This is the climb you’ve been training for. We climb the classic Ham and Eggs Coulouir (V, 5.6, AI4) to the summit of one of the most sought after peaks in the Alaska Range – The Moose’s Tooth. The couloir was first climbed by Jon Krakauer, Thomas Davies, and Nate Zinsser in July of 1975. It took over 20 years for the route to see another ascent, but since that time it’s status as an alpine classic has been cemented. 18 pitches and 2900 feet of climbing take you to the summit of the Moose’s Tooth and some of the best views in the range of Denali, Foraker, Hunter, and Huntington. This is a one of a kind trip in a stunning location!
This year, seasoned SJMG Andres Marin will be leading our Alaska Expedition. We have interviewed Andres with a series of questions so that you can learn more about this expedition and the guide himself, see below and feel free to learn more about our upcoming expedition!
How many years have you been guiding the AK trip?
AM: Last year was my first time on the moose-tooth route, classic Ham and Eggs Coulouir (V, 5.6, AI4) but I have been guiding in Alaska range for 8 years now.
Why is the AK region so intriguing for both clients and guides alike?
AM: The Alaska region is home to the biggest mountain range in North America – with big mountains and big terrain, Alaska is the place to be. It is the 3rd biggest mountain range in the world! It is an iconic place to be as alot of historic North American mountain climbing has happened there. The spring time is the best weather for Alaska with long days ranging up to 22+ hours! Denali is a sight to see – even if people have no interest in climbing Denali, it is an incredible peak to see in person.
AM: Rugged. Vast. Magical.
How do the mountain people of Alaska differ from those in Colorado?
AM: Some of the Mountain people from Alaska tend to say they are not part of US- as it is so different from its sister states. They are pretty tough people, in rural areas – some are as tough as it gets. In Alaska, half the year is straight up darkness and a chunk of the year is 23 hours of daylight. Those people are very self-sustained because of the remote parts of Alaska. For example, some must Dehydrator or vacuum seal their food. They hunt, fish, or harvest their own food and authentically live off the land. The people outside of the city must depend on things such as snowmobiles or airplanes to be mobile. I like to think of them as crafty people.
Are there any local or cultural traditions in that part of Alaska?
AM: There are a lot of Native Americans such as the Alaskan Athabaskan in this part of Northern Alaska. They have their own type of lifestyle, language, and traditions that they depend on.
What skill-set would a client need for the AK trip?
AM: We would recommend a higher level of fitness and some experience ice-climbing WI4/M4. Being Alaska, the terrain and the Moose Tooth in particular, require experience with this ice-climbing specific expedition.
What is particularly interesting about this route?
AM: The Moose Tooth’s Ham and Eggs is a great Introduction for alpine climbing, technical alpine terrain in the mountains. It is a huge route! It is 3,000 feet of technical terrain and the altitude isn’t overbearing as the mountain is 10,000 feet in all.
How do the conditions differ from those in Southwest Colorado?
AM: Colder temperatures, experience more like alpine ice. The snow turns into ice there, which doesn’t happen here in Colorado with our 300 days of sunshine. It is a pretty cool experience climbing in this “ice-snow” as it is more faceted. For ice-climbing, this hard pack snow climbs just like ice but it is easy to penetrate. These great couloirs are more obtainable because the snow provides more options.
What is one of your best memories in one of your past AK trips?
AM: Just getting to Alaska in itself is memorable! Instead of flying over the mountains you are flying through them. The sunrises and sunsets are different as it is so northern that it will set in the west and few hours later rise in the east. It is unlike anything else.
What is one reason you recommend the Alaska Expedition?
AM: 10 day round trip means it’s a quick trip. Some people don’t have the time off work or life so the Alaska Expedition allows them to do a big climb within a week. Alaska is the shortest expedition trip for one of the biggest climbs in one of the vastest Mountain ranges in the world.
Alaska Expedition Guide, Andres Marin
Andres grew up in Ibague, Colombia. His passion for guiding has allowed him to guide in all types of terrains, such as rock, alpine, skiing and high altitude. In 2011 he and his partner received the Mugs Stump Exploratory Grant to go and climb new peaks in the Southern part of Kyrgyzstan on the Kyrgy Chinese border. They were the first American expedition on the range and established two alpine-style first ascents. During the 2011/2012 ice and mixed climbing competition season, Andres stood on the podium in every competition ranking him as a world class mixed and ice climbing competitor. Andres is a AMGA Certified Rock and Alpine Guide with continuous experience.
Have more questions? Always feel free to reach out to our Office here.
Andres grew up in Ibague, Colombia. His passion for guiding has allowed him to guide in all types of terrains, such as rock, alpine, skiing and high altitude. In 2011 he and his partner received the Mugs Stump Exploratory Grant to go and climb new peaks in the Southern part of Kyrgyzstan on the Kyrgy Chinese border. They were the first American expedition on the range and established two alpine-style first ascents. During the 2011/2012 ice and mixed climbing competition season, Andres stood on the podium in every competition ranking him as a world class mixed and ice climbing competitor. Andres is an AMGA certified Rock Guide as well as an AMGA certified Alpine Guide – meaning you are in good hands.
“I like to apply to my life something that a great person toll me long time ago: BE SAFE, BE HAPPY, TRY HARD AND BE KIND.” – Andres Marin-
1. How many years have you been guiding Alpamayo?
2. Why Alpamayo? Why do you go?
a. It is the beautiful mountain and considered one of the 7 wonders. Also the experience of the burros and porters is exceptional. The climb itself is 19,500+ feet and offers a section of pure ice-climbing, swinging two tools all the way to the summit – for me, it’s the whole package as an expedition.
a. Challenge, technical, fun.
4. What skill-set/experience would a client need for the Alpamayo Trip?
a. General fitness, some ice climbing experience up to WI3 would be good but isn’t required. The technical experience is further in the trip which allows us to have a couple of days to review the climb and our systems and fully prepare for the summit.
5. What pre-expedition training should clients be doing?
a. We understand that people have their normal jobs and life so if they are able to, some good cardio-vascular training with some weights up to 50 lbs is helpful. Calves are a huge part of it, I personally train calves because even though I do this a lot, calves always seem to a major muscle used for this expedition in regards to the trek to base-camp, etc. Above all, being positive and enjoying the learning experience is the best training you can do. Remembering it is the journey not the summit is essential for a great trip.
6. Why is Alpamayo expedition a premiere choice when considering all the different expeditions options of South America and across the globe?
a. It will expose you to altitude of course and expose you to technical terrain besides walking. The beauty of the mountain itself and seeing it in person is different than any other expedition. From Alpamayo you can see Artesonejeau, the peak used in the Paramount Picture logo!
7. What is one of your best memories of your past the Alpamayo expedition?
a. Last year, I climbed the mountain with a client and we ended up having to summit the mountain before sunrise. We took a nap at the summit and seeing the sunrise from there was amazing. I have seen many sunrises in many parts in the world and this sunrise was the best. Seeing the Andes range in first light it was pretty unique. Another best memory is seeing people succeed in their own personal objectives – a huge reason I love guiding! Seeing people be psyched about their own personal goals whether or not the mountain summit is reached, this is very special.
A Bit About The Alpamayo Expedition: Long considered one of the world’s most beautiful mountains, Alpamayo remains one of mountaineering’s most coveted summits. Situated in the “Himalayas of South America,” the Cordillera Blanca is much more accessible than its Asian counterpart, yet there are scores of peaks over 19,000 feet and 6000 meters. This expedition takes advantage of the rich Peruvian culture and the magnificent alpine terrain to climb the French Direct on the Southwest Face of Alpamayo.
For most outdoor women, it is considered the Cinderella Story when we finally find the technical apparel that offers functionality without sacrificing the women’s fit that’s been a long-time mystery for the Outdoor Industry. I can confidently say that Outdoor Research has finally nailed it with the Trailbreaker Pants for Women. I have been a huge fan of Outdoor Research when it comes to it’s technical hiking apparel but had never tried the winter-specific product such as the Trailbreaker Pants – I was impressed with all the features they seamlessly included and how they kept Women’s Fit at the top of the list.
Features I Dig:
Ankle Zipper - As a Splitboarder, snowboard boots are great for comfort but can be concerning when it comes to choosing pants. In past experience, the lower leg and ankle section of Pants can be too baggy or too tight, neither tailored for the back-country Splitboarder who needs just the right amount of each for comfortable and efficient skinning. The moment I zipped in my boots, it felt as if Outdoor Research had thought of us “larger boot” back-country enthusiast, as the Ankle Zipper and the stretchable fabric creates a small but perfect detail for those who need it.
Avalanche Beacon Pocket - Proof that innovation can flourish in something as simple as a pair of pants. The Avalanche Beacon pocket is a feature I use every time I go out. It provides an efficient way to carry my beacon without dealing with my top layers and the typical beacon chest straps that seem to be a distraction when adjusting layers in the ever-changing temperatures of the San Juan Mountains. In conjunction with the Beacon Key Clip, the pocket zipper is tucked away close to your belt loops to provide insurance that Beacon will neither detach or be exposed.
Anti-Mud Magic - Probably not a real term but it’s the truth! This season has been a warm one for the San Juans’ and sadly, there has been lots of debris and mud out there – whether it’s walking back to the car after skiing in-bounds or brushing by trees in the La Plata Mountain Range, the Trailbreaker has proven to trump all with it’s ability to deflect the mud and grime – even after weeks of use!
Fit For Women:
True to Size: One of the most common problems for ladies is the variations of sizing charts for multiple clothing brands. For those of us that dread “trying on” clothes and changing rooms but fear the guessing game of online shopping – I can honestly say that the Outdoor Research Trailbreaker Pants provides a solution when it comes to true sizing. Although we all come in different shapes and sizes, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the Medium Trailbreaker fit perfectly! At 5’10” – most of my length being in the legs, it was great to finally have a pair of pants that fit my length without having to upgrade to size Large due to longer limbs.
Cut for Women: I have never had a better fitting pair of ski pants. Personally, The Trailbreaker Series offered me an option that I have been denied for many years; Pants that offered a feminine fit that weren’t too tight nor baggy, a true diamond in the rough. In order to achieve this, there are different fabrics cuts and angles along the pants resulting in one cohesive product that provides fit perfection.
Knowing Outdoor Research and having used OR gear before, I knew that the Trailbreaker Series would be innovative and functional but the overall fit is what was a welcoming surprise. With the development of Women Outdoor Apparel, it’s refreshing to find the brand that you know will provide the results you want so that you may enjoy your Winter Pursuits and look good doing so.
Gear Review: OR Trailbreaker Pants
I’ve put in a solid season in the updated Trailbreaker pants, and they’ve become my go to ski pants, whether touring or inbounds riding lifts. There are some good improvements over the original version, and as we get towards spring and transition to the ski mountaineering season in the San Juans, I imagine I’ll be living in these pants. They’ve held up well through the winter, still looking new and clean, which is hard for technical layers to do on a full time Mountain Guide.
The first thing I looked at on the Trailbreaker pants were the zippers. Before even wearing the pants I checked out the feel of these, as one of the issues with the old version was the zippers falling down, especially the thigh vents while skiing. While I run hot, I don’t need to be skiing down with snow filling my pants up. The zippers on the new version are much more robust with a stiffer action, and they have done their job, just like a zipper should.
Along with the improved zippers go the change in pocket design. Right off the bat, I noticed the large pocket on the right thigh. First thoughts were that I would feel everything that was in it, and would end up sitting on anything in there. Wrong! I keep my bulging George Costanza style guide notebook in the thigh pocket, and I can’t even tell it’s there. No problem with sitting uncomfortably on it, either.
My favorite change with this is the zipper orientation, from vertical to horizontal. No more worrying about dropping things out of the pocket.
The left side thigh pocket is smaller with a vertical zipper. With the improved zipper, I’m not worried about this opening, and have been keeping my phone in here, opposite and well spaced from the right hand beacon pocket.
Next major improvement is the fit. The new Trailbreaker pants are roomier and seem slightly longer in the leg. Being 6’4” with a 32” waist can be tricky to fit, but the size Large is spot on. The length is great, and I can cinch down the waist with the Velcro adjustments without having the pants bulge out from extra material.
The roomier fit gives these pants better freedom of movement than the original version, and I don’t look like such a skinny legged guide nerd, either. My old favorite Valhalla pants are still baggier than these, and I found that wearing crampons was a problem. The Trailbreaker pants work great with crampons on, and I haven’t had any issues with catching my spikes on the pants. They’re comfy with a harness on, as well, having a gusseted crotch that doesn’t bunch up.
The material feels different than the original version. It seems to stretch more and feels more burly. After a multi sport day of biking up a closed road to ski the local fourteener, Mt. Sneffels, we then biked back down the road in the afternoon. What had been frozen in the AM had become a sloppy mudfest and I quickly gave up on trying to stay clean and dry. The pants took the mud and wet like a champ, with most of the slop beading up and rolling off. When I got home I rinsed them off and threw them in the wash. Out they came looking and performing like new.
OR’s ski pants have a nice detail in the built-in gaiter, with the Power Strap Slot. This allows one to run the boot power strap outside the gaiter, and makes up and down transitions quicker and easier, since you don’t have to pull the gaiter on and off the boot. I tend not to use it, though, because my socks are ‘quitters,’ as in they fall down around my skinny ankles, so I have to get in and pull them up throughout the day. Hey, OR, all your gear is so dialed, why don’t you start making socks so I can have some that don’t fall down!
IFMGA/AMGA Mountain Guide
About a month ago I ran into Melissa and Steve Alcorn at the Ouray Ice Park. They had recently just climbed Stairway to Heaven in Silverton’s Eureka Canyon with Mark Miller. When I saw them I thought it would be a cool idea to have them write an account of the day with Mark. After all, both Steve and Melissa had climbed loads with Mark over the years and my idea was for her to place the day on Stairway with him in the context of all the year’s of guiding and instruction that they had previously experienced with Mark. I thought it would make for a compelling story about one of our finest guides and ice climbing instructors.
Melissa was happy to write the post and share some great pictures of the day. For whatever reason, I held onto the post for a period of time so that I could share it when the time felt right given the overall flow of the winter season.
The time to do so is now. Mark’s recent passing has affected all of us in the most profound way possible. This story tells that of Mark on one his best days – a Great Day in the Mountains with friends.
A Great Day in the Mountains
by Melissa Alcorn
I was raised Baptist — instructed on the subject of Heaven and schooled on the routes to get there. I once commented that I was confident my heaven would have mountains and waterfalls, but was corrected that the Bible says nothing about things other than streets of gold. I remain a believer of the notion that paradise is found in earthbound heights and sometimes just beyond the gold mine.
The other lesson I bring from Sunday school is that listening to the disciples can expedite your pursuits. So it was that our disciple of ice, the man that ignited our fervor and fanned the flames for these past nine years was taking us up a Stairway to Heaven on a warm December day. Seven pitches of ice provides an abundance of time to reminisce on the unique bonds that form between guides, clients, and shared experiences.
The Approach – We came to Ouray for the first time at Christmas in 2005 and walked into San Juan Mountain Guides, or really the breakfast room of the Vic, for our intro to ice climbing with a randomly selected guide. Mark Miller strolled in, claimed us with his faintest Minnesota accent, and ultimately changed our life. Hiking into Eureka on our way to the base of Stairway to Heaven, I was remembering that first day—rental gear, reluctant swings, and some bloodletting.
Pitch One – We have heard about Stairway to Heaven for a lot of years, but our timing was always off to climb it before avalanche danger shut it down for the season. This year has been lean on snow but fat on ice-forming cold. The three of us stood at the base and grinned like kids on an unexpected snow day. Ropes were stacked, harnesses secured, and Mark was off with a shout over his shoulder that he would try to keep an eye on us to see what bad habits we had developed. He knows my history and sordid predilection to hook. He spent hours with me that first day trying to get me to swing with a modicum of form and accuracy, and then he’d spent subsequent ice seasons listening from afar as my tools hit ice. He knows I can swing.
Pitch Two – Of course as soon as the three of us arrived at the first bolts we had our first “tune up” and, admittedly, we both knew we were overdue. Our second day with Mark in 2005 he handed me a pair of leashless tools and “released me” to be a rock climber on ice. That did it. A few moves up Pick of the Vic with those axes and my ice grin permanently set. I’d spend inheritance money that fall to get a pair of Nomics to bring back to the ice park. Mark drilled proper swings into me. Yet, before we could climb the second pitch of Stairway to Heaven, Mark needed me to experiment with my grip and try, just try, loosening my pinkies. “Like holding tea cups?” “Sure” he said with a “why hadn’t I come up with that” grin. With that slight modification pitch two was a really delightful climb, although Stephen was on the steeper right side of the ice and may have found more work and less delight especially with his fresh out of the packaging ice tools. We arrived to a “better” from Mark but were gently reminded that we had more tuning up to do with our footwork—no “x-man” stances allowed.
Pitch Three – The day was warm but the sun was sulking behind a thin cloud layer, which gave us time to get past the narrow icy crux of the third pitch without fear of it melting out. With our tune up corrections we were moving more efficiently, without sacrificing any of the joyfulness of climbing ice. As I watched Mark climb I was thinking back on a very snowy December day in 2006 when we returned to Mark and SJMG for a day of Camp Bird Road adventures.
He took us to Choppo’s and Skylight that day, and we got to play on freshly bolted dry-tool route. If there had been any lingering doubt that we had found a sport we were passionate about, that day eliminated it. Ice was our thing, and backcountry ice was our goal. On the Stairway, pitch three was sustained time to ponder why we had set such a crazy goal? This thing was steep and I was grateful for a little bit of hooking along the way. It was also intoxicatingly beautiful.
Pitch Four and Five – These two sections of ice blur together in my memory. They are lower angle and the kind of blue ice that puts you in a punch drunk trance. You smile with each dance move up the frozen sculpture, and you hesitate on occasion to allow yourself time to stare into the soul of the waterfall that flows beneath the playground. Somewhere in there my mind wandered to another day we had spent on backcountry ice with Mark. After a couple of years of migrating from Oklahoma to Ouray for Christmas week to play in the park, we had decided to climb something bigger. On the last day of 2008 we climbed Ames Ice Hose with Mark. It was cold. I was nervous. Mark was reassuring. And the climb was amazing—full of those mystifying moments where the art of the ice or the grandeur of the view you are gaining leave you sure you have transcended into that paradise. I remembered that as I topped out of the ice and found Mark standing in a snowfield above the fifth pitch–a guide who became a guru, and evolved into one of our true friends.
Pitch Six – The last two pitches of ice on Stairway to Heaven are less often climbed, a combination of low angle and less formation prior to the snow deluge that stops all climbing to heaven. We took a peak at the ice and realized you don’t turn down a chance to climb such things. Taking a chance was the reason we were even standing there nearly at the top of the Stairway. Mark had been such a good guide, and created such devoted followers of the cult of frozen waterfalls that we had quit our careers, left Oklahoma, and moved into the midst of our paradise. No longer did we have to gulp in a year’s worth of ice in one week with a long haul drive on either end. Now we can make it out when conditions are right. The gods have smiled on us. And on that last stretch of ice I saw into heaven – as I suspected all along, there are mountains and waterfalls. And Mark Miller.
Descent – Typical of Mark, our descent was as instructive as the climb was blissful. First, none of us wanted to walk off from where we stopped so we had an impromptu refresher on the perfect v-thread technique. Then we stole freely from his treasure chest of tricks to improve multi-pitch rappelling efficiency. A week later, on our own, we’d practice the lessons on the gully across the valley and whisper gratitude to the clouds that we had been lucky enough to have Mark Miller approach us in 2005 as we nervously sat in that room wondering what would happen when we took to the ice.
It was a fantastic day, just another one in a string of such for the three of us. I am confident there are more ahead. The truck ride back to Ouray may have involved some plotting. I am equally confident that I will hear Mark shouting to me in the ice park the rest of the season that I need to drink more tea and keep those pinkies out.
“All of our guides go through a rigorous process of training and certification and are certified with the American Mountain Guide Association. What clients get out of that as a result, is a framework of experience and instruction that allows them to learn and progress quickly. This range (the San Juan Mountains) presents incredible opportunity for training and climbing and getting better at your craft. The range offers lifetime worth of pursuits, you don’t have to go anywhere else for this type of experience.”
If you are interested in discovering Ice Climbing routes within the San Juan Mountains or improving your techniques – consider booking a trip with one of our many AMGA qualified guides.
When it comes to Ice Climbing, the San Juan Mountains can be hard to beat. With Classic Routes located in our backyard and with the Ouray Ice Park essentially located in our front yard, its hard to justify traveling to climb in other renown areas. There are far and few areas that are worth the hassle and one of those is Cody, Wyoming. Our AMGA Guide, Jeff Witt has been guiding since 2002 . Jeff has climbed and guided on mountains all around the world, including four of the Seven Summits, prominent peaks throughout the European Alps, and challenging routes in Patagonia and Alaska. He is also an avid motorcyclist and adventurer, having toured much of the Americas and Europe by motorcycle, and visited more than 30 countries. He is an Ice Climbing enthusiast who enjoys guiding clients on Colorado classics just as much as he enjoys discovering new climbing areas. He’s been to Cody multiple times and knows all the sweet spots around this particular region. He will be leading our trip to Cody and here are a few reasons why you should join him this February.
For a full list of events check out the Official Ouray Ice Festival Site!
- Visit Ouray’s Brewery
Arguably the best way to celebrate a successful day in the park – we suggest checking out our local brewery for a cold one. Ouray Brewery is a huge supporter of the Ouray Ice Festival by donating over 30 kegs to ensure a good time and they have great food and atmosphere – be sure to swing by!
- The Ouray Ice Festival Kick-Off Party
Ouray Ice Festival Kick-off Party sponsored by the American Alpine Club and Rab, beer from Upslope Brewing Company, food, prizes and live music by One Roof Blues. A special showing of The North Face film “Always Above Us” with special guest Conrad Anker. $10 gets you in the door. Let’s kick this party off right! Plus, beat the rush and pick up your gear demo card.
- Prom night with Petzl On Saturday
Do you have a date for The Prom? Bust out that old suit or dress for a night of fun as Petzl brings back their Party on Saturday night Petzl Party at the Ouray Community Center! Giveaways, booze, dance-parties and much more you won’t want to miss!
- Visit Sponsor’s Booths for Awesome Giveaways
A no brainer! Make sure you visit each booth as sponsors will be giving away small to big prizes – anything from climbing gear to small ‘swag’ essentials such as coozies and chapstick! Be there early on Friday to check each of them out before attending your clinic!
Be sure to to stop by all of their booths as we over 40 attending sponsors! The Ouray Ice Park title sponsors will have some great giveaways and demos so stop by to thank them for making the 20th Annual Ouray Ice Festival happen!
Still need to fill up your schedule? – Check out these clinics still available
Sash DiGulian is well known in the “Rock” Climbing world for some of the establishing First (Female) Ascents everywhere she goes. She’s currently the World Ranking leader, has climbed dozens of 5.14s and is the first and only North American woman, and the youngest woman in the world, to climb the difficulty grade of 5.14d (9a); the hardest climb achieved by a Female Worldwide. She is also the first North American Woman to onsight 5.14a (8b+). Now she wants to bring her skills to the ice as she competes for the first time in the Ouray Ice Festival as well as holds her first clinic. If you are considering Ice Climbing, this is the clinic for you!
The only journey is the journey within” (-Rainer Maria Rilke) – words that Olivia lives by. Olivia began her climbing journey when she was attending University in Brisbane, Australia. What started out as an attempt to meet new, cool people turned into “pseudo” career (as she puts it) because she loves climbing and yoga, equally. Stretch out, relax, learn balance and mental focus. Exercises to help you improve your overall strength and conditioning for climbing.
Rarely formed Route in Silverton’s Eureka Canyon
by Mark Miller, SJMG Senior Guide
Today Dave and I headed to Dukes of Hazzard in Silverton’s Eureka Canyon. Having never been on it before, I was pretty excited to get a good look at it. It ends up being two very nice, but distinctly different pitches.
Pitch 1 begins with a nice grade 3 warm-up to a ledge. Above the ledge there are two bolts that protect an M6 looking mixed line that leads up to the obvious curtain of ice. This year the curtain comes down to a chandeliered pillar that touches, though I can’t say it is getting any support from below, as the 1-2 inch wide pencil of ice that contacts the ledge is cracked.
Being more of an ice than a mixed climber, I clipped the bolts and made the rather long step onto the pillar. A few feet up I could make 1 stem to the rock near the first bolt and a little later I could stem to the curtain. While the line looked a bit intimidating, it turned out very reasonable. After that it was a long grade 2 ramp to the next column, which has a really cool cave behind it. I thought the setting was cool and it left me completely protected from anything falling from above, so in I went.
Dave led pitch 2, a really nice, solid column of ice that led to another ramp. From there as the ice ran out he had a few more steps above in snow led to a 3 pin anchor that a party a few days before left, that made a quick and efficient exit back to our cave. From the cave it was a full length rappel back to our packs and a descent down snow covered small talus that challenged our ankles, but did nothing to diminish another great outing with a good friend.
A Guide’s Perspective
by Lindsay Fixmer
AMGA Certified Rock Guide & Assistant Alpine Guide
Upon arriving in Ouray, CO early this December for the winter ice climbing season, I have lived in the OR Conviction Pant. Equally suited for approaches through knee-deep snow, drippy backcountry ice climbs or sunny dry tooling routes, the Conviction pant excels in variable conditions. Having only worn these pants twelve days, I am extremely impressed with their comfort and versatility.
I love them already and here’s why:
Perfection. The cut is ideal. At first glance I was skeptical about the integrated waist band. Upon testing however, I found this feature is excellent for tucking in a base layer for warmth and keeping the elements out of your pants. This same band prevents the annoying bulge and the requirement of a belt (often an issue with women’s pants). The inseam length is perfectly compatible with climbing boots during the approach and on technical routes. And, well it has to be mentioned, they are slimming. Women want technical pants to fit and move well, not be too tight or too bulky, and to look sleek. The wrap-around cut of the Conviction pant is a perfect fit.
It wicks away rain, sleet, and snow. It is thick enough to be warm in winter with a thin fleece lining but thin enough not to feel hot when the sun comes out. The scuff guard on the inside ankle is perfect: durable enough to withstand the potential crampon stab.
Ventilation zips and pocket:
For the warm, sunny days walking to a backcountry ice route, the side vent zips are ideal for allowing air flow. As we all know, our feet start sweating without ventilation leading to cold toes once we begin climbing. The two-way zipper leads diagonally from the knee to upper thigh allowing minimal or maximum ventilation.
The positioning of the side vent zips prevents front pockets, so the design of a large backside pocket is ideal. The horizontal pocket zips just below where a harness leg loop sits, allowing quick access to extra goo packets or energy chews on the climb.
Over the past few seasons I have tried numerous women’s climbing specific alpine pants from various companies. To find the ideal ice climbing pant for women is like finding a rack of ice screws at the base of The Ribbon. With different body types aside, practicality and functionality are difficult to find in women’s pants. The market is improving which is noticeable from the cut and style of a few pants. With the Conviction Pant, OR is leading the way.