Thursday, December 27, 2007

Choosing an ice axe leash

Well, its time for more gear. Previous hikes were done without a leash on our ice axes, generally because as a 'beginner', it is generally good to learn how to use the ice axe before having the thing drag wildly behind you as you slide down the mountain; waiting for the perfect moment to impale your leg.

As hikes get more difficult and technical, so does the need to ensure you are with your ice axe for the entire hike, especially near the top of the mountain! As such, and due largely to the fact that Alpine Ascents requires us to have one, there is a need to procure a leash for our axes.

One key note here, these are non-technical leashes; meaning, these are NOT for ice climbing, where a leash would be used to help carry some of your weight. No, instead these are to ensure you don't drop your essential tool, your ice axe.

The leashes above:
First: Black Diamond Lock Down (58 grams)
Second: Black Diamond Slider (50 grams)
Third: Grivel Long (34 grams)
They are all about the same price, ~$15
They are all non-technical
They all weight about the same, I suppose the Grivel wins here
So what to do? Still looking for other options. However, if I get the idea, basically you need to simply ensure you don't drop your axe with these. If that's so, the key is to get the leash that will actually be used. Meaning, as you are zig zagging up the slope, you'll have to switch the axe from hand to hand (pain in the ass) you better get one that is easy to switch from hand to hand. With that said, you also want one long enough so you are not inhibited switching to arrest mode when needed.
Given this, it seems to me the BD lock down with its easy to use glove-loop for adjusting is great, especially since I think you would use the thing loosely on your arm, and when the need comes, the axe will pull and the slip-knot loop will secure to your arm.
The simplicity and lighter weight of the Grivel appeals to me as well...esp. since I get to cover up my axe point when not is use, and its nice and long.
Need to play with these some more before deciding...

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Please, no bad snow!

I really, really, hope the snow at the end of June this year (2008) will not be this bad. This line approximates our planned route. No chance of racking the AT gear if it looks like this!

The Route

We'll be carrying and dropping a very high tech red powder like these folks did in order to track our progress. Don't worry, its biodegradable.

While the top part of this track is what we'll be taking, the lower part is different. This line starts from the Comet Falls Trailhead as opposed to the Paradise trailhead.


This is a shot of the route. The red track from the bottom of the picture is the Kautz Glacier route. The Alpine Ascents crew sets up camp I at around 8000', and the high camp around 11,000'. I believe we'll be staying away from camp Hazzard (more on that later), but we'll see!

Why we chose Kautz

Why did we choose the Kautz route? A couple of reasons. First and foremost we have chosen to hike with Alpine Ascents ( More on these guys later. Of the hikes Alpine Ascents offers, the Kautz route is more difficult than the others. Considered an intermediate route, our crew wanted to expand our skills and challenge ourselves to something more difficult.

The second reason has to do with our desire to expand our experience. A summary of our group's experience to date (plus or minus):
  • 4-day Basic + Advanced Mountaineering Course (Glacier Travel & Crevasse Rescue) through Sierra Wilderness Seminars (Shasta)
  • 4-day Review Course and summit via Bolum-Hotlum route through Sierra Wilderness Seminars (Shasta)
  • 3-day self-guided AT approach, summit, and ski descent via Bolum-Hotlum route (Shasta)
  • AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Certification (Alpine Skills International, Tahoe)
  • Moderate backounty AT travel (Tahoe)
  • Extensive downhill skiing
  • 3-day ice-climbing course (planned early 2008, Tahoe)
  • Extensive backcountry backpacking

Based on our experience, we wanted to really get into something where we could use our skills. Examples would be to gain significant team rope-travel, fixed line travel, ice climbing, high-camp settlement, and glacier route finding. To date, the Shasta ascents gave us some good steep work, but not the more technical aspects of Rainier, and the Kautz route.

If you are interested, details on the trip (route, gear required, background, etc.) is located here:

So, as you can see, based on our choice of guides and desire to work our skills, the Kautz route was the way to do. We've placed our reservations for the June 30th-July 3rd date, hopefully the snow will still be good at that time (it is the last date offered for this route).

Purpose of this blog

We're gearing up and getting ready to climb Mt. Rainier in 2008! A group of friends and I are working our plans out now, and the idea is to document everything here. From the route, to the guide service, clothing, training, and eventual trip log, we'll document it here. So stay tuned. More installments to come...