as of 11/4 these posts have been archived. for new stuff go to either the ‘propaganda’ page or iceclimbingjapan blog
11/1 – ideal ice cycle
what we want to see: note that temperatures on the ‘climbing side’ of the range are about 5c below that shown here (ie 2500m is usually the 1500m tenperature)
today and tomorrow see an ideal temperature drop that will freeze nicely in the deep gullies and north-facing colouires. like last year, the freeze-thaw in the gullies that get the sun (mine-no-matsume etc) will be building nice clear ice with almost zero snow to frazzle them (tho a bit is good for formation).
the rain predicted next week (probably on the weekend as forecasts tend tto get pushed back) will only add to it, stripping junk ice and adding to the cooling effect on the ground rock. that plus the days still getting shorter is right where we want to be.
10/28 – lessons from the future
Every now and then a piece of the system comes along that advances about 10 things in the one garment. Rather than spread it across an entire range, for some reason the producers decide to put the whole into one unit and see where it goes.
In this vein the MHW Quark is exceptional, excelling in so many fields its like it slipped thru from the future, and all done so effortlessly it makes you wonder what comes next.
The quark weights 285gms/10oz and is a FULL spec jacket. Full as in full zip, pit zips, hand pockets and an inner pocket. The hood easily goes over any helmet, the cuffs have adjusters, the seams are taped and it even has a hang loop, stiffened brim and micro-fleece to protect you from the zip. There is nothing missing – it’s a full weather shell.
There are windshells with next to nothing in them that weigh similar.
Futuristic elements include z-weld seams that have the strength of sewn seams but no actual sewing. The zips are incredibly thin and water resistant, but remain undamaged.
The fabric breathes. Known as conduit ‘Incite’, the MHW design spec was ‘water resistant bug mesh’ and they got it. It also stretches well. Its tough. Its not annoyingly tacky on moist skin and it crumples small and silently. The only problem is its not available in any colour except dr who silver, with a slight high tech texture that’s more graphitey than shiny – you can actually feel the big mesh quality. In a metallic orange or green it would be beautiful in a butterflys wing kind of way.
the Quarks Incite fabric: futuristic stuff
I will testify on this jacket. Ive worn it for autumn ultras, dozens of climbing trips including attempts on k2. Its been trashed in slips on rock and thrashed from being strapped onto the outside off packs. I still wear it regularly and wonder at it every time.
Quark in use: walking out of BC on the Baltoro
As a windshell its light and venting enough, and as a sun layer it actually reflects a degree of heat. The cut is enough to go over every layer you have. In other words for high alpine climbing its as good as it gets.
Problems: where are the pants to match it? Fabric and construction this amazing deserves an entire suit – even a 1 piece for high altitude trips. It would look like something from x-men, but who cares?
As it goes, the Quark came and went barely noticed from the market in 2006….
It retailed at about $200 so it wasn’t too radical in price, and was the same era when people raved about Paclite and XCR. Despite all its innovations amazingly little has trickled down – where did the fabric, seam construction and design specs go? Why have those same elements never made it into a single garment at that weight and function again? 7 years on and we still ooh and ahh at sub-300gm jackets, thinking anything that light must be stripped of all that makes it work, pushing it to rely on wonder-fabrics for functions that, really, are still better achieved by design.
In the years since ive used other jackets but the Quark is still the one I hold the rest against – and intend to for more time to come. Ive actually take in into development meetings to put before designers as the standard they need to meet or exceed for multiple factors, not all pertaining to textiles and construction. In all truth, it’s the jacket I used until I replaced it with designs with my own input – many of which came from the Quark. Half a decade on and it is still a hard design to beat.
To me this jacket says more about the industry than anything else – it shows whats out there and how receptive climbers really are. Incredible innovations can be sat before the market but invisible due to outdated expectations. Was it simply the weird colour that made it fail? Reviews of the time were very positive, the only constant negative being that it was considered too light – for heavy packing trips in the Pac NW or scratching up chimneys in a Scottish winter.
What would happen if this jacket was released today? Who would buy it? What would the reviews be like?
I raise this because the same expectations still plague our humble sport (but not so humble consumerism). Innovations await that take things a step or more into the next phase, but conservatism by consumers holds it back – we want the latest, but only if it’s the same as what we already know.
What does ‘The Quark Experiment’ tell the producers about the sector – is it worth putting highly innovative products out there? Or better to bleed the new stuff out over several seasons? Are climbers really being exploited with trickle-out marketing or are they simply too conservative a consumer base to be worth taking risks on?
If the market curtains were dropped and the designs for the true lightest and most breathable shell was put before us, who would step forward?
10/27 – turning on, tuning in, getting out
With temperatures a little ahead of last year there could be only 5 weeks left before theres ice to climb. And while it wont be the fattest stuff yet, it wont be drytooling either, which means the 12/13 ice season will have begun.
Early ice is often good stuff, formed in short days from water ice melt (rather than snow melt) so its clear and hard. Short daylight hours means less UV decay and delamination from the rock.
But its thin. Which means you need to be delicate with placements, which means you need good body integrity rather than the mid-season ‘whack n dangle’ method. Early season ice is the domain of tai chi placements, mono-points and short screws and even if its not your favorite ice it’s a good time to be out there tuning towards the main season and debugging yourself of the wanderlust that’s built up of the last 9 months.
So, its time to tune in the training for the ‘sport specific’ phase.
If you were a sprinter it would mean power endurance, if you were a swimmer it would mean power speed, if a lifter you be going in low rep/high weight mode with a serious eye on form.
For ice this means basically getting the right muscles firing in the right way and squaring your uphill approach – a fine mix of detailed structural work and big muscle group out put.
What you haven’t developed by now you probably wont (and don’t say your weren’t warned…) so just go with what you have and sharpen it the best you can.
From your grip to your shoulders and especially the forearms, its time to get the arms in a state of seasonal warm up.
Lots of pump-recovery sessions spiked with hangs, maximum strength pull ups, ROM stretches, joint mobility and grip work on top of long sets of full movement stressors.
This could all be gym stuff, but a job loading boxes of fruit or stacking firewood would also work.
I hate that term because it’s a pseudo-label used by teenagers to mean ‘the bits they can see in the mirror’, but ‘limb-torso matrix’ just draws blank stares. Anyway, think: the structural and mobilizing power flux between your shoulders, hips, back and front, which is everything from sticking to overhangs to lumping a pack uphill.
Kick bag sit ups, pick up-and-lift stuff, weighted movements with twists, stuff that reinforces the connection between strong limbs. Again, if not a gym then shoveling blue metal or loading pallets with sacks will do.
Short, powerful sprints between icefalls, and long approaches carrying heavy packs. Simple jogging wont do it, this kind of honing needs to be done under load and with elements to tweak balance and joint stability.
Buckets of wet sand and double-step up some stairs, single leg lifts and jumps, pistols and lunges. Nothing that needs special equipment.
Big full body movements followed by swift focused moves (ie several sticks up a nice fat pitch then onto sketchy rock or fragile hooking). Switch hands around on a pull up bar or two tools into a wall, clean and press weights from awkward positions, plyometric push ups Rocky-style with a basketball, switch between push ups and dexterous arm movements like single reverse-push ups – anything that defines to your muscles the memory difference between fast twitch, focused and endurance movements.
Throw the whole lot together to form a series that mimics the demands of climbing: a run with a pack on uphill with some exercises at the top. It wont substitute for not enough preparation during the summer, but it will reduce some of the initial stresses when you get back on the ice very soon.
10/26 – teton bros on the cover of peaks magazine
peaks magazine winter 2012-13 winter wear catalogue: Teton Bros TB Neoshell jacket heading the list
each season Peaks magazine does a gear special and this year Teton Bros scored the cover. inside is a big article on Polartecs latest developments, plus the usual showcase of new winter stuff from Mammut, Arcteryx, Patagonia, MHW etc. of the 250 items to chose from the TB jacket got #1 spot.
also inside is a cool biographical article on Yasushi Okada, friend and long winter evening companion of iceclimbingjapan, Piolet d’or winner and Giri Giri boy.
10/25 – clothing systems: meta- vs frankenstein
hacked together or intuitivly designed? a four part blog-series on the cutting edge of alpine clothing systems
10/22 – ok computer
Beware of computer model-based forecast systems.
Having shown freeze level for the last week to have been around 3000m a quick gear testing trip into Yatsugatake has revealed freeze level to have been actually at about 2000m, with thin ice lines already formed above about 2600m.
A night out at 2200m clocked at about -3c, and with a bit off rain and snow expected followed by a continued drop in temperatures things are looking good.
on the screen vs on the ground: ground ice at 2100m – compare to the forecast model in the previous post
thin but forming: embryonic lines on Akadakes SW side
Down at Akadake-kosen the ice wall is going up and winter supplies are coming in and the staff have told us the snow is late this year – potentially a very good thing as it minimizes the dangers and hassles of pushing thru the stuff.
getting the lowdown from Shinya as he works on the ice wall
10/15 (later) – Teton Bros Autumn System
autumn temperatures at Yatsugatake
temperatures finally touch zero at 3000m in Honshu this week, opening the door for what will soon be the winter season. we are out this weekend to see just whats going on, and to play about with what we call the Autumn System from Teton Bros.
TESTED ON MONKEYS: Powerdry base, Primaloft/Pertex vest and jacket - the Teton Bros Autumn System
autumn is a complex time to climb. with temperatures between + 15 and -8 humidity is still a factor and the diffference between being in the sun and being in the shade means a lot of putting gear on and taking it off. days are short meaning youre either in the dark or inactive, and its still not cold enough to carry the full-winter gear.
and so the Autumn System.
its based around a very cool baselayer thats grid weave on both sides so it breathes like mesh but then insulates well once layered on top of. over that goes a light primaloft/pertex jacket synched with a primaloft/pertex vest for the coldest moments. interplaying around the combination is a new pertex cool-shell that works as well as a windlayer against the skin as it does a full shell over everything else. legs go into light softshells.
’double-grid’ powerdry: the baselayer that redefines what a baselayer does
Teton Mountain Project ‘cool-shell’ Pertex Shield jacket: as much of it as we are showing anyone for the moment…
between the 4 garments you can easily cover a sweaty approach, a pumped pitch, a shady belay and a night in a summer-weight sleeping bag. if it rains you are well protected and if it doesnt the whole lot stuffs so small it feels like something is missing.
there’s lots of shell jackets that pack down to grapefruit-size – but a syntheic jacket and vest together…who says synthetic has to be bulky??
10/15 – pertex dv: the cool-shell revolution
Everyone raves about Neoshell and whatever comes out of Gore these days, but meanwhile another revolution has been quietly going on over at Pertex.
the cool-shell revolution: Teton Bros Mountain Project is producing game-changing designs in the latest Pertex fabrics
While Neoshell is the best yet of the full shell idea – coming at it from the bottom of the equation rather than the top to integrate with changes in the greater climbing mentality – it is more an interpretation of existing demands rather than anything new: valuable but no textile does everything.
Pertex DV does the rest.
For decades Pertex has been around as a shell fabric that relies on its weave, chemistry and DWR for weather repellency (and down repellency if youre thinking that way too).
Recently they have combined with the eVent membrane to produce DV
From there it has exploded, and with it new definitions for ‘shells’. Where the ‘hard-’, ‘soft-’, ‘wind-’ & ‘rain-’ shell concepts have become tired and lacking to keep up with the evolutions in climbing, the new terms of ‘warm-shell’ and ‘cool-shell’ describe things better, and for those involved with the FEEDBACK PROJECT they will get to see just how this functions.
After expanding beyond the sole Montane interface the latest DV variants cover a part of the spectrum not really addressed elsewhere. If you need to form a microclimate that demands a degree of heat retention (‘warm shell’) for the outer layer, choose Neoshell. If a ‘cool shell’ outer layer that releases moisture and protects without overheating is the demand, DV nails it spectacularly.
This stuff stre-e-e-e-tches. Even the heavier versions have a 4-way mechanical stretch that makes it a pleasure to wear. Some variants don’t, which suits certain garments well and raises ideas for hybridizing.
Some versions have very appealing ‘peach-fuzz’ inner side that works well as a next-to-skin. Whilst not the same as Powerdry, its infinitely nicer than other shells at the same weight and aids in maintaining the feel-dry aspect of moisture control.
The DV range comes in incredibly light, usually around half the lighter versions of Neoshell.
+20k breathability/+30k waterproofing
That’s pretty much the range of testing for most shells. DV is notable for not being extended to just meet these numbers, but easily meeting the standard – where it actually breathes/proofs to is not defined because the tests don’t go there.
Regarding breathability, it will always be a battle there as its open to so many more variables than waterproofness, the major one being garment design.
The true benefit in DV is its capacity to simplify the other garments you wear under it by integrating well with any base or mid layer: where a ‘full’ shell is too warm but the only thing with the proofness, thus pushing condensation levels, DV drops the equation back to the green zone.
Likewise by being fine against the skin, DV does away with needing extra-heating thin bases for wicking control.
At the R&D level DV is a pleasure due to the inner and facing textures it can come in. from slick and shiny to dull and graphite-like, with from smooth to fuzzy inside.
This matters not just as an aesthetic matter, but for integrating with systems, allowing how one garment moves against another and where in the system it sits.
Warm shell vs cool shell
Be clear tho – DV doesn’t compete with Neoshell in every application. Neoshell is still the better choice for warmer ‘softshell-ish’ garments where a bit of insulation and toughness is a high priority. Don’t going replacing your Neoshell salopettes with DV ones if you plan on shuffling up chimneys.
Likewise if you want a standalone winter outer, Neoshell does in a single layer what DV would do over a microfleece/Powerstretch/Powerdry base.
Also, you wouldn’t shell-in down or Primaloft with Neoshell. Attempts at similar with Gore were always dubious – too heavy, didn’t release moisture well enough, didn’t really fit 99% of conditions that well. But this changes now with Pertex being the experts in containing down and other insulations.
Concepts for hybrid Neoshell/DV are well on their way and raise the bar for shell layers significantly.
Where DV does standalone well is either side of Neoshell – in very damp/humid conditions over the lightest baselayer going, or in very dry conditions where it is the wonder shell in your pack.
For high out put endeavors in the cold where you are mostly wearing un-membraned layers, DV is ideal for throwing over top without much sudden moisture build up inside. As stated before, if getting heat away from your body matters (to minimize condensation, in warmer conditions) DV fits the niche.
10/14 – streamlining winter
Winter days are short and every minute counts, especially on multiday trips where minutes add up to become hours and every drop of moisture builds up to make you colder as the nights go on. Theres things you can do to drop the weight of your gear and increase your endurance and strength, but if the equation is done right it should all result in greater efficiency.
things get done better and safer the more you are in a zone of stability. that means being as rested, well fed and ahead of the curve as you can. a day near the road doesnt demand much of this, but each day away shifts the equation of what matters and the ratio of weight-to-energy starts to change.
So heres a few things that save minutes here and there and go a long way to streamlining the sorts of chain events that may become risks if unchecked. Oddly, much of it revolves around getting or discarding all sorts of bags.
① Don’t stuff your sleeping bag and tent into those tiny little sacks
It’s a waste of time and space. Squeeze as much air out and just ram it into your pack, forcing into the nooks and corners. Efficiency includes things like getting out of the tent in the morning so just shove it in.
If getting things wet is a problem use a silnylon dry sack for the main pack contents, shoving the tent into the pack first and then the dry sack on top.
② Use a rope bag
Take a tip from the caving, rescue and canyoneering scene. Coiling ropes is slow, tiring and wets your gloves – get a light stuff sack with a clip loop and learn how to pack a rope properly (biner thru the chin strap of your helmet or sternum strap on your pack and zip it in)
Tie the rope to the sack and you’ve just streamlined all your rappels as well, and if you tie it a meter or two before the end may just keep you alive. If things are really windy, go SAS style and feed the rope from the bag slung from your leg loop.
The time saved will be worth the extra 10gms.
③ Use thin bags for food
Pre-pack food like granola, couscous, pasta and maybe even coffee into ultra thin plastic bags then just put the bag in your mug and pour water into that. Serious gram junkies can re-use the one bag.
Saves washing, which saves water, fuel, time, messing about and potentially spilling stuff.
④ Carry a 20cm x 20cm square of foam for a snow spade
A dozen uses (stove base, snow scraper, sit mat etc) its #1 as a spade for putting snow into a snow bag, saving wet gloves.
⑤ Use a daisy chain as a screw bandolier
Something the French do. Don’t bother with screw holsters or fancy chest rigs, a regular aid daisy chain holds screws well and has multiple functions. A bit hard to get the screws into, but easy to remove, so better suited to single pitch stuff or where you have time to re-rack.
Clip round yourself with a biner, can even keep it in its regular function if pressed.
⑥ Put your hanging stove on a long hang cord with a munter
Hanging stoves don’t need to hang out of reach. Attach a length of 4mm run thru a munter on a biner on the ceiling for adjustability. Often just off the floor is a good level to hang at.
Also, a clip loop on the hanging kit gives a place to keep spoons (see point #10)
⑦ Get a baselayer with pockets
Headtorches, batteries, lighters and gloves all live better next to your skin. God only knows why, but few baselayers have real pockets, so maybe buying a midlayer a few sizes small will have to do.
Wet things like gloves are best NOT kept in your shells pockets, where they not only dry slower but also compromise breathability by clogging the under surface of the shell fabric.
⑧ Carry a fondue fork with your v-threader
Half f a v-thread is the threading (the other half is the drilling) and half of that is just getting the damned cord well placed in the hole. Carrying a spoke to set it well goes a long way to making things faster. The best ones are made from fondue forks.
⑨ Mesh bag for at night
Everything you don’t want freezing soon becomes a night time puzzle as you fish for it around your sleeping bag in the darkness (keep your headtorch around your wrist). A mesh bag keeps things together and findable.
⑩ Put a clip loop on your cup and spoon
Every big waller knows this. And not just to prevent losing it, but so you can hang it while your pour and not knock it over.
11 Put your piss bottle on a long loop
Spilling a piss bottle is bad, bad news, and yet every factor is against you – cramped conditions, bad light, inside a sleeping bag, unusual positions, ‘shrinkage’.
your chances are better with a long clip loop that either goes over your shoulder or clips to the tent itself. laugh if you will, but when it matters you will the one who laughs last.
10/12 – Mt FUJI STUFF
theres lots of requests for Mt Fuji winter ascents coming in right now, and for an iconic mountain theres a lot not known about it in winter. for sure in summer its one of the most summited peaks anywhere and you can buy cola and t-shirts at the top, but come late October things change and people start not coming home from its slopes.
iceclimbingjapan is the only international group guiding the peak in winter – and we screen climbers significantly to keep it that way. the slopes of Fuji at -30c are not the place for crowds.
too refine things a bit weve thrown together an FAQ here.
10/5 – INTERVAL STRESS PREPARATION
Interval training has countless applications to almost any form of preparation for any activity. Variations of intervals can be done anywhere, from running on trails to climbing gyms to weight gyms to athletic facilities and swimming pools. Decades of research and analysis show results.
Relevant to winter climbing are several versions, and the variants I put at the top of the pile are intervals focusing on stress. Stress in this context being where the usuals of strength, endurance and power are secondary, and ‘system anxiety’ is the focus. simply put: where the cause of failure is spread across as many aspects as possible, and ‘you’ fail as an organism rather than simply one aspect of your capacity.
System anxiety applies well to climbing because anxiety is a major component. Indeed I think anxiety is one of the few things that sets climbing apart from other pursuits. System anxiety is maybe best described as ‘when the organism faces multiple points of failure due to stress across multiple organic systems’. you know it when you feel it: when as the hypoxic tunnel fades, your breath comes back, and you realize you cant feel your hands, then that your lower back is tightened and your mouth is dry.
It differs from regular training in that it blows out 3 or more systems. Properly 4, because when done correctly the mind is the first to go.
A good example might be the following:
- 30seconds of heavy push rows (at around 60% of body weight)
- Followed by 90seconds of dead lifts (at about 75% of body weight)
- Followed by 2 minutes of rest
Repeated 3 times.
What happens here is the compromising of multiple organic systems, reducing the capacity for one system to make up the overlap of another.
The heavy push rows blow the torso and the dexterous shoulder/arm musculature, and stress the body symmetry which messes with balance as the smaller muscle groups tire. The stressful posture reduces diaphragm capacity for oxygen intake. Stress spikes across several elements and repeated complex movements prevents the mind from tuning out.
The 90secs of dead lifts shifts the body into a longer rhythm of basic movements that would be fine if those rhythms hadn’t just been disrupted. The weight is about fifth on the list of relevant factors, with compromised oxygen intake kicking in fast, boosted by so much blood being in the arms when its needed elsewhere. Confused by the lateral, asymmetrical demands of the push press, the torso/hip complex/lower back has to realign to provide decent form for the lifting.
And on top of all that and most importantly, the grip starts to slide, making for a very long 90secs where the mind, instead of going into auto-pilot with the big dumb movements, starts screeching about peripheral failure instead. The internal monologue becomes heated as the urge to go faster is defeated by the lack of blood/oxygen to do so – either way offers no way out.
Each set escalates as the 2 minutes recovery is barely enough to satisfy the demands for blood/oxygen flow back to the arms, back and large muscle masses.
failure here is a complex conglomeration of things:
- not enough juice to see thru the reps
- grip strength
- loss of form
- brain cant override the stress demands
- not enough strength in the large muscle groups
- inability to maintain balance and integrity
- loss of focus
- loss of dexterity
- incapacity to recover
- inefficiency of movement
- lack of strength across range of movement
This set can be changed to any exercises that have similar demands: A short powerful stressor on multiple focused systems, to maximize demands on power output, followed by a relatively longer stressor that antagonizes the demands of the previous set and gets the mind screaming about something rather than tuning out to robot country.
Its not hard to draw parallels to alpine climbing: you punch up a neve slope on all fours, transition onto dexterous vertical ice with a pack on, scramble over the mixed stuff at the top pumped and charged. Brief rest. Repeat to the top. The large muscle mass stressors, the demands on asymmetrical integrity, repetitive endurance, fine motor skills, grip strength and mental focus are all present. Only on a remote icefall ‘failure’ has different consequences.
Climbers don’t blow out because of isolated weaknesses – the reason lots of pull ups alone mean little.
15 pull ups after a 7min mile, 30 weighted sit ups and 30 body weight squats is more relevant.
Climbers blow out because the blood and oxygen they needed for those 5 hard moves was somewhere in their legs rather than where they needed it in their arms and lower back. And rather than making focused, pre-emptive decisions they were howling to themselves about their calves and forearms, flailing for anything instead of setting up the sequence.
All winter I see construction workers, ultra-runners and firemen consistently make better climbers than rock climbers. Not because they are stronger, but because they have better complex stress thresholds. Carrying buckets of render up scaffolding or covering stairs wearing a respirator simply counts for more when it matters than having the latest karabiners or lightest jacket.
9/30 – preparation that works
Theres a lot of discussion about ’climbing training’, but not all of its too well informed, ie put into perspective with actually climbing. Anything not done on a mountain, with real conditions, real timelines and real risks is ‘virtual’ preparation. Its not the real thing, however much it emulates it. where perspective tends to get lost is in reflecting what actually goes into climbing – its not all hanging from tools, pulling into think air.
But that’s cool. If youre climbing seriously, you are risking your ass, and that’s not the place to develop your inherent capabilities – it’s the place to apply them.
I suppose its essentially periodization, but defining your climbing into times when you are developing your capacity and times you are applying your capacity is useful. It stops the common climbers scourge of all your climbing falling into the middle – lots off ok stuff buffering out only a few moments of really climbing in the zone. No doubt fun, but makes for slow progress if that’s your intention.
Anyway, even the development stuff, on a mountain, is not the place to develop quantifiable capacity. Its just too sketchy, and really, how much time does anyone spend on mountains in a truly developmental zone. Once all the access, return and messing about stuff is taken out, few people are in the time and place to chalk up enough hours to really work on it. Some of us have other things in life to do.
That’s where training environments work (I hesitate to say ‘gym’ due to all the preconceived ideas that arise). These are places where you can work on and test aspects of your capacity with the superfluous bits removed – then go back to work. Which means you can do it often enough to see the patterns and weaknesses. think about what goes into climbing: how much effort is spent on approached and retreats, hauling, coiling and waiting around in stressful places. yep, its fun to train all the stuff like tooling and raw power, but who wants to train the 60% that isnt that, and which has just as much impact on your results and safety?.
But time is precious, more so the time when you are in the right zone for doing something that matters. by preparing for the entirre experience you optimize on the time when you actually hit the ‘real stuff’. So here are a bunch of exercises (or types of exercises) that optimize time spent on climbing-specific preparation done off the mountain
Time spent under load and stress, finding weaknesses and injury resistance. Strap on +20kg of gear and carry it 20kms. Simple. Sort of. it gradually becomes not about the weight, or about the distance, or the times, or the stress. bit by bit it becomes about what you dont have, until you push thru the looking glass when its not even about finishing. a meaningful session is when you wonder how you will recover. the most meaningful sessions are when you fail.
Body weight with actual weight
Pull ups, dips, air squats, push ups etc. all the old style stuff – done with an extra +10kg. unless you climb naked, un-weighted gymnastic movements have limited effectiveness.
Stressers & pumpers
Farmers carries, dead hangs, overhead holds, rack holds, weighted steps, planks & abdominal holds – held long and hard, buffered with sets of lactic-building, pump inducing movements.
less about the weight, more about the crazy feedback loops as your brain stresses out as it spearates from your body. better to have looked into this void before it hits you high up on early season ice. If you don’t understand the use of these exercises youre not trying very hard.
Make it about sucking it up and putting it out. Long sessions of powerful moves where it becomes a journey into every rep. any movement that stresses a large muscle group and extends to the peripherals, with enough overlap in each movement to affect the others. 50 deadlifts at 130% body weight, 50 backsquats at 100% bodyweight, 25 pullups loaded with 50% bodyweight. Partition into any way that works.
Link the extremities to the big muscle groups during movement. A million variations from farmers carries to weighted steps and TGUs. Stress the hell out of the big muscles then move onto something demanding precision and focus once your system gets bombed.
Keep the body guessing and the focus to your movements. Its not basketball, but short, powerful and focused moves are the stuff that increases your survivability. Every route has a moment or two when things red line and demand a few of the right strikes to keep you out of trouble and its nice to have some muscle memory there. Plyometric pullups are good if you set up 2 bars.
Aside from the 20/20 and full capacity with the power strength endurance, this stuff works well during the climbing season to keep the structure and systems tweaked in climbing mode. Its important to rest of course, but keeping these elements firing off during the week keeps you primed to make the most of the windows when they arrive. obsess over calories, heartrates and body fat if you like, but not at the expense of listening to your organic indicators – electronics only record data, they dont indicate it. fine if youre a robot that doesnt cramp, dehydrate, burn sugar or feel altitude. tabulate it all to find the inconsistancies rather than reward yourself for aligning with someone elses system. find where it fails – this is not a charity fun run.
None of this need be done in a gym. Splitting wood for winter covers much of whats here. A big riverstone and some homemade roman rings will work.
Define the sessions too, don’t mix things up into a mish mash of below-useful attempts: when you lift, lift heavy. When you run, run hard. When you hang, make it matter. Otherwise it will all be for little, lacking in edge and without much transferal to the mountains where it matters. all of this is only as relevant as it is to getting you climbing better – thats the test. if it doesnt do that its not because ‘training’ fails – its because your training fails, and its time to tweak things upwards.
9/29 – the winter pipeline
September sees a sudden rush of requests about ice, alpine and fuji trips.
I could understand the timing if everyone came from the same part of the world, but they don’t.
September requests are interesting because its people thinking ahead and preparing themselves. Its not tourism. ‘september types’ ask about what they can do before they show up, and see the time spent with ICJ as an indicator rather than a holiday.
Whats useful about getting in at this stage (besides getting the pick of the schedule) is by preparing they can maximize on their time and money. Its no secret that many people have unrealistic expectations on ice climbing – A diet of Will Gadd videos and mammut commercials feeds the mind – but allowing time to prepare is the only real way of bringing the fantasy anywhere close to the reality.
So, with 2 months on the table before decent ice is assured, heres 10 things to do while its still warm and easy.
① Get realistic: if you’ve left preparation till now youre doing ok, but youre still not where the serious climbers are. The guys that spent all summer in the mountains dangling from ropes will still have the head start. Its impossible to catch up, but immersing yourself in rope work and stress you will be minimizing nasty surprises on the early ice. all that indoor climbing, fun tho it was, probably wont mean much beyond clipping gear faster, tho the campus boarding wont have hurt. Running up mountains, lumping packs and shivering in cold water would have been more meaningful.
② Stop cross training: its time to get specific. For the time you’ve got and whats needed to make a difference, spending half of it on anything other than alpine-specific is not in your favour. If you spent the last 6 months building a good endurance base, strengthening and injury proofing yourself it now time to cash in.
If you didn’t. too late. But do what you can.
③ Start moving under load. Triathlons and marathons in just a shirt and shoes will have served your cardio, but your load bearing structure wont have benefitted. Pick up weight, throw on heavy packs and pull up your weight with that extra 10kg of winter gear strapped to you.
④ Sort out your gear. Think seriously about what hurt last winter and how you can avoid this time round. Things like cold digits, sore backs, numb forearms and aching calves are not mysteries, being traceable back to often inappropriate gear choices.
Get a thin set of gloves so you don’t soak your warm ones on the approach. Insulate your tools so you hands don’t freeze pioleting. Get some down booties to save wearing your socks 24hrs a day and risking your toes. Get a better thermarest to stop back pain. Make a hanging stove so you can make coffee lying down. get insoles for your boots.
Rather than thinking another $500 jacket or shaving 100g is the answer, think from the bigger picture and stop trying to fix your problems at the end of the process. that $500 jacket will work even better if you have the right baselayer under it.
⑤ Practice your ropes. Put your biggest gloves on and mess about with simplifying things.
Learn the one handed clove hitches and alpine butterflys, get slick with a munter, learn the slip-bowline.
Nail your systems for anchors using 3, 4, 5 & 6 bits of gear. Grab a polystyrene box and practice your v-threads. Practicing deconstructing the whole lot too.
Measure your arm span for paying out ropes, learn from a canyoning guide how to pack ropes away fast. this year think about a silnylon rope bag to minimize all the endless coiling.
⑥ Get good at abseiling. People die doing this, expect to hear one or two reports over winter.
Don’t expect to back it up with a prussick every time. Guides the world over don’t use them, so learn to get it right and reserve it for when things are bad. Standing about at belays is dangerous, reduce time spent fiddling with rope one-handed as well.
Learn how to rap with a munter, the firemans belay, how to pass knots, to drop ropes down the face, to build blocked anchors and use a tag line.
⑦ Learn how to prussick. Really learn. How to tie them one handed, to nail the length, to get by with only one, the best diameter for the rope you use, the muscles needed to make it easy
⑧ Learn how to simu-climb and cover ground up to about WI3 independantly (depending on the scenario of course). Often climbers are exhausted by the approach simply from all the rope work and getting cold belaying – taking it out of the equation with the confidence to scale easy ice without the full set up. Stop thinking of this as soloing and think of it as a matter of access.
Learn how to not fall so you can escape the victim curve.
9 factor in a session or two of easy ice to tune back in. ideally at an ice wall, on top rope, where you can hack away and get over the wanderlust that every season starts with.
10 learn how to sleep on the ground. winter nights are long, the ground is frozen, you wont have a pillow and the only warmth in the frozen wilderness is inside that sleeping bag. being comfortable in a tent in winter is not about luck, its about knowing how to do it. multiply by ten if its a portaledge, by another ten if its a bivvy. sort what you need so once you get in your bag you can stay there. practice pissing into a bottle. get a balaclava so you dont breathe into your sleeping bag. get a mesh bag so everything you dont want freezing keeps from becoming a puzzle everytime you need your headtorch.
9/26 – Pertex & Primaloft tradeshow
We knew it would be good. But not this good.
While consumers have been getting off on Neoshell (and rightly so) Pertex & Primaloft, under the ownership of Mitsui, have been making quantum leaps quietly in their own fields.
Teton projects have been using some of them to great effect, and though we had a good handle on it, the latest stuff for 2013 and ‘maybe later’ shakes the whole scene up. Well, the smart textiles scene at least.
Primaloft has reset the dial by releasing fabrics that use the Primaloft fibre as a thread rather than an insulation. Even better its combined with merino wool, and even better again it comes in an array of base and thin midlayer fabrics.
not just developing a new baselayer textile – developing a dozen of them
Literally on top of this theres advances in the insulation side of things, with new weights and variants of the eco, one and sport.
what they mean when they say Primaloft is ‘hydrophobic’
The Pertex section was amazing to see, with about 20 versions of the shield DV/event in varying states of release, about 15 versions of shield+ and an array of the quantum series that now ventures into softshell. Of course the usual windproof section was there too – getting thinner and lighter.
the variations on Pertex Shield+ & DV. too many to go into here, but several in the Teton Mountain Project series and applications for several more elsewhere
So, as always happen with these things, imaginations go into hyper-rev coming up with applications for them. Some have arrived in time to make their way into protos for this winter, others will go into next years stuff and others again will go into special projects with more complex demands.
9/23 – autumn & the Feedback Project
temperatures have dropped in the last week and the descent into ice season has begun. freeze level is gradually coming down to 3000m, the days are getting shorter and its time to think about this seasons climbing.
part of ice season is ‘Testing Season’ when we put alpine gear thru its paces with near-continual use over the cold period, and this season we are extending this to our friends with the Feedback Project. basicly, with a lot of stuff in development for lots of different applications, it makes sense to harness the collective ICJ community to optimize the process.
starting very soon we will be encouraging climbers to trash variations of specialized and give us feedback. in return you get to play with the latest fabrics, insulation and designs from Polartec, Pertex & Primaloft, trashing it in ways you would avoid with your own gear, and we offer you a serious discount from the pick of our headquarters stock for a brand new version. we may even throw in some more promo beanies, stuff sacks and buffs again.
everyone connected to iceclimbingjapan is welcome to get in on this, industry pros and first timers alike, including those spread around the world - but be aware, this is anindustry testing proocess: there will be data to supply, confidentiality releases to sign and some of the test pieces returned for analysis. if you just want cool gear with no strings attached then stick to the market ready stuff.
if this sounds like you then get in touch.
8/11 – learning to learn again: TMP, testing & more preparation
CAUTION: LONG POST
new directions at iceclimbingjapan are making for changes.
with summer peaking with strings of 35c days in a row, its a long way from ice season as far as actually doing it is concerned, but developments in other fields is making for a season no less as active and stimulating, with huge over-flow into winter when it arrives.
things down at the TB-TMP/Polartec offices are exciting as always, no less as the project leaders return from SLC and the Winter Outdoor Retailer show where theyve been presenting.
the TMP alpine clothing system is starting to appear in its early stages, with proto-testing schedules being devised, the testing group being briefed and industry presentations being prepared. of course its amazing developing clothing systems in an era of such rapid expansion (made easier as Japanese companies buy up the textile industry and put the offices around the corner!), new textiles arrive faster than we can come up with ideas for them, but its personally more interesting putting prototypes thru the grinder. the proto-testing world is a covert one, with little exposed before a design hits the shelves. indeed, much of whats labelled ‘testing’ just isnt – if its on a shelf or at a tradeshow, in designer colours & with a nice label on it, its already been tested.
testing gear means destroying gear; intentionally and specificly. want to know how seam tape goes on some new fabric mix? soak it in warm water and take it running. really want to know the moisture properties of Neoshell? wear it swimming then running at 35c. question marks over the stretch integrity of the latest from Pertex? a week of rope access training in and out of water will deliver answers. are the new YKK zips really moisture-proof? handing them to a rescue unit whilst they train will find any failings.
by winter we will know a lot about how Neoshell copes with moisture (so far its been really good)
by the time winter rolls around almost all proto-testing will be done and we will be onto the second, third and fouth generations of samples. they will get thrashed in the ‘Winter Phase’ of testing – which is very different from the abusive out-of-season testing we are currently in – then we have all of next summer to tweak the details before retailing to the world at large for winter 2013/14. by which time whole new designs will be lifting off.
and new designs reflect new uses, and the only thing as exciting as developing designs are the new things ICJ will be using them for. new applications bring with it new stressors and directives, which means the supportive training has to change. and in this case its been back to the drawing board.
like many people i started training in my teens, fuelled on hormones, grand ideas and what info was around in the pre-internet era. from there things evolved along various routes as my aspirations and applications changed in both direction and committment, and nearly 25 years later i wound up with a mish-mash that worked in some ways, didnt in others, and was complicated often because of itself. all good and well - and likely the story of most peoples training – but for me this year became the time to cut out the dead wood then cut out the hook as well. tho still a committed winter climbing instructor/guide for all who want what iceclimbingjapan can provide them, new directions require different preparation and the old training methods werent up to it. also, as a guy approaching 40 new windows were opening where others had faded.
i noticed that some aspects of my training were polarizing to their outer limits of function whilst other had collapsed in towards the middle. this became apparent during several work episodes, where the reasons for my training didnt reflect as well as they could. tho many alpine climbers are loathe to admit it – alpine climbing (except for a few elite climbers) just isnt that specialized on the scale of things. nor is it particularly general in its demands, dont get me wrong, but on a graph of pursuits with a cross section of skills & applications requiring specialist strength to employ them its a pretty stable curve. on a scale of such things id give alpine climbing about a 7. in the end, alpine climbing is a moderately broad skill set used in moderately demanding conditions – skewed either way depending if its Masherbrum or a top-roped ice wall – but its still not as broad as say, pararescue or sub-arctic mapping.
so anyway, training; it needs to be 3 things – Relevant (it applies to your objective better than other options), Testable (you can realisticly assess that it works) and Upwardly Sustainable (you can continue using the method to get better results). for high committment applications it needs to support your head just as much, if not more than, for those 3 things. and its usually on these 3 things that much training fails – by failing one element it collapses towards the middle on the other 2. for example: i used to regularly run the marathon distance (not competitively), which was great as running for its own sake, but knocked me back on other aspects of training because i couldnt maintain the body mass i needed and i was so blasted i trained somewhere within the middle ground for much of the time as i recovered. nor was i into the marathon distance enough to actually turn it into realistic marathon training – i required it for the time-on-feet aspects, not the times. result: training failure all round.
the easy way out here would be to not run the distances, telling myself that i was then investing the reduced recovery periods in other aspects of training (body integrity, strength integrity, technique, endurance etc). but thats a con, that way of thinking embeds failure into the very thing apparently meant to overcome it. thinking like that pushes the middle ground out to the edges rather than cuts it out. it fails the ‘Upwardly Sustainable’ element. the real way forward is to learn how to run marathons better, which means back to the start with running, but which also kicks ass on the ‘Testable’ factor because i have the marathon distances from before to throw it against. the other of the 3 factors, ‘Relevant’ in this case goes without saying: covering 45kms on foot under pressure is something i need to do.
and along with running, this applies to all other training i do: the basic rule – cut out the middle. the good news is, 3 months into taking this seriously results are promising. the distance running hasnt changed much, but the recovery has, meaning overall my training is significantly up. more specificly, with better recovery periods i can delve deeper into other aspects of training and take them further. its also worth mentioning that re-learning to run has been eye-opening; ive learnt more since ignoring the times, the splits, the HRs etc than i did in years analyzing them. without they are relevant at some points, but they also divert attention from some things that matter more. in the end; when i apply all this preparation – there will be other indicators that im watching for.
all in all, this new perspective on training has undermined the notion of ‘training’ more than anything else. as an element of terminology it fails in itself when confronted with the Relevant, Testable, Upwardly Sustainable paradigm. now im thinking with the label ‘Preparation’ applied, a seemingly silly exercise in semantics, but one that is working. ‘Preparation’ compared to ‘Training’ has more focus, more accountability, more committment and less allusion about it. ‘Training’ seems to always put the objective out there somewhere, away from the person doing it. ‘Preparing’ means its happening now. more pointedly, if i fail (and real life has failures, and consequences that come with them) because of my training its the training that didnt cut it; the system, the exercises, the programming, the number. but if i fail because of my preparation, its 100% on my shoulders; i simply didnt do what was required of me – i wasnt ready.
and may thats where the difference really is – the person doing it. some have decided to live with the outcomes of ‘training’, whilst others live with the outcomes of ‘preparation’. and maybe even beyond that are reasons we chose to do the things we do; some things are acceptable to fail at, whilst others are not.
disclaimer: apologies to Gym Jones, who published a not-dissimilar (and much more succinct) post/rant about a week ago whilst my own rant was fermenting. if the glory of owning an idea matters more to them than the possibility of more than one person independantly thinking it then they can take the credit. the fact that i was on their site, reading their blurb and thinking ‘fuck yeah!’ i hope is credit enough.
sometimes the skillset demands new perspectives on preparation
7/31 – deep water drytooling
what its all about!
full points for combining fun, controversy, good weather, great location, a million sponsors and gear modifications (floating ice tools – genius). not to mention some rare GoPro footage thats actually watchable.
7/4 – a bit more: thermoball
expect to see a lot more of the ThermoBall hang-tag as winter gets closer
after a bit more chance to play about with garments using ThermoBall theres a little more to say.
no real testing was possible as this time of year in japan is around 30c with 70% humidity, but we could get a feel or the ThermoBall in 3 garments that japan-TNF (goldwin) have out (all sold as essentially midlayers or light insulation layers, 2 of them hybridized with variants of Polartechs Powerstretch that are also very interesting).
ThermoBall midlayer: note the down-like baffling
the 600g/m2-ish volume feels much like (european) 550 or 600 down to the hand, maybe a bit pilled. ThermoBall is definitely not as soft as +700g/m2, but it feels much more like down than primaloft (more on that some other time…) as its without any sheeting. it crushes like mid-quality down – much better than primaloft – and because its baffled like down rather than synthetic, garments using it feel more down-like in the way they drape and fold when under shell layers.
one of the the ThermoBall jackets hybridized with powerstretch: note another variation on the baffles
as pointed out in other articles on ThermoBall, the absence of the stems in down means a lighter fabric (often pertex) can be used to shell it, though the additional weight of extra baffles would balance that out.
will be interesting to see what happens with US TNFs ThermoBall garments this year, after apparent reservations with releasing it for Autumn as planned. as goldwin is quite independant of the TNF mothership they may bring out more in it, with them and Teton Bros special projects covering much of the market (another story for later). its really fun having ThermoBall in the mix with the other new variants from Polartec, Pertex and Primaloft – now making it possible to have entire, complex garments and systems made of entirely new fabrics and textiles, right down to new styles of zips and velcro.
its a great time to be part of the process.
7/2 – the next step: thermoball
so, its been a while. 2 month to be precise.
things down at iceclimbingjapan have been outrageously busy, mostly in development for all sorts of things that include no actual ice climbing but lots of time dangling from ropes, messing about with boats, presenting to interesting audiences, doing pull ups and nailing details.
the result is astounding progress, which includes the stuff we are developing with Teton Bros. from zips to mesh and neoshell to pertex its a constant battle – to come up with new ideas for the new textiles that never stop arriving. just when we put our own stuff to the test we get given another to throw in the mix. admittedly it doesnt help when one of Japans biggest corporations, Mitsui, goes on a spending spree buying up pillars of the smart textile industry, then putting the office around the corner.
anyway, the latest thing to blow the winter climbers mind is Thermoball. forget what youve known of both down and synthetic ThermoBall is the quantum shift weve been waiting for. after a session with ThermoBalls Japan distributor playing with the stuff im going to say its very, very cool. imagine primaloft that not just actually feels like down, but that sits in baffles like down, compresses like down and moves like down (recall that much of the ‘feel of primaloft’ is actually the feel of the sheeted binding it comes in).
our impending range involves several hybrid pieces that use both down and synthetic insulation in all sorts of ways, and playing with ThermoBall just blew the lid off the ideas box: the potential from a ground-up-design perspective is amazing. yes, its been about for a few months, but until now id not had a real chance to play with it.
true, real life testing is still in its infancy with the stuff (tho Conrad Anker and Jimmy Chin seemed ok with ThermoBall on the sharks fin, testing it for TNF), but as yet its straight into the deep end with it.
watch this space for what we do with ThermoBall.
4/30 – guerilla firemen training
Heres something cool from the grey area between gymnasium and field training (fieldnasium???). the attitude these guys show in both the workout but also in their motivation and ingenuity is admirable
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as is often the case, stepping slightly outside of climbing and into things with significant overlap for endurance, range of motion, stress, weight bearing capacity, time on feet etc, much is revealed that is not only applicable, but highlights the half-assed level of development much climbing ‘training’ is at.
4/28 – Gravity: a rant
Climbing takes place against gravity, so the upward movement of mass and weight is a major aspect of the whole matter. Even at the most simplistic level, this is affected by 3 factors:
①The force of gravity
②The weight of the climber
③The power output of the climber
#1 we cant do much about, but #2 & #3 we can drastically affect with another 3 factors:
①reducing the weight of the climber: minimizing body weight without affecting necessary mass for storing fuel & strength
②increasing the output capacity of the climber: optimizing endurance, functional strength, fuel efficiency, agility & stress threshold
③reducing the weight of the climbers add-ons: stripping unnecessary weight in equipment, designs & requirements.
In a scene obsessed with trinketry and exploited by marketing departments that target this, many climbers approach to the push against gravity focusses massively towards #3. Incredibly, tho the millions of images promoting climbing equipment feature athletic people behind the sophisticated gear, the human element is ignored in favor of the shiny, colourful equipment. Likewise, despite the detailed volumes written over the decades of carefully developed methodology for optimizing a climbers functional capacity, it is ignored in preference to the slick bullet point promises, numbers and blurbs churned out by the advertising wings of manufacturing corporations.
On the (vertical) ground, it is rare to see a climber fail their objectives due to wearing a jacket 50gms too heavy or having a pack 2 seasons old. At the sharpest end of the sport this may matter, when all other factors have been exhausted and things are seen in the light of very tweaked algorithms, but when most climbers fail their objectives its more often because they don’t have the condition for it – and no amount of the latest gear will make up for that – another thing the climbers at the top of the game frequently reveal but which is again ignored by the gear-hungry masses.
A climbers functional-weight to functional-output ratio cannot traded, it must be cultivated. No corporation can provide it for you, you have to choose the process, not just the end product. You have to be there for all the phases between conception and result, you cant just show up at the end and claim it, and you cant blame anyone else if it doesn’t work how you intend it to. You have to go it alone, let it get ugly, take the risks.
(Actually, the equipment design process isn’t that dissimilar, taking a long and detailed series of dedicated elements to bring a design to fruition with true innovation being the result of hard work done and risks taken – I often wonder how peoples attitudes to their condition would shift if they had to design their own equipment as well…).
Optimizing your ‘Function Quotient’ begins with your perspective: what does climbing mean to you and how far will you go to fulfill that? How hard are you willing to push against gravity?
If it means defining yourself tribally and having something to do on the weekends then a bling-heavy perspective will allow lots of margin that an undeveloped functional capacity can happily fail within. Realistically, how demanding will things ever get an hour from the car? You don’t need a survival strategy to swim between the flags.
But, if your attitude demands more than the outward display of climberness and what you want gets further of the grid, the more gravity there is to push against so the more your condition takes precedence. Skiing in 30km to try an unclimbed icefall warrants a different degree of commitment to a well-known route you can see from the road – in more ways than one there’s more gravity in the equation. To be who you think you want to be demands putting a different sort of effort in.
It makes sense to optimize your capacity for climbing by increasing your physical ability to climb (the fusion of technique & organic applied strength). An efficient & strong climber harnesses more of the benefits of stripped down or sophisticated equipment, as well as all the potential of an optimal weight-to-strength ratio. The unconditioned climber’s demands on their gear differ from those of the well-conditioned climber in that the formers brings them towards baseline whereas the latters takes them from baseline upwards – actual progress against gravity is made rather than simply progress against the self. Put another way, the optimally trained climber can expect to see more benefit from the same add-ons the overweight climber struggles with because hes already reached zero.
Don’t underestimate the demands of climbing condition:
The ill conditioned climber breathes less efficiently, sweats heavier, stays in the high output zone longer, takes longer to cover ground, requires more fuel for the same output, has a more haphazard performance curve, demands more oxygen, metabolizes fuel less efficiently, tires faster, recovers slower, has reduced reaction potential, covers their strength and endurance needs less effectively and just generally takes on gravity less successfully, which wouldn’t matter if this was macramé – but its not.
Optimizing your functional output against the laws of gravity is primitive stuff and brings with it a primitive honesty - who the hell are you? what are you doing? how are you trying to do it? – and when the fundamental indicator of whether what youre doing is working or not is as simple as ‘does it make me perform better against gravity?’* theres not a lot to second-guess around.
And of all the things you could be doing to increase your potential against gravity, which of them do you chose? And why? If your actual condition and ability isn’t your primary choice, why not? Have you found something better?
Optimizing condition is a streamlined process where reducing body mass and increasing function evolutionarily goes hand in hand, with excess weight and volume being stripped by the same process that increases applied strength, endurance and range of function. Its not hard to tell the useful methods from the others, and even after decades of passing trends the same original formula of hard work, focused intent and intelligent process still stands – after all, weve pushed against gravity for a really long time.
*and other forces of nature, more on that coming soon.
ps. If perusing the internet is your primary source of inspiration, don’t waste your time on ad-saturated sites and hard-man grunting – go see what the paralympian scene is up to for some serious perspective.
4/27 – project concept: re-education & alchemy
with Nori just back from Polartec HQ in Boston and everyone in town we got the chance to sit and brain storm on splicing together our options from Polartec, Pertex and Primaloft. good times, with a distinct feeling of alchemy in the room as we juggled the swatches, designs, bolts and statistics of dozens of textiles to see what fitted our needs.
with the go-ahead from Polartecs head team to push things more in Japan opening up several incredible projects, our options have exploded – and thats where things get interesting. after a several hours, lots of coffee and a break for sushi we came to a simple conclusion: the textile industry is way ahead of most end users.
Polartec HQ: along with Mitsui in Nihonbashi, the ‘pentagons’ of intelligent textiles.
now, im an end user just like millions of others, but all i felt when messing about with these fabrics over the last year is that its difficult to see the real benefits of these textiles when applying an outdated base-fleece-shell mentality to using them, both in design and demand. afterall, as is often pointed out: decades of hard routes were done in wool, cotton, leather and pile – so what is the real benefit of all these fancy fabrics? to which i wholeheartedly agree. aside from the condition of previous generations of climbers, do these new advances in textiles really make any real difference to the majority climbers
my response is 2 part:
a) much of the market for these fabrics isnt recreational climbers. including birdwatchers at one end and industrial professionals like oil workers, survey geophysicists and the military, climbers make up a small element of the ‘end users’, which means inventing stuff to compete on shelves in specialty stores (meaning a yearly turnover) is not the most efficient way of getting the stuff out there. and really too, climbers are a bit narrow in thinking they have the highest demands on a fabric – try talking to a North Sea heli pilot trained to evacuate workers from a burning oil rig, or a vulcanologist stationed in Hawaii or a bomb disposal team member in Arunachal about ‘demands on gear’.
b) there is little benefit to a climber climbing in a way unchanged since the 80s and most designers cater to that – why refine a garment to optimum function at the peak of what its textiles allow when the inherant design of the garment itself isnt intended to be taken to those degrees of use? its not straightforward making a complete jacket that respires moisture off an overheated human body at the same rate as the textile alone allows. design elements like pockets, seams and detailing chop away at that. its one thing to have a bolt of fabric rated to pushing out and repelling water at certain rates, but to have an actual garment that performs at those same rates is another matter – sure, lots of swatches perform well at a tradeshow or in a design room, but when stitched, taped, combined and constructed into the shapes that clothing can be, its not the same. just because the fabric breathes at a rate of 20,000 doesnt mean the garment does, and its pretty naive expecting it to.
if a garment is used as part of an integrated system (something the non-recreational sector is much more proficient at) it is much easier to optimize on the capabilities of fabrics, but when a piece like a jacket can be thrown on with several other layers of unknown function, performance is immediately compromised. fundamentally the climbing public needs to update and re-educate itself on what the latest generation of textiles can acheive, not just as isolated fabrics, but when combined with others that were designed in conjunction with it
the people these new textiles really matter to is the emerging generation to whom fast & light isnt a trend or convenience, but to whom it is the only way of making some objectives possible. examples are the basecamp-less ascents of +6000m peaks in china, the self-supported expeditions into parts of the poles and the speed ascents that punch out in non-stop hours what once took days. from the vangard edge will of course be trickle-down and and it is with these concepts in mind that Teton Bros is doing several things:
reinterpreting the way insulation is used within a clothing system: putting function before traditional design limitations
hybridizing radically with multiple fabrics, textiles and fabric dynamics in single garments, made possible by…
…aligning with manufacturing processes that allow this, and avoiding ones that dont: in other words having a high level of freedom with, and access to, emerging innovations within the textile world
system-down designing: which starts with a complete concept and flows out thru a streamlined range with a specific end user.
cross-industry pollinating: absorbing elements from parallel end-use groups into each other
re-education: we decided to become the example. weve had to learn a lot to apply these fabrics and designs, so weve included the end-user in that process. these designs both use and are technology, so like discovering new apps for your ipad the smart user will find new applications for the gear
of course none of these elements are new, but what is new is the level of alchemy taking place between them all with the amazing new fabrics emerging correllated with the new ideas emerging amongst climbers. at Teton Bros, by setting our design applications out carefully, based on direct interaction with our end users, weve been able to build a clothing streamlined system towards those needs nearly unfettered by the restrictions some companies suffer.
4/24 – Field training: a place to make mistakes
‘Field Training’ is an old term for any form of preparation done outside a gymnasium and which still isnt ‘the real thing’ (in this case alpine climbing). in this context its everything from swimming pools and running tracks to mountain trails, day crags, flights of stairs, cycling mountain roads, the beach etc – anything that takes place outdoors and requires enough time that you need to factor in hydration and nutrition. to this end, an extended day at a climbing wall would probably fit the description too (as, for the record, so would splitting logs, lumping dry stone, carrying your kids around disneyland, shovelling gravel and rowing boats etc)
the whole point of field training is to develop capacity somewhere safe, and it lends itself organicly to endurance training. this is the time and place to make mistakes that may be fatal if you make them on a mountain.
stuff like day climbing, peak running, AR/tris, easy guiding, running stairs with a pack and mountain cycling obviously have large overlap with the direct demands of climbing, but other things like swimming, distance running, track cycling and sprinting also contribute significantly, the point being that the time ‘on your feet’ is as much a part of it as the cardio, body integrity and power output. straight out time spent grinding away is the ONLY way to debug your system and prepare it for increased performance next winter. its here that you find out about bad posture, rattly knees, sunburn, drinking on the go, electrolytes, temperature regulation, oxygen uptake and most importantly – the head game.
the 20X20 (20kgs carried 20kms, detailed a few posts down) is my field training exercise of choice, as a stand-alone complex it covers more bases in a single event than another i can think of, but theres limitless other 2hr plus exercises that work. indeed the 20X20 functions best surrounded by other stuff that is maybe less confronting, but that fills gaps in the system the 20X20 doesnt focus on. some examples of other Field training exercises that work for me include:
tempo runs: oscillate between highheart rate and recovery heartrate
big flights of stairs: i use a set of 480 in a mountain train station
pool sessions: focus on oxygen efficiency
distance runs in the heat: usually about 38kms, minimal gear, temp range between 25c and 38c
peak running (hi Tony!): day and multiday runs connecting peaks
day guiding (hi daisuke!): easy stuff, usually in wet canyons. solid approaches and lots of swimming & woohoo i get paid for it as well!
outdoor power/strength sessions (hi Matt & Grassy!): old school ‘Survival of the Fittest’ type stuff combining field running, gymnastics, sled pulling, rope hauling & lifting boulders
climbing gym: traverse soloing, bouldering, climbing in winter boots, endurance laps
the concept of stress inoculation comes into all this as field training is an ideal environment in which to apply pressure with an outlet if things get too much. to that end, many of these forms of training can be stressed by compromising them in some way. a lot of this works better combined with a weighted pack, and for Field training to really work it needs to be regular, but it still needs to be intense enough to make the outcomes uncertain – afterall, its the head stuff that counts. my personal indicator of ‘intense enough’ is anything that requires a rest day after. not necessarily total rest, but definitely a step back from ‘normal’ with adjustments made for over-extended parts of the system. in other words, if you dont need the rest you didnt push it far enough to progress, you stayed in your comfort zone, and it was ‘exercise’ rather than training.
4/23 – What to do for 8 months?
So, you found your physical limits during the past winter and noticed they were the about the same as the winter before. You blamed new gear, crap weather, work and life yet underneath it all we all know the issue.
It’s the same story every year: by the time the ice has formed you’ve lost connection to it after 9 months away from it, then theres a period of wunderlust getting back into it again, and by the time that settles the days are getting longer, the snow is building up and the weather destabilizing and after a few bouts already out your motivation has peaked and you’ve settled in to just having another normal year of ‘giving it a bash’, those ideas of pulling off heroic routes fizzling fast.
Thats the conundrum of ice, and part of what keeps it a fringe pursuit. Its not like rock which remains climbable for most of the year and season after season. With ice you need to nail a small window and learn to optimize on it and with 8 months or so to go heres some wheels to set in motion:
Train to stay out: evolve your capacity to stay in a tent/snowhole/bivy. Learn how to cook inside a tent, piss in a bottle, keep your boots from freezing and maximize your body heat.
Increase shoulder mass: correcting posture and strengthen upper body makes carrying packs a lot more efficient, especially if youre staying out and so lumping a heavier load further.
Strengthen legs: covering uphill terrain or deep snow is key to covering ground in winter and a basic of survival – the faster you can get out of bottlenecks and sketchy gullies the more you minimize death by avalanche.
Nutrition: optimizing body weight is about the best thing you can do for climbing and diet is the base of that. Learn to get maximum nutrition both at home and deep in the mountains
Get used to your gear: resist the urge to start every season with a complete array of new gear to figure out. Either replace later in the season once you are climbing efficiently or find a way to practice with it before it cuts into your prime climbing time.
Develop hang-power: learn to hang using a bar, tools or finger board. Intersperse with pull ups and other arm-deadening exercises.
Develop you Range Of Motion: increasing your joint mobility and strength reduces the chance of injury that can slow down a seasons ice climbing, as well as applying directly to the motions of climbing.
Focus on the weaknesses: think what hurts. Calves from front-pointing? Hips from heavy packs? Hands go numb? Arms turn to noodles? Back gets sore? Cant cover ground fast enough?
Climbing systems: work out your one-handed clove hitches, your belay set ups, your rope coiling and your abseiling. Get better at all those systematic things that slowed you down last season. Practice putting screws in, shaking out frazzles arms, drilling v-threads, bashing out spectres and pitons, tying alpine butterflys.
Maybe its time to pre-empt the excuses, complaining and blaming it on gear and get on with changing things. 8 months seems like a long time but consider that it take 3 months for any deep progress to be made. Think too about the flow-over of any preparation – developing condition for ice climbing trickles down into most other sports positively.
4/21 – Pertex: the missing link
As part of several current projects weve been working with the guys from Pertex of late, coming up with applications for their extensive range of texiles.
Tho the focus is so much on the latest offerings from Polartec, theres equally as incredible stuff coming out of the Pertex camp. Long associated with lightweight fabrics aimed at shell designs to keep weather out and down insulation in, the criteria for many of their fabrics is often lost on a market that only sees this stuff as windshirts.
Several of the fabrics have water repellency combined with breathability ratings that equal or exceed offerings from other companies better known for this – Pertex versions often coming in at more than 60% lighter, that combined with the stretch capacity of many Pertex fabrics is impressive, especially when put next to their abrasion resistance and weight.
As part of a greater system the Pertex range combines well with fabrics and insulations from Polartec, Primaloft etc. for next-gen designs that hybridize in so many ways, Pertex covers such a huge spectrum they are in many ways the missing link in a lot of garments, not to mention the quiet achiever as so much attention gets taken up elsewhere.
Like Polartec, Pertex covers such a huge array of fabrics its both daunting and inspiring playing about with them. Narrowing down choices becomes an exercise in subtleties and minutiae whilst the stream of innovations makes it tempting to simply dream up applications – in many ways the end-user market lags behind the capacity for the textiles available (even tho much of the recreational market is still stuck on a few basic factors that’s more to do with design and integration rather than the actual textile).
Whilst the emerging variants of Neoshell, Windbloc and Powershield are certainly worth keeping eye on, theres equally as interesting stuff going on over in the Pertex camp.
4/15 – training 101: demystifying the gym
after a heap of questions about the previous article im going to devote a bit of keyboard time to training for winter/alpine climbing. theres plenty already out there, but not much of it seems to bring together all the factors i think necessary to be realistic for alpine climbing.
rage against the machines: medicine ball, a wooden box, kettle bells and some plates and bars. despite the vanity factor a mirror is useful for checking form if you train alone.
i figure too, with 9 months or so until the next northern hemisphere ice season theres time to actually do something useful training wise. ignore most of this if you spend the northern off-season climbing in south america, new zealand, the extreme north or the big ranges, or if you do something already that ticks all the boxes. if not, then heres my thoughts on how to start the next ice season in better condition than you left the last one.
heres what i think needs to go into realistic ice/alpine preparation:
injury prevention: conditioning weak spots
stress inoculation: upping your capacity to mitigate the bits that arent fun
endurance: increasing your capacity to go further under greater demand
efficiency: nutrition, recovery, body mass
climbing training: vertical hours, systems, contingencies, ergonomics
actual (as opposed to virtual) strength/agility: body integrity, ROM, functional strength, dynamic strength
non-adaption: keeping active without over-stressing or over-developing the ‘climbing muscles’.
and heres how i divide it up for the sake of training:
on-mountain training: real time in the actual environment
gym training: using a virtual environment
field training: off-mountain but outdoors, cross training, capacity training
living room training: familiarizing yourself with ideas, designs, experimenting with food, tweaking gear
im going to start with the most controversial and mis-understood training element for climbing: the gym.
to not understand the gym environment is to not understand training at a very basic level: think of the gym as a simulator. its not real and its not meant to be.
its a virtual environment where you can go into aspects of physical conditioning you cant out on an icefall or alpine route. if you approach it as an alternative to real climbing you have failed – its to compliment actual climbing. gyms offer a place that allows total focus on your physical state so you can see where its at, and a safe environment to push boundaries, making a functional tool for developing indicators. this is a factor common to sports ranging from shotput to ultramarathons. firemen, rescue workers, soldiers, skiers and paramedics all know about it. for climbers to think they are different is ignorant.
gyms come in different shapes and sizes and to be applicable to climbing training dont need much, a bunch of bars and free weights in a garage will do. due to the non-virtual needs of real climbing a more primitive set up (ie without levering machines) is ideal – ‘the gym’ need not actually be a slick franchise of some californian corporation with the walls covered in homoerotic posters, the smell of foam matting and cheesy power-ballads on the sound system. the weight element need only extend incrementally to about double your body weight. as an indicator, i did 6 months of rehabilitation, ultramarathon training and expedition training with a ‘gym’ that consisted of a few lengths of scaffolding, 2 sets of dumbells, a bench to step onto, some boulders, 2 thick ropes and a home-made medicine ball and rings.
from the first list above heres what you can do in a gym and why:
injury prevention: strengthen joints and muscle groups that are easily damaged, weakened with age/sedentariness or could just be stronger – joints, knees, lower back, shoulders, forearms and lower legs. bodyweight stuff like squats & pullups, low weight Range-Of-Motion stuff, balance exercises. functional for obvious reasons.
stress inoculation: similar to high intensity training but not necessarily as high heart-rate, for longer duration & with a focus on inducing a panic reaction – breathing ladders, static hangs and holds, inverse rest periods, exercises that present elements of risk due to weight, form etc. functional for overriding physical demands with mental clarity, preparing the system for high demand situations and building contingency into climbing plans.
endurance: obviously not extended stuff, instead muscular/movement endurance. low, mid & high weight exercises done for long sets at the border of aerobic/anerobic threshold with minimal rests, eg full body lifts that mimic climbing movements repeated with minimal variation. functional for developing an upper capacity to climb within
efficiency: using large muscle groups and complex movements to create oxygen/lactic/anerobic demands to be developed. full body lifts, dynamic exercises, movements under weight done to intentionally spike inefficiencies. functional by increasining what you can put out in ratio to the fuel/oxygen etc you have to peform with.
climbing training: mimicking climbing elements that translate specificly to climbing (as opposed to generally as much of the other stuff does). one arm hangs, single leg squats, weighted step ups, upper body & arm endurance exercises, grip strength exercises, complex climbing movements under weight etc. both develops the necessary motor skills of climbing as well as keeps the ‘climbing muscles’ firing when not being used. functional in obvious ways
actual strength/agility: get stronger. actual strength is about you being able to apply strength when you need it and covers form, integrity, body tension and muscular efficiency along with raw power-output. very misunderstood, actual strength is an indicator of multiple aspects of performance. olympic-style lifts, progressive weight additions, powerlifts, weighted body exercises, kettlebells etc. functional in a multitude of ways spanning lifting gear to rescuing partners and pushing bogged vehicles.
non-adaption: throw in exercises and lifts that mix up the bodys responses. drive blood to the legs then flip to torso-limb integrity stuff, over-stress the limbs then flip to complex, detailed lifts, complex exercises that demand full body attention. keep your body guessing, put your brain across your whole system. functional because you dont climb all the time and it would be stupid to be able to nail WI6+ but not go surfing or play with the kids because you are too over-specialized
of course a degree of these things can be done on-mountain too – but 5 days a week? in amongst other things? in bad weather? safely? quantifiably?in some ways its simply more efficient to make some gains off-mountain, minimizing time spent in dangerous places on peripheral aspects of climbing.
like sex or climbing or anything else, the gym is only boring if you make it so. if wonder, intrepidation, positive-anxiety and the excitement of progress isnt foremost in your attitude to training then you need to readjust your misconceptions, get over your social stereotypes, confront your prejudices and come to a more informed understanding of preparation. to cut out an entire aspect of preparation makes it hard to qualify as a committed climber.
4/11 – Training, testing and the ‘20×20’ or Why be able to do 25 pull ups?
(Warning: long article)
Recreational climbers loathe training, to the point that aversion to training is the hallmark of the recreational climber. To the recreational climber, gear, excuses and statistics will fill all the gaps.
This is just accepted though bemusing, as so many climbers never reach their ambitions and so blame the gear, the clock, the route, the guide or whatever, never seeing it is their condition that is often the primary limiting factor.
Gear can be bought, technique can be taught, attitude can be copied and facts can be memorized – only condition has to be slowly developed, through the painful, lonely hours of self-confrontation and focus.
“Just climb” is the usual false wisdom that’s offered, and it speaks volumes, namely that much or even most of such a climbers climbing is little more than training anyway, and an unfocussed and barely functional version at that. Of course a good climber climbs more, to offer as profundity the blatantly obvious is not wisdom, but the good climber knows that real progress is cyclical – where capacity is upped and then tested for weakness and limitation so it can be upped again – and that to leave this to the random, anecdotal nature of ‘just climbing’ is as smart as ‘just buying’ your gear without trying it on.
Training methods that fuse strength with endurance work because they allow you to climb more, so the old cliché isnt wrong, just misapplied.
By developing your endurance, ability and condition elsewhere (often a safer ‘elsewhere’) your ‘just climbing’ time is both benefited and freed of any serious training constraints. Those climbing days are made safer because of the known quantity the climber becomes through the training process and because of the gains from the training itself. Indeed, the faster, more efficient climber can simply cover more ground in better condition to get more climbing done in the conditions and daylight that no one can change.
Training matters not just because of the gains, but because of the limitations it exposes, and these 2 factors together give a picture of an individuals function. I know lots of people who can tell me what their jacket weighs, the properties of their sleeping bag or how many kcals are in a strawberry banana gel, but have no idea in how long (or even if) they could cover 10 miles.
There are 3 categories of functions that concern me in climbing because the way they integrate directly affects how and what I climb and it makes sense to develop all 3 to progress as a climber:
The gear: ropes, harnesses, clothes, hardware, tent, sleeping bags, insulation etc
The fuel: the energy, the nutrients, electrolytes, hydration, recovery etc
The person: brain, body, perspective, technique and attitude.
Theres all sorts of overlap between these categories, but as the ‘person’ category is the one I have to pilot every second of the year, often thru matters far more pressing than winter climbing, it’s the one I put the most effort into. Using and developing special gear is also important, but of the greater paradigm its about 20% of what makes up performance.
My capacity to do what I choose both recreationally and professionally is more reliant on my ability to cover vertical and horizontal distance with loads, apply strength and agility on demand, make executive decisions when under stress, apply technique efficiently, then recover from the whole lot rapidly, than it is on the weight of the jacket im wearing or fill of my sleeping bag.
The basic equation is; the more developed I am, the greater leeway I have with the ‘add-ons’. Or in another way; my limitations are not set by my equipment.
I can and do cut unnecessary weight where I can, but that’s only a third of the ‘weight/volume’ formula. The other two thirds – as anyone who moves weight for a living knows – is increasing your ability to move weight in relation to what you weigh yourself. And that means training, which is where 75% of climbers switch off.
Training and gyms are dirty words to most climbers despite the importance these things play to the high end climbers most recreational climbers admire. In a sport fuelled by emulation the focus is on copying the gear, the comments and the results in some anecdotal way, rather than taking on the process. That some top alpinist wears G14s gathers more interest and obsessive debate than that the same climber can do 25 pull ups, cover 15 miles non-stop loaded with half their bodyweight and cope with a sustained high cardio demand under stress. And yet the G14s the recreational climbers wears are judged as if they are on the same playing field…
Superficially every climber is leveled by the gear they can use. Piolet dor winner and weekend warrior alike, we can all share the same headtorch, underwear and drink bottle, making it obvious to those who choose to see that these things have little to do with achievement.
25 pullups (or 20, or 15, or 10, or 5) matters not because they are a stunt of strength, but because they are an indicator. 10 pull ups you can grunt your way through with average decent upper body strength, but beyond that strength matters less and less.
In other words; to do 20 pull ups indicates there’s a lot of other important factors in place as well – factors that don’t come together either by chance or without effort. To me 20 pull ups says im in the company of someone who understands the real commitments of climbing, who sees that the person is more important than the hardware, who is willing to do the hard work to face that equation and whos gear reflects not his choice in branding, dogma or colours, but the demands of a system that has actually delved itself.
‘Being strong’ is another misconception about training and climbing and tho there is no pursuit that isn’t made better by being stronger – ‘strong’ doesn’t mean bench pressing body weight for ten sets of ten, and like doing pull ups, stunts of corporeal strength will only get you so far. Actual strength doesn’t refer to an act, it refers to the state of the organism and its capacity to exert a level of force on demand: the greater the force + the greater the demand = actual strength. 10 x 10 bodyweight presses in a gym – whilst impressive – is virtual strength; a narrow application of force across a very limited spectrum of demand.
Viewed this way, the guy loading 20kg boxes of bananas 8hrs a day on a moving boat in the tropics harnesses more strength across a greater set of applications than the guy with the power-belt and the Marilyn Manson shirt over at the oly set. Essentially ‘strength’ means the strength of an organism, and not just what that organism can do, but what it can withstand.
Theres several formulae out there to weigh up actual, functional strength (folks like Mark Twight, Mountain/Military Athlete and the worlds special forces have gone deep into this) and the one I like most is arguably the simplest: carry 20kgs for 20kms, nonstop. Otherwise known as the 20×20.
Its not the most specific nor the most diverse but as I see it it’s the one that levels the field more than any other. because it looks basic and simply a matter of grunt-work - and up to about 5kms in it is. That’s about the time when the powerlifters realize their virtual strength has worn off and their body mass is demanding too much oxygen, the ultrarunners realize their stripped down frames are struggling with the load, and the crossfitters realize its not just a matter of holding on and pushing out.
What sets the 20×20 apart is the element of time, and as those minutes become hours and the peripheral details of your condition get stripped away, theres plenty of time for analyzing just how much strength you think you have, because in one way or another that is the only thing limiting you. The 20×20 is a good indicator not because it overtly shows up strengths – it doesn’t, those bench presses wont be obvious – but because it shows up weaknesses, and like the 20 pull ups, you cant bluff your way through it.
By about the midpoint it becomes clear what will get you through the exercise – capacity.
Capacity to keep good posture and form to prevent the diaphragm collapsing from the load and injuries at bay.
Capacity to stay in the internal zone that overrides the stresses of a loaded system.
Capacity to mitigate arising weaknesses.
Capacity to keep those muscles firing and pushing you forward.
A decent time is anything under about 2Hrs 45mins, though anything under 3hrs indicates walking and stopping were kept to a minimum, which indicates that speed was put as a priority over pain, which indicates a ‘zone’ was entered into and that whatever methods were used were working and as absurd as it sounds id gamble that the climber who can do 20 pull ups can also do a pretty decent 20×20.
Because they have a lot in common beyond the obvious differences. Both will demand a good strength-to-weight ratio, good shoulder, upper and lower back integrity, a decent lactic threshold and oxygen uptake, good core-to-peripheral structural integrity, they share demanding good upper-lower body connection, they require developing a ‘zone’ to go into to override stress a functioning sense of integrating breathing with movement, skeletal alignment and forward-recovery.
Neither exercises will be bluff, luck, talent or ego. And none of it will have happened without realistic effort over a period that discounts dilettante dabbling, ego tripping and token efforts.
Doesn’t sound too useless for climbing to me…
Notes on the 20×20 test:
It would be foolhardy to just strap on 20kgs and head off for 20kms without preparation – but then again, it’s a foolhardy business we are in here. An exercise like this demands preparation from several angles to deliver a good result, the foremost being to injury-proof the body. Slick abs, cut pecs and sculpted lats wont do any harm, but they will have little benefit if they are not on top of actual strengthened and integrated structure.
Heres what you will want in your system:
Good cardio capacity combined with a good CO2 and lactic threshold.
Good sub-damage stress threshold
Adequate shoulder mass
Adequate upper and lower back strength
Good abdominal, hip, flexor and quad strength
Developed knee, ankle, foot and lower leg strength
Good hip and shoulder range of motion
Good lung capacity and diaphragm range
Beware the HIIT junky syndrome that without genuine non-stop 90min+ training will fall far short of the demands imposed. Likewise beware of the loss in body mass from exclusive distance training or the oxygen-craving hypertrophy of isolation weight training.
For the exercise itself steer clear of undulating routes, as though the uphills are very applicable to alpine climbing, the downhills can massively increase your chance of injury. Groomed trails are ideal as they are softer and offer greater foot micro-placement than tarmac.
The 20kgs can be carried in any way so long as its directly onto the body (no sleds etc) and doesn’t include clothes, shoes etc tho can include the apparatus the load is carried in. basically you need to have 20kgs of weight loaded onto your body. Simple as that.
Water is a good weight source as its easy to determine volume, can easily be dumped and needn’t be carried to the course.
Work out a drinking and eating system that doesn’t affect the 20kg load.
Poles are not part of it.
Newish shoes are recommended.
The clock doesn’t stop, no one is responsible for the outcome but you. The time its done in is of no value other than in relation to other pursuits.
PS: anyone reading this who has cracked 2:30 please send me an email, ive got lots of questions for you.
4/4 – spring & the art of ‘the project’
when ice season ends the other aspects of iceclimbingjapan kick into higher gear as the ‘real’ work begins, and without giving too much away theres some amazing things going on.
when winter finishes its time for exciting new things to arise
much of winter is testing and evaluating prototype gear and systems, and when theres no more ice to climb all that information gets collated and gets pushed into a development phase to see what works and what doesnt across a diverse set of applications. theres a lot of numbers, a zillion details, vast amounts of research and discussion and the rest of the 85% of the development-iceberg the end user never sees that goes on before high-demand gear gets released.
where things really get revved up is when developing stuff as a system. producing a single item with minimal relation to anything else is one thing and fairly unchallenging to be honest – but working with the dynamism of a system to function across a broad spectrum of conditions is fascinating. the diversity for testing, new materials and applications goes up 100-fold and gets really cool. indeed the only thing better than nailing a design challenge is coming up with new challenges to design for.
new resources open up new applications: the potential of ground-up development
on top of all that theres getting to try out the wealth of new materials that have just flooded the industry, along with the opportunities to be in on the process from a very fundamental level. the entire process is fluid enough now to not be bound by whats in the swatch books, but to create new materials to match new demands.
stay tuned as the proto-stage starts to blossom.
3/22 – with the ice mostly done for winter 11/12 we will start afresh here to cover our summer 2012 agenda
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