UKC

/ Technical winter gear hype.

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Goucho on 07 Jan 2018

I see a lot of posts on here from people asking for advice on winter climbing gear, and the common response is usually along the lines that above grade II/III, you need B3 boots, fully automatic rigid crampons, Nomics/Quarks and £150 gloves.

This is clearly nonsense.

Whilst I'm not disputing that having the best technical gear is an advantage, it is not a mandatory.

People from my generation were happily climbing grade V in old leather boots, bendy Salewa crampons, crappy axes and Dachstein mitts.

So if you can afford the best and latest gear, go for it, but if you can't, don't worry that you're going to fail or die, on anything above plodding up a snow gully.
Post edited at 12:21
Doug on 07 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

somewhere, possibly in Crags, there was an article by a Mick Fowler on Scottish winter climbing where he recommended a visit to the local Oxfam shop to buy a few cheap woolly jumpers.

But what would he know....
tspoon1981 on 07 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

If I ever want to feel like the overspecced, over dressed bumbly I am, I put on the Pinnacle. Then I go and buy more stuff in the vain hope a pair of new black boots vs the yellow ones will make me climb harder.

http://www.hotaches.com/climbing-films/the-pinnacle/
Big Lee - on 07 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

> People from my generation were happily climbing grade V in old leather boots, bendy Salewa crampons, crappy axes and Dachstein mitts.

Surely the generation before you was using even worse gear though? I'm sure they would say the same sort of thing about your generation as your are saying about the current generation. How did your gear compare to Jimmy Marshall's?

People generally aren't looking for old leather boots or crappy axes on these forums. I don't see many people on here saying you 'need' any of the things you mention. It's usually just people recommending stuff based on intended use and budget.
yesbutnobutyesbut - on 07 Jan 2018
Big Lee - on 07 Jan 2018
In reply to Doug:

> somewhere, possibly in Crags, there was an article by a Mick Fowler on Scottish winter climbing where he recommended a visit to the local Oxfam shop to buy a few cheap woolly jumpers.

I've also seen Mick Fowler give a talk at the AC a few years ago during which he dedicated a good amount to how much lighter and more efficient gear has become during his climbing life. Definitely wasn't talking about climbing in Oxfam jumpers. Actually made me realise I needed a more modern alpine stove after listening to that lecture I remember. Mainly to cut down on the amount of gas cannisters.
Ramblin dave - on 07 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

> I see a lot of posts on here from people asking for advice on winter climbing gear, and the common response is usually along the lines that above grade II/III, you need B3 boots, fully automatic rigid crampons, Nomics/Quarks and £150 gloves.

Is this in response to anything in particular? It feels like a bit of a straw-man to me - I can't remember seeing many people saying that you actually _need_ leashless tools and £150 gloves...
Goucho on 07 Jan 2018
In reply to Big Lee:

> Surely the generation before you was using even worse gear though? I'm sure they would say the same sort of thing about your generation as your are saying about the current generation. How did your gear compare to Jimmy Marshall's?

> People generally aren't looking for old leather boots or crappy axes on these forums. I don't see many people on here saying you 'need' any of the things you mention. It's usually just people recommending stuff based on intended use and budget.

Absolutely.

I wasn't denigrating new gear, it's far better and I use it.

I was merely highlighting that you don't need top end gear - eg B3 boots and Quarks, in order to climb anything above grade III.
GridNorth - on 07 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

Well you could argue that you need nothing more than a pair of nailed boots and an old fashioned curved axe but lets maintain a degree of proportion.

Al
Martin Bennett - on 07 Jan 2018
In reply to GridNorth:

> an old fashioned curved axe but lets maintain a degree of proportion.

" . . old fashioned curved axe . . ."??

Think back a little further in your (= our) ken, Al. At the time we thought curved axes were new fangled. My first axe, bought in 1966, was a McInnes all metal job - not a curve in sight! Nor had his Terrordactyls (about 1972?) though I seem to think the Chouinard curver (and the many many copies) came in between - 1970?

GridNorth - on 07 Jan 2018
In reply to Martin Bennett:

I'd forgotten that. My first axe was a Stubai Aschenbrenner. I shortened the shaft, coated it with fibre glass resin and curved the pick myself. It weighed about 3 ton but coupled with a Chouinard ice hammer it served me well for a few years.

Whilst I have your attention, can I interest you in a trip to Kalymnos? April 17th to May 1st.

Al
planetmarshall on 07 Jan 2018
In reply to Doug:

> But what would he know....

Most of us are not Mick Fowler. Personally when it comes to risky activities, I believe in stacking the odds in my favour.

As far as I know there's no prize from MRT if they find you at the bottom of some gully but at least you're wearing gear from the 1970s.

nufkin - on 07 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

> I was merely highlighting that you don't need top end gear - eg B3 boots and Quarks, in order to climb anything above grade III.

It's quite good to do an apprenticeship with older, clunkier gear to appreciate how much better newer stuff generally is. I'm increasingly of the opinion that using whatever will mean you have the best time is the way to go - being lighter, dryer, warmer, faster all help make a winter day more pleasureable
Timmd on 07 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:
I've noticed there seems to be a bias on here when recommending gear for winter, having clothing in mind rather than the hard-wear. It's probably down to the income bracket of many of the posters I guess, as well as people liking to 'buy the best' so they feel well equipped - which is entirely understandable.

Having my XCR goretex not being wearable one snowy winter in the Lakes, I found that so long as one has some kind of shell to keep the wind out, that cheaper gear is fine so long as you know what you're doing re how to keep warm. I think I was wearing a Paclite or similar, and ending up adding a thickish woolie jumper to my layering to compensate for a lighter waterproof. I felt bulkier but I was warm enough.

I remember reading something in High or Climber to the effect that people tend to survive being caught out during the winter more than they did because of even cheaper clothing being better than clothing generally used to be.
Post edited at 18:20
steveriley - on 07 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

Lat winter climb I did I wore Dachsteins for old time’s sake. I was survived alright though, it was only a II.
Dave Perry - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

And don't forget all the letters and words like GTX; 'Extreme'/'Mountain warrior' etc., after every bet of kit too.
Jim Lancs on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:
" . . . People from my generation were happily climbing grade V in old leather boots, bendy Salewa crampons, crappy axes and Dachstein mitts. . . "

Perhaps the ratio of routes that were 'happily climbed' (as opposed to miserably climbed) has improved since then. I remember being far from happy on the '59 Face Route in the mid 70's when my damp cotton Blacks Standard Anorak, cotton Cavalry Twill britches and canvas gaiters were all frozen solid, my woollen balaclava and dachsteins were caked in ice and my ex-army string vest (cotton) was patently failing to live up to it's billing as a thermal layer. Add in the memories of Salewa crampons with pre-neoprene straps, a Curver axe (reasonable) and a Baltoro hammer, and I would readily recommend someone these days should shop at their nearest Decathlon rather than the secondhand shop down memory lane.
Post edited at 08:55
Goucho on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Jim Lancs:

> " . . . People from my generation were happily climbing grade V in old leather boots, bendy Salewa crampons, crappy axes and Dachstein mitts. . . "

> Perhaps the ratio of routes that were 'happily climbed' (as opposed to miserably climbed) has improved since then. I remember being far from happy on the '59 Face Route in the mid 70's when my damp cotton Blacks Standard Anorak, cotton Cavalry Twill britches and canvas gaiters were all frozen solid, my woollen balaclava and dachsteins were caked in ice and my ex-army string vest (cotton) was patently failing to live up to it's billing as a thermal layer. Add in the memories of Salewa crampons with pre-neoprene straps, a Curver axe (reasonable) and a Baltoro hammer, and I would readily recommend someone these days should shop at their nearest Decathlon rather than the secondhand shop down memory lane.

The point I was making regarding my analogy of old gear, was not to say it was good or better gear - which it patently wasn't - but to highlight that you don't need to have the kind of gear needed to make a winter ascent of Divine Providence, in order to climb a grade IV gully on Ben Nevis.

Toby_W on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Ramblin dave:

People are confusing the use of the word need, in the case of gear I have some perfectly good hex’s on bits of rope I tied myself which if they were scaled up you could use as fallout shelters, they are perfectly functional and will never, ever wear out, sadly. I really really need some new ones like my wife’s featherlight ones on dynema.

Ho hum.

Toby

planetmarshall on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

> The point I was making regarding my analogy of old gear, was not to say it was good or better gear - which it patently wasn't - but to highlight that you don't need to have the kind of gear needed to make a winter ascent of Divine Providence, in order to climb a grade IV gully on Ben Nevis.

I suppose there are a lot of strong climbers around making their first foray into Winter Climbing, and thanks to dry tooling and strength acquired on the bouldering walls are capable of climbing some pretty hard stuff - grade VII and beyond - just look at the logbooks. So if they're going to buy kit, they may as well get stuff that will do for a wide range of difficulties.

For what it's worth, Dachsteins are still pretty popular. I have a pair and wouldn't be without them on a cold day on Ben Nevis.
Big Lee - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

You keep using the word 'need' in every post, which is making it hard to take your point seriously. Most materialistic things in life I don't 'need'. I don't even 'need' to go climbing. Climbing-wise I'd say anything that is going to make climbing more pleasant, safer, and efficient is good to have. They're not 'needed' though and I think you're doing some major cherry-picking of these forums if you think that is even a minority view. Maybe you're just looking for some praise for the routes you climbed with the gear you had at the time?
Pay Attention - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

Gear reviewers go home!
We don't need your airy fairy recommendations about expensive new fangled whatchamacallits.

People from my generation were UNhappily climbing grade II in old leather boots, bendy Salewa crampons, crappy axes and Dachstein mitts.

This new equipment has taken all the skill out of getting frostbite.
olddirtydoggy - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

Interesting experiment we did last year.
My wife had a very old bag of trad kit from the 80's, hexes on tat and all that kind of stuff. The weight of it all was more than double and no colours to help the eyes pick the gear off the harness quickly. We sent up one of the younger lads who was only used to new gear new on a dummy lead. An extra top rope secured any falls with a bit of slack on the belay but the pre-agreed method was to mentally forget the backup was there. Half way up a crag he just backed right off.

One of the issues was seeing tat on the kit and the quality of the 3 cams, very old HB's. The integrity of the wires was a concern as was the thick, purple rope. The results of our test was as follows: We are spoilt rotten and almost feel bad!
GridNorth - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

I think I would have given up climbing long ago if I was limited to the choice of gear I had in the late 60's early 70's. I love all the new gear and like to have the lightest and best whenever I can. I'm still a Yorkshireman at heart though so I only buy new when old things have passed their sell by date.

Al
jon on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

Just wondering if you received a reply to your previous Arcteryx rant/note. It would be disappointing if you hadn't:

> Bearing in mind the very high premuim pricing of Arcteryx gear, not only should the gear be of the highest quality, it should be backed up by the highest quality customer service.

> Unfortunately, Arcteryx is now run by accountants and marketing consultants, and both quality and customer service seems to be suffering.

> My Alpha SV suffered a broken zip, and delaminating after only 12 month's. After several frustrating phone calls and emails, I was getting nowhere, so as life is short, I just put it in a bag and sent it back to them with note inside saying :-

> "Your gear is overpriced shite, and your customer service is crap. Therefore please shove this jacket where the sun doesn't shine, and I'll stick with Mountain Equipment and Mountain Hardware for all my future needs".

> A tad petulant yes, but also very satisfying
Martin Bennett - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to GridNorth:

Aschenbrenner - what an evocative name! My favourite axe was a Charlet Moser I found with a broken shaft on the E Face Dent du Requin in 1972. Took it into the Charlet factory next day and they put a new shaft spike and ferrule onto it, but refused to curve it for me. I had that done in Denny Moorhouse's workshop after I got home. I still have it. It's a thing of beauty with a unique history: https://www.dropbox.com/home?preview=IMG_2681.JPG

Can't see me going away mid April I'm afraid, tempting though it sounds - will only just be back from a fortnight in Morocco.
Goucho on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to jon:

> Just wondering if you received a reply to your previous Arcteryx rant/note. It would be disappointing if you hadn't:

I did actually. A charming letter from someone with clearly more class and style than me, along with a new replacement jacket and a voucher.

Apparently it was faulty.

Not worn it yet though, so we'll wait and see how it fares this year.
jon on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

Oh that's good to know. Restores one's faith in mankind.
alan.rodger on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to planetmarshall:
With you on dachstiens. They are really suited to Scottish winter and even mold to your grip shape on axes. Tied to wrists they slip on and off when needed better than any other gloves I have tried.
Post edited at 16:04
Timmd on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Jim Lancs:
> " . . . People from my generation were happily climbing grade V in old leather boots, bendy Salewa crampons, crappy axes and Dachstein mitts. . . "

> Perhaps the ratio of routes that were 'happily climbed' (as opposed to miserably climbed) has improved since then. I remember being far from happy on the '59 Face Route in the mid 70's when my damp cotton Blacks Standard Anorak, cotton Cavalry Twill britches and canvas gaiters were all frozen solid, my woollen balaclava and dachsteins were caked in ice and my ex-army string vest (cotton) was patently failing to live up to it's billing as a thermal layer. Add in the memories of Salewa crampons with pre-neoprene straps, a Curver axe (reasonable) and a Baltoro hammer, and I would readily recommend someone these days should shop at their nearest Decathlon rather than the secondhand shop down memory lane.

My Dad who is in his early 70's has talked about people getting wet quite often when in the outdoors, which must have done a lot towards people dying through loss of body heat. I think that's what the person who wrote the article I read had in mind about cheap(er) gear being much better than gear used to be, because Decathlon gear (presumably) wouldn't lead to you getting wet like old gear used to.
Post edited at 17:41
atthedropofahat on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to Goucho:

Pretty sure there'd be a ton of UKC posts about idiots ruining routes by chopping off all the ice and taking an age to climb a single pitch if someone showed up at the front of the queue to do Aladdins mirror on a Saturday with good weather and the old gear. Probably get slammed on forums for endangering others too.
Goucho on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to atthedropofahat:

> Pretty sure there'd be a ton of UKC posts about idiots ruining routes by chopping off all the ice and taking an age to climb a single pitch if someone showed up at the front of the queue to do Aladdins mirror on a Saturday with good weather and the old gear. Probably get slammed on forums for endangering others too.

So anyone wearing old gear is an incompetent idiot and danger to others?

Interesting perspective?

JackM92 - on 08 Jan 2018
In reply to planetmarshall:

Yes indeed I used to go winter climbing with walking crampons, straight shafted axes and B2's. I regularly found myself in positions where I thoroughly expected to die.

Then I bought some technical crampons and Nomics and all of a sudden V 5 ice felt like walking...

The gear someone 'needs' at a particular level depends of course on their own level, someone just starting to lead IV's might feel much more reassured and safe with the best availible kit.

So I completely agree with you on stacking the odds in your favour.
Timmd on 10 Jan 2018
In reply to JackM92:

Yes, I gather Norrie Muir has climbed grade VI ice in strap on flexible crampons, but that doesn't mean modern gear doesn't make things easier.
Michael Gordon - on 10 Jan 2018
In reply to Timmd:

> Yes, I gather Norrie Muir has climbed grade VI ice in strap on flexible crampons

...and so have tons of others! To be honest, strap on G12s would get you up loads of fairly steep ice routes, provided they were sharp. If the straps are done up tight (goes without saying really) they're as solid as the newer adjustments.


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