Testing the Beal Escaper

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One of the big pain-in-the-ass when doing long alpine routes that involve long abseils and you’re going light is the weight and space that take ropes, specially if you need to do double rope long abseils. Until now the other options at carrying a second rope were mostly scary, abseiling from a fifi or a sailing fifi were tense and it was not possible to do the smallest mistake. Last year it came into the market the Beal escaper a good solution for abseiling with a single rope and recover-it from the bottom with a ok security. The mechanism is simple, a built in prusik that releases with some pullings:

I have been using the escaper for a few month in different terrains. In a steep sports climb cliff it works perfectly, but probably there is where the use is not the most interesting, compared to mountain climbing or skiing where the weight can make a difference.

Summer climbing

The device makes perfect sense for long alpine routes with no great technical dificulties but abseiling mandatory, routes like Peuterey integral where is possible to free solo most of it but is necessary to do 800m of abseiling, or routes where is uncertain if an abseil will be needed. During my climbs and scrambles in Romsdal area, I often used my escaper with a edelrid radline 5mm of 30 or 60m, and most of the time the escaper has been working perfectly. At the begining my biggest concern was that with weight changing when the abseil was not a steep and regular slope the escaper will lose up and fall during the abseiling, but that seemed great all the time, the bigest problem is to take the rope down in iregular abseils. We need to take in account some precautions if we want to bring the rope down, the abseil should be mostly straight. When is a lot of corners, direction changes, etc. the friction on the rope makes that when we pull the rope down this one moves very little on the top and the escaper doesn’t looses up much. In mountain terrain, many times I had to pull for 20-25 times the rope before this one fell. Second precaution is to fix the escaper on a singke point, fixing-it on a multiple anchors will make the friction much bigger and much harder, or impossible, to take-it down.

Winter climbing

The escaper is also interesting in winter when steep skiing or ice climbing, I have not had any other issues than the same as in dry conditions. Not any particular problems with snow or ice.

Crampons Overboots

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In 2012 I climbed Innominata from Courmayeur and down to Chamonix in a single push. Since I belive that to do an activity we need to carry all the gear needed from the begining to the end and to be light one of the biggest concerns was the shoes. If I want the comfort and technical features for climbing boots will be the best, but then it will be a pain in the ass to run all the lower parts, and running shoes may be to cold and lack of rigidity for the climbing. That time I used my running shoes with a light gaiter to protect from snow and a pair of automatic aluminium crampons. It worked well but it was very painful on my toes and it wasn’t really possible to use the crampons very well on ice.

With that idea of cramponable running shoes I started to think about how to make it more technical and less painful. Looking to different running shoes and crampons. That year I did some more tests, and on some trainings with Jordi Tossas we comented what would be the next steeps to improve the system.

Climbing “Pepite” at Petite Verte.
Jordi Tosas traversing a steep nevé in the Alps
Tosas dry tooling with running shoes

Basically the crampons were working fine on mixt climbing and on ice using the ice shapes but lacked rigidity on the crampon – boot connection to “hit” the ice. Another problem was the comfort, it was basically bery painfull on the hill and toes where the crampon slings were compressing the shoe – and bones-. Last problem was the temperature. Running shoes are normally thin and not impermeable, so in long cold climbs the feet became frozen.

In 2015 Simon Elias and I climbed Colton Mcintyre at Grandes Jorases, since we wanted to start from Chamonix and do in a push to Courmayeur I tought it would be a good way to test this system in a more alpine terrain. I used my x-alp shoes with a pair of dartwin crampons and a cross country ski overboot to protect from the cold. It worked well but on steep ice I wasn’t able to hit strongly the ice and the crampons had some mouvement.

One week after Jorasses I travel to Denali with Seb Montaz, Vivian Bruchez and Jordi Tosas. During the long hours in the tent I started to draw what it could be an improvement to this system.

Later this year I meet with dessigners at Salomon, with Patrick Leick and François Girard, and they make those ideas a reality:

I used this boots in my 15-16-17 expeditions in Himalaya and after some small improvements I think we got the right footwear to be able to run from low altitudes to everywere.

But this crampon overboot was too warm and too big for climbs in lower ranges. So symplifying the same idea, Patrick, François and Philippe Margolliet made a lighter overboot perfect for activities like the Peuterey, Grandes Murailles, Bruoillard ridge or 6000 m summits in Himalaya.

light vs 8000m version

ski & Climb boot by Arcteryx

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The beginning was to find a solution to a problem of a niche group, the climbers who do approach with skis. but the new Procline boot seems to be a larger user’s boot. Federico Sbrissa, who is the Product Line Manager for Arcteryx, and his team create a cuff cut in half which offers a disengaged lateral movement (in addition to an impressive front- back movement of 50 ° / -25 °). with this it gains in comfort and ease to the skin up, especially on lateral slopes, very valuable thing for a large audience of skiers as well as for the “technical skier mountaineer”.

This is the bigger but not the only one innovation. full gaiter to be dry, a power strap to have better performances in skiing.

Captura de pantalla 2015-12-09 a les 8.31.06

 

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Procline Carbon Lite 1190 gr, size 27.5

Procline Carbon Support 1260 gr, size 27.5 (Exact same shell, liner with more ski performance.)

Procline Men’s Lite 1190 gr, size 27.5 (Carbon infused cuff plastic, no fiber.)

Procline Men’s Support 1260 gr, size 27.5 (Infused cuff, liner with more ski performance.)

Procline Women Lite 1060 gr, size 25.5 (Carbon infused cuff plastic, no fiber, sizes from 23 to 27.5, exact same shell as “men’s” with a liner shaped for differences in women’s leg shapes.)

Procline Women Support, 1120 gr size 25.5 (Same as above with ski support liner.)

Making An Insulated Running Shoe

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By Joe Grant.

In the trail running off-season this winter, I’ve been riding my fat-bike a lot on dirt and snow. One of the challenges I’ve found with winter riding is keep my feet warm. Compared to running, my feet get very little stimulation on the bike so it’s hard to generate much heat to keep them from going numb. While there are a few clipless riding boots suitable for extreme cold temperatures, they are both expensive and have limited (specialized) use. While great for riding, clipless boots don’t allow for the versatility of a standard shoe, where I can ride to the trailhead, head up the mountain on foot and return home all while using the same pair of shoes and minimizing changes in gear. I found it near impossible to keep my feet at a manageable temperature without getting off the bike and running to warm them or opting for a full insulated boot (like a bulky pair of Sorels).

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When running in the winter, I can usually get away with a Gore-Tex shoe since as long as I’m moving my feet stay warm. I’ve found this to be true even in extreme temperatures of -35F. However, on slightly more technical routes (that do not demand an actual climbing boot) I move slower, making it more difficult to keep my feet warm.

A route such as Kiener’s on Longs Peak in Colorado has a long approach from the trailhead, isn’t very technical, but is slow going in winter conditions. I don’t want to bring two pairs of shoes, one for the approach and one for the climb, so I get by in my Gore-Tex running shoes and cold feet. I knew there had to be a better solution to address both my needs for winter riding in extreme cold and run/climbing non-technical winter routes.

I first heard of a company called Forty Below, based in Washington state, while preparing for the Iditarod Trail Invitational a few years ago. They came recommended to me from runners and bikers who had done the race before. Forty Below makes highly insulated, neoprene, waterproof overboots designed to tackle extreme cold temperatures. Their primary focus is on mountaineering and arctic expeditions while also providing solutions for winter bikers and ski tourers. The main issue I had with the offerings on their site was that the overboots cover the entire shoe, including the sole, rendering the shoe tractionless unless used with crampons or other removable traction devices. This would not work for me for two reasons: in bad conditions with a lot of snow, I would be on and off the bike a lot alternating between pushing and riding, so I would need grip to hike and it also made the overboots useful only for riding if I were to use them on clipless riding shoes. I wanted something more versatile, so Joel at Forty Below proposed I get SuperGaiters to glue on to my shoes and build a shoe more specific to my demands. This turned out to be the ideal solution for me as I could combine the runability of my winter running shoes, with a warm, waterproof, insulated upper.

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To build the insulated boot, I chose to use the Inov-8 Oroc 340 shoe for its aggressive, spiked outsole and warm, plush upper. I’ve run many winter miles in this shoe and knew it would be the ideal candidate for this type of project. In choosing a shoe, I would suggest picking one with aggressive traction for good purchase in snow and possibly with metal dobs such as the Inov-8 Oroc models, Icebug shoes or Salomon Spike and SnowCross. Alternatively, you could add screws to the sole of your shoe, but since this shoe will become a dedicated winter boot, I find it best to go with a spiked option. In most conditions, the metal studded shoes make microspikes unnecessary, therefore eliminating the need for extra gear.

I size up a half-size (sometimes even a full size depending on the model) for winter footwear to accommodate thicker socks and allow for better blood circulation.

The gluing process is fairly straight forward and well explained on the Forty Below website. After trimming the gaiter to fit the edges of the shoe exactly, I used the recommended Barge Cement glue to attach it to the shoe. This process is a bit tedious, applying and reapplying the glue over several days, giving it adequate time to dry.

After the gaiter is glued on, the next step is applying Plasti Dip around the exposed edges of the neoprene that come into contact with the sole of the shoe to create a rubberized rand to help with wear and tear. I had never used Plasti Dip before and while it’s nasty stuff, using it to repair or reinforce weak points on shoes was a minor revelation. Rocks or snowshoe straps will often create abrasion on my shoes that I can now easily fix using a layer of Plasti Dip and reapply as needed. It also gives the gaiter as nice finish and bond to the sole of the shoe.

The finished product might look a little bulky, but the shoe maintains all of it’s running properties, while benefiting from waterproofness and insulation. The added thickness of the neoprene on top of the foot makes the use of crampons more comfortable on a flexible shoe. The SuperGaiter greatly expands the applications of a standard running shoe for high altitude running (such as Russian Skyrunning races) and on non-technical winter peaks.

So far, it hasn’t been cold enough in Colorado for me to really give feedback on the temperature ranges I can stay comfortable in with the boot, but they have withstood a few hikes at -10F without trouble.

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The down side to the Forty Below SuperGaiter is that it is not cheap, so I would only suggest getting a pair if, like me, you have a lot of use for this type of shoe. Other options to consider are using Forty Below’s cheaper gaiters (such as the Light Energy Shorty Overboots or the Simple Slipper Overboots) and cutting the sole out before gluing. Winter surf or fly fishing booties could also be cut up and customized to fit on shoes, but wouldn’t have the benefits of the wide velcro opening to get in and out of the shoe easily.

To sum up, if you’re looking for an option to weatherize your running footwear for extremely cold environments, consider giving the Forty Below SuperGaiter a try.

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By Joe Grant: http://alpine-works.com

 

Running shoes with crampons

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running crampons

@Jordi Tosas Iceclimbing with running shoes

Is never a good solution to do some ice part with running shoes. Crampons are or to soft or adapt for alpinism shoes. Soft crampons are adaptable to running shoes but they can not break the hard ice. Automatic crampons are to heavy and painful when we put on running shoes, so here my solution how to have a rigid crampon, light and that keeps on running shoes:

So here how to have a rigid crampon, light and that keeps on running shoes:

– We take a steel front and a aluminum back and bar:

Crampon 1

the toe of the shoe enters on the bar. Is important to put the strips to keep the crampon on place when we flex of the shoe, if not, the front part can fall on steep ice

 

crampo 2 crampo 3

 

The back can be on a automatic crampon or on a manual crampon, as comfortable as for the shoe, the automatic clips well on the end of the EVA part of the sole.

crampo 5 crampo 4

And to be more comfortable on the front (yes, the bar directly to the shoe makes a lot of pain on the toes after some hours) we can put a thin (2-3mm) part of neoprene or eva (inner soles of a shoe)

crampo 6 crampo 7

Now time to climb!!!