Erik Thatcher

For some people its shoes. Others, perhaps, baseball caps. Myself, I have a a problem with soft shell pants. I’ve discovered that they are the perfect pant for nearly any occasion. I have my standard pair for shoulder season rock, ice and mild mountaineering days. I have a pair with waterproof knees and butt for for backcountry skiing. I have an old pair I use for gardening and an even older pair (bought in high school) that I pulled out for landscaping in the rain. The benefits of soft shells are simply to great to list them all, but some of my favorites are that they’re durable, extremely comfortable, don’t get smelly musty or damp, and dry super quick. They’re such a huge part of my everyday wardrobe, that a girl I was seeing for a bit commented on the first time she saw me wearing pants other than soft shells, a few months in to the relationship.  Despite my affinity for them, I couldn’t find a pant to fit one particular niche. The summer climbing soft shell seemed to be an elusive pant.

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The Runbold Pant

This was a noticeable absence in my soft shell line up, as Im not a fan of wearing shorts when climbing. The perfect pant needed to be light enough to not overheat in on hot summer days, easy to roll up for long approaches, and preferably offer some sun protection.( read this if your curious why UPF rated clothes are better for sunny activities). Naturally Id want the pants to be stretchy and fast drying, after all, thats the whole reason for my love affair with soft shell.

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Stretchiness trial on The Groton High Grade, Marshfield VT

When I saw the Runbold pants on Mammut’s website they sounded like they’d fit the bill, even though Mammut markets them as being ideal for hiking and backpacking, and does not mention climbing. I’ve been using them for a few months now and can happily report that they’ve filled the void in my soft shell line up perfectly! My personal elasticity gives out far before that of the pants, and even if I did yoga 5 times a week I don’t think I could flex in such a way to find the limits of their stretchiness. The pants get wet at the mention of water, but this is to be expected for such a breathable fabric, and the upside is that they dry incredibly fast and don’t keep in your own moisture. The thinness of the material also makes this an incredible packable pant for a multi day climbing trip or throwing them in your pack just in case you want pants. The pants roll up easily and even have a tab and loop system to help keep the rolls in place. I’ve found this feature slightly superfluous and intent to cut it off soon, thought its never felt like it gets in the way. One of my favorite features that seems to be ubiquitous in soft shell pants is the right thigh pocket. This is the perfect place to keep a phone, camera, map or route topo, and my go to location for stashing things I want handy while climbing a multi pitch or guiding.

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The Dynamic Duo, Runbold Pants, Ultimate Light Hoody

The thing that cemented my love affair with these pants was their blue sign certification. This means the production of the fabric used in the pants meets strict human and environmental health standards as set forth and verified by an independent auditor. Third party certifications like this give the consumer faith that a product is being produced in a humane and sustainable way. By buying products with these certifications the consumer can tell businesses that they support environmentally healthy business practices. For more information on the process of getting BlueSign certified, read this.

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Shirt and Pants. Now the perfect summer combo

The other soft shells in my quiver give me a forlorn look now whenever I pass the gear room where they’e dutifully waiting their turn. They’ll just have to wait till winter.

-Erik

On any given week you could bet good money that the MMG crew is out at the cliffs introducing folks to climbing and or new climbs to them, as well as working on their own climbing and guiding progression. This past week was no different! Below is a quick collection of updates from the past week. 

Early on in the week Erik got out to Rumney Rocks for a half day of climbing with Jen and Amanda. These gals were visiting the area for the week, coming from Long Island. They’ve started climbing in the gym back home and venturing into Top Rope terrain when they travel. We had a gorgeous day for a sampling of classic pitches at Rumney!

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This weekend Mike got out with the Schildge family. While on vacation in the north country they joined MMG for a day on Square Ledge. This venue has great moderate climbing for a family outing, with what is possibly the best backdrop of any crag in New England.

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Earlier on in the week, Art was joined by Jerry “the Gale force” They had a couple of great days swinging leads at Rumney and reclaiming perennial classics on Cannon!

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On the personal training front, Alex has headed out to CO to take the Advanced Rock Guide Course through the AMGA, one of many professional development courses MMG guides are involved in this summer. The course, and his acclimatization are taking place in Eldorado Canyon and Lumpy Ridge in the Estes park. Back home, Erik is taking advantage of dry days between the rain to regain strength on some steep sport routes. Most intriguing of these days was at the Groton High Grade Wall, in Marshfield VT.

Alex in CO  

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Erik in VT                                                                                                                                                                                               

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There is a certain empowering feeling to teaching some one else the art and craft that you hold so dear. Whether its one day of sharing skills and techniques, or a multiple season long exchange of information, helping some one gain self sufficiency, empowering them to pursue this same craft on their own is a rich experience for both.

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Dappled Sun at the Square Inch Wall, Echo Crag

Sawyer has been a student of mine on the Holderness School rock climbing team for two seasons. Her enthusiasm and energy for climbing and adventure as a whole was tangible from day one. In that program I’m able to get students proficient in movement on rock, belaying, and even leading sport. Unfortunately we don’t have the time or the terrain to get students leading trad, though they do follow from time to time.

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Sawyer cleaning gear and examining placements

Sawyer graduated last month and wanted to get a solid foundation of leading in before heading off to college at the end of this summer. To that end, her dad gifted her a couple of days with Mooney Mountain Guides to dial in her technical skills.

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Following Skeletal Ribs and placing gear, to be inspected on lower

For her day of Trad climbing Sawyer and I went to Echo Crag. This location is ideal for learning and dialing in gear placement and other essential skills for trad climbing. Despite the wetness we did a couple of great routes, mock leading, and assessing gear placements and proper extension while on a counterbalanced lower together. This way we’re able to look at and talk about the placements together, and look at alternatives.

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Lunch Break Anchor Clinic

A quick lunch brake was an ideal time to talk about anchor construction methods on the ground. We were able to look at the standard, 3 piece equalized cordelette, the quad, and single piece anchors (i.e. big trees!)

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A Commanding View of Franconia Notch from Profile Cliff

From here we made our way up to Profile Cliff, which sits in the sun above Echo, and was therefore much drier. We did a classic long 5.7 line here that requires a double rope rappel, exposing Sawyer to pre rigging, rappel back ups, and joining two ropes for a rappel.

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Sawyer Climbing on Profile Cliff

Once on the ground we wrapped up the day practicing various top belay techniques, including how to release and lower with various devices, and the advantages and disadvantages to different techniques.

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Releasing a weighted ATC guide with a redirected sling

Its impossible to retain every rid bit of information thrown at you in a day like this. What it does do is set a solid foundation. As long as the person trying to learn this continues to seek to educate themselves by playing with the systems they learned, thinking through scenarios and practicing in real life, then the progression will continue to move forward!

Thanks for joining us, Sawyer!

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The crew at MMG has been making a solid transition into Rock Climbing over the past month so that our guiding game is tip top, and our arm strength is where we want it for personal climbing. We’ve had many morning and evening sessions at Rumney where pitches are done quickly to build miles, and harder routes are worked on to build strength. Many of us have been seeing some personal climbing gains there already this spring and are looking forward to carrying that into pushing ourselves later on in the year.

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Alex Scoping out The Book of Solemnity

 Just as we train our bodies for the transition to rock climbing in the spring, we train our minds for the transition to the unique challenges of guiding on rock that we haven’t faced since last fall. Here’s a snap shot of what we’ve been up to lately.

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Evening view from Cathedral

Erik and Alex have had multiple outings to Cathedral this spring to lap the classic hard routes we might get on with talented guests, as well as scope out some new out of the way ones for that busy weekend day.

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Alex on Raising the Roof

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Alex leading up Raising the Roof

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Sinker jams on the Liger

The Two of them also took a trip out to Albany Slabs, a premiere backcountry climbing site. This cliff, situated off the Kancamangus Highway has a real remote feel, and solid granite. It has a collection of moderate 1 and 2 pitch slab routes that make for a relaxing but new day, hiking in, climbing in a wild place and hiking out. They’re looking forward to taking some adventurous guests to this out of the way gem of a crag sometime this summer.

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Alex heading up Rainbow Slabs

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view from Rainbow Slabs

A good collection of  the MMG  crew met last weekend to sharpen up our technical skills. Luckily the day was rainy making us much more eager to work out the rope work kinks than grab a couple of pitches while at Rumney. We found a perfect site for the work under the overhanging cliff at Orange Crush. Its always great to have a gathering of the minds, to exchange different ways of doing things and bounce ideas of eahcother, let alone catch up with co workers and friends!

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This summer will be filled with a lot of professional development or MMG guides. It’s starting with Erik taking a Rock Guide course in North Conway that is co taught by company founder and mentor-extrodianaire, Art Mooney. We’re a quarter of the way through this course and looking forward to a handful more courses and exams for the MMG guides who are hoping to up their professional game this summer!

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Art instructing on the 10 day AMGA Rock Guide Course

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Alain Comeau instructing on Erik’s Rock Instructor Course

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Alain and some Atlantic Climbing School Guides on the Rock Guide Course along with Erik 

The crew at MMG is stoked to keep refining skills and put them to practice this summer when you come to visit! thanks for checking in.

Its a rare day when guests are rope gunning for guides, but then i guess this was a rare week. Jerry the Gale Force continued his epic season climbing with Art. They had a stellar day on the on the east face of Willard. A few days before that, George joined us again and also took the sharp end on the east face of Willard with Alex. The snow is deep between the climbs, but the ice is great right now!

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Also this week, Erik and Alex chose to use some rest days to hunt down the last of the powder from last weeks storms. These days were just long enough to help work the lactic acid out of legs from the previous week of work, as well as to put a day long powder grin on our faces 🙂

Following our week of ice we transitioned right into a weekend of ice. On Saturday Alex ventured north to Lake Willoughby with guests Mark and Matt.

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This is the premiere venue in the east for big, bad, bold ice climbs! starting the day in -20 temps tempered the expectations some, but they still managed a couple of multi-pitch 4+ lines. Certainly a day for all to be proud of.

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On Saturday and Sunday, Erik had two couples for an introduction to ice climbing. Day one was spent at Kinsman Notch, honing in the basics. Day two was spent basking in the sun (first day temps were above freezing in almost a month!) at Newfound Lake.

Thanks to all our guests from this weekend! we hope to see you again soon.

The Mooney Mountain Crew

Last week was a stellar week on ice for the Mooney Mountain crew as well as friends. The bulk of our week was spent with students from the Olivarian School. This school, in Haverhill, NH has a week long electives period. A strong outdoor program funnels a handful of their students into taking an ice climbing course led by two faculty members for this full week.11009098_868334546563079_6150497706563275578_n

The bulk of the time was spent getting milage in on tope ropes around the state, while two days were spent getting students up on multi-pitch ice climbs in Crawford Notch.

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Our good friends Doug Fergusson (Mountain Skills) of New York and Matt Shove (Ragged Mountain Guides) of Connecticut joined us for the multi pitch days which was great fun for us all.

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Erik, Matt and Doug gearing up

Below is a gallery of some of the students having fun on this course. We’re thrilled any chance we get to work on a curriculum and multi day experience with organizations and groups. This week was no exception, and we can’t wait till next year!

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On Friday Erik got out with George. George use to ice climb on a somewhat regular basis up until about 3 or 4 years ago. He wanted to get back into it this year, including leading, with an eye towards swinging leads on Pinnacle Gully by the end of the year. To that end, he’s booked a handful of days throughout the winter with us to work towards that goal. This was the third day he got out with us, and we focused specifically on leading skills.

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We started with some warm up laps. George put up two of the easier lines at Kinsman and worked on making anchors on trees. We then had a quick ground school covering V threads, ice screw anchors and top belays.

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George then lead up the first step of the main flow at Kinsman, skillfully made an anchor out of the fall line of the second pitch, and belayed me up. We then talked transitions and I look the lead, bringing him up to me at the anchor. Once there, George lead a multi pitch rappel including making and rappelling off of a V-thread.

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These days of geeking out on technical skills are super fun for me. Not only is it another way of practicing our skills, but it is the clearest example of our ability to enable others to pursue their passions in the mountains. Hard to describe just how satisfying that is to us! Luckily we have a wealth of smaller, less busy crags on the west side of the mountains that are easy to access and offer incredible terrain for coaching and training of these technical skills.

Thanks for following our work, and hope to see you in the mountains!

The Crew at MMG

The Mooney Mountain Guides were out in force this past weekend. below you’ll find a couple of snippets of what went on.

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Lynn and Mike visited us from South Carolina for their third attempt on Mt Washington. In the past, bad weather has thwarted their attempts. This past Friday looked like the best weather window of the long weekend, so we made hasty plans and changed our schedule around to get them the best shot of success.

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Sure enough the forecasts delivered. Fog and steady snow hampered visibility, but coupled with 15mph winds at worst, created an eerily calm atmosphere while on the belly of the beast.

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Mike and Lynn finally got their white whale.

After a day to rest up on Saturday they rejoined us for a sunny morning of ice climbing on Newfound Lake

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On Saturday, good friends Connor and Yaffe joined us for a bitterly cold and bitterly awesome day of ice climbing in Crawford Notch. Connor has climbed ice before, but not in a while, and Yaffe was a first timer.

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We chose the Trestle slabs as our starting location. This is an ideal classroom for ice climbing, with a 100′ slab of low angle ice, and a wall of low ice bulges to practice swinging and kicking on, with a particularly fluffy crash pad at the moment.

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Connor on the North Face of Everst. Ok, fine. It’s just a spindrift filled picture of the Trestle slabs, but hardcore nonetheless.

After our warm up there we went to Standard route to finish the day. This meant that Yaffe got in his first ice climbing and his first multi pitch climb in one day. Not bad, Yaffe. Not bad.

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While I was on sunny south facing ice Sunday, another group of three was battling brutal winds on Washington. This tough group made the summit on a day when winds reached near 100 mph and the cold was COLD!

Hopefully some pictures to come.

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With most of the crew staving off frostbite and hypothermia in what finally feels like winter, two MMG guides traveled to Red Rocks NV where they are staving off sun burn and dehydration!

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Derrek and Alex are out there for a week guiding a handful of students from Middlebury College’s outdoor program.

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This is the premier destination for winter time rock climbing, and Im sure a welcome reprieve from the cold of a NH winter.

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Thanks to all our guests and students who joined us this weekend! We look forward to hopefully seeing you in the mountains again soon.

The Mooney Mountain Guide Crew

The guides at Mooney Mountain Guides are very pleased to be supported by Petzl. Over the years many of us have found favorites in Petzl’s line from the Nomic’s and Dart’s on ice to the Spirit Express draw and Gri Gri on sport climbs. One of the reasons the relationship between Petzl and MMG is so great is because both companies have a passion for sharing knowledge and spreading climbing education. At MMG it’s our job on many days to act as educators in the climbing realm, and it’s what we truly love to do. At Petzl, they go beyond making and selling some of the best gear on the market, they also produce and distribute educational literature in their catalogs and on their website, towards the end of a safer more knowledgable climbing community.

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 For that reason I was excited this week to pull Petzl’s latest catalog out of the mail and check out, not only the new gear, but the new tech tips they offered up. I was thrilled to see that they tackled a common safety hazard in cleaning sport routes, one we see almost turn dangerous at Rumney, far to often.

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The scenario starts when the final climber leads an overhanging, or traversing sport route. On the way back down they have to clean the draws as they lower. A standard practice is to clip a spare quickdraw from your belay rope to the line of rope running through the draws. This way, as you lower, you can stay close to the rope line to mor easily clean the quick draws, as opposed to lowering straight down and away from the wall. This works well until the last draw. We see two dangerous scenarios here.

1.) Climber stays clipped into belay line and unclips last draw. In this scenario the climber swings out from under the overhang like a pendulum. Since they are clipped into the belay line, as they swing they drag belayer with them, possibly dragging them across the ground or into an object.

2.) Belayer lowers out away from the wall with the first draw off the ground still clipped in. This causes a lot of slack as the rope goes up through first bolt, out to climber, up to anchor, and finally back down to the climber. At this point the climber makes the poor decision to unclip themselves from the belay strand. As that extra slack is introduced into the system the climber drops, possibly decking.

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Erik Thatcher on Social Outcast at Rumney. A prime sight for this type of accident.

In both of those scenarios there are several easy work arounds. The first, and safest of all, is to have the final person up a steep climb top rope the climb on the strand of rope running through the draws, cleaning as they go. For severely angled routes such as Peer Pressure at Bonsai, this is the best method. For scenario number 2, the climber can be lowered to the ground without unclipping, so long as there is enough rope (knot your rope end just in case!)

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For a lot of climbs at Rumney, the best way around this accident involves clipping into the second to last draw above the ground. I have to do this frequently at Bonsai, and select other routes like the Crusher or Cereal killer. I’ll take the draw connected to my harness, unclip it from the rope and clip it into the rope end carabiner of the draw on the second to last bolt. My belayer then loses me until my weight is on these two draws. Then you unclip the rope from the second draw, and reach down to clean the first draw from the bolt and rope. At this point your belayer braces themselves and you check behind you for obstructions you might run into, before unclipping and taking what should be a safe and moderate swing.

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Whitney Steiner on The Crusher, another possible location for this technique

Many climbers at Rumney are starting their progression at the gym and working up to climbing outside at sport crags. I see two primary groups coming out of this situation. Some are those who climb moderates, and cautiously transition into leading similar grades outside. Others are generally younger climbers who quickly progress to leading hard routes on plastic, and then jump outside to do the same, of course there are all sorts of people in between. Mooney Mountain Guides works with many people who would fall into that former group, giving them learn to lead instruction and facilitating their transition outside. The latter group, it seems, rarely seeks out qualified instruction, and frequently we see them struggling or dangerously making their way through the learning curve, where qualified instruction from guides coaches or mentors would have made that transition quicker and safer. This, and other small safety tricks are critical to a safe and enjoyable day out at the crags!

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MMG Guide, Alexa Siegel on Social Outcast

If you’re curious about seeing Petzl’s tech tip on cleaning draws in its entirety you can go here:

http://www.petzl.com/en/Sport/Recovering-quickdraws-in-an-overhang-while-descending?ActivityName=Rock-climbing&l=US#.VEklNDl4VQk

If you wish to geek out as the weather gets to cold or wet for climbing, here is the whole database of tech tips:

http://www.petzl.com/en/Sport/Activities?l=US

Erik Thatcher

MMG guide

One of the most celebrated parts of the climbing life is the road trip. Taking off on a vacation with the sole purpose of climbing in new and varied locations. I was able to spend the month of June doing just that. My climbing partner and I loaded up my truck on May 28th and took off for California where we were able to climb in Yosemite Valley, Tuolumne Meadows, and Lovers leap. On the way out and back we stopped briefly for a day in Vedauwoo WY, a run up the First Flatiron in Boulder, and a handful of days in City of Rocks Idaho.

View from the summit of Cathedral Peak in Tuolumne Meadows

View from the summit of Cathedral Peak in Tuolumne Meadows

Through out the trip I got to test out some new and old Mammut gear. Being the gear geek that I am, I was excited to see how new things performed, and put some of my tried and true favorites to new tests and applications. I thought I would share some of my thoughts with you below!

The Rumney Shorts

When I was in the market for new shorts last summer, home crag pride made it a virtual necessity that I buy these shorts. Named after one of the best sport crags in the world (there’s that pride), I expected these to be among the best shorts in the world. While I haven’t worn enough shorts to qualify that, they have not let me down. The have the longer cut that is necessary for me to comfortably climb in a pair of shorts. They are an incredibly lightweight material, and yet have held up remarkably well. Most cotton climbing bottoms I’ve had have had a life span of about one year before some serious tears and blowouts. These show zero sign of wear but for a small tear where I decked and hip checked a ledge last summer. They have great pockets for use with or without a harness. The 4 step closure system was a little complex for me at first, often leaving me with an unzipped fly, but I’ve grown to appreciate how well you can custom fit these shorts without a belt, in part due to that 4 step process and the built in draw cord. Finally, they’re wicked fast drying. A lot of our days in the valley involved a mid day siesta to beet the heat. We’d grab lunch, a beer and a quick swim in the Merced before a nap or some reading. By the time we were ready to climb in the afternoon they were totally dry.

The Rumney shorts kicking butt on Corrugation Corner at Lover's Leap

The Rumney shorts kicking butt on Corrugation Corner at Lover’s Leap

Togir Click Harness and Chalk Bag

I’ve already written my praise for the Togir click harness here. I’ve had it for over a year now and If I were to rewrite the review it would only be filled with more praise. The unique benefit of the click is the ability to completely and easily undo the waist loop and leg loops, to more easily put it on over crampons. After ice season I briefly stopped putting my harness on this way. Why do it when not wearing crampons? This felt weird though! I quickly reverted back to using the click feature instead of putting it on one leg at a time like a normal harness. This feels much less cumbersome, like putting on a work belt as opposed to the cliffside-balancing act that can feel more like trying to put your pants on before your first cup of coffee. With the increased ease of putting a harness on and taking it off, I started to leave more and more gear right on my harness, making transitions between climbing and approaching/ descending much quicker. As if that weren’t enough Mammut makes a matching chalk bag for most of their harnesses. While I’d like to pretend that I don’t care that my chalk bag matches my harness (as well as my lockers, and jacket, and pants…) I have to admit it feels kind of cool. It’s like a professional sports uniform, for climbing! More important than the style bonus is the little pocket on the back of the chalk bag. I’ve used this to carry my phone for pictures and route beta, a headlamp for fright of being benighted and an energy bar to stop from getting hangry. Putting something large in the pocket affects its utility as a chalk bag a little bit. I’ve found that making sure its well stocked with chalk counteracts that well enough! A friend who forgot his chalck bag at the crag the other day needed to borrow mine. Unsolicited, he offered up, “I know this is silly, but this is a really nice chalk bag.”

The Fiamma Pants, Togir click Harness and Chalk bag

The Fiamma Pants, Togir click Harness and Chalk bag

Trion Pro

The Trion family of packs is an example of perfection. I have and love the Trion Light, and have a number of friends who are in love with their Trion Guides, but the go to bag for Mooney Mountain Guides is the Trion Pro in 35L. If in need of a one pack quiver, this would be the pack. It’s burly enough to with stand the plethora of sharp objects that are part of ice cragging, or even sport cragging at a place like Rumney. At the same time it’s light and compactable enough to be taken on a multipitch alpine climb in the mountains. The suspension system carries wonderfully for the approach, and the pack can easily be stripped down (hip pads and brain removed) and compressed for the climb. One of my favorite things about this pack is such a little detail! The buckles on the compression straps are opposite on either side so that you can strap something large to the very back of your pack, keeping it nice and balanced in the middle.

The Trion Guide pack loaded up for the trek into our base camp below Half Dome

The Trion Guide pack loaded up for the trek into our base camp below Half Dome

The Trion Guide pack trimmed down for climbing Snake Dike on Half Dome, along with the Swiss Tuxedo. Mammut's SOFtech pants and jacket.

The Trion Guide pack trimmed down for climbing Snake Dike on Half Dome, along with the Swiss Tuxedo. Mammut’s SOFtech pants and jacket.

SoftTech

If jeans and a jean jacket is considered a Canadian Tuxedo, then would SOFtech jacket and pants be considered a Swiss Tuxedo? Whatever the proper terminology, this material is a bomber soft shell fabric for jackets and pants. For much of the trip I was wearing The Fiamma Pants and Pokiok Jacket, both made with Mammut’s in house soft shell fabric. While I’ve only had the pants for a couple of months, I’ve had the jacket for a year now, so feel comfortable making some remarks on the material. I tend to like a more waterproof material for my main jacket, but the Pokiok has been great as a warm weather Ice climbing or skiing jacket, or a cold weather rock climbing shell. The Fiamma pants are sure to become my favorites. I generally ice climb in a thinner soft shell pant, like this weight, as well as doing a fair amount of my shoulder season rock in pants of this weight. These pants have a sizeable thigh pocket for maps a camera or food, and all the regular pockets for functioning as a normal pair of pants when off mountain. One of my favorite things about switching to these pants, from a similar pair by another brand, is the ankle cut. On similar soft shell pants the ankle taper downs very narrow to minimize crampon snag. The Fiamma pants instead have a simple way of cinching down the cuff when so desired. When climbing in the mountains you frequently go through many temperature changes, both from external sources and internal. An easy example is setting off in the lowlands, where it’s nice and warm, and approaching your climb high in the mountains, where wind and elevation make the mercury drop. In this scenario it’s an awesome option to be able to roll up your pants to cool off your legs, as seen in the picture above. The taper around the ankle of previous soft shell pants I’ve had have made this impossible, where as the Fiamma pants easily open wide at the ankle and roll up high, then roll back and can be cinched down again once in the mountains.

Yosemite Valley from the top of Half Dome

Yosemite Valley from the top of Half Dome

 

9.2 Revelation

Oh do I love a skinny rope! Its my impression that any one who does multi pitch climbing let alone alpine climbing, needs a skinny. Mammut ropes are top notch. Their thorough dry treatment repels not only water, but dirt as well, increasing the life span of their ropes. We used the Revelation as our main rope for everything but wall climbing with Aid pitches. After a month of almost daily abuse it shows hardly a sign of wear. My love for skinny ropes comes from the fact that they make my life easier! At 57 grams per meter, this rope is almost a full pound lighter than a similar 9.8 rope. That adds up on long approaches, or when hitting cruxes at the end of a pitch. Equally as significant is the reduced friction in a belay device. Lets do some basic math! The most classic multiptich climb we did on our trip was the Regular Route on Fairview Dome. 1,000 feet of granite gloriousness and elbow destroying belaying! Swinging leads, Paul and I each pulled roughly 500’ of rope through a belay device that works on friction. Say each motion of the arm through the top belay movement brings up 2 feet. That’s 250 individual weighted movements on your elbow, in half a day! Its no wonder guides can easily develop repetitive use injuries in their elbows if not careful when belaying. Skinnier ropes mean your pulling up less weight each time, and with less resistance through your belay device. The difference is incredibly noticeable!

My Partner half way up the Regular Route on Fairview Dome

My Partner half way up the Regular Route on Fairview Dome

Carabiners and Slings

The Mammut Contact slings have been a staple of my rack since I started fantasizing about its existence based on what my mentor’s used. One can have a lengthy debate on the merits of nylon vs dyneema slings. Ultimately, when used in the right application, having a rack of dyneema slings reduces both weight and clutter. While the weight is often sited as the selling point, the clutter is just as important in my mind. When wall climbing, alpine climbing or multipitch rock climbing, harness racking space is at a premium, and the less bulky dyneema slings take up considerably less room than their nylon brethren. I usually rack two 4-footers for slinging horns and trees or use in an anchor, and about six 2-footers for use as alpine draws.

4' sling with beaner through the knot to make untying easier

4′ sling with beaner through the knot to make untying easier

One place I feel comfortable investing money is in my carabineers. Even the skinny lightweight ones will last you a long time, getting your moneys worth in weight savings over many years. The Mammut Wall (formerly Moses) carabiner is a great example of such an investment. At 27 Grams a piece you can save over a pound of weight on your harness by going with this lightweight wire gate over a typical wire gate for your standard carabiner on a trad rack ( 10 draws + 8 cams +2 4’foot slings)

Packing up on top of Nut Cracker in Yosemite Valley

Packing up on top of Nut Cracker in Yosemite Valley

Finally, I like to have a mix of lockers to match their needs. Low profile lockers like the Wall Micro are awesome for where you just need a carabiner that locks; attached to your gri-gri, connecting your haul bag and haul line, or on your jugging set up for example. They’re lightweight and less bulky, reducing clutter. I usually carry two to three lightweight, medium profile lockers like the Bionic Mytholito for applications where you need to put a knot or hitch on it, such as cloving in at the anchor, or belaying a second on a munter. These are still lightweight but a bit bigger to accommodate the hitches and knots.  Finnally I like to carry one lightweight large profile carabiner like the Bionic HMS. This allows you to “stack” things on to it at an anchor, often reducing clutter. It would have been killer to have 6 of these for wall climbing, where you generally have three lockers on bolts for an anchor and are stacking all sorts of items on them from the lead line to multiple haul bags and everything in between.

Quick, light, and Swiss. The best kind of anchors.

Quick, light, and Swiss. The best kind of anchors.

This was truly an every man’s climbing trip. While we did a smattering of routes in the 5.9-5.10 range, the vast majority of pitches we climbed where at the attainable grades of 5.6-5.8. The lightness and ease of use of these products probably doesn’t mean the difference between send or sail until much harder grades. That being said, the same attributes can make big days in the mountains and on the cliffs much more enjoyable and comfortable, and the multifaceted use of many of them justifies their place in the limited space one has living out of a truck on a month long climbing trip!

Sunset from City of Rocks, Idaho

Sunset from City of Rocks, Idaho

A big thanks to Mammut for their support of Mooney Mountain guides!

For a trip report and photo gallery from my trip, please vist my personal blog here

Erik Thatcher