The December issue of Off-Piste mag featured a review of Beyond the Mountain by Steve House. Looking for some spring reading, check it out.
Steve house is one of the world’s premier alpine climbers. He has set a high standard for style and achievement in the mountains. His approach to the mountains centers on a low impact, self-reliant alpine style that demands serious commitment and resolute skill. From a sixty-hour non-stop ascent of the Slovak Direct route on Denali to a long sought after alpine style ascent of Nanga Parbat’s Rupal Face, House has arguably climbed some of the most difficult alpine routes in the world, if not set a new standard for what can be achieved. His new book Beyond the Mountain is the story of these ascents, but to his credit, the book is much more than a tale of extreme adventure.
Beyond the Mountain is a story of the struggles, sacrifices, partnerships, and introspection that are inextricably linked to the level of achievement that House has accomplished. Humble and confident in his climbing, House’s writing strikes a similar balance. He writes, “Do not mistakenly assume that these portraits exalt courage, bravery, skill, or intelligence. Though these qualities bear some part, so do fear, inadequacy, and compromise.” House walks the talk and shares the uncertainties and compromises associated with his endeavors, painting a sometimes less than flattering picture. His quest for connection with his climbing partners and the importance of these relationships runs throughout the book.
House’s soul-baring confessions, humorous anecdotes of misadventure (like dropping a boot shell high up on an alpine face with a full day of climbing ahead), and incredible triumphs are real and eloquent. Beyond the Mountain offers a descriptive window into the life and mind of a very driven alpinist. With Beyond the Mountain, House can add one more thing to his list of accomplishments, writing a very interesting, readable, and vivid book.
I have been using a wide variety climbing skins the past couple of months. With skis getting fatter, a skin's glide is more important than ever. I have been using, Colltex Extremes (full mohair), G3 Alpinists (synthetic), Dynafit's inhouse skin (mohair blend), and a new glueless clipskin (synthetic) from Canadian designer/inventor Kaj Gyr.
I have seen some great results with all of these skins, but arguably the most unique is the glueless clipskin from Kaj Gyr. If you have been around the backcountry ski world for a while, you may roll your eyes with memories of the old, rubber snake-skins, but Gyr's clipskins are much closer to a modern glue type skin than they are the old snake-skins. The clipskins I took on a hut trip were one of Gyr's early prototypes, but I still had pretty solid results with the general concept. He has made a variety of refinements on the attachment and tail pieces since the pair I tried. My pair used some temporary tape and test glue solutions for attaching clips and tip bails, but the general concept was the same as the more recent versions.
The glueless clipskins use a standard synthetic skin material like we are all familiar with (and it has nice glide and climbing characteristics), but they utilize a new glueless backing material and small stainless clip system to attach to the ski. As a result, the skin is remarkably easy to attach and remove from the ski. Tip and tail connections are akin to the various systems on the market with a wire bail on the tip and a stainless clip on the tail. One of the big differences here is that Gyr's proprietary backing puts stretch into the skin itself so there is no elastic tail like a G3 or BD Ascension skin. The tail clip simply engages stretch in the skin and pulls the skin tight against the ski. The sides are held on with small stainless clips that grab the edge of the ski. The clips are small enough and dispersed along the skin enough that they do not interfere with the ski's edging properties, at least in non-extreme edging situations. The majority of my use was in soft snow, but I was surprised at how well the skins performed.
I have never had much trouble with my standard glue based climbing skins, but Gry's new glueless system is intriging and worked well in my prototype testing. He has been refining the trimming process as well as the clip attachment process this spring. He has a video describing the trimming and skin set-up steps here and a website dedicated to the clipskins. Below is a video of the clipskins in use. This was made back in late February using one of the early prototype pairs.
Deep Powder and Steep Rock – The Life of Mountain Guide Hans Gmoser by Chic Scott
Hans Gmoser was a pioneer in the world of alpine adventure. Raised in Austria during World War II, Gmoser moved to Canada at age 19 and proceeded to pursue his dreams in the mountains. He went on to claim countless first ascents including epic adventures on the East Ridge of Mount Logan and Denali’s Wickersham Wall. He pushed mountaineering and adventure skiing in the Canadian Rockies and beyond. Gmoser’s drive to climb and ski earned him a reputation summed up in the statement, “On an expedition with Hans, suffering was mandatory, pleasure was optional.”
Gmoser died in 2006 following injuries sustained in a bicycling accident. Deep Powder and Steep Rock – The Life of Mountain Guide Hans Gmoser by Chic Scott is a thorough and entertaining biography fitting of Gmoser’s accomplishments. Scott, an accomplished mountaineer in his own right, offers a complete window into the life and adventures of a pioneering mountaineer.
Scott first met Hans Gmoser in 1963. Scott was 18 years old with a healthy case of the climbing bug. Gmoser was, at the time, the king of North American mountaineering. As Scott puts it, "He put Canadian mountains on the map. He was one of the founders of the Association of Canadian Mountain Guides and was the founder of the sport of heli-skiing. Everyone working in the mountain adventure business in western Canada today owes their job to Hans."
Following Gmoser's death in 2006, his wife asked Scott to write a biography. Deep powder and Steep Rock is full of mountaineering history and anecdotes about Gmoser’s life and adventures. Scott spent three years, researching, writing and publishing the book, and his attention to detail is impressive. From researching Gmoser’s childhood to spending time at several of Gmoser’s favorite mountain huts, Scott put his heart into this book and it shows.
Gmoser is well known for his pioneering role in the world of heli-skiing and his successful Canadian Mountain Holidays heli-ski company, but Deep Powder and Steep Rock offers a broad window into his life and the driving forces behind all of his accomplishments. The book includes a DVD with three ski films that Gmoser made in the fifties and sixties. Scott paints a picture of a man who lead Canada into the mountains and the book is a must read for anyone drawn to climbing and skiing.
Praise be to Ullr for providing us with outstanding snow conditions the past couple of weeks here in the Northwest for our annual testing of backcountry skis. Following a rather lackluster winter in these parts, Ullr stepped up to the plate with a great mix of cold storm cycles and bluebird ski conditions.
Surprise, surprise, skis keep getting fatter and more skis than ever are introducing rocker and early rise tips into the mix. After skiing so many rocker and early rise tip skis, it feels a bit odd to get back on a traditionally tipped ski. I'd say the evolving tip shape is here to stay. This year we have inlcuded skis from Faction, Drake Powder Skis, Icelantic, Volkl, and Armada, as well as the usual suspects like G3, BD, Trab, Voile, Dynafit, etc.
We have also had a chance to get on a number of ski boots including the new Scarpa Mobe, the Dynafit TLT5, and the Garmont Radium. Another interesting addition to this year's testing is a new race binding from Ski Trab (see image in slide show). It may not be the binding for your average ski tourer, but it is pretty slick and is sure to please the rando-race crowd.
I have not mounted them up yet, but will get a chance this week.
Winter is making a late season push here in the Northwest. Double digit totals at Hood were the norm last week with more on the way this week, and this is all on the heels of my return from a backcountry hut trip to Powder Creek Lodge in BC. Not sure what I did to deserve it, but the new snow has been great for our annual ski testing that began last week and continues next week.
Powder Creek served up seven fine days of human powered touring. The lodge is one of the finest set-ups in BC; all the amenities of home served up with inspiring backcountry simplicity. Although we never got the epic dump we have enjoyed in past years at Powder, we managed to enjoy ourselves without any trouble. Lodge co-owner, Heather Smith, joined us for our week, and we did our best to ski all day and keep Ullr happy by night. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words . . .
Anyone who has been out touring recently in British Columbia, and some western US locations too, might be interested in checking out this gallery of avalanche activity. Incredible how low angle a lot of these are and how many look like pretty reasonable ski terrain... buried surface hoar avalanche gallery