RAB’s Rock Hard Jacket

Evie feeling snug in her Xenon.

We’re a pitch and half above the deck with one and half to go and I’m stuck in a chimney like a rock sandwich. To make matters worse, the sun is setting fast and we only have one headlamp.

We’re climbing Corrugation Corner, a steep three pitch 5.7 at Lover’s Leap, California. Local legend says that Lover’s Leap was named after two lovers who were from separate tribes that were at war with each other. Rather than face the heartbreak of living without their soul mate, they leapt to their deaths from the summit. I block out the thought of sweethearts committing mutual suicide and work on freeing my stuck body.

In the past, my experience with multipitch climbing has been unsuccessful due to pulled gear and heavy rain – both times I wasn’t carrying suitable clothing. This time I brought the synthetic and insulated Rab Xenon jacket which has abrasion resistant Pertex Quantum nylon coating ($235, 10oz). It has a soft lining, chest pocket perfect for holding my headlamp and beanie plus two zipped hand warmer pockets. The whole jacket packs into its own chest pocket. Since it doesn’t have a clip in point it’s tied around my waist and I don’t want to puncture holes in it.

Moving carefully to protect the jacket is not going to free me from the rock oppression. I no longer care if it becomes mutilated and proceed to wiggle, drag, and finally schlep myself loose. My climbing partner, Chris, spurs me on with encouraging words. With a boost of adrenaline I chug up the chimney. By the time we meet up it is almost completely dark. Anchored in next to me, Chris kindly offers the headlamp, but I deem it necessary for him to have it as he’s leading and needs it in order to place gear. He takes it and leaves me belaying him while clipped to a few cams. I put on the jacket, pull the hood snug over my head and feed him slack.

After faint words break through the darkness indicating that he’s safe and I’m on belay, I clean the anchor by feel and start up. Every so often the rope feeds to a clipped cam, then I retract it and continue up the rails and buckets that lead to the finish.

Once on top, I snatch the headlamp off his sweaty head and look over the scratches on my sides and banged up knees. Then look over the Xenon—it’s unscathed.

Sharing one headlamp, we work as a team to make our way down to the Lover’s Leap Campground. As we near the campsite, I etch the experience into vivid memories: staring at a dark sky with endless stars while breathing in chilled air and beaming with happiness.

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