as of 2013/3/11 this series has been archived. for the latest sttuff from iceclimbingjapan go to the propaganda page
2/11 – sleeping in the cold
1/29 – fuji
howling and gusting: summiting fuji in winter isnt what people think it is. click the image for a brief video taken by Shinji Abe-san of us descending, circa 3100m
1/14 – one of the times i’m happy to not be in the mountains
tokyo only gets snow a fews times each winter – and today is one of those times: out the window at midday
thankfully, the next week is all clear
1/12 – maintenance training: ‘the hole’
just going climbing is not enough, and is often part of the cause of plateaus that climbers whinge about. good climbing takes years of progress and to keep that on track you need to minimize base performance loss during the in-season. during winter it makes no sense to do a lot of heavy training as it only compromises the real thing out on the mountain – but it works well to keep your training edge sharp so that when the seasons gone theres minimal ‘shoulder lapse’.
the stone that keeps the edge sharp…but not the edge itself
as its too late to make big progress for the season you are in, this type of training is about very short term goals that spill over to long term progress, ie fine tuning movements and stressors you will use next week, so you can climb in ways that set the goals for the next season (or three). these sessions require a high focus level, a high level of full body precision and a high level of complexity, but also minimal recovery and minimal lack of relevance. this is not really foundation stuff, its strupping the blade.
a good session to both do and use as a base for other sessions is ‘The Hole’. it has little heavy lifting and doesnt creep too far into your body reserves, but it does rev the system in confronting ways and it related directly to the stresses of steep climbing and hard approaches.
3mins ski machine – mid pace
3mins rope pull – mid pace
3mins run – fast pace
1min on/1min off x 3 GHD sit w/ 16kg KB
25ea left & right side GHD extensions/twists w/ 16kg KB
barbell standing row 50% – 100% body weight; 5kg increments in sets of 3, the following between sets:
dumbell standing row 2 x 30% BW, 5ea alternate left & right
push row, 5ea, same DBs
1min barbell standing row 50% BW non-stop, followed by:
30sec dead hang
5 x ring dips
5 x chest-to-bar pullups
90secs barbell standing row 50% BW non-stop, followed by as above
2min barbell standing row 50% BW non-stop, followed by as above
5mins rope pull easy pace
the warm up primes the system for working in constant motion, with a focus on everything going thru the large torso muscle groups. the first part recruits, synchopates and begins to stress the necessary muscle and structural groups, with the DB rows to stabillize imbalance recruitment and the pushrows to antagonize. the second part stresses the systems with demands from multiple systems – each set having its own prime stressor, then the hang widens the hole, the ring dips enforce stability when blown out and the pullups put the whole lot back into context just when youd rather be resting.
all movements relate directly to climbing and all stress factors will be familiar. ‘The Hole’ keeps shifting, and when standing rows are done right (launch with the legs, push with the back, pull with the arms) they mimic well the movements of being on steep ground. from this simple set of exercise can be extrapolated a multitude of variations – so long as the alternate stressor (dynamic and static), stability and integrative are kept in check.
1/9 – chicken clipping
despite being known as the most articulate ranter amongst climbers, Kelly Cordes is a good source of clarity on all sorts of aspects of winter climbing (his glove posts becoming the reservoir of such matters). here, in true verbose Cordes fashion, is his guide to Chicken Clipping, something best described by him
worth taking note of is KC’s general attitude – no 100%’s, a wide field of research and opinion, a platform of what really goes on when ice climbing.
the replies are well worth reading too.
1/1 – happy new year
the year ahead will be as good as you make it. take care and take risks – but not too much of either.
12/29 – new baselayer textiles
12/14 – love your gloves
i dont understand why people go thru gloves so fast.
actually, i do. what i dont understand is how they dont understand why they go thru gloves so fast. every year is the same – whining reports of how crap gloves are so why buy good ones when they will only be trashed? maybe its because we dont live in an era surrounded by leather any more (lifestyle choices varying of course), so maybe thats why people would rather whine than buy a $5 tube of nikwax or snoseal and spend some time lovingly caring for their gloves.
enlarge this photo. 4 pairs of well cared for gloves (left to right): Mammut something-or-others/7 winters + 3 expeditions, RAB M10s/3 winters + 2 expeditions, BD punishers/3rd winter, BD torques/2nd winter. sure, the odd dab of seamgrip on the Mammuts (which have seen approx. 160 days of climbing) but i dont forsee retiring any of these gloves soon. the minimum any of these gloves have on them is approx. 50 days of climbing.
gloves are an ‘interface element’ like boots, helmet, tools, sleeping bag etc. they matter. compromise them and you may be starting a process you cant pull out of so easily. so why not give them the attention they deserve by buying some wax, sitting down with a hairdryer, warming the leather, massaging the wax in and warming again till it sinks in? then repeat. once a season its good to do a full bombing, and between every trip it pays to give them a quick re-dose. while youre at it, do your boots – even space age spantiks have bits of leather in them that work better when nourished.
and before anyone asks; whether i have a thing for leather beyond gloves and boots will not be discussed here
12/13 – polartec alpha 2
12/9 – teton bros beanies & EM’s power cookies
like previous years, this winter we have Teton Bros logo beanies promotional beanies for anyone doing a trip with iceclimbingjapan, furthering the ranks of Teton Bros-wearing climbers and skiers around the world; leaf green, chocolate, black or light magenta – name your preference when confirming.
along with testing clothing applications and sleeping systems, this winter we’ve been fortunate to also be trialling EM’s power cookies and bars. we dont take this lightly – nutrition is a major factor and its been a long time since going to the mountains with an off-the-shelf product, so yes, it took a summer of tests during training to be happy with it.
after several trips now with Em’s bars & cookies as the sole day food things look good. despite competition from a vast array of energy products, these are the only ones as yet that dont taste like an energy bar, with none of the chemical tang of protein powder or other things, that tho potent nutrients, tend to block the bowels. Em’s bars and cookies are based around oats, and tho claiming half the fat of some other similar products, theres enough in them to keep the body burning fuel properly – indeed an argument is that when active (ie when youre consuming day food) is not the time to consume fat, having stored it from before and using carbohydrates and sugars to regulate it.
realisticly, they go down well even after 4 days, creating no intestinal issues or cravings. they are real food so your brain gets the buzz of actually eating, and they dont freeze to teeth-splintering hardness when things get cold, with coffee they are exceptional. downside: they are not small, double the size of a Clif bar (perhaps the next contender and a hard act to follow), flavours are limited (ive got used to bizarro american and japanese flavours like frangipani tiramisu and salty cherry blossom – apricot is a bit old school), also the packets are hard to open with gloves – easily solved by removing at home, but come on…
for the first time in years im not compelled to spend hours making my own energy food, so that feels good, Em herself (a super endurance racer from New Zealand) has done that for me. anyone doing a trip with iceclimbingjapan is welcome to try them out, but unlike the beanies these are not free. enquire when confirming your trip.
12/8 – micro-exped: kaikoma NE side
kaikomagatake is always a big deal, and 4 days of early season conditions is always a good start to the season. approaches are long, trips are 100% self-sustained and the 1800m of altitude variation always makes for unpredictable conditions.
the middle section of the O-ren right route: taken from about 2000m, look upwards to 2990m
big days and a really functional group got us deep into the O-ren valley and onto the thin early ice on the valley walls, then a retreat back onto the main ridge and a go at the summit, only to be twarted by thigh-deep, heavily layered snow 200m below the top. not a bad effort at all for early, still-consolidating ice, with a huge amount put in place for future trips to all sorts of places.
our base at 2200m: the huge MSR twin brothers tent is the perfect solution for larger groups going light, nailing a big chunk of the logistical equation
12/7 – POLARTEC ALPHA
12/1 – 4000kcals x 4
ive done my time living on gels, dhal bhat, yak fat, instant noodles, peanut butter and dried apricots, and thankfully in japan no one has to. with the worlds cuisine at my finger tips in tokyo i eat well, making trips into the frozen wilderness an exercise in eating as much as climbing.
demanding 4000kcals a day, weighing in at about 450gms a day, heres what im taking this week for a 4 day micro-expedition, unsupported, with hard 12 hour approaches and big days of climbing (1 day on several routes, the next day 1000m of alpine ascent). being a team of 5 weve forgone the jetboil in favour of a soto muka.
top right to bottom left: evening – couscous, soup, salami, chocolate. morning – granola dosed with wheat germ, sesame and soy powedr, coffee. day food – assorted energy bars. misc – tube of butter, hot chocolate, electrolytes, extra energy food, tooth candy
couscous: good weight to kcal to fuel consumption ratio. easy to dose with dried vegetables, salt and fat
soup: hydration and nutrients in a warm, fast format
salami: protein and fat
chocolate: relaxes the brain, fat for the nights sleep
granola: alone its not ideal, but bulked up with soy powder, sesame seeds and wheat germ becomes high density nutrition
coffee: keeps people friendly, gets things done, schedules bowel movements
energy bars: after making my own for a long time ive found EMs bars from new zealand as good. none of the supplement-taste that fails most bars
tooth candy: amazing little japanese candies that negate the need for a tooth brush and paste. weird flavours.
butter: the easiest way to increase kcal content. goes in everything from coffee to granola to couscous.
the whole lot gets pre-packed, couscous and granola goes into thin bags that go straight into a cup to minimize the need to wash stuff. for longer trips this lot can easily be reduced in weight if you compromise on variety. ive got sachets of pesto to add to the couscous, which could be substituted for cubes of stock, the solid chocolate could be powder and a denser salami could be used. each day is pre-organized, a lot of the annoying packaging is removed and it works on the idea of both calorie and liquid loading in the morning, pushing into the red a little during that day, then replenishing at night, usually with three elements to the evening meal; a quick electrolyte/fluid hit, then bits to graze on during the hours in the sleeping bag. in the pipeline we have special day food pockets being produced: sounds ridiculous till you consider how a 12cm square of plastic compromises breathability and how much more efficient it is carrying food in a place its easy to get at.
11/26 – game changer
occasionally something comes along that ups the ante of a certain genre of equipment: the nomic rebooted ice tools, the dart was a big deal amongst crampons, baturas showed us where boots could go, jetboils changed cooking and cilo showed us just what people would pay for a pack. and heres the omega point for water bottles.
i dont actually know what its called – just says ‘silicon bottle’ on the packaging, and no fancy outdoorsey bling surrounding it.
silicon: do that with a Sigg…
why such a thing hasnt hit the market before i dont understand – anyone even vaguely familiar with kitchenware knows about silicon stuff. seems the last movement in the drink bottle ambit (a less heroic sector yet deep at the heart of any outdoor pursuit) was pretty much the camelbak, maybe the MSR drombag, so its time for something new. and this nails it.
why i like it
it safely takes temperatures of 135c, ie boiling water is 1/3 within the safety margin. this includes the silicon o-ring. 135c also means it will probably handle fleeting glances against hot stoves and other things that render many bottles and all soft-hydration systems useless.
it doesnt deform until -30c. not bad.
it stands like a proper bottle. doesnt need popping into ridgidity or filling with liquid/air. it also handles like a real bottle, not flopping about annoyingly so needing 2-handed use.
its a neutral temperature, not becoming as hot or as cold to the touch as a platypus, camel bak or nalgene.
its not slippery, so it its easy to hold with cold hands or hands covered in sunscreen.
it self cleans. nothing sticks to silicon – not even cool sponsoring company stickers…
it squashes down small – not rolls, or carefully compresses – it stuffs like a down jacket, creating no weak spots from prolonged use.
the mouth is wide. away from the material its made of, the designers compromised between something easy to fill and something easy to drink from. for pissing into (the real question here) its about gatorade-sized.
its soft, making it conform to the shape of inner pockets and comfortable to have in your sleeping bag
you can put viscous stuff in it. basically its a big tube in that you can squeeze out whats in it. im thinking energy gel, peanut butter, congealed olive oil, even rehydrate instant rice in it (maybe mix all four as the trip gets long and standards wane, yes Shewchuk im referring to you)
they come in cool colours. i suppose all water bottles do these days. maybe the next step is a dedicated silicon piss bottle thats formed with a special texture. that would be big.
so there. cant believe i milked so much innovation out of a simple water bottle. but really, the exciting bit is what comes next. attachable drinking tubes? 2L capacity? worth keeping an eye out for.
11/22 – testing the flux
11/20 – training & updating: ice season 2012/13 full tilt
early snow and a sharp cold front puts the 2012/13 ice season ahead of the usual schedule – made all the better with an ‘pre-season’ training trip that took place in full season conditions. rather than just bludgeoning away in the usual early-season re-entry to winter, smart climbers focus on optimizing getting their skills back together and their systems updated with dedicated ‘up-take’ trips that make the most of the ice ahead.
putting in the time on accessible routes: building capacity for bigger things by nailing the details. photo: Tony from Climb Japan
ice at 2450m connecting the lower gullies to the higher alpine rock
for 3 days the Climb Japan/Iceclimbingjapan fusion project boot-camped new clothing, ropework and strategy systems, getting lots of hours of high-volume climbing in. directed intentionally towards bigger projects and taking a lead from much of the responder development work we did over summer, combined with testing new developments from Teton Bros/Mountain Project, Polartec, Pertex & Primaloft in a spectrum of conditions that went from clear blue skies to pelting midnight sleet, we squeezed the maximum out of the weather window, including an 8km training run in mountain boots and full pack.
complex at first, effective in the big picture: combining rescue, big wall and single rope ice techniques to work faster and more efficiently
trips like this make the potential of the rest of the season so much clearer, with the groundwork for nutrition, skills, condition and gear already in high gear – and is the natural progression both from a summer spent working hard and towards big things planned for the summer after.
11/13 – evolution of the week
this stuffs great. even tho im well aware of how ‘about-ish’ forecasts are, it never fails to satisfy watching a good climbing window evolve.
so of course we will be heading in, with a packed itinerary of reconning filming plans, checking routes, ferrying gear, testing gear and a focussed training schedule for bigger projects later in the season. if things go according to plan (which requires confirmation on the ground) expect this to go down as WEEK 1 OF 16 for the 2012/13 winter season
11/12 – the mysterious tibloc
this comes after years of seeing the subject mishandled.
my use of tiblocs is extensive: for simul-climbing a bit, but more from using them as parts of rope access and rescue to ascend, haul, tension and provide back up to all sorts of systems. part of my training was technical rope work with the CIC canyoning organization from Europe – arguably the most intensive rope training around (canyoning leaves climbing in the dust when it comes to rope work) and arguably the most accountable and researched. the CIC are a standard themselves when it comes to anything involving ropes and water in Europe, the guys who run it being called in by governments to assess accidents, form reports etc. they consult to Petzl for those who know what that entails.
anyway, tiblocs are not the simple little gizmos they appear to be, and they are rigged incorrectly much of the time. ive seen images in industry material showing them unknowingly rigged wrong.
the thing is, climbers usually know the tibloc as an ascending device, or used simply upside down for simul-climbing. in this respect the device could be used incorrectly for years without noticing. by comparison, during canyoning and rescue training, rig a tibloc incorrectly wrong once and you have just failed the entire day – its that serious. in CIC language its referred to as a ‘kill’, because in reality it could be.
so here it is. but before anyone gets heavy over it – this is just my thoughts on the matter. yes, i was trained and certified in this way, but whats here is my own telling. those who taught me may have changed for some reason im not up to speed with. likewise, if YOU go and apply whats here thats YOUR responsability. look deeper into it than someone you dont know on the internet. dont say your werent informed.
KILL!! a tibloc rigged incorrectly: note that the karabiner is clipped thru the hole towards the opening of the tibloc
rigged incorrectly a tibloc is a death trap. i venture to wonder how much of the tiblocs mystique as a rope stripper and unreliable is due to this. rigged as above is wrong on so many levels it almost deserves the enigma. like this you are loading the weakest part of the device. more so, the force when applied is not directed totally into cinching mode, putting more of the load into the teeth on the inside.
rigged this way the tibloc will not haul, rather than running over the karabiner it will be jammed across the tibloc, to make it worse, which is then suspended from the two relatively weak edges of the open side. try it in your living room to see. a simul-climbing leader falling onto this would easily damage the rope – if the second then comes offf the two of them are held by nothing more than those two thin edges.
and more than that, rigged wrong the tibloc wont disengage to move downwards along the rope without unclipping. those designers at Petzl are pretty smart people (lets forgo mention of the nomic debacle for the moment…) and designed tiblocs well, being able to move both ways on the rope being part of that. rigged wrong, youve just made a dangerous scenario harder to escape.
CORRECT! a tibloc rigged safely: note that the karabiner is clipped from across the rope AND the body of the tibloc
rigged correctly the tibloc is a gem of design. its still fumbly like the last bit of soap, but it works just as it should, safe for what its meant to do. clipped across the rope as above, the force when engaged is primarily in the cinching action not in the teeth, the rope is locked by the weighted karabiner squeezing the it into a consttriction, the teeth just position it. more so, inherantly the device is loaded across the strongest part of its design. even were the tibloc to fail you would still be clipped to the rope (for what thats worth).
in hauling mode the tibloc take no strain at all when actually hauling – all weight is on the karabiner. the tibloc only engages to brake on the rope. tied off, the system is bomber and smooth. similarly, a simul-climbing system clipped this way means the rope pays thru the karabiner and device from the rock/ice face outwards – same as a regular quickdraw. a huge matter if rigging them with wiregates.
clipped this way, to disengage the device it need only be jiggled so the karabiner moves into the larger part of the hole and the teeth happily disengage so the device can be moved back down the rope. thats a 9.2mm in the picture, so plenty of room to move – the wrong version hardly has room to disengage at all
so there it is, the basics. mess about with a length of rope in your living room first – it will be immediately apparent. in any configuration (ascending, hauling, simul-climbing etc) the brain-byte is: clip ACROSS the rope
and remember: tiblocs dont kill, people do.
11/9 – ahead
click the image for updated forecast
a near perfect forecast – not dissimilar to last year – show some precipitation on Sunday/Monday (possibly sleet being at night) then a big drop after turning it all into new ice.
unless things change unexpectedly (…) im calling next week WEEK1 of ice season 2012/13.
11/4 – FREEZE! 2012/13 ice season begins
2 days between 1400m and 2450m testing gear confirms there is ice in them-there hills, with ‘real ice ‘ beginning at about 1900m.
out at the yatsugatake escarpment things are taking shape. rhime has formed on the upper rock band (25550-2850m) with the usual ice falls thickening and pillars inching to meet. the icewall at Akadake kosen (2200m) is waiting to have the sprinklers turned on and on the way up the valley ice appears to have formed in the upper reaches of Kaikomagatakes NE colouires.
the real and the controlled: both in early stages of winter conditions
gear-wise things are gathering speed as protos arrive and get taken out; the last few days test piloting a system that incorporates a mesh load bearing system into a double-grid base/double primaloft insulation/pertex shield+/powershield mixture for high-output, non-stop, short duration (+/-7hrs) climbing.
testing was done on a series of grade 3 ice falls preceeded by a 9km/850m ascent approach done fast, followed by a night at -4c and a fast descent – all wearing the same system under load.
early routes on Akadakes NW side
yatsugatake: our winter office and gear testing ground