Ice Climbing. Hearing the words sends a chill through my bones. The advice I received from Japan-based climber Jeff Jensen, as I was slowly scaling a frozen waterfall in the Nishizawa Gorge above Chichibu, was simply, "Don't look down, don't stop climbing and don't fall." While recent technology makes climbing ice safer and more comfortable, the sport demands immense respect and adherence to safety. Grab an experienced climber before entering the unforgiving frozen world that attracts some of the world’s top athletes. And make sure to bring the right gear.
Italian style with 80 years of experience at high altitudes
La Sportiva is at the front of the pack when it comes to designing climbing shoes and boots for rock, alpine and ice. They recently (November 2008) released the "Trango Prime" boot specifically designed for ice. It features a lacing system derived from climbing shoe technology, a Gore-Tex membrane and double rubber reinforcement on the toe box to keep your digits warm and secure.
The "Spantik" boot is recommended for longer periods at high altitude. Seen on the summit of the world’s tallest peaks, this boot is an excellent alternative to traditional plastic boots. Extremely light considering the durable construction, this year’s model offers a new outer boot and innovative lacing system which allows for closure in extreme conditions with only one hand.
Playing safe with Petzl
Helmets and tools for Ice and Alpine climbing
Fernand Petzl started out making gear for caving and fortunately passed onto his son a passion for functional design. The "Altois" helmet, with its hybrid suspension system, literally floats on the top of your head. It allows for ample ventilation with a climate control system that can be closed during a snowstorm or opened on a bluebird day.
The "Nomic" leash-less ice climbing tool offers multiple grip positions. Ed “Starseed” Hannam, alpine guide specializing in ice and bagging central Asian peaks, says "It is the only ice axe where each grip position corresponds to the ‘teeth’ configuration," allowing for increased holding power and less pick shift when switching positions.
It's all about the layers
Patagonia R-2 Fleece
Made to be worn under a shell in extreme cold or alone when the sun is out, this fleece is made from stretchy 60 percent recycled polyester and features directional knit fibers that wick moisture. Shoulder seams are set forward, allowing for greater pack comfort.
Keeping your glasses clean and dry
I stumbled across this new product in the back streets of Shibuya and think it's a winner for any cold weather sports where sunglasses or goggles are necessary. The "mini-bandana" is actually a synthetic chamois that whisks away moisture and keeps your lenses clear. Check out Murasaki Sports in February for the latest Hawaiian-themed designs. Gump Co., LTD. Tel: (03) 3407-0609