A mountain guide dishes on his very best gear—and the stuff he covets.
It’s pretty simple—living in the mountains means playing in the mountains. I’ve skied in Colorado for 33 years and climbed for 22. I have survived both AMGA rock- and ski-guide courses and hope to continue pursuing the art. During summer, I’m out on alpine rock routes, skiing the “glaciers” in Rocky Mountain National Park and cragging in Eldo. Come winter, it’s all about the pow and scaring myself once in a while on an ice climb. I moan, whimper and sweat more than the average guy, but I’m usually smiling when I do it. No matter what I’m doing, there are a few go-to pieces of gear I grab whenever I head out the door. And then there’s the gear I don’t yet own—but I’m hoping one of the manufacturers will read this column and, you know, find some love for a poor, struggling mountain guide.
MY GO-TO GEAR //
Mammut Champ Pant
Six years, two continents, ice climbing, backcountry skiing, cold backpacking and even some hut yoga, and my Champ pants finally are inching to the grave. Every stitch, seam and snap still work like the day I bought them, but the Schoeller fabric in the bum simply is wearing down. Chalk it up to extra girth. (Ouch!) Comfortable enough for climbing, water-resistant enough for knee-to-thigh powder on Berthoud, and breathable enough for the three-hour skin to the top of Bonkers, the Champs are a pant I will miss when they are gone. Worth every penny.
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Patagonia Houdini Jacket
Under 4 ounces, mega-breathable and sporting a hood, the Houdini comes along when I’m ski mountaineering, skate skiing, trail running, rock climbing or running errands by bike. Heavier fibers woven into the fabric resist tearing and the breathability means I can leave it on during torturous approaches or two-hour slogs on skins. Best of all, it packs down to the size of an overweight lemon or undernourished grapefruit, depending on your vantage point.
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CAMP Radion Ice Screws
Leading on ice is not for the timid and weak (read: me). It’s cold, spooky, and falling simply isn’t an option. Consider that you’re covered in sharp spikes, so at the least you’re going to poke a hole in your dayglo one-piece. I guarantee my peace of mind by with Radions. As far as I’m concerned, no screw starts and drives faster than these precision-machined babies from Italy. The pre-sewn Dyneema quick-draw also allows you to leave it attached to the rope when cleaning—your partner (or client) will never drop another screw again!
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Julbo Instinct Glasses
Less is more, so I pack along the Instincts. The photochromatic Zebra lenses lighten for blustery dawn starts, but darken under high-noon sun, which means I need only carry a single set of shades. The Instinct also sports an antifog coating, primo for sweaty fat bastards like me (more on this later), and a rubberized frame coating that keeps ’em pasted to your noggin.
GEAR I COVET //
Dynafit Manaslu Ski
Just so the gang at Dynafit knows, I’d ski the 178-cm version of the Manaslu, which ticks the scales at 6.2 pounds (8.4 pounds mounted with the Dynafit FT 12 binding). I love my current skis, but mounted with an AT binding, they’re over 13.5 pounds and that’s too much tonnage to lug on a week-long tour. Gone are the days when 8,000 feet of vertical passes without a care (I tend to whimper and groan quite a bit now that I’m 38). My ski partners sure would appreciate less complaining and I’d delight in riding a 95-mm-underfoot ski that’s almost half the weight of my usual rigs. My birthday’s coming up, Dynafit. How ’bout it?
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I’ll never assume I’m untouchable in the backcountry. A well-known Euro once got 11 clients buried … and rescued seven of them. Point is, when the hammer drops, I want the easiest and most efficient beacon on the market. I tail-guided an avy clinic and one of our clients had an S1—10 minutes with it and I was sold. The simple, clear LCD display shows the direction of the victim(s) and the “pinpoint” mode is the easiest I have used. With a few buried bodies and the seconds ticking, I’d rather flip open the S1 and get the job done. Anybody got a hook-up with Ortovox?
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Rab Super Dru
Founded by old-school hardman, Rab Carrington, Rab products have quickly generated a rep here in the U.S. for pragmatic design and bomber quality. For their hard shells, Rab uses eVent, the most breathable membrane of any of the waterproof materials I have tested—by far! For sweating laggards like me (notice a theme developing?), wearing a hard shell on approaches or while skiing usually guarantees overheating and a soaked base layer. Not so with eVent. I spent a full day on Current Creek wearing an eVent jacket (made by another manufacturer) setting skin tracks for the up and getting the goods on the down without boiling over. It’s lightweight, plenty durable, and über-breathable. I’d love to be sporting Rab’s Super Dru—the right combo of superior materials and intelligent design. Hey Rab, hook a brother up!?
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