancing, we approached at a grannies pace. Negotiating some unnecessary bushwhacking, we did eventually make it. I was not surprised to see parties climbing up high on our target route as we approached, but I must say that I was at least a little surprised to see parties lined up at the base, as though we were taking numbers for Rebel Without a Pause over in the Black Corridor.
Review by Lizzy Scully, photos by John Dickey
“This is the wettest, coldest summer we’ve had in a decade… well maybe in more than a decade, for as long as I can remember,” said Niels Taekker Jepsen, owner of Nanortalik Tourism Service, as we set out on our boat to the Torssukatak Fjord. It would be a frigid, 20-something degree ride, not including wind speed, for at least three hours, maybe four. And, in fact, for the duration of our rock climbing expedition in Greenland, temps rarely rose above the low 40s, the wind blew hard, or it rained, snowed, or we were fogged. My three partners and I spent a lot of time hanging out in our sleeping bags (I slept with two bags), trying to stay warm. But when we emerged for food, scoping routes, or rock climbing one of our various new routes, we lived in our Patagonia Super Alpine Jackets.
This three-layer jacket is made with 3.8-oz 40-denier GORE-TEX® Pro Shell nylon with a DWR finish (i.e. denier is a unit of weight by which the fineness of certain materials are measured; this material is lightweight, but has high-durability). It’s water and windproof, breathable, and durable. From their “extended and extreme” line, GORE-TEX® made this material for multi-day adventures where conditions might be harsh and rugged. I’ve read a few criticisms about the weight, breathability, and waterproofness of the material on online forums, but I have to wonder if those who are critical of this product have actually ever used it. The Patagonia Super Alpine Jacket is definitely slightly heavier than some of the super light alpine jackets I’ve used for day outings in Rocky Mountain National Park. But if I go on a multi-day adventure in the mountains, an adventure where the weather is suspect, or any sort of backcountry winter adventure, Patagonia’s Super Alpine Jacket will be in my backpack. Here’s why:
“Abandon hope all ye who enter here…” ~Dante
Editor’s Note: We’re excited to announce that Pamela Pack will be an instructor athlete at the 2014 Red Rock Rendezvous.
First ascents offer the possibility of leaving a legacy; they tell the story of the first ascentionist’s vision, passion, and inclination to venture into the unknown. Second Ascents can offer something magnificent as well. It’s like being the first person to be let in on a secret. Take Jihad, a 5.11d in Vedauwoo, Wyo., described by the notoriously fearless “King of Vedauwoo,” Bob Scarpelli, as one of the scariest routes he’d established. Until my ascent, it had gone unrepeated and unattempted for 25 years.
I spent the last seven summers in America’s offwidth Mecca—Vedauwoo—seeking out Scarpelli’s ruthless collection of offwidths. My small stature and hands are almost always a disadvantage on Scarpelli’s routes, whose fists are bigger than 4” Camalots. The additional challenge makes his routes particularly alluring. Over the years I had repeated many of his grueling vertical test-pieces, including the infamous sandbags Big Pink and Worm Drive as well as his wicked (and rarely repeated) invert style roof—Squat and Trip Master Monkey. However, in the summer 2013 I was told that one Scarpelli masterpiece had mysteriously remained unrepeated; I sought out Jihad. This route has spectacular and unique geometry. It is a sixty-foot, right leaning, overhanging crack on the North Corner crag in Upper Blair. The menacing crack begins as a squeeze chimney roof that quickly transitions into an offwidth, and finally finishes with a steep flared finger crack. From the ground I could see that Jihad was not going to be a casual climb despite the seemingly innocuous grade of 11d.
However, I suspected that that 11d rating was one reason the route had waited patiently a quarter century for a repeat. Generally, offwidth ratings in Vedauwoo have been kept within a closed system with a rich history of wicked sandbags. In the late 1980s, Scarpelli rated all of his hardest offwidths 11b, and by modern consensus these routes are often considered 5.12. Meanwhile, Scarpelli explained Jihad’s 11d rating to me as meaning: “Don’t bring your weak shit here,” and went on to remark: “I remember Jihad as a route that at some point you quit climbing and start trying to stay alive.”
My initial excitement dissolved into a feeling of impending doom the first day on the route…
By Arno Ilgner, author of many books, including The Warrior’s Way, and an instructor at the Red Rock Rendezvous.
When do we know that we can do something? When we’ve experienced it. This makes sense to most people when considering climbing. We won’t learn how to climb unless we tie into a rope and get on the rock. Yet, they don’t take the same approach to falling. Why?
The mind plays tricks on us without us even knowing it. How cruel. We’re victims of the mind. But, it’s an opportunity to develop self awareness. We need to develop the ability to use the mind’s intelligence and diminish becoming victims to its tricks.
There are many mental training methods that can help us make progress. The Warrior’s Way is one of those methods. The core tenet is focusing attention on task. Take falling, for instance. Most climbers use mind tricks most climbers to avoid falling. This is the unconsciousness stage in developing awareness. The mind justifies this avoidance by saying falling is dangerous. This is a true statement, but we can’t avoid falling forever. Sooner or later we’ll fall. So, we need to prepare.
The second stage of developing awareness is admitting that practicing falling is necessary. Climbers will force themselves to take falls. They get above their protection, gather their nerve, and take a fall. They hate the practice, but justify doing it because they know avoiding it is holding them back from improving. This kind of practice is dangerous because they aren’t paying attention to how they’re practicing. Therefore, they’re ingraining terrible habits of staying tense, holding their breath, and not paying attention to what is actually occurring during the fall.
By Quinn Brett
The ‘light’ bug has bit me. Previously, I considered product weight only after durability. I even poked fun at friends with the lightest-techiest-new-age-shiny-featherweight gear in their packs. But preparing for my recent overseas travels finally had me sold on the lightest of the light. Every ounce makes a difference when you’re checking luggage at the airport, shuttling loads to hostels or up steep, tufty fjord approaches, or trekking to reach base camps and rock climbing routes in Southern Patagonia.
A crucial piece of my kit throughout all my latest mountaineering/climbing adventures has been CAMP USA’s XLC 490 crampons. Made of a 7075-series aluminum alloy, these 12-point, strap-on crampons are the lightest on the market (at 490g, 17.3oz). I was impressed with their performance and durability. Why? So many reasons.
While hiking 10 miles over Southern Patagonia’s Torre Glacier, I was happy to have carried 1/3 less weight than I would have done had I brought steel crampons. And if there is a place for aluminum crampons, moderate mountaineering with glacier travel is it. I crossed the area’s glaciers swiftly with these crampons on, the XLC 490 always staying secure around my approach sneakers. The toe and heal basket are made of a flexible but firm Thermoplastic, and the crampon secures with adjustable nylon straps that has an added “quick release” tab. When the glacier became a little rockier, it took less than a minute to remove and pack away the XLC 490s.
Peter Croft joined Mountain Gear for the Red Rock Rendezvous in 2012, and is coming back for our 11th event. We recently asked Croft a few questions about his most memorable experiences at this climbers’ destination area.
MG: Could you share a bit of your history climbing in Red Rocks? In what ways is Red Rocks special to you?
PC: I first climbed there sometime in the late 80s. I showed up in the dark with a friend and a lousy guidebook. I somehow gathered that the biggest cliffs were just a few hundred feet high. My buddy liked to sleep in, and so I set out predawn to solo Lady Wilson’s Cleavage, a cruelly recommended climb on Mount Wilson. Couldn’t take more than an hour, I thought. Well, by the time it got light I realized things were much bigger than I thought. The approach turned out to be ferocious, the climb riddled with offwidths chock full of rotting twigs and leaves, and I arrived on one of the highest summits in Red Rocks disgusted with the route and no idea how to get down. Long story short, I eventually found a gully system off the back side, shimmied and floundered down past jammed boulders and waterfalls and arrived back at the campground just as my buddy was driving off to find some rangers to start a search party. On the up side, although I was convinced that Red Rocks was an appalling climbing area, the summits and canyoneering descents were a hoot. I promised myself in the future I’d never bother with any of the climbs; instead I’d just go Tarzan-ing up the descents.
“Today is the day,” I tell myself as I klump-thud my way to the slope and drop my skis in the snow. “Today, I’m going to make a tele turn.”
It would appear that sheer determination alone is not enough to develop Telemark ski abilities. I’ve told myself for most of the season that I’m leaving the bunny hill, but usually it’s just to get back in my car before the parent of the kid I just ran over finds me.
Day after day, I found myself on the mountain, cursing at my bindings because I can’t seem to get my boot in there without looking like I’m having some sort of strange physical attack. Day after day, I tried to make my skis do what I told them to.
I was beginning to believe that of all the bad decisions I’ve made in my life, trying to teach myself how to Telemark ski might rank up there with a few of my college boyfriends. And my judgement for at least a few years there relied heavily on cheap beer and a propensity to be attracted to drummers.
In a way, the time on the snow was familiarizing me with ski culture, snow types, and an appreciation for hot chocolate, but I couldn’t really say I was improving. Then I went skiing with a friend who probably has skis strapped to his feet more than he actually wears shoes. It was almost revolutionary, and not only because he pointed out my bindings were in touring mode. In a matter of hours I had more information than I could apply in an entire year.
Theoretically. It is one thing to think “I need to drop my knee and push my foot back” and another thing to actually DO it when you’re careening down a mountainside next to a pack of two year olds on leashes. More weeks went by. I decided I needed to turn to other sources. The bunny hill lifties were starting to call me by my first name. Progress must be made.
The Las Vegas Climbers Liaison Council (LVCLC) is a grassroots affiliate of the Access Fund that advocates for rock climbers in Southern Nevada by promoting responsible stewardship of local resources and cultivating greater community awareness and involvement. Current Board President Xavier Wasiak was one of the original founders of the LVCLC in 1998. With the help and guidance of Mark Limage, Lisa Buchina, Jason Martin, Scott Massey, and many others over the past 15 years, the LVCLC has endured. “Red Rocks is an incredible resource and our home,” says Wasiak. “We couldn’t think of any better reason to work hard to preserve our access and engage climbers.” Mountain Gear recently chatted with Wasiak to find out more about this fine nonprofit. The LVCLC benefits from some of Mountain Gear’s fundraising efforts at its annual event, the Red Rock Rendezvous.
MG: What are some of the organization’s biggest accomplishments in recent years?
XW: The southern Nevada climbing landscape is VAST!! There are many areas located near or in Wilderness, so working hard to keep open channels of communication with the land managers is always a huge responsibility. For some managers, contact with us is the first time they will ever speak with a climber. I believe we’ve established a steady, “go to” local organization with knowledgeable representatives with whom land managers can communicate. Also, after a lot of discussion and work, an infrastructure is in place to ensure that the organization will have longevity. We also have our human waste management program where we encourage climbers to use waste disposal bags we distribute from five dispensers located throughout Red Rocks. There are so many issues we are working on, it can feel overwhelming. Luckily, we have great support from our community!
I’m a maximizer, especially when it comes to time. I’m always squeezing in one more pitch or busting one more mile before racing to my next engagement. I’m also a pragmatist, valuing function over style and simplicity over abundance. Given these two aspects of my personality, I generally show up to work, dinner, or any other social event covered in chalk, having changed out of my sweaty clothes in the car. When I got the Arc’teryx Cerium LT hoody this past fall, little did I know that I could still live my on-the-go life and look good doing so.
As for style, the jacket can’t be beat. Unlike other puffys I’ve had, the Cerium LT has a nicely contoured cut around the torso and a hood that actually is comfortable to put over your head. On me, the waist hangs nicely just at harness-level, maximizing protection from the cold without getting in the way of belaying or clipping gear. The color, which I got in seaglass green, is striking and goes well with a range of outfits. At the climbing gym, trailhead, and even the grocery store, I have received numerous compliments, both from friends and total strangers.
Despite being the quintessential multi-sport Coloradan, I am definitely not a gear head. Rather than having a sport-specific outfit for all of my adventures, I want one piece to do it all. I’ve skinned up Snowmass Mountain with the jacket tucked in a small pocket, ready to don for the ski down. Likewise, it’s kept me warm on steep hikes and during long sessions belaying my husband on a new project. On particularly grim days, I’ve even worn it on tough boulder problems and routes, and the Cerium’s athletic fit and breathability have allowed for ample freedom of movement and comfort. Highly compactable, the jacket stuffs well into even very small daypacks, making it all the easier to bring another layer, just in case.