Rando, Ice, and Finally…Snow!

16 Dec 12
The versatile, light, and precise "All-Mountain" by Cassin/CAMP.

The versatile, light, and precise “All-Mountain” by Cassin/CAMP.

At long last, snow. Regular, accumulating snow. Hot damn. Sure, conditions are still marginal, but the front side is completely open at Vail, the backcountry’s opening up, and there’s light at the end of this dry, hateful tunnel. Add to that our second rando event of the season this coming Tuesday and my upcoming AMGA ice-instructor course, and yeah, I’m pretty stoked on winter all of the sudden!

I’m scheming to borrow a set of Dynafit “Patrouille des Glaciers” skis and boots for the A-Basin “Rise and Shine Rando” race this coming Tuesday. This is the less-expensive, but by no means “cheap” or a compromise, set up from Dynafit this year. Their World Cup stuff, the “Dy.NA” boots and skis, save you a few more grams, but they are full of carbon and desiccated and pulverized virgins or something, because they are spendy! I’ll make do with the PDG set up and a few extra reps in the gym. I tried on the boots last week and they are badass–crazy stiff and way lighter than an ice boot. Report to follow.

I’ll head to the Basin Tuesday morning, early, get my ass handed to me (again), then continue down to Ridgway, where I’m staying with a buddy during my ice course. The AMGA ice-instructor (IIC) is relatively new in the alpine discipline. Candidates were getting through the program without ever really climbing water ice–rather, they were getting great instruction and assessment on alpine ice and glaciers, but relatively little experience on frozen waterfalls. Well, the IIC takes care of all that, with four solid days of the stuff. It’d be easy to feel like I was ready to rock the thing, having done both my rock courses and my beginning alpine thus far, but I’ve got the nerves…short-roping on frozen terrain, leading thin ice (the San Juans are just coming “on” and the Ouray ice park doesn’t open until the 22nd), managing two clients while V-threading? And ice is my least competent discipline? Yeah, I’m gonna be focused and trying not to blow it!

I’ll be trying out a bunch of new gear while down south, too–I’ve been using Cassin/CAMP’s “All-Mountain” ice tools for a few weeks now. They’re on loan from the generous gents over there, so I’ve been gentle on them, but they are really nice. Several ounces lighter than my BD “Vipers”, and seem a bit more of an all-around tool, rather than an ice-specific one. Again, I’m not a great ice climber, but that’s my general impression so far. The CAMPs have a replaceable handle (several different models can be used), and a bit more aggressive curve to the shaft. I’m liking them.

I also snaked a CAMP “Blitz” harness out of them, too. It’s by far THE MOST COMFORTABLE alpine harness I’ve ever used. I’ve sport-climbed in it, gym-climbed in it, climbed ice, you name it–all to see how comfy and useful it is. It’s just over seven ounces, but honestly you could do a dozen rappels in it and not regret it. Ice clippers, four gear loops, a full-strength belay loop, drop seat, and it packs down to nothing. This thing’s insane. I’d consider using it for long days in Red Rocks, even. Loving it. Watch for a full write-up here, soon.


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