Spring has arrived early in Chamonix, and with it blue skies and warmer temperatures. My massive winter mitts became far too hot and, from the description on the Outdoor Designs website, the Summitstretch gloves seemed an ideal replacement: waterproof, breathable, stretchy and not too expensive. Since they arrived I've been doing my best to abuse them in the same way I do all my gear: skiing, ski-tour training, cragging on chilly mornings, walking, on my last ice climb of the season, in the rain and mud on my outdoor activity first aid course ... and de-icing the car. So far they seem fairly tough. They aren't looking too battered, sharp ski edges haven't sliced them and mostly I've had toasty fingers.
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Handy - the Summitstretch gloves clipped within easy reach on Georgie's harness
Georgie Smith, Apr 2011
© Daniel Fitzgerald
The gloves arrived around the time the sunshine saw us packing away our skiing stuff and pulling out the climbing gear. To start our climbing season off, Dan and I wandered up to the Chézery slabs. About an hour's walk uphill reaches the base of some beautiful slab climbing. The morning was cold enough to need gloves, so I pulled on my Summitstretch pair. For waterproof gloves they seemed small and light, and had stuffed into my jacket pocket easily.
These gloves are dextrous enough to cope with rucksack clips, thicker ropes and removing ski skins - however I'm finding our tiny quickdraws and skinny ropes a bit fiddly.
On the inside they fit well. The cuffs tightened up around my skinny wrists and sat comfortably under my waterproof jacket. The lining is soft and there are no uncomfortable seams. They are a bit baggy across the back of my hand though, which is a shame. There seems to be a bit too much material here. The fabric is stretchy, so it doesn't seem necessary, even if I have smaller than average hands (these are unisex gloves). The palm fits well though, and that's more important. The fabric here doesn't crease, so holding poles and axes is comfy. The nose wiping patch is super soft too, (although if my mother asks I use a tissue!)
The gloves proved too warm for hiking uphill, so I pulled them off and stuffed them back into my pocket. When we arrived at the base of the crag we found large patches of snow and lots of rock covered in running water. Not quite in condition yet! Never mind, something must be dry! There was - a nice easy climb to start - but to get there we had to cross big patches of steep, old snow. I pulled my gloves out of my pocket and jammed them on again. Unfortunately I found I should have taken them off before I'd got hot in them - they weren't as breathable as I'd hoped and were still a bit sweaty inside. Getting my fingers to slide in was difficult because of this. Finally I wiggled my fingers in and leant into the snow with warm fingers. The Clarino (a sort of fake leather) palm is nice and soft but it does absorb water! It didn't seem to come through the Porelle insert but it was weird squeezing my fist and wringing out water.
The first pitch was mine. I racked up my harness and tied in still with gloves on. These gloves are dextrous enough to cope with rucksack clips, thicker ropes and removing ski skins - however I'm finding our tiny quickdraws and skinny ropes a bit fiddly. The loop for attaching idiot loops takes a karabiner and I clipped them to my harness along with my windproof. This is really simple but I got excited about it! I like things neat and tidy on my harness. The gloves saved my fingers from freezing on a chilly belay with a climbing partner who was trying something a bit hard for the first climb of the season: “This was so easy at the end of last summer!”
The sun dropped behind the mountains and the temperature dropped quickly. Time to go home. We packed up quickly, leaving the flask out. The silicone grip patches on the Summitstretch gloves helped me open the super tight flask, a job that I normally have to pass onto Dan! These grippy bits have since made carrying skis much easier and gone some way to alleviate the fear I have of dropping screws while ice climbing. Sadly, after attacking some rather chilly granite the patches are, on close inspection, starting to show signs of wear.
Before we headed down, I pulled out the map to identify a peak across the valley. Unfolding the map with these waterproof gloves was easy: no huge, fat, fumbling gloved fingers that would lead to me getting grumpy, ripping off my gloves and getting freezing fingers in the time it takes me to take a bearing!
The Summitstretch gloves are small, lightweight, easy to chuck in even my tiny running or cycling pack and weatherproof enough to keep my hands warm in summer bad weather.
About Georgie Smith
I'm a climber, a runner, a biker, sun lounger, not a morning person, a swimmer, a chef by trade. The boy who sold me my first ever pair of climbing shoes eventually became the man who is my boyfriend and climbing partner. We live happily in Chamonix, France where we don't work too much and play lots outside.
I enjoy lots of different types of climbing: short, cold days ice climbing in winter; long summer evenings spent bouldering; long, gentle multi-pitch routes; scary sea cliffs with the waves crashing around; exposed via ferratas; climbing at crags with nobody else around; cragging till every finger is bleeding and I can barely lift my after climbing pint! I have done the occasional alpine route, and have a wish list a mile long.
I climb because I love it. I love adventures, being outside, the movements you make and the feeling of freedom when you climb.
UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Georgie Smith: