Monday, February 18, 2008

Lambada WI6 50m: Anderle The Rope Gun

Yesterday Aljaz said, "OK, let's go to Lambada." OK. I was tired from a few too many days in the cold, but climbs like this don't hang around forever, so if they are doable, you go. We arrived at the parking lot at noon and were at the base of Lambada forty five minutes later. What an amazing pillar. It fully reminds you of why ice climbing is so special, playing on these architectural anomalies is way physical and heady. Aljaz said, "Well, if it goes well, I will lead it and then rap it and pull the screws and then you lead it, you know, if it goes well." "OK." 3 Screws and 50 meters of super delicate and controlled climbing later The Rope Gun yells "Off belay". And then raps down. All of his drytooling pays off, he is able to hang, shake out and maintain body position and total mental control on junk ice and made the overhanging lip and the middle of the pillar look so easy. The Rope Gun. I took my turn to lead Lambada, and two meters later I knew I was out of my element, I was psyched out, I was pumped and I down climbed. It was the right decision for me, health care or not, I don't need the hassle of broken limbs. Luckily there is a fairly easy way around to the top and a few minutes later I had rigged a top rope, which sure enough made it fun and possible for laps. Great climb, I hope it is still standing when I get back from Norway so I can get my revenge. About the photos, Lambada with the sun dropping -, Aljaz making easy work of Lambada, the hollow looking pillar, and me rapping off the top - If you want to use Aljaz as a photographer or hire him to put the rope up for you, I am sure he wouldn't mind if you contacted him via his website. A day of rest for me and then I fly to Norway on Wednesday.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Kozorogova Smer III+ M5 500m UIAA 4

Managed to get out of bed, just barely, after yesterday's climb in the super cold. Luckily when we got to the parking lot today, at 10am -alpine start enough for me, it was only -8C, so it had warmed up from yesterday. After a casual 45 minute approach we started up Kozorogova Smer. Without a doubt we were the first of the season to climb it, there was evidence that someone backed off the first pitch, which was a bit psychological (35m of M5 without gear), and so was the 2nd, 4th and 6th, as it turned out. The rock was just covered with dry sugar snow. I dinged up my picks pretty good continually swinging into what I thought was ice, but turned out to be this airated junk. Oh well, 500m later we had a great walk across the summit ridge with stunning views. Hope I get to rest tomorrow, but also really hope that Aljaz calls to say "lets' go to Lambada!" About the photos: Top is Begunjska with Kozorogova being the left hand big gully, Irena topping out on P1, the second "crux" pitch, and me with the sunset on the top. As usual you can click on the images to view larger versions.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Tech Tip: Dress For Success Part 2 Putting clothes back on.

I always wear my Patagonia R1 Hoody - the new ones have more stretch and I bet are the bomb!- as my base layer -then another R1 Shirt, then a super dynamic Power Shield Shirt, then depending on the temps, my Arcteryx Hoody - which is my favorite piece I own and then a light shell. Here I am wearing the super light Patagonia shell, forgot the name, but weighs next to nothing, but if it is wet I have a Gore Tex Pro Shell top that is so light and breathable it really has made me rethink soft vs hard shell. On my legs I wear two layers of mid weight underwear, then a Gore Tex Pro Shell. It is so light, has zippers up the legs so I can vent, but honestly they breathe so well I never remember to unzip the legs. The temps reached -20C today with wind chill and I stayed warm with this system. Remember, base layers should be form fitting, to wick moisture away from the body. I like my most insulated layer a bit roomy to trap alot of warm air under it. Hope you stay warm next time you are out. Any question or suggestions please email me.

Tech Tip: Dress For Success Part 1 Undressing in the cold!

Dressing for success, it is key, I have found that the best system is to wear a warm base layer, a very light shell, then a fleece hoody for the approaches here in Slovenia. When I get to the base of a climb I quickly undress and change into dry layers that I carried, then place the wet original base layer over those two dry layers - assuming it is very cold, then put the hoody and shell on. It works great, today we approached for 1 hour 20 min, arriving to the base of the wall in -10C degrees and blowing , but once I put my dry layers on I was warm all day! On my legs I am wearing two layers of midweight long underwear plus my custom leg warmers - see earlier blog for info on how to make them.

Terra Incognita III/4 200m 85 Degrees

Went to Veliki VRH today and after an aborted attempt to climb Be-Ro, III4, UIAA 5, 80 degrees, we climbed Terra Incognita. It was about -10C at the base of the wall and alot, alot, colder at the top, with blowing winds. Super fun climb, in great condition. Well worth doing!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Tamar Ice Climbs

Went to look at Lambada today, pure 6, if not+, and saw that it is very close to being climbable, perhaps later this weekend? Then, Matej and I drove another twenty minutes to Tamar. Sort of an amusing start to the day. We drove into Triglav National Park, on a closed road, there were many children along the road - another answer to why Slovenians are the best, when they are kids they are brought out into the mountains to ski and sled for a week to help foster an appreciation for the mountains - and proceeded to get stuck in the snow. The kids soon caught up to us and helped push the car out of the ditch, then we got a start to the day, first by removing the license plates so nobody could give us a ticket. Climbed Centralni Slap, WI4+, 120m, 90 degree crux, then soloed Desni Slap, WI4, 50m, 90 degrees. Mataj and I decided to opt to try our luck with driving out of the Park then, even though were a couple of more climbs to be done, obviously first replacing the license plates. Super nice area, short approach - if you drive, otherwise expect an hour to hour and a half of walking each way, 15 minutes only with the drive. About the photos, the pure ice one is Centralni Slap at Tamar ,and the beautiful pillar is Lambada.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Jezersko Ice

I had a great day out with Aljaz Anderle (sponsored by Mammut, Petzl, and Addidas Eyewear) who is one of Slovenia's best mixed and ice climbers - if you have time check out - at Jezersko, we managed to climb Spodnji Ledinski WI 5, 140m, 90 Degree crux and Zgornji Ledinski WI 4+ 60m 85 degree crux (upper and lower Ledinski is the translation). They have a slog in between them though, about 150m of up hill slogging. We then raped one pitch and down climbed a snow slope to the bottom, picked up our pack and hiked about half an hour to reach Vikijeva Sveca WI 5, 150m, 90 degree crux, climbed it, roping up for 40meters, then traversed about 300m to the top of Sinji Slap WI 3, 150m, 85 degree crux, and went down that. These are all of the obvious and major ice climbs at Jezersko, it is a super day out, if you are ever in the area I really recommend it. We started climbing at 9am and at a somewhat casual pace, were drinking beer at 4:20pm. About the Photos: Top: the 1000+m wall of Jezersko, Next: Aljaz leading the first roped pitch of the day, some of the slogging, me leading upper Leinski, the nice looking ice is Vikijeva Sveca

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Kamnolom M5+R, UIAA 5+, A1, 80 degree crux on Begunjska Vrtaca

What a super day on Kamnolom - by the way the name translates to the Crap Red Rock Chimney. It's name did not disappoint, but still it was great, real heady climbing, with not very much gear, very much like Birdbrain in Ouray. I am still amazed after many routes now on limestone just how technical it is, you think a pitch is going to be a cruise and then you are fully engaged in a M5+ struggle, very balancey, with 20 gear-less meters below you. I have introduced the idea of bringing cams and nuts on routes instead of just a few pins, Martin my usual partner of late, seems amused, but is seeing the benefits of the BD C3s, we are getting alot of pretty good placements with them - if you are coming winter mixed climbing here, bring a full set of cams you will be surprised when big and small cracks pop up.

Martin Lead the first pitch, which was pretty dry and he ended up just taking his gloves off and alternate between swinging tools and rock climbing, I managed to save my hands by drytooling it, but everything is fun on a top rope. The second pitch, which I lead, was a full 45m of delicate and balancey climbing, before heading up Martin said" be delicate", I guess he is getting used to me bashing everything into submission, not possible with this pitch, and an hour later I managed to pull through the roof and set up a belay. Pitch 3, Martin's again, was a simple - however very dry and brittle ice- pitch. Then Pitch 4, mine again, was the A1 pitch, I managed to come within a meter of freeing it, but a foothold broke - luckily with a fixed pin at my waist - and since I had taken on the rope already just pulled up on it and committed to the mixed climbing above, very fun. We then unroped and climbed the rest of the gully, on snow and one interesting ice step. Super fun day, after sitting around for the past few days waiting for conditions to clear up.

All photos are of Martin starting P1, more to come.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Interesting Article by Nick Bullock

The link takes you to a very interesting article by Nick Bullock posted on, about the state of British alpinism - these boys are killing it. It has has some interesting history, well worth the read,, also check out Nick Bullock's blog,
Off to the drytool cave.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Best Alpine Tool: Cobra

I have been using the new Cobra since last spring when I went to the south (and still unclimbed - good luck Craig and Brad this spring!) face of Logan with Jack Tackle and Jay Smith. I have found it easy enough to pound pins, great for climbing mixed, snow or ice pitches, great for plunging the tool and also think the greatest feature of the tool is the shape. Perfectly balanced, but also I like the smaller grip at the bottom of the tool and in the "matching" position. I have since taken the tools to Pakistan, Nepal and am now climbing with them in Slovenia and am psyched to go to Norway to climb big ice with them. They are so good you can break the team Eiger North Face speed ascent record - see for the story and photo of Simon Anthamatten -and his Cobras- and partner Roger Schali. Also see my previous post on pick modifications for alpine climbing.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Interesting Article by Raphael Slawinski

This link brings you to an interesting article by Raphael Slawinski about mixed climbing, the history and influences it has had in the mountains. Good reading. Originally appeared in the AAJ.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Norway here I come!!

Well, thanks to the generosity of Matt at Four Winds Himalayan Guiding and Trekking, (website under re-construction) I am going to Norway for 2 weeks on Feb 20th to hook up with my friend Seth Hobby. Seth had sent me some photos from Rjukon, where he is based as a guide in the winter these days, and a few other places that just looked spectacular. The photo in the blog is stolen from Will Gadd's great website, from one of his trips to Norway. He had it in a report of some new routes he did, here is the link, and then showed this photo as further routes that needed to be climbed. Holy cow, look at those monsters. So I am finally going to where I have dreamed and read about for so long!! I am so psyched. Hope Seth can lead all the scary pitches. Time to sharpen tools!

Monday, February 04, 2008

The Best Ice Tool: Petzl Nomic

I have used many tools, and firmly believe that the Nomic is the best tool for ice and mixed climbing if you had to only buy one tool for everything. It has become easy enough to modify to put a hammer on them - or do as some of my partners do, carry a small hammer for pounding pins - works better in any case. Other friends of mine are chopping and drilling ice picks to fit them as well. They are light and dont have much pick shift when matching onto the upper grip. Wish I owned a pair. Check them out, Lower picture is of Billy on Hydrophobia, Canada last March with warmer hands than mine that day.

The Best Stove: JetBoil

The best stove system for the mountains these days is the 1.5L Jetboil pot rigged with the hanging kit. It is the fastest, lightest and most efficient. It has accompanied me on every trip from my early - too early in the end of March - trip to the Ruth in 2004 to my one day attempt on K2 in 2007 to Kwangde this year. Check it out. The photo below is one that Billy took in 2005 on the south face of K2 during one of the nights we spent on the wall pushing a new route, only to be turned back by strong winds. Super comfy and warm too!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Raining and Snowing: Dropping the heel

It is amazing how I can still be so weak. Yesterday I went out to the drytool cave with Aljaz Anderle and felt like a sick kitten. Aljaz said he felt weak as well (everything is relative keep in mind), that perhaps it was a high gravity day or perhaps the rain was getting us down, then he climbed up and down his M9 warmup, then after my failed attempt to lead - 2nd time on it - a very steep and pumpy M8 as my warm up, because the rain was pouring onto the vertical M7 that I would normally warm up on - he climbed the M10, which he then did laps on, going up and down. So I can see how he was having a bad day. The drytool cave was established in 2000/01 and for sure he knows all the moves, but the limestone changes all the time, so still keeps it interesting. One thing I have always said about mixed climbing is how it is very dependent on the right gear. Good luck climbing M9 at the cave with a pair of X15s - good movie idea for WG? - and was psyched I got to try a pair of prototype tools that Aljaz had. The right tools and crampons make all the difference in this sport. One question for crampon makers, why don't you make the front points steep enough, even if it is slightly overhanging that makes all the difference in the world, then for people who are just beginning steep ice it would make it easier for them as well as they don't drop their heels anyway. Put me on the payroll. Photo is of the draws dangling at the lip of the cave on a rainy day.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Blogs & Sites I look at Sometimes: in no particular order

I will update this list as I find more interesting ones.
Nick Bolluck: - wholy crap this guy gets after it, my new hero
Zoe Hart:
Will Gadd:
Dougald Macdonald:
Pavle Kozjek: - no I don't understand it either, pictures are worth...
Raphael Slawinski:
Ice conditions CO:
Ice conditions Slovenia:
Aljaz Anderle:

Net soloing, the video takes you to a video of the much talked about Squamish climber Matt Maddaloni's attempt to solo .13a with a fishing net strung up between some trees to catch him. Impressive amount of effort for such a goofy thing really. Looks mighty close to bouncing over the edge in my opinion. It is Friday, and drizzly in Slovenia, what else is there to do but troll around on the internet and see what people are up to. I got this by looking at Dougald Macdonald's blog, I will post a list of blogs I check out soon enough.