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I really, really, really like gear. One of my favorite web sites these days is a audio recording site called GearSlutz.com and it's emphasis should be obvious from the name. There seems to always be new electronics stuff coming out that is cool, and tempting as well. The most interesting stuff right now is from the retro movement - bringing back the older analog designs...mainly 'cause it just sounds better. That's right, to many folks music recorded on tape and mastered on vinyl for the most part simply sounds better than that done digitally, and CD's just don't sound as good as vinyl. Taking that analogy into the climbing world, I'm a gear slut there too. Hey, every time I go into a climbing shop I ask what's new and spend some time perusing the latest & greatest.
As in the pro audio biz, there has been a slow but steady progression of new designs by the climbing industry. Soft-shell clothing has taken a significant bite out of the hard-shell market, leashless or "combo" tools have taken over in ice gear, self-locking or combo belay devices are the norm, the cam manufacturers all seem to have the teeny, tiny flexible multi-camming devices and more. Still, there hasn't been an obvious retro movement in climbing gear, at least not on the face of it.
That said there have been a few interesting developments that could be considered retro... One is the return of wool. Not all that long ago wool shirts, pants, jackets, hats and gloves were all the norm for the well dressed climber or mountaineer. However the smell of wet wool, the itchiness and other issues caused its downfall. Over the past few years it's been making a comeback. About a year ago a friend sent me an Ibex wool jersey. It's a really nice layer to wear under my softshell jacket, doesn't smell or itch and it keeps me nice & warm. It quickly became one of my favorite pieces of winter clothing.
Mono-point crampons became popular in the mid-late 90's. I went from a pair of Foot Fangs to Charlet Moser Grade 8's and for years never looked back. I upgraded several times, being the gear slut that I am, but stuck with the mono's. But several years ago I was talking with a local climber who is well known for his mountaineering and hard ice skills all over the world.He said that he climbed everything but the hard mixed stuff with dual points. As I was looking for a new pair of crampons I decided to get a pair that I could switch around, and use them first as dual points. After a season of climbing dual again I found that I really liked what they had to offer, mainly a very stable platform to stand on. Sure I would prefer a monopoint for stuff like the Pegasus rock finish, Hobbit, Penguin and the like, but those are not the norm in my winter world, whereas vertical ice is.
So in a few cases I guess there is a small retro movement in the climbing arena. But that said I don't think we're going to see a return to pounding pins, straight shaft ice axes, hemp ropes or the like any time soon. At least I hope not.
Ice Conditions Report:
Selected Ice Conditions effective April 17, 2015
I know, I know there are some folks who will say that this or that climb is still IN, but believe me there really is no safe ice in the lower elevation now, so the rating has been dropped to a 1. This indicates that the only ice is in the higher terrain now. And in fact, other than climbs that have some significant part of them in the shade, like Pinnacle, everything else should be considered suspect. That said the skiing is supposedly amazing right now so grab it while you can. Starting next week we will move fully into rock season and will switch to BugCON ratings.
I have several pair of softshell pants that have crampon tears in them, as I am sure that many of you have. I've figured that they were trash 'cause they are stretchy and you can't actually patch them very well. However someone recently said that a good tailor can handle anything, so I went to see my friendly local tailor, Carolyn Brown. Well it turns out that she was able to repair all 3 pair of my stretchy hole-filled softshell pants and they are like new. So before you dump those ice climbing with al the rips, go see your local tailor first. You'll be happy you did.
2009 Leashless Ice Tool Poll:
There is a poll on the NEClimbs.com forum about leashless ice tools. Whichever one you use, take a minute to drop by and put in your 2 cents. As of Wednesday morning the results look like this:
100% leashless 24 (45.3%)
mostly leashless 6 (11.3%)
back & forth 14 (26.4%)
leashless? NEVER 9 (17%)
Total Voters: 53
Energy Bars Recalled:
I heard on the news that some energy bars containing peanut butter are being recalled due to this Salmonella outbreak. I looked through my stash and sure enough I had some Power Bars with peanuts in them. I looked on the Power Bar site and there was no mention of ANY issue. That said, a search on the Net yielded a current list of FDA recalled products by company here:
The bar type I have was not listed, but It does have peanuts in it so I'm not taking any chances. The FDA is apparently urging “consumers to postpone eating commercially-prepared or manufactured peanut butter-containing products and institutionally-served peanut butter” for the time being. To my mind it's not worth the possibility. You should judge for yourself...
Ice Fest 2009:
Don't forget about the 16th Annual Ice Festival on February 5-8, 2009.
Mobile Version Of NEClimbs:
Up on one of the Mount Washington Valley's finest crags and want to know what that climb you're looking at is? Or maybe you're on your way up from Boston and want to check out the Ice Report for your upcoming weekend plans. Or more likely, you're at work just want to daydream about your next adventure. Well if you have a smart phone handy, you can get to NEClimbs from anywhere you have cell service. While it doesn't offer every single feature of the site and it's not an "app", in mobile form, it does do a whole lot and is very useful. Here is the live link to the mobile version of NEClimbs:
Check it out and if you have issues on your specific phone, please feel free to let me know.
NEClimbs & White Mountain Report On Facebook:
Join us and LIKE us on Facebook. I'll try and post some interesting pix every Thursday and the latest Ice Report in the season, tho certainly not the whole Report. Here's where you can check it out:
The White Mountain Report
North Conway, New Hampshire
This is a group of people I used to go walking with. (long pause) That's me on the left. (even longer pause) On the right is the woman I married, Audrey. (very long pause, speaker looks at shoes) Which just goes to show that danger lurks where you least expect it.
Don Whillans commenting on a B&W slide showing a group of smiling hikers