Holiday Margs with Tommy

The new year, a time of reflection, a time of renewal, a time for more margaritas.

Let’s review:

Click here for a terrific, basic marg. Great for the new year’s gathering.

Click here if you’re a fancy pants with important friends or are important yourself, and willing to squeeze your own limes and are into top-notch margs at reasonable-enough cost. Damn fine stuff.

Click here if times are tough, like you live in a shack, a trailer park, or are still in college (five years down, only three to go…).

Wondering whom you should really trust for advice on margaritas? Well, I don’t like to brag, but don’t take my word for it — just ask the world’s greatest rock climber, none other than the nine-fingered man himself, Mr. Tommy Caldwell (and, yes, I promise to keep up the blog even after Hollywood calls). See what he has to say in this unsolicited video clip:

Happy New Year!

Belay Parka: Down or Synthetic?

A puffy coat make the difference between Type II and Type III fun, but which is better, down or synthetic? Let me ‘splain. No no, there is too much. Let me sum-up: If it’s idiot-proof, I like it. But that’s just me. Most people are smarter and more careful, so for them down can be a great choice. When it really matters, though, I go for synthetic belay parkas (but I usually use a down sleeping bag, if I bring one – will get into bivy ideas another time). OK, I will ‘splain.

First, some plusses and minuses of each:


-Lightest insulation available. Unparalleled warmth-to-weight ratio.

-Compresses way better than synthetics. Longer life, too – doesn’t die or pack-out like synthetics can over time (some synthetics are way better/worse than others here).

-Nice, soft, cozy feel

-More expensive (especially high-quality down)

-Completely worthless when wet

-If the shell rips, you lose your feathers. Some down parkas therefore use burlier fabrics, which counters some of the weight savings.

Jonny Copp in a river of spindrift, descending from the first ascent of Going Monk, Mt. Andrews, AK.


-Bomb- and idiot-proof

-Maintains a high degree of its insulating value when wet

-It’s heavier and doesn’t compress as well. Some synthetics pack out after just a few seasons, making them less effective.

Down would be a slam dunk if it weren’t for the whole “worthless when wet” thing. And that’s a big thing with alpine climbing. Granted, a good DWR and water-resistant fabric works great for shedding snow, especially on shorter outings, and for winter climbing you’re usually dealing with a fairly dry medium (snow). But anyone who’s gone winter climbing or, much worse, alpine climbing, knows that you still get wet – groveling through nasty snow, pressing against dripping ice, climbing through rivers of spindrift that gets everywhere and then melts on you. Keeping down dry in most alpine environments requires diligence.

In my book, the more committing the situation, the bigger deal this becomes. While I love my big puffy down parka for a portable belay heater while cragging, for anything where just bailing and strolling back to the car could be problematic, I go for synthetics. Part of this relates to climbing philosophy – I don’t like to bring a lot of stuff, and since I usually skip or skimp on bivy gear, the stuff I bring has to be versatile and trustworthy if shit hits the fan. Having a clumped, wetted-out, worthless parka when strung-out on a route can be disastrous.

Personal examples of idiot-proof attributes that make me favor synthetic belay parkas:

-On one of my many failed attempts at the north buttress of Mt. Hunter, my down parka somehow got wet and formed some golf-ball-sized chunks of frozen down inside my pack (synthetics don’t clump together when wet like down). My theory: spindrift snuck into the pack (which always happens if you’ve removed the lid from your pack, which makes sense for saving weight), but melted just a bit from the body heat coming off my back, but then refroze. I know of several people who use down parkas in AK and other cold places without problems, though – perhaps it’s a personal reflection but, again, I’m a fan of idiot-proof things. For another example, I don’t want to be diligent about brushing off every speck of snow when I’m hastily stuffing the parka into my pack at the end of a belay.

-Another time in AK, part of a down parka got stuck in the zipper. Out of frustration, I yanked harder, and, poof, feathers everywhere. Fortunately it was just in the draft tube.

My shredded-but-still effective MicroPuff pullover (left; first-gen Dragonfly, now Houdini, on right) after 7,400-vertical-feet of granite on Great Trango Tower.

-Proving that I finally learned something, On Great Trango we just brought little sweater-style pullovers – mine a Patagonia Micro Puff (no longer made in the Pullover, and it’s gotten too heavy IMO; but the Nano Puff is the best product we’ve made since the R1 Hoody) and Josh’s a down version from Feathered Friends. Josh’s was super sweet, a little lighter, and slightly warmer since we stayed dry. Mine still would’ve worked if we got wet, important to me since we didn’t bring much to weather any sort of storm. On our final morning, day five, I led through an icy off-width while wearing every piece of clothing I’d brought. Were I wearing down on that lead, it’d have looked like someone shot a goose. I shredded the shell fabric – but the synthetic fill, though exposed, stayed put and kept me warm.

Lots of options exist for belay parkas in various weights (will talk about smaller, three-season puffy coats soon), but for winter warmth, as with many climbers I love Patagonia’s DAS Parka (DAS stands for Dead Air Space, which is what a good belay parka should trap). Of course I’m biased because I work for them, but plenty of long-suffering Patagonia product developers can attest to how I fucking rant when something isn’t right and real-deal (I should post one of my product rants sometime; looking back, some have been fairly entertaining…they’re good folks for tolerating my diatribes). Quite simply, the DAS rules.

So, to sum-up, down or synthetic? By the way, it’s almost marg-thirty, so why not get a little inappropriate, in deference to the season of holiday parties…

Think of it like women (or men – all about equality here). High-maintenance chicks suck. It’s a big drawback. Even if they’re hot. It’s like a down jacket. It doesn’t matter how comfy or nice looking it is, in the long run you’ll end up a beaten-down man with the thousand-yard stare, shivering and cold and lonely and broke and hating the world. For a quick session, though? (Meaning a day at the crag, get your mind out of the gutter!) Oh yeah.

But I’m in it for the long haul, baby.


’Tis the season, and it seems we escaped without a stampeding herd of mouthbreathers trampling each other to death at Wal-Mart.

The truth of the world, of course, is that gifts come in all forms and the greatest ones have nothing to do with purchasing power.

For those who don’t know, the disgusting Wal-Mart episode really happened last year, on the aptly named “Black Friday.” Such an utterly grotesque display, on so many levels, of what the holiday spirit has too often come to mean. If someone had come up with that in a movie, we’d all be like, “No way, that’ll never happen – sure we’re materialistic but it’s not that bad.

Perhaps the recession has given us something beyond the lowest-price-guarantee frenzy, and maybe – I know, call me an optimist – we’re finally coming to appreciate things that matter more than the size of your house, how your car looks, and the façade that really showing those you love that you love them has anything to do with what you buy.

I’m grateful for my new niece. I’m grateful that our country, the wealthiest in the history of the world, and empowered with such great minds that we surely can – if we want to – find reasonable compromises, is finally moving away from our barbaric prioritization of profits over people’s health. As I sit here and look out the window of my little cabin and see the fresh snow sparkling in the sunlight, and think about where I’m going to ski tour this afternoon, I’m most grateful for the simple gifts. The clear sky, the mountains, good health, and the quest for true happiness.

Late summer, our first time climbing together again, Jenna and I climbed the Sky Route on Twin Owls.

Looking back on the year, the late spring and summer dominate my feelings and thoughts. I just skimmed some of my journal entries from this summer, and saw one that hit me. It came from a time of recovery, but a time where I still fell to pieces regularly. My fiancé was out of the hospital and seemed likely to recover (which she has) from a horrific brain disease that nearly took her. When we lived in the hospital for nearly a month, friends and relatives visited in droves, their kindness bringing me to tears. On one of those visits, as I walked a close friend to his car, he told me that Jonny and Micah and Wade were missing. Jonny was one of my best friends. He described the scenario and I knew they were gone. I wandered the hospital campus, trembling and gutted and returned to our room to continue to focus on everything that was happening with Jenna’s treatment.

Sometimes, too, we need to care for ourselves. The cliché is, in fact, true that you need to care for yourself so you can be strong for others. It’s just damn hard to do sometimes, even brutal. In that time of recovery – early recovery, because recovery is an eternal process, as far as I can tell – by the time I’d gotten home to my cabin in Estes and canceled my China trip, the mountains pulled at my heart in a way that, hard though it is to describe, felt like love, like an offer to help fill some of what had been stripped away and lost. On a late afternoon in July, my first day alone in a long time and the first day in more than a month that I hadn’t yet broken down, I grabbed my rock shoes and hydration pack and started running. I started at the Glacier Gorge trailhead, heading for Spearhead. Wind bristled leaves along the trail, the stream bubbled, Mills Lake glistened, and gorgeous alpine flowers sprouted from rocks as my heart pounded blood through my veins and I breathed another form of life again, legs and lungs searing and finally feeling like something more than an empty shell. Johnny Cash played through my headphones as the rock disappeared below me and I climbed farther into the sky. On the summit, as the sun dipped low and alpenglow washed the undersides of racing clouds, for fifteen minutes I danced.

The simplest gifts are always the best.

Irony and Art

Scott DeCapio racking up below the route Anasazi on a gorgeous December afternoon. We had the awesome Supercrack Buttress all to ourselves, possibly a modern first.

The irony of the Anasazi art that adds to the allure of the  high desert we all love is that the drawings might’ve said the equivalent of “Natuk Wuz Hear.” I can’t carve “Kelly Roooles!” into the rock nowadays, and with good reason. We now have, to understate things, plenty enough signs of our existence. Times change.

What is art, what is vandalism, what’s an accepted eyesore and what’s too much?

We drive to the crag and we pick up our garbage. The chain anchors are OK. Tick marks are ugly and I hate ‘em. What distinguishes ticks from normal chalk?

Heck, rain washes away most – or is it only some? – of the chalk on climbs. It doesn’t rain much in the desert, and the chalk comes right back anyway, so what’s it matter?

But it’s just chalk, I use it and I love to climb and that does more good than harm because climbing and nature add so much to my life and the lives of others similarly impassioned, and it rains, and rain cleanses, and climbing is our form of art.

Tick marks and chalk alongside ancient Anasazi art on Pink Flamingo, 5.13-.

Accomplishments feed our passion, drive drives us forward, our egos get involved but ego isn’t always bad. The more beautiful the place, the more we strive to go there, and the harder the climb the more we tend to justify our means.

At its core, aesthetics pull deeply at our love for nature. The balance of aesthetics, healthy egos, and love for a place?

Most everything exists along a spectrum, one rife with irony, personal shifts, and preferences. In my world, along my spectrum, the irony of huge tick marks alongside ancient Anasazi art is just a bit too much. Even if it’s a hard route.

Racing for Darwin: The Triple Schmack Challenge

“Ohhh, I’m in it for the experience,” says the brah, intoning that soft voice that makes him more righteous than you.

No way, Scotty D and I were in it to win. Win what? The illustrious Triple Schmack Challenge, of course.

“It’s easy to ‘win’ an event where you define the rules, the time, the participants, the place and the objective,” wrote Will Gadd in a blog post about something or other awhile back. I think he was talking about alpinism, no way not true at all fair enough.

Absolutely. Which is why I love it and can occasionally rise above my otherwise boundless standard of mediocrity. I like doing things by my rules.

Anyway, Will’s words reminded me of a time about seven years ago here in Estes, when I lived in the Chicken Coop, had more free time and fewer brain cells, and Scotty D and I started doing free-solo time-trail races at Lumpy Ridge.

We had this link-up of three multi-pitch routes that were on our usual solo circuit anyway – Pear Buttress (on The Book), Melvin’s Wheel (Bookmark), and White Whale (Left Book). Doing them for time made logistical sense. Logistical in terms of how one sets you up for the other, mind you, as compared to logistical meaning logical or wise. The time was round-trip from the trailhead (the old Twin Owls trailhead). We called it the Triple Schmack Challenge because, of course, whomever “won” got to talk all kinds of schmack. We honestly thought that some of our friends would get into it and it’d become popular, like community building of sorts. Alas, no takers: we would talk schmack only to each other, back and forth, Scotty and me.

We did have two rules, though:

1. No dying.

2. No dying.

After the illustrious title changed hands a couple of times – comparison of our splits indicated that I’d usually be a little faster on the trail run to the base, but he climbed faster (in the interest of safety, we never raced at the same time) – I remember pulling my toe up high to a flared tips jam several hundred feet up Melvin’s, heart rate racing in my throat, thinking Must…Beat…Scotty! and suddenly the long overdue alarm bells chimed – you ain’t too smart, are ya, boy? But where do quitters finish? That’s right, coach, last. And so I simply turned off my brain and, most importantly, that time I beat Scotty. Schmack, schmack, talk that schmack.

It was short-lived. On his next go, Scotty crushed my time: round-trip from the trailhead, one hour, 28 minutes.

“Whattday think about that, Cracka, you gonna man-up and try again?” he taunted.

“Man, I’m just in it for the experience,” I said, sipping my margarita. Margaritas make me smart, and suddenly my brain tripled in size and I bowed-out and declared him the champion, falling back on my life’s primary M.O.: When faced with big challenges, it’s best to not even try because you’ll probably fail.

Soon after conceding the Triple Schmack crown to Scotty, I added a fourth route (Magical Chrome Plated Semi-Automatic Enima Syringe, on the Pear formation). I was “on” that day and did it fast enough that Scotty figured he’d have to pick a good day to try to beat my time. But, so sadly, a storm then rolled in and work called him out of town. It thusly seemed appropriate to give the new linkup a name: The Quadruple JV. I am still the champion.

Margarita Mondays Special Edition – The Beergarita (swill version)

The boys at Sitting Stone recently started doing Margarita Mondays, which apparently deteriorated into Evan Williams bourbon Monday, and somehow I got blamed. I’ve never even met these guys, but I’m honored and I suspect I’ll soon be hearing from their parents. So I might as well get my money’s worth – this week’s marg recipe comes on Monday, and goes out to the Sitting Stone crew. As far as I can tell, they go to Reed College in Portland – hmmm, of the famed Portland Rock, where the Mayflower landed on Thanksgiving, from my last recipe? And Reed is my middle name…see, it really ties the room together, does it not?

Background: Recently some friends and I enjoyed some of my famous basic margs until Jake Martin, who, as far as I can tell, generally has very low standards in alcohol, asked if I’ve ever mixed beer into my margarita – does the Pope wear a funny hat? Two of the greatest inventions of the 20th century? Why yes, as a matter of fact I have. So in the name of diversity and all things that are good, we switched to the Beergarita. We went with a more authentic Mexican style, one that I’ll save for another post. Besides, Jake just wouldn’t stop talking about how horrible Jose Cuervo is – OK, so he has some standards – but it’s not that bad if you don’t drink a gallon of it at a time mixed with random, undisclosed quantities of swill beer (Sitting Stone crew, take note…). As with so many things, the Beergarita can range from rank to pretty good. I’m not sure that it ever gets truly good, like good marg good, but it has its place. For now, and with all respect to the Sitting Stone guys, we’ll go lowbrow. Lowbrow has its benefits, like that you can only go up from here (once your hangover leaves).

So here we go, the Beergarita, college-days version:

1. Tequila: Jose Cuervo Gold (acceptable only if you’re in college or a trailer park; otherwise, please be civil and use Hornitos), two parts.

(Note: No triple sec or OJ needed – we’ve got beer!)

2. Mix: one part Minute Maid frozen concentrate Limeade mix, two parts…

The Danimal, back in the Almighty Shack, ca 2001.

2a. Beer. PBR (remember, this is the shackboy version). You actually don’t want a dark beer for this, anyway. Pour in a bunch, but not too much. Most online recipes have it nearly all beer with just a little tequila. Lame. Here, we’re basically substituting beer for water, making equal parts beer and tequila. So, two parts beer. Or three, more or less.

I guess I’m not really sure how much beer to put in there. By the time the night has shifted to Beergaritas, I usually can’t remember. Proportions depend on factors too numerous to mention, but maybe the Sitting Stone guys can get back to us with their recommendations. And anyone else brave enough for the Beergarita, post up your results. Give it a go. As they say: Man up, it’s Monday.

Winter Climbing 101: The Belay Parka

Last night, in seven-degree temperature I groveled beneath the crawl space in my house trying to unthaw my frozen-assed pipes. An hour later they burst, drenching everything. Sounds a lot like winter climbing.

First, I know, winter climbing can suck – but mostly just because it’s cold. Sometimes I think the gangsta-wannabe types, using their big jackets just for chillin’ like Biggie Smalls, might be on to something. But the actual climbing is usually fun, even brilliant in good conditions, and there’s something especially cool about climbing a transient medium in a snow-blanketed, serene environment. Granted, it’s often Type II fun, with badly formed ice and snow-covered rock, the dreaded and beloved g-climbing (g is for grovel, and G-climbing is another topic all together).

Anyway, the main reason people get cold and uncomfortable relates to their clothing. While there’s lots to address there, we know most of it – don’t wear cotton, start with a wicking baselayer, add the right amount of insulation, put on a shell. Wear a hat. But people often wear too much insulation – too much? Yes, definitely. They dress for standing around, which makes sense except that then you overheat when you’re moving. That makes you sweat. Then your clothes get damp and lose some insulating value – even the fancy synthetics lose some when wet. And wearing too much is bulky and uncomfortable, restricting your movement so you can’t climb as well, thus having less fun. Solution? Fairly simple: belay parka.

It goes like this:

Nice DAS Parka, nice! Staying wam after leading a pitch tagged with skull & crossbones on a the original topo -- grrr -- on a 2003 attempt at Deprivation (Mt. Hunter, AK) with Jonny Copp. We bailed from the third ice band later in the day.

1. Dress for action. Since you’ll have a harness on, this means you can’t realistically swap-out under-layers. Dress to keep yourself warm when actually moving. Movement warms you up big-time. Overdress, especially in the upper body, and you soak your layers in sweat. But it’s a bit of an art, because you also want to stay warm – especially in the core, toasty warm in the core, go what I call “+ 1” in the core, meaning an extra layer there (a short-sleeved T or a vest) – which therefore allows shunting of warm blood to your extremities, keeping your hands warm enough that you can wear thinner, more dexterous gloves. Dressing like this means you’ll be chilly just standing around. BUT…you can simply add a layer over the top to warm you when you aren’t climbing. Thus:

2. Use the belay parka. Or puffy coat, whatever you want to call it. The standard layering approach that even your grandma has heard about just isn’t practical in the middle of a climb – what, like when you need to adjust your heat you’re gonna unbuckle your harness, remove your shell, change mid-layers, tuck them back in, they put your harness back on? No, you dress for action, then throw on an overlayer.


Anytime you stop. If you stop for any longer than, say, taking a leak, throw on the belay parka to trap your heat before it leaves you. Even on multi-pitch climbs, do this immediately atop each pitch, even though you reach the belay and feel warm. Don’t do it and you’ll get cold fast. Trap your hard-earned heat. Since you’re no longer moving, you won’t overheat and sweat-out. Perfect. Before the next pitch, the very last thing you do – after eating, drinking, changing gloves, breaking down the belay to a single good piece – is take it off.

Some nice details to look for:

  • A good hood. Should be helmet compatible (just as you aren’t gonna adjust underlayers with a harness on, you don’t want to be taking on/off your helmet, especially on ice climbs when stuff’s falling down everywhere), zip high onto the chin and lower face, and cinch down around your helmet and face – when it’s gnarly out, you want to be so snug you look like Kenny from South Park.
  • Double zipper pulls are a nice bonus, so that you can open up the bottom of the coat while zipped and thus see your belay device (only needed in the super puffy winter parkas).
  • Internal mesh pockets – handy for keeping gloves warm, but not crucial since putting them deeper in your layers – inside your main shell – keeps them even warmer. But sometimes you don’t want to open-up your main shell.
  • Self-stuff (like into its own pocket with clip-in loop – rare for big jackets, common for 3-season style Puffball style) or an included stuff-sack with a clip-in loop. Super handy for multi-pitch routes. Of course you can use your own stuff sack and sew-in a clip-in loop, or tie the drawcord and clip it, but having one correctly sized with the jacket is nice. Granted, on some multi-pitch routes you’ll have the second climbing with a light pack, so he can carry the parkas. But that doesn’t help you while you’re belaying up the second, and so often you just want to clip your belay parka onto your harness and thus have it always ready. Sometimes, like in more moderate conditions, you can bring only one belay parka up a route and share it – the second always gets it. Idea being that by the time the leader cools down, the second arrives and gives you the parka (if swinging leads) or you take off leading again (if leading in blocks).

There’s plenty more to consider, like big coat vs small coat, synthetic vs down, and hard shell (waterproof) vs lighter shell. Intended usage, including conditions expected, affect your choices. More on that soon. Choices, choices.

But this was just the basics, to get us through while I grovel under the crawl space and fix my damned busted pipes instead of going climbing as I’d planned. But once I’m done and enjoying my marg, I’ll still pull on my belay parka – just so I can look like Biggie Smalls for a day.

Poetry Solves Climbing Turf Wars

At the BRC last night, I observed something uncommon for visits to Boulder climbing gyms: I didn’t find myself hating my fellow human. Granted, it was a snowy and cold Sunday night, so “nobody” was there. Jenna, who comes from North Dakota, surely home to the nicest people on earth, leaned over and whispered to me, people seem like, you know, everyday people here tonight, in all shapes and sizes and nobody’s being mean to each other – I looked around and replied, “What, like normal people?”

Lets be honest, Boulder doesn’t get accused of being overly grounded in reality. And not in that oldschool funk way, either, like the T-shirts that say “Keep Boulder Weird” – Boulder hasn’t been authentically weird in about 20 years. It’s home to the Beautiful People. For sure it’s a great place, I love it, and some of my favorite people in the world live there. Yes, that was a disclaimer, just so some axe-body-spray wearin’ douche doesn’t dub me a “hatta” (how do you spell the too-cool version of “hater” anyway?). If you find yourself making that snooty “ugght!” face while reading this and talking on your cell phone inside your SUV, clad with a “Live Simply So That Others May Simply Live” sticker, and going “That is soooo not Bouldaire!” then, well, um, yes, actually it is.

I know, looks like someone has a case of the Mondays.

(Side note: while searching for that clip, I found a real one of some Russian dude going off in his cubicle — the good part starts about 40 seconds in, this absolutely rules!)

At either end of the social spectrum, there lies a leisure class.

Soon I’ll be back home in Estes, the cultural third-world of the Front Range, where the men are men and the sheep are scared, and, damn, I’m appreciative – we’ve all got it pretty freakin’ good. Certainly so if you’ve got enough disposable time to read my blog.

Where am I going with this? Nowhere, really, it just made me think about turf wars, and I’ve read of how the arts can help expand people’s awareness, give them purpose, and help counter cultural strife. Venezuelan composer Jose Antonio Abreu founded “El Sistema,” a miraculous youth orchestra system that’s transformed the lives of thousands of kids so impoverished that we could hardly imagine it from our comfortable lives. If you’ve never watched a TED talk, you’re missing out. Click here for Abreu’s.

It made me think about the 2004 East Coast – West Coast tension in the old turf wars (RIP, which dissolved into the far more civilized, far less entertaining, far more useful There was some genuine hatin’ goin’ on between Boulder and Estes climbers, or at least their internet personas, which are never real people. God bless the Internet, home to the great unwashed (obviously). I don’t recall how this one started — I wasn’t involved, for once — but there was some Internet arguing over something woefully unimportant, and somebody posted this, titled to a handful of Estes climbers, including me:

“Surely you, the bitter half of the Estes Park climbing community, have better stuff to do then continue your circle jerk here. Maybe not.”

Someone else added:

“it is what they live for….the little wankers.”


“Well shit, I hadn’t even joined in the slagging and I got lumped in with those deadbeats. I’ll join now, though — since I’m getting flogged just the same I might as well get my money’s worth. BTW, you seriously overestimate the demands on our time up here — at least those guys. I’m quite busy, myself.”

And so I wrote a poem. Looking back, I’d like to think it was the start of the kinder, gentler Another case of the arts helping humanity.

OK, maybe not.

I just re-read it. It’s really really bad (keep that in mind while reading the “highlights” below). It went on and on and on – like for three pages – so I just excerpted the best parts below. I must say that the Prana-pants-safety-dance part has a nice ring to it.

Now then, off to the climbing gym…

2004 Poem excerpts:

Now riddle me this, what is it you do,

That there you sit,

Surfing the web and huffing glue,

How important you must be,

Watching incessantly.

Deadbeat losers, bums, vagrant-types,

Not making money like the archetype,


Slick gal


Safety dance

Side burn

Sweet car

Cell phone

Sushi bar

Mobile-phone ringin’,

Business deal swingin’,

Call your broker,

Pay for a smoker,

You’re no fool but

people in Estes, they’re so uncool.

Boulder, Boulder,

It’s so real and enlightened,

But that bum on Pearl,

He has me frightened.

Why don’t he just get a job?

Let’s ban homeless people,

They’re worthless knobs.

We’re all one, it’s equality,

Just keep those vagrants away from me.

Save the earth, water your grass,

You scratched my car, you worthless ass.

But what do I know, I live in Estes Park.

A circle-jerk redneck, I ain’t so smart.

How ya like my shitty poetry,

Are you getting annoyed, a bit fussy?

Your panties in a knot, wadded up tight?

“PLEASE stop soon!”–if you’re lucky, I just might.

Okay, okay, but lest you forget,

I’m not quite finished yet.

I know, I know, I’m so uncool,

What a jerk, a certified tool.

A web-surfing loser, unlike you.

A bad American I must be,

Slagging you relentlessly.

No 401k, no Bouldite attitude,

No 9-to-5, bicep or lower back tattoo,

Just this useless tome of platitudes.

But please o please do forgive me,

I live in Estes, with no TV.

Call me pathetic, call me lame,

I kinda like this little game.

I can’t watch Survivor, or Captain Kangaroo.

But don’t tell me I’ve nothing to do.


Gloves – more cowbell

Since my original post on gloves for winter climbing, I’ve received several additional observations — it’s like the cowbell, ya can never get enough. Conrad Anker and Doug Heinrich (in addition to being a great all-around climber for decades, DH is the gloves guy at Black Diamond) responded to my original request about glove systems (I posted the other replies before they had a chance to add theirs) – click here to read their thoughts on gloves.

Good conditions in the Canadian Rockies.

Also of interest to winter climbing geeks might be a thread on UKClimbing, in response to my original thread, in which several UK climbers chime in with some of their systems. Hardman and gear guru Andy Kirkpatrick has some articles, too, on his outstanding page of gear info. I’ve mixed climbed (i.e. snow-covered and rime-frosted rock in heinous conditions) in Scotland, and those guys get after it on days that’d have me sitting inside drinking coffee, as I am today. I remember sitting in the Glenmore Lodge with a handful of guys, eating breakfast and wondering if we were going to bother heading out.

“Looks like a good day out ‘ere, should be lots of white plastering the climbs,” said the redoubtable Ian Parnell, my partner that day, as a cheese Danish crumbled out the side of his mouth. Trying to hide my true colors and not sound like a wuss, I nodded and we headed into the tempest. Standard fare over there, and, I suspect, a big reason why so many climbers from this little island with relatively minor vertical relief have historically gone (and still go) to the Himalaya and sent the Gnarwands and the Enormodomes. Anyway, more thoughts on that later, but Scottish winter climbers are badass.

Another friend, Doug Shepherd, had a big day in the Park recently (he did a great blog post on his day here), in full conditions, and got fairly worked on the gloves front – I’ve had the same freezing happen with gloves before, too, it sucks.

From Doug’s emails:

“On a gear note, I definitely pushed my glove system to the max. I would have killed to have another pair of warm gloves in my pack, because after all the rapping in the whiteout, my warm gloves were still warm on the inside but completely iced over so they were pretty much useless for extended warmth once we stopped moving.

I had a pair of BD Torques for hard climbing, a pair of BD Impulses for regular climbing, and a pair of BD Punishers for belay/rappel duties.

I had a set of hand warmers I used to the keep the insides of the Punishers dry, but I had to do so much climbing/rope work with them because of the wet snow (they were the only “waterproof” pair I had with me) that I just soaked the leather too much and it froze up, especially after rappelling. I think ideally I would have taken the BD Impulses, the BD Punishers, and the Patagonia Stretch Elements [no longer made, but still perhaps available online somewhere] with me.

The leather on my Punisher gloves had iced-up and froze, which I assumed was from them getting saturated. The inside of the glove and nylon outer stayed dry, which was good because I would have been screwed otherwise. I did Nikwax the leather on them about 2-3 weeks ago, but then climbed 6 days in Cody and used them on the descents which means a lot of rapping and then rubbing on rocks, so I’m pretty sure the Nikwax had worn off. I need to start doing it before every big climb but I just get lazy and decide it will be fine.”

Our emails remind me of a few things:

1. Bring several pairs of gloves.

2. Wax/waterproof the leather on your gloves religiously.

3. Avoid rappelling in your gloves when possible. Save it for when you have to (like big routes in bad conditions), but on regular cragging outings, rap in your bare hands. It’s not that bad and greatly saves wear-and-tear on the gloves and preserves the waterproofing/waxing treatment.

Doug’s done a lot of climbing and made a simple, key point in closing one of his emails. It represents an important mindset not only with things like climbing and glove systems, but overall. He wrote: “Still learning…”

Indeed, me too.