Spring has (sorta) sprung, so it’s time to ski some steeps and think about alpine climbing. Bigger objectives mean shedding some tonnage, so I’m stoked to dust out the superlight gear and get some vert.
There are two brands every ski-mountaineer knows–CAMP and Dynafit, purveyors of the ultralight and ubercool.
Luckily for us Coloradans, CAMP’s North American office sits just outside Denver, in Broomfield. Double-lucky for me, the CAMP guys tolerate my moochery and they’re only a ten-minute drive from my house. Yes!
I dropped by this winter and snagged a bunch of toys, but most important: the Corsa Nanotech ax (278g in a 60cm; $159) and the Race 290 crampons (312g; $180).
The Nanotech is a bit long for most skimo outings, but I’ll be headed to Rainier with a bunch of Paradox folks next week, so a slightly longer tool is going to come in handy with all the moderate glacier walking. The Nanotech employs Sandvik steel riveted into the tip of the pick, giving the durability of a steel ax with the weight advantages of an aluminum tool. (Consider my BD Raven Pro weighs 365g, which really comes down to a 100g difference for a better adze on the BD tool.)
The shaft is “B” (or “basic” as defined by the UIAA, an international governing body that certifies gear among other duties) rated, just fine for snow, glacier, and couloir hunting. Waterfall ice-tools are “T” rated, meaning they’re way stronger in the shaft, head, and the connection between the two. B-rated shafts are still considered acceptable for deadman anchors (anchors in which one buries the ax itself in the snow, then anchors off of it), which is critical for skimo and glacier travel.
It’s been such a soft, winter-like spring so far, I honestly haven’t swung the Nanotech into bulletproof snow. I have, however, put a nice hole in a brand new pack with the pick on the thing–so it seems plenty sharp. I’ll give a better review after my Rainier trip. I’m stoked to be saving the weight, because we’re going up on the mountain for four days and all that gear adds up.
The other sexy CAMP piece I managed to steal was a set of “Race 290” aluminum spikes. For folks with smaller feet, the 290s use a section of Dyneema/nylon webbing as the center “bar,” rather than an aluminum one. Set up in this fashion, they indeed weigh in under 300 grams. With a larger boot, though, the webbing straps allows enough play side-to-side, things get dicey if you’re putting any twisting force on the crampons. I could definitely move mine side to side (sole length 297mm), so I opted for the aluminum center bar (included) and got a perfect fit on my Dynafit TLT 5s (“boosting” the weight to 312g).
The other innovative feature on the 290s is the rear attachment. Rather than use an “auto” bail, it uses a spring steel fixture that marries with rear Dynafit tech fittings. I’m not sure how much this weighs versus a traditional set-up, so no idea on that advantage, but it does fold away compactly.
At this point I’ve only cramponed in relatively soft snow. I had hoped to test these out on the West Gully up at Black Lake in the Park…but after a six-mile ski in, we found the gully completed filled in with snow. That’s what you get for a warm, wet spring!
I won’t take the 290s to Rainier, as I’m using a LaSportiva Spantik (it’s cold out there!), so no tech fittings. In their place I’ll use the CAMP XLC 390 (512g with anti-botts, sold separately; $150), another aluminum model that’s light and climbs well.
I wrote a quick review on Dynafit’s new skimo board, the Cho Oyu, which is a fantastic option for saving weight (1080g for the ski in 174cm!). They’re light enough to use an approach ski, but they ski well enough to make it a go-to tool for ski mountaineering. Win-win.
Look for pics from Rainier, as I’ll be climbing with a bunch of Paradox Sports badasses…tons of snow and cold weather on the way. Those Spantiks are going to be comfy!