08 maart 2013

Ice Climbing & Gear Again

Last year I did an ice climbing course for beginners, and I wrote a blog about the gear I used. This year I got a chance to do the intermediate course, and thought it would be nice to review some of the gear I used again.

Ice Climbing Gear
This years gear

Last years gear
Topics I am going to discuss are tools, boots and gloves.

The tools I brought was my set of Grivel Quantum Lights. In a review I did of these last year I mentioned they were more suited for alpine ice climbing then waterfall ice. Last year I used them mostly in WI3 grade ice, and they were fine. This year we climbed in steeper and harder ice though (WI4) and I found out it really is better to have axes with a more curved, aggresive shape. You need this in steeper ice as it prevents your hand from getting black and blue (from hitting the ice) and to be better able to reach the top of overhead ledges.

The difference between my axes and, as an example, Petzl Nomics, can be seen in this picture:
Grivel Quantum Light and Petzl Nomic

Conclusion: if I'm going to do more steep waterfall ice climbing I'm going to seriously consider renting or buying a set of Petzl Nomic or similar tools. This year I was lucky our guide loaned me a pair.

On to the boots. Last year I used Hanwag Omega GTX. They were warm, yes, but also quite heavy. So this year I thought I would see if I liked climbing in my Hangwag Ferrata Combi GTX boots. The Ferrata's were quite a bit lighter at 965 grams each, compared to the Omega's 1425 grams each!

Hanwag Ferrata Combi GTX and Hanwag Omega GTX
The Ferrata and Omega

The difference in weight was definately noticable - climbing felt easier. The fact that the sole on the Ferrata is less stiff then the one on the Omega was hardly noticable, at least during ice climbing. There are two reasons I probably won't use the Ferrata's again for ice climbing though. The first is: they're much less warm! During the course we had relatively short days, so I was ok, but I can imagine this becoming an issue during long day or multi-day alpine climbs! The second reason is there's more flex in the sole. For rock this is good, but I found that for the steep snow we encountered during one particular approach it wasn't that great.

Conclusion: for days in the alpine I'll be wearing my Omega's! Or, I'll have to look for lighter, warm, rigid-soled boots! (Maybe a pair of Scarpa's? Unfortunately La Sportiva's don't fit my feet...)
Oh yeah, both years I used my Petzl Lynx crampons, which fit both set of boots.

Another key piece of gear is gloves. I think I own around 20 pairs of them. Crazy, I know. This year our guide introduced me to the simple winter work glove:
Simatix Thermo Winter Grip winter work glove for ice climbing

For waterfall ice climbing they really work! As long as your hands don't get wet, the gloves are warm enough, but also surprisingly dextrous. I doubt they're warm enough for alpine conditions, but for waterfall ice, they're great! And for around 5 euro's (!) per pair, they certainly don't break the bank! I'm wearing them in this picture:
At the belay while ice climbing in Autria
At the belay
Easy Afternoon WI4 (Luesens)
Climbing Easy Afternoon (WI4)

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