Nov 30, 2011

Lofty Desert Days (La Sportiva Katana)

The Pinnacle of Technology, as we called her, drifted through the endless space-time continuum which is road tripping. Flakes of snow silently hurtled themselves at the windshield and accumulated on the invisible roadway beyond our high beams, as if the stars of hyperspace were falling out of solution. The interior of our interstate vessel was a jumbled mess of rushed packing. Canned food, coolers, and cams crowded the cockpit of our Creek destined container. The pungent aroma, unmistakable when one first entered our ship, had faded out of consciousness, leaving only the occasional flicker of light to remind us of its presence. The approaching Thanksgiving fueled my idle brain's imagination with a grandiose epic analogous to heartfelt tail of Columbus. However, in my fabrication, I was one of four men on board an interstellar ship destined not for The New World, but for a desert world where shear faces of Wingate Sandstone rose hundreds of feet into the air. The fantasy was broken by the approaching flashing hazard lights of a jacked knife semi-truck, just barely visible through the stars falling from solution.
Seconds combined with hours which melted into minutes, all the while Pandora continuously provided the soundtrack of our adventure. Somewhere in the fray I had been asked to take the helm but declined due to my current inability to remain awake. Perfectly uncomfortable in the cargo hold, sleep gripped me instantaneously, until the sudden deceleration of the transport on final approach vector towards Moab stirred me from my dreams.
We had wasted the previous day in Salt Lake City between an Indian Cafe, an Office marathon, a failed trip to the Front, and a few hours at a bar, waiting for Pat to arrive. By the third episode chronicling idiotic displays of mismanagement by Micheal Scott, it was already dark. Life in the darkened world continued without the natural pause of sleep to package the events into a "day" in ones mind. Thus, by the time our headlights shown onto the natural spring outside of Moab, I don't think any of us really knew who we were.

After eternity had came and gone, morning sun illuminated the gargantuan walls of sandstone lining the road heading south from Moab. The coming day surprised and startled me, as if I believed our vessel had indeed landed on a foreign world devoid of a sun. Our southbound trajectory shifted via the magical junction to Canyonlands National Park. As we descended through layers of time, space, and environment our final elevation settled at the base of the Wingate formation. A culmination of geologic process, unknown and remarkable to my naive brain, created a continuum of laser cut vertical lines. Initially, these lines were an exciting occasional site; however as we pressed further toward the Beef Basin road the lines became common. Rounding the corner dominated by the most classic of line of lines, Supercrack, the excitement which perpetually draws me toward the vertical world returned with vengeance.
A fraction of a moment later we stood in reverence at the glory which is Indian Creek. A long forgotten land far from the perpetual stress defining life. Hallow ground, dismissed as a dusty dirty deteriorating destination by the dismissive eye but delightfully defined as a diminutive piece of our planet dominating many lives. The Creek is beyond the realm of elucidation, hovering somewhere between reality and fiction. A fantasy land bounded by thousands upon thousands of adventures, more than enough for a thousand lifetimes. And, this mystic land would be our home for the next nine days before the Pinnacle of Technology would set a northward navigation through the endless space-time continuum which is road tripping.  

I was initially skeptical of this shoe. For sometime now, I've been searching for a performance oriented shoe which is somewhere between the comfort of a Moccasym and the technical abilities of the Testerosa. May I say, I've finally found it. Despite reading several reviews describing the shoe as "very narrow", I find my wide feet have no problems staying within the shoe for an extended period of time. I sized the shoe a half size larger than my bouldering shoes. Initially, I was nervous this might provide a good performance fit with no comfort. However, after wearing the shoe for several hour plus stings, I feel my sizing choice is perfect. The tongue of the shoe is super padded and very comfortable, while the laces allow one to finely tune the fit. My only complain thus far is about the Vibram soles which took a while to break in and become "sticky". I've had no problems thus far with the heel cup or the fit of the shoe around my ankle. Despite heavy use in the Creek on all sizes of cracks, they lacing system has held up very well. Additionally, there was minimal discomfort due to repeatedly shoving m foot in and out of various sized cracks. I wouldn't recommend sizing the shoe too big as to avoid eventual sloppiness. They edge like a dream and don't smear all hat bad either. Best use in my opinion . . . an all around performance oriented trad climbing shoe. I'd still rather have my Testerosas on for most sport climbing endeavors.

  • Comfortable fit (mostly due to the plush tongue)
  • Great edging and smearing abilities 
  • Perfect middle of the road trad shoe
  • Vibram sole takes a while to become "sticky" 
  • Laces may wear quickly with continued use on cracks larger than a BD 0.75 

Nov 11, 2011

Ice, Ice, Baby (Black Diamond Fusions)

Despite my obvious lack of excitement for ice climbing, (ok let's be honest here . . . "lack of excitement" could be translated as "I don't ever want to go ice climbing again") I went ice climbing last Sunday. The sport is beautiful, cold, captivating, and terrifying. The episodic streaks of ice which grace the cliffs of Hylatie Canyon appear invisible to even the trained eye. For among the complex fortress of crumbling rock bands contained within the canyon, a lifetime of frigid adventures wait. For the dedicated, those who continually contend to breach the fortress walls are remunerated with the required skills to climb any frozen summit they choose. In my case, last weekends excursion to the ice solidified one major difference between the dedicated few and myself. Those dedicated few have the mental fortitude to slam ice screws into hanging curtains, travel massive vertical distances without any protection, and scratch their tools through pure choss seeking the perfect hook. I do not share this similar capability. Regardless of how comfortable I feel climbing far about small cam, micro nuts, or no gear . . . I cannot seem to fathom how to translate this to ice climbing. Furthermore, ice climbing has always given me a vehicle to ascend large peaks somewhere else, and with no such trips on the horizon my motivations are running thin. Thank goodness we are so lucky to live in a state rich with ice climbs of moderate difficulty which can take one to some of them most impressive places Montana has to offer. Thus, I feel this will be the focus of my ice climbing season this year. I'd like to repeat Cali Ice and Leaning Tree, and expand my long route vocabulary to Ice Dragons, any one of the Cody classics, or perhaps some climbs on Barronet Peak. I better get comfy in the driver's seat of the Bronco. Thus, with ice climbing as my inspiration, I offer these words in relation to my experiences with the Black Diamond Fusion Ice Tools.

Black Diamond did it right when they released these tools a few years ago! While they don't hold a candle to weight savings of the Cobras, they sure do perform well. I personally prefer a heavier tool, believing it swing easier when I'm pumped. (how much of this is true is up to much debate). I've climbed with tools on every grade from WI 2 - WI 5/6. However, the upper end of the grade is where they really start to shine. The extreme aggressive curvature of the tool renders nearly zero pick shift. Thus, whether your coping a rest of the lower grips, or bumped up the higher pommel making a technical move . . . it all feels the same. Enough about water ice, let talk about the terrain these tools were designed for. Mixed climbing . . . while I haven't done an extreme amount on these tools, what I have done is a dream. Again, the zero pick shift allows for technical lock offs at your waist on the smallest of edges. On extreme overhangs, go ahead and cut those feet! These tools support your whole body like a big girl lookin for some lovin' on a Friday night. As far as durability is concerned . . . these tools do great. I've dropped them, left in the sun for many days (they are now more yellow than green), and had to perform little maintenance to keep them in working order. My only complaint . . . they shatter ice compared to the Cobras.

Pros: Excel on all types of ice, especially steep ice and mixed terrain. Durable as a Swiss made watch. Heavy, for easy momentum carry when your pumped.

Cons: Solid heavy shaft tends to cause more ice shattering than the other similar tools


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I love to climb, everything.