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I'm always after the perfect climbing trousers (pants). They are hard to find. If I'm in the mountains you can't beat my favourites, the Patagonia Guide pant; I'm on my second pair. I've worn them from Tryfan to Ben Nevis to the alpine backcountry of California's Sierra Nevada range and in the towering canyons of Las Vegas's Red Rocks. They are hard wearing, warm, shower proof, have zippered pockets with importantly full freedom of movement. Expensive at £100, but worth it.
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But for cragging or bouldering I prefer something less extreme and you have to look the part, don't you? When I was bouldering virtually every other day in the boulder fields of Bishop I went through pants almost as fast as I went through a box of Yorkshire tea. All those sit-down starts and hanging out on rough tuff and quartz-monzonite are brutal to material and finger skin alike. The Prana Dorados were a favourite, as were an obscure brand called A Vue - very hard wearing, Arborwear were good, and the infamous Gramicci served me well. Gramicci G pants are those of the famous gusseted crotch and cinch/release belt invented by the California climber Mike Graham. Gramicci were very popular in the late 80's and early 90's in the UK. Some UK mates of mine, Jerry Peel and Mark Radtke used to bring multiple pairs back from their US climbing trips until they were available at certain specialist retailers in the UK. A classic.
The gusseted or diamond crotch, a diamond shaped piece of material situated at the...uhhhh....crotch of your pants - the region of the human body between the legs where they join the torso - is now standard in most climbing pants as they allow greater flexibility on those wide bridging moves or high step ups, and prevent the seams from ripping. The diamond crotch is not just useful if you are some yogi shaped like an X stemming a crackless corner but for almost any climbing move. Early attempts at incorporating the diamond crotch in climbing pants did make you appear as if you had dropped a load in your underpants but modern tailoring has sorted that out thankfully.
But I'm in the UK now, enough of this American influence and talk. First thing I did was get myself a pair of Moon Cypher pants - support the local the UK climbing industry - and I've been wearing them for the last 18 months. Even though they have been around for a while they are worth a look if you aren't familiar with them.
Bingo! They have the diamond crotch (or 'diamond crutch' as they are called on the Moon website) and another favourite of mine, an elasticated waist - especially useful just after Christmas!
I'm also one of those climbers who like to see their ankles and feet when climbing. You can wear the Cypher Pants either as trendy flairs and look as if you don't really care about your footwork, or cinch up the ankle cord and wear them like culottes, like me, so ensuring precision footwork. Then once back down and off to the pub for the post-climbing pint you can release the ankle cord and hey presto you'll look like all the other flair wearers.
Durability. I'm very pleased with the durability of the Cypher, not that I've been bouldering everyday, but they have seen plenty of mileage both route climbing and bouldering in the UK and Spain and they appear no different than when I bought them. No problems with wear encountered although I'm sure if you get out a lot like any pant you would eventually see a hole in the bum and at the knees. They are baggy but not too baggy, very lightweight, and made out of poly/cotton mix. When it does rain they don't weigh you down and clam to your skin, and when it brightens up they dry very quickly.
I'm not too sure about the pocket flaps though; can't seem to see the point. The hip pockets are zippered, maybe the flaps are there to protect the zips but I often forget to fasten them shut; which would make me look like an elephant if I left my fly open, no sniggering at the back there. Actually I have developed this involuntary habit of checking that they are snapped shut.
The Moon Cypher pant is a climbing classic, along with the Gramicci G and the Prana Dorados. Highly recommended for cragging and bouldering and very good value for money at £50....and if you wear them like culottes so that you can see your foot placements they may even make you climb a grade harder!
Available in dark olive, black and brown, from small to extra-large direct from Moon Climbing www.moonclimbing.com and specialist climbing shops.
UKC Articles and Gear Reviews by Mick Ryan: