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.

6 thoughts on “Gloves – more cowbell

  1. Keeping your wrists warm helps a lot to keep your hands warm. The Patagonia R1 Hoody has thumb loops that keep the sleeves covering your palms and the back of your hand. If you’re moving, this allows for lightweight “windstopper” glove to be used even in extreme conditions. The breathable soft-shell non-absorbing material keeps your hand dry – the key to staying warm. You need less gloves because they stay dry. I’ve used this combination even in the cold wet. When the gloves get saturated, you simply wring them dry. With warm wrists you’re safe and “warm enough.” I use Mountain Hardware Absolute Zero mitts as my belay and sleeping mitt. Again, no natural materials.

  2. I’ve stopped using the thumbs loops on my R1 Hoody because they cut circulation off on my thumbs, especially for harder climbing. I put them on at belays and when rappelling, that definitely helps warm the hands up.

    I’ve tried lightweight windstopper gloves and they soak out just as quickly anything else I’ve used. I also feel like there are no models that offer the dexterity I like in a glove and the durability has tended to be poor on the ones I have used.

    Do you have a specific glove that you like?

  3. word is you’ll be at Vail patagonia on Fri eve? Tried to search for info on the web but didn’t find anything…any way you could put up a post w/ info? Would like to see a good turnout, as it doesn’t seem like we get fun slideshow-talks here in Vail as much as elsewhere (like, say, in Boulder). Thanks!

    • yeah, Traci, doing a slide show a the Vail Patagonia store, 8:15 pm Fri night, Dec 4. Hopefully they’re getting some word out, as I’d be psyched for a good turnout as well. Hopefully see you there!

  4. I sewed in shake n warm pockets on the inside of the wrists of my R1 Hoody. I used to wear the little fleece wrist bands for the shake n warms, but felt that they cut off a circulation. Having that heat source over the blood vessels really lets me get away with lighter gloves in really cold temps (though I can’t match DH’s Dry Tool gloves at -30).
    For what it’s worth, here is my glove set up.
    mild temps- BD Pilot or Petzl Cordex
    mild-cold temps- BD Impulse (these are the gloves I belive Conrad is referencing with the red liners) I have a pair that is fitted and a slightly bigger pair for really cold with a super thin OR liner.
    I do the windstopper approach thing and BD Mercs for belays when super cold
    Going to experiment with BD Punishers with w/p liner removed this winter.
    Now that the boots are gone, I have more time to think about my hands!

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